SFF Reviews

Our most recent reviews are listed first. Use the tags to search for reviews of similar books.

Codex Born: Structural problems marred my enjoyment

Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

Codex Born is the second book in Jim C. Hines’s MAGIC EX LIBRIS series, featuring the libriomancer Isaac Vainio. In the first book we learned about Hines’s delightful magical system in which gifted people can materialize objects out of books — mostly famous or well-beloved books. In the first book, Libriomancer, part of the pleasure was watching Hines name-check classic science fiction and fantasy books, and that joy continues in Codex Born.

This book also takes some time to develop the character of Lena Greenwood, a dryad who isn’t a real dryad. Each chapter opens with a section in Lena’s point of view, giving us scenes from her past. It’s helpful, and humanizes someone who was basically a magical sidekick in book one. These sections take the form of journal entries, and one of them, a poem, is lov... Read More

The Doctor and the Kid: A fun-filled romp through the Wild West

The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick

The Doctor and the Kid is the second novel in Mike Resnick’s WEIRD WEST TALES. I haven’t read the first book, The Buntline Special, but I could follow the events and characters just fine. The Doctor and the Kid works well as a stand-alone, though I probably would have had more attachment to the characters and the events if I had read The Buntline Special first. The only place where my lack of background was evident was with descriptions of the Buntline itself. I could never quite picture what exactly it was and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had that problem if I’d read The Buntline Special first.

The Doctor and the Kid is filled with characte... Read More

Reserved for the Cat: A Puss in Boots story

Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reserved for the Cat is the sixth stand-alone novel in Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of fairytale retellings. As the title might suggest, Reserved for the Cat is a “Puss in Boots” story and it’s actually recognizable as such (unlike some of Lackey’s other retellings that go too far afield from their sources).

Ninette, our heroine, is an orphaned ballet dancer who has lots of talent but is fired from her gig with a famous Parisian ballet company after inadvertently evoking the jealousy of the company’s reigning diva. Unable to get more work in Paris, she is about to prostitute herself when a talking cat appears and promises to make her a superstar. The cat leads her to a seaside town in England where she impersonates a famous Russian dancer and joins a local troupe of entertainers. Things go well unt... Read More

Flandry’s Legacy: Finishes the Technic Civilization stories

Flandry's Legacy by Poul Anderson

Flandry's Legacy is the conclusion to Baen's project to publish all Anderson's works in the Technic Civilization in chronological order. In total the series covers seven volumes and over 3,000 pages, all published between 1951 and 1985. This last volume contains two novels and four shorter pieces that cover almost four millennia in Anderson's future history. I must admit that after reading the previous volume, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Kinight of Terra, I suffered from a bit of a Flandry overdose. I'm not a huge fan of this character, it turns out. In this volume, Flandry makes his final appearance before Anderson takes us into the Long Night and out the other end. I had high hopes for this last part in the sage and indeed, I enjoyed the last stories in the collection a lot.

The collection opens with the last novel in which Flandry is the mai... Read More

The Wizard of London: Strangely jumbled

The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey

The Wizard of London is the fifth of Mercedes Lackey’s stand-alone novels in her ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of fairytale retellings. It’s so loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” that you probably won’t even notice the few similarities. There’s an ice queen, but the theme of The Wizard of London (if there is one, which I doubt), has nothing to do with the theme of “The Snow Queen.”

The story starts when a little girl named Sarah arrives from Africa (where her parents are missionaries) at a London boarding school that is known to educate and train the children of Elemental mages. There she finds an ethically and religiously diverse cast of excellent teachers and attendants. She also befriends a young street urchin named Nan whose mother is a neglectful drug addict. Together Sarah and Nan... Read More

To Live Again: Silverberg in the full flush of his considerable power

To Live Again by Robert Silverberg

By the time Robert Silverberg released To Live Again in 1969, he had already come out with no less than three dozen science-fiction novels and several hundred short stories, all in a period of only 15 years! The amazingly prolific author had entered a more mature and literate phase in his writing career in 1967, starting with his remarkable novel Thorns, and by 1969 was on some kind of a genuine roll. Just one of six sci-fi novels that Silverberg came out with that year (including the Nebula-winning Nightwings and my personal favorite of this author so far, Downward to the Earth), To Live Again initially appeared as a Doubleday hardcover and, surprisingly, was NOT nominated for a Hugo or Nebula award. To t... Read More

