Skye Walker

SKYE WALKER, who has been on FanLit’s staff since September 2014 (after a brief time on staff as a YA reviewer in 2007-2008), is from Canada. Their HBA in Anthropology and Communications allowed them to write an Honours paper on podcasting as the modern oral tradition of storytelling: something they will talk about at any and all opportunities. Skye is a communications professional in the non-profit sector. These days their favourite authors include Ursula K Le Guin, Bo Bolander, and Chris Wooding. They can be found on social media @cskyewalker.

Dread Nation: Not just another zombie story

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

In Dread Nation (2018), the American civil war was interrupted when the fallen soldiers on both sides rose again to eat their friends and foes alike. In short: things were a bit of a mess. Our protagonist, Jane, was born two days after the first shambler (the term for zombies in this story) rose on the battlefields. Dread Nation is about her life in this new world.

When I picked up Dread Nation it did cross my mind that zombie stories were a bit of a trend a couple of years ago. I picked this one up because it is in the running for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (awarded with the Nebula Awards) — so if any zombie story is going to be good, it ought to be this one. I was not disappointed.

With few reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed Dread Nation. ... Read More

SHORTS: Clark, Wijeratne & Virdi, Harrow, Iriarte

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week's column features more of the 2018 Nebula award-nominated novelettes and short stories.

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djeli Clark (Feb 2018, free at Fireside magazine). 2018 Nebula award nominee (short story)

P. Djeli Clark takes the historical idea of George Washington’s teeth (not wooden, as lore has it) and creates around them a series of vignettes detailing, as the title tells us, the “nine Negro teeth” that made up his set. Each brief vignette tells us a bit about the slave from whom the tooth came, how they came to be in Washington’s servitude, and the effect of their tooth on... Read More

SHORTS: Harrow, Greenblatt, Larson, Schoen

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about, including three 2018 Nebula nominees.

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (2018, free at Apex magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2018 Nebula nominee (short story).

Our narrator is both a librarian and a witch (all good librarians are, she claims), and one of her joys is giving library patrons the book they “need most.” So whe... Read More

Welcome to Night Vale: Buckle up — it’s going to be a weird ride

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

If you enjoy horror in all its many forms, or just plain Weird Stuff, odds are good that you’ve at least heard of (if not been sucked into the fandom vortex of) the highly-acclaimed podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Its creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, have spent the last five years expanding upon a central premise — there’s a desert town in the southwestern region of the United States, where all manner of strange things happen and time doesn’t really exist — through twice-monthly podcast episodes. The success of the podcast has led to a number of other projects, including this novel, Welcome to Night Vale (2015), which is a perfect entry point for anyone wondering what... Read More

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter: We like it

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), Theodora Goss has created something really exciting and rewarding: a novel that pays homage to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of speculative fiction which inform every standard the modern incarnation of the genre is judged by, and yet stands on its own as a twenty-first century creation.

The epigraph — “Here be monsters” — and a subsequent recorded exchange between Mary and Catherine set the scene: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a collaborative effort, though by whom and for what purpose is not immediately plain. First we are introduced to Mary Jekyll, recently orph... Read More

SHORTS: Norja, Bunker, Cliff, Nayler, Nikel

Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.

 




“Birch Daughter” by Sara Norja (2018, free at Fireside Magazine)

“Birch Daughter” is about Aino, a young woman whose mother was turned into a birch tree by an evil spell. After hearing from the forest-folk in her dreams, Aino sets out to save her mother from her fate.

There’s a certain delicacy to “Birch Daughter.” From the first few lines it made me acutely aware of every choice every character made, in a way that made me also very aware that if any of those choices weren’t made so quickly or so confidently or even so quietly, everything in the story would come crashing down.

I enjoyed how the story had ... Read More

The Tiger’s Daughter: Give it a shot

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

When I picked up The Tiger’s Daughter (2017), I didn’t know what I was getting into. Written as a long, dramatic letter between two old friends, it is an epic tale of loss, faith, political intrigue, and forbidden love. The Tiger’s Daughter is the debut novel from K. Arsenault Rivera, and set to be the first book in the series titled THEIR BRIGHT ASCENDENCY. The Tiger’s Daughter wends its way from the first time our heroes meet, over their entire lives, and up to the present — where one friend, the empress O-Shizuka, is reading said letter (the letter itself being the bulk of the book) from the other, Barsalayaa Shefali. Both are heirs to very different thrones and handle that knowledge differently — as befit their starkly different upbringings and wider global status. They are ... Read More

SHORTS: 2018 Locus Award finalists

Today's SHORTS column features all of the 2018 Locus Award finalists for short fiction. The Locus Award winners will be announced by Connie Willis during Locus Award weekend, June 22 - June 24, 2018.

NOVELLAS:

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle (2017)

Claudio, a middle-aged curmudgeonly farmer living in a remote area of the Italian countryside, has been a standoffish loner since his wife left him decades ago. He’s satisfied with his current lifestyle, taking care of his land and his animals, and writing poetry that he shares with no one.

