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Land of Dreams: Strong echoes of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Land of Dreams by James P. Blaylock

James P. Blaylock is a fabulist, a teller of magic realist tales that reframe our everyday world in more colorful, fanciful, sinister, and whimsical ways. His style and themes often overlap with the works of Tim Powers and they have collaborated on several stories and even have shared the character William Ashbless, which is no surprise since they met as students at Cal State Fullerton. There they also befriended author K.W. Jeter (who coined the term “steampunk” and wrote perhaps the earliest full-length example, 1987’s Infernal Devices Read More

The Honey Month: A delicate and unusual collection inspired by honey

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The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar

Having recently re-read Chocolat I found myself with a hankering for more of that winning combination of sugar and magic. It was lucky then that I stumbled across Amal El-Mohtar’s The Honey Month which provided just what I was after in perfect, petit-four-sized nuggets.

The Honey Month was conceived when the author received a gift of assorted honeys from a new-found friend. Finding herself inspired by the smell, taste and texture of each honey she wrote a quick review of each one, followed by a short story or a poem set to the individual sensation each honey garnered. The result is the Honey month, a collection of 28 magical, whimsical snippets, each as unique as the honey that birthed it.

I am hard pressed to say what I enjoyed more, the storie... Read More

Frankenstein: A classic for a reason

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s first novel was written in 1818 when Shelley (then Mary Godwin) was only 20. She was staying with her husband-to-be, the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, on Lake Geneva. As a kind of game, Lord Byron, their friend and companion, proposed that each person in the party write a ghost story. Byron wrote the third canto of Childe Harold; another friend, Polidori, was inspired to write the first vampire novel, “The Vampyre.” But Mary Shelley’s response to the prompt would ultimately become the most famous: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (betcha didn’t know about that subtitle, huh?).

If you’re mostly familiar with the plot of Frankenstein from the 1931 film or various parodies of it, you might have missed a lot about this particular book. Or, more likely, have i... Read More

The Hundred Names of Darkness: Satisfying and heartwarming sequel

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The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy

In The Hundred Names of Darkness, Nilanjana Roy comes back to the cat colony she so convincingly established in The Wildings, back to the neighborhood of Nizamuddin in Delhi, and her irrepressible young Sender, Mara.

The challenges the cats are facing now are more nebulous — and more realistic — than they were in The Wildings. Instead of a tightly-knit and vividly characterized group of feral cats (led by the chilling Datura, and a more convincingly mad villain I’ve never met!), the threat now is human development. The Bigfeet are building roads, cutting down trees, and polluting Nizamuddin. This huma... Read More

Almuric: Overwhelming storytelling gusto

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Almuric by Robert E. Howard

It is truly remarkable how much work pulp author Robert E. Howard managed to accomplish during his brief 30 years of life. Indeed, a look at his bibliography, on a certain Wiki site, should surely flabbergast any reader who knows the Texan writer only as the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane and, essentially, the entire genre known as Sword & Sorcery. Hundreds upon hundreds of titles can be found there, in such variegated categories as boxing, Westerns, Oriental exoticism, sword & sorcery (natch), horror, fantasy, crime, historical tales, detective stories, adventure … even comedy, “spicy stories,” essays and poetry. But of all these myriad story types, one salient fact emerges: Most of them are just that — short stories. Howard, de... Read More

A Field Guide to Fantastical Beasts: A well-written and illustrated introduction

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A Field Guide to Fantastical Beasts by Olento Salaperäinen

A Field Guide to Fantastical Beasts, by Olento Salaperäinen, is a nice if basic introduction to 50 mythological/supernatural creatures, one suitable more for younger readers than older ones (say, high school or up) due to its relatively brief entries and often familiar subject matter.

