Tag Archives: fantasy

BOOK REVIEW: Hawk by Steven Brust

REVIEW SUMMARY: Feeling like a who’s-who of Vlad’s friends in Adrilankha, Hawk balances fatalism with hope, and never misses a beat with the humor and rapid fire dialog for which Brust is known. Long time fans of the series will appreciate seeing their favorite supporting characters.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Done with running from the Jhereg, Vlad returns to Adrilankha. But this time, he has a plan to get the Jhereg off his back for good.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A surprisingly great starting place for readers new to this series; perfect pacing; spotlights Brust’s famous dry wit.
CONS: The trendy-sounding slang may sound dated after a few years.
BOTTOM LINE: Brust succeeds wildly in playing the long game, and in making this “nearly the end of a series” book completely accessible to brand new readers. Fans of the series will appreciate that Hawk moves the chronological plot line forward.

This is Brust’s 14th Vlad Taltos book, a series that stars its titular character and takes place in and around the Dragaeran empire. Each of the seventeen Dragaeran Great Houses are named after an indigenous species, and members of that House are rumored to share the qualities and mannerisms of that animal. Vlad, an Easterner (that means he’s a human), obviously wasn’t born into a Dragearan house, so his father did the only thing one could do it that situation: he purchased a title in the house of Jhereg. Lord Vladimir Taltos, Count Szurke, sometimes-friend of the Empress, broke the rules and has been running from the House of the Jhereg ever since. It’s an issue, because the Jhereg don’t just want him dead, they want him soul dead, the type of assassination that can only be done with a rare Morganti weapon. Oh, didn’t I mention? The House of Jhereg runs all the organized crime in the empire.
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BOOK REVIEW: Frostborn by Lou Anders

REVIEW SUMMARY: Lou Anders’s debut novel for young readers is an engaging and fun fantasy adventure. Younger readers will enjoy the novel and find identifiable characters while older readers will enjoy the rich world.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fluid storytelling, engaging characters and spectacular worldbuilding.
CONS: Some dialogue felt forced, some characters a little telegraphed (though that may be because of my age).
BOTTOM LINE: Were I the target age for Frostborn, I would have gobbled up this book. At my current age I enjoyed and want more Thrones and Bones.

Thrones and Bones is not just the series title for Lou Anders’s debut novel Frostborn, it is also the game with which Karn, one of the novel’s young protagonists, is obsessed. Our other protagonist, the young half-giant Thianna, is an outsider in her land because of her dual heritage. Of course their paths intertwine in Anders’ Norse-inspired fantasy, set in the land of Norrøngard, with undead kings, Afterwalkers (undead warriors), magic horns, wyverns, dragons and dead cities.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Free by Brian Ruckley

REVIEW SUMMARY: Stock characters but great action and even greater magic.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: With war drawing to a close Yulan and his mercenary company accept one final commission — to hunt down an old foe and bring him to justice before he can kill more innocents.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Intriguing setup and setting; better-than-usual revenge motivation; husband/wife dynamic; dynamic action; memorable scenes; stunning magic; Permanences!
CONS: Stock characters.
BOTTOM LINE: Brian Ruckley crafts a fun and satisfying revenge story.

It seems my choice in video games has influenced my reading habits of late. Playing Bungie’s Destiny reignited my desire for military science fiction and so I read Henry V. Neil’s Glory Main and was not disappointed. Last week I started playing Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and just had to get my hands on some quality fantasy. Fortunately Brian Ruckley’s The Free showed up around this time. This being the first time I’ve read Ruckley’s work, a nice thick standalone seemed a good place to start. I love the current state of the fantasy genre but there are so many different series that a standalone story has a special sort of appeal to it…or at least it did until I finished The Free and immediately wished I could read more about the world Ruckley has created.
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The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams and Its Place in the History of Epic Fantasy

I’ve recently finished an in-depth re-read of The Dragonbone Chair, the first book in Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (or tetralogy because when the series was put out in paperback, the third door stopper had to be split in two). I’m re-reading it for two main reasons: Williams has announced a new three book series, placed in the same world, called THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD; and though I remember liking it when I read it when it was first released, I cannot remember through the years the details. My Dad used to call this “CRS Syndrome” (Can’t Remember S___).

