Robert Thompson (RETIRED)

ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

Daniel Polansky talks about Low Town

Earlier this week I reviewed Daniel Polansky's debut novel, Low Town, and I mentioned that I loved the setting, characters, and tone of the novel. Mr. Polansky sent me this piece in which he discusses some of the influences behind Low Town.

Slums of the Shire
by Daniel Polansky

Occasionally you'll be with a group of people and they'll get to talking about their favorite historical epochs, nostalgic for lives they never led. One person will talk up their childhood love of the Wild West, another reveal a penchant for Victorian England. This last one just has a thing for corsets, but it's better not to call them on it.

When my turn rolls round I take a sip of whatever we're drinking and look at my shoes. “The mid 9... Read More

Low Town: A strong, confident debut

Low Town (The Straight Razor Cure) by Daniel Polansky

FORMAT/INFO: Low Town is 352 pages long divided over 49 numbered chapters. Narration is in the first person, exclusively via a thirty-five year old crime lord/drug dealer/junkie named the Warden. Low Town is self-contained, but is the first volume in a series. August 16, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Low Town via Doubleday. The UK edition will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 18, 2011 under the title The Straight Razor Cure.

ANALYSIS: Daniel Polansky’s Low Town is categorized as ‘noir fantasy’. What is noir fantasy? In my mind, it... Read More

The Whitefire Crossing: There’s real promise here

The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer

FORMAT/INFO: The Whitefire Crossing is 353 pages long divided over 24 numbered chapters. Narration alternates between Dev’s first-person POV and Kiran’s third-person POV. The Whitefire Crossing ends at a satisfying stopping point, but is clearly the first book in a series as numerous threads are left unresolved. The Tainted City, volume two of The Shattered Sigil, is scheduled for publication in 2012. August 2011 marks the trade paperback publication of The Whitefire Crossing via Night Shade Books. Cover art is provided by David Palumbo.


Prince of Thorns: Sarcastic, action-packed, and economical

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

CLASSIFICATION: Prince of Thorns is R-rated epic fantasy that combines Robert E. Howard/Glen Cook-like sword-and-sorcery action with George R. R. Martin-inspired court intrigue and a revenge-driven plot that would make Joe Abercrombie proud. Because of a young protagonist whose accomplishments defy his age and abilities, and a fantasy world that seems to be a different version of Earth, I was also reminded of Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God, while the novel’s dark tone and gritty ... Read More

Den of Thieves: Fun if your expectations aren’t too high

Den of Thieves by David Chandler

FORMAT/INFO: Den of Thieves is 480 pages long divided over a Prologue, four titled Parts, and 100 chapters. The book also includes a map of the Free City of Ness and an excerpt from A Thief in the Night, book two of The Ancient Blades trilogy. Narration is in the third person, mostly via the thief Malden and the knight Sir Croy, while minor POVs include Cythera. Den of Thieves is self-contained, but is the first volume in The Ancient Blades trilogy, which will be followed by A Thief in the Night in September 2011 and Honor Among Thieves in November 2011.

July 26, 2011 marks the North American Mass Market Paperback publication of Den of Thieves via Harper Voyager Read More

The Goblin Corps: Embraces its dark side

The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell

FORMAT/INFO: The Goblin Corps is 552 pages long divided over a Prologue, eleven numbered/titled chapters, and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third-person omniscient via numerous characters including the seven members of the Demon Squad, the Charnel King Morthûl, his lieutenant Vigo Havarren, Ananias DuMark, King Dororam, etc. The Goblin Corps works well as a standalone novel, coming to a satisfying stopping point, but there is room for a sequel. July 2011 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The Goblin Corps via Pyr. Cover art is provided by Lucas Graciano.

ANALYSIS: Ari Marmell’s The Conqueror’s Shadow really took me by surprise when it came out in 2010, establishing itself as one of the year’s most entertaining fantasy novels. Unfortunately, the sequel — Read More

The Last Werewolf: Powerful prose and viewpoint character

The Last Werewolf  by Glen Duncan

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.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Glen Duncan is the author of seven previous novels including I, Lucifer, which was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He was chosen by both Arena and The Times Literary Supplement as one of Britain’s best young novelists. Glen currently lives in London.

