Rebecca Fisher

REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

Practical Magic: The superior book behind the cult film

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Like most people, I became aware of Alice Hoffman's 1995 novel Practical Magic through the nineties film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. It's not a great movie, but it has a charm of its own, and it led me to the original story upon which it's based. It's striking to see the differences and similarities between the two.

The film leans more heavily on its magical elements, even becoming something of a supernatural thriller at some points, whereas the book is more interested in the three generations of Owens women and their lives, whether it be the tragedy of the aunts, the love stories of Gillian and Sally, or the coming-of-age rites of Antonia and Kylie.

As children, Sally and Gillian Owens were ostracized from their New England community due to the persistent rumour that they and their extended family were witches. Onc... Read More

Kingdom of Ash: The grand finale

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

So I finally made it. Kingdom of Ash (2018) was almost three times as large as the first book in the THRONE OF GLASS series, but I got there in the end.

In the seventh book of Sarah J. Maas's fantasy epic, the combined forces of humans, faes and witches are moving their armies into position to fend off the Valg demons that are advancing across the continent of Erilea.

But their leader Aelin Galathynius is missing, having let herself get captured by the Fae Queen Maeve at the conclusion of Empire of Storms. Now she's locked in an iron coffin, undergoing daily torture as her nemesis tries to wrest the location of the Wyrdkeys from her mind.

In... Read More

The Language of Thorns: Magical folk tales that stir the pot

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns (2017) is a collection of six stories and novelettes by Leigh Bardugo, dark and lyrical folk tales set in her GRISHA universe, in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka and other nearby countries. These are stand-alone stories, unrelated to the specific characters and events in the GRISHA novels. This tales might be told on a dark night by a villager living in Ravka.

Bardugo’s stories, containing elements of both fantasy and horror, include elements of traditional fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “ Read More

Tower of Dawn: The pieces are put in place for the penultimate instalment

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

The penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series goes on an unexpected detour: instead of following Aelin Galathynius (the protagonist of the previous five books and a collection of novellas), Tower of Dawn (2017) focuses on supporting players Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq, who have travelled to the southern continent and the city of Antica to try and enlist its armies to assist them in the coming war.

At this stage, there's no point reading unless you've already read the previous books. These aren't standalone novels, but different parts of an overarching story that need to be read chronologically in order to make sense. In this case, Chaol suffered a terrible injury at the conclusion of Read More

Before the Devil Breaks You: Another solid entry in an engrossing series

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

This is the third of four planned books in Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS series, set in New York in the 1920s, in which speakeasies, jazz and the Prohibition ruled the streets. The titular Diviners are a group of people from all walks of life that have one thing in common: preternatural gifts.

Evie is a radio personality that can glean psychic visions from handling certain objects. Memphis Campbell is a black poet and healer. Theta is a Zeigfeld girl who can start fires. Ling is a disabled Chinese girl who can communicate with the dead. Henry DuBois is a gay pianist who can wander in people's dreams. Sam Lloyd is a Jewish pickpocket who can render himself invisible to those around him.

You couldn't think up a more motley crew, and yet all of them have come together on more ... Read More

Night of Cake & Puppets: Charming YA romance set in Prague

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

For years Laini Taylor’s been a favorite here at FanLit, and now I know why. I picked up Night of Cake & Puppets, a stand-alone novella set in Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE world, because it was short and available on audio at exactly the length I needed for a recent car trip: two hours and forty-five minutes. Perfect. That’s not all that was perfect about Night of Cake & Puppets. Everything was perfect about Night of Cake & Puppets. Well, except I wish it had been longer. Longer would have been perfect.