I’m happy to report that The Dragonbone Chair stands up to the test of time, at least in my re-read of it. Published in 1988. it has an obvious place in the fantasy timeline after Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR) published in the mid 50’s, and before George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) (known as Game of Thrones by HBO viewers) published from 1996 through hopefully-not-too-many-years-from-now. Like many other fantasy epics of its time, it is influenced by Tolkien. But unlike many published around the same time, it not a Tolkien imitator (though there are some similarities). GRRM cites the series as an influence on his own A Song of Ice and Fire series. (Read Daniel Kaszor’s article in the National Post that talks about Williams’ series as an inspiration for the A Song of Ice and Fire series and as starting the wave of American fantasy; also, if interested, there is an article about a Tad Williams’ hosted book signing of Martin where Martin discussed this series as inspiration.)
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Of Kingdoms, Polities and the Politics of Fantasy: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Why are aristocratic forms of government so common in fantasy? Is it because so much fantasy is set in faux-medieval countries and polities, and so kings, dukes, countesses and their ilk are the expected and anticipated methods in which a country is going to be ruled? It is true that for much of human history, for a large proportion of the glove, large complex societies have tended toward a hierarchical social pyramid, often with a single figure, or a small group of figures, on top.

From a literary standpoint, though, a limited number of political actors offer enormous advantages for writers and their readers. A democracy or republic would mean a cavalcade of characters for the writer create and depict, not only as political actors, but simply as characters. Even a novel completely and utterly focused on the sausage-making of political decisions would be unreadable if the author had to detail 300 electors in the course of the plot. Attempts at simplification of republican politics in novels and stories usually mean collapsing factions and political alignments to a few key actors that can be explored–which returns us to a de facto aristocratic form of government. In other words, we return to Kingdom Politics and the limited number of characters that ultimately matter.
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[GUEST POST] 3 Things Betsy Dornbusch Learned by Writing Fantasy


Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of her website, Sex Scenes at Starbucks.

Three things I Learned Writing Fantasy

by Betsy Dornbusch

Besides that it’s challenging, all-consuming, damned fun, and as addictive as those new churro ice cream sandwiches.

I’ve learned lots more than three things from writing fantasy, but I decided to tie this to Exile, The First Book of the Seven Eyes, my book that just came out in paperback. I wrote Exile eight years ago and these are the challenges that jumped out at me then. You’d think I’d have moved on by now. Except as I draft Enemy, the third book in the series, I’m finding these challenges have become more tenets I lean on. Problem is, they each have inner conflict. You know, to keep things interesting.
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The Best Podcast Fiction of All Time (#21 – #30)

This is my third installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #21-30. You can find #41-50 here and #31-40 here.  This is the middle list of the five pack–just two more to go!  I hope some of you are tuning in and listening to them all–would make for an epic road trip (though many of the stories are not suitable for children so probably not a whole family road trip).

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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[GUEST POST] Sarah Cawkwell on Alternate History with Fantasy and Magic


An NHS worker by day and a writer under the cover of night, Sarah Cawkwell‘s first novel The Gildar Rift was published by the Black Library in 2011. Since then, she has written several other novels and short stories set in the grim-dark worlds of Warhammer. Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising is due for release in May 2014. Other works include tie-in fiction for World of Warcraft and several original tales for an assortment of publishers. Sarah lists her hobbies as reading, writing, reading about writing, writing about reading, online gaming and writing about online gaming. She needs to get out more.

Alternatively Speaking…

by Sarah Cawkwell

As the release date for my novel, Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising gets closer, I find myself musing on the whole aspect of writing alternative fiction. Heirs is a something a little bit different. It’s more than just an alternative history story. It’s more than a ‘what-if’ scenario. It adds in an entirely new dimension of fantasy and magic – things that absolutely, categorically did not happen. No, sir. That we know of, at least. History, remember, is written by the winners. Or the people who don’t like to own up to that bit of it that embarrasses them for any given reason.
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9781760080624_Troll Mountain 1_cover

Interview with Matthew Reilly, Author of TROLL MOUNTAIN

Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of twelve novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Hell Island, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, Army of Thieves and The Tournament.

Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold approximately 5 million books worldwide: 3 million in Australia; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.

In 2011, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the biggest selling fiction title released in Australia for that year. Three more of Matthew’s books have been the biggest-selling Australian fiction titles of their year of release: The Tournament (2013), Seven Ancient Wonders (2005), The Five Greatest Warriors (2009).

Matthew has also written two novellas: in 2005, he wrote Hell Island for the Australian Government’s Books Alive project and in 2014 he released the epic fantasy-quest ebook Troll Mountain.


Tim Ward: I first discovered your work through a Creative Writing course at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Gary Crew is also an Australian author and assigned for us to read Temple. I loved the jungle adventure you told in that story. When you think back to that book, what do you love about that story?

Matthew Reilly: Temple, for me, was about writing a story that was part modern techno-thriller and part swashbuckling adventure. It is the only novel I have written with a dual storyline — that was a challenge I set myself: to see if I could hold the reader’s interest while switching between two stories which are ultimately on a collision course.

I love the pacing of the novel — it is a difficult thing to do, stopping and restarting different storylines, and I like to think Temple succeeds at this.
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[GUEST POST] Katherine Addison (Author of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR) on Breaking Down the Walls of Fantasy


Katherine Addison‘s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her new novel, The Goblin Emperor, was just published by Tor. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

Tolkien, Orcs, Elves and Goblins

by Katherine Addison

I write a lot of different things, but one of my first and deepest loves is the genre that sometimes gets called “epic fantasy” or “secondary-world fantasy”: stories that take place entirely in imaginary worlds. Unsurprisingly, I came to Tolkien early, I loved–and love–him deeply, and he is undeniably one of a handful of very profound influences on my writing. (Tolkien, Wolfe, and Kushner are the three fantasy writers I most want to be able to write like, which probably explains a great many things about my books.) I love the world he invented, and I strive in my own writing to give the same sense of depth that he does, the same intense sense of history. And if I could write travel narrative as well as he does…well…that would be shiny.
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[GUEST POST] Miles Cameron on Writing Fantasy-Battles, War, and Violence


Miles Cameron is the author of The Traitor Son Cycle, which merges epic fantasy with intricate plotting and scathing action. The first book was The Red Knight. The second book, published this week by Orbit Books is The Fell Sword.

Writing Fantasy-Battles, War, and Violence

By Miles Cameron

In the Traitor Son series, there are a great many battles. But battles, IMHO, are like murders in a good mystery novel. Each of them needs to take place in a context and the results have to have consequences. You can’t just have a battle to see how the magic sword works. Or the hero, for that matter.

And I have to admit that my writing of violence in a Fantasy setting is enormously complicated by having actually seen a war or two.
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Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? Tired of the rest of Eurasia and beyond being ignored, except when token people and lands care called for, or perhaps a crusade against the unfathomable East, with no sense of them as people? With no sense of their cultures, values, flora, or fauna?

Good. So am I. And I’d like to tell you about the fantasy that transcends that barrier.

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The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 234): Django Wexler, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough and Kevin Hearne Discuss The Popularity of Science Fiction and Fantasy

In episode 234 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Django Wexler, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough, and Kevin Hearne discuss how the popularity of science fiction and fantasy, varies based on the medium – and how they’ve flipped over time.

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The Completist: SHADOWBRIDGE by Gregory Frost

Stories within stories are one of the greatest tricks in fiction and have been around ever since people have been telling stories. Gregory Frost’s latest novel, Shadowbridge, is a fine example of this storytelling method used to great effect. The protagonist is Leodora a storyteller, a shadow-puppeteer who hunts for the stories she tells. In many ways, Leodora is a traditional heroine – she’s an orphan, is mistreated by her caretakers, and eventually runs away. The running away occurs about halfway through the book, but I don’t think this would be a spoiler by any means. Her reputation has grown to become the greatest shadow-puppeteer since Bardsham, who himself has an air of mythology. While the story has the feel of a traditional fairy tale, Frost makes it clear this is no sanitized kiddy tale as the story progresses.

