Rebecca Fisher

REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, 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. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

Hilda and the Black Hound: A slightly scarier adventure for our Hilda

Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson

The fourth book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our little blue-haired adventurer grappling with two brand new mysteries. Taking place in a Scandinavian-inspired setting filled with all sorts of mythological creatures, Hilda and her mother have recently moved to the city after their log-cabin was destroyed — and Hilda is finding it a bit difficult to adjust.

Her mother suggests she join the Sparrow Scouts, something she was involved with as a little girl, which will give Hilda the opportunity to once again enjoy the outdoors. Immediately struck by the idea of collecting badges, Hilda embraces the club and its motto: to be a friend to all people, animals and spirits.

It’s for this reason she’s confused when her mother refuses to let he... Read More

Hilda and the Bird Parade: Hilda’s adventures continue

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson

The third book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our blue-haired adventurer in quite different surroundings. After the events of Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda and her mother have moved to the city, far away from the open spaces of the countryside and the multitude of magical creatures that live there.

Still, Hilda is trying to make the best of it, even if her mother is far more nervous about her roaming the city by herself than she was the country. But when some friends from school unexpectedly turn up at her door, Hilda is allowed to accompany them as they show her the sights of the neighbourhood.

Pearson writes with nuance: y... Read More

MONSTRESS 5: Warchild: It never flinches

MONSTRESS 5: Warchild by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

This is my fifth review for what is the fifth volume in Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s collaborative MONSTRESS project, and it’s getting difficult not to repeat myself. Here are the basics: it takes place in a matriarchal society that’s embroiled in a devastating war between those that wield magic and those that rely on technological advancements.

The main character is Maika Halfwolf, a girl with one arm and a Lovecraftian monster living inside her, desperately trying to keep her head above the morass of political intrigue and violence that surrounds her. And the artwork in this series is exceptionally beautiful, combining Asian and Egyptian influences with an Art Nouveau style that I’ve certainly never seen anywhere outside of these books.

Volume 5: Warchild (comprised of issu... Read More

MONSTRESS 4: The Chosen: More evocative storytelling from two masters

MONSTRESS 4: The Chosen by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

The saga continues with the fourth volume of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takenda's epic fantasy MONSTRESS, which at this point is so complex and intricate that it's difficult to properly summarize it.

Set in an alternate matriarchal 19th century Asia, with a steampunk/art deco/Egyptian aesthetic, this is the story of Maika Halfwolf and the terrible demonic presence that resides within her, one that sporadically bursts forth to cause destruction and mayhem, but occasionally offering her advice and companionship as well.

Her world is in the middle of a devastating war, in which magic and science are constantly finding new ways to spread ruination, and increasingly powerful forces threaten to end all of civilization. Maika finds herself in the company of a man called the Lord Doctor, who claims to be her long-lost fat... Read More

The Wizards of Once: A rock-solid premise

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

What caught my attention with The Wizards of Once (2017) was the opening paragraph, which describes the forests of ancient Britain thusly:

These were forests darker than you would believe possible, darker than inkspots, darker than midnight, darker than space itself, and as twisted and as tangled as a Witch’s heart.

Who wouldn’t want to read a story set in such a place? The hook continues with an introduction to the two main characters: a boy from a wizard tribe with no magic, and a girl from a warrior tribe with a banned magical object. The boy Xar is desperate for magic, and the girl Wish is just as determined to keep hers a secret.

Naturally their paths will cross, and it should come as no surprise to learn that because their respective tribes have been at war for so long, they don’t exactly get off on the righ... Read More

Hilda and the Midnight Giant: A return to Hilda’s world

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
The second in Luke Pearson’s HILDA series of graphic novels once again returns to the Scandinavian countryside and the adventures of Hilda, a blue-haired little girl who lives with her mother in a remote cabin. She spends her days wandering about with her sketchbook, exploring the natural world and the mysterious creatures that live within it.

Mother and daughter are relaxing at home one evening when stones suddenly fly through their windows, and a little voice announces that they’re to leave the premises or be forcibly evicted. There’s no sign of anyone, though Hilda grabs a broom and starts sweeping the invisible intruders to the door — where she’s stunned to see a giant looming over the house.

