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.

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

Maplecroft: A gothic tour de force by a writer at the peak of her powers

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

There is a special joy when a dedicated reader finds a book, written by a gifted writer at the peak of her powers, who journeys into slightly different territory and completely masters it. That joy is what I felt as I finished Maplecroft by Cherie Priest.

Priest has written a lot and she has never tied herself to a single sub-genre. She’s crafted dark fantasy, steampunk, steampunk zombie books and vampire fiction. Now she has essayed Lovecraftian Gothic with Maplecroft, a book about the old gods, eerie, frightening things that emerge from the sea, and a famous American figure — Lizzie Borden.

Maplecroft (the actual name of the house Lizabeth Borden and her sister moved into when Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother) takes the form, mostly, of a “found manusc... Read More

Lock In: An enthralling novel of big ideas

Lock In by John Scalzi

In Lock In, Haden’s syndrome has created millions of people who are conscious and alert, but have no voluntary control of their bodies; they are, effectively, “locked in” to themselves. Government funded technology has developed ways to assist these, who are called “Hadens,” to function; both in a non-physical information-world called the Agora, and by using sophisticated Personal Transports or android bodies called “threeps.” (You might be able to figure out where that name comes from if you remember a certain gold-colored android from a popular trilogy of movies a few decades ago.) Chris Shane is a Haden, one of the two most famous Hadens in America, and a freshly-minted FBI agent. On the second day on the job, Chris and acerbic partner Leslie Vann take jurisdiction of a baffling case that involves a dead mystery man and an Integrator, a human who can let Hadens “ride” in his b... Read More

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill (author) & Gabriel Rodriguez (artist)

Psst. Hey, you. Yeah, you. You wanna see something really scary? Here. It’s the first volume of Joe Hill’s horror comic Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, the trade collection of the first six chapters in this story. The art is done by Gabriel Rodriguez. The volume is beautifully drawn, emotionally authentic and downright scary.

In the opening pages, a deranged student, Sam Lesser, savagely murders high school guidance counselor Rendell Locke. Only the quick thinking of Rendell’s children, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, and their mother Nina’s ferocity, save them f... Read More

Blood and Iron: For lovers of Ander Offutt’s Conan pastiches

Blood and Iron by John Sprunk

My favorite part of Blood and Iron is when Mulcibar tells shipwreck-survivor-turned-slave-turned-super-wizard-turned-Queen’s-Protector Horace, in all sincerity, that Queen Byleth is a strict mistress, but not cruel. Sorry, dude, you’re just wrong. Turning the brother who betrayed you over to your crazy mad scientist to be tortured as part of his experiment might qualify as “strict.” Sashaying down to the torture chamber/secret lab in your tissue-thin designer gown and gloating over said brother during torture is cruel. That’s okay, though, because tall, voluptuous, raven-haired, contralto-voiced Queen Byleth is not one of the main characters of Jon Sprunk’s new book Blood and Iron. She’s a high-fashion plot device, like Kim Kardashian doing a guest stint on Spartacus.

Blood... Read More

World of Trouble: Science fiction for your friends who think SF is stupid

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

We all have that friend, family member or co-worker who thinks speculative fiction is stupid. To be fair, they have a lot of ammunition for this short-sighted view; the Star Wars prequels, vampire-boyfriend sagas and numerous homogenized series with trashy covers. Ben H. Winters, however, is the secret defensive weapon in our arsenal, and the LAST POLICEMAN  series is the smart, thinking-person’s SF you can offer as a rebuttal.

World of Trouble is the final book in the trilogy. In The Last Policeman, we met Hank Palace, the titular character. The world is going to be struck by a large asteroid, and all the projections show the results will be the end of life on earth. Bruce Willis is not going to blow it up with a nuclear warhead; there is no technological or scientific way to deflect it. Scientists ... Read More

Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

Fables (Vol. 2): Animal Farm by Bill Willingham (author) and Mark Buckingham (artist)

Willingham further develops his world.

Animal Farm is the second volume in Fables, a comic book series that presents characters from various “make-believe” lands living the immigrant life in the USA. In Volume One, we met Snow White, the capable vice-mayor of Fabletown, and her rebellious sister Rose Red. In Animal Farm, Willingham pulls back the curtain to show us a few of the problems lurking just out of sight.

Humanoid fables can l... Read More

Mistborn: Liked it, didn’t love it

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I didn’t love Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy Mistborn, but I liked it a lot. I enjoyed the brisk action sequences, especially the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style combat scenes, where Sanderson’s magically-enhanced characters, the Allomancers, leap and soar about in defiance of gravity.

In Sanderson’s fantasy universe, some gifted people can access magical powers by ingesting a tiny bit of certain metals. They then rapidly metabolize or “burn” the metal and it provides them with powers. Most of the Allomancers are from the line of the nobility, but there wouldn’t be a story if they all were, and Mistborn follows primarily the growth of Vin, an orphaned street urchin attached to a gang of thieves. Vin doesn’t know she is an Allomancer.

