Marion Deeds

On FanLit’s staff since March 2011

MARION DEEDS iis retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within.

Her favorite fantasy authors include John Crowley, Catherynne Valente, China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Kate Griffin and Ursula LeGuin. High fantasy, sword and sorcery, new weird, urban; it doesn’t matter, she likes it all. Reading Andre Norton as a child inspired her to write herself.She prefers books with complex, accessible characters, beautiful language, and something new to the genre — but she’s also willing to kick back with a good urban fantasy now and then. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

Jala’s Mask: Interesting world-building in this YA fantasy

Jala’s Mask by Mike & Rachel Grinti

I enjoy reading fantasy that stems from a different folkloric basis than the one I grew up in. Middle European, British, Native American and Asian fantasy tropes have been done a lot, so Jala’s Mask, by Mike & Rachel Grinti was a refreshing change.

Jala has grown up in a society similar in some ways to our Polynesian one. Her people can magically shape ships from the material that forms the reefs around their islands. They gather wealth by raiding the mainland. The Five Islands and One are ruled by a king and queen, but except for the One island, where sorcerers are exiled, each island is controlled by a particular family. Jala is part of the Bardo clan. The new king, Azi of the Kayet, is looking for a wife, and Jala’s father is sure she will be chosen. This seems unlikely, because Azi’s Kayet uncle doesn’t trust the Bardo, but Jala’... Read More

Hide Me Among the Graves: Quality time with that whacky Rossetti family

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

Hide Me Among the Graves is Tim Power’s sequel, twenty-five years later, to The Stress of her Regard. I liked it better than its predecessor, but some of the same problems plagued this otherwise interesting read.

Instead of wandering all over Europe, Hide Me Among the Graves sticks pretty close to 1860s London, following the fortunes of a widowed veterinarian, John Crawford, and the artistic, poetic and strange Rossetti family, particularly Christina and her brother Gabriel Dante. Those pesky ageless vampiric creatures, the nephalim, are back to stir up trouble, and this time one of them wants to create an earth tremor that will destroy London.

When Christina Rossetti was fourteen, her father tricked her into awakening one of the nephalim, who took the shape of Christina’s uncle John Polidori. Pol... Read More

Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key (Vol 3): Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist)

Toil and trouble; the cauldron begins to bubble.

(May contain spoilers of earlier volumes.)

In Crown of Shadows, the third volume in Locke and Key, written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, the simmering sense of doom we encountered in Volume Two comes to a boil. More keys are found. More truths are revealed to the reader, and where truths are not uncovered, clues are dropped. Choices the characters made earlier in the narrative begin to have consequences.

Because he has the Anywhere Key, Luke Caravaggio, the thing that was rel... Read More

Falling Sky: Good familiar fun

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna

Falling Sky, Rajan Khanna’s first published novel, is good if familiar post-apocalyptic fun, with plenty of adventure. At 250 pages it’s a good way to spend a couple of evenings or a weekend. Khanna doesn’t explore any new ground here (pun intended) but he has good action sequences and likeable characters.

It is two generations after a virus — the Bug — turned any human infected into an aggressive, bestial killing machine the survivors call the Feral. Ferals breed and care for their young, but they do not demonstrate higher brain function like reason or speech. They exist to kill and eat, and their bodily fluids transmit the disease almost instantly. Most human survivors have taken to the air to avoid the Feral and the threat of infection. Ben Gold inherited his father’s airship, Cherub, and he uses it to guard a group of scientists who are... Read More

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection: Indispensable

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

Jay Lake died in June of 2014. It was a tragic loss but not a surprise, since Lake had made his experiences with cancer public. Last Plane to Heaven, edited by Lake himself, is a reminder of just how much the speculative fiction world lost.

I have always loved Lake’s prose, but I had trouble with his novels. This collection of thirty-two stories shows him, mostly, at his best and strongest. As with his novels, even when a story is, by my lights, less than successful, it is still a fascinating read. Lake put a brief introduction to each story. In several cases these often humorous introductions are as interesting as the story. Fair warning, though; several of these introductions discuss the effect of his cancer and the treatments on his writing; be prepared.

Because there are thirty-two stories, I am not going to comment on all of them... Read More

Ancillary Sword: Leckie hits a solid home run with Book Two

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

(This review contains spoilers of Book One, Ancillary Justice.)

In Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s award-sweeping 2013 novel, we met Breq. Breq was a soldier, but before she was a soldier, she had been a ship, the Justice of Toren. Specifically, Breq was an ancillary, a human body whose personality has been erased, so that she could be a node of awareness for the ship’s AI. Justice of Toren comprised the ship itself and 2,000 human ancillaries in a distributed network. When Justice of Toren was destroyed in an act of treachery, only one ancillary, who was offline, survived: Breq. Ancillary Sword, which continues Breq’s adventures, hits a solid home run.

Breq’s search for vengeance in Ancillary Justice led her to the ruler of the vast, millennia-old Radch... Read More

Horrible Monday: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’ve avoided some of Stephen King’s more recent works, like Cell and Under the Dome, because they didn’t look like they would be my thing. Doctor Sleep was a different matter. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had a lot of the things I look for in a King novel.

In 1977, King published The Shining, a book about an evil hotel in Colorado, and the family it victimized during a hard winter. The father in that family died in the hotel – or, one might say, with the hotel. His wife and son, Danny, escaped alive, in part because of Danny’s gift, or “shining.”

Danny is grown up now, trying to make his way in the world. His gift or “shine” is nearly dormant. It stil... Read More

Locke and Key (Vol. 2): Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key (Vol. 2): Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

A solid and scary second section to this first-class horror story.