Night of Cake & Puppets is about Zuzana and Mik’s first date. Zuzana, in case you don’t know, is the best friend of Karou, Laini Taylor’s heroine in the SMOKE & BONE books. I haven’t read those books, but that... Read More

Station Zero: A superb conclusion to an excellent YA trilogy

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Station Zero by Philip Reeve

With Station Zero (2019), Philip Reeve brings to an end the RAILHEAD trilogy begun with Railhead and Black Light Express, and if it’s not a perfect conclusion, it’s pretty darn close, leaving you at the end with a sense of satisfying, even gratifying, resolution tinged with a lingering bittersweetness that makes the final result all the more richly rewarding. With this Cosmic Railroad trilogy (not an official title) and his earlier PREDATOR CITIES/MORTAL ENGINES work, Reeve has served up three... Read More

Deathless: Demands careful reading and close attention

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

CLASSIFICATION: Weaving together fairy tales and history, Deathless is kind of like Pan's Labyrinth, if it was told by Hayao Miyazaki and Neil Gaiman. Highly recommended for fans of adult fairy tales, Russian folklore, and Catherynne M. Valente.

FORMAT/INFO: Deathless is 352 pages long divided over a Prologue, 6 Parts, and 30 numbered/titled chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mostly via the protagonist, Marya Morevna. Deathless is self-contained. March 29, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Deathless via Read More

Black Light Express: Does what every good sequel should

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

Black Light Express (2017) is Philip Reeve’s just-as-good-as-the-first-book follow up to Railhead, continuing the exhilarating romp while expanding the universe and its inhabitants, as well as digging a bit more deeply into the hidden history of the created world and offering up some more page time to some of the first book’s secondary characters. Warning: there will be some inevitable spoilers for book one (you can just stop here with the take-away that I recommend the duology). First spoiler begins in the very next line!

So at the end of Railhead, Nova and Zen had opened a gate to a whole othe... Read More

The Restless Girls: A light and fun retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses

The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton & Angela Barrett (illustrator)

I loved the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses when I was a little girl, but was also terribly disappointed with it. Twelve sisters sneak out of a secret door in their bedroom every evening to dance the night away in a magical fairyland, with only their worn-out shoes left as evidence of their rule-breaking.

And then their father comes along to spoil all the fun, setting potential suitors outside their door in order to find out what’s going on, and eventually marrying the youngest (or oldest, depending on the version) to the clever gardener who discovers the secret. It was meant to be a happy ending, but with fairyland destroyed and the sisters all married off, my eight-year old self felt utterly cheated.

Luckily Jessie Burton is here to gi... Read More

The King of Elfland’s Daughter: Haunting and Lyrical

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

After reading about Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter I went in search of it and found it at my university library. Reading it was quite a different experience for me, but people who aren't prepared for the style of writing like I was might be disappointed, confused or scorning of the slow, dream-like pace, archetype characters and poetical language. This might be especially true of fans of typical fantasy genre books (authors such as David Eddings or Terry Brooks) where a fantasy universe is deemed to be good only if it has a solid backing and an exhaustive array of facts and figures to add realism to the stories. Lord Dunsa... Read More

Monstress: Volume 3: Haven

Monstress: Volume 3 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It’s always an event when the next collection of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s MONSTRESS is released — I take a copy home, make sure I won’t get interrupted, and just sink down into the complex storytelling and truly gorgeous illustrations. Every year this ongoing graphic novel cleans up at the Eisner and Hugo Awards, and for good reason.

Maika Halfwolf is a young woman with a terrible secret: an ancient monster resides within her body, only partially controllable and with regular bloodthirsty urges. Her entire life she’s fought to keep herself and others safe, but the onset of war throughout the Asian-/Egyptian-inspired world in which she lives means that all sorts of people are frantic to get their hands on Maika and the power she wields.

In Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, the ong... Read More

Ahsoka: A fun but inconsequential tale about a Star Wars favourite

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

It struck me on reading this YA novel that there's a definite hierarchy to the stories that are told within the STAR WARS universe. Obviously the movies are the most important: they are seen by the most people, and encompass the most important events in the overarching space epic. They're "tent-poles" so to speak.

In second place are the animated television shows such as The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels which build on the canon that's laid out in the movies, and very occasionally (usually through minor cameos) get to overlap with them.

After that come the books and comics, which are best described as "fillers". They'll usually deal with origin stories of certain characters; of filling in the gaps that couldn't be explored in the films or shows due to time constraints.

