Tadiana Jones

TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

The Girl with the Dragon Heart: Creating your own story

The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis follows up last year’s award-nominated middle grade fantasy The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart with The Girl with the Dragon Heart (2018), the second book in her TALES FROM THE CHOCOLATE HEART series. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart followed the escapades of Aventurine, a chocolate-loving young dragon enchanted into the shape of a young girl. The focus now shifts to Aventurine’s friend Silke, a dark-skinned girl with short black curly hair. More importantly, Silke is also brave, quick-thinking and fast-moving, and has a great talent for creating stories, including her own.

Silke, an ... Read More

Bright Ruin: Rebellion against magical tyranny

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Bright Ruin by Vic James

"Fear was the superpower they all possessed. And unlike Midsummer’s monsters, there was no limit to the number of people they could control with it."

Vic James wraps up her hard-hitting DARK GIFTS fantasy trilogy with Bright Ruin (2018), which picks up right where the second book, Tarnished City, left off. This series is set an alternative version of our world where a minority, called the “Equals,” has powerful magical gifts. What they are supposed to be “equal” to is a good question, since ― in England and several other countries ― they have used their powers to cruelly oppress the non-magical m... Read More

Skyward: Fighting for the stars

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s new young adult science fiction novel, Skyward (2018), replaces his intricately detailed fantasy magical systems with equally detailed dogfights between one-person starship fighters of the humans living on the planet Detritus (it’s as bleak as it sounds) and the starships of the alien Krell. The Krell chased a fleet of human spaceships to Detritus decades ago and have pinned them down on the planet since, frequently bombarding the humans with attacks that threaten to wipe out the colony, where people primarily live underground for safety.

Spensa Nightshade’s father died years ago during a major battle against the Krell. Though other families of spaceship pilots are lauded by the colony, “Chaser” Nightshade was accused of being a coward, fleeing the Kre... Read More

The Overstory: The secret life of trees

The Overstory by Richard Powers

… when you cut down a tree, what you make from it should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.

The Overstory (2018) is a powerful, literary novel, shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. It sings, in part, a paean to the wonders of trees and the multitude of wonders that old-growth forests and a variety of trees brings to our world. It also mourns a tragedy: how humans relentlessly annihilate these priceless resources, and what drives some people to eco-terrorism.

The Overstory is brilliantly organized in a form that reflects an actual tree. It begins with a section aptly titled "Roots,” a set of eight apparently unconnected stories in which we meet nine disparate characters: An artist whose family home in Iowa boasts one of the last healthy American chestnut trees. The engineer daughter of a Chinese immigra... Read More

The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey: The road not taken

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The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Peter S. Beagle's gorgeous, iconic fantasy The Last Unicorn, he unearthed this long-buried first version of that novel, written one memorable summer in 1962 when twenty-three year old Beagle was renting a cabin in the Berkshires with an artistic friend, Phil, and working on his writing craft. The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey (2018) starts off nearly identical to the novel, painting a beloved character with these familiar words:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of... Read More

The Last Unicorn: Withstands the test of time

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The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle’s classic The Last Unicorn (1968) turns fifty years old this year, and it’s remained in the public eye and continues to capture hearts like very few fantasies of its age. Like a fine tapestry, this gorgeous fairy tale weaves together unicorns and harpies, wizards and witches, dark-hearted kings and brave heroes. Its lyrical language is embellished with whimsical humor and given heft by bittersweet life lessons.

A shy unicorn keeps to herself in her lilac wood, where time passes slowly, if at all, and leaves remain grain and never fall. But one day overhears passing hunters grumbling that they must be in the forest of a unicorn (“Creatures that live in a unicorn’s wood learn a little magic of their own in time, mainly concerned with disappearing”) and that this unicorn must be the last one in the world... Read More

Phoenix Unbound: Fantasy romance in a grim and gritty world

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

The Krael Empire is a brutal and corrupt kingdom, reminiscent of the Roman Empire, with leaders who are intent on expanding its borders by conquering its neighbors. Inside its borders, life is nightmarish for those of its people who get the short end of the stick … like Gilene and Azarion. Gilene is a young woman from a small village with a deep secret, known only to the other villagers. She has a magical affinity for fire, as well as the ability to create illusions, where she takes on the appearance of someone ― or something ― else. These powers come in handy each year when the Krael emperor and empress hold the Rites of Spring, forcibly collecting women from each village to be a “Flower of Spring.” The name glosses over the actual fate of these women: they spend a night being raped by the kingdom’s enslaved gladiators, and the next day they are sacrificed, burned alive in a bonfire as an offering to ... Read More

SFM: Palmer, Schutz, Gregory, Goh, McKee

Short Fiction Monday: 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.

