Rob Rhodes (retired)

ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

The Eyes of God: Big fantasy beefsteak, not fully cooked

The Eyes of God by John Marco

The Eyes of God is a sprawling, medieval fantasy novel. The seed for the next book (The Devil's Armor) is planted well in the first, and I hope more of the good than the bad from the first book carries over.

The Eyes of God consists of three parts. (And before that, a beautiful cover — one of its very best features.) The first is basically a rehashing of Camelot's love triangle. The book does open very well indeed with excellent, fresh introductions of the scholarly King Akeela the Good; his handsome champion, Lukien the Bronze Knight; and his new bride, Cassandra, the beautiful seal on a peace treaty. However, even with the twist of Cassandra's mysterious illness and Lukien's quest to heal her, the first part fails to escape Camelot's shadow — it simply starts too squarely within it.

The second part begin... Read More

20 Heroes: Ophelia

Eleventh in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Imogen Cane.

So many nights I simply wish I were normal. Almost every other young woman in Port Royal, rich or poor, is in bed now. Perhaps they are gossiping with a sister or friend, offering consolation for a day's sorrow or whispering hopes and plans for the midsummer carnivals. Perhaps they are with a man. Or perhaps they dream.

I never remember my dreams. I did once, as a small girl in the crumbling orphanage on Barrel Lane. Often, I'd dream of my mum, of chasing her through the alleys behind the lane, from the city, into a field while the sky darkened and rumbled. Rain would pour, and my bare feet would slip and sink in mud. Always she'd run ahead of me, her bright hair like a banner, finally darting into a forest as wide as the... Read More

20 Heroes: Phineas

Tenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Christine Martino.

Of course I understand my life is hardly normal. And yes, it's perfectly fair to call me touched. Mad is a bit strong, I think, and deranged is simply offensive. But it's not my fault. Not entirely. I suppose I am partially responsible now, since I rather enjoy how my life runs widdershins to almost everyone else's. But if anyone is responsible, it's the Lady Herself — and who am I to question a goddess?

True, to the teeming masses of Port Royal, the Lady of Blessed Darkness is all but forgotten. Of the countless merchants, sailors, fishwives and errand boys who smooth the cobbles of Ice Street each day, few could tell a stranger the significance of the crescent moon and stars carved above the d... Read More

Artemis Fowl: A flashy, funny little explosion of a book

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a fast-paced blend of 21st century technology and ancient fairy magic, written by Irishman Eoin Colfer for young enthusiasts of science-fiction and fantasy. The plot is straightforward: Artemis, a 12-year-old genius and the son of the missing overlord of a criminal dynasty, concocts a scheme to acquire the little golden book of fairy lore and, using its secrets, hold a fairy hostage for an enormous ransom. The only thing is, Colfer's fairies aren't delicate little Tinkerbell-types; rather, they boast an elite "LEP-Recon" unit of laser-toting, time-stopping commandos. Can Artemis and his highly trained bodyguard Butler hold off their assault/rescue attempt and claim a fortune in fairy gold?

Colfer's yarn moves quickly, and cleverly reimagines the 'little people' for the 21st century. It also has more than its sha... Read More

20 Heroes: Cipher

Ninth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Sabrina Moles.

He waits behind the curtain of crimson velvet, listening to the court's gossip and chatter. At last, silvered trumpets blare — the least subtle of distractions — and he parts the curtain imperceptibly. Across the great ballroom, the Crown Prince and his wife appear in the broad doorway, their golden sashes seeming to glow beneath the gaslight sconces. Arm in arm, they proceed toward the wide curtained dais like pieces gliding on a chessboard of red and white marble. The members of the court — nobles, bureaucrats, officers of the Black Cavalry — having stood from their cushioned chairs, bow and curtsy as the couple passes, sit once the two are seated before the dais. He turns and nods to his four squires, black-clad, porcelain-masked.
... Read More

Guy Gavriel Kay talks about music, poetry, literature, and scotch

In case you haven't noticed, we're fans of Guy Gavriel Kay, and Rob and Stefan recently reported that Mr. Kay's newest novel, Under Heaven, which releases today, is definitely up to par. (Comment below for your chance to win a copy.) While striving to suppress his enthusiasm about speaking with his favorite fantasy author, Rob was recently able to chat coherently with GGK about his newest work

Robert Rhodes: As with your previous books, I greatly enjoyed and admired Under Heaven. The setting of this novel is likely to be fresh to most Western readers. Which elements of 8th-century China and the Ta... Read More

20 Heroes: Emilian IV

Eighth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Leonid Kozienko. Commenters are entered to win Changes by Jim Butcher.

