fantasy

The Moonlight Pegasus: Book Spotlight

The World of The Moonlight Pegasus

Sapphira is a desert world with little plant life, where the people live in the shadows of gray sunlight, sickened by the Dark Plague. To cure the people, the Guardian of Dreams sends the Spirit of Truth to bring the light back into his darkened world. In the form of Pegasus, he enters the world through the pure, innocent dreams of Selene, the reluctant princess and heir-apparent to the throne. Now, with her brother Dorian as king, another rebellion is stirring. All eyes are turning to Selene to bring peace through an arranged marriage. However, Selene only has eyes for her true love—her protector, Etoileon. As the rebellion unleashes its fury upon the kingdom of Sapphira and the supernatural forces collide, Selene is caught in the middle of all conflicts—the battle for her world, the battle for her love, and the battle for her very soul.

Check out The Moonlight Pegasus, a stand alone High Fantasy Novel from C.A. Sabol and C.S. Johnson!

Check out The Moonlight Pegasus, a stand alone High Fantasy Novel from C.A. Sabol and C.S. Johnson!

Excerpt from The Moonlight Pegasus

Etoileon smiled as he pulled out his special gift for Selene—having taken Ronal’s earlier advice, he had a tiny bouquet of deep red ekedlets, small minuscule flowers that smelled like sweet fruit. The ekedlets were tied together with a small yellow ribbon. He’d thought that the small gift would be perfect for her. It had taken him a while to get them, too. He was only allowed into the city, along with the other members of the Palace crew, only twice a month. Etoileon was lucky that he’d known the streets well enough to know where to go so he could get back in time to escort Selene down to the ballroom entrance.

The city was crowded for the opening of the reception. Etoileon had run into more than one person trying to reach his destination, Madame Flora’s Shop. Though he had meant to hurry up, Etoileon slowed down to look around, amazed to see just how the streets had changed to him in so short a time.

He’d been raised on the streets, mostly all alone.

It had been a miracle that he had survived there, let alone to manage to get a job in the Diamond City Palace, considering a job at the palace was a highly coveted position in society. Middle class children often took jobs in the palace, using their connections to be introduced into the flashy world of riches and wealth. After a number of years, they were able to use their earned capital to be educated in the way of society. Using the skills they would acquire from training and teaching of their instructors and parents, the now young adults would be able to be placed in a position where it was likely for a marriage to be arranged or sought after.

Etoileon had none of this.

He had no parents, no real family, few allies … there were plenty of untrustworthy people, enemies, and dangers around every corner. All he had were survival skills, and the good fortune to happen to be in the right place at the right time. As Etoileon leaned back on the tower wall, he thought about the night that he’d met Selene. He did not get too lost in his memories. The Palace was beginning to feel more like home to him as time went on, and his memories of the darker times of his life were beginning to fade.

It was a moment later that the door opened and Selene walked into the Tower room as well.

“Etoileon,” she greeted him, her eyes quickly losing their flicker of surprise and replacing it with an expression of warmth. “I did not think you would be up here this early.”

“You are,” he pointed out, a small smile forming on his face.

“Well,” Selene blushed, “There was something I wanted to do before later.”

“You mean before I came?” Etoileon asked. “What was it?”

“Well … ” Her face had turned even redder, and she looked away as she reached behind her and pulled out a small bag. “I wanted to give this to you later, but I have no objections to giving it to you a little early.”

Etoileon looked down at the bag she placed delicately in his hand. It had been carefully prepared for him, he could tell. The bag was all dressed up, tiny curls of ribbons surrounding the drawstrings of the sack, and made from cheerfully colored fabric

Selene nodded. “Open it, Etoileon. It’s for you.”

Inside the bag, he found a small silver-framed photograph of Selene and him from a few years ago. It was when he had first undergone his training for the Fighter squad. Selene was sitting in front of him in the picture, while he was standing behind her. He could tell that his eyes had been focused on her; Etoileon figured that he must have missed the camera. His eyes examined the picture closely, running over Selene’s face again and again.

“I don’t remember this picture,” he said slowly.

“It's from the time that you came storming out of the Fighter’s training room, remember? You were not too happy, I recall. My memory of the reason has faded, but I remember thinking you needed me there,” she said in a hushed voice. “I still come to watch, sometimes.”

I still need you there, he thought. But he could not say that. So instead, he looked over at her intently, and said, “Thank you.”

