The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf by Tia Nevitt
I rarely read fairytale retellings, but I picked up The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf because its author, Tia Nevitt, is a friend of mine. She’s a former fellow SFF blogger and she lives just a few minutes away from me, so we chat occasionally and have gotten together a few times. Also, I enjoyed her first published novel, the first in her ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS series, The Sevenfold Spell, a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty which focuses on the minor characters in the story. I read it without telling her I was reading it, just so I wouldn’t have to admit I didn’t like it if it failed to please. (Fortunately, I did like it!)
The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf has a similar set-up. In this case, Tia delightfully mangles the story of Snow White ... Read More
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The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf by Tia Nevitt
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
Linh was a magistrate on the 23rd Planet when war came. She escaped to Prosper Station on a ship full of refugees, waiting until all of the others’ papers were checked before introducing herself to the authorities. “Magistrate” is a position of considerable power in Linh’s universe, and when her identity is verified by reference to the station computers, she is taken to Quyen, the woman who runs the station. The two women take an instant dislike to one another, thus setting the stage for everything that follows.
Linh and Quyen are of Vietnamese heritage, in a world in which the Dai Viet — the Vietnamese dynasties, beginning with the rule of Lý Thánh Tông in 1054 — stayed in power until the space age, and then spread out among the stars. Their technology allows them to keep their ancestors with them in a very real way. Linh, for instance, has memory implants of six of h... Read More
The River Kings’ Road by Liane Merciel
If The River Kings’ Road had been published fifteen years ago, it would have been hailed as something special. Liane Merciel does a splendid job on the whole. She has interesting characters, a suspenseful plot, and a good turn-of-phrase. It has all the elements of a great fantasy novel… including the ones that have been working very well for a lot of other fantasy novelists during the past decade.
The novel is never short of entertaining, but it does have one very real problem, and that is its clearly derivative tone and style. It’s a perfectly serviceable, charming read, but Merciel’s relative inexperience as a professional author shows. Her personal voice is often lost in imitation of other novelists, and the world-building in particular lacks the freshness that would make this a memorable journey. It’s the worst-kept secret in the world that fantasy has been obsessed w... Read More
Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner
When budding author Henry Kuttner wrote a fan letter to the already established Weird Tales favorite C.L. Moore in 1936, little did he know that the object of his admiration was a woman... a woman who, four years later, would become his wife, and with whom a collaboration would begin that was ultimately recognized as one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Such a melding of talents was Henry and Catherine Lucille's, it has been said, that if one of the two stopped writing to go to the bathroom, the other could seamlessly continue the story in progress. Together, the pair wrote hundreds of short stories, in addition to a good dozen novels and novellas, often behind a bewildering plethora of pen names. Planet Stories' release of Elak of Atlantis allows us to see Kuttner in his formative writing years, a... Read More
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
I’m beginning to wonder if Brandon Sanderson is cloning himself. Really, it’s just making the rest of us look bad, all the work he’s managing to put out there. I find myself hoping he’s a really bad father or something, until I realize that’s sort of taking it out on his children. So maybe I’ll go with his lawn is a scraggly weed-filled mess and he dresses poorly. Anyway, another month, another Sanderson book . . .
If one did a mash up of Harold and the Purple Crayon, A Wizard of Earthsea, and Read More
Reaper by K.D. McEntire
I’ve noticed a few things about Pyr’s new line of young adult books, and this observation makes me endlessly pleased. While I can always count on Pyr to produce top quality books, their young adult line pleases the part of me (which is a larger part than I’d like to admit) that really doesn’t enjoy young adult books that much. Pyr’s young adult books are more mature, less full of angst than most that I’ve run across. It’s incredibly refreshing, and the part of me that looks at young adult (much like urban fantasy) and recoils, starts to relax and ease into each YA book Pyr throws my direction. So huzzuh to them.
K.D. McEntire’s Reaper starts off where Lightbringer ends. Reaper is pretty much owned by Piotr. While the perspective is split between Piotr and Wendy, Wendy seemed a bit more confused and less developed than him, so it’s Piotr who seems to prop... Read More
The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others by Richard Bowes
The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others is a thoroughly delightful short collection of fairy tales and fantasies, published by the small press, Aqueduct Press.
Richard Bowes opens with “Seven Smiles and Seven Frowns,” in which a woman remembers listening to the stories told by the Witch of the Forest of Avalon when she was a girl. One particular story, ending in a typical “he carried the princess off and they lived happily ever after” fashion, displeases her twelve-year-old self. The witch tells her she’ll like the next night’s story better, and indeed, the alternate version of the tale from the night before, with a much different ending for prince and princess, suits her down to her toes. That is how she becomes the apprentice of the witch, and begins to formulate not only her own tales, but new versions of the old tales, including the one that made her... Read More
The Mahatma and the Hare by H. Rider Haggard
The Mahatma and the Hare was first published in book form in 1911, and is one of H. Rider Haggard's rarer titles. The idea for this short novel came to Haggard, he states in the book's preface, after he had read a newspaper account of a hare that had swum out to sea to avoid being captured by pursuing hounds. In Haggard's story, the self-called mahatma — a spiritual man who is able, when asleep, to view "The Great White Road" on which the souls of those recently departed enter heaven — encounters the hare of the title after that animal's death. The hare tells the mahatma of the hardships and cruelties of his recent life: of how his entire family had been hunted to extinction; of his narrow escapes from hunters, greyhounds, and other hunting dogs; and, finally, of how he met his end. The hare also gets to debate the issue of animal rights with his chief hunter/enemy, near the book's end. T... Read More
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]
It’s 1999. In January, the Jewish enclave in Sitka, Alaska will revert to the US government, and the Jewish community that settled there in 1948, when an attempt to create a Jewish state in Israel failed, will once again be cast to the four winds, homeless. This isn’t even the plot, really, of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. The plot revolves around a murder mystery, the death of a man in the same Single-Resident-Only hotel that the main character, police detective Meyer Landsman, has lived in in since the collapse of his marriage.
