Taya Okerlund

TAYA OKERLUND's first career was in public service in the federal government. 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.

Archenemies: Convenient tensions that irritate but don’t penetrate

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Archenemies (2018) is the second installment in the popular YA trilogy RENEGADES, by Marissa Meyer. The story revolves around a team of superheroes who police Gatlon City against crime. In Gatlon, superhuman powers abound and their possessors have polarized int two antagonistic groups — The Renegades and The Anarchists. With names like that, you may have a difficult time knowing which are the good guys and which are the bad — and that’s kind of the point. Marissa Meyer has drawn up a plot where she means to ask questions about who can be trusted with extraordinary power. And can we trust any of them to be good? On its face, the story has possibilities, but it’s too ambitious for Meyer. Her execution comes off clunky and heavy-handed.

Diving in, you need to know... Read More

Kingdom of Exiles: Fae fantasy and sentimentality

Kingdom of Exiles by S.B. Nova

Here we have the tale of Serena Smith, blacksmith’s daughter exiled from her puritan-like settlement and then kidnapped by fairies and sold in the Kingdom of Aldar, which has much worse political problems than the oppressive community from which she’s taken. The difference is, she finds a way of making a difference — a thing she could not do in her human home.

I feel like this kind of fairy story is a bit at war with itself. Kingdom of Exiles (2017) bills as a feminist tale and means to make Serena fierce and self-actualizing, but there are at least as many times when the story can’t be served by this kind of persona and it falls into sharp conflict with its own ideals. Women ought to be playing heroic roles, but human power is never as good as fairy power in this story. When humans are amplified with magic, we’re again, not talking about feminine power. What is it... Read More

Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary (2018) is the second novel in the CARAVAL trilogy. The third novel, Finale, is due out in May of 2019. I entered this series midstream, after sisters Donatella (Tella) and Scarlet have escaped their father’s controlling grip and freed themselves from the hold of their first Caraval competition. Now Tella is about to dive back into the stream for the sake of a debt she incurred in Caraval. This time she has to find the name and true identity of Legend, the grand master of the Caraval show. The only way she can do that is to enter and win. At the same time, she is trying to find clues to the whereabouts of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared when she was a young girl.

The CARAVAL series has been very wel... Read More

Spinning Silver: We all love this

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,” and sure, it’s that. But such a narrowly focused pitch does a real disservice to the richness that is Spinni... Read More

Umbertouched: A satisfactory duology, and mercifully, not a trilogy

Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne

Livia Blackburne’s second novel in the ROSEMARKED duology, Umbertouched (2018) follows the story of plague-infected Zivah and -recovered Dineas as they escape imperial quarantine to return to their tribe and village, prepare them for imperial attack, and try to widely expose the rogue physician who had used the plague to deliberately infect imperial troops.

Tension between Dineas and Zivah remains consistent and credible, despite Zivah’s having restored his memory. Zivah feels guilt for the lingering negative impact of the treatment and psychological burden of having, effectively, cut his mind in half. Dineas is sure that Zivah loves him only without his burdened memory. They work together expertly, however, and when certain of the Shidadi tribe want to make... Read More

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her invisible airship and embark on a journey a... Read More

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms: And some pretty well detailed space realms, too

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms edited by Ellen Campbell & Patrice Fitzgerald

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms (2018) is a space opera anthology released by Astral Books. I don’t know whether the realms in question are really unimagined. In some places they are pretty dimly lit.

A Lunar colony’s aroma of baking bread did enter into the narrative in “The Art of Baking Bread on the Moon” by David Bruns. Ah, fresh bread! But again, that’s more nostalgic.

My favorite story by some distance was “Adagio for Tiamat Station,” by Marion Deeds, who happens to be a colleague reviewer and author in her own right. Her writing is spare and mercifully unsentimental in relating a tale of poignance and significance. Its gentle urgency echoes through time, and in fact, space as a lost adagio conveys its univ... Read More

Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne sit with Taya and talk KILL THE FARM BOY

A warm welcome to Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, co authors of the July 17 released fairytale farce extraordinaire Kill the Farm Boy. Kevin kindly returns to the FanLit interview seat where we've spoken to him in the past about his fabulous IRON DRUID series

Taya: Tell us about the genesis of Kill the Farm Boy. Whose idea was the premise and how did it evolve?

Kevin: Delilah and I were in the Dallas airport after a signing and killing time before our flights in a seedy barbecue joint. We were discussing how it would be fun to do an anthology of trope-fli... Read More

Dawn of Wonder: An ambitious plot with a moon-shooting character arc

Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

I’d wanted to read Jonathan Renshaw’s 2015 self-pub Kindle Unlimited enrollee for several months. Dawn of Wonder sports upwards of 3700 Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.6 stars — a rare feat for any well-established author, much less a self-publishing up-start. But it’s also a whopping 710 pages long, so you see my hesitation.