“So you like it?” Her smile seemed to brighten up the entire evening sky.

“Very much,” he nodded. “That must’ve been the day that Master Norio told me in front of everyone that I had been poorly trained and it would be a miracle if I amounted to anything.”

Selene’s sad smile flitted to her lips. “Poor Master Norio. That has to be the most incorrect he’s ever been.”

Check out The Moonlight Pegasus on Amazon!

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About the Author:

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more about the author on her website, on facebook, or on goodreads!

And if you want to hear more about my favorite fantasy books, new and old, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter!

Reading the Witcher--The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, and The Time of Contempt

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I'm a huge fan of the video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt --it's got great game play and an excellent story. I enjoyed the game so much that after my first play through (I'm on my second right now), I decided to try reading the books that inspired the game, as well as a new Netflix series with Henry Cavill. The Witcher books were written by Andrzej Sapkowski, a Polish author who's considered the Tolkien of Poland. He's had a huge influence on fantasy in Poland, and it's clear why--the books are fun to read, with compelling characters and great, if episodic, storytelling.

The first Witcher book, The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher, is a collection of short stories linked by the main character, Geralt. Many of them are extremely dark, heart-rending re-tellings of fairy tales, including a brutal version of Snow White, but some of the stories, especially “The Last Wish” story the collection is named after, are hilariously funny. Anyone who’s played the games knows that for the the pathos and tragedy that surrounds his life, Geralt can still get into some screamingly funny misadventures! The book tells about many of the key moments of Geralt's early life, including his first meeting with Yennefer and how he invoked the Law of Surprise to become Ciri's eventual guardian. While some of the language in translation is a bit clunky, the characters and stories in the book make it a compelling read, especially for anyone who loved the game.

The next book is in the Witcher series is another collection of short stories, The Sword of Destiny. I ended up loving this collection almost as much as The Last Wish. It explores Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship further, in particular how their inability to have a child together despite Yennefer’s desperate yearning complicates their relationship. To me, the stories in The Sword of Destiny are ultimately about family and love (though with plenty of monsters, dragons, infidelity, and dryads along the way). Geralt was bereft of a family from a young age, having been abandoned by his sorceress mother with the Witchers. Yennefer also is bereft of a family, and her and Geralt’s infertility make it impossible for them to form their own in a typical way. They dance around each other, in love and sadness. Likewise, Geralt meets Ciri for the first time, but her formidable grandmother, the Lioness of Cintra, makes it clear that despite the Law of Surprise, she won’t let him take her.

But destiny is a twisting and complicated road, though as Geralt notes, destiny by itself requires something more. And in the haunting and heartrending final, it’s clear what that is—love. This is another book I’d highly recommend—it might be my favorite of the Witcher books, though I also loved The Last Wish. so it’s hard to pick a definitive favorite. While you don’t necessarily need to read The Last Wish to appreciate The Sword of Destiny, it might help to establish the relationships with the characters.

The next book in the series, Blood of Elves, is more of a cohesive novel, but since it tells its story from multiple perspectives it's still a bit episodic. Nonetheless, it tells an excellent story and as usual, the characters are one of the best parts. Geralt seems like the strong, silent type, but Sapkowski gives him a depth and mystery that make him compelling even when he's understated. And Yennefer develops into a complex, intriguing woman with a subtle intelligence. If you don't understand why Geralt is so in love with her after playing the games, this book shows why. Sapkowski draws a complicated web of relationships between Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri and Triss, creating both understanding and mystery.

The Time of Contempt is the second novel and the fourth book in Adrzej Sapkowski's series of books on the Witcher. I really enjoyed the first two books, and this one did not disappoint. The story focuses as much on Ciri as it does on Geralt, but both their stories are exciting and interesting. What's more, for a book with plenty of action, the story is surprisingly philosophical at times. Geralt tries to do what he thinks is best to protect Ciri and do the right thing. Yet, time and again Sapkowski shows how tricky it is to determine the "right" path in a complex, morally ambiguous world. The haunting tragedy of war, and the terrible choices that people make when confronted by devastating circumstances become a running theme.

I loved the characterizations of Geralt and Yennefer--their relationship has complexity and depth, and the reader ends up sympathetic to both characters even when they seem opposed to each other. Their touching love for Ciri shines through their actions, even when they disagree about what's best for her. Even Dandelion becomes a fascinating character, one with more complicated connections than you might think. What's more, Dandelion's "translations" of Geralt and Yennefer's discussions is both touching and hilarious.

For those of you who love the games, this book gives quite a bit of backstory on characters like Phillippa Eilhart and Dijkstra. It also reveals the origins of the political strife and warfare from the games.

I'd recommend these books to anyone who enjoys fantasy, the Witcher games, or is excited to see the new Netiflix series with Henry Cavill. Reading these books had deepened my appreciation for the game, yet they are excellent reads even if you don't ever play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt . They have a world as deep and fully realized as anything in Tolkien or George R.R. Martin, and rich, intriguing characters.

If you like my posts, check out my books, Sapience or Saints and Curses, and subscribe to my newsletter!

Seven Very Short Stories (July 2019)

I’ve continued writing tons more very short stories this month! These I mostly shared on the hashtags #vss365, #satsplat, and #scififri.

Silver Hair

She had silver hair she kept in tight braids during the day. But at night, when she told me stories, she let her hair flow down like a winter river. In the darkest times, I dream about her, but now her eyes are stars and her hair flows across the sky.

Leaving

She stared out the orphanage window, imagining a glittering life elsewhere. She told the other children about the dances she'd attend, the men who'd love her. It all came true. She came back to the orphanage pregnant.

"Stay, little one," she whispered to her baby, dying.

Not a Scratch

He left her without a single visible scar, not even a scratch. Just the memories, bright and brutal and horrible, burned into her retinas. And the loss--a gaping hole in her life where her friends had been, the love and support she'd needed when she left him.

Fly

"An unlikely astronaut," the teacher had muttered under his breath as Lina presented her project. All he saw was her chair. Now she floated above the ship's console, staring out the viewport. A verdant new world. She couldn't walk--but she could fly.

Equanimity

She faced her husband's death with equanimity, even when they made her identify his body. Stay strong for the children, she thought, clutching a rosary to her chest. But then they wheeled out her son.

Soul

"Do you have a soul? Can a true psyche emerge from gears and nano fibers?" he asked, stroking her face and kissing her. She adjusted her automatic responses to prevent cringing.

"I have a soul, Senator. It belongs to you, if you support the Digital Citizen Act."

Condor System

The Condor system was a worldwide project, a way to protect the entire planet from meteors, comets, all extinction level events from space. But someone on the project betrayed us. The plasma guns incinerated DC and Moscow.

Let us help, China said. For a price.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my very short stories, check out my collection of science fiction short stories, Sapience, or my new book, Saints and Curses. And remember to subscribe to my newsletter!

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Guest Post, an Interview, and two Reviews

I’ve been busy promoting both my books, Sapience and Saints and Curses, and I’m happy with how that’s going! Today, my friend Sarah Mensinga and I had out first book signing at a local Half Price Bookstore in Plano, TX! We’ll be doing a mini tour of bookstores (find our schedule here). In addition to in-person events, I’ve done another guest post, an interview, and I’ve had two more reviews, including my first by a booktuber!

Me (Alexis Lantgen) holding a copy of my book, Saints and Curses: A Collection of Fantasy Short Stories, at my table at Half Price Books.

Me (Alexis Lantgen) holding a copy of my book, Saints and Curses: A Collection of Fantasy Short Stories, at my table at Half Price Books.

You can find my latest guest post at the Sorcerer of Tea’s website. I wrote “5 Tips for First Time Book Convention Vendors,” and I’m happy with how it turned out. If you’re a writer interested in potentially getting a table at a Comicon, or if you just love Comicons, check it out!

I knew as soon as I decided to publish my first book, Sapience, that I’d love to get a table at a local book convention. I’d been to cons before, and there are always tons of science fiction/fantasy fans roaming about, enjoying the finely polished dice and the hilarious T-shirt slogans.

My most recent interview is with Pond’s Press, which is website about Video Games, Movies, and Netflix shows. I appreciate Chase Pond for contacting me!

My next interview is about a leader in a science fiction writing organization here in DFW. Let’s hear more about it from Alexis Lantgen.

I’m also happy to have a new review of Saints and Curses from writer and book blogger Laura Elizabeth. She has some really beautiful things to say about my book, and it’s always wonderful to hear how much someone enjoyed your stories (honestly, I even enjoy reading a thoughtful critique—it’s nice when someone thinks deeply about your work as well).

I enjoyed the variety in these stories, and Lantgen does well to give each one a completely distinct feel. Moving from story to story we’re treated to some vivid and surprisingly detailed characters, a real strength of the collection, and completely different narrative tones.

Last but not least, I got my first review by a booktuber, April Grace. She gives a very thoughtful description of the stories in Saints and Curses in the video below. She’s agreed to read Sapience as well, and I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say about my science fiction short stories too.

If you’d like to hear more about my author events, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!

Five More Mixed Genre Very Short Stories (July 2019)

Yes, here are even more very short stories, or vss. I wrote these for hashtags like #vss365, #satsplat, #scififri, and #scifansat. I hope you enjoy reading them!

HAIR STINGS

"Don't touch me! You're mean and I hate you."

I ignore the sting in my heart. "Even if you hate me, Mommy still has to brush the knots out of your hair.”

ICE MOON

It took three years to dig a stable tunnel into the ice of Enceladus. I was part of the remote operation, piloting the unmanned vehicles in the first mission. I can't explain what I saw. It was like a surrealist fairy garden, or a coral reef. Then it swarmed.

LUVKINS

"Luvkins" had been designed for children, but their precious little faces and spray of "baby" pheromones drove many women mad. They filled houses with the toys, jumped in front of cars to rescue them, and campaigned to save them from landfills.

GRASPING DREAMS

"Grasping."

"Too much."

"Unseemly."

"She's just so...ambitious."

She wanted to clasp her hands over her ears. Why was she forever punished when she tried to reach for her dreams? Once bright and hopeful, her passion twisted into something fetid and bitter.

COYOTE

The night is hot but the drinks are cold. The pulse of the music is like the tribal drums he remembers. He climbs on roof and howls at the moon. A woman appears in a white dress that glows like moonlight. She kisses him.

"No tricks, Coyote," she says. He laughs.

Remember, if you enjoy my very short stories, check out my books, Sapience and Saints and Curses, and sign up for my newsletter!

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Review: The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest

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The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest is collection of fantasy short stories and poems that I found at the library. It was edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, the same duo who had edited another book I enjoyed, Black Swan, White Raven, so I decided to check it out. I loved the theme of the book, and since I just returned from a trip to the Redwood Forest, it felt like the right book for me to read. I'm glad I did, because while I didn't love all the stories, many of them were haunting and unique, and I'm looking forward to reading more from those authors.

Some of my favorite stories were "Grand Central Park," by Delia Sherman, "A World Painted by Birds" by Katherine Vaz, and "Joshua Tree" by Emma Bull. These stories captured the theme in beautifully imaginative ways, but each one was as different from the others as water from fire. In particular, I loved the coming-of-age theme in "Grand Central Park," as well as the heroine's kindness and generosity even as she "wins." Vaz's story is as gorgeous and lush as a canvas, yet as sorrowful and haunting as a poem by Frederico Garcia Lorca. I loved her imagery, and how the worst characters had some humanity in them, even the selfish General's Wife. In contrast, Bull's "Joshua Tree" was spare and understated, yet the germs of hope and freedom her main character discovers in the desert felt as tough as the trees in her title. It was a reminder that there's a beauty even in harsh, hard-to-survive environments, like high school and the desert.

Other notable stories included "Fee, Fie, Foe, et Cetera" by Gregory Maguire, "Remnants" by Kathe Koja, and "The Pagodas of Ciboure" by M. Shayne Bell. I loved Maguire's matter-of-fact take on fairy tales, where Jack has to contend with taxes and bureaucracy as much as a giant. Koja's "Remnants" on the other hand, had one of the darkest takes on the theme in the anthology. The forest of trash is both a refuge and perhaps a trap for the main character, who seems both magical and deeply disturbed. The dark secrets she uses the forest to conceal lurk beneath her supposedly sunny outlook, and the enemies she fears might be people trying to help her, if perhaps ineffectually. It's a story that definitely sticks in your mind, and raises uncomfortable questions about society and the "trash" we throw away. In contrast, "The Pagodas of Ciboure" is a charming, lovely story about the imagined childhood of one of my favorite composers, Maurice Ravel. I loved, loved, loved the pagodas, which are not Chinese temples but a type of French fairy creature made of porcelain, jewels, and crystal. The lovely little creatures and their relationship with a kind but sickly boy made this story one of the most enjoyable to read.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy stories. Like many anthologies, there's such a wide variety of voices and approaches to the theme that it's easy to find stories to love.

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Five More SciFi/Fantasy Very Short Stories (July 2019)

I’ve stayed pretty busy, so I haven’t been posting as many very short stories on Twitter as I was. But I am trying to keep it up, since it’s so much fun! I wrote these stories for #vss365, #scififri, #scifansat, and #satsplat.

Soup

She stirs a pot of water, smiling. "I'm making soup," she says. "Try some."

"Delicious," I say, wishing we had real soup. 10 more days. "Sweetie--"

"Don't worry, Mommy. I know we don't have rations. I'll be brave until we land."

"Yes, baby." Tears cloud my eyes.

Greetings from Earth

The craft unfurled like a tangle of vines. The beings inside shimmered and glowed like sentient mists. I tried to call off the airstrike. Too late--they'd triggered our 1980's paranoia. I cried when it hit--burned everything to ash. I hope they didn't suffer.

Contact

It was nothing like we thought. The first signs were in the flight patterns of butterflies and the song of the whales. When the ship arrived, it was a green and translucent, more like a bubble than a craft. Their contact brought a revolution of peace.

Fortune

It was a joke, a fun thing to do for my bachelorette party the night before the wedding. But the old woman had palsied hands and milky white eyes, and she gasped when she touched my hand.

"What's my fortune?"

"Run," she said. "Don't look back."

I wish I'd listened.

Liberty

Her hands stray over the shackles she's spent months shaving away. Liberty, almost... A key turns in the lock; a guard shoves something in her cell. A child, tiny shackles around bony wrists. Sobbing. She wraps it in her arms.

"Shhh, it's okay. We'll be free. Someday."

If you enjoyed these stories, and are interested in reading more of them, please make sure to sign up for my newsletter!

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Xanthuss Marduk, the Sorcerer of Tea, Discusses Mythology and Worldbuilding!

How to Use Mythology to Worldbuild

I recently wrote a post about how to create better mythology for your world. If you’ve read that, or you’re already confident creating myths then this is the next step - using myths to worldbuild.

Using myths as a vehicle for worldbuilding is something I love to do. I often write a creation myth before anything else in my world. But how do we do this?

Remember, Myths were Once a Religion

If you’re writing myths that people still believe in, think of it as a religion. The primary difference is that classical myths were not codified like modern translations of the Bible are today. There was no single version, and many were recited by entertainers and not written down.

The myths we read today were once working religions. It is important to remember this. Much like the Bible, people truly believed in these stories and followed them. Using them to set their morals by, and understand the world.

If you’re writing myths that have no followers left, think about their impact when they did have followers.

Use Myths to Set the Tone of your Setting

Myths are an important way to colour your setting. For both your characters and your reader, they give context to history and natural laws. If all the heroes die, it sets a darker tone than a myth or legend where the heroine gets the girl.

The god of the moon, Gywndolin, from Dark Souls.

The god of the moon, Gywndolin, from Dark Souls.

Dark Souls tells the bulk of its lore through fragments of stories, many of which are merely legends and myths. They tell of a grander era than the one the player explores. A golden age of gods. That contradiction immediately tells us what is going on. Dark Souls is a story about the world slowly fading. Through each game, the myths get warped and we hear less and less about them. The facts start to give way to rumour.

If you instead decide to set a bright and heroic tone, your myths may always see the heroes win, and the gods will hand down the details of these events in perfect clarity.

Mix Politics and Mythology

Politics plays a surprising role in mythology. Many myths are promoted or rewritten to promote royal families or noble lineages who claim heroic ancestry. Cities are named after mythological figures. And oracles become the tools of politics.

The Oracle of Delphi was often a central player in the politics of the Greek city states, and for the right amount of gold, you might get a prophecy that’d cement your legacy. Whether or not the Oracle really spoke to Apollo was less important than the fact that the average person believed she did.

Marble busts of Hadrian and Antinous.    Photo by Carole Raddato   .

Marble busts of Hadrian and Antinous. Photo by Carole Raddato.

Another example. The death of Antinous, the lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, led him to deify his love. Though it may have been solely because of his grief, creating a cult of worshippers loyal to his lover gave Hadrian political clout in Egypt. In the following centuries, the cult of Antinous became a political hot potato. Everyone from Christians to the Sibylline oracles criticized the legend of Antinous, often as a vehicle to attack Hadrian’s legacy itself. In the fight between Christians and Pagans, Antinous was used as a central figure and medals were issued with his face as anti-Christian propaganda. Christians responded by destroying statues of the god, and in 391 banned his worship entirely.