As a character who has never appeared in any of the films, but who is an ... Read More

Moonlight and Ashes: A fresh take on the Cinderella fairy tale

Moonlight and Ashes by Sophie Masson

This is one of three fairy tale retellings by Sophie Masson that are only tangentially based on a traditional tale, the others being The Crystal Heart (Rapunzel) and Scarlet in the Snow (Beauty and the Beast). Moonlight and Ashes (2012) tackles Cinderella, and is quite possibly the best of the three. Incorporating elements of the story that are usually forgotten in retellings (such as the magical hazel tree) and Masson's own imagination, it’s a fun and unpredictable fantasy adventure.

Selena is a sixteen-year-old girl living with her spineless father and wicked stepmother, as w... Read More

Remember Me: A Christopher Pike classic

Remember Me by Christopher Pike

The idea of a ghost who has to solve their own murder from beyond the grave is a slam-dunk. I'll read or watch any variation of this story, from Patrick Swayze in Ghost to all those early X-Files episodes. So having been a fan of Christopher Pike in my teen years, I'm not sure how Remember Me (1989) managed to slip my notice. But hey, better late than never!

Shari Cooper is dead, thrown from a balcony at a friend's party. Now her ghost is stuck in limbo, able to see her friends and family, but unable to communicate with them in any way. What's worse, everyone thinks she committed suicide, the police officer investigating her case is an alcoholic, and there's a nightmarish monster chasing her through the afterlife.

But at only eighteen years old, Shari knows she didn't kill herself — someone pushed her off that balcony. And... Read More

Night Flights: A brief but welcome return to the world of MORTAL ENGINES

Night Flights by Philip Reeve

Night Flights (2018) by Philip Reeve is a collection of three short stories set in the world of the MORTAL ENGINES QUARTET (also known as the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES), and focuses on the character of Anna Fang, a fearless aviatrix. Its timing seemed to be connected to the release of Peter Jackson's filmic adaptation of Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, and Reeve's touching dedication at the front of the book confirmed this. It reads: "To Jihae, who plays Anna Fang with such style and grace that I realized she needed some more stories." Aww.

Set within a framing device of Anna going about her daily business, she recalls three adventures of her pas... Read More

A Flight of Angels: A beautiful anthology

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay (illustrator)

Stories by Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell

An angel has fallen. Led by their insatiable curiosity, the hosts of fae have followed the descent of the white-winged creature and now gather around his still-breathing body to decide what to do with him. They decide to hold a trial, and present evidence in the form of stories about the deeds of angels to decide whether or not to let him live.

I am fairly new to reading graphic novels, so I do not know how original the conceit is of having mul... Read More

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal: A flawed but fun wuxia-fantasy…

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal directed by Peter Pau

I always enjoy a good wuxia-fantasy, and Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal ticks the expected boxes of the genre: noble warriors, beautiful maidens, impressive stunt-work, a twisty-turny plot — but despite its length, it doesn’t quite have the emotional heft it should have.

The city of Hun is ruled by the lesser god Zhang Diaoxian, who protects its people from the demons of Hell by turning a simple scholar called Zhong Kui into a mighty demon-slayer. The two of them have kept Hell’s demons at bay for many years, but now the fifteenth of July approaches, a day in which the Earth is vulnerable from attack.

After the theft of the Dark Crystal from the underworld, and the arrival of Zhong Kui’s former lover – a mysterious maiden called Little Snow – to the city, Diaoxian gives his protégé an elixir that transforms him into a demon warrior, insisting that it’s the... Read More

Snow & Rose: Into the woods… Who knows what may be lurking?