The high grasses of the prairie thinned after he passed the final milestone. They grew shorter, sparser, before fading into cracked soil and dust. The desert began where the eroded stones of the road ended, and with them, the Empire that had been his.

Forty-five days ago, before dawn, he slipped through a false panel in his private library. In the dark and narrow passageway, he removed his silk robe and jeweled slippers. He donned the tunic, boots, saber, and cloak of an imperial herald and took up his pack. From the corridor, into a musty cellar, through a trapdoor, down rusted rungs into the s... Read More

Under Heaven: Beautiful, epic, vintage GGK

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

 Under Heaven is the long-awaited new novel by master fantasist Guy Gavriel Kay — and let's get the most important news out of the way: it was 100% worth the wait.

Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay know that his novels often take place in what appear to be fantasy versions of real countries: A Song for Arbonne is set in 13th century France, The Lions of Al-Rassan in Spain during the Moorish occupation, and so on. Likewise, Under Heaven once again gently blends history and fantasy, taking place in Kitai, a country strongly reminiscent of China, during the Tang dynasty.

Here we meet Shen Tai, who is honoring his recently deceased father (a famed general) by burying the dead at the ghost-ridden site of a major battle. One fateful morning during this long, lonely exile, he lea... Read More

20 Heroes: Tasha

Seventh in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Barbara Brashier.

"You're late, milady," Aramis says even as she parts the silver curtain. He snaps shut his pocket watch and tucks it into his checkered vest, his white-tipped ginger tail swishing.

She shrugs and sits on the closest bench in the Armory. "My geology midterm's tomorrow," she says, unlacing her sneakers. (Did I forget to take them off? she wonders.) "It's going to be hard. And besides," she adds as her armor  — helm and breastplate, bracers and greaves — floats from the rack and hovers beside her, "there was a wreck on the interstate this afternoon — a van and a semi. Some people were airlifted. Some died. I think it's going to be rough tonight. I didn't really want to sleep."

Aramis steps beside... Read More

20 Heroes: Tanion

Sixth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Leela Wagner.

"You're a trueborn child of Goldspire," his mother once said while stroking his hair. He'd fought an older boy behind the Butchers' Market that afternoon and lost. "Quick. Tough. Clever. You'll be a lord someday, Tan, if you use your head before your hands and heart."

Later — seven years ago, now — he found her in a snowdrift near their home, her throat cut from ear to ear. Quick, tough, clever. A whore's bastard and, in the wall's shadow, his eyelashes frozen, an orphan. A child of Goldspire in the truest sense.

*  *  *

He is twenty now and a soldier in the city guard, newly promoted to the night watch. Fair enough with sword and dagger, unrivaled with a crossbow or beside a Four Dra... Read More

20 Heroes: Andreas val Dhari

This the fifth installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Ida Mary Walker Larsen.

He is free.

He simply stands as the wide gates of the mining barracks thud shut and a wave of cold air hits his nape. He lingers under the gatehouse arch, his boots uneasy on the icy muck, and lifts his eyes. Before the jagged white mountains, under the leaden sky, it remains.

The Spire.

He wishes, for a time beyond counting, he had never seen it. A fool's wish, of course, but he has another — not foolish but chained like a wolf and goaded with spears, fed at nightfall with bloody morsels. Primed for slaughter.

The Spire is dull now, nothing more than a massive metal spike atop the Lord's Citadel, for the sun can hide for weeks in the ... Read More

Burn Me Deadly: If you don’t listen to audiobooks, it’s time to start

Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe

Note: This rating reflects my happiness with the audio version of Burn Me Deadly. Four stars for the print version. Listen to a sample of this audiobook here.

Ah, the combination of Alex Bledsoe (the author), Eddie LaCrosse (the hero) and Stefan Rudnicki (the reader) — it doesn’t get much better than that!

Burn Me Deadly is the sequel to The Sword-Edged Blonde, which I adored, and since Mr. Bledsoe has been picked up by Read More

20 Heroes: Mad Batson

This the fourth installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Allen Douglas.

On a brisk autumn day, Mad Batson went a-wandering.

He closed behind him the door of the forgotten shrine that was his home in Fair Forest and, clicking his tongue, finger-painted the lintel with a rune of sulfur and bean curd. Satisfied that any intruder would be whisked onto the pleasure barge of the Archduchess of Milph and bloated with nose-wrinkling gases, he brushed off his hands and departed.