The guide is encyclopedic in form, dividing the creatures into six basic groups: Fairies and Little People, Demons and the Undead, Water Creatures, Hybrid Beasts, Humanoid Creatures, and The Sacred and the Divine. The groups themselves are organized alphabetically, with each having between 7-10 creatures and 2-4 pages of description devoted to each creature. Each section also has a small sidebar that usually offers up a modern day (and often modern media) use of the creatures, such as how zombies were used in Shaun of the Dead Read More

Crosstalk: The perils of over-communication

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Crosstalk by Connie Willis

In Crosstalk, Connie Willis’ new near-future science fiction novel, Briddey works for Commspan, a smartphone company that is anxious to compete with Apple. For the last six weeks Briddey has been in a whirlwind romance with Trent, a hot young executive at Commspan, who swept Briddey off her feet with his suave charm and his Porsche. Now Trent has invited Briddey, as a prelude to getting engaged, to get a popular “minor” neurological brain surgery, called an EED, along with him, to enhance their ability to sense each other's emotions. Emotional telepathy, if you will. Briddey's co-workers are thrilled for her, but her Irish relatives and her co-worker C.B. Schwartz are urgently telling her not to get the EED: her relatives because they dislike Trent, and C.B. because it’s brain surgery and unintended consequences are always a danger. Briddey, ... Read More

Peace: Mysterious, atmospheric and tinged with nostalgia

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Peace by Gene Wolfe

Although virtually unclassifiable, Gene Wolfe's 1975 novel, Peace, was chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels AND Jones & Newman's Horror: Another 100 Best Books. While the novel certainly does have shadings of both the horrific and the fantastic, it will most likely strike the casual reader — on the surface, at least — as more of an autob... Read More

Fated: A solid, enjoyable urban fantasy

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Fated by Benedict Jacka

It was a slow day, so I was reading a book at my desk and seeing into the future.

Ah. A fine first sentence told me this was going to be my kind of book. Alex Verus, the first-person protagonist, owns the London magic shop in which he works. This isn’t the kind of magic shop where you can buy interlocking rings or a box for sawing your assistant in half; think more New Age, with crystal balls and herbs. And Alex isn’t the kind of mage who concocts potions and waves a wand around. He’s a diviner, a man who can see into the future. But it’s not a matter of just taking a look ahead and seeing what’s going to happen, because the future doesn’t work that way. Every choice he or someone in his future makes changes things, possibly even everything, so what he really sees is probabilities. That means that he can do “research” by imagining the resu... Read More

Sword of Destiny: More great WITCHER stories

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Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny is the second story collection in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER books which are the basis of the popular video game. Sword of Destiny should be read second in the series. (This is confusing because the English translations of the WITCHER books were not published in chronological order.) I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first WITCHER book, The Last Wish, and was eager to read Sword of Destiny. It did not disappoint. I love Sapkowski’s hero, a man named Geralt of Rivia who... Read More

Claimed: 3 for 3

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Claimed by Francis Stevens

At the tail end of my review of Francis Stevens’ 1919 novel The Heads of Cerberus, I mentioned that the author was now a very solid 2 for 2 with me, having loved that book as well as 1918’s The Citadel of Fear, and that I had a feeling that once I took in her 1920 novel, Claimed, that she would be an even more solid 3 for 3. Well, as I predicted, such is indeed the case, now that I have finally read her most impressive third novel. While Citadel had dealt with the discovery of a lost Aztec city and battling gods (Quetzalcoatl and Nacoc-Yaotl), and the dystopian Cerberus with a totalitarian Philadelphia in an alternate-reality future, Claimed... Read More

The Queen of Blood: A solid, dramatic opening to an epic fantasy series

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The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Blood (2016) is the first book in an epic fantasy series by Sarah Beth Durst, THE QUEENS OF RENTHIA. Durst seems to be able to write whatever she sets her mind to: YA, urban fantasy, or dark fairy tales. The Queen of Blood is a briskly-paced story that introduces us to an original fantasy world with some unusual magical powers.

