Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
Wild Fell begins in the small town of Alvina, Ontario, in 1960, when Sean Schwartz asks his high school sweetheart, Brenda Egan, if she believes in ghosts. Whether he’s trying to scare her into cuddling closer, looking for some excitement to end the summer before school begins again, or is entirely sincere in his question, his question is a prelude to asking Brenda if she’ll cross a mile of Devil’s Lake to Blackmore Island to explore the remains of a mansion called Wild Fell. It takes some persuading, but Brenda reluctantly agrees, only to change her mind when they’re halfway there, suddenly frightened. Sean is disappointed, maybe angry, but the evening is saved by an illicit bottle of wine and a bonfire. But Wild Fell isn’t done with them, and the curtain of the prologue falls as a legend begins.
Michael Rowe sets his hook firmly with this prologue, but then he lets the line ou... Read More
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Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
Sorrow’s Knot had some big footsteps in which to follow, since Erin Bow’s debut novel Plain Kate was pretty terrific. But I’m pleased to report that Sorrow’s Knot not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. This is a fantastic novel, and better than Plain Kate.
Sorrow’s Knot is set in a world that feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest, and draws from (without copying anyone or anything in particular) Native American cultures. The heroine, Otter, is growing up in a village that is almost exclusively made up of women. She is the daughter of Willow, the village’s Binder, whose task it is to bind the dead — both figuratively and literally — so that they cannot return in ghostly form to harm the living. But now Willow is going mad, and making cryptic statements about the... Read More
Salute the Dark by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Salute the Dark is the fourth book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s SHADOWS OF THE APT series. At this point, the world of the Apt and Inapt is in total war. The expansionist Wasp Empire is sweeping across the Lowlands and any outlying city that sparks a glint in Emperor Alvdan II’s eye. War Master Stenwold Maker’s agents are scattered everywhere in attempt to give the Lowlands any sort of advantage against the encroaching horde. Cities like Sarn and Myna are in open rebellion. Plots and twists are commonplace. Everything that has been building up over the first three books in the series culminates in Salute the Dark.
One of the highlights of the series is how Tchaikovsky manages to weave cultures of our world into the story and make them feel so real. The Solarnese feel genuinely like Renaissance Italians, the Wasps like the Romans or various other emp... Read More
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
This review turned out a bit rambly, but I’m too lazy to self-edit today, so I’m going to cut to the chase and place my overall opinion right up front for anyone who doesn’t feel like reading over a thousand words of enthusiastic rambling:
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear is the best fantasy novel I’ve read all year, and you should read it too.
The setting of Range of Ghosts is a fantasy version of a place that vaguely resembles Central Asia around the time of the dissolution of the Mongol Empire. Now, there’s a lot more going on than that, and you don’t need any familiarity with that era to read this novel. This is not the “quarter turn to the fantastical” retelling of history you’ll find in the (excellent) novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.
Instead, it’s a fu... Read More
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
You know what you’ve got the moment you catch sight of Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novel, The Name of the Wind. There it is, your standard, big, fat, epic fantasy. If you’re an experienced fantasy reader, you can tell from the cover of the guy with the lute (one of two dust jackets with which the book was published) that it’s heroic fantasy in a world with magic, Faery, fighting and words of power. And, in fact, upon reading the novel you will find that all the tropes are here, from the university where magic is taught to mysterious beasts to the power of cold iron.
However comfortable the tropes are, though, this book offers something new within a familiar framework. For one thing, The Name of the Wind is so well-written that you will reach page 662 wishing this weren’t the first of an unfinished trilogy (though you’ll be happy that Volume Two, The ... Read More
Sandman Overture #1 by Neil Gaiman (writer) and J.H. Williams III (artist)
I would imagine that my feelings about the new Sandman Overture were similar to those of other SANDMAN fans: Afraid that it wouldn't live up to the high standard of the original yet hoping at the same time that it would. As far as I'm concerned, it met, and perhaps exceeded, those expectations both in terms of the writing and the art. I haven't read any reviews online, so I don't know how much my evaluation will match up with other reviews out there. But I want to give you a review that reflects a single reader's response and not a review that attempts to summarize the general response to the work. If you want that, I'm sure you could spend days reading reviews online of this one issue.
Most comic book reviews are aimed at an audience of comic book fans; however, as most of you know by now, I always write with the assumption that my readers ... Read More
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Like many, I watched the brilliant stop-motion filmic adaptation of Coraline before reading Neil Gaiman's original story, and as such, it was interesting to see the deviations between the book and film. Much like Stardust, another Gaiman book that was given the big-screen treatment, Coraline is a truly wonderful example of a story of such imaginative potency that any filmic adaptation only enhances and enriches it.
