Review of Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss

25819516Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss. ★★★1/2

Sunset Mantle is a solid work of high fantasy. What’s most fascinating about it is that for all it’s battles and political intrigue, it’s less than 200 pages long. That’s right ya’ll. This is a high fantasy novella.

Cete is a wandering solider for hire. He knows that Reach Antach is about to be on the losing side of a war and that the smart thing to do would be to move on… but somehow, he just can’t bring himself to do so. When he sees a beautifully embroidered mantle made by a blind craftswoman, he becomes inspired to stay and to risk everything for the town of Reach Antach.

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The SFF Female Author Project: Week Four

Welcome back to my March series focusing on some of the women writing spectacular science fiction and fantasy!

Image result for kameron hurley booksMarch 19th – Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley has written some of the most memorable science fiction and fantasy novels I’ve ever read. While the start of her epic fantasy series The Mirror Empire was ultimately too grimdark for my taste, I admire her inventive world building and dedication to creating complicated, unlikable female characters. She’s also written several science fiction books, including the Bel Dame Apocrypha series (begins with God’s War) and a stand alone space opera with an all female cast, The Stars Are Legion. She’s written essays relating to the science fiction and fantasy genre, most notably the moving “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative.”

Recommended starting place: The Stars Are Legion, a science fiction novel about a fleet of warring organic planets, or The Geek Feminist Revolution, a collection of feminist essays relating to science fiction and fantasy topics.

Image result for six of crowsMarch 20th – Leigh Bardugo

So far, all of Leigh Bardugo’s published work has been YA fantasy and set in the same fantasy world. She came onto the SFF scene with the Grisha trilogy, which begins with Shadow and Bone. The story has some familiar YA elements – a girl Chosen One, a love triangle, ect – set in a country that seemed loosely based off of Russia. Her next series, by contrast, was an ensemble cast heist story, Six of Crows. I wasn’t hugely fond of the Grisha trilogy, but I adored Six of Crows and it’s sequel. The pacing’s fast, the world well rendered, and the characters unforgettable.

Recommended starting place: Six of Crows, a YA fantasy heist novel.

Image result for Nnedi Okorafor booksMarch 21st – Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor writes both fantasy and science fiction. She’d written some YA fantasy before venturing into adult work with Who Fears Death, which won her the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. She later wrote a science fiction themed prequel, The Book of Phoenix, and the stand alone novel Lagoon, where aliens invade Nigeria. She’s currently writing two young adult series – the novella Binti and its sequel about a girl who accepts a scholarship to a university on another planet and Akata Witch, which is about an albino Nigerian girl who discovers she has magical powers.

Recommended starting place: Who Fears Death, a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, or Lagoon, an alien invasion novel.

Image result for emma bull booksMarch 22nd – Emma Bull

Emma Bull began publishing science fiction and fantasy novels back in the 80’s. Her novel War for the Oaks helped establish the urban fantasy genre and became an invaluable piece of genre history. She’s also known for the 1991 post-apocalyptic novel with fantasy elements, Bone Dance, which featured an agender narrator. Her most recent work is the 2007 weird Western novel Territory. She is the co-creator of the shared universe Liavek and has contributed to Terri Windling’s Borderland stories.

Recommended starting place: War for the Oaks, an urban fantasy novel involving the fae and music.

Image result for noriko ogiwara booksMarch 23rd – Noriko Ogiwara

Noriko Ogiwara is a Japanese fantasy author who was inspired to create fantasy novels that blended Tolkien and the Western fantasy tradition with Japanese culture, history, and mythology. Unfortunately, only two of her books have been translated into English. The good news is that while these stories are part of a trilogy, they can be read independently so the lack of the third book isn’t as painful. These novels are Dragon Sword and Wind Child and Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince. She has another fantasy series with an English manga adaption, The Good Witch of the West.

Recommended starting place: Dragon Sword and Wind Child, a high fantasy novel inspired by Japanese mythology.

Image result for catherynne m. valente booksMarch 24th – Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the author of fantastical stories, both short form and novel length, adult and young adult. Her prose is beautiful and lyrical, and her work often explores themes of gender and sexuality. The first book in her YA series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, won the Locus Award for best YA novel and was the first self published novel to ever win a major award. The awards she has won or been nominated for include the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy Award, Tiptree, and Lambda.

Recommended starting place: In the Night Garden, the beginning of a duology of interwoven stories, or “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles,” a zombie short story.

Image result for kat howard roses and rotMarch 25th – Kat Howard

Kat Howard has recently published her debut novel, Roses and Rot, a fairy tale inspired story about two sisters at an artist’s retreat. However, before then she had a career as the author of fantasy short stories and has been published in venues such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Subterranean, Apex, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies and included in anthologies such as The Starlit Wood. Her short work has been nominated for awards such as the World Fantasy Award. She is an up and coming author who’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Recommended starting place: Roses and Rotan urban fantasy novel involving the fae, or “The Key to Saint Medusa,” a feminist retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale involving witches.

