Taya Okerlund

TAYA OKERLUND joined FanLit in October 2017. Taya's first career was in public service at CIA. She previously lived in Japan and China and speaks both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. More recently, she authored YA novel Hurricane Coltrane (WiDo, 2015) and currently reads and writes in spare moments between therapy runs and child rearing heroics.

To Kill a Kingdom: …but to merely disable a deadly love affair

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I loved the concept for this book. Siren princess (Lira) is punished by her power hungry Sea Queen mother for harboring a shred of "human" sentiment, and therefore, forced to seek the heart of a siren-hunting prince. Prince (Elian) casts about on the deep, in self-imposed exile from his own kingdom, vanquishing the world of the human killing sirens dominating the sea, and his only true home.

There were times, yes, many times when the narrative prose was lyrical and immersive and it drew me right in to this commercially quite popular story. Regrettably, that voice was inconsistent. In the main, I think this is due to imperfectly executed dual POV.

It’s hard to do dual POV well. Lira’s voice was by far the stronger of the two. Prince Elian had narrative responsibility for the “rag tag” crew’s assembly and much of their dialogue... Read More

SFM: McIntosh, Szpara, Andrews

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, including 2017 Nebula nominees in the short fiction categories.

“What is Eve?” by Will McIntosh (April 2018, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Ben and several other middle school aged children are separated from their families and taken to an isolated school, to participate in a “unique program” that is supposed to be an incredible opportunity for the children. Once they arrive, Ben and the other students are given some odd instructions: wear an earbud day and night... Read More

Song of Blood & Stone: What if the author had loved the whole story?

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Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Originally, L. Penelope published Song of Blood & Stone under her own publishing house, Heartspell. In 2016, it earned attention from the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), where a team of prominent fantasy book bloggers evaluate 300 enlisted fantasy titles and review the very best of them. Song of Blood & Stone was so popular St. Martin’s Press picked it up and is now publishing it mainstream with a few changes.

This book is a self-made success. L. Penelope sent it out into a massive vat stuffed with dross and chaff and it rose organically out of obscurity because readers loved it. And I’m torn, because I want to champion it, too, but I'm sorry, I can’t do it.

So... Read More

Snow City: A disorienting, intermittently interesting, destination

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Snow City by G.A. Kathryns

G.A. Kathryns’ independently-published novel Snow City (2017) is a story about a ghost, narrated by a kind of a ghost. The POV character Echo Japonica creates Snow City in her mind as a preservation mechanism responsive to the terror she experiences in a dystopian reality. The fantastical part of this creation is that she inhabits her imagination physically, along with a ghost. And the living is not too bad until her creation doesn’t turn out to be as safe and warm as her conscious mind had hoped.

The narrative begins with, for me, much too much exposition, and even when the story launches in earnest, it flies like a pelican — heavily, beating broad wings madly to hold itself up.

There is honest creativity here, however, and some nice moments, interesting characters, and quite a bit of heart. Reader... Read More

The Overneath: And assorted interesting stories

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The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle

It must be hard to be a literary icon, late in your career. You’ve ascended the literary heights and amassed an adoring following who still expect you never to repeat, and even improve upon your previous genius with each new work. But I’m not sorry for Peter S. Beagle, nor his latest short story collection The Overneath, which came out in November of 2017.

Most striking, to me, is that Beagle manages each new tale with a distinct, and yet perfectly effortless narrative voice. No problem with that whole repetition worry. There is none here. His narratives roll out rich in otherworldly wonder.

He does revisit the unicorn theme in this collection with both Chinese “Kao Yu” and Near Eastern inspired “My Son Hey... Read More

The Philosopher’s Flight: Quite a thrilling ride

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The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

The Philosopher’s Flight (2018) is an ambitious World-War-I alternate history fantasy with an unconventional social justice agenda, which only partially caves in on itself. On balance, the story is quite a lot of fun. I have to admit I’ll be looking for more from this talented new author.

This is essentially a coming of age story, and the smarts (and fantasy) of this novel hinge heavily on Tom Miller’s very clever world building around the “science” of empirical philosophy — “sigilry” in layman’s terms. Miller frames up what is effectively magic hokery into a technical discipline mastered only by women, whereby the gentle (ahem) sex execute extraordinary feats of strength (and technology) undreamt of in the WWI era: flight, almost instantaneous mass transit, speed messaging, smoke carving... Read More

She: A century-old mirror

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Reposting to include Taya's new review.

