This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

31 March, 2012


   Note: For those of you who are wondering, that is the Roman numeral 2 up between the ( and the ) up there in the title. It's not an attempt at an emoticon gone wrong.

   I'm not very actively searching for covers for these posts, I just post what has caught my eye during the week. But if you are a publicist, editor, etc that want to give me a heads up on a new cover, you can contact me by the e-mail on the right or on Twitter @Weirdmage.
   So, on to this weeks covers:

Cover design: Neil Lang

   This is the cover for Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, to be published by Tor UK. 
   I think this cover really works, it looks good and the design gives a depth to it I like. It is also different enough from the usual photo covers that I think it will stand out.
   The book itself also seems very interesting, on the Tor UK blog it's described as "This is an adventurous dystopian fantasy with a hint of steampunk and a flavour of feudal Japan.", and I must say that sounds interesting, and it also seems the cover keeps with the description.

Cover design: Lauren Panepinto

   Cover for Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, to be published by Orbit in the US, and Gollancz in the UK.
   This is Peter Higgins' debut novel. It is set in an alternate Stalinist Russia, and there are hints that there are some fantastical elements to it. The cover has a very nice design, I especially like the wings added to the familiar Soviet symbol. It made me look twice, and I like the uncluttered feel of it.

Cover by Larry Rostant

   This cover for Shift by Kim Curran is the second we have seen from Strange Chemistry. It is not a final version, but I can't see much need for change.
   I really like how action filled this cover is. It has a sense of being a captured frame from a movie. Looks like it is set on a subway/tube train, but what is that light in the background? It's very good when covers get you wondering what is happening in my opinion, and this cover certainly does that.

Cover art: Steven Wood

   If this looks familiar, it is because I had this on the post last week, but now it has text added to it and this is the finalised version that we will see in stores. Oh, and it's the cover for Blackwood by Gwenda Bond, coming from Strange Chemistry.
   I think I said enough about how much I like this last week. So I'll just add that I think the text suits the cover just fine, it doesn't take attention away from the gorgeous art.

Last weeks Cover Reveal Round-Up is here.

30 March, 2012


Cover based on illustration by Chris Moore/Artist Partners

(Alternative title: Tiger! Tiger!)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09419-2
Pages: 244 (Including afterword.)
Publisher: Gollancz
First published: 1956
This edition published: 11 March 1999 (Cover change: 29 March 2010)

On the cover:


SKILLS: none. MERITS: none.


That is the official verdict on Gully Foyle, unskilled space crewman. But Gully has managed to survive for 170 days in the airless purgatory of deep space after the wreck of his ship, and has escaped to Earth carrying a murderous grudge and a secret that could change the course of history.

   This is one of the classics of Science Fiction, and there is a very good reason for that. This is one of a few novels that I think is compulsory reading in the SFF genre. It has stood the test of time, and the scope of it is such that it still is a brilliant work of the imagination today.

   Compared to modern SFF this is a rather short novel, but the page numbers are deceiving. Bester does not waste words and there is a lot of story, and room for character development in its pages.
   The main character, Gully Foyle, is very well developed and the journey we follow him on is an intense one. From the first chapter we are thrown into events that threaten to destroy Gully, and it is his battle against this that form the central theme of the book.
   Gully Foyle is not a traditional hero, he's much more of the kind of ant-hero that we are more used to from the "Gritty" Fantasy of recent years. But Gully is not an unsympathetic character, his actions are rooted in the events that shape him and his is a very interesting journey to follow.

   The story is full of suspense, and there are some satisfying action sequences that manages to up the tension even further. In amongst all that is happening Bester also finds room to give quite a lot of information of the future Gully Foyle is living in, a future that seems relevant, futuristic, and plausible even fifty-six years after the novel was written. These drips of information are interesting in themselves, and they help flesh out the setting of the story.
   For a novel this old, this does not in any way feel dated. There is very little here that could not have been written in the present day, and I think that is The Stars My Destination's true claim to being a classic, not only of the SFF genre but of literature in general. Bester's ideas still hold up against the best that is written today, and he executes them in a brilliant way.

   There's really not much left to say, this is a extremely well written novel and as mentioned above, I think it is a true classic. This certainly is a novel that should be in any fan of Science Fiction's library, and it deserves a place in any collection of books.

29 March, 2012


Cover art: Jody Lee


ISBN: 978-0-88677-400-4
Pages: 319 (Including Appendix)
Publisher: Daw Books
Published: 5 January 1988

On the cover:


With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.

But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar. And to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Anscar's court than just preperation for a hoped for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Anscar's realm - an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time.

   For the third book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, Lackey for the first time takes is out of Valdemar. There have been some talk of the greater world earlier, but now we get to experience it.
   There is much more of a vibe of politics here than in the previous books. And I find that very interesting. It broadens the understanding of how the Heralds function, and gives a deeper insight into their place in Valdemar's society. They have always been described as the Queen's Own, but here we get a better sense that this is as more than an internal "police" force.