“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer (2018, free online at Clarkesworld, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Science fiction humor is very hard to pull off, and rarely works for me. This Suzanne Palmer story is a radiant exception. Palmer hits a grand-slam with a human soldier who has 33% of his body replaced with smart parts, including a heart, one arm, part of the lower intestine and a spleen. An implanted Central Control Unit manages all of the implants, and their mission is to keep Joe alive. There are a couple of problems. One is that, while Joe is a good s... Read More

A Town Divided by Christmas: A humorous mix of science and romance

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A Town Divided by Christmas by Orson Scott Card

The scientific method collides with southern small town culture and a local mystery in Orson Scott Card’s charming and insightful novella A Town Divided by Christmas (2018). Two post-doc academics ― Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist ― are sent to Good Shepherd, North Carolina to do a genetic and sociological study. The hope is that by studying a relatively genetically isolated population, they can prove or disprove the theory that certain people carry a “homebody marker": a genetic tendency to remain in their native community or return to it. Spunky, the more personable of the two, is charged with interviewing the townspeople and convincing them to give genetic samples; Elyon (“that mo... Read More

Diamond Fire: Wedding-related trials for the sister of the bride

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Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Nevada Baylor is getting married to Connor Rogan, and when Rogan’s mother Arrosa shuts down their plans for a small and simple wedding, insisting on a full-scale formal wedding, a couple of things happen. Nevada inexplicably gets incredibly fussy and controlling about the wedding details, firing two wedding planners, and her beleaguered 18 and 16 year old sisters Catalina and Arabella decide that the only feasible option is to handle the wedding planning themselves. And a large crowd of Rogan’s Spanish relatives on his mother’s side descends on Mrs. Rogan’s Texas mansion for a few weeks’ stay before the wedding. The half of those relatives who descend from her father’s second wife are already hostile, and matters only get worse when everyone is cooped up together in the same home, however large and luxurious.

Now the Rogan fami... Read More

Spinning Silver: We all love this

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Reposting to include Taya and Nathan's new reviews.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Let’s get this out of the way early. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver (2018) is not perfect. It’s a little overlong, with a bit of a pacing issue about two-thirds of the way through. Beyond that, other problems include ... no, wait. I forgot. There are no other problems. And I lifted up each and every page to check under them. Zip. Nada. Nothing. So yeah, the biggest problem with Spinning Silver is kind of like the problem you have when the waiter brings out your chocolate cake dessert, and it’s a little bit bigger than you were planning on. Oh, the humanity.

My marketing info calls this a “retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale,”... Read More

Age of War: Trudging to battle

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Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan

We (Tadiana and Marion) have both been reading THE LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series. Here, we take a few minutes to discuss the third book, Age of War. Tadiana: All the resentments, cruelties, conspiracies and ambitions that have been simmering since Age of Myth (and even before) boil over and explode in Age of War (2018), the third book in Michael J. Sullivan‘s LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series, a prequel series to both his RIYRIA CHRONICLES and RIYRIA REVELATIONS series. *Some spoilers for the first two books in this series follow* The Rh... Read More

The Winter Sea: Jacobite uprising and romantic turbulence

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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

My recent read of Bellewether, the 2018 historical novel by Susanna Kearsley, left me slightly dissatisfied, but I knew (and was assured by historical novel-loving friends) that she was capable of far more engaging storytelling, so I dove into her older duology of Jacobite-era novels, The Winter Sea (2008) and The Firebird. Both of these books ― in which Kearsley employs her favored dual-timeline approach with romance subplots, a paranormal element, and stellar historical research ― were thoroughly enjoyable.

In The Winter Sea, Carolyn (Carrie) MClelland is a successful author of histor... Read More

SFM: Jackson, Rucker, Ochse, Armstrong

Short Fiction Monday: Our reviews of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. For this year's Halloween week column, we offer a selection of haunted house stories. (The first story is admittedly pushing the boundaries of that classification, but it was too good to leave out.)

 

“The Man in the Woods” by Shirley Jackson (published 2014, free in The New Yorker)

Christopher, a college student, leaves school one day for reasons he can’t even articulate to himself, and walks for days through towns and fields, eventually making his way into a forest. The trees ominously press in on him, but a cat has joined him on his journey through the forest, giving him some companionship and comfort. Christopher and the cat eventually come across a stone house in the forest. He’s invited i... Read More

Voyager of the Crown: Adventures of an ageless ex-queen

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Voyager of the Crown by Melissa McShane

In a world where a minority of people have inherent magical powers, and in a country where such magical powers are viewed with deep suspicion ― particularly if wielded by people in power ― Zara North has a huge secret: she has the ability to automatically heal physical injuries to herself, even those that cause aging and death. What would be a mortal injury for anyone else simply puts her out of commission temporarily. Zara was the queen of Tremontane sixty years ago, during the events of Servant of the Crown, the first book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series. When she discovered her inherent magic in her late twenties, she... Read More

Magic Triumphs: Wrapping up the KATE DANIELS adventures

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Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels, after nine novels’ worth of fighting magical villains, romancing Curran the Beast Lord, developing her own über-magical powers and preternatural sword-fighting abilities, and magically claiming all of Atlanta as her territory (and that’s only a start), gets an ending to her story in Magic Triumphs (2018), the tenth and final book in Ilona Andrews’ popular KATE DANIELS series. Well, kind of.