Daleina lives with her parents and little sister in one of the “outer villages” in the great forests of the kingdom of Aratay. The forest is filled with nature spirits: air, water, ice, earth, fire and wood. These spirits are not friendly. Their instinct is to kill humans, but the power of Aratay’s human queen keeps them mostly in check. Sometime... Read More

A Window into Time: A charming SF novella

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A Window into Time by Peter F. Hamilton

Julian is 17 and, though he looks like a normal teenager and he’s a really nice kid, he’s something of a misfit. He doesn’t have a normal family life, he doesn’t have any friends, he’s a little too smart, and everyone thinks he’s strange. The weirdest part about Julian, though, is that he remembers pretty much everything that ever happened to him.

When Julian starts remembering things that didn’t happen, he decides there must be some twist in the fabric of space-time that’s causing his life to get mixed up with someone else’s. That person seems to be in danger and Julian would like to warn him but, if he gets involved, he’ll be risking his own life. However, if Julian can’t figure out how to straighten things out, without causing a time paradox, he may ... Read More

Of Sand and Malice Made: A fine introduction to Çeda and the city of Sharakhai

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Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel to Bradley P. Beaulieu's 2015 novel Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, introducing the teenaged main character, Çeda, along with her best friend Emre, and aspects of the desert city of Sharakhai they call home. Çeda is a pit fighter, and Beaulieu writes her training and fight scenes well, conveying action and Çeda's thoughts during the fights in brisk prose. The primary impetus for the plot is that a demon-like creature called an "erekh," which can take on various human guises in order to go unnoticed, has taken a sudden interest in ... Read More

Toad Words and Other Stories: Enchanting folk and fairy tale retellings

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Toad Words and Other Stories by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon works are adult works, like her wonderful Nebula award-winning short story “Jackalope Wives.” Regardless of the name she uses, I’ve been searching out her fiction ever since reading “Jackalope Wives.” T. Kingfisher writes lovely fairy tale retellings and other folk and fairy tale-flavored fantasies, usually with a twist, sometimes dar... Read More

Nifft the Lean: Vance’s Cugel reimagined by Hieronymus Bosch

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Nifft the Lean by Michael Shea

Back in 1950, Hillman Periodicals published a little book for 25 cents called The Dying Earth by Jack Vance. It could easily have disappeared into obscurity like thousands of other books, but there was something special about it. There weren’t any other books in SF/Fantasy quite like it, depicting an incredibly distant future earth where the sun has cooled to a red color, the moon is gone, and humanity has declined to a pale shadow of former greatness, and struggles to survive amongst the ruins of the past. The world is filled with magicians, sorcerers, maidens, demons, ghouls, brigands, thieves, and adventurers.

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The Masked City: A fun, imaginative follow-up, and I loved the Train

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The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

With The Masked City (2016),  Genevieve Cogman delivers a fun, imaginative follow-up to her The Invisible Library (2015) debut. We get to spend time with our favorite characters from the first book: Irene and Kai, Holmesian-detective Vale and the fearsome Coppelia. We meet some new ones as well, including a dragon, a new pair of adversaries and a magical Train, who was my personal favorite.

This review may contain spoilers for the first book.

In The Invisible Library, Cogman introduced the concept of high-chaos and high-order worlds, and the Library, which exists in all dimensions and who... Read More

The Illustrated Man: Grim but touching stories

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Reposting to include Katie's new review:

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man is a  collection of Ray Bradbury’s stories which are sandwiched between the account of the titular man whose tattoos come alive at night and set the scenes for the 18 tales in this collection. All of these stories are classic Ray Bradbury — full of spacemen, Earth-Mars conflict, psychiatrists, spoiled children, bad marriages, book burning, domestic work-saving technologies, and nervous breakdowns. They deal with the fear of atomic war, loneliness, prejudice, madness, and the dangers of automobiles, junk food, and media entertainment (but smoking is okay).