Think about how your world’s queens and lords have used myths to support their own rule or undermine their enemies. Do they claim descent from a god? Have they compared their enemy to a heartless villain? Have they proclaimed their favored historical figures demigods?

Consider Why the Myth was Popular

Who did your myths appeal to? The rich, the poor, the marginalized, the ruling class?

Farmers might hold agricultural myths close to heart, and these myths might hold important wisdom farmers need to know - like the order of the seasons or movement of the weather. The cult of Dionysus was popularized because it justified the excess of the Athenian elite, and parties under the pretense of worship were a great tool to make allies.

Today, LGBTQ people have adopted many myths like Tu Shen and Antinous into their own religious practices. They do this because they seek out representation like themselves, and find it in these ancient stories.

So what do the people of your world see in your myths that appeals to them?

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Thank you for your insights, Xanthuss! I personally love coming up with mythology that’s unique to my worlds, or else using existing mythology in a new and interesting way.

Reviews, Book Spotlights, and Author Interviews for Saints and Curses!

I’m so happy that Saints and Curses has been getting some excellent reviews and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon! In particular, I’m really happy about this review from Killian Wolf.

This Anthology is like opening up a portal and dipping into different magical worlds all in one book. Alexis Lantgen does it again in her newest Anthology, Saints and Curses, with her ability to weave magical worlds, so detailed, that you could almost hear the music playing from within the pages, or taste the food being served at a festival.

If you’d like to know more about how people are liking Saints and Curses, check it out!

In addition to an excellent review, I did another author interview at Meet the Author by Camilla Downs.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

My family went on an incredible trip to the Redwoods National Park in California. Seeing the redwood forest–they’re the tallest trees on Earth, and it’s impossible to convey their majesty. It was the most magical place I’ve ever been, and I loved it. I want to go back again someday, and show the redwoods to my children.

Last but not least, I’m happy to have a book spotlight for Saints and Curses on Timothy Bateson’s Website! Thank you once again, Timothy!

My author copies for Arlingcon—I’m so excited to get them in!

My author copies for Arlingcon—I’m so excited to get them in!

Review: The Goblin Emperor

I'd heard about Katherine Addison's new book, The Goblin Emperor, and since it seemed like a story I might enjoy, I decided to give it a try. I'm happy I did, since it's one of the most refreshing and wonderful fantasy stories I've read in a while. Addison's main character, Maia, the half-goblin fourth son of an Elven emperor, is one of the most likable, sympathetic characters I've read in fantasy since Samwise Gamgee.  

Unlike much of the fantasy released today, The Goblin Emperor has very little darkness or dramatic action. It's a novel about how Maia, a neglected, exhiled fourth son, becomes emperor after the murder of his father and brothers and learns to navigate the treacherous, complex intrigue of his court. Yet the book has a profound emotional resonance, considering it's the story of a young man thrust into a new world were he struggles to find friends and allies, while worrying that people's lives depend on his every decision.

Maia grew up untrained in the skills he needs to rule, but he throws himself into learning everything about his court with enormous dedication. His compassion, sensitivity and willingness to defy traditions at first seem like terrible weaknesses in a place more used to the impassive, often cruel reign of his cold-hearted father. But as Maia grows into his role, his kind heart wins him the loyalty and love of his servants and some of his family. Although there's an intriguing mystery that unfolds as Maia searches for the people responsible for the airship crash that killed his family, the book on the whole is a domestic drama. Indeed, while the assassination and coup attempts against Maia give the book moments of intense drama, the true story feels more like a Bildungsroman (a coming of age story). 

While I enjoy Game of Thrones and other dark fantasy, I'll admit it was a huge relief to read this somewhat light-hearted, optimistic book about courtly intrigue. It shows how much real drama and emotion can revolved around the fear of public embarrassment or the longing for acceptance and friendship. I nearly cried in the last few pages when Maia ultimately rejects cruel, if well-intentioned advice to avoid friendship. The book's warm, positive message was a healthy reminder that while cruelty exists, there are far more Maias out there than Ramsey Boltons. Indeed, in The Goblin Emperor, Addison shows how love and loyalty can ultimately defeat ambition and cruelty. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the lighter side of fantasy, especially intrigues. 

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