But enough wind-up. I read it.

The first sixth of the novel gripped me. Thirma peasant Aedan of Misty Vales lives in a medieval world of war and political intrigue, including well-organized cross-border human trafficking campaigns that can target anyone, though the higher born, the better. Our hero possesses a shrewd and calculating mind that could track a hawk, but he’s also a deeply wounded young boy who can collapse into helplessness when challenged. That said, this character has a lion-sized heart a... Read More

Sufficiently Advanced Magic: Amazing LitRPG world that hijacks the plot line

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

Sufficiently Advanced Magic (2017) took 2nd place in SPFBO 3, which wrapped up last week. The book is a strong addition to the highly popularized LitRPG subgenre, though Rowe avows it is not strictly LitRPG. I am not a follower of the subgenre, but this book has enjoyed such runaway popularity over the past year, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Introducing Corin Cadence, resident of a world where people can earn magical enchantments by progressing through magic towers where they encounter tests of strength, judgment and combat skill. If all goes well, the goddess grants the challenger an attunement, including a magical skill, and safe exit of the tower. If all goes poorly, challengers die ... get lost ... imprisoned ... or some other unpleasantness.

Corin’s primary motive in life is to enter The Serpent Spire, achieve an attunement (... Read More

The Overneath: And assorted interesting stories

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 Heydari and the Kakadann” stories of the uni... Read More

SFM: 2018 Locus Award finalists

Today's Short Fiction Monday 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 C... Read More

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

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. And this brings up another opportunity missed. ... 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?

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.

Song of Blood & Stone is a ... Read More

Snow City: A disorienting, intermittently interesting, destination

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. Readers may need patience to reach those moments,... Read More

The Philosopher’s Flight: Quite a thrilling ride

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 (kind of like explosive alchemy maybe?), m... Read More

She: A century-old mirror

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 translated documents. The shard and documents tell the story of an Egyptian princess, Amenartas, who fell in love... 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

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.

Sequel



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

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

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 prophetess to a mysterious pantheon of gods. The mut... Read More

Rosemarked: Deadly plague plus potion equals one complicated character

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 the story’s most promising conceit.
Read More

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

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 unites with the Morrigan, and foil her plans... Read More

Array ( [SERVER_SOFTWARE] => Apache/2.4.25 (Debian) [REQUEST_URI] => /author/taya-okerlund/ [REDIRECT_STATUS] => 200 [HTTP_HOST] => www.fantasyliterature.com [HTTP_CONNECTION] => Keep-Alive [HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING] => gzip [HTTP_CF_IPCOUNTRY] => US [HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR] => 54.157.61.68 [HTTP_CF_RAY] => 4dac1e932b5c9f70-IAD [HTTP_X_FORWARDED_PROTO] => http [HTTP_CF_VISITOR] => {\"scheme\":\"http\"} [HTTP_USER_AGENT] => CCBot/2.0 (https://commoncrawl.org/faq/) [HTTP_ACCEPT] => text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 [HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE] => en-US,en;q=0.5 [HTTP_IF_MODIFIED_SINCE] => Sat, 23 Mar 2019 02:12:09 GMT [HTTP_CF_CONNECTING_IP] => 54.157.61.68 [HTTP_CDN_LOOP] => cloudflare [PATH] => /usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin [SERVER_SIGNATURE] =>
Apache/2.4.25 (Debian) Server at www.fantasyliterature.com Port 80
[SERVER_NAME] => www.fantasyliterature.com [SERVER_ADDR] => 104.192.226.235 [SERVER_PORT] => 80 [REMOTE_ADDR] => 162.158.78.135 [DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /var/www/fanlit [REQUEST_SCHEME] => http [CONTEXT_PREFIX] => [CONTEXT_DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /var/www/fanlit [SERVER_ADMIN] => [email protected] [SCRIPT_FILENAME] => /var/www/fanlit/index.php [REMOTE_PORT] => 15886 [REDIRECT_URL] => /author/taya-okerlund/ [GATEWAY_INTERFACE] => CGI/1.1 [SERVER_PROTOCOL] => HTTP/1.1 [REQUEST_METHOD] => GET [QUERY_STRING] => [SCRIPT_NAME] => /index.php [PHP_SELF] => /index.php [REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT] => 1558500104.277 [REQUEST_TIME] => 1558500104 )