Warning; may contain spoilers of Volume One; Welcome to Lovecraft

After everything the Locke family went through in Volume One, Welcome to Lovecraft, they need a break. Unfortunately, in Volume Two of this powerful graphic horror novel, they aren’t going to get one.

Head Games starts with an elderly teacher at Lovecraft A... Read More

Unlocked: This prequel could have used more subtext

Unlocked by John Scalzi

The novella Unlocked is John Scalzi’s prequel to his innovative novel of ideas Lock In. I read the beautiful Subterranean Press hard copy, and Kat will add comments about the audio version of the story. With both Lock In and Unlocked, the publishers have made some interesting choices in audio presentation.

The subtitle of Unlocked is “An Oral History of Haden Syndrome.” Further down on the title page, Scalzi describes it as “a novella-length exploration of the world of Lock In.” The structure of the story is a series of quotations, stories and interviews from people affected by Haden Syndrome, in various ways, when the condition first emerged twenty-five years earlier. Haden Syndrome first manifests as a flu-like infection. Many patients get se... Read More

The Hero of Ages: In which most of my questions get answered

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages is Brandon Sanderson’s final book in the MISTBORN TRILOGY. As you probably know, but I didn’t, Sanderson envisioned a novena of books in this world. (I just made up that usage of “novena,” by the way); three trilogies in three separate sub-genres: epic fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction. The Hero of Ages completed the epic fantasy series and creates the world in which the other six books will take place.

While I enjoyed Mistborn, the first book, I struggled with the bridge book, The Well of Ascension. I thought that Sanderson fell down, badly, on describing this world — and the world description and background is more important to this series than some others. It felt as if Sanderson was hand-waving away lots of serious ga... Read More

Ack-Ack Macaque: In which our reviewer finds herself in an adventure

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell
“Let me get this straight. You’re a World War II fighter pilot,” I say to Ack-Ack, the one-eyed, cigar-chomping macaque as he leads me through the corridor of the airship.

“Right.”

“But it’s 2059.”

“What’s your question?” He glares, a daiquiri glass clenched in his left paw.

“How do you fit in, exactly?”

He spins to face me. “I’m the main character, aren’t I? Ack-Ack Macaque, that’s the book’s name. See? ‘By Gareth L Powell’ and everything.”

“No offense, but I’m not sure you are the main character. You’re certainly the title character, but you aren’t even the first one we meet.”

A woman with a sultry, French accented voice interrupts us. “Move it along, Monkey-Man. No time for exposition.” She looks at me. “I’m Victoria Va... Read More

Horrible Monday: The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis

The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis

The New Gothic, an anthology of twelve stories, is edited by Beth K. Lewis and published by Stone Skin Press. It’s a good collection, worth reading.

Gothic horror usually counts on a mounting sense of dread and/or disgust to carry the reader, rather than shock or terror. The fear comes on more slowly, with that faint tickle at the back of your neck, and at its best, a gothic tale creates a sense of otherworldliness, where the characters, and the readers, begin to doubt their own senses. A gothic tale is more likely to rely on a dilapidated house or a dark stretch of forest than gore, dismemberment or mayhem to pack its emotional punch.

The word “New” in the title is a bit of false advertising. None of these stories moves too far from the familiar conventions of the sub-genre. On one hand, it would be difficult to write a... Read More

The Well of Ascension: I’m on the fence about this one

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

(Warning: This review may contain spoilers of Book One, Mistborn.)

There is a lot to like about The Well of Ascension, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN trilogy. There is also a lot that is disappointing. After a lot of serious thought, I must commit to a position, so I am… sitting on the fence.

This book starts up one year after Vin, a peasant girl with powerful allomantic or metal-magical powers, and her noble lover Elend Venture overthrew the Lord Ruler, an immortal near-god who had ruled the Final Empire for one thousand years. Allomancers ingest small amount of various metals, and when they metabolize or “burn” them, the metals give them magical abilities. Most allomancers, called mistings, can utilize only one metal and have only one power. Vin, a Mistborn, can... Read More

Fated: I can’t recommend this one, but I want to try something else by Browne

Fated by S.G. Browne

“You like Christopher Moore,” the bookstore clerk said, pushing a book into my hand. “You’ll like this.” I do like Christopher Moore, and I think S.G. Browne does too, but Fated fell short of the wry Moore-like comedies it tries to emulate.

Fate, who uses the name Fabio, is a world-weary immortal Personification. When the book opens, he is bored with his work and disdainful of the human race. Fabio is only one of many — dozens, scores, I don’t know, maybe hundreds — of anthropomorphized states. He has a rival, Destiny, who gets all the glamor assignments. He used to be best friends with Death, who goes by Dennis (wouldn’t you?), but they had a fight and now they don’t speak. The Personifications are ruled by God. He used to be called Jehovah, but now he goes by Jerry. Je... Read More

City of Stairs: Shara and Sigrud are my two new favorite heroes

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs is a glorious, mind-bending mash-up; part second-world fantasy, part political thriller and part murder mystery. Shara Thivani and her “secretary” Sigrud are my two new favorite action heroes.

Robert Jackson Bennett once again, has taken a conventional sub-genre and made it original, creating an experience that reads like an actual sociological thriller set in another, magical world.

Shara Thivani is a junior ambassador from the Saypuri islands – at least, that is her cover. She comes to Bulikov, the City of Stairs, on the Continent, to investigate the murder of Saypuri citizen and her friend, Professor Pangyui, who was found beaten to death in his office in the Bulikov University.

Relations between the Continentals and the Saypuri are… well, tense. For millennia, the Continentals, aided by myste... Read More

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