Red-golden leaves crackled under his leathery feet. He stretched his bony legs into loping strides, letting the air swirl refreshingly underneath his woolen robes. In an oak grove, he interrupted three faeries arguing the virtues of peaseblossoms, declaring, with a stomp of his foot, the day ... Read More

The Sword: Quintessential B-grade sword-n-sorcery

The Sword by Deborah Chester

The Sword is the first of a high-fantasy trilogy and is little more than a prologue for whatever follows. What I mean by that is this: in terms of actual plot development, very little happens here. Each paperback in this trilogy is about 400 pages long (1200 total), so this could easily have been a 2-book saga with little to no impact on its quality.

As for the story itself... There are some books you can read when you're tired, some you can't, and some that just make you tired. At its best, this book falls into the first category; at its worst, in the third. The writing is clear but rough and unremarkable — much more telling than showing, especially where character emotions are concerned, and not one clever simile or metaphor.

The plot is uneven and filled with numerous extended chase and fight sequences that create a sense of deja vu. I was completely disapp... Read More

Wind from a Foreign Sky: Decent ideas, poor execution

Wind from a Foreign Sky by Katya Reimann

Gaultry is a young, beautiful, spirited huntress, who has been raised by her great-aunt, a hedge-witch, on the border of Tielmaran. One day, the outer world cruelly ends her idyllic life, as a squadron of soldiers seeks to abduct her, and she finds herself a key figure in a prophecy that will bless or curse the entire realm.

Katya Reimann creates, for the most part, a well-imagined world with some fresh touches. However, the kindest thing I can say about her telling of the story is that, this being her first novel, she shows glimmers of potential. To identify the major problems:

First, the story begins, for the sake of excitement, as Gaultry and the prophecy are about to collide; consequently, the plot is over-burdened with flashbacks and info-dumps about the history of Tielmaran — information that could have been much more gracefully integrated via an earlier starting poin... Read More

20 Heroes: Shaman

This the third installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Aiko Rudell.

One night, when I was a child, the Red God walked into my dreams. He laid his burning hand on my shoulder and led me to the borderland where the world of men and beasts ends and the lush vale of his kingdom begins. Together, we stood beside the river of death – a mamba of swift, dark water scaled with countless stars, one for each soul who has crossed between the worlds.

Take your sandals and drum, he said. Gather three stones and a hollowed gourd.  Walk east until the water roars and you weep from the scent of blossoms. There you will find a magician who intends the greatest of blasphemies. Face him and command him to turn from his path.

“... Read More

The Innkeeper’s Song: A vivid, bittersweet dream… but of what?

The Innkeeper's Song by Peter S. Beagle

The Innkeeper's Songis a one-volume fantasy for mature readers that is by turns (or even simultaneously) lyrical and maddening. Lyrical because much of its language is, in contemporary fantasy, on par with only Patricia McKillip and Guy Gavriel Kay. Maddening because — despite the full-throttle beginning, intricately woven characters and a world made wondrous without a map or long descriptions but simply by names and prosaic brushstrokes — the promise of the beginning and middle absolutely fizzles to a all-but-incomprehensible anti-climax in which none of the characters' skills, virtues or flaws seem to matter. It's the equivalent of dreaming oneself into a world of rich and dread beauty, flying over that world so freely as to go beyond dreaming e... Read More

The Paladin: Oriental fantasy

The Paladin by C.J. Cherryh

The Paladin is a stand-alone novel set in the China of an alternative world. It's more of an alternative history than a fantasy — there are no mythical creatures or magic here, although superstitions of both remain. The story falls into two parts. In the first, a stubborn girl seeking vengeance for her murdered family arrives at the mountain home of an exiled hermit who was the greatest warlord in the Empire prior to the death of the old emperor and the takeover by an evil regent. The girl wears him down, and he agrees to teach her swordsmanship and so on, convinced that she will eventually tire and lose hope in her foolish quest. Instead, she perseveres, and he finds himself growing fond of her. Over a two-year span, she becomes a promising pupil; he finds his defenses against the world he left behind crumbling... and how much he now needs her.

In the second part, the two ... Read More

20 Heroes: Remy

This the second installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Yoni Danziger.

It is not the first night he has waited on a rain-slick roof in the Lily Quarter, his chest braced on the knobby spine of a gargoyle, between whose curving horns he watches another mansion's diamond-paned windows. It is cheap entertainment — after days when his long fingers have lightened purses or pockets, or evenings when the theaters offer nothing he does not know by rote — to espy Cassant's lords in their paneled studies, its ladies in their curtained boudoirs, and to dream.

Dreaming is also comfort on damp nights such as this, when hunger cramps his belly and the truth — that he has neither family nor friends — grips his throat like a noose. He wishes, he wishes every night, that Nana were still aliv... Read More

Heir of Autumn: Flawed but compelling debut

Heir of Autumn by Giles Carwyn & Todd Fahnestock

I started Heir of Autumn with skepticism because (1) it's a first novel (2) by two guys who've been friends since high school (3) that begins with a nubile young woman fondling herself as part of her sorcerous training. A few times during the first few chapters, I considered returning it to the library and writing it off as another botched heroic fantasy epic.