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: THE FAUST ACT by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE (Vol. 1): THE FAUST ACT by Kieron Gillen (writer) and Jamie McKelvie (artist)

IMAGE is THE publisher to watch these days, and THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is further proof that, outside of your canonical superhero stories, IMAGE is where you’ll most likely pick up stories written for the mature adult, both male and female. IMAGE has taken the promise of VERTIGO and made it a reality, and all the best writers and artists, even the ones still working for MARVEL and DC, take time off to put out their dream projects with the hands-off editors at IMAGE. Consider this list: SAGA, VELVET, THE FADE OUT, DREAM MERCHANT, COPPERHEAD, SEX CRIMINALS, PRETTY DEADLY, DEADLY CL... Read More

The Stress of Her Regard: The minority report; I just didn’t like this book.

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

Tim Powers published The Stress of her Regard in 1989. It was nominated for a world Fantasy Award in 1990. It did not win, but it won a Mythopoeic Award that same year. For many people, this is their favorite Tim Powers novel, and they describe it with words like “seductive” and “immersive.”

I fully understand that I am in the minority here, but I didn’t like it.

There are several things to admire about this book. There are some things I liked. Then there are things I disliked, and finally, there is one thing I hated. I will try to cover my points in that order.

What I admired:  The creation of the mysterious, attractive and deadly creatures who have fed on us throughout history is brilliant. If Powers gives them too many names; the lamia, “Lilith’s children,” succubae, muse, nephalim, a... Read More

Phoenix and Ashes: A Cinderella story about PTSD

Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey

Each of Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels is a stand-alone fairytale retelling. Some of the novels have overlapping characters, but you can read these books in any order. The fourth book, Phoenix and Ashes, is a mostly pleasant Cinderella story set in England during The Great War. Maya, the Indian doctor from The Serpent’s Shadow, is a minor character. I listened to Michelle Ford narrate the audio version of Phoenix and Ashes (Audible Studios). She is perfect for this tale.

Unlike some of the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS stories, Phoenix and Ashes stays pretty close to the source material; you can tell this is a Cinderella story. Eleanor Robinson’s father is killed during WW1 and Eleanor is left living in the house she grew up in with her socially-c... Read More

The Affirmation: Literary science fiction does not get much better

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest

I’ve heard Christopher Priest’s 1981 novel The Affirmation described as regressive, an ouroboros eating its own tail, a Moeibus strip. While there is undoubtedly an M.C. Escher quality to the book — a blurring of reality — the beginning and end are simply too different to form a contiguous whole reverting back on itself. They’re opposite ends of a spectrum in fact, and the appeal of the novel is immersing one’s self in the subjective reality Priest slowly unwraps and getting lost in the world of memories as a result.

The true nature of The Affirmation requires thought; the easy part is relaxing throughout the journey. Priest patiently and precisely lays down the text — words like railroad ties on a Sunday train ride to the country — the story moving effortlessly along. The sublime prose lulls the reader into the deceivingly mu... Read More

Cthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness: A delightfully dark anthology

Cthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness  edited by Lester Smith

The works of almost fifty authors are collected in this delightfully dark anthology of Cthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness, which includes, other than Haiku, short- to medium-length poetry and about ten short-short stories in the horror genre; however, most of these short horror works are in the tradition of or comment on the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft, as the title makes clear. I think any fan of Lovecraft should check this book out. It’s a fun read. And it’s often a funny read as well. Consider the haiku tradition in English of writing the poems in a three-line, 5-7-5 syllable pattern. And then note that Necronomicon has five syllables! That word is just begging to be the first line of a haiku:



​​ Necr... Read More

Orca: Brust is still playing around with voice and structure

Orca by Steven Brust

Orca is the seventh book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. It’d be best to stop here if you haven’t read the previous books. We don’t want to spoil anything, do we?