PLOT SUMMARY: A veil of melancholy has fallen over Jake Marlowe. Not only is he a werewolf, but he is the last of his kind. Hunted by his enemies and haunted by his past, he is worn out by centuries of decadence and debauchery, and... Read More

The Map of Time: Exquisite, but too long

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

PLOT SUMMARY: Privileged Andrew Harrington is a despondent young man who plans on killing himself. Eight years earlier, he had found the love of his life. It didn’t matter that their lives were vastly different — he born to a rich and entrepreneurial family and she a woman struggling to survive as a prostitute in London’s seedy Whitechapel section. He’s determined to declare his love for her and live happily ever after, even if it means leaving his privileged life behind. Everything changes however, when his beloved Marie Kelly becomes the last victim of the villainous Jack the Ripper.

That’s where H.G. Wells comes in. The publication of his novel, The Time Machine, has set off a furor of interest and curiosity about the possibility of time travel. There is even a company called Murray’s Time Travel that offers trips through time to witness a battle between ... Read More

Miserere: An Autumn Tale: Impressive with room for improvement

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

FORMAT/INFO: Miserere: An Autumn Tale is 350 pages long divided over three Parts and 21 numbered/titled chapters. Narration is in the third person, mostly via Lucian Negru and Rachael Boucher, while other POVs include Lucian’s twin sister Catarina, the foundling Lindsay Richardson, and Lucian’s Elder John Shea. Miserere: An Autumn Tale ends at a satisfying stopping point, but is the first book of The Katharoi, which will have at least two more sequels: Dolorosa: A Winter's Dream (Book 2) and Bellum Dei: Blood of the Lambs (Book 3). July 2011 marks the trade paperback publication of Miserere: An Autumn Tale via Night Shade. The lovely cover art is ... Read More

Songs of the Earth: Fails on many levels

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

CLASSIFICATION: Songs of the Earth is a PG-13 traditional epic fantasy novel that reminded me at times of Terry Brooks, David EddingsThe Belgariad, and Gail Z. Martin.

FORMAT/INFO: Songs of the Earth is 480 pages long divided over 37 numbered/titled chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third person, mainly via the protagonist Gair, but there are also several minor POVs. Songs of the Earth comes to an acceptable stopping point, but leaves many matters unresolved an... Read More

Leviathan Wakes: An excellent mix of character and action

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

FORMAT/INFO: Leviathan Wakes is 592 pages long divided over a Prologue, 55 chapters and an Epilogue. Extras include an interview with the author and an extract from Caliban’s War, the second book in The Expanse series. Narration is in the third person, alternating between Executive Officer James Holden and Detective Miller, except for the Prologue (Julie) and Epilogue (Fred). Leviathan Wakes is mostly self-contained, coming to a satisfying stopping point, but the book is the opening volume in The Expanse series and will have at least two sequels: Caliban’s War and Dandelion Sky.

June 2, 2011/June 15, 2011 marks the UK/North American Tra... Read More

The Watchers: On the Edge

The Watchers by Jon Steele

[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.]

FORMAT/INFO: The Watchers is 560 pages long divided over a prologue called ‘Quietus’, four titled books, forty numbered chapters, and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Marc Rochat, Katherine Taylor and Jay Harper. The Watchers is mostly self-contained, coming to a satisfying stopping point, but it’s the first book in a trilogy. The sequels are tentatively titled Angel City and The Way of Sorrows. June 9, 2011 marks the UK ... Read More

The Stranger’s Woes: Exactly what I was craving

The Stranger's Woes by Max Frei

ABOUT THE STRANGER’S WOES: The Stranger’s Woes continues the story of twenty-something loser Max Frei. A loafer who sleeps all day, Max one night finds himself transported to the magical world of Echo, where he possesses magical abilities and becomes the Nocturnal Representative of the Most Venerable Head of the Minor Secret Investigative Force of the City of Echo.