Fortunately, I read on.

The bulk of the story occurs in the fabled city-state of Ohndarien, the "jewel of the known world," founded as the dream of four families and ruled by their descendents, The Children of the Seasons, who comprise an eight-member council (one man and woman representing each season/house). The story revolves around the titular character, Brophy, and the struggle by him and his allies against political intrigue within Ohndarien; the threat of invasion by the king... Read More

20 Heroes: Siltanen

Today we begin a series of series of sketches of 20 original fantasy heroes who have been conceived in the mind of our own Robert Rhodes. Rob's fiction has appeared in several venues and he has been named a finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. We're proud of Rob and pleased to publish his work. We'll also showcase several works of art which Rob has chosen to accompany his sketches. Be sure to visit the artists' websites to see more of their portfolios.

We hope you'll enjoy this series (please let us know by commenting).
And our first hero is

The merchant lord’s library is deliciously quiet in the dead of night. She lifts the enameled coffer from his desk—an elegant piece, but stern cool steel nonetheless—and turns it until its lock rests in a window-twisted fall of amber from a streetlamp below. It is the chamber's only i...

Read More

The Magician and the Fool: A post-modern fever dream

The Magician and the Fool by Barth Anderson

Jeremiah Rosemont is a far-fallen academic star, an art historian with specialized knowledge of — and uncanny experience with — tarot decks. Having exiled himself from the United States, he finds his wanderings through Nicaragua interrupted one night by the mysterious delivery of a plane ticket to Rome. There, he stumbles into a maelstrom of occult forces and figures gathering around a deck of uncertain origin and powers. Another figure with links to the deck is the Boy King, a vagrant in Minneapolis with strange and formidable talents. The chapters of The Magician and the Fool alternate between Rome and Minneapolis, while the story meanders through time and space, until the lives of Rosemont and the Boy King finally dovetail with surprising consequences.

This is Barth Anderson's second novel, and in it he displays prodigious gifts, s... Read More

The Ebb Tide: Engaging, Beautiful, Thin

The Ebb Tide by James P. Blaylock

19th-century London. A quiet evening among more or less renowned gentleman, including the gifted scientist-explorer Langdon St. Ives, at their favorite tavern is interrupted by word that a map to a missing mysterious device has been found. In no time, as chronicled by St. Ives's cohort Jack Owlesby, the group sets off to claim the map and device, racing against the shadowy figure of St. Ives's nemesis, Ignacio Narbondo (now known as Dr. Frosticos).

The first new tale of St. Ives in nearly two decades, The Ebb Tide is a brisk steampunk yarn with a dash of Sherlock Holmes. (Steampunk is, of course, a play on cyberpunk; instead of computers, the focus is usually on airships or mechanical men.)

The focus in The Ebb Tide is on underwater transports (and a strange underwater environment), which James Blaylock, as usual, ... Read More

Swords and Deviltry: Adventure, male camaraderie, easy women

Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber

Brilliance Audio and Audible Frontiers have recently produced audio versions of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, so it seemed like a great time for me to finally read them. Within two minutes of putting Swords and Deviltry on my MP3 player and pressing play, I was completely enthralled. The first part of the novel (which is really a compilation of short stories) tells the tale of Fafhrd’s liberation from the taboos, close-mindedness, and “icy morality” of his mother and clan (and the girl he got pregnant) in the northern wastes. He yearns for civilization, and finally gets a chance to “escape this stupid snow world and its man-chaining women” with a beautiful showgirl.

The second section introduces us to Mouse,... Read More

Lord of Silence: Decent sword-and-sorcery mystery

Lord of Silence by Mark Chadbourn

For millennia, the great city of Idriss, City of Lights, has stood almost completely isolated from the world. Bordered by a seemingly endless forest from which few return, the city has relied for protection on its walls and the bravery of its soldiers, such as the elite Crimson Hunt. But when the beloved warrior Mellias, the leader of the Hunt, is found brutally murdered — the first victim of a strange and elusive killer — the city's fate falls into the hands of the Huntsman Vidar. If Vidar were simply a soldier, his burden would be heavy enough; but Vidar is also a dark mystery, even to himself. Years before Mellias's murder, he stumbled out of the forest with amnesia and, embedded in his chest, an amber jewel that feeds on the life forces of Vidar's foes or, when foes are lacking, on Vidar himself. With the help of his fellow Huntsmen, the resolute Asgrim and cynical Cheyne; the methodica... Read More

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