   The personal journey of Talia is also a major part of the plot this time. Not only in her central place in the political plot, but also in her personal life. It's good to see a resolution to something that has been brewing since the first book. The conclusion to, at least this part of, Talia's personal life is very well integrated into the greater storyline of the plot.

   Lackey branches out in the epicness of the series with this novel. There is a much greater scope to this than the relatively closed settings of the two previous books. This is done in a very fluid way, it feels like the tale grows and branches out without being forced by the writer, but as a logical extension of the narrative.

   As a conclusion to a trilogy, I really enjoyed this novel. But I must admit that I was a little disappointed with some of the things that were unresolved. Then again I have become so invested in the world of Valdemar now, and plan to pick up the next trilogies in the future, so this is not actually anything than I minor disappointment.
   Apart from a feeling that the end could have been even better if the book had been a hundred pages longer, this was a very good read.
   Lackey has cemented her place as a must read author when it comes to classic style (i.e. pre-Gritty) Fantasy. And I would again like to recommend this trilogy to anyone who wants Fantasy with a little less darkness and grit in it.

Reviews: Arrows of the Queen  Arrow's Flight

Links: Mercedes Lackey  Daw Books

27 March, 2012



ISBN: 978-0-451-16951-8
Pages: 1090
Publisher: Signet (Penguin USA)
First published: 15 September 1986
This edition published: 7 August 1987

On the cover:

[A picture of Stephen King]
Text below from King's website.

It began for the Losers on a day in June of 1958, the day school let out for the summer. That was the day Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name on Ben Hanscom's belly and chased him into the Barrens, the day Henry and his Neanderthal friends beat up on Stuttering Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, the day Stuttering Bill had to save Eddie from his worst asthma attack ever by riding his bike to beat the devil. It ended in August, with seven desperate children in search of a creature of unspeakable evil in the drains beneath Derry. In search of It. And somehow it ended.

Or so they thought. Then.

On a spring night in 1985 Mike Hanlon, once one of those children, makes six calls. Stan Uris, accountant. Richie "Records" Tozier, L.A. disc jockey. Ben Hanscom, renowned architect. Beverly Rogan, dress designer. Eddie Kaspbrak, owner of a successful New York limousine company. And Bill Denbrough, bestselling writer of horror novels. Bill Denbrough who now only stutters in his dreams.

These six men and one woman have forgotten their childhoods, have forgotten the time when they were Losers . . . but an unremembered promise draws them back, the present begins to rhyme dreadfully with the past, and when the Losers reunite, the wheels of fate lock together and roll them toward the ultimate terror.

   This is King's most well known work, maybe it's mostly because of the TV series, but I think that the very short title helps people remember it.
   IT is a Horror novel, but it is also a novel about a group of friends growing up in the USA in the late 1950s. And it is actually the latter that makes this novel really stand out from other Horror novels, and makes it a masterpiece.

   Not only is the novel composed of two main themes, as I wrote above, it also has two different timelines. One of them is the summer of 1958, and the other is the present day - more specifically 1985.
   These two timelines does not exist independent of each other, they are closely related and we mostly see 1958 as a recollection from the characters viewpoint in the present day. This structure works incredibly well, it allows King to stretch out the suspense in a way that would otherwise be difficult to pull off. It also means that the novel, despite being over one thousand pages, does not feel padded. I can't think of anything that could be cut from the book without weakening it.

   The characters of the book are so fully realised it's not hard to think of someone you know that they could represent. And the way they come together in 1958 will most likely be very familiar to anyone who has grown up a place where playing unsupervised outside was allowed. In fact this part of the novel is so well done that you could remove all the Horror elements and still be left with a great story.
   Even as adults King's characters are an interesting gang. Even though we only get glimpses of what has happened with them in the years between 1958 and 1985, it is enough to see what made them turn out the way they did. Much of which has links back to the events of the summer of 1958.

   I mentioned above that King uses the revelation in 1986 of the events in 1958 to stretch out the suspense, and there is a lot of suspense in the book. There are a number of horrific events happening, and that we often get to see them unfold through the eyes of children makes them that much stronger. I'm not easily scared by books, but there were scenes in IT that made me sweat. King really gets you close to the characters, and this gets you invested in the events unfolding on the page to a degree few authors manage. 

   The ending of the book does not disappoint either. We slowly learn how the past and the future are connected, and when we finally get the revelation of the final piece in the connecting puzzle - It makes perfect sense, at least it did to me. 
   The only real let-down is that it has to end at all. After spending so much time with the main characters it was kind of hard to let them go, I for one wouldn't mind continuing to follow their lives.

   There's a good case to be made for IT being King's best novel, and it is certainly among the absolute best he has ever written. This is a novel that can't be missed if you are a fan of Horror, and even if you are not you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it. Simply put, this is a must read book.

