Blue and Gold: Fast, intense, and dramatic


Update: We now know that K.J. Parker is a pseudonym of Tom Holt. Blue and Gold by K.J. Parker Talk about unreliable narrators! If you like that technique, you’re sure to enjoy...

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Mortal Fire: A haunting and evocative supernatural mystery


Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox This was my first time reading an Elizabeth Knox novel, but I know for certain that it won’t be my last. Quite famous in her (and my) country of...

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Lock In: An enthralling novel of big ideas


Lock In by John Scalzi In Lock In, Haden’s syndrome has created millions of people who are conscious and alert, but have no voluntary control of their bodies; they are,...

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The Anubis Gates: A very generous book


The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers Tim Powers’ fourth novel, 1983’s The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David...

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Recent Posts

Thoughtful Thursday: Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our eighth annual SPECULATIVE FICTION HAIKU CONTEST!  Anyone can do this!

As a reminder, here are the rules:

For haiku, the typical subject matter is nature, but if you decide to be traditional, you must give it a fantasy, science fiction, or horror twist. We expect to be told that the peaceful wind you describe is blowing across a landscape of an unfamiliar, distant planet. And if your poem is about a flower, we hope that elegant little touch of beauty is about to be trampled by an Orc. We welcome the sublime as well as the humorous, the pedestrian along with the momentous.

Though you may use the traditional three-line haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, feel free to break that pattern. Many poets who write English haiku adhere to other expectations:

Written in three lines, though sometimes in two or f... Read More

The Bone Shard Emperor: A step backwards

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Andrea Stewart’s debut novel, The Bone Shard Daughter, was an engaging beginning to a new fantasy trilogy, showing some originality in setting and magic system, introducing a few interesting characters, and incorporating several complex moral questions. While it also had its fair share of weaknesses (half the characters were far less interesting, a major implausible narrative contrivance, and some predictable plotting), they were outweighed by the novel’s strengths enough to make it a solid recommendation. Unfortunately, although that also holds true in the follow-up, The Bone Shard Emperor (2021), it’s only just barely, leading to my thinking that big fans of the first book ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 17, 2021

From two months ago, the British Fantasy Award winners (better late than never). Some of our favorites, like Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Alix E. Harrow, are on here!

How about an anthology of Christmas stories edited by SFWA Grandmaster Connie Willis? 

Comeuppance Served Cold got a starred review  (or, as my husband called i... Read More

The Language of Power: An unfinished series, a frustrating cliffhanger

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

2014’s The Language of Power is the fourth and final complete book in Rosemary Kirstein’s THE STEERSWOMAN series. Kirstein is hardly the worst offender in the ranks of writers who stopped writing before a series was finished. Still, the sense of urgency that develops in the final few pages of the book left me hanging, almost literally. Since this is the fourth book in the series, this review might contain spoilers for the previous books.

The cliffhanger is one thing, but the book left me disappointed and frustrated in other ways, too. In the previous book, The Lost Steersman, steerswoman Rowan interacted with a native species previously unknown t... Read More

A Tale of Two Castles: Charming but not completely satisfying

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

12-year-old Elodie is leaving her rural home and traveling to the city of Two Castles where her family expects her to be apprenticed to a weaver for ten years. But there are two things Elodie’s family doesn’t know. One is that Elodie has no intention of being apprenticed to a weaver. Instead, she wants to be a mansioner, which is basically an actor. (Her parents wouldn’t approve of this career.) The second thing that Elodie and her parents don’t know is that there are no more ten-year apprenticeships offered in the city of Two Castles. Instead, apprentices must pay to be trained. So, Elodie, who has no way to contact her parents, has landed in the big city with no job, no place to stay, and no prospects.

At first, Two Castles is overwhelming with all its fascinating new sights. As soon as she steps off the boat, Elodie meets a dragon, an ogre, and a cat that steals her m... Read More

Along the Saltwise Sea: Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for a week

Along the Saltwise Sea by A. Deborah Baker 

In the 2020 portal fantasy Over the Woodward Wall, by A. Deborah Baker (a pseudonym for the prolific Seanan McGuire), two children, Avery and Zib, climbed a granite wall that had inexplicably appeared in the road and were transported to a magical world, the Up-and-Under. It’s much like the land of Oz but with far sharper teeth, and Avery and Zib are anxious to find their way home to our world. They are told to follow the improbable road to the Impossible City, and there ask the Queen of Wands for help getting home.

Following the im... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 14, 2021

Jana: This week I’m reading You Feel it Just Below the Ribs, a novel set within the world of Within the Wires, a podcast co-created by Jeffrey Cranor (of Welcome to Night Vale fame) and Janina Matthewson. The novel and podcast are set in an alternate timeline in which the entire world’s economy and societal structure have been re-organized in the wake of a horrible global cataclysm; the podcast is told through “found audio” sources throughout different decades, and the novel is presented as a found journal... Read More

12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next

12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by Jeanette Winterson

In 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next (2021), Jeanette Winterson offers up a dozen essays on Artificial Intelligence divided into four sections: “How we got here” (a dip into the history of computing), “What’s Your Superpower” (a philosophical/religious change in vision of matter), “Sex and Other Stories” (AI’s potential impact on love and sex), and “The Future” (what will change and what might not with the advent of AI). The essays are generally interesting and well written; there’s really not a “bad” one in the bunch. They do, however, still range somewhat in impact; in her introduction Winterson notes her “aim is modest,” and some of the essays, admittedly, don’t exceed that relatively humble goal. Read More

The Bone Shard Daughter: A fast-paced, enticing adventure

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (2020) by Andrea Stewart is a fast-paced, enticing read, with an attractive world and a magical system that grabs the imagination with both hands and doesn’t let it go.

Stewart’s debut is the first book of a series, THE DROWNING EMPIRE. In an archipelago empire, the imperial Sukai dynasty defeated the powerful Alanga, who ruled it. The current emperor, Shiyen, uses bone shard magic to protect his citizens from the possible return of the Alanga. Shiyen runs his empire using constructs, chimera-like beings animated by chips of bone taken from every citizen of the empire, usually when they are children. At events called Festivals, chips of bone are chiseled out of each child’s skull, sometimes with fatal results. Those chips, later implanted... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers

Today’s covers all come from books, comics, or films we reviewed in October 2021. Once you identify a cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author/director
3. The book/film title



Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday at noon EST, you can come back and identify more.

Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks (if you're in the U.S.A.) or a $5 Amazon gift certificate (outside the U.S.A.). Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box and/or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a win... Read More