Intent: A Review of Blood Like Magic, by Liselle Sambury

            Witchcraft in fiction is an incredible variable, mutable tool in storytelling, although not every fantasy story, or story with magic present, contains witchcraft.  It is one of those things where no one can agree on a single definition, aside from witches mostly being female or female led.  Even region of the world has its own folklore regarding witches, going back thousands of years.  In some, witches are benevolent, helping their communities with potions and spells.  In others, witches made deals with the devil in the pursuit of power and influence.  While authors do pull on some of that, depending on where they decide to set their stories, the lack of a single definition of witchcraft allows writers to create new takes on it, iterating and innovating from story to story. 

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Chosen: A Review of Cast in Secrets and Shadow, by Andrea Robertson

            One of the oldest genres, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is the coming-of-age story.  A tale concerned with the transitions between eras of life.  Child to teenager, teenager to young adult, young adult to adult.  People are constantly changing and, hopefully, maturing as they grow older, and we all have stories that exemplify these transitional spaces.  Within storytelling, there are so many ways to handle this story, and it has been handled by nearly every author throughout history.  Characters spend the arcs of their stories learning from their experiences, ending the story wiser than they began.  There can be starts and stops across the journey, as we are all familiar with the concept that we have become our perfect selves, only for that notion to be proven false very quickly.  Sometimes, there are even characters who believe to have found the correct path, only to require course correction from a trusted voice.

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Graduation: A Review of Goodbye, Battle Princess Peony, by Mira Ong Chua

Comic books are an overlooked form of storytelling when it comes to literary discussions, with most of the conversation revolving around the books put out there by the large publishers.  Comic books struggle with a reputation tied to superheroes in the United States, but it only takes looking at the indie art scene, or the books published in other parts of the world, to see the real potential of the comic book and graphic novel forms. Rather than reading exposition describing a city, a talented artist can show it to us through spreads and background art.  Authors do not have to struggle with trying to accurately convey what emotion a character is feeling when it can be drawn on the page.  A good artist can convey pages worth of narration in a single frame.  There are so many good comic books out there, in a multitude of genres, and the subject of today’s review is here to prove just how impactful and engrossing a comic can be.

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Heroes of the Ward: A Review of Realm Breaker, by Victoria Aveyard

Stopping, or surviving, the end of the world has become standard fare in fiction, from novels to movies, that it is essentially its own trope now.  A quick and easy way to set enormous stakes and justify any action set piece one could think of.  However, despite the proliferation of this plot building block, or maybe because of it, the end of the world is actually a rather difficult plot to pull off and keep your audience invested.  As seen in many movies, once the stakes become too big, too large scale, it can be hard to empathize with the widespread destruction seen on screen.  This trend is not even unique to fiction.  It is more difficult for humans to empathize with large-scale tragedies simply because they are too big to make sense of.  However, just like in real world news coverage, there is a way to keep people interested and invested when plotting and end of the world story; make it personal.

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Thinking Machine: A Review of This Golden Flame, by Emily Victoria

One common trope in science-fiction is the existence of technology so advanced it is indistinguishable from magic.  However, the reverse can also be found in fiction whenever a writer wants to create a fantasy world, but still include a technological element that would not otherwise be possible.  Enter magical technology, or magic indistinguishable from technology aside from being fueled by magic instead of electricity or another power source.  Maybe an author wants to include an airship in their high fantasy setting, but does not want technology to be too advanced.  Or they want a medieval-like setting to have access to something like a computer or search engine.  Whatever the apparatus, this allows authors to get inventive with the magic in their book, imagining how it can fuel a society.  However, this trend can run up against the rick of breaking immersion whenever readers start to wonder why the characters just do not use the actual technology instead of magic.

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Legacy: A Review of Forged in Fire and Stars, by Andrea Robertson

We have all read the story before.  A group of people join together from various walks of life and backgrounds to journey on a quest.  They may have to traverse dangerous terrain, fight off bandits, or avoid pursuit by the forces of evil.  The setting itself does not matter, only that this band of adventures embarks on a journey seeking something.  But a quest does not just have to a physical matter.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a quest as an act or instance of seeking.  It does not state that a quest is just about the travel or that what they seek is a physical object.  Oftentimes, the point of the quest is not only to accomplish a mission, but to grow as well.  While a character remains in one place, they are static.  It is only through embarking on or joining the quest that they can change.

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The Right to Live: A Review of Stealing Thunder, by Alina Boyden

Fantasy is one of those genres of fiction that can be set in any world you can imagine.  Authors can take as much, or as little, inspiration, from the real world as they like.  The only boundary to the world in the book is the writer’s imagination.  The setting and world can be as realistic as possible, adhering to real-world physics and the like.  Or, an author can go completely wild and show us something with no resemblance to our world.  So, why is it that so much fantasy just looks like medieval Europe with the addition of magic or strange creatures?  Many, many books are written by cisgender, heterosexual, white men and feature cisgender, heterosexual, white protagonists.  There are so many other voices out there, authors of diverse ethnicities, sexualities, and an entire spectrum of genders.  Their books deserve to be read too.

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Black Ring Match: A Review of Crush the King, by Jennifer Estep

I have talked endlessly about the power of fantasy novels on this blog, and will continue to do so as long as this genre maintains its unique power.  Fantasy is about all about creation and imagination, allowing readers to inhabit worlds wholly unlike our own.  It is a measure of escapism that other literary genres can only dream of.  Free from the pretentiousness of literary fiction, and liberated from the need for explanation in science-fiction, fantasy authors set their own rules in each new story.  Crush the King is the third and latest novel in Jennifer Estep’s wonderful Crown of Shards series, preceded by Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince.  Few would call this story literary fiction, but few series are more fun to read that the adventures of Everleigh “Evie” Saffira Winter Blair.

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The Power Dynamics of Identity: A Review of Splintegrate, by Deborah Teramis Christian

Every story has a theme, a focus running side-by-side with the plot that thoroughly defines the very nature of the book.  When a person asks what a book is about, there are always two answers; the plot, and the themes.  For example, The Lord of the Rings is about the battle between good and evil, and the nature of heroism.  It is also the story of a hobbit crossing the world to throw an evil ring into a volcano.  In a similar vein, Splintegrate, by Deborah Teramis Christian, is a story about bodily autonomy and the nature of identity.  It is about what happens when outside machinations violate one’s body and personality without consent.  It is also an engaging science-fiction thriller about a professional dominatrix charged with assassinating a mob boss.  The high level of technology present in a science-fiction setting allows for a practical examination of identity outside of the thought experiments of today.

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Reading the Stones: A Review of The Girl the Sea Gave Back, by Adrienne Young

Scandinavia can at times seem like a harsh and unforgiving land, but people have called it home for thousands upon thousands of years.  Now broken up between Sweden, Norway, and Finland on the mainland, the Nordic people also settled into Iceland Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands.  This is a setting which as gripped popular culture for years, with many authors choosing to pull from its rich history.  The origin of the Vikings, some of