Weathering a Dearth of Ideas


Today we’re pleased to welcome Rachel Hartman, currently on a blog tour for her newest work Shadow Scale, the sequel to her very well-received Seraphina (I loved Seraphina and...

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Suldrun’s Garden: Why is Lyonesse out of print?


Suldrun’s Garden by Jack Vance As I’m writing this, Jack Vance’s under-appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years. My library doesn’t...

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Welcome to the Hope-and-Tragedy Era of Space Exploration


Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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Our rating system


We realize that we’re not professional literature critics — we’re just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction — but we...

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Recent Posts

Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions: Try the audio version

Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions by Henry Lien

A surprise for me last year was how much I enjoyed Henry Lien’s Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword. I would never have picked up that book if it hadn’t been nominated for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. It’s about a girl named Peasprout Chen who, along with her little brother Cricket, is sent from her rural province to her country’s capital city to attend an elite school for students who practice the art of wu liu, which is basically martial arts on ice skates.

When they arrive, Peasprout and Cricket face many of the same challenges that all fantasy readers know that poor rural kids face when sent to magi... Read More

Beneath the Rising: A horror adventure about friendship and betrayal

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
If you’ve had the good fortune to read any of Premee Mohamed’s short fiction, you know it is strange, beautiful and often horrifying. In Beneath the Rising (2020), her first full-length novel, all these things are true. This adventure novel with tentacular monsters and evil Ancient Ones will sweep you along and get deeply under your skin.

Joanna Chambers, who goes by Johnny, is more than a genius and more than a prodigy. She might be a miracle. In a world much like ours but very changed by Johnny’s inventions and discoveries, her best friend Nick, a regular guy, tries to be a lifeline for his rich, brilliant celebrity friend. Although she hasn’t turned eighteen yet, Johnny has found a vaccine for HIV, created improved solar panels that are in use around the world, developed clean water systems and food sources for hundreds of millions. When sh... Read More

The Deep: A haunting story about memories

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes

Readers who pay attention to the Hugo Award category called “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” may recall that one of the 2018 finalists for the award was a hip hop song called “The Deep” by the band clipping which is fronted by Grammy- and Tony-Award winner Daveed Diggs who played Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton... Read More

Anthropocene Rag: Its strengths outweigh its few issues

Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine

I’m of mixed feelings on Anthropocene Rag (2020), by Alex Irvine. On the one hand, the writing is often quite strong, and the novel has a creative, imaginative flair to it in many moments. On the other hand, its episodic nature didn’t fully work for me, and I can’t say the novel fully met its rich potential. Still, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, and there’s often a true pleasure in reading it.

The story is set in a post “Boom” America, the Boom being when AI ran free and randomly (to human eyes at least) transformed things and people, “revising” the known world and creating beings called “constructs” that can’t always be distinguished from humans. Various parts of the country are varied in their degree of change and danger, with San Francisco one of the better “boomscapes” thanks to having electricity and food. Even there, ... Read More

The Broken Ones: A fitting prequel to the MALEDICTION TRILOGY

The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen

This is a prequel novel to Danielle Jensen's MALEDICTION TRILOGY, which is comprised of Stolen Songbird, Hidden Huntress and Warrior Witch. A lot of people like to read books series in chronological order, but I would highly recommend not doing that here, as The Broken Ones (2017) well and truly assumes you've already read the original trilogy.

Beneath the Forsaken Mountain is the city of Trollus, ruled over by a tyrannical king and his son Tristan. But unbeknownst to on... Read More

Phalanxes of Atlans: A well-paired yet unconvincing double feature

Phalanxes of Atlans by F. Van Wyck Mason

A little while ago. I had some words to say about Capt. S.P. Meek’s 1930 novel The Drums of Tapajos, in which a band of American explorers discovers a lost civilization in the jungle wilderness of Brazil, comprised of the cultured and scientifically advanced remnants of the 10 Lost Tribes and Troy, uneasily coexisting with the barbaric remnants of Atlantis. The book was done in by a lack of convincing detail and exciting set pieces, as I reported. Well, now I am here to tell you of my most recent read, another offering from Armchair Fiction’s Lost World/Lost Race series; a book that suffers from one of the same problems that plague The Drums of Tapajos, even though its story line has been inverted. In this c... Read More

The Assassin’s Blade: Four short stories provide extra insight

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Over the past few years I've been reading Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series, though thanks to my dislike of e-books, never got around to reading the five novellas that explored some of the early years in Celaena Sardothien's career.

Celaena is a famous assassin in the employ of Arobynn Hamel, the ruthless master of the Assassin's Guild. Though few have seen her face, Celaena already has a fearsome reputation despite her youth, and is recognized as Arobynn's protégé among the other recruits.

The five stories within The Assassin's Blade (2014) involve separate but connected adventures that are mentioned throughout the THRONE OF GLASS books, and shed insight as to how Celaena ended up where she is at the start of the first boo... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in February 2020. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title



Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday at noon EST, you can come back and identify more.

Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a winner within 2 weeks, Read More

A Heart of Blood and Ashes: A bodice-ripper

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (2020) is the first book in Milla Vane’s A GATHERING OF DRAGONS, a supposedly romantic fantasy about a barbarian warlord named Maddek who is searching for a princess named Yvenne who appears to be responsible for his parents’ death. Maddek’s council has instructed him to stay out of the matter because they value the alliance between their country and the princess’s, but Maddek wants revenge, so he ignores his council.

After Maddek finds Yvenne, she willingly allows herself to be captured and she even proposes that they get married and have a baby so they can each get what they want to fulfill their ambitions and protect their respective countries. Maddek hates her for what she did to his parents, but he’s willing to listen to her reasoning. As they travel together on the very long trip back to M... Read More

Winter of Fire: Just as powerful now

Reposting to include Rebecca's review of the new reprint edition.

Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Sherryl Jordan is a New Zealand-based author of young adult and children’s fantasy fiction. In Winter of Fire (1993) she tells the story of Elsha, a sixteen year old girl born into the enslaved underclass called the Quelled. As the sun has disappeared from the world, a memory only alive in mythology, the Quelled are forced to mine for the firestones that are the people's only source of warmth. But Elsha has a rebellious spirit and is often in trouble with the brutal overseers at the mine. They are from the upper class, the people known as the Chosen.

Elsha's life is changed forever when she is chosen to be the handmaid of the legendry Firelord. The Firelord is the most important man in the world as he possesses the power to divine for firestones, the life fuel of e... Read More