26 March, 2012


Cover art: Jon Foster


ISBN: 978-0-7653-2946-2
Pages: 346
Publisher: Tor
Published: 27 September 2011

On the cover:

The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he’s happy to run alcohol guns wherever the money’s good, he doesn’t think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side effects. But going straight is easier said than done, and Cly’s first legal gig—a supply run for the Seattle Underground—will be paid for by sap money.
   New Orleans is not Cly’s first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Early—but that was a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. He's still on Jo's mind, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It’s a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can’t refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he’s in for—or what she wants him to fly.
   But he won’t be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn’t killed most of the men who’d ever set foot inside it. 
   But it’s those “if onlys” that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.

   Like the second Clockwork Century book, Dreadnought, this also gives us a new location for the story. But this time we are much more tied to Boneshaker, the first book, through the re-appearing characters.
   There's two main characters this time, Adnan Cly who we met in Boneshaker and Josephine Early, who is new to the series. Early is a fascinating woman, and her "boarding house" in New Orleans provides a great setting to show off a side of society we rarely see detailed in SFF. 
   The supporting cast are also interesting in their own right, there's not a feeling of them being there just to "fill in the scenery" of the story. That some of them are returning from the previous books is also welcome, and it gives the novel a great connection to the Clockwork Century series as a whole.

   New Orleans is a great setting for the story, and it also provides some very interesting insights into what is changed from our history in Priest's books.
   What has happened to New Orleans in this timeline's history is central to the story of this novel. And I found the revelations of the greater events that have shaped the New Orleans we see very interesting. The Alternate History of The Clockwork Century continues to be added to, and I think the historical backdrop shows off the strength of Priest's worldbuilding skill.
   The novel is by no means confined to the Alternate History genre, there is much more going on here that comes from other SFF subgenres, but I must say that I enjoy immensely seeing Priest give us greater and greater understanding of the larger world as the series progresses.

   The story this time has a great deal of suspense to it, as well as some nice action scenes. The New Orleans and surrounds setting gives a nice backdrop to a story that while completely in line with The Clockwork Century as a whole, has a very distinct feel to it. Josephine Early works as a great centre for the events depicted and her personal story adds depth to the novel.
   Events move at a pretty fast pace, but never at the expense of substance. There are some great references to our history here that I think will be nice "Easter eggs" for those who are interested in history.

   The way the story manages to mix the suspense, action, and worldbuilding makes for an excellent read. This novel really cements Priest's place at the forefront of the current Alternate History/Steampunk wave. She writes an excellent mix of Alternate History, Steampunk, and adventure novel that deserves to be widely read. If you are not familiar with this series, I urge you to pick it up the next time you shop for books.

24 March, 2012


   I like seeing cover reveals, it's always interesting to get an early look at a coming book. Sometimes I want to blog about them, but I don't want to fill my blog with posts about new covers, so I thought I'd start doing a round-up of cover reveals on a semi-regular basis. These are some of the covers I have noticed lately, with a brief comment of what I think of them.


   This is the cover for the first volume in the The Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy, published by Del Rey.
   I'm really not sure what to think of it. It's pretty minimalistic for a Fantasy cover, and I have no idea from the cover what the novel is about. I assume the covers for the nest two books will be in a similar style, and I think it may look better when seen together with those. But I also think it will to some degree stand out in the Fantasy section as it is. 


   The first book in a new trilogy form Steven Erikson, and Tor Books, set in the world of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
   This is pretty much a generic Fantasy cover, and I am a bit disappointed by it. It does look good, but I feel that this is very much a cover that could have grazed any Fantasy book ever published. My first thought was that it was a cover for a new edition of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I am of course excited by a new Malazan book by Erikson, but I wish the cover was more special.


   Another first book of a new trilogy from an established Fantasy author (, looks like the trend this year.) This from Tad Williams and published by Daw Books (US) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK).
   I actually liked this cover. It's not very original, but it seems to be a very good representation of what the book is about from what I have read. This is a book I am very excited about, Williams is a great author.


Cover art: Cliff Nielsen

   The cover for a new installment in Cherie Priest's The Clockwork Century series. Published by Tor Books.
   I love this series, and I have really liked the covers for the previous books. This cover fits in nicely with the earlier ones, and I think it looks great. I can't wait to find out what the character on the cover is staring at.


Cover art: Simon Parr

   This is the cover for the debut novel coming from author Lou Morgan, to be published by Solaris Books.
   This is an excellent cover, it really comes out at you. The red figure on the black background is a nice contrast. Even though I know Lou online and have been excited to read her book since I first heard about it, this cover managed to get me even more excited. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one.


Cover art: Steven Wood

   This is not only the cover for the first novel by Gwenda Bond, it is also the first cover we've seen from new publishing imprint Strange Chemistry.
   This is not a final cover, and there will obviously be some text added to this before it is in the shops. It really is a lovely cover, and I was already looking forward to the book, this has made me want it more. The colours, the woman, and that's really brilliant, I want it as a poster.  And I can't wait to see what covers Strange Chemistry comes up with after this one.

   I hoped you liked my first cover reveal post. I will be keeping an eye on the internet for more cover reveals in the future, and there will be more of these posts on the blog from time to time.
   What did you think of these covers? The comments are open.

23 March, 2012


Cover art: Jody Lee


ISBN: 978-0-88677-377-9
Publisher: Daw Books
Published: 1 September 1987

On the cover:


Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald's justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings, would require all the courage and skill Talia could command- for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!

    This novel continues the story of Talia that begun in The Arrows of the Queen. There is a time gap between the two novels, but in a way there doesn't seem to be. Talia's abilities doesn't seem to have developed much from book one, and it felt a bit like she has aged just so that a sexual relationship can be introduced. Not that the book is full of sex scenes, it isn't. And the ones that are here feels like a natural part of the life of an 18 year old in this world.

   Putting aside the above, and it wasn't really a huge problem just a minor annoyance, the story progresses nicely. Having Talia leave the Collegium and go out into Valdemar gives Lackey the opportunity to show us more of the world. And it is an interesting world, it is in many ways different than what is usual in Epic Fantasy. It isn't as "Grand" as most Fantasy worlds, and that made it seem much more realistic to me. And it was very interesting to see how the Heralds interact outside of their base.

   We also see more to the Heralds here, it is really good to see the community they have and how Talia fits into this. The Heralds are really a very interesting group of characters, and it is no wonder that many people love them. Lackey is really good at showing the characteristics of the cast, and you can't really remain unaffected by the characters...Even when they annoy you, there's still a compulsion to follow them.

   This is really a very good read. I like how Lackey writes a serious book without making it "dark". There was also very little of the "middle book syndrome" present here. It's a great follow up to the first book and I didn't wait to pick up the last book in the trilogy when finishing.
    As I wrote in my review of The Arrows of the Queen, this is a good "antidote" to the darker direction Epic Fantasy has taken lately. And for readers who are new to Fantasy it is a good look back at what the genre was back in the 80s.

Review: Arrows of the Queen

Links: Mercedes Lackey  Daw Books

22 March, 2012


Cover art: Jon Foster
Cover design: Jamie Stafford-Hill


ISBN: 978-0-7653-2578-5
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor
Published: 28 September 2010

On the cover:

Mercy Lynch is working at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when she learns that her husband has died in a POW camp and her estranged father is gravely injured and wishes to see her. With no good reason to stay in Virginia, Mercy sets out to see her father in Seattle.
   But crossing the country is no small task; it's a harrowing adventure through war-torn border states by dirigible, rail, and the Mississippi River. And once Mercy arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Lacking options and running out of money, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
   What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can't imagine why it's meeting such resistance. Perhaps it has something to do with the mysterious cargo in the second and last train cars?
   Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she'll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it of the Dreadnought alive.

   This novel is set shortly after the events in Boneshaker. It is not however set in Seattle, and the main character here, Mercy Lynch, was not in the first book. She is however related to the events of the first book in a way that will become clear to the reader pretty early on.
   It's not exactly common to move the location and change the characters in the middle of a series, and some people may be disappointed by not having another novel with the characters they grew to love in the last volume. I didn't find it a problem at all, instead I found it one of the strengths of the book.
   Last time around we had some references to other events in Priest's Alternate History, and this time we get to go closer to them and find out more about how the rest of the USA is affected by this alternative timeline. I am a fan of Alternate History and I must say that Priest has managed to expand on that part of the novel here, and she does it very well. Now that there is more information of the larger world of The Clockwork Century, it feels even more alive and realistic. This would actually work without the Steampunk and supernatural element. And because of that I think Alternative History fans would find this novel very interesting.

   The Steampunk elements of the novel really stand out. Especially one set of machines that we encounter early on are absolutely marvelously "mad professor" bonkers. And by bonkers I mean totally jawdroppingly cool. They are not alone, there are dirigibles, and the titular Dreadnought that is also a great invention fitting to an age of steam.
   What interested me is that there are mentions of machines being run on diesel here. It seems to be a very natural progression in the technology, something that strengthens the believability of the world in my eyes.

   Mercy Lynch is our "guide" through the world Priest has created, it is through her that we experience the events in Dreadnought. She is a great character to follow, and we quickly learn enough about her that we can see get a good understanding of who she is. As we follow her journey we get even more insights into her, she comes off as both interesting and a realistic product of the world she inhabits.
   There are several other characters in the supporting cast that we also get a more than a brief insight into. And Priest manages to make them all interesting, the whole ensemble is put together in such a way that they enhance the story. Priest is very good at making the characters feel like people who happen to be caught up in the events and they do not come off as being constructed to advance the story.

   The story takes us on a journey across the continent from west to east. It has a certain road trip feeling to it but at the same time we see developments of what seems to be an over arcing theme that connects the Clockwork Century novels.
   There is a lot of action in this story, it never gets boring. Of course there are quiet patches, but these are put into good use to make the plot come more alive. The central plot is Mercy's journey across America, a journey we know where is supposed to end. But there is also a hidden purpose to the train journey Mercy becomes a part of, one that becomes a mystery to be solved by her and by extension the reader.
   I really liked the atmosphere of the novel, the mystery and the physical journey combined to create a tension that drove me to read on. Although the mystery was not that hard to figure out, it did have a huge part in making the plot to work much better. The characters actions were made much more plausible by them being unaware of the greater purpose of the journey. And there were parts of what was going on that was unexpected to me and made the suspense greater.

   In total this was a great read, the parts came together seamlessly to make a whole that was both interesting and exciting. The action and suspense makes it a quick read, and the underlying framework of the world combined with well realised characters makes it a very interesting novel. It works well as a standalone novel, but having read Boneshaker will give it a few more layers that strengthens it.
   The Steampunk elements will appeal to the fans of that genre, and the Alternate History of the US Civil War will be satisfying to fans of that genre. And anyone who likes action and adventure set in the past should give this novel a try.

Review: Boneshaker

Links: Cherie Priest  Tor/Forge  Tor/Forge Blog

21 March, 2012


Cover illustration by Ilon Wikland
(Norwegian edition published by Cappelen Damm)


   There's an ongoing debate online about SFF written by female authors, and if there is too little visibility of it, I won't go into that debate here. Instead I'll tell you a bit about my experience with reading SFF by women. And give you some suggestions on some great female authors I have read, and where you can find suggestions from others online.


   The image at the top of this article is the Norwegian cover for Ronja Røverdatter [Swedish: Ronja Rövardotter, English: Ronia, the Robber's Daughter] by Astrid Lindgren. This was the first book I was actually looking forward to being published, and I remember waiting for the Norwegian edition to come out. This was back in 1981, and there was quite a buzz about it among my friends at the time. 
   At the time we had seen lots of movies based on Lindgren's books. The Pippi Longstocking movies and Emil in Lönneberga movies were hugely popular with the kids back then(, and they still are, Emil was shown on Norwegian television not long ago). And The Brothers Lionheart movie, that was made in 1977 was re-released in 1981 (,according to wikipedia, I had probably seen it by then but can't really remember - it was a long time ago).
   Pippi Longstocking is of course very well known internationally. But since I write about SFF here, I will focus on her two Fantasy books for children: Ronia, the Robber's Daughter and The Brothers Lionheart

   Ronia, the Robber's Daughter is about a girl who grow up with a father who is a robber in a castle ruin in the forest. She befriends Birk, who is the son of a rival robber, and much of the book concerns their adventures together. But Ronia is the main character, and everything is focused on her. There are many fantastical creatures in the book. And it is a great children's Fantasy novel.
   The Brothers Lionheart is set in a pretty standard Fantasy setting. And it concerns the titular brothers as they join the resistance against the evil dragon Katla who rules the land. This is also a great Fantasy novel, and is probably the first Epic Fantasy I read.
   Both of these books were filmed, The Brothers Lionheart in 1977 and Ronia, the Robber's Daughter in 1985. There's also a longer TV version of the former, although the internet seems to not know about this.

   Both of these books are available in English, and I had no trouble finding the English editions for sale online. They have also been translated to many other languages.
   I would urge people to get these books for their children, I'm sure they are going to love them as much as I did at that age.

   I would like to point out here, that reading these books at an early age made me see it as natural that women wrote SFF. I have never thought of it as strange, and if you get these books into the hand of a seven year old boy maybe he will grow up with the same mindset. And in any case they are a great start for any kid on a life of reading SFF.


   I noticed that I had read a lot of great SFF by women lately, and when it came to reviewing it just happened that three of the four books I planned to review this week were by women. So that was a good opportunity, I booted out the male author, and there will be two more SFF books by women reviewed here this week. Making this an all women week on the blog.
   I haven't read nearly as much SFF by women as I should, but I am in the process of rectifying that. Here are some suggestions on SFF by women that I have read, and I think you should read too.


These are fun, Steampunk/Urban Fantasy/Alternate History books. I have read and reviewed all of them. The review for the latest one, Timeless can be found here and at the bottom of that review you'll find links to my reviews of all the other books in the series.


These Fantasy books are set in a world were the gods live among the humans. Jemisin has written a great saga about gods that are reminiscent of the old Norse and Mediterranean gods in their human-like ways, but there are clear influences from the pantheons of other cultures.
I have read all three books, and I really loved them. Reviews will be coming up on the blog in the not to distant future.


The Valdemar books are set in what is a pretty standard Epic Fantasy setting. I have only read the first trilogy, The Heralds of Valdemar, and I really enjoyed them. These books are a good antidote to the "gritty" Fantasy that seems to be everywhere at the moment, and despite being lighter in tone they are absolutely worth reading for anyone who loves Fantasy.
I have reviewed Arrows of the Queen here, and I will publish reviews of the other two books in that trilogy this week and next week.


Priest's books are Steampunk/Alternate History that is set in the USA. The Alternate History setting is very well realised, and there are lots of Steampunk machines present in the books.
I have reviewed the first book, Boneshaker, here. And will review the two other books tomorrow, and next week.


These are set in a traditional Fantasy setting, but Kerr have given them a very good twist that makes them stand out from the crowd.
I read the first Deverry books some years ago in Norwegian translation, and I really liked them. I plan to re-read them in English sometime in the future, and when I do I will review them on the blog.


Hobb has written three trilogies in this setting, The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Trilogy, and The Tawny Man Trilogy. These are followed by the ongoing The Rain Wild Chronicles, that is now up to its third book.
These are among my favourite Epic Fantasy books, and if you haven't read them before I strongly urge you to do so. Start at the beginning with Assassin's Apprentice.
I have reviewed the three books that has so far been published in The Rain Wild Chronicles, you can find the latest, City of Dragons, here. And there is a link two my reviews of the first two books at the bottom of that review. I'll review the earlier trilogies on the blog when I re-read them later this year.


Panel from Elfquest Fire and Flight, art by Wendy Pini

   Elfquest is an Epic Fantasy series written by Wendy and Richard Pini and drawn by Wendy Pini, the first issue was published in 1978. I have loved this series since I first read it in the mid eighties, and if you love Fantasy and/or comics it is one series you really ahould read.
   Unfortunately it is not available in print at the moment, but you can read it for free online here, on the official site. Start with the first issue of the Original Quest, and go on from there.


   There are many hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs online that review Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and/or Young Adult SFF written by women. But if you are looking for women authors in other SFF subgenres it may be a bit more difficult to find a place that gives you suggestions.
   I'm not really good at finding these blogs myself, but I will give a few suggestions underneath.

Mieneke van der Salm regularly reviews Fantasy by female authors. You can find many of them in her review index, and her two series tabs has lots of Fantasy by women.

This blog has not been updated since Amanda Rutter started as editor of Angry Robot Books' Young Adult imprint Strange Chemistry. But if you go to the Book Review Archive there you'll find lots of SFF books written by women, including the Katherine Kerr books I mentioned above.
Run by Ian Sales, this blog is set up to provide a resource for reviews of Science Fiction books by women. You can also submit any reviews you have made of Science Fiction written by women for publication here.

   There are lots of female SFF writers online, I know because I follow many of them on Twitter. And you should be able to find them easily if you want to, there are some on my Twitter Author list. 
   I'm also sure there are lots of blogs reviewing SFF written by women. I have certainly forgotten some (, and I apologize for that), and there must be many that I am not familiar with. But I didn't want to spend a week or so collecting links, so see below for a way to give them some attention.


   If you are a blogger that regularly reviews SFF by women outside the UF/PR/YA genres, please leave a link to your blog in the comment, and if you have reviewed just a few of the books I am talking about please leave a link to the reviews. If you are not a blogger, but know of anyone who fits the description given above, feel free to leave a link too.

20 March, 2012


 Cover art: Jackie Morris


ISBN: 978-0-00-727380-5
Pages: 425
Publisher: HarperVoyager UK
Published: 23 April 2012 (UK) 1 March 2012 (Aus) 7 February 2012 (US)

On the cover:

Kelsingra awaits for those brave enough to enter…

The dragons and their keepers have discovered Kelsingra but so far only Heeby has succeeded in flying over the river to enter the fabled city. The other dragons, with their deformed wings and feeble muscles, are afraid to risk failure and humiliation.

But wondrous things await in Kelsingra, a city built for dragons and their Elderling keepers. Alise, overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, records her finds for posterity. Once the rest of the world knows about the riches the city contains, nothing will ever be the same again.

Already, rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. As is Hest Finbok, Alise’s husband…

Meanwhile, Selden Vestrit finds himself a prisoner of the ailing Duke of Chalced, who believes him to be some sort of dragon-man whose flesh and blood may work miracle cures.

Where is Tintaglia, the great sapphire-blue dragon, when all have such need of her? Has she really abandoned her beloved Selden and the fledgling dragons forever? Or will she too return to seek the wonders of Kelsingra?

   I feel like I have waited forever for this book, I was hoping Hobb would continue the story about Kelsingra when I finished Dragon Haven. (Nothing was announced back then, and the two first books were talked about as a split one-shot.) It has been a longer wait than is usual between books in a series, so I was very curious as to how the story would continue.

   This novel starts where Dragon Haven finishes, nothing has really happened since the end of the last book. It also doesn't change the concept of the two preceding books, which can in a way be summed up as exploration not action.
   Since there is some archaeology (, at least sort of,) involved I think a good way of explaining this volume of the Rain Wild Chronicles is that it is like a documentary about the Ark of the Covenant. So if you are looking for Raiders of the Lost Ark, you will probably be disappointed by the slow pace and lack of action.

   I mentioned the slow pace, for me that was not a problem. It's not slow in a "come on, something has to happen soon" way, but rather a case of the narrative taking its time. There's plenty of time to get to know the characters even better, and see how they have been changed by the events that have happened since the story started in The Dragon Keeper.
   It is however in its place to mention that there is a slight tendency to go to far in the "infodumping" in places, and I'm sure this will not be to everyone's liking. And this novel, and the whole Rain Wilds Chronicles-series, is not for readers who are impatient and want lots of action.

   What I really found fulfilling here is that we are starting to see quite a bit of the details, and inner workings, of what is hinted at in Hobb's previous books in the Realm of the Elderlings setting. There are some links that go so far as back to The Farseer Trilogy, and there is a direct link from The Tawny Man Trilogy. And of course The Rain Wilds Chronicles is in many way a direct continuation of The Liveship Traders Trilogy.
   This time around we also get a point of view from one of the main characters from The Liveship Traders. And she is in many ways set up to take an even bigger role in the next volume.

   Her characters are, in my opinion, the greatest strength of Hobb, and the ones we meet here are no exception. The novel mostly centres around the female characters, although there are a couple of male points of view. Most of the characters are also young, this does not mean the story is Young Adult, but it does mean that there are character interactions that are perhaps more often found in Young Adult novels.
   If you are looking for Epic Fantasy with female characters this is a good series. In this novel we get another one, and she is a welcome reacquaintance with someone from The Liveship Traders Trilogy. And if you, like me, enjoyed that trilogy this is definitely a must.

   Back to the story. Although it is slow, there is a lot happening towards the end of the book. And one of the events is a great revelation that feels like it could have repercussions for the whole of the Realm of the Elderlings setting.
   The end of the book is very much a set up for the next, and as far as I know final volume in the series. It has a very "middle volume non-ending" in many ways, but I had no trouble with that. There was enough happening that I felt satisfied, although I must say I am already a bit impatient for the next book to be published.

   All in all this was a very good book from Hobb. It does take its time, but that felt justified to me. And after reading eleven previous books in this setting I got a satisfying feeling that everything is at the point of coming together. This is a real treat for Hobb fans, and a really great exploration of the history of dragons and Elderlings.

19 March, 2012


 Cover photo: Pixie Vision Productions
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto
Cover model: Donna Ricci


ISBN: 978-0-316-12718-9
Pages: 386
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 1 March 2012

SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't read the
four previous books, this will contain spoilers.
On the cover:
Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire’s second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

   This book begins two years after the last in the series, Heartless, ends. This may seem like a strange choice considering how much we are used to is going on in Alexia Tarabotti's life. But it means that her daughter, Prudence, is grown enough to become a larger part of the story than she would have otherwise.
   And Prudence is a wonderful character who adds a lot of humour to what is already a funny series of books. Discovering how the daughter of a soulless and a werewolf functions is very interesting, It also adds quite a bit to the supernatural lore of the world Miss Carriger has created.

   One of the strengths of the Parasol Protectorate series has been the world it is set in, and this time around is no different. We get to know even more about how werewolves and vampires function, and there are some very interesting revelations about how preternaturals work here.
   In this story we also get to leave Europe altogether and go to Egypt. And this trip shows us some interesting glimpses of how the Alternate History of this world is different from our own. But more importantly the setting is used to reveal several things that are important to the history of some of the characters. 
   Egypt is not the only setting, there is a parallel plot going on in London where some of the supporting characters from previous books get to show us more of who they are. Miss Carriger has managed to balance the two plot lines very well, both of the stories are very much part of the whole, and I would in no way call the one without Alexia a "B-plot".

   There is quite a bit of mystery to the plot this time around. Miss Carriger is very good at giving the reader enough to keep them reading while still maintaining the suspense. Some of the revelations we get in this novel are shining a light on things that have been brought up earlier in the series, and it is good to see that we get answers to what has been brought up before.
   Many of the characters we have encountered before also get to have their stories told here, and some of what happens to them here is very surprising. There are still stories to be told for many of them, and I suspect some of the events in this story will resonate into the planned follow-up series Parasol Protectorate Abroad. (And that's not really a very bold prediction when the first book is titled Prudence.)

   There's always reason to be a bit concerned when a series is coming to an end, sometimes they can end in unsatisfying ways. That is not the case here, Miss Carriger has managed to build the series up from where it started in Soulless, and it is finishing on a high note. And when I speak of finishes, I must say that the one in Timeless really blew me away. There was so much happening towards the end that it was nearly exhausting, in a good way.

   I don't think anyone who has followed this series from the beginning will be disappointed in this final volume. It is satisfying on many levels to end the journey here, it seems like this is the natural end of at least this chapter of the saga. (That a follow up series has been announced is a great bonus.)
   If you are reading this without having read any of the books in the series, I would strongly urge you to pick it up. You have missed out on a great series.

   I would like to thank Gail Carriger for giving me lots of fun, action, mystery, and engaging characters in an Alternate History I wouldn't mind living in. And I look forward to reading what she comes up with next.

09 March, 2012


 Cover illustration: Les Edwards


ISBN: 978-1-85798-807-9
Pages: 254
Publisher: Gollancz
Originally published: 1937
This edition published: 11 November 1999

   This is by no means an ordinary Science Fiction novel, it is more a philosophical exploration of the Universe. That may make it sound like this is a pretentious novel, but Star Maker doesn't come off as that when you read it. But it is a rather complex novel that requires you engage with it on an intellectual level, and it will probably make you reflect more than the average SFF story.

   It is rather strange to read a novel where the main character is non-corporeal almost all the time. But Stapledon manages to give him a distinct personality and you get quite close to him early on. Later in the novel he functions mostly as a narrator, looking at the events from a human perspective, giving us something to relate to. This is necessary because things get very alien to everyday experience as the story moves on.

   The story starts out on Earth, but we quickly leave it and travel out into the Galaxy. And the journey goes through both time and space to several very interesting locations. It's the imaginative power of Stapledon that really makes this book. There are aliens here that are really alien, some of them are among the aliens farthest from humans I have ever encountered in Science Fiction. 

   Most of the story is concentrated on minds, and the melding of several minds, not an unfamiliar concept in Science Fiction. And it is the history of these minds and their development that lay the foundation for the journey Stapledon takes us on. The scope of this is massive, it encompasses most of time itself, and it is a testament to the clarity of the text that so much is told in so few pages. This is both a strength, and at times a frustration. We get glimpses of so many things that would have been interesting to explore further This doesn't weaken the novel however, it is a great work as it stands.

   Back to the philosophy that saturates the novel. There's an exploration of existence throughout, and there are ideas here that puts humanity in perspective on a cosmological scale.
   But the philosophy also encompasses what for me was the only flaw in the novel, towards the end Stapledon turns very much to spirituality. I felt this in some ways clashed with the rest of the novel, and that the secular nature of the philosophy in the earlier parts could have been sustained to the end. Not that this was a major annoyance for me, it just detracted a little bit from a great novel.

   Some of you may be skeptical of reading a Science Fiction novel that is 75 years old, you shouldn't be. There is very little that is dated her, and what has does in no way come in the way of the story. There is so much to love here, and this is a novel that still deserves to be read widely.
   This is definitely a novel I would go so far as to say is required reading for anyone calling themselves a fan of Science Fiction. I would also not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is not familiar with the genre, it may not be typical of Science Fiction but it shows how good it can be.

07 March, 2012


Cover art: Jody Lee


ISBN: 978-0-88677-378-6
Pages: 320
Publisher: Daw Books
Published: 3 March 1987

On the cover:

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen's own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen's heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen's own foes!

   This story is pretty typical for Fantasy in its set-up. We have a protagonist that runs away from her family, and ends up being a "chosen one". Apart from the main character being female there isn't really much that is original in the basic premise. Add to that the setting is basically a School of Magic, and you wont expect too much originality. -Although it must be said that this book was first published ten years before Harry Potter first appeared in the stores, so accusing Lackey of copying Rowling when it comes to setting is totally wrong, unless you can prove Lackey has a time-machine.

   The Heralds and the Companions are a great concept. And Lackey is very good at letting the reader discover more about it together with Talia, the main character. We learn a lot about the world of Valdemar and its Heralds without getting the feeling that the information is dumped on us.
   We are also introduced to an interesting cast of characters, they are diverse and they have a depth to them that makes them seem like real people. That we are mostly at one location helps to concentrate more of the novel on the characters, and especially Talia's, daily life. This works very well, and adds a lot to the story.

   I found the story very compelling. Following Talia's journey is a very interesting story and I got hooked on really early. There are parts of the story that concern themselves with her coming to a completely alien environment and I felt that Lackey handled that nearly perfect. 
   When the story turns to conspiracy and suspense it also works great. Lackey writes in a way that gets you invested in the events, as well as the characters involved in them. I did however feel that there was a bit of a problem with a change of pace in the latter parts of the novel, and the ending felt a bit rushed. It may be that the story would have been better if the novel was hundred pages longer. But that is really a minor niggle, I liked it enough that I immediately started on the next book in the trilogy.

   This is a very good Fantasy novel, written in a lighter style than what most modern Fantasy is. There's no "gritty" here, and I think that is a strength. Lackey has written a very entertaining story that is by no means too "light" to be dismissed as fluff. If you like the Fantasy of the eighties, or is just tired of everything having to be dark and gloomy, I would strongly recommend you pick this up. It is also great to see Fantasy in an Epic setting that has a female main character, and if you ever miss that this is a must.