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Snow & Rose (2017) is a charming middle grade level retelling of the Snow-White and Rose-Red fairy tale with illustrations by the author, Emily Winfield Martin. Rose and Snow are the beloved eleven and nine year old daughters of a nobleman and his commoner wife, a sculptor. Rose has black hair and rosy cheeks, and is patient and gentle; Snow has white-blonde hair and icy blue eyes, and has a wilder and more adventurous personality. They have a fat grey tabby cat called Earl Grey (I adore that name! I want to adopt a grey cat now and name him Earl Grey) and had a large house with servants, a library with shelves that reached the ceiling, and a spectacular garden, half white flow... Read More

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood: The backstory of Kanan Jarrus continues…

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood by Greg Weisman

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is the second collection of comics in an ongoing series that details the mysterious past of Kanan Jarrus, a main character of the animated television show Star Wars Rebels who — as a teenage Jedi Padawan — managed to escape the purge that wiped the rest of the Order out. Having joined the Rebellion as part of the crew of the Ghost, Kanan now finds himself increasingly haunted by his past as he and his team-mates start visiting planets he inhabited while still known as Caleb Dume.

Set within the framing device of the Ghost crew watching over Kanan's unconscious body as it heals in a bacta tank, we delve back into the former Jedi's memories — and this time they're set further back in time than those of Read More

The Refrigerator Monologues: A herald of change?

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

In her Afterword, Catherynne M. Valente lays out the inspiration for 2017’s collection of linked short stories The Refrigerator Monologues. Valente was inspired partly by the work of comics writer Gail Simone, who created and popularized the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a way to describe women cape-and-mask heroes, and how they are treated in conventional comics. As for structure, Valente looked toward Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking theatrical work The Vagina Monologues. To no small extent, though, Valente was galvanized into writing this collection because of her anger at how Gwen ... Read More

Nimona: A fun, colourful and heartfelt fantasy tale

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I picked up Nimona (2015) after recognizing that writer/illustrator Noelle Stevenson was also the showrunner of Netflix’s rebooted She-Ra, and becoming interested in what she worked on in the past. As it happens, if you enjoyed She-Ra then you’ll probably like Nimona as well (and visa-versa) as there are many similarities in style, character, depth and tone.

Ballister Blackheart returns home to his evil fortress one day to discover a perky young girl waiting for him, insisting that she’s his newest sidekick. Introducing herself as Nimona, he’s a little doubtful about her youth and bloodthirsty streak, but soon won over by her mysterious (and very useful) shapeshifting abilities.

In his ongoing vendetta against the heroic Ambrosius Goldenloin, Nimona proves herself to be a very able ally, not only in her destructi... Read More

Street Freaks: A new genre for a well-known author

Street Freaks by Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks is best known for his fantasy novels (particularly the SHANNARA series) but with Street Freaks (2018) he tries his hand at science fiction for the first time. The results are ... fine. This is hardly a game-changing or genre-bending novel, but a fast-paced, reasonably interesting story that belongs as much in the dystopian genre as it does science fiction. Brooks's distinctive prose (clear but liable to repeat itself) is matched well with a collection of interesting characters and some fun world-building.

The story begins when teenager Ash Collins receives a warning from his father through his vidview, telling him "Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks. Don't wait ... "The connection ends before the message is complete, and minutes later Ash's apartmen... Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

In Night Flower, Kiya and Esladas met and fell in love, beginning a journey that would, eventually, shake the city of Saryenia to its very foundation. In Court of Fives, their daughter Jessamy got her heart’s desire, the chance to train as a Court of Fives runner, at the cost of her family’s safety. In Poisoned Blade, Jes did everything she could to reunite her loved ones while rooting out royal corruption, but it wasn’t enough. In Bright Thrones, Jes’ twin Bettany... Read More

The Little Broomstick: A strange and mysterious little story

The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart

Having recently watched Mary and the Witch's Flower, I was curious about how it measured up to its source material, particularly since I usually read the book before watching its filmic adaptation.

And The Little Broomstick (1971) is a strange little book in so many ways: beautifully written, with plenty of haunting passages, but with a story and setting that would have been served well with a lot more detail and background. Imagine Hogwarts School without any sense of its history — though Endor College predates Harry Potter by over two decades, there are so many unanswered questions about why it exists and who attends.

Mary Smith is a ten year old girl who's thoroughly unhappy with her current situation: bundled off to the Shropshire countryside, sep... Read More

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