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Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott(1958- )
Kate Elliott is a penname used by Alis A. Rasmussen who published a three-volume space opera in 1990. As Kate Elliott, she also wrote the science fiction epic Jaran. Learn more about her at Kate Elliott’s website.

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Jaran: A truly charming tale

Jaran by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is best known as an epic fantasy writer. Her books are powerful and sprawling. Her characters are well developed and emotionally intense. Her writing pulls it all together so perfectly. She’s an author that, no matter what flaws I might find with her books, I always tend to enjoy. Jaran is no different. It’s not a perfect novel, but it’s mighty enjoyable, despite that.

Jaran is billed as a SciFi, but it’s really an epic fantasy book with hints of SciFi thrown in to make things interesting. Jaran starts with Tess in a futuristic galaxy and she ends up on a very behind-the-technological-times planet. She’s highly placed in the governmental order of things, as her brother is an important Duke who has been fighting for human rights against the alien Chapalii. Tess stands to inherit all of that, but her discomfort with the position and her ... Read More

The Golden Key: Hard to put down

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott

Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott collaborate here to create a novel that is very hard to put down — despite its formidable length and flattish characters. What drew me in was the carefully designed world, the totally believable magic, the overall mood, and the centuries-spanning plot. This novel is set in Tirra Virte, an Italy-ish province where all official ceremonies and transactions are recorded not with words but with paintings. I thought for a moment — "Hey! that can't be reliable! The artist can paint something that didn't really happen!" But then it made me realize just how unreliable words, too, can be. A scribe can write lies as easily as an artist can paint them.

This art-centered world, of course, requires artists. This novel follows the rising and falling fortunes of one family of ... Read More

Crown of Stars: Stunning in scale and complexity

CROWN OF STARS by Kate Elliott

CROWN OF STARS is well-thought out and obviously well-planned. It’s epic in scope and it’s got a lot of texture. There are many complex characters who we follow in parallel, as in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Some of them are very likeable, and there are some really excellent villains (e.g., Hugh). Kate Elliott's creatures are imaginative and enjoyable, and I especially liked the way they interact with the humans. Ms. Elliott uses a lot of description and intricate world-building and therefore her plot moves very slowly (again, similar to WOT).

The writing was inconsistent throughout the series. Sometimes it seems brilliant, but at other times I'd think “why did she tell me that?” or “this could be moving a little faster.” It’s often w... Read More

CROSSROADS: Richly detailed and realistically heterogeneous worlds

THE CROSSROADS TRILOGY by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott’s CROSSROADS TRILOGY, the first 3 books in a multi-book series, is a great example of how good epic fantasy can be in so many ways: its world-building is richly detailed and realistically heterogeneous; it has a multitude of characters spanning a wide spectrum of human nature and behavior, most of them nicely individualized; its depiction of war is grimly and painfully realistic; the plot contains some pleasantly surprising turns along the way; its fantastic elements don’t overwhelm the plot and are interesting in their own right; it has layers of complexity versus the all-too-frequent good vs. evil storyline; and it comes to a resolution despite being part of a larger series.

Despite all of this, I have to confess that I found more to admire than to enjoy in the reading, so much so that it was a struggle to fin... Read More

Shadow Gate: This series is shaping up to be Elliott’s best work

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott

Giant eagles and their reeves who patrol the skies as peacekeepers. Nine Guardians blessed by the Seven Gods to bring justice to the land of the Hundred who have mysteriously vanished. A Qin captain, his young bride and a company of soldiers forced into exile. A slave of twelve years who schemes to buy out his debt as well as his sister’s. An outlander — the youngest and least-favored of seven sons — who can see and hear ghosts goes on a quest in search of his uncle’s bones. A handsome reeve haunted by his lover’s death. And an army of thieves, murderers and other malcontents who threaten the Hundred from the north. These are just a few of the concepts, characters, and storylines introduced in Spirit Gate, the opening chapter in a new epic fantasy series by Kate Elliott who previously brought readers the Jaran science fiction novels, The Golden Key collabor... Read More

Cold Magic: A cold and exhilarating roller-coaster ride

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

I feel like I've been waiting a very long time to read and comment on this book, not only because it was recommended to me ages ago, but because it contained everything I love in a novel (which have been missing from various other books on my reading list for quite a while). Not only a complex and appealing female lead, but also a strong bond between two women which makes up the emotional centre of the narrative, solid and fascinating world-building, political intrigue on a wide scale, an emphasis on the female gaze, beautiful prose, lots of diversity, a dash of steampunk and plenty of witty insights strewn throughout its significant length.