Kate is married to Curran now, who’s passed his title as Beast Lord on to Jim. After a very brief prologue in which Kate gives birth, the story jumps forward in time thirteen months, when their son Conlan is a precocious one year old whose antics keep his parents hopping. He still hasn’t started shapesh... Read More

Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up Field Guide

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Beyond the Sixth Extinction by Shawn Sheehy

It’s the year 4847, over a thousand years since the end of a mass extinction event, caused by human activity, that resulted in the demise of eighty percent of the Earth’s animal species. The Cagoan District, in the area southwest of Lake Mishkin, was long thought to be lifeless, marked only by large ruins of an ancient urban city that flourished from 1837 to 2620. But a landmark survey in the year 4797 revealed that several new, highly adaptable species had developed in the Cago area.

Chief Scientist Willek Muriday has now issued this Field Guide to Creatures of the Cagoan District for the benefit of biologists living in this future world. This guide features eight of the strange creatures that now thrive in the Cagoan District, with three-dimensional pop-up models of the creatures, explanations of the unique characteristics they have evolv... Read More

Exit Strategy: Murderbot to the rescue

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Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Murderbot, the snarky, introverted cyborg hero of Martha WellsTHE MURDERBOT DIARIES series, returns from its trip to Milu, the deserted terraforming facility in space. The cyborg Security Unit ― which has committed the unprecedented crime of hacking its “governor” that required it to obey orders ― was searching on Milu for additional evidence against the evil-ridden corporation GrayCris, as related in the third novella in this series, Rogue Protocol. Because of key evidence found on the Milu trip, Murderbot decides it needs to meet face-to-face with Dr. Mensah, who is technically Murderbot’s owner and possibly also its friend … though Murderbot would sa... Read More

SFM: Blackwell, Spires, Grizzle, Fox, Anderson

Short Fiction Monday: 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.

“Waves of Influence” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (2018, free at Clarkesworld magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Chenghui, a clever young Chinese woman, has committed fraud to win a contest to be trained by Meixiu, an internet sensation and social influencer. Chenghui’s sister, Yixuan, is a devoted fan of Meixiu, and is also slowly dying of a heart ailment. Chenghui reasons that if she can work her way into Meixiu’s inner circle, she can use her position to pretend to be Meixiu and send personalized messages to Yixuan, giving her the encouragement to keep fight... Read More

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: A compelling murder mystery wrapped in an enigma

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The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Debut author Stuart Turton’s The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018), originally published earlier this year in Great Britain as The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, is an intricately plotted murder mystery, set in an isolated early 20th century English mansion, with a highly imaginative speculative element that is only gradually revealed, as our main character tries to figure out who he really is, and how to solve the mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle’s pending death … or has her death already occurred?

The plot and setting are worthy of Agatha Christie: Lord and Lady Hardcastle have invited a number of guests to their British country mansion, Blackheath House, for a weekend party to celebrate the return of their daughter, Evelyn, from Paris. (The notable guests ... Read More

Summers at Castle Auburn: A lovely YA romance

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Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Summers at Castle Auburn (2001) was my first exposure to Sharon Shinn's fantasies, and it was pretty much insta-love for me (I like to think that Shinn returns my affections in a distant and anonymous fan-appreciation kind of way). It instantly set me off on a search for more of her books.

Corie is the teenaged illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who died before the story begins, but the royal family is still keeping close tabs on her. Most of the time she lives with her grandmother in a remote village, learning medicinal herbs and a bit of witchery from her. But her summers are spent with the royal family in Castle Auburn.

We follow Corie over the next several years as she hangs out with her half-sister Elisandra; Br... Read More

SFM: Kritzer, Valentine, Robson, McClellan, Reed

Short Fiction Monday: Our feature exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we want to share with readers.

“Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer (2018, free at Apex Magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)When Amelia turns fourteen, everyone assures her that she’ll catch her fairy soon. Almost every girl catches a fairy, and the fairy will give you a gift if you promise to let her go. The gift is always something like “beauty or charm or perfect hair or something else that made b... Read More

Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

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Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certain... Read More

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds: Three novellas tell a compelling story

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Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if Batman’s rogues gallery was made up entirely from creations of his own mind (and only visible to himself) rather than individuals who are, more often than not, created as a result of his actions, then I recommend that you read Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (2018). Compiled herein are two of Brandon Sanderson’s previously-published novellas, “Legion” (2012) and “Legion: Skin Deep” (2014), along with the concluding and never-before-seen third novella, “Lies of the Beholder.” I hadn’t read any of these works before opening Legion, nor had I read Kat and Tadiana... Read More

SFM: Borges, McDermott, Tidhar, Peynado, Larson

Short Fiction Monday: Our 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. 

“Death and the Compass” by Jorge Luis Borges (1954, free online version)

When Edgar Allen Poe goes in for creating an all-divining detective, you get "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"; when Gene Wolfe does it, you get "The Detective of Dreams"; when Jorge Luis Borges does it, you end up with "Death and the Compass". No disrespect to Poe or Wolfe, who are both among the gr... Read More

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