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Speculative fiction in audiobook format.




Owlknight: A satisfactory ending to Darian’s Tale

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Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey

Owlknight (1999) is the final story in Mercedes Lackey’s DARIAN’S TALE. This trilogy is part of her huge VALDEMAR series, but it can stand alone just fine. However, don’t start here. The first book is Owlflight and the second is Owlsight. Expect a few spoilers for those books in this review.

As Owlknight begins, a couple of years after the events of the previous novel, all is going well for Darian and Keisha. Thanks to their actions, their people have befriended the barbarians who appeared to be a... Read More

Owlsight: Adds a new protagonist to Darian’s story

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Owlsight by Mercedes Lackey

Owlsight (1998) is the second novel in Mercedes Lackey’s DARIAN’S TALE, a trilogy set within her VALDEMAR universe. DARIAN’S TALE is a fine place for newcomers to begin reading the VALDEMAR books, but you should start with the first book about Darian, Owlflight. If you do start with DARIAN’S TALE instead of the first VALDEMAR book, Arrows of the Queen, there are a few passing references to people, places, and events from previous books that you won’t unders... Read More

Winds of Change: Boring middle book

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Winds of Change by Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Change (1992) is the middle novel in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGE WINDS trilogy, which is part of her larger VALDEMAR saga. I wasn’t impressed with the first book, Winds of Fate, which was a standard high fantasy novel that didn’t stand out in any way. I decided to read book two anyway because I already owned it at Audible and I wanted to review it for FanLit.

In this sequel, Elspeth and Skif are living with the Tayledras clan. The novel starts with quite a bit of recap of previous events and then the preparation for a ceremony in wh... Read More

SFM: Poe, Bradbury, Danvers, Mamatas, James, Parypinski

Short Fiction Monday: Happy Halloween from Fantasy Literature and SFM! Our column today has an extra-large serving of horror stories. 


“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (1846, free at Project Gutenberg)

Our narrator Montresor, an Italian nobleman, explains ― in a suspiciously vague way ― how his friend Fortunato has mortally offended and insulted him. Montresor sets himself on a course of implacable revenge ... but he wants to do so in a way that Fortunato understands that Montresor is the source of revenge, but without being caught or punished.

Montresor and Fortunato meet during a carnival festival ― which at first seems by chance, but then you find out that Montresor has set up the situation so that all of his... Read More

Planet of Exile: Enjoyable, but not the best place to start with Le Guin

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin

Planet of Exile is a novel in Ursula Le Guin’s HAINISH CYCLE and one of the author’s first published books. In this story, a colony of humans has been stranded for many years on the planet Werel, which has such a long orbit around its sun that one year is like 60 Earth years. These humans, gently led by Jakob Agat, live in a city surrounded by a stone wall. Because of the conditions on Werel, especially the effect of its sun’s radiation on human genes, their colony is dwindling. The humans share the planet with two other humanoid species. They have no contact with the Gaal, a nomadic tribe, and they have a tense but sometimes cooperative relationship with the Tevarans.

The planet is moving into its harsh winter phase, which will last abou... Read More

Neverwhere: Wonderfully fantastical setting

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Reposting to include Tadiana and Jana's review of William Morrow's new illustrated edition.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is a novel that improved dramatically for me on reread, which actually was a surprise to me. I originally read it about six years ago when, in an odd twist worthy of London Below, it mysteriously appeared one day on my clunky Kindle 2, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again (luckily I had finished it just in time). I was fascinated by the marvelous and imaginative setting of Neverwhere and London Below, but only mildly entertained by the plot, which ― other than the beginning and the end ― I found quite forgettable.

Still, when I was offered the chance to read a 2016 edition of Neverwhere with the “auth... Read More

The Stone Sky: An Earth-shattering finale

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Reposting to include Jana and Marion's conversation about The Stone Sky.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The climactic conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy, The Stone Sky (2017), has expectations erupting into the stratosphere since both the previous books, The Fifth Season (2015) and The Obelisk Gate (2016), captured the Hugo Awards for Best SF Novels of 2015 and 2016, and these wins were well deserved. Having just finished it, I think THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy is one of the most intelligent, emotionally-... Read More

The Privilege of the Sword: Enjoy another visit to Riverside

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

“Whatever the duke means to do with her, it can’t be anything decent.”

The Privilege of the Sword is Ellen Kushner’s sequel to her novel Swordspoint which was about the doings of the high and low societies in her fictional town of Riverside. The main characters of that novel were the nobleman Alec Tremontaine, a student, and his lover, the famous swordsman Richard St. Vier. You don’t need to read Swordspoint before reading The Privilege of the Sword, but it will probably be more enjoyable if you do because you’ll have some background on most of the characters.

Now Alec is known as the Mad Duke Tremontaine. He spends some of his time in his mansion outside the city, but he really prefers to reside in hi... Read More

Winds of Fate: Fairly average epic high fantasy

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Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Fate (1991) is the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGE WINDS trilogy which is, in terms of internal chronology, an early trilogy in her VALDEMAR series. The VALDEMAR universe currently contains dozens of novels and short stories. So far I have read only six of them, but I own several more which I’m planning to review for our readers here at FanLit.

