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.

Empire: A tense, can’t-put-it-down adventure

Empire by John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard

(Warning, may contain spoilers for Conquest.)

Empire, by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, is filled with action, suspense, and characters we care about. It is YA but adults will enjoy it.

In Conquest, the first book of THE CHRONICLES OF THE INVADERS, Earth had been conquered by a technologically superior race, the Illyri. Syl, a young woman, was the first Illyrian born on Earth. Paul Kerr was a member of Earth’s Resistance movement. Fate threw these two unlikely lovers together, but their commitment goes beyond their feelings for each other. Paul and Syl uncovered a conspiracy by a parasitic alien race that is controlling many of the Illyrians. Now, in Empire, Read More

The Sorcerer’s House: Beautifully otherworldly

The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe

In 2010, Gene Wolfe published The Sorcerer’s House, a surprisingly accessible novel using standard fantasy tropes to tell an interesting story about families, legacies, and lies. Wolfe returns to the style of his very early works with a book that uses letters and notes to tell its tale.

Baxter Dunn, recently released from prison after serving three years for fraud, has ended up in the town of Riverscene. When he explores an abandoned house, he discovers — much to his surprise, having believed that he was completely broke — that he owns it. Things get stranger until Bax is dealing with werewolves, vampires, magical devices, and a house that grows and shrinks without warning. Bax also battles his perpetually-angry brother George, meets a set of twins connected to the house, and acquires a set ... Read More

Small Gods: A nice message and some smartypants good fun

Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett

Small Gods was the first DISCWORLD book I read, and it made me love the series. I reread it recently, and, allowing for certain themes that repeat in all the DISCWORLD books, I found I still enjoyed it. Pratchett delivers a message on the nature of hypocrisy, fanaticism and faith, with lots of smartypants good fun along the way.

Brutha is a novice at the Temple of the Great God Om. While Brutha is a hard worker and a well-meaning lad, he neither reads nor writes and he’s kind of a simple soul. Only two things make Brutha different; an amazing memory, and an unalloyed, bright-burning belief in the Great God Om. These two things will make him the most important person in Discworld… at least to Om.

The Great God Om is usually depicted as a huge bull, so when Brutha finds him in the temple garden the form of a tortoise, he ... Read More

Covenant’s End: Widdershins discovers that you can’t go home again

Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell

Thieves seem to be “in” this decade, and Ari Marmell’s Widdershins, from the COVENANT series, is one of the most popular in YA. In Covenant’s End, Widdershins returns to her home city, only to discover that there have been drastic changes while she has been away. Some are huge and affect the entire city. Some are personal, shifting the fault lines in Shins’ heart.

Shins carries a tiny god, Olgun, in her head. Olgun provides insight, but he can also boost Shins’s strength and power a bit, and provide small miracles. When the duo return to their home city of Davillon, they discover that she might not be the only one who has this kind of arrangement. Shins is up against her old rival Lisette, and Lisette has grown frighteningly powerful. To survive, and defeat Lisette, Widder... Read More

The Case of the Missing Moonstone: This alternate history is loads of fun

The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Right up front, Jordan Stratford advises the young readers of The Case of the Missing Moonstone, the first book in his WOLLSTONECRAFT DETECTIVE AGENCY series, that he is playing fast and loose with history. Ada Byron (also called Ada Lovelace), Lord Byron’s daughter, was eighteen years younger than Mary Godwin, not three, but Stratford thought these two brilliant young women working together and solving mysteries would be fun, so he changed the timeline. He was right; this alternate history is good fun.

Ada lives in a mansion, cared for by servants, because her mother has gone off to their country house. Ada has a mathematical frame of mind and great curiosity. She is bad with names and leads a very sheltered existence, preferring to take refuge in her hot-air balloon that is tethered to ... Read More

Pacific Fire: A strand of moral ambiguity makes this sequel stand out

Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

(This review may contain spoilers for the previous novel, California Bones.)

Pacific Fire is the second book in Greg van Eekhout’s OSTEOMANCY series. The first one, California Bones, was the story of Daniel Blackland, son of a powerful osteomancer in a magical southern California. If California Bones charted the fate of Daniel, Pacific Fire belongs almost entirely to Sam, Daniel’s foster son.

At the end of California Bones, Daniel met Sam, who was then about six years old. Ten years have passed, and Daniel and Sam have led an on-the-run existence. Meanwhile, in the magic Kingdom of Los Angeles, (Yes, I did write “magic kingdom” on purpose), ace bureaucrat and wate... Read More

The Whispering Swarm: Incandescent prose gives way to boredom

The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock

“… There was Blackfriars Bridge and the rich waters of the river, marbled by rainbow oil, poisonous and invigorating, buzzing like speed. What immune systems that environment gave us! It was an energy shield out of a science fiction story. The city lived through all attacks and so did we. Our bit of it – almost the eye of the storm – was scarcely touched. I grew up knowing I would survive. We all knew it.”