Everything changes one morning when a unicorn shows up on his farm. The pure and beautiful unicorn inspires Claudio’s poe... Read More

Red Glove: Sacrifices the main plot for intriguing settings and secondary characters

Red Glove by Holly Black

Following the events of White Cat, Red Glove (2011) finds Cassel, the protagonist of Holly Black’s series THE CURSE WORKERS, simultaneously dealing with no shortage of familial drama and direct fallout from his actions in the earlier installment. Red Glove is thus a direct continuation of the series that seeks to build upon the established characters, world, and particular circumstances revealed at the end of the first novel: with varying success.

Red Glove takes the time to let the reader engage more with the stand-out secondary characters of the series. Some of my favourites, like Cassel’s school friends, become more central to... Read More

Steal the Stars: Lacks cohesion and internal logic

Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy based on a podcast by Mac Rogers

Steal the Stars is a 2017 podcast (created by Mac Rogers) and subsequent novelization (written by Nat Cassidy) which centres around forbidden love between coworkers. In a world where the United States is controlled by a vague and sinister corporation, an alien has crash landed off the Pacific coast, and scientists are running out of funding to unlock the secrets of an extraterrestrial; the central plot may be the least interesting aspect. Frustratingly, we don’t get much else — the world lacks depth and the plot wears thin. In the end, the potential for an interesting multi-media experience was sullied by an unimaginative and thin story.

At some point in a military-industrial... Read More

Central Station: A wealth of ideas, a breathtaking vision

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Central Station is a thoughtful, poignant, human take on a possible future. For the most part Central Station occurs at the titular port on planet earth. This space resides in what we know today as Tel Aviv, but in the distant future it has gone through many names and many people. Everything seems to begin in earnest when Boris Chong arrives in Central Station after spending a great deal of time away — some of which on Mars. Central Station, the place, is a half-thought meeting of a variety of worlds. Central Station the book is more thoughtful than I think I know how to express, but I’ll give it a try.

Central Station occurs in the very spot where humans expanded from our first planet throughout the solar system. Humans, robotniks, children who live and breathe the virtuality known as The Con... Read More

SHORTS: Castro and Zinos-Amaro, Brennan, Banker, Robson

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Mouth of the Oyster” by Adam-Troy Castro & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Nov. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

In the aftermath of a deadly plague that struck their area in ancient China, the narrator and his wife, Li-Fan, are among the survivors. But the plague has left its mark on them: the narrator has lost his sight but is otherwise still a healthy man; Li-Fan is frailer and weakened, especially on he... Read More

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

This anthology comes after a similarly titled anthology, also edited by Ellen Datlow, called Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which came out in March 2010. Datlow also edits an annual anthology of horror fiction (collaborating with other editors on those). It seems then that Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (which came out in October 2016) is informed by a great deal of knowledge in the field of speculative horror literature. I am not generally a horror reader, but I still thoroughly enjoyed many tales in this anthology for their engaging storytelling and terrifying themes. What follows is a brief review of each of the 25 tales, in the order which they appear.

“Shallaballah” by Mark Samuels is a story about... Read More

SHORTS: Gladstone, Kress, Khaw, Ndoro, Seiner

Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about. 


“Crispin’s Model” by Max Gladstone (Oct. 2017, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

A young woman, Delilah Dane, moves from Savannah to New York City to pursue her theatrical dreams; the cost of living in NYC being what it is, she supplements her waitressing income by posing for artists. (Nothing more than posing — she has very strict rules about conduct and respect.) After an extremely weird inter... Read More

White Cat: A YA series with an interesting magic system

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (2010), the first book in Holly Black's The Curse Workers series, focuses on Cassel, a teenage boy born into a family of workers. Working magic is illegal, which means anyone born with the gift — his entire family — either works for the mob or as a con artist. Except Cassel, that is, because Cassel doesn’t have a gift. What he does have is strange dreams that make him sleepwalk, and end up in the strangest places, like on top of the dorms at his boarding school. If only he could figure out what was causing these dreams, he knows he would be okay. But what’s causing the dreams is even scarier than what is in them.

White Cat is quintessential Holly Black. You have intriguing characters, razor sharp di... Read More

SHORTS: Palmer, Bright, Gailey, Mudie

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.



“The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer (Sept. 2017, free at Clarkesworld). 2018 Hugo award winner (novelette).

Fans of WALL-E will particularly appreciate this whimsically poignant tale about an outdated robot with a can-do attitude.  Robot #9 is reactivated by its spaceship after a lengthy time in storage, and is assigned the task of ridding the Ship of a particularly destructive “biological infestation” (the bots begin to call it the “ratbug,” though Bot 9 privately questions the accuracy of that monike... Read More

SHORTS: El-Mohtar, Wilde, Zinos-Amaro & Castro, Fallon, Larson, Kingfisher, Zhang

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 


“Biting Tongues” by Amal El-Mohtar (2011, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue. First printed in The WisCon Chronicles (Vol 5): Writing and Racial Identity)

“Biting Tongues” is a speculative poem which slowly reveals the tenaciousness of the character or characters involved, through a progression from social expectations of their voice and bodies to their true form. Read More

Borderline: A diverse cast of characters and respectful treatment of mental illness

Borderline by Mishell Baker

In the first installment of Mishell Baker’s THE ARCADIA PROJECT series we are introduced to Millie, whose borderline personality disorder at least partly explains the title of the book. Borderline (2016) follows Millie as she is pulled into The Arcadia Project, an organization that monitors and secures the comings and goings between the world of humans and the world of mythological, fairy tale creatures. Millie’s first assignment with The Arcadia Project has her tracking down an A-list movie star who is actually a denizen of that other world, and an important one at that. Millie must balance her mental health, her physical capabilities, and a dozen new acquaintances in order to manage this new life.