The VALDEMAR books are best suited for readers who enjoy classic high fantasy. They’re filled with mages, orphans, princesses, magic swords, animal familiars, and flashy magic spells. In my middle-age, and with decades of fantasy reading behind me, I’m a little tired of these elements, so please keep that in mind when reading... Read More

Rocannon’s World: Ursula K. Le Guin’s debut

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rocannon’s World, published in 1966, is Ursula Le Guin’s debut novel and the first in her HAINISH CYCLE. The story describes how Rocannon, an ethnographer, became stranded on the planet he was charting when a spaceship from Faraday, a rogue planet that is an enemy to the League of All Worlds, blew up his spaceship and the rest of his crew. Rocannon thinks he’s trapped forever until he sees a helicopter and realizes that Faraday must have a secret base on the planet. If he can find it, he can use its ansible to communicate with the League, not only letting them know that he lives, but also the location of the secret enemy base. (Fun Fact: This is the book that one of Orson Scott... Read More

Red Sister: Magic nuns. Need we say more?

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Reposting to include Kat's new review of the audiobook.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence's previous six novels have been interesting and unique in their own ways, but have also formed part of a recognizable corner of the genre. That is, Lawrence's name often appears alongside those of Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker on lists with titles like "So You've Just Finished A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE — What Next?" This isn't to say that the books set in Lawrence's Broken Empire aped George R.R. Martin, only that they seemed ... Read More

Wytchfire: Old-school epic fantasy

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Wytchfire by Michael Meyerhofer

Wytchfire, the first book in Michael Meyerhofer’s DRAGONKIN TRILOGY, is the image of a classic-style epic fantasy of the sort that hasn't seemed to show up as often since George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb largely took over for Tolkien as guiding lights of the genre. It's a fun and lively story, but the reader's enjoyment may depend on how much s/he enjoys old-school epic fantasy and its associated tropes.

I happen to like old-school epic fantasy, so for me Wytchfire was a fun read (even slightly nostalgic, like revisiting the old neighborhood and f... Read More

Owlflight: Heroic fantasy for less-experienced fantasy readers

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Owlflight by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon

Owlflight (1997) is the first book in DARIAN’S TALE, one of the many trilogies/series that make up Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga. Though DARIAN’S TALE was first published twenty years ago, according to the series’ internal chronologically it takes place late in the overall story. I had only read four of the VALDEMAR books before picking up Owlflight. I read it because Tantor Audio has just released it in audio format and will release its sequels, Owlsight and Owlknight, in the coming months. I’m hoping this means that the other trilogies in the series that haven’t been published in... Read More

THE ASSASSIN SERIES: Three horror novellas by Tim Lebbon

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Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

The three novellas Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, and A Whisper of Southern Lights make up Tim Lebbon’s ASSASSIN series. They were originally published in 2004, 2005, and 2008 by Necessary Evil Press but were reprinted by Tor.com in 2016. Tor packaged the first two stories together under the name Pieces of Hate.

The ASSASSIN series tells the story of a man named Gabriel who has, for centuries, been hunting Temple, a demon who slaughtered Gabriel’s family. Gabriel can feel when he is close to Temple and uses this sense to follow ... Read More

Twisting the Rope: A sequel to Tea With the Black Dragon

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Twisting the Rope by R.A. MacAvoy

Twisting the Rope (1986) is a sequel to R.A. MacAvoy’s Tea With the Black Dragon. It’s recommended, but not necessary, to have read Tea With the Black Dragon first.

It’s been five years since Martha Macnamara met Mayland Long at the hotel in San Francisco. They’ve been together since. Martha is now approximately 55 years old and Mayland appears to be around the same age, but we don’t really know how old he is. He has secrets.

Martha, an exellent violin player, has put together a folk band that travels around playing traditional Irish tunes. Mayland manages the band, collecting their ea... Read More

The Thief of Always: A delightful children’s horror story

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The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

It’s summer and Harvey Swick, a ten year old with an active imagination, is bored. That’s how he gets lured into Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. It’s a wonderful place that’s fun and exciting, where Harvey gets everything his heart desires, and where he and the other kids who live there can play all day every day and eat delicious food whenever they want. As the seasons fly by, Harvey is happy at Mr. Hood’s house until things start to get a little spooky and it starts to dawn on Harvey that the place seems unnatural. When Harvey tries to leave, the Holiday House gets downright scary.

I was thoroughly entertained by Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and I suspect that most children and teens will easily identify with Harvey and, ... Read More

Starman’s Quest: Silverberg doesn’t want you to read it

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Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg

Editor’s Note: Being in the public domain, Starman’s Quest (1958) is available free in Kindle format. You can add audio narration for $2.99.