Okay, so you should recall that Vlad Taltos, everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin, is wanted by his organization because he betrayed them in order to save his wife from the executioner’s ax (or whatever implement the executioners in Dragaera use). Vlad has given up his territory and is on the run. In the last book, Athyra, he met a boy named Savn who helped him defeat a necromancer. Because Savn used a Morganti weapon to kill the bad guy, Savn is now witless, and he’s been that way for a year. Feeling responsible for Savn’s condition, Vlad finds a woman who may be able to heal him. In return, Vlad will try to find and stop the person who is trying to get the wom... Read More

Wicked: A challenging revisionist take on the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

After finally seeing the Broadway musical I felt it was well past time to track down Gregory Maguire's Wicked (the inspiration for the musical, which by this stage has probably eclipsed the book in popularity) and read for myself the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Anyone who comes to the book out of a love for the musical is probably in for a nasty shock. Though the musical had its share of darkness and a bittersweet ending, it was generally a very light and comedic production that focused on the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. Maguire's novel on the other hand is filled with violence, sex, murder and grotesquery, delving into the question of what makes a human being evil and whether or not they can escape their preordained fate.

Elphaba is born to missionary parents in lower-east Munchkinland, with unexplained green skin and ... Read More

Athyra: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Athyra by Steven Brust

Athyra is the sixth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you should probably skip this review until you’ve read Phoenix so that I don’t spoil its plot for you. I’m listening to Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration of the audio versions (Audible Studios) of VLAD TALTOS. Athyra is 8.5 hours long on audio, though I increased the playback speed, as I always do, so it was shorter than that for me. Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration continues to be excellent and I recommend the audio format for this series.

I mentioned in my review of Phoenix that Vlad had come to a turning place in his life. Because of what he did in that story, Vlad has left Adrilankha and is n... Read More

Seven Footprints to Satan: Marvelous entertainment

Seven Footprints to Satan by Abraham Merritt

Readers of Abraham Merritt's first four novels — The Moon Pool, The Metal Monster, The Face in the Abyss and The Ship of Ishtar — may feel a little surprised as they get into his fifth, Seven Footprints to Satan. Whereas those earlier fantasy masterpieces featured exotic locales such as the Pacific islands, the Himalayas and Peru; extravagant purple prose, dense with hyperadjectival descriptions; and living light creatures, metallic sentient cubes, a lost semi-reptilian race and battling gods, Seven Footprints to Satan Read More

Array ( [SERVER_SOFTWARE] => Apache [REQUEST_URI] => /category/reviews/ [DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /home1/fantatn0/public_html [GATEWAY_INTERFACE] => CGI/1.1 [HTTP_ACCEPT] => text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 [HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING] => x-gzip, gzip, deflate [HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE] => en-us,en-gb,en;q=0.7,*;q=0.3 [HTTP_HOST] => www.fantasyliterature.com [HTTP_USER_AGENT] => CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) [MAGICK_THREAD_LIMIT] => 1 [PATH] => /bin:/usr/bin [QUERY_STRING] => [REDIRECT_MAGICK_THREAD_LIMIT] => 1 [REDIRECT_STATUS] => 200 [REDIRECT_UNIQUE_ID] => VHZFJ0KT9HoAADavDXsAAAYc [REDIRECT_URL] => /category/reviews/ [REMOTE_ADDR] => 54.161.219.112 [REMOTE_PORT] => 32781 [REQUEST_METHOD] => GET [SCRIPT_FILENAME] => /home1/fantatn0/public_html/index.php [SCRIPT_NAME] => /index.php [SERVER_ADDR] => 66.147.244.122 [SERVER_ADMIN] => webmaster@fantasyliterature.com [SERVER_NAME] => www.fantasyliterature.com [SERVER_PORT] => 80 [SERVER_PROTOCOL] => HTTP/1.0 [SERVER_SIGNATURE] =>
Apache Server at www.fantasyliterature.com Port 80
[UNIQUE_ID] => VHZFJ0KT9HoAADavDXsAAAYc [PHP_SELF] => /index.php [REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT] => 1417037095.4559 [REQUEST_TIME] => 1417037095 )