With his new friends and co-workers — the omniscient Sir Juffin Hully, the hilarious Melifaro and the beautiful Lady Melamori Blimm — Sir Max enjoys a life where he’s no longer a social outcast as he solves crimes, battles illegal magic and fights trespassing monsters from other worlds. Now, in The Stranger’s Woes, Max will encounter cases more complicated, extravagant and dangerous than ever before in this strange and topsy-turvy universe...


Queen of Kings: A historical/fantasy/horror hybrid

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

FORMAT/INFO: Queen of Kings is 416 pages long divided over a Prologue, Epilogue and three Books with each Book divided into numbered chapters. Narration is in the third person via several different POVs including Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Octavian/Augustus, Nicolaus the Damascene, Chrysate, Usem, Auðr, Marcus Agrippa, the Senate, Cleopatra’s children, and various minor viewpoints. Queen of Kings is self-contained, but is the first volume in a trilogy. May 12, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Queen of Kings via Dutton. The UK edition will be published on July 21, 2011 via Bantam Press.

ANALYSIS: What if Cleopatra, one of the most ... Read More

The Damned Busters: A damn good book

To Hell and Back: The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes

CLASSIFICATION: The Damned Busters is a whimsical PG-13 urban fantasy novel that combines the supernatural and superheroes with comedy and romance.

FORMAT/INFO: The Damned Busters ARC is 239 pages long divided over 12 numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, exclusively via the protagonist Chesney Arnstruther. The Damned Busters is self-contained, but is the first volume in the To Hell and Back series, which has a sequel — Costume Not Included— scheduled for publication in 2012. May 5, 2011/May 31, 2011 marks the UK/North American Mass Market Paperback publication of To Hell and Back: The Damned Busters via Read More

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 edited by William Schafer

EDITOR INFORMATION: William K. Schafer is the head editor at Subterranean Press, which was founded in 1995. Schafer’s bibliography includes Embrace the Mutation: Fiction Inspired by the Art of J.K. Potter and the first Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology.

ABOUT SUBTERRANEAN: TALES OF DARK FANTASY 2: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy — published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim — provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark, disturbing fiction. This much anticipated second volume more than meets the standards set by its predecessor, offering a diverse assortment of stories guaranteed to delight, unsettle, and enthrall. Volume two proper is a full 20,000 wo... Read More

Heaven’s Needle: A new direction for Liane Merciel

Heaven's Needle by Liane Merciel

PLOT SUMMARY: The mountain fortress Duradh Mal, mysteriously destroyed centuries ago, has many legends, but only one truth. And now, in the shadow of that once-mighty fortress, something evil is stirring. Unaware of the danger, the high priest of the Dome of the Sun has sent two inexperienced Illuminers to the village of Carden Vale, at the foot of Duradh Mal, on what should be a routine tour of religious service. The warrior Asharre, strong and tall, her face scarred with runes, her heart scarred by the loss of her sister, is assigned to protect the young Blessed. But in Carden Vale they find unspeakable horrors — the first hint of a terrifying ghost story come true.

The Sun Knight Kelland, whose faith is his power, has been set free by the daring woman he loves, the archer Bitharn, but at the cost of undertaking a mission only he can fulfill. Joined by Malentir, a Thornlord steeped in the magic... Read More

River of Shadows: Pure fun and entertainment

River of Shadows by Robert V.S. Redick

PLOT SUMMARY: The crew of the vast, ancient ship Chathrand has reached the shores of the legendary southern empire of Bali Adro. Many have died in the crossing, and the alliance of rebels, led by the tarboy Pazel Pathkendle and the admiral’s daughter Thasha Isiq, has faced death, betrayal, and darkest magic. But nothing has prepared them for the radically altered face of humanity in the South.

They have little time to recover from the shock, however. For with landfall, the battle between the rebels and centuries-old sorcerer Arunis enters its final phase. At stake is control of the Nilstone, a cursed relic that promises unlimited power to whoever unlocks the secrets of its use — but death to those who fail. And no one is closer to mastering the Stone than Arunis.

