Tag: Book Review

Out & About: Ten Thousand Doors, Thirteen Books, and a Little Hatred

Photo by Pawe? Czerwi?ski on Unsplash

Though it’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of my recent work, that’s not for lack of writing. I’ve got a couple of reviews, a retrospective of a video game I’ve been waiting to play for over 20 years, and a round up of books perfect for fans of Japanese RPGs.

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Necromantic: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

It feels like hype for Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel about necromantic lesbians, bone citadels, rockin’ adventures, tantalizing mysteries, wicked sword fights, and many, many reanimated corpses has been building for YEARS. It was earlier this year, however, when it really started to catch my attention. Isabel Yap, who’s been championing the book since its earliest days, popped onto Twitter and blew my socks off by calling Gideon the Ninth “the closest thing to a JRPG in novel form.”

I was so enamoured by this description that I went out of my way to write an in-depth examination of how Golden Age of JRPGs (from Final Fantasy to Suikoden) influenced many of today’s best and brightest SF writers. And then I got my hands on Gideon the Ninth, and, despite mile high expectations, walked away knowing I’d read something special. Muir’s novel isn’t just the best debut of the year, it might be the year’s best novel. Period.

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Out & About: Generation JRPG

Over on Kotaku (!!!, what is my life?), I’ve got a longread the explores the connection between the new wave of SFF writers and the influence of Golden Age Japanese RPGs (from the 16- and 32-bit era, like Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, Suikoden 2, etc.) I’ve been working on it for a long, long time and I’m so proud it’s finally out there for everyone to read.

An excerpt from “How Japanese RPGs Inspired A New Generation Of Fantasy Authors”:

When I think back to my childhood and teenage years, when my literary tastes were being forged in the crucible of youthful emotion and impressionism, particular scenes come to life: Sam carrying Frodo up Mt. Doom. The Reaper chasing Wil Ohmsford through the Westland. Marle hugging Crono on top of Death Peak.

Most fantasy readers won’t need a reminder of what books the first two scenes come from (Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks), and most Kotaku readers won’t miss the reference to the classic Japanese role-playing game Chrono Trigger. And for some, all three of those works are of equal importance. Today’s fantasy novelists are just as likely to have been inspired by JRPGs as they are J.R.R. Tolkien. For some authors, Celes’ performance at the Opera House is just as much of a storytelling touchstone as young Simon fleeing Pryrates beneath the Hayholt.

It was an absolute pleasure to chat with various SFF writers about the topic. When I first started conceptualizing the piece, I had this vision of me showing up on Twitter like a naked dude at a graduation—everyone staring at me funny because I was the only one writer inspired by Golden Age JRPGs. Based by the overwhelmingly positive response on Twitter, this is obviously not the case.

I had to cut A TON of content from the interviews and first draft, so check back soon for a post featuring some of my favourite out takes that didn’t make it into the final article.

Read “How Japanese RPGs Inspired A New Generation Of Fantasy Authors” on Kotaku.

While we’re at it, I also have reviews of Terry Brooks’ The Stiehl Assassin and This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone over on the Barnes and Noble SF&F blog.

Out & About: An Empire Long Ago

Photo by planetMitch aunger on Unsplash

I’ve got reviews piling up these days, and, can just point out how blessed we are to be living in such a rich, wonderful time for SFF literature? Some seriously good books coming out these days, and my most recent reviews cover two of the best fantasy novels of the year: Empire of Grass by Tad Williams and A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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Mean Mages: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

One of the benefits of being a part of the vast SFF community is making great friends. One of the benefits of those great friends is the opportunity to read their books early. I consider myself fortunate to count Sarah Gailey among those friends. They’re smart, funny, dynamic, and have a range to their writing that few other authors can match. I had an opportunity to read their first novel a couple of years ago, back when it had a different title, and it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve been on the edge of my seat WAITING until it was released ever since then so I could scream at everybody I know to read it. It’s out now, called Magic for Liars, I’ve read the final version, and, y’all, it’s GOOD.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I felt my previous involvement with the novel meant it would be in poor taste for me to review it for a professional venue—but, here on my blog, I can say whatever I want. So:

GO READ MAGIC FOR LIARS.)

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Out & About: Lights and Nights

Photo by Clyde He on Unsplash

Recently, I had the chance to read two very different but equally kick ass science fiction novels by two brilliant women. Funny enough, they’re also both published by Saga Press, a relatively new imprint that has been producing some of the genre’s best novels over the past few years. So, cheers to Joe Monti and Navah Wolfe at Saga for their vision and taste.