That’s two mysteries for the price of one, and being as... Read More

Hilda and the Troll: An intriguing start to this graphic novel series

Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

The HILDA graphic novels had been on my radar for a while, but knowing they've recently been adapted into a Netflix original made me finally give them a read (I like to read the source material before watching any adaptations).

In Hilda and the Troll (2010), Hilda is a young girl living with her mother in an unspecified part of the Scandinavian countryside, in a little wooden cabin on a great grassy plain. She spends her days wandering outside, drawing in her sketchbook, and reading texts about mythological creatures — which, the reader soon realizes, are not mythological at all.

Hilda encounters sea spirits and giants and trolls, recording them faithfully in her sketchbook. And this isn’t treated as particularly extraordinary; it’s taken for granted that her world is filled with such things. A little man made out of wood occasiona... Read More

Verdigris Deep: Be careful what you wish for

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge

A glance back at former reviews of Frances Hardinge’s work reveals that I have overused the word “weird.” Hardly the nicest word, and yet I meant it as a compliment. It’s a testament to my struggle to pinpoint what it is that makes Hardinge’s books stand out. Nevertheless, stand out they do.

Verdigris Deep (2008) is a weird book and, once again, that’s meant as a compliment. Ryan, Josh and Chelle get stranded in a forbidden village when they miss their bus home. Finding they have no money for the next bus they resort to pinching coins from an old wishing well hidden in the wood. What they don’t know is that the well is inhabited by an angry well spirit who doesn't react well to h... Read More

King of Scars: Battling mortal enemies and demons in the Grisha universe

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (2019), the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s NIKOLAI DUOLOGY and part of the ongoing saga in her GRISHA universe, begins not long after the events in Crooked Kingdom. Readers should ideally have read both the original SHADOW AND BONE trilogy and the SIX OF CROWS duology before picking up this book; there are a lot of references to prior events and previously introduced characters. We return to the country of Ravka, setting of Shadow and Bone, where Nikolai Lant... Read More

The Power of the Dark Crystal: Volume One: A return to the world of Thra

The Power of the Dark Crystal: Volume One by Simon Spurrier

With the recent release of Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to the original 1982 film, I’ve been treating myself to all the supplementary material that's been released in the show's wake. Given that Thra is one of my favourite fantasy worlds (along with Middle Earth and Narnia), it’s been a dream come true to have so much new content.

According to the afterword, The Power of the Dark Crystal was originally written as a script by screenwriters David Odell, Anette Odell and Craig Pearce – though it was never adapted into a feature-length sequel to The Dark Crystal. Thank goodness for graphic novels, another visual medium that has no need for an extensive budget.

... Read More

Crooked Kingdom: This duology is gripping reading

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Note: This review contains spoilers for Six of Crows, the first book in this duology.

Crooked Kingdom (2016) picks up the story begun in Six of Crows and takes off like ― well, there are no freight trains in this world, so ― a runaway Grisha on jurda parem. In Six of Crows, teenage crime lord Kaz Brekker and his handpicked group of five pulled off a near-impossible heist, rescuing a young boy, Kuwei, from the impenetrable Ice Court of Fjerda and returning to Ketterdam with him and, more importantly, his knowledge of his father’s research into how to turn the ordinary jurda plant into jurda parem, a drug that instantly amps up Gris... Read More

Six of Crows: An exciting fantasy heist

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo, best known for her GRISHA young adult magical fantasy trilogy, explores a different corner of the Grisha world in her new young adult novel, Six of Crows. In the city of Ketterdam, an analog for Amsterdam, criminal gangs control the waterfront, and the surrounding area is a den of iniquity where everything can be bought and sold, including people. One of the gangs, appropriately called the Dregs, is led by 17 year old Kaz Brekker, nicknamed “Dirtyhands” because of his willingness to stoop to any level to maintain and grow his power and control. His young crew has been gaining in power and influence during the few years he’s been in charge of it.

One day a wealthy merchant abduct... Read More

Teen Titans: Raven: A Teen Titan discovers New Orlean’s voodoo

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

This recent line of graphic novels showcasing some of DC’s younger heroines seem designed to draw more girls into the world of comic books (not that there weren’t plenty before) with more emphasis not only on female characters, but their experiences as teenagers. Other additions to this series have focused on Mera, Selina Kyle and Harley Quinn, though each one is a standalone story.