With The Yiddish Poli... Read More
Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
Flintlock fantasy is an interesting blend of settings. The use of firearms as a sort of technological off-set to sorcery makes all kinds of sense to me and the idea of there being an equalizer between sorcerer and normal people is intriguing. Promise of Blood is a truly energetic first installment in the POWDER MAGE series by Brian McClellan and it starts off with a bang, no pun intended.
Tamas, a powder mage, is the Field Marshall to Manhouch, the King of Adro. The skill of being able to draw energy and power from ingesting gunpowder makes Tamas a lethal force to be reckoned with. Add to that a strong will and a history of successful leadership in the Army and Tamas is exactly the man any King would rely on to keep his Kingdom safe. But for the King of Adro, this trust has backfired because Tamas has led his forces in the complete overthrow of his Kingdom. Now a great purge is ... Read More
The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock
In 1971, Michael Moorcock published a trilogy called Nomad of the Timestreams. Titan Books is reissuing this series. The first book, The Warlord of the Air, introduces us to Oswald Bastable, a captain of the 53rd Lancers in 1902, who, through a bizarre occurrence is hurled into 1973 — a 1973 that is very little like the one our history books, or Wikipedia, tell us about.
Moorcock is an excellent writer, and in The Warlord of the Air he set out to create a late Victorian/Edwardian pastiche. At this, he succeeded brilliantly. Except for the politics and the use of actual historical figures, The Warlord of the Air reads as if it flowed from the pen of H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle or Rudyard... Read More
Nine Tomorrows: Tales of the Near Future by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov may very well be the most prolific author in modern history. With over 500 books to his credit (506, to be exact... go to asimovonline.com for the full list, if you don't believe me!), covering just about every subject in the Dewey Decimal System (except philosophy, I believe), the man was a real marvel. One of these 500 volumes, Nine Tomorrows, is a collection of short stories that Doc Ike first had published in various magazines during the period July 1956 to November 1958. As the title suggests, all nine tales deal with possible futures that may face mankind, and all feature the wit, erudition and clarity that are the hallmarks of every Asimov story/novel that I've ever read.
The collection kicks off with the longest tale, "Profession," in which Asimov presents a 65th century when one's vocation is determined by a kin... Read More
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant tip of a blade, and it was a lucky name.
Neil Gaiman’s charming children’s story, Odd and the Frost Giants, opens with that bit of information. In spite of his name, Odd has not been very lucky lately. His father, a woodcutter, died during one of the village’s sea-raids. Later, Odd, trying to cut wood himself, badly injured his leg. Now he walks with a limp. His mother is remarried to a village man with many other children who does not care for Odd, and winter shows no signs of abating this year. One night, Odd slips out of the great hall, takes a side of salmon and one of his father’s axes, and runs away to his father’s woodcutting cottage in the wintery forest — and here, his adventure begins.
Gaiman introduces Norse my... Read More
The Rope Trick by Lloyd Alexander
During his lifetime, Lloyd Alexander was a prolific children's writer, perhaps best known for the wonderful THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN, which is essential reading for any young fantasy fan. The Rope Trick was one of his last books (only two more followed it) and it contains a lot of what his fans have come to expect: a plucky heroine, a twisty plot, nuggets of wisdom, a range of colourful characters (including an enigmatic wise man who always lingers just out of reach) and the familiar theme of it being the journey, not the destination, which really matters.
After her father's death, copper-haired Lidi is determined to become the greatest stage magician of all time. With her clever hands she can perform all sorts of marvellous tricks that keep her audiences enthralled and her belly full with the money it earns her. But the secret to one illusion continues to elude her: the titular rope tri... Read More
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
“Sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small, and starved, and inoffensive.”
It’s the year 2075. The Earth, which has a worldwide government of Federated Nations, sends its criminals and exiles to the moon where they won’t bother anyone on Earth. The “Loonies” are governed by wardens who require them to grow hydroponic grain which is sent back to Earth. This has been going on for over a century, so the lunar colony is no longer just criminals and exiles. They’ve had families and have built a society, but they’re still treated as Earth’s slave labor force. They do work for Earth, but get no benefits. Now they want to be free.
When a computer technician named Mannie realizes that the moon’s central computer (Mike) is sentient and lonely, he befriends it and they begin, with the hel... Read More