That's the perfect recipe for a great book.

Admittedly a little slow to start with, the reader is introduced to Catherine Hassi Barahal, a young orphaned teenager living with her aunt, uncle and extended family in modest dwellings, who attends universi... Read More

Cold Fire: A strong second instalment in what promises to be a great trilogy

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

This is the second book in Kate Elliott's SPIRIT WALKER trilogy, preceded by Cold Magic and concluded in Cold Steel, but which manages to avoid most of the pitfalls inherent in many second installments. It's a direct continuation of the previous book (making it impossible to start reading with this one) and there's still a long way to go till the finish line, but despite ending on something of a cliff-hanger, it still delivers a relatively satisfying story-arc with a climactic finish and a sense of completeness.

Catherine Bell Barahal has been having a rough year. Married against her will to an aristocratic Cold Mage in her cousin's place, she not only learns that her parentage isn't what she thought it was, but that (having realized that she isn't the bride that was promised them) her husband's family now want her dead. Fleeing for her safety and discovering her roots provid... Read More

Cold Steel: A rousing and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

The third and final book of Kate Elliott's SPIRITWALKER trilogyfinishes with a bang, wrapping up most of its storylines and myriad of subplots, but also leaving enough room for Elliott to revisit this world and its inhabitants if she so chooses. Preceded by Cold Magic and Cold Fire, this final installment picks up right where it left off: with protagonist Catherine Bell Barahal (or Cat as she's better known) is in the midst of a desperate search to rescue her husband Andevai from the spirit world, having been kidnapped by her own father and the Wild Hunt that rides at his command.

At this stage, there's no point trying to jump into the story without first having read the first two books in the trilogy. All three books are closely intertwined and each builds upon the last when it comes to crafting a full story of immense scope and detail. By this point Cat is beset on all sides by a... Read More

Night Flower: Romantic and bittersweet prequel

Night Flower by Kate Elliott

Night Flower, currently only available online, is a prequel novella to Court of Fives, the first book in Kate Elliott’s YA fantasy trilogy (also titled COURT OF FIVES). The relationship between Doma Kiya and Captain Esladas — the parents of Jessamy, teenaged Fives adversary and central figure of the trilogy — is a matter of speculation for many, especially the Saroese nobles who view this pairing with disgust and disdain. In this novella, Elliott takes readers back to when Kiya and Esladas first set foot in the city of Saryenia, when they were young and seeking their fortunes, and reveals the circumstances which drew them together.

Newly arrived in Saryenia with a small group of comrades from Old Saro, Esladas immediately sets about deter... Read More

Court of Fives: The dangers of imperialism, racism, and ambition

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott has a well-deserved reputation for writing excellent science-fiction and fantasy for adults. Her characters, world-building, and societies are not only entertaining but well-crafted. It seems only natural that, at some point in her career, she would try her hand at Young Adult fiction. The result is Court of Fives, the first in a planned fantasy trilogy which is sure to appeal to younger readers as well as Elliott’s established fan base. While I’ve seen the novel described as “YA meets Game of Thrones,” Elliott herself has said, “I prefer Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior,” which is far more relevant to my personal interests (and a more unique combination). Read More

Poisoned Blade: Does what every good sequel should do

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Warning: may contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Court of Fives

In Poisoned Blade, the second novel in her COURT OF FIVES trilogy, Kate Elliott builds on the strengths of Court of Fives and expands upon it, weaving tangled webs of intrigue, deceit, and impressively multi-layered political schemes. Anyone who thinks Young Adult fiction can’t successfully handle themes like a culture’s endurance in defiance of colonialism, the myriad socio-economic factors leading toward revolution, or racial and/or gender inequality, needs to read these books: Elliott covers these issue... Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

In Night Flower, Kiya and Esladas met and fell in love, beginning a journey that would, eventually, shake the city of Saryenia to its very foundation. In Court of Fives, their daughter Jessamy got her heart’s desire, the chance to train as a Court of Fives runner, at the cost of her family’s safety. In Poisoned Blade, Jes did everything she could to reunite her loved ones while rooting out royal corruption, but it wasn’t enough. In Bright Thrones, Jes’ twin Bettany... Read More

Bright Thrones: Whatever happened to Bettany?

Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott

The Bright Thrones novella (2017) ties up some loose threads left after the conclusion of Poisoned Blade, the second book in Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES trilogy. In the middle of that novel, Jessamy reunites briefly with her twin sister, Bettany, who appears to be in servitude to a famous foreign doctor, Lord Agalar. Very little about their strange situation is explained at the time, and circumstances drive the sisters apart just when it seems that a reunification (though certainly not a reconciliation) might be possible.

Most of Bright Thrones takes place before Bettany and Jes meet up at the royal family’s tombs; the novella reveals quite ... Read More

Black Wolves: The hearts and minds of Elliott’s characters are wonderful

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

I’m not going to spend much time summarizing the plot of Kate Elliott’s epic fantasy Black Wolves. I don’t think I could. Black Wolves (2015)is the first book of a series, also called BLACK WOLVES. It is 780 pages long, and the story spans nearly fifty years (although there is a large gap in the timeline). It involves a nation called the Hundred, which sits on the northern border of a large, powerful empire. It involves the murder of a king, the crowning of another, and a dynastic dispute between two queens. It involves a shift away from indigenous beliefs to a state-sponsored religion imported from the Empire — and a corrupt priesthood. It includes people from various cultures who have come to the Hundred at various points in history, and the “dem... Read More

The Very Best of Kate Elliott: An excellent display of talent and range

The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is a prolific writer, producing over twenty fantasy and science fiction novels and several highly-acclaimed short stories in the last three decades. This year alone will see the publication of not only The Very Best of Kate Elliott, a collection of twelve short stories and four essays, but also two new novels: Court of Fives and The Black Wolves, and Elliott shows no signs of slowing her output in the future. Thus it was with some prickliness that I began reading The Very Best of Kate Elliott, thinking that the title would prove to be ambitious at best (and disappointingly superlative at worst).

The introduction provides insight into Elliott’s progression from young reader to mature writer of fi... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 44 and 45

Issue 44 of Apex Magazine leads off with “Trixie and the Pandas of Dread” by Eugie Foster. It would take a hard heart to resist a story that starts like this: “Trixie got out of her cherry-red godmobile and waved away the flitting cherubim waiting to bear her to her sedan chair.” In the world Foster has created, one can become a god when the Karma Committee appears at her door bearing prizes akin to the Publishers Clearinghouse bonanza. Trixie uses her power to get rid of the jerks who write sexist, homophobic or racial comments on public internet forums. Can we all agree that we really need a goddess like this? But the work is growing less satisfactory lately; Trixie is having a mid-goddess crisis. The story is about how she gets past it, and it is as satisfying as it is funny.

Lettie Prell’s “The Performance Artist” asks serious questions about what constitutes life in a world where people can do... Read More

A Fantasy Medley: Wish it was longer

A Fantasy Medley edited by Yanni Kuznia

FORMAT/INFO: A Fantasy Medley is 136 pages long divided over four short stories and is published by Subterranean Press in two editions: A fully clothbound hardcover limited to 3000 copies and a numbered hardcover limited to 200 copies and signed by the authors and editor. Dust jacket by Kristy Doherty.

ANALYSIS:

1) “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” by Kelley Armstrong. “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” is an urban fantasy tale with all of the usual trimmings including a female protagonist, a contemporary setting, supernatural elements, humor, etc. The story is actually pretty interesting and follows a lesbian Japanese vampire who uses wits instead of violence to prevent two o... Read More

Epic: Legends of Fantasy: Lives up to its title

Epic: Legends of Fantasy by John Joseph Adams (editor)

Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of stories written by some of the biggest names in epic fantasy. The book clocks in at over 600 pages not just because it’s very difficult to tell short epic stories (though some of these authors do manage to pull it off) but because here the authors are not just telling epic legends, they are legends in and of themselves. George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Elliott, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Trudi Canavan,  and Juliet Marillier all contributed stories to this volume.

Epic: Legends of Fantasy opens with a novella by Robin... Read More

World Fantasy Convention 2011: Day Two

I'm reporting about Day 2 today. Read about Day One here.

There were lots of interesting panels today, and it was frustrating to try to boil them down into the ones I wanted to see.

My first choice was “Retelling Old Stories: The New Fairy Tales.” I’ve got all the modern fairy tale collections edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and many other rewritings, so I was eager to hear this discussion, and it didn’t disappoint. The first question addressed by the panel was the obvious one: why rewrite fairy tales? Jessica Day George Read More