There’s an author’s note attached to various versions of Starman’s Quest at Amazon that goes like this: “This book is a very early and not very good work of the author, who has tried to prevent the issue of a new edition of it. Unfortunately, since it is no longer protected by copyright, he can't prevent its distribution, but he recommends that you choose some other book of his to read.” The audio version I listened to has a less dire warning: “This was my second novel which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I’ve written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a ... Read More

Tea With the Black Dragon: Refreshing romance + 1980s computer nostalgia

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Tea With the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

Martha Macnamara is a free spirit. Although she’s 50 years old and has accumulated much wisdom over the years, she can also be innocent and even childlike. She’s a musician with much talent, but no fame, and she usually spends her time travelling around and staying with friends. When we meet her, she has flown to California at her grown daughter’s request. Elizabeth, who’s just as independent as her mother but is career-driven and successful, has paid for Martha to stay in an elegant hotel in San Francisco.

While Martha is waiting for Liz to call on her, she meets Mayland Long, a wealthy Asian man who lives at the hotel. Martha and Mayland are instantly attracted to, and intrigued by, each other. When Liz goes missing and Martha starts investigating, Mayland decides to help. When Martha then also disappears right in front of his eyes, Mayl... Read More

Mira’s Last Dance: An amusing episode in Penric’s continuing story

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Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Note: Contains mild spoilers for the previous PENRIC novellas.

Around 15 years ago, Lois McMaster Bujold published her much-acclaimed WORLD OF THE FIVE GODS series which contained three stand-alone novels: The Curse of Chalion (winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards), Paladin of Souls (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award, nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award) and The ... Read More

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent: Liberals will hate it

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The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent is a fun, silly, sometimes clever, sometimes hilarious, sometimes stupid story with lots of geeky SFF in-jokes. Some readers will absolutely adore it while others will absolutely loathe it.

As the story begins, one of the Earths in the multiverse is being overrun by Purple People Eaters who are (of course) eating people. Fortunately, this particular Earth has a policy with Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent. He’ll take care of it quickly and easily because if there’s one thing that Tom Stranger is serious about, it’s excellent customer service. That’s why he’s really annoyed that his new intern is a sissy Millennial crybaby who maj... Read More

SFM: Anders, Nagata, Howard, McGuire, Clarke

Short Fiction Monday: After a few weeks' vacation, SFM returns to continue exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about. 


“As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders (2014, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Marisol Guzmán, a pre-med student who decided that being a doctor was a better career choice than a playwright, is saved from the end of the world only because she’s housecleaning a mansion when massive earthquakes b... Read More

The Man Who Used the Universe: Unlikable protagonist makes it hard to enjoy

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The Man Who Used the Universe by Alan Dean Foster

I picked up Alan Dean Foster’s The Man Who Used the Universe because it was just released in audio format. It’s a stand-alone science fiction novel, set in the far future, about a man named Kees vaan Loo-Macklin. Kees is a brilliant tactician who is building a career and an empire for himself. When we first meet him, he’s the lackey of a local crime boss, but we watch for years as he works his way up, gaining riches and power as he rises. He even forms a trading alliance with a hated alien species called the Nuel.

But there are two strange things about Kees vaan Loo-Macklin. One is that he seems to form no real bonds with any individual human or alien. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone. The other, perhaps mos... Read More

Besieged: Stories that flesh out Atticus’ history and world

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Besieged by Kevin Hearne

In Besieged, Kevin Hearne has collected nine short stories that take place at different times in his popular IRON DRUID CHRONICLES saga. On his website, Hearne labels Besieged as book #8.5 in the series while GoodReads amusingly lists it as #4.1, #4.2, #4.6, #4.7, #8.1, and #8.6. I’d recommend reading Besieged after Staked (novel #8) or, better yet, use it as a companion collection as you read through the series. That way you could read each of the stories in Besieged in their proper timeline…

But it doesn’t matter that much. In fact, probably even a newcomer to... Read More

A Ghostly Light: Changes are coming

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A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blackwell

A Ghostly Light is seventh book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES series. Like her WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES series, each of these novels is a solid cozy paranormal mystery featuring pleasant characters and an enjoyable San Francisco setting. Fans of either series who don’t care that the books follow a formula should be pleased with A Ghostly Light.

This time Mel is renovating a lighthouse on an Island in San Francisco Bay, though she’s having some trouble due to her newly acquired fear of heights. When a murder occurs, Mel’s friend Alicia is charged and taken into custody. To exonerate Alicia, Mel must find the real killer. She’ll do this with so... Read More

The Witchwood Crown: A much-anticipated return to a classic world

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The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Tad Williams’ long-awaited return to Osten Ard began with the tasty appetizer that was The Heart of What Was Lost, a bridge novella between the old series and the new. Now the first course of the main feast is here — The Witchwood Crown (2017) — and to be honest, I sort of want to order more appetizer.

Before I get into my reasons for being underwhelmed by The Witchwood Crown, I want to offer up a few caveats. The first is a matter of logistics. It’s rare for me to spend more than two sittings with a book; I greatly prefer fully immersing myself in a story for its entirety, reading start to finish in one go or, if necessary due to length, two at most. But due to circumstances, I couldn... Read More