Desperate to stop him, Pazel and Thasha must join forces with their enemies, including the depraved Captain Rose... Read More

The Unremembered: Unoriginal, hoping the sequel redeems it

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

FORMAT/INFO: The Unremembered is 672 pages long divided over a Prologue and 80 titled chapters. Also includes a detailed map, which is available online HERE. Narration is in the third person via Tahn Junell; his sister Wendra; Tahn’s friend Sutter Te Polis; Braethen Posian; Helaina Storalaith, the regent of Recityv; the Sheason Vendanj; the Far Mira; a highwayman; and the sun-worn outcast. The Unremembered is the first volume in The Vault of Heaven fantasy series. April 12, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The Unremembered via Tor. Cover art is provided by Read More

The Dragon’s Path: Looking forward to more

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

As I’ve said previously in my reviews, I’d place Daniel Abraham’s THE LONG PRICE QUARTET among the top four or five fantasy series of the past decade. So when his new series, entitled THE DAGGER AND THE COIN, was announced, I was more than eager to see what he would do for a follow-up. I was not disappointed. The first book in the series, The Dragon’s Path, is one of my favorite reads so far this year and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t make it onto my year’s best list at the end.

The Dragon’s Path is set in a world long ago ruled by dragons. Over time the dragons created thirteen subspecies of humans to act as specialized slaves, breeding one group with the attributes of warriors and another with traits better suited to underground mining, for instance. With the dragons long ... Read More

Sea of Ghosts: Campbell has created another stunning fantasy world

Sea of Ghosts by Alan Campbell

CLASSIFICATION: Sea of Ghosts is a nautical-themed epic fantasy that reminded me a of cross between Robert V.S. Redick’s accessible Chathrand Voyage series and the grittier works of Glen Cook, James Clemens and Alan Campbell’s very own Deepgate Codex, while the book’s magic system brought to mind Mark Charan Newton and Ken Scholes. Recommended for fans of Read More

The Winds of Khalakovo: Unique setting, unpredictable story

The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

FORMAT/INFO: The Winds of Khalakovo is 464 pages long divided over two Parts and 67 numbered chapters. Also includes a Dramatis Personae and maps of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya and the Duchy of Khalakovo. Narration is in the third person via Prince Nikandr Iaroslov Khalakovo; his lover, the Aramahn Rehada Ulan al Shineshka; and Nikandr’s betrothed, Princess Atiana Radieva Vostroma. The Winds of Khalakovo is somewhat self-contained, concluding the novel’s major storylines, but it is the first of three planned books in The Lays of Anuskaya series. April 2011 marks the Trade Paperback publication of The Winds of Khalakovo via Night Shade. Cover art provided by Read More

The King of Plagues: Back to the original Joe Ledger forumula

The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

PLOT SUMMARY: Saturday 09:11 Hours: A blast rocks a London hospital and thousands are dead or injured… 10:09 Hours: Joe Ledger arrives on scene to investigate. The horror is unlike anything he has ever seen. Compelled by grief and rage, Joe rejoins the DMS and within hours is attacked by a hit-team of assassins and sent on a suicide mission into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak.

Soon Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences begin tearing down the veils of deception to uncover a vast and powerful secret society using weaponized versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt to destabilize world economies and profit from the resulting chaos. Millions will die unless Joe Ledger meets this powerful new enemy on its own terms as he fights terror with terror...

CLASSIFICATION: If Patient Zero was like James Rollins’ Sigma Force Read More

Among Thieves: A promising debut

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

CLASSIFICATION: Among Thieves is like a cross between Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard series and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire, told in a first-person narrative reminiscent of Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse novels but without the hard-boiled cynicism. Apart from the occasional expletive and some graphic violence, Among Thieves mainly keeps to a PG-13 rating. Recommended for readers who li... Read More

The Enterprise of Death: Pushes vileness to a whole new level

The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington

CLASSIFICATION: Like The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, The Enterprise of Death is a hard-to-classify fusion of folklore, historical fiction, fantasy, horror and black comedy in the vein of the Brothers Grimm, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Warren Ellis and a bit of Joe Abercrombie. In this case, the historical-influenced setting is centered on the Spanish Inquisition, the Italian Wars and the Protestant Reformation during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Actual historical figures, items and events woven into the novel include Boabdi... Read More

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