The magic in Borderline centres on the presence and activities of the fairy tale creatures that make their way to the... Read More

Every Heart a Doorway: Four takes on this Nebula winner

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

It seems like there are many tales around today that strive to explain the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever after’, with varied results. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is one such story that had me riveted from the first. This novella appears to be the first in a plan for more stories in this world, and as an introduction it does an excellent job.

Every Heart a Doorway concerns the lives of those girls and boys (but mostly girls, as explained in the novella) who found passageways to other worlds and then came back again. These are your Alices and Dorothys, young people who found and were found by worlds that wanted them. Specifically, this novella concerns those children and teens who came back to our reality without necessarily wanting t... Read More

The Suffering Tree: Witchcraft in the United States

The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano

When Tori Burns’ family is contacted shortly after her father’s death about a house and some land that was left to them in Chaptico, Maryland, they are suddenly moving into a century home. So begins the uncovering of the mysterious circumstances that lead to Tori’s family owning a small parcel of land on the historic Slaughter farm. The move kicks off many unexplainable happenings that seem to all come back to a witch’s curse from 300 years ago. Elle Cosimano strives to connect the present of the Slaughter land with a darker past, with little success overall.

The Suffering Tree (2017) is one part historical fantasy, one part adolescent romance, and two parts mystery. Tori is a teen navigating a new community, the grief of losing her father, and her personal demons. Often when Tori gets overwhelmed with what’s going on around her she self-harms... Read More

The Backstagers Act: 1: A fantastical space for the weird kid in all of us

The Backstagers Act: 1 by James Tynion IV (author) & Rian Sygh (artist)

Behind the scenes of the drama club, there is a labyrinth of rooms and hallways filled with creepy critters and questionable sofas alike – that is the world of The Backstagers Act: 1 (2107). The inhabitants design and build the sets and props for the actors of the drama club and are all but forgotten in their backstage rooms. The Backstagers not only cater to the needs of the drama club but have their own adventures out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the school. It’s the perfect place for the group of misfits to gather and find belonging.

The art in The Backstagers Act: 1 is perfectly whimsical. It’s bright and cheery, full of decidedly uplifting (and wonderfully ludicrous) colours and eye-twinkles (not a weird metaphor – there are literal stars in eyes at some points). I’m not art crit... Read More

Down Among the Sticks and Bones: Inventive, enthralling, heartbreaking

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway (2016) introduces the reader to a reality in which some children get swept away to other worlds. These worlds of whimsy or darkness (and everything in between) become home to the children so much so that they are devastated if they are forced to leave. If they do come back to our world, a fortunate few may find kindred spirits at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the setting of that first novella. Now, Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017) centres on the events leading up to Jack’s and Jill’s stay at the home for wayward children. More specifically, their time in the world that chose both of them.

Two of the st... Read More

A Darker Shade of Magic: We like it

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I was a big fan of V.E. Schwab’s 2013 novel Vicious, noting in my review how she had overcome the possible burden of overfamiliar concepts (it’s a folks-with-powers-who-have-some-gray-to-them kind of novel) with supremely polished execution. Well, she’s pretty much done the same with her newest novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, which takes many of the usual fantasy tropes and, again, just handles them all so smoothly that you simply don’t care much that you’ve seen them all before.

The basic concept is a nicely focused tweak of the multi-verse model, with a series of parallel Londons: Red London, a vibrant, colorful city where magic and life are in balance; White London, a crue... Read More

SPFBO Final Round Reviews part 2

In Mark Lawrence‘s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, ten SFF review blogs joined forces to read 300 self-published fantasy novels. Each blog read ten books and chose one to advance to the top ten. The book that we advanced was Kaitlyn Davis‘s The Shadow Soul (here’s our review) and we gave it a score of 5 out of 10 on Lawrence’s scale. We reviewed four of the finalists back in March and this post contains our last batch of reviews. Thanks for joining us on this quest, and thanks to Mark Lawrence for such a fun contest! We'd like to congratulate the winning book: Read More

Carmilla: If you’re not an 1800s-horror expert, it’s better with a little homework

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Editor's note: Carmilla is free in Kindle format because it's in the public domain.

Giving Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) a 4-star rating feels a bit like critiquing my cat’s life choices. Sure, she could act more like a cat, and she could definitely make more sense from time to time — but ultimately, I love her and that ought to be enough.

Carmilla truly begins when Carmilla (surprise) arrives somewhat suddenly at the summer home of Laura and her father. It’s a picturesque manse on a hill, and the family is happy to take Carmi... Read More

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