review

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. 

nasa-45069-unsplash.jpg

Review: The Emerald Circus

I’ve written about Jane Yolen’s books before, which I have really enjoyed, especially her short stories. like Sister Emily’s Lightship. With that in mind, when I saw a new collection of Yolen’s stories, The Emerald Circus, I decided to take a look (I actually checked it out of the library!).

This book has some reprints of earlier stories I liked, including Sister Emily’s Lightship and Lost Girls. But I especially enjoyed reading some newer stories I hadn’t read before. In particular, I loved “A Knot of Toads,” which was a creepy, modern-gothic story set on the coast of Scotland. I loved the origins of the story and the references to history, but the characters really shine through, and I love how the main character’s views of the people around her are suddenly upended. Likewise, “The Quiet Monk” was passionate and romantic and beautiful, and the ending had a kind of quiet devotion that I loved. “Evian Steel” was another Arthurian -inspired story I enjoyed. It had a great twist ending, and gave a really fascinating perspective on familiar characters.

“Blown Away” was a dark and disturbing retelling of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, form the point of view of one of the farm hands on Dorothy’s Uncle’s farm. It was strangely creepy and bleak, and the ending was both haunting and “off” in a fascinating, if not exactly satisfying way. The unreliable narrator and the constant uncertainty about who is telling the truth about Dorothy’s strange disappearance made it feel like there were terrible family secrets welling just beneath the surface.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Jane Yolen’s writing, or in reading fantasy short stories, particularly reinterpretations of fairytales and legends.

duo-chen-771106-unsplash.jpg

The Newest Reviews/Book Mentions/Spotlights for Sapience!

I’m very happy at how Sapience has continued to get excellent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads! Recently, Sapience also received a lovely review from Shari Sakurai on her blog. My favorite quote:

I think what I loved most about the stories was that as dark as they were, there was very often hope amongst the darkness and the characters had resolve to prevail no matter what difficulties they faced. Each one was beautifully written and are the kinds of tales that will stay with you.

Several blogs and websites have also spotlighted Sapience recently, including on Jennifer' Perkins’ Author Esquire #IndieApril Booklist, A. Woodley’s Random Stuff and Books, Chris Morton’s New Adventures in Sci-fi, and Book of the Day. Thank you to everyone who’s helped get the word out about Sapience!

Also, as a part of OWS CyCon 2019, Sapience will be a part of a rafflecopter giveaway! It’s free to enter, so check it out and you could have the chance to win an Amazon gift card as well as a selection of books from the science fiction writers of the CyCon! For more chances to win, you can subscribe to my newsletter using the form below! Make sure you put OWS CyCon 2019 in the subject!

Name *
Name
IMG_20190505_102337_986.jpg

Review: Tales from Alternate Earths

In honor of Indy April, I decided to read and review several books by independent authors or small presses. I chose Tales from Alternate Earths form Inklings Press to review because I’d read an enjoyed some of the Leo McBride’s Altered Instinct. Full disclosure: Altered Instinct gave a great review to a story I contributed to Red Sun Magazine.

Once I started reading this, I actually tore through many of the stories pretty quickly. I thought that the theme of the anthology, which was imagining alternative events or outcomes in human history, was quite interesting. That said, like many multi-author anthologies, the styles and interpretations of the authors included were wildly variable. In fact, if I had a criticism, it’s that it was actually too variable. Every time I felt I had a grasp of the events and alternate history in one story, I’d move on to another one that was incredibly different in time period, characters, and theme. Sometimes that worked, as I found the new story as interesting as the one I’d left. Sometimes, not quite so much.

A few stories stood out as particular good. I liked the subtle tension set against the domestic calm of Terri Pray’s “One More Dawn,” and the interesting twists of history in Jessica Holmes’ “September 26th, 1983.” My favorite stories, though, were the last three. I liked Leo McBride’s “The Secret War” because its shell-shocked and traumatized main character really spoke to me, and I enjoyed twist at the end. Daniel Bensen’s “Treasure Fleet” had a richly imagined world and interesting characters. I think more science fiction and fantasy writers should look at 14th century China’s domination of the seas!

But if I had to choose one favorite, I’d have to pick Maria Haskins’ “Tunguska, 1987.” Haskins’ characters had great depth, and her world had some fantastic science fiction elements—the mysterious metal invaders, their incredible powers, and the fact that some people could sense the alterations that time travel produced, all of it made a good story. What’s more, her reveals at the end were as subtle and fascinating as her earlier writing, and left me with as many questions as she’d answered.

A couple of the stories really weren’t to my taste. I felt that while “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon” had an interesting premise, the story felt like it had too many elements, some of which didn’t feel like they went together. The story had two authors, so I almost wondered if it was a “too many cooks” problem. I didn’t care for “One World,” because honestly it read a little like a conspiracy theory gone amok, and I just couldn’t relate or sympathize with the main character (for most of the story, he seemed more like an observer than a protagonist). “Stargazing on Oxford Street” had an interesting setting and a good premise, but I felt that the main characters didn’t really accomplish anything or do much.

Overall, I felt that Tales from Alternate Earths was a good indie anthology and a good way to discover lots of new sci-fi authors. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in alternate history or science fiction.

Guest Post and Review of Sapience

I’m happy to say that Sapience got another lovely review, this time on Killian Wolf’s blog!

I gotta say, WOW! Thanks to Alexis Lantgen this will not be the last science fiction I pick up. I really enjoyed reading these. 

Check out the rest of the review on KillianWolf.com!

I also have a guest post on Mrs. Average Evaluates on being a mother and a writer, so check it out!

Becoming a mother is a beautiful but difficult transition. You’re so exhausted, so overwhelmed, that it’s hard to find the mental energy for the complex thinking required to write well.

I’m happy to write more guest post for other blogs or website, so if you’re interested in having me write for you, use the contact form below!

Name *
Name

Review: Black Swan, White Raven

Black Swan, White Raven is a collection of fairy tales retold by modern fantasy writers. The stories are alternately dazzling, psychological, dark, and powerful. While a few fell flat, several stood out as brilliant re-imaginings of familiar stories.

In particular, I enjoyed Anne Bishop's retelling of Rapunzel, where the heroine learns true wisdom from her suffering. Don Webb's Three Dwarves and 2,000 Maniacs had an energetic and compelling voice, and captured the madcap insanity of magic run amok. Pat Murphy's The True Story turns the story of Snow White completely on its head, and raises some hard questions about why stepmothers are so reviled in stories, while fathers are excused. Likewise, Karen Fowler's The Black Fairy's Curse plays with our expectations about what makes a truly happy ending and a healthy relationship. Yet, perhaps the most eerie and unique story is Bruce Glassco's True Thomas, which seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy into one of the most compelling versions of faeries I've ever read. This book is worth reading for that story alone.

A few of the stories were disappointing. I didn't care for The Flounder's Kiss--the main character seems likeable enough until the end of the story, when he becomes completely monstrous. It felt like an out of character transformation, and made the story feel uncomfortable and misogynistic. I also didn't care for the The Breadcrumb Trail, a poem included in the stories. It just didn't seem to work for me--it seemed to obvious.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairytales, fantasy, or even science fiction. The stories are so diverse that each one feels new and exciting, even when they're retelling familiar stories. It's fascinating to read so many entirely new perspectives on fairy tales.