The plot of the story is an attempt to stage a rebelli... Read More

Illusive: This brisk YA thriller follows all the rules

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Emily Lloyd-Jone’s debut novel, Illusive, is a briskly-paced futuristic adventure for middle school readers. Jones created an interesting adventure, but stayed safely within the conventions and tropes of YA, drawing heavily from familiar works, resulting in a book that is fun, but predictable and in places a bit derivative.

Ciere (pronounced See-ARE) is a seventeen-year-old thief, part of a high-end theft ring. Ciere and her compatriots have special, almost magical abilities, awakened as a result of a vaccine they were given to combat a pandemic that broke out in 2017. In a small number of the population, the vaccine created super-abilities: eidetic memory, extreme strength, an “ability” to escape, the ability to create illusions (Ciere’s gift), telepathy, and rarest of all, mind control. People with these gifts are called “immunes” and are hunted by the governmen... Read More

Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Fables (Vol. 1): Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (author) and Lan Medina (artist)

Snow White is having a rough week. It is only a few days away from Rememberance Day, Fabletown’s big celebration and fund-raiser. As the deputy mayor, she is in charge of the event. The Beast, of Beauty and the Beast, is reverting to his non-human form, and she must decide if he will be exiled from New York City and sent upstate to the “farm,” where the non-human immigrants from her home reality live. Her ex, the smarmy, philandering Prince Charming, is back in town. Now, Fabletown’s sheriff, Bigby Wolf, brings her bad news about her sister. Rose Red’s apartment is dripping with blood – Red’s blood – and she is missing.

Leg... Read More

Horrible Monday: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Imagine that, like the hapless characters in movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, you and a group of friends were captured by cannibals. You were kept alive while choice cuts of you were “harvested”, and you alone survived. Imagine that you were the victim of a sadistic abductor who flayed the flesh of your arms and legs and carved images onto your bones. Imagine that you alone survived the rising of the Elder Gods in your home town. What would you do? Who would you talk to? Would you even be sane? That’s the premise of We Are All Completely Fine, a novella by Daryl Gregory, published by Tachyon Press.

Dr. Jan Sayer has drawn together a talk-therapy group made up of sole survivors of supernatural attacks. On the surface it seems as if the doctor has just hit on... Read More

Dreams of Gods and Monsters: Taylor weaves shimmering strands into a colorful fantasy tapestry

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

To be honest, I wasn’t sure Laini Taylor would be able to pull it off. Her DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series had such scope and such a fundamental conflict between her two main characters that I wasn’t convinced she could pull it all together by Book Three, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Fortunately, my doubts were unfounded. Taylor weaves together the strands, both dark and shining, of her fantasy narrative into a vivid and complete story.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters opens with a completely new character; Eliza Jones, a graduate student who is tormented by terrible dreams. These dreams are worse than nightmares. In them, Eliza knows that the Beasts are coming, terrible, destructive creatures, and that she is in some way responsible for bringing them. Eliza gets some help from her supportive roommate,... Read More

The Spectral Link: Subterranean Press provides two spectral short stories.

The Spectral Link by Thomas Ligotti

Subterranean Press has issued two original stories by Thomas Ligotti in a special edition volume titled The Spectral Link. Ligotti is best known for a brooding, gothic style of psychological horror that avoids slashing, gore and disgusting body fluids for a deep, dark, almost spiritual sense of wrongness. He delivers that creepy sense of wrongness in both these tales.

Ligotti’s prose is masterful, as is his control of tone. Tone is not as easy to manage as people might think; very often an historical story or an epic fantasy founders for me when the author slips into modern-day diction, or a gloomy, gothic tale suddenly sprouts a sentence that reads like it came right off of Facebook. Ligotti does not make these errors. Each word, sentence and paragraph is crafted to draw you in, leading you along a downward spiral of otherness and disconnection. Read More

The Silk Map: Vivid world-building and pretty decent poetry

The Silk Map by Chris Willrich

The Silk Map is Chris Willrich’s second adventure in the GAUNT AND BONE series. The poet and the thief, along with their bandit friend Snow Pine, are searching for their lost children, and this book takes them on a quest along an ancient trade route where they confront wonders, demons and their own fears.

Willrich has created a world based on ancient China, and the Spice Braid route that Gaunt and Bone follow is patterned on the Silk Road. Along this road, poet Persimmon Gaunt and her thief husband Imago Bone encounter enemy soldiers, greedy gate-keepers, undead Charwalkers, dragon horses, a mad monk and an incarnation of the Monkey God.

All the things that I loved about the first book The Scroll of Years show up again in The Silk Map. I love the world Willrich has invented. The dialogue an... Read More

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