All of the tales are written in Bradbury’s incomparable prose and most of them are emotionally touching. But, not surprisingly, they’re almost all grim, making Read More

Summerlong: Light on both poetry and mystery

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Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Summerlong is the latest stand-alone work by Peter S. Beagle, an author widely lauded and respected for his skillful turns of phrase, complicated characters, and his ability to credibly blend the fantastic into the mundane. In Summerlong, Beagle turns his gaze on Puget Sound and a small island off Seattle’s coast, an unremarkable little place which undergoes a transformation over the course of just a few months, changing the lives of its residents in profound and irrevocable ways.

The greatest changes come to Joanna Delvecchio and Abe Aronson, a late-middle-aged couple who have settled into a comfortable routine over their two decades of coupleship: she’s a flight attendant and basketball fanatic, he’s a history... Read More

The Doomed City: A fascinating and thoughtful work of Russian science fiction

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The Doomed City by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, translated by Andrew Bromfield

The Doomed City is a late 1980’s work by, according to my jacket liner, the two “greatest Russian science fiction masters”: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Having never read their other works, or much at all by any other Russian sci-fi authors, I can’t speak to the validity of that statement. But certainly The Doomed City, translated here by Andrew Bromfield, is a fascinating and thoughtful work, one that I thoroughly enjoyed even as I sensed I was probably missing some of the layers/allusions more specific to their homeland.

The setting is a roughly 50-square-kilometer metropolis lit by an artif... Read More

The Muse: A dual timeline mystery

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

In her follow-up to her acclaimed novel The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton adopts a dual timeline structure, following the lives of two creatively gifted women separated by time and place, but linked by a luminous, long-hidden painting that bodes well to take the art world by storm, and a decades-old mystery about the artist. The Muse (2016) lacks the subtle element of magical realism that lent a mysterious aura to the dollhouse and the titular miniaturist who furnished it in her debut novel, but there are other compelling mysteries and themes that drive the plot of The Muse and knit together its two timelines.

In 1967 London, ... Read More

The Unreal and the Real, Vol 2: Outer Space, Inner Lands

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The Unreal and the Real, Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is essential reading (or listening) for all fans of SF who want to see why Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the giants of the SF/fantasy field. Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands contains a host of impressive stories, both her famous award-winners and lesser-known gems. All of them are intelligent, thought-provoking, understated, and beautifully written. It’s hard to underestimate the influence she has had on the genre, fans, and how much respect she has gained in the greater literary world. I can’t wait to see the upcoming documentary about her life and legacy being produced by Arwen Curry called Worl... Read More

I Am Providence: A smart, dark, funny Lovecraftian mystery

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I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

“On any other weekend, my body would have been discovered more quickly.” 

Panos Panossian is not the kind of a guy to let the mere fact that he is dead stop him from narrating; even if his first-person narration starts after he’s been killed, and is a faceless corpse in a cabinet in the morgue. That quote is the opening sentence in I Am Providence, a multi-genrebending novel by Nick Mamatas.

Panossian is, well, was a novelist, and a novelist in a very specific niche with a very specific fandom; he wrote Lovecraftian fiction. He was attending the annual Summer Tentacular, a Lovecraft convention held in Providenc... Read More

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

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Editor's note: Won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

Most monthly comics come out, well, monthly, but DC decided to drag out The Sandman: Overture and release it every other month, and that seemed reasonable given how long it takes for J. H. Williams III to create his exquisite artwork. However, the comic ended up taking a full year longer than announced — from October 2013 to October 2015. After the first three issues, I quit rea... Read More

Foxglove Summer: You can take the constable outta London, but…

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Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

One of the definitive aspects of Ben Aaronovitch's PETER GRANT series is the fact that it's set in the big smoke (aka London, for all you non-Londoners). So it may come as a surprise to discover that Foxglove Summer (2014), the fifth instalment of the series, is actually set in the countryside. But don't be fooled into thinking this is story about sleepy village life and the occasional nosy neighbour. Far from it. Peter Grant is back along with a myriad of supernatural problems, and he's just as incompetent as he's always been...

Two eleven-year-old girls have gone missing in the rural town of Leominster, Herefordshire. Constable Peter Grant is sent on a routine assignment to check up on an old wizard living in the ar... Read More