Michael Moorcock is one of Those Names in the SFF field. Larger than life, striding across the 1960s in his velvets, lace and plumed hats with his rock-and-roll band, his British accent, his Eternal Champion and a plethora of sex partners, he and his colleagues created “the New Wave” movement. In The Whispering Swarm, Moorcock revisits those years and his earlier life, growing up in London during and after World War II. At ... Read More

Half a Crown: The most optimistic, but weakest, book of the trilogy

Half a Crown by Jo Walton

(Warning: may contain spoilers of the two previous books.)

In the foreword to Half a Crown, Jo Walton says that she is by nature an optimistic person and that’s why she wrote the SMALL CHANGE series (which she refers to as Still Life with Fascists). Half a Crown, the final book in the trilogy, is admittedly more optimistic that the first two. Sadly, in several ways it’s the weakest of the three, although still worth reading.

The final book is set in 1960, more than ten years into the repressive fascist regime of Prime Minister Mark Normanby. Peter Carmichael is now the head of the Watch, Britain’s Gestapo. Within the Watch, Carmichael and his lieutenant Jacobson, the agency’s “model Jew,” run the clandestine Inner Watch, an underground railroad that sends Jews and other people deemed ... Read More

Ha’Penny: How do you make a difference in a dictatorship?

Ha’Penny by Jo Walton

(May contain spoilers for the previous book, Farthing.)

Ha’Penny is the second book in Jo Walton’s dark alternate history series SMALL CHANGE. The “small change” that created this world is the refusal of America to get involved in the war in Europe, in 1941. From that small “counterfactual” sprang a world where, by 1949, Europe is largely under the control of Hitler, who is at war with Stalin for the rest. Britain negotiated a “peace with honor” with Germany and has now fully embraced fascism. Many Brits know about the death camps in Europe, but they don’t care. Jews in Britain have their freedoms and rights limited daily, and the newspapers and radios screech about terror attacks from Jews or Bolsheviks.

Like Farthing, Ha’Penny alternat... Read More

Farthing: A country-house murder mystery in a dark alternate timeline

Farthing by Jo Walton

At first glance, it seems like Farthing, Book One in Jo Walton’s SMALL CHANGE trilogy, could have been written by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers or Elizabeth George. At a house party in the home of an aristocratic British family, a guest is found dead, his body staged to throw suspicion on another guest specifically. Soon clouds of secrets, lies, betrayals and adulteries fill the air. Peter Carmichael, the Scotland Yard Inspector sent to investigate, must fight his way through those clouds, dealing with aristocratic privilege and interference from his own higher-ups, if he is to reveal the truth.

There’s nothing science-fictional about that, you might think, except for one small change. In the world of Farthing, America did not enter World War II. Britain and Germany met in 1941 and agreed to a treaty — “peace with ... Read More

Morningside Fall: A good book for gamers

Morningside Fall by Jay Posey

(Warning; May contain spoilers of the earlier book, Three.)

Before I sat down to write my review of Morningside Fall, the second book in Jay Posey’s LEGENDS OF THE DUSKWALKER series, I had to go back and re-read my review of book one, called Three. I enjoyed Three, but I had a lot of the same problems that I had with Morningside Fall, and I have to say I was less satisfied with this second volume.

When Morningside Fall opens, eight-year-old Wren has been made Governor of the city of Morningside. He has vanquished the villain through high-tech stuff (Wren is basically a Magical Child). His mother, Cass, who was killed, had been r... Read More

Horrible Monday: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

When I read Terry Weyna’s review of Broken Monsters last year, I knew I had to get this book. Lauren Beukes’s earlier horror novel, The Shining Girls, was compelling and original, and Broken Monsters does not disappoint. More than a terrifying horror novel, it’s a study of ... Read More

Ship of Fools: This dated award winner still has some influence

Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo

Richard Paul Russo published Ship of Fools in 2001 and it won the Philip K Dick Award for that year. I read it when it came out but only remembered two or three scenes from it (powerful scenes, though, I should say). The re-read surprised me and maybe disappointed me slightly. One thing seems clear. In 2001 Russo was playing with concepts that would show up in later writers’ work with regularity in the intervening fourteen years; the “generation ship” and the idea of  a social and economic underclass is addressed by Brenda Cooper in her YA series RUBY’S SONG, and more pointedly in the graphic novel and movie Snowpiercer. I think Russo even influenced Joss Whedon, because ... Read More

Edge: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

[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.]

I don’t usually include photos of a book I’m reviewing, except for the cover, but part of the charm of Murakami’s odd little novella, The Strange Library, is its exquisite packaging. The book is published by Borzoi Books, an imprint of Knopf well known for unusual packaging, and they had a lot of fun with this one.

The Strange Library opens like a stenographer’s pad, at first. And then you turn the first page and you’re reading a conventional western book. Well, kind... Read More

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

Beautiful artwork makes up for a derivative story, but some “homage” should be acknowledged

Middle grade readers who like The Amulet will probably enjoy Greg Ruth’s graphic novel adventure, The Lost Boy, published by Scholastic. This is a conventional tale, enlivened with beautiful black and white artwork that looks like it’s done in pencil. I have to admit that the cover immediately sucked me in.

Nate Castle has just moved to a new house in a new town, a town filled with tree-lined streets and very curious birds. While he is exploring the house he finds a 1960s-vintage tape recorder hidden i... Read More

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