Rebecca Fisher

On FanLit’s staff since January 2008

REBECCA FISHER earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series.

Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. She’s not a big fan of epic fantasy, simply because they are often stretched out over several (very long) volumes, whereas fantasy books for children/young adults are more concerned with straightforward storytelling than elaborate world-building and long-winded sentences. Plus, the story usually doesn’t last more than three books to reach completion!

Her favourite book of all time is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but when it comes to fantasy her tastes run toward the likes of Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, Meredith Anne Pierce, Susanna Clarke and Jan Siegel: authors who write within the fantasy genre, but manage to break away from the “simple farm-boy discovers great destiny” clichés and write with creativity, wit, and (most importantly) originality.

Sepulchre: For better or worse, exactly what you’d expect from Mosse

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Judging from her review, Kat obviously wasn’t such a big fan of Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre! But perhaps her report coloured my own reading of the novel, for though I went in expecting the worst, I instead found myself quite enjoying it.

Sepulchre is the follow-up to Mosse’s best-selling novel Labyrinth, but I found that it was far superior in terms of pacing and plotting. As with Labyrinth, the story is divided into two storylines, one set in 1891, the other in 2007. The chapters alternate between these two periods, following the adventures of Leonie Vernier in the past, and Meredith Martin in the 21st century.

Leonie knows that something is wrong when her brother Anatole insists on secrecy in planning thei... Read More

The Dragon of Avalon: A return visit to the island of Avalon

The Dragon of Avalon by T.A. Barron

Recent republications of The Dragon of Avalon number it as the sixth instalment in T.A. Barron's MERLIN series. To be more accurate, it was published *after* the five-part LOST YEARS OF MERLIN and THE GREAT TREE OF AVALON trilogy, but is placed between them in the chronology of events. Confusing, right?

Although reading this in the newly designated order certainly doesn't give away any spoilers, there's a definite sense that Barron expects you to have some awareness of the Great Tree of Avalon (it's kind of like reading The Magician's Nephew before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the NARNIA books -- though it's a prequel, it'... Read More

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man: A short sweet fairytale from a master storyteller

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man by Lloyd Alexander

No one does it better than Lloyd Alexander. One of his early children’s chapter books, The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man contains all of his trademark wit, wisdom and warmth, as well as a valuable lesson and plenty of delightful characters.

After giving his cat the gift of speech, the magician Stephanus is now harangued by requests to turn him into a man. Lionel is desperately curious about the world of mankind, despite his master’s low opinion of the folk who live in the nearby town of Brightford -- according to him he once built a bridge for the whole townsfolk to share, only for the Mayor to seize control of it and place a toll over it. Stephanus left in disgust after that, and hasn’t returned since.

But Lionel won’t be deterred, and Stephanus grudgingly grants him his wish. Soon enough a tawny-haired, green-eyed you... Read More

The Winter Ghosts: A short and spooky read for a winter’s night

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

First of all, it’s important to note that Kate Mosse’s The Winter Ghosts is nowhere near the same length as her other works, particularly her best-known books Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel. It’s best described as a novella, one which can probably be read in one sitting (it took me two). Your enjoyment will probably hinge on knowing beforehand that this isn’t a dense holiday read, but a thinly-plotted though atmospheric story about a man’s brush with the supernatural, told predomi... Read More

A Wizard’s Wings: A fitting end to a popular saga

A Wizard’s Wings by T.A. Barron

This is the fifth and final book of T.A. Barron’s THE LOST YEARS OF MERLIN cycle, one of the earliest literary explorations of the famous wizard’s childhood. Since then there have been a number of books (and one television show) about what this enigmatic sorcerer was like as a young boy, well before his mentoring of the famed King Arthur, but Barron’s take on the subject matter remains one of the most popular.

So popular that it’s warranted a recent re-publication, with new cover art and tweaked titles. What was originally published as The Wings of Merlin is now called A Wizard’s Wings and the entire MERLIN collection — including its two spin-off series — has been repackaged as a twelve-book se... Read More

The Hero and the Crown: In which Rebecca finally warms up to a Robin McKinley book!

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

As I've mentioned in some of my other reviews, I have an odd relationship with Robin McKinley's novels. It's not exactly a "love/hate" kind of thing, more like... well, have you ever been in writing class and one of your peers reads out a passage from their novel and the rest of the class gasps and applauds and you're just sitting there thinking..."really?"

It's not that I don't recognize that McKinley is talented writer: her characterization is solid, her plots are carefully constructed (though a bit too predictable in some cases) and she knows how to spin a nice turn-of-phrase. Everyone else raves about her, she's won a number of awards and she's well-respected within the writing community. But for whatever reason, her novels just don't resonate with me on an emotional level. I ... Read More

Palimpsest: A dreamy but challenging read

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

I was already a fan of Catherynne Valente thanks to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland books and THE ORPHAN’S TALES duology, though I'll admit to being a bit taken aback on learning the premise of Palimpsest. The title refers to a city that's only accessible through dreams — but more specifically, by first sleeping with someone who's already been there. As I'm not a fan of erotica, I was a little unsure what to expect from this story, but as it turns out, the sexual content makes up a very small part of the book's length.