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Short Epic Fantasy Film: Exordium

Are you in the mood for a gritty (and graphic) fantasy animation? Then check out Exordium, described thusly:

A group of warriors confront that which stands between them and the power to save their people in this rotoscoped animated fantasy short created by Morgan Galen King’s Gorgonaut studios. Starring Jon Tomlinson, and featuring music by Strand of Oaks, Ice Dragon, and Jonn Ollsin

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The 2014 “Beyond Words” Fantasy Author Charity Calendar

As Patrick Rothfuss noted on his blog, right now you can get a supercool calendar and help out some worthwhile charities when you do.

Here’s a description of the 2014 “Beyond Words” Fantasy Author Calendar, which includes beautiful photography by Lauren Zurchin:

Award-winning photographer Lauren Zurchin has created a fantasy photography calendar with fourteen world-famous authors: Holly Black, Gail Carriger, Cassandra Clare, Tessa Gratton, Lauren Kate, Gregory Maguire, Brandon Mull, Lauren Oliver, Christopher Paolini, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Tad Williams, and Brenna Yovanoff.

Each month features a photograph of a different author (or authors, in one case) dressed in custom costumes made by Lauren, and placed in unique locations with one-of-a-kind props. The overall effect is sometimes dark, sometimes ethereal, sometimes whimsical, and completely fantasy.

Proceeds will go to two charities: First Book and Worldbuilders.

Here about this awesome calendar in their own words, right here:
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[GUEST POST] The Writers That Shaped John Gwynne’s Idea of Fantasy

John Gwynne studied and lectured at Brighton University. He’s been in a rock ‘n’ roll band, playing the double bass, travelled the USA and lived in Canada for a time. He is married with four children and lives in Eastbourne, running a small family business rejuvenating vintage furniture. Malice is his debut novel.

The Writers That Shaped My Idea of Fantasy

by John Gwynne

Malice is my first fantasy novel, an epic tale with all that that suggests. Epic battles, sweeping landscapes, angels and demons, Machiavellian politics and a coming-of-age tale. Also I hope it has a human heart, telling a story about people and their passions. Epic and intimate was my goal.

Fantasy is one of the big loves of my life, going back as far as I can remember. As I was growing up my dad was in the Royal Air Force, which meant a lot of traveling – usually a new home and school every three years. Books became my friends during these years. Don’t get the violins out, though, it wasn’t so bad. And I do have real, living, breathing human friends now. But because of my circumstances and the regular upheaval books became a big part of my childhood, something that has stuck with me ever since.
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Kindle eBook Deal: Get ICE FORGED (Book 1 in THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA) by Gail Z. Martin for only $1.99!

Today’s Kindle deal: Gail Z. Martin’s ICE FORGED, the first book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, for only $1.99!

Here’s the description:

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, as the world’s magic runs wild, McFadden and the people of Velant must fight to survive and decide their fate …

From Gail Z. Martin, author of the beloved series THE CHRONICLES OF THE NECROMANCER and THE FALLEN KINGS CYCLE, comes a new fantasy adventure for the ages.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Welcome to the beginning of THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA.

This price is good for today only, so act fast.

The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 208): Panel of Irregulars – What Books Do We Want To Read Before The End Of The Year Part 1

In episode 208 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester welcomes two of our newest Irregulars, Sarah Chorn and Ria Bridges, along with a couple of long-term Irregulars, Larry Ketchersid and Lisa Paitz Spindler to discuss three books we want to read before the end of the year.

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Recommended Reading by Professionals…with Violette Malan

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.

Today’s recommendations are by Violette Malan. Violette Malan lives in southeastern Ontario with her husband. People tend to ask her about the choreography of stripping – and she’ll answer – but most of the time she’s the author of the Dhulyn and Parno novels, and the Mirror Lands novels, fantasies available from DAW.

You’ll find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and check her website.
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