Review of The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories

30753517The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★

This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.

This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.

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Review of Brimstone by Cherie Priest

30213129Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★

I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.

Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.

Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?

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The SFF Female Author Project: Week Three

Welcome back to my March feature on women who write science fiction and fantasy! To find more posts in this series, check the “SFF Female Author Project” tag.

Image result for robin hobb booksMarch 12th – Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm

Robin Hobb is one of the most successful female fantasy authors still writing today. She started writing under her own name, Megan Lindholm, but in 1995 published an epic fantasy novel under the name Robin Hobb. That novel was Assassin’s Apprentice, and it became the basis of her most successful series. She has continued to publish fantasy trilogies set in the world first imagined in Assassin’s Apprentice, albeit in different settings within that world. She has a large bibliography of which I still have many books to get to.

Recommended starting place: Assassin’s Apprentice, the beginning of a first person epic fantasy trilogy, or Ship of Magicthe beginning of a multi POV fantasy trilogy with an emphasis on female characters.

Image result for octavia butler booksMarch 13th – Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler broke down barriers within the science fiction genre by being the first African American women to achieve critical success within the science fiction genre. She is still massively influential today. Her work often addresses themes of race, power, gender, and colonialism. She is perhaps best known for her novel Kindred, in which a modern day black women is transported to the days of her ancestors and American slavery. Her other works include a dystopian series (Parable of the Sower), a series about African immortals (Wild Seed), alien abduction (Dawn), and vampires (Fledgling).

Recommended starting place: Dawn, a science fiction novel where aliens are a metaphor for colonialism, or Kindred, a time travel novel.

Image result for emma newman booksMarch 14th – Emma Newman

Emma Newman writes science fiction and urban fantasy. I’ve enjoyed every book she’s written, and her science fiction is some of the best I’ve read. Her two science fiction novels, Planetfall and After Atlas, both take place in the same future but can be read separately. Both are dark stories involving mental health issues, and After Atlas has some mystery elements.  Her urban fantasy series begins with Between Two Thorns and takes place in the grey zone between the human world and the world of the fae. She also has a new historical fantasy novella, Brother’s Ruin.

Recommended starting place: Planetfall, a science fiction novel about an off-planet colony built on secrets, or Brother’s Ruin, a fantasy novella set in the 1800’s.

Image result for cornelia funke booksMarch 15th – Cornelia Funke

Cornelia Funke is a beloved German children’s author. She is probably best known for her middle grade/young adult fantasy novel Inkheart, in which certain people have the ability to read characters and objects out of books. Her stand alone novel, The Thief Lord, about magic in Venice, has also been one of her most successful works. Currently, she is writing the Mirrorworld series about a fairy tale world going through wars and industrial revolutions.

Recommended starting place: Inkheart, a story about a girl who’s father can bring to life characters out of books, or Reckless, a story about an adventure from our world seeking to save his brother from a curse in a war torn fairy tale land.

Image result for alyssa wong short storiesMarch 16th – Alyssa Wong

Alone of the authors in this feature, Alyssa Wong does not have any novel length work published. However she is an award winning short fiction author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Among other venues, her work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and She has also written nonfiction essays about the science fiction and fantasy genre. You can find her complete bibliography here.

Recommended starting place: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” where a young woman who devours the ugly thoughts of others goes to far and can’t find the darkness needed to satisfy her, or “The Fisher Queen,” where the daughter of a fisherman accompanies the family boat to the trade – catching mermaids for high end restaurants. Note, both stories contain references to sexual assault.

Image result for ellen kushner booksMarch 17th – Ellen Kushner

Ellen Kushner is perhaps best known for her Riverside series, which begun with the 1987 novel SwordspointSwordspoint has since become the corner stone of a subgenre, fantasy of manners. Although the Riverside books are set in a fictional world, they contain no or very little magic. Homophobia in this world is basically nonexistent, and most of the major characters are gay or bisexual. Ellen Kushner is currently reviving Riverside through  Tremontaine, a Serial Box prequel to Swordspoint, with other authors being brought in to help write a season’s worth of “episodes.”

Recommended starting place: The Privilege of the Sword, in which a bisexual girl goes to live with her mad uncle and learn the art of swordsmanship (TW: rape), or Tremontainea prequel in which a number of characters lives interest over politics involving the chocolate trade.

Image result for maggie stiefvater booksMarch 18th – Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is a YA author who always includes fantastical elements in her work, whether it be the werewolves of her Shiver trilogy or the man-eating water horses of the stand alone novel The Scorpio Races. She’s known for her lyrical prose and deft hand at characterization. Her most recent and most acclaimed series is The Raven Cycle, which begins with The Raven Boys. The series centers on magic and friendship as four boys and a girl look for a sleeping Welsh king in Virginia.

Recommended starting place: The Scorpio Races, because racing carnivorous horses is an excellent idea, or The Raven Boys, because of the power of friendship.

Review of The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver

33623041The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2

In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.

In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.

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