Gaiman is consistently good at two things: drawing upon ancient folklore in which to shape his tales, and remembering what it was like to be a child. So many of his books (most recently The Ocean at the End of the Lane) have taken the structure and elements of fairytales and filtered them through a child protagonist's point of view, resulting in stories that tap into o... Read More
Apollo's Song (Parts I & II) by Osamu Tezuka
Apollo's Song (Part I and Part II) by Osamu Tezuka is a imaginative tale of out-of-body experience, time travel, fantasy, science fiction, mythology and love, all by the God of Manga himself. If you've never heard of Osamu Tezuka, you are missing out. He's best known in the United States for Astro Boy, his very early comic-turned-anime that was broadcast in the U.S. as a Japanese-import English-dubbed cartoon. Unfortunately, as great as Astro Boy is, it represents Tezuka's early work aim... Read More
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
However Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has been described to you — Jane Austen mixed with HARRY POTTER, or Dickens mixed with Phillip Pullman — it isn’t any of those things, because it isn’t like anything else. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a beautifully-wrought story filled with half-remembered fairy tales and shadowy woods and madness. It is one of my very favorite fantasy novels. It is also one of the most brilliant historical novels I have ever read.
“Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic,” (1). In the first two sentences, we are introduced to the two major premises of the book: That the English past... Read More
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor & the Bogus Identity (Vol 1) by Mike Carey (writer) & Peter Gross (artist)
The Unwritten by Mike Carey is one of the best current series being published right now. It is one of the few titles put out by Vertigo — DC's mature line of comics — that has kept Vertigo from losing its respected place in the world of comics. Vertgo was started by Karen Berger with Neil Gaiman's wonderful Sandman stories, and many of my favorite comics have come out with the Vertigo label on them. However, in recent years, Vertigo has lost its edge for the most part except for a few excellent works like Fab... Read More
Bone by Jeff Smith
This review is my 50th column for Fanlit, so I want to mark this personal milestone by writing about the most important epic fantasy comic in existence. I know a few people might argue with me, but only a few. There's a general consensus that Bone by Jeff Smith is not only the best epic fantasy comic, but possibly the ONLY epic fantasy comic depending on how you define "epic fantasy." All arguments are minor quibbles as far as I'm concerned because none of them would call into question the high quality and staggering brilliance of Bone. Personally, I don't feel like I'm exaggerating at all when I say that Bone is The Lord of the Rings of comic books, and if you like epic fantasy, you should feel that Bone is as much required reading in the genre as is The Lord of the R... Read More
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volume 1 by Motoro Mase (Story & Art) or "How to Read Manga, Pt 1"
Though I haven't read too much manga — pronounced "mahn-gha," in case you were wondering — I am starting to acquire a taste for it. I think part of my problem was trying to read it slowly like I do American comics (and like I recommend in my essay here on FanLit, "How To Read Comics"). Watching my daughter devour quickly the entire 20-volume set of Bakuman, an excellent manga about the creation and culture of manga in Japan, I started wondering how she did it (and she wasn't merely skimming; her recall of det... Read More
Foiled by Jane Yolen (writer) and Mike Cavallaro (illustrator)
The past few weeks I've been spending time writing reviews that focus on new Monthly Comics I think would make good entry points for new comic book readers who have never had pull lists, and I have several more new comics I want to promote. The end of 2013 is an excellent time to be a new reader of comics. However, I must break this series on Monthly Comics because I just read a graphic novel too good for me not to immediately write a review of it: Foiled, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. Foiled is clearly a five-star book, and I want to say in the first paragraph in case anybody stops reading here: Buy this book and it's sequel — Curses!... Read More
Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
King Jorg, at the ripe ol’ age of 20, rules over seven nations, but that’s not enough — it’s never enough. He’s now ready to make his bid for emperor of the Broken Empire which has been vacant for many generations. This is a position that is technically won by vote, but how one goes about getting those votes is the trick. Also Jorg hasn’t yet accomplished his life-goal; bloody vengeance against his father. All Jorg’s surviving enemies continue to dog his trail but now Jorg has a chink in his armor; his queen and unborn child.
What can I say about the THE BROKEN EMPIRE trilogy — note the word” trilogy”— to describe its total and complete awesomeness? Everything about it is perfect. Each book is a contained story while at the same time each is still a part of a bigger story. The titles themselves, Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Th... Read More
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