Palimpsest is a city filled with ghostly trains, bizarre restaurants, sentient tree houses, and a population comprised of half-human, half-animal war veterans (among plenty of other wonders). It's as strange as it is beautiful, and only accessible from our world by having sex with someone that's already been there, resulting in a visitation... Read More

Tale of a Tail: A final gift from a master storyteller

Tale of a Tail by Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy was one of New Zealand’s most beloved writers, the author of forty novels, over one hundred picture books, and a twice-winner of the Carnegie Medal. She passed away in 2012, and I’ll admit that I got a little tearful when I heard that there was still one last story of hers to be published posthumously.

As a final coda to Mahy’s prolific writing career, Tale of a Tail is a funny, magical little story about a boy called Tom who lives with his mother on Prodigy Street. Everything is ordinary enough until another Tom moves into the house at the end of the road. Tomasz Mirabilis is a strange-looking man with an even more extraordinary dog called Najki. Whenever Tom offers to take Najki out for a walk he finds that he has to be careful not to make any careless wishes, for with a wag of his tale, Najki has the... Read More

In the Night Garden: A challenging but intoxicating read

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente

How do you even begin to describe this book? I was familiar with Catherynne Valente through reading her charming The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland series, all of which are targeted at a much younger audience than this. Yet even with those books, there was a certain amount of darkness underlying the whimsical elements, just as there are hefty themes and frightening ideas in the likes of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Read More

Malvolio’s Revenge: A quick but fun read

Malvolio’s Revenge by Sophie Masson

I've read plenty of Sophie Masson's novels and enjoyed them all, but I'm fairly certain that Malvolio's Revenge may end up being my favourite. Though Masson usually writes straight-out fantasy stories, this is a more of a mystery with a few supernatural trappings thrown in.

The book's title is a bit misleading, for this book isn't a sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Instead it refers to the title of a play that the travelling troupe of actors who comprise our main characters are performing all around Louisiana. Set primarily in New Orleans in 1910, the story begins on a terribly stormy night when the Trentham Troupe of Players stumble upon an old estate that promises food and shelter.
... Read More

Dreams of Gods and Monsters: A spectacular close to an epic trilogy

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

What do you get if you cross Paradise Lost with Romeo and Juliet? Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy, a story that centres on an epic war between angels and demons with a pair of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle. Only the angels and demons aren’t exactly what you’d expect. In the world of Eretz, “angels” are winged humanoids known as seraphim and the “demons” are half-human, half-animal hybrids known as chimaera. Their conflict has been going on for centuries — and has finally spilled over into our world.

Whe... Read More

The Seer of Shadows: A short but sweet period ghost story

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

Set in New York City, 1872, we are introduced to Horace Carpetine, a young man who works as an apprentice to a photographer. His employer Mr Middleditch is a rather unscrupulous man, eager to turn a penny whichever way he can, but Horace is captivated by the magic of early photographic techniques.

Told in first-person account, Horace describes meeting a young black servant girl called Pegg by the gates of Mr Middleditch’s house, who arranges a photography session with her mistress Mrs Von Macht. Sensing a wealthy woman, Mr Middleditch agrees to the woman’s request to take her picture so that she might leave it on her recently deceased daughter’s tomb.

Mr Middleditch has a better idea — to exercise his skills and manipulate the photograph so that it looks like her daughter Eleanor appears as a ghostly presence in the portrait. To do this he needs Horace to sneak around the Van Macht house and ... Read More

A Game of Thrones: It’s time to see what everyone’s been talking about…

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Yes, I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon. I've heard people rave about the books, I've seen clips of the HBO show, I've even browsed the Wiki pages. For someone who had never read a word of A Game of Thrones, I had a fairly good grasp of the plot and characters — which meant it was long past time for me to sit down and properly absorb George R.R. Martin's magnum opus.

Is there really any point in providing a summary? If you're here you probably already know the gist of the story, so let me get a little creative in my reviewing and try to break down what it is about A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE that makes it so unique — and by extension, popular.

For an epic that's ostensibly meant to be... Read More

Mary Poppins: Perhaps not what you were expecting

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Having recently seen Saving Mr. Banks, a film that purports to examine the strained relationship between author P.L. Travers and film-maker Walt Disney when it came to adapting Mary Poppins for the big screen, it was only natural that I finally got around to my long overdue reading of the classic children's story Mary Poppins.

Having grown up with the Disney film, it's quite shocking to realize how little one resembles the other. Of course, I knew there would be significant differences — the film is filled with animation and musical numbers, for a start. But I... Read More

Cold Steel: A rousing and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

The third and final book of Kate Elliott's SPIRITWALKER trilogyfinishes with a bang, wrapping up most of its storylines and myriad of subplots, but also leaving enough room for Elliott to revisit this world and its inhabitants if she so chooses. Preceded by Cold Magic and Cold Fire, this final installment picks up right where it left off: with protagonist Catherine Bell Barahal (or Cat as she's better known) is in the midst of a desperate search to rescue her husband Andevai from the spirit world, having been kidnapped by her own father and the Wild Hunt that rides at his command.

At this stage, there's no point trying to jump into the story without first having read the first two books in the trilogy. All three books are closely intertwined and each builds upon the last when it comes to crafting a full story of immense scope and detail. By this point Cat is beset on all sides by a... Read More

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