She by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard published She in 1887. 130 years later, She is a memorable, if strange, read. It is a romantic action-adventure seen in a fun-house mirror; almost offensive at times to modern sensibilities, but still intriguing.

The two main characters are Leo Vincey and our narrator, his adoptive father L. Horace Holly. Holly describes himself as ugly — ape-like, with bandy legs, over-long arms and thick black hair that grows low on his forehead. He is a committed misanthrope and misogynist. Leo is a golden Apollo with a cap of blond curls. With Leo came a strange iron-bound chest, to be opened when Leo turns 25.

On Leo’s twenty-fifth birthday, they open the chest, to find a pot-shard inscribed in Greek and several transl... Read More

Neuroscience and Fiction: Two Sides of the Same Coin (Giveaway!)

Today we welcome Livia Blackburne whose young adult novel Rosemarked has recently been released (here's my review). Livia is a neuroscientist and, since we have two neuroscientists on our team here at FanLit, we asked her how her background influences her writing. Livia says that she views neuroscience and fiction as two sides of the same coin.

One random commenter with a U.S. address will win a copy of Rosemarked

 

NEUROSCIENCE AND FICTION: Two Sides of the Same Coin


People are often surprised when I tell them that I earned a PhD in neuroscience before ... Read More

The Tethered Mage: Fun with pretend politics

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The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

In The Tethered Mage (2017), The Raverran Empire is as complacent, even “Serene,” as its military is legion, and indeed, magical. Every military empire has its controversies, and so does this one, however enlightened it may pretend to be with gender and marriage equality achievements.

Amalia is the heir to the Cornaro fortune and seat upon the Raverran Empire’s Council of Nine, and is as yawnishly blue blooded as she can be. She has, however, enough spirit to attempt harnessing rogue fire warlock Zaira, who has loosed her deadly balefire, with a magical “jess,” binding the pair together for life as falcon and falconer. Thus the two become conscripted soldiers in the Raverran (Serene) Empire’s impressive magical military machine.

Amalia’s nobility should have precluded the relationship, but in emerge... Read More

Fisher of Bones: Half-baked prophetess for half-mutinous followers

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Fisher of Bones by Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey’s novella Fisher of Bones (2017) is a bewildering revision of the Talmud/Old Testament Exodus story with the “Moses” role cast as a prophetess dubbed Fisher (formerly Ducky).

Fisher assumes the prophetess mantle only on her father’s deathbed when the patriarch prophet lays his hands upon her in a would-be ordination and declares her an outcast, “forever banished from [her] people.” And in the next breath commands her to lead the same. I never could get over this contradiction. This kind of launching and halting, lurching and jolting is characteristic of the entire story’s progression and it is not a device that works.

The story’s principle tension involves threats to Fisher’s authority as the pro... Read More

Rosemarked: Deadly plague plus potion equals one complicated character

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Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

In this 2017 YA political fantasy, Zivah and Dineas infiltrate a common enemy kingdom on a spy mission to preserve their respective tribe/agrarian village from an imperial oppressor. Rosemarked follows a dual POV narrative between Zivah, a mystical healer afflicted with the deadly Rosemark Plague, and Dineas, a tribal warrior who has achieved a rare recovery from the disease.

This story is billed as fantasy, but speculative elements are limited to the mystical nature of the healing arts practiced by Zivah and a pair of crow message carriers who always mysteriously find their master and addressee anywhere. Spooks, I know, might consider the messenger crow commo plan high fantasy indeed, but to those who read the genre, this is quite low fantasy. Within the healing speculative element, however, Livia Blackburne crafts... Read More

The Hounds of the Morrigan: A lesser known children’s classic

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We'd like to introduce new reviewer Taya Okerlund. Welcome, Taya!

The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea

The Hounds of the Morrigan (1985) is an overlooked classic in children’s fantasy. A gem of a book published before the children’s fantasy readership exploded. (The classics are sometimes underappreciated by a readership who discovered children’s fantasy with Harry Potter.)

Consider Pidge, the sober-minded boy who unwittingly frees the evil Olc-Glas serpent from his prison within the pages of an old manuscript. As a consequence, Pidge is charged to recover a stone — a stone stained red with the Morrigan’s own blood. With it, Pidge can destroy Olc-Glas before he u... Read More

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