As such, the writers assume that readers have no foreknowledge of DC comic books, and each one treats the characters as a “clean slate”, regardless of how well-known or popular they are.

In this case, Raven Roth is a seventeen-year old foster child about to be legally adopted when a car accident claims the life of her would-be mother. Suffering from memory loss, she is taken in by her deceased mother’s family in New Orleans.

Yes, it’s the tried-and-true cli... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader: The construction of Vader’s base

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Have you ever wondered as to how Darth Vader came to have a giant castle on Mustafar, the planet where he was left to die by Obi-Wan Kenobi before Emperor Palpatine gave him his cybernetic body? I mean, it seems a really weird place to have your headquarters, right?

Charles Soule has clearly wondered that too, and like most of the questions raised throughout this Vader-centric series, he supplies some pretty satisfying answers in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader. Vader's castle was glimpsed only briefly in Rogue One (and at the time of this review, the films have yet to return to it) but it was a striking image that immediately threw up a ton of possibilities as to what Sith Lords get up to on their days off... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas: The Empire tightens its grip

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

The early years of Darth Vader continue in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas, in which Charles Soule explores Vader and the Empire in the near-immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith. As the Empire consolidates its rule over the galaxy, Vader is sent on various missions that test his abilities in the Dark Side and allow him to grow more comfortable with his ever more destructive powers.

Most of the action takes place on Mon Cala, which readers will recognize as the home planet of fan-favourite Admiral Akbar. It was also featured heavily in The Clone Wars television series, and King Lee-Char has a significant role to play here — as do Raddus and Akbar, who appear in Rogue One and... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy’s End: Vader hunts a familiar face

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy's End by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Charles Soule’s DARTH VADER comics explore the character’s thoughts, decisions and actions in the immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith, in which the Empire is still consolidating its power and Vader himself grappling with his new identity as the Emperor’s apprentice.

This volume sees him training the Inquisitors (which featured so heavily in the first two seasons of Star Wars Rebels), an elite team of former Jedi who are now tasked with finding and killing any survivors of Order 66. Among the target list that’s assigned to them, one name in particular stands out…

Legacy’s End spotlights a character I never thought we’d learn more about: Jocasta Nu. You know,... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine: Vader’s early years

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine by Charles Soule & Jim Cheung

Although Charles Soule’s DARTH VADER: DARK LORD OF THE SITH was released after Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER, it’s chronologically set several years before, in what is almost the immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith (whereas Gillen’s story was set after the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope).

So the character featured here is a “young” Vader, one still getting used to his new body, title and role in the fledging Empire. Heck, things kick off when he’s literally still in the laboratory where he learns of Padme’s fate.

As such, Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine is not a portrayal of Vader at the height of h... Read More

Mera: Tidebreaker: A fresh look at an oft-sidelined DC heroine

Mera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige & Stephen Byrne

This is one in a series of graphic novels starring DC heroines in their teenage years, not compliant with any comic-book continuity, but which are aimed at slightly younger readers who might be interested in some of the female characters to have appeared in the recent influx of superhero movies (other titles in the series include Catwoman, Raven and Harley Quinn).

Having enjoyed Aquaman starring Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, I picked Mera: Tidebreaker up on a whim to learn more about the character of Mera, since in the film she's mostly a supporting character. Here Mera is the teenage princess of the underwater city of Xebel, betrothed to a boy she doesn't fully love, and fighting against Atlantean rule.

When she discovers that her betrothed will inherit the Xebellian throne if he kills the current heir to Atlantis, Mera decide... Read More

Ruin and Rising: A satisfying end to an engrossing story

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The third and final instalment in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy was far more rewarding than I had ever anticipated. Though I liked the first book Shadow and Bone and really liked the sequel Siege and Storm, it was Ruin and Rising that I truly loved.

It's difficult to summarize the finale of any book series without giving away details of its predecessors, but here goes – Alina Starkov is a Sun Summoner; a very rare Grisha that can conjure light out of nothing, a skill that's highly prized considering the country of Ravka is divided by a terrible darkness known a... Read More

Siege and Storm: Despite a choppy beginning, this sequel delivers

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (2013) is the second book in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy, and does what any good sequel should do: expands the world, deepens the characters and raises the stakes. On the other hand, it can't quite avoid the pitfalls of a typical middle book — being unable to truly start or properly finish anything; it ends on a note that gives the impression the whole thing has been setup for the third and final instalment. But apart from this inevitability, Siege and Storm is a satisfying read.

Its predecessor Shadow and Bone introduced us to Alina Starkov and the concept of the Grisha. Born with the power to transmute certain elements (... Read More

Under the Moon: An early look at the future Catwoman

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart

I’ve been going through these YA graphic novels for a while now, each one in the series focusing on a famous DC heroine (Harley Quinn, Raven, Princess Mera, Selina Kyle) and exploring what her adolescence might have been like. They’re not canon-compliant with any other comic books, television shows or films, but usually have the aesthetic you might expect from the character’s history.

In this case, you can expect Selina Kyle to be involved with cats, living on the streets, and a heist.

Catwoman has always been one of my favourite characters, so I was interested to see how her story would play out here in Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. It’s about what you’d expect from a future cat-burglar: she doesn’t get on with her mother’s abusive boyfriend, and when he ends up killing her pet kitten (trigger warning f... Read More

Shadow and Bone: Old tropes, new story

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

YA can be more fickle than its literary cousins. It’s notorious for trends. There were wizards, vampires, and what feels like a decade’s worth of dystopias. The result is a glut of books with sassy female protagonists who discover they have a unique power, are fighting to save the world, and struggling to decide which hunky love interest to pick from in their love triangle. Shadow and Bone doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of avoiding these tropes, but what it does do is tell them in a fresh and innovative way.

Alina Starkov was raised in an orphanage alongside her best friend (and future love, obviously), called Mal. They live in Ravka, a fantasy Russia of samovars and Grisha — powerful magical soldiers that work directly for the king. If you don’t have magic, you’re bumped down to the common army, where Alina and Mal find themselves. As with most YA... Read More

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass: A beautifully illustrated spin on a famous anti-hero

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki & Steve Pugh

There are currently four of these similarly-themed graphic novels in publication, which seemingly exist in a bid to attract a new generation of readers to DC comics. Each one takes a famous DC heroine (or anti-heroine) and explores what life might have been like when they were still just teenagers. So far we’ve had Princess Mera, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn and Raven (who granted, has always been depicted as a teenager).

None of the books have any narrative links to later depictions of these characters; they’re all standalone stories which don’t seem to be compliant with any other continuities — and that’s especially true here in Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. Fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel is sent by her mother to live in Gotham City with her grandmother, but the by the time Harleen gets the... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop (Rebirth): A fun range of stories to finish up the series

Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Scott Godlweski

This is the fourth volume in Hope Larson's Batgirl run, one which has focused not only on crime-fighting, but also community spirit — what I've liked most about Larson's stories is that Barbara Gordon gives just as much to the suburb of Burnside as her civilian self than she does as a vigilante. In this, she's assisted by a group of friends who also contribute to society in meaningful ways, as well as enriching Barbara's day-to-day life. I didn't realize that members of the Batfamily could be this emotionally stable!

Strange Loop isn't my favourite collection, simply because it's made up of seven shorter stories, which inevitably don't have the same level of depth and detail that longer plots can manage. Still, there's some fun... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth): A collection of Batgirl stories

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Chris Wildgoose

The third volume of Hope Larson's Batgirl run actually includes three separate stories, though the last is the longest and definitely the best. They're a nice mix of Barbara Gordon tackling old-school villainy and more contemporary issues, with her usual combination of bright-eyed enthusiasm and cutting-edge technology.

In "Troubled Waters" Barbara is investigating a haunted public swimming pool, in which several swimmers have seen a strange purple energy. Along with the over-enthusiastic host of a ghost hunting reality show. It's a short but fun tale that is totally lifted from Fred's backstory on season three of Joss Whedon's Angel, but also showcases Barbara's intelligence and mystery-solving skills.

"The Truth About Bats and ... Read More

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