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Out & About: Dragon Princes, Midnight Cities, Poets, and DemonWars

I’ve been busy! Between the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog and Tor.com, I’ve got a handful of reviews, a retrospective, and a roundup of books for fans of my favourite new show, The Dragon Prince.

First up is 10 Books to Satisfy Fans of Netflix’s The Dragon Prince on the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog. The Dragon Prince is my favourite TV show since Avatar: The Last Airbender—so, to celebrate the release of its second season, I’ve gathered 10 books that are sure to satisfy fans while they wait for the show’s (still unannounced…) third season.

An excerpt from my round up:

The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s dragons, which Hugo-nominated author and B&N SFF Blog favorite Max Gladstone once described as “the gold standard,” are next to none. They are complex, beautiful, powerful, and melancholy, and they serve many purposes throughout Le Guin’s work, far beyond the standard “gold-hoarding monster” trope. More recently, legendary artist Charles Vess described how it took him years to get Le Guin’s dragons just right. There’s a deeply rooted sense of wisdom in all of Le Guin’s books, but it is perhaps through her dragons that this element of her writing is best embodied. Le Guin redefined what a dragon could be, and we’re still experiencing the rippling effect of her influence over the genre in series like Robin Hobb’s The Realm of the Elderlings or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire.

Read 10 Books to Satisfy Fans of Netflix’s The Dragon Prince

(If you’re unfamiliar with The Dragon Princeboy, are you in for a treat.)

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Out & About: Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson

It’s no secret at this point that I’m a big Magic: The Gathering fan. I’ve been playing the game since I was a wee one in elementary school (I think my first booster pack was Ice Age), and it still holds a large chunk of my attention. (I’m working on a Selesnya Tokens deck on Arena as we speak.) I’m also a pretty big Brandon Sanderson fan. So, Sanderson’s latest novella, a Magic tie-in called Children of the Nameless, is a huge confluence of my favourites.

As a Magic fan, I loved Children of the Nameless, but the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be familiar with the game or its ongoing story AT ALL to enjoy Sanderson’s work.

An excerpt from my review:

By this point, if you’re familiar with Magic or Brandon Sanderson’s fiction, it’s probably safe to say that you enjoy certain elements of fantasy: lots of magic, big set pieces, huge casts of characters, and epic stories. Children of the Nameless is a great coming together of all the things that make Magic, epic fantasy, and Brandon Sanderson’s fiction so great—all in a concise, energetic, and fun package that will appeal to all sorts of readers.

Let’s get this out of the way: Children of the Nameless is a terrific gothic fantasy story regardless of your familiarity with Magic. In fact, for the first third of the book, you wouldn’t even know it was set in a universe that Sanderson didn’t create himself, and even by the end the connections to the game’s ongoing storyline are light and more portentous than anything. Anybody can read and enjoy Children of the Nameless.

Read my full review of Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson.

Once you’re done with that, stick around on Tor.com to check out my long, sprawling interview with the familiar faces behind the latest Magic: The Gathering fiction, including Cassandra Khaw, Kate Elliott, and Martha Wells.

Write Right: Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig

Damn Fine Story is not a book about writing.

You won’t find tips for writing tighter dialogue, cleaner prose, better transitions. There’s nothing inside its pages about how to make your action scenes sing, improve your descriptions, or increase your word count. It’s not a worldbuilding bible.

It is a book about storytelling.

The art of telling a story.

And, it’s damn fine.

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Out & About: Reviews of Terry Brooks’s Street Freaks and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon

My genre fiction bread and butter is definitely epic fantasy. So, naturally, my two latest reviews, both on the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, are near-future thrillers that dig deep into current socio-political issues through their action-packed plots. 

Street Freaks by Terry Brooks

Street Freaks is Terry Brooks like you’ve never read him before, but it also manages to strike a fine balance between the bold and the familiar. If you’ve finished Red Rising and The Darkest Minds, and are looking for more, this one will satisfy. It’s fun, progressive, relentlessly paced, and full-to-the-brim with interesting people. Unlike epic fantasy in the ’70s, science fiction doesn’t need saving exactly, but Street Freaks shows that Brooks has it, no matter the genre.

Read my full review of Street Freaks by Terry Brooks

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Moon is another wonderful Kim Stanley Robinson novel, and all that implies. If it lacks the scope of some of his earlier works, it more than makes up for it with the ambitiousness of its themes, its breakneck pace, and its thoughtful examination of the way societies evolve organically during times of upheaval.

If Andy Weir’s Artemis showed us the perils of surviving on the moon. Red Moon takes it one step beyond, showing us the uncertainly that comes from powerful competing interests vying for control of a new resource—even one that’s been staring us in the face for at least as long as we’ve been around to look up at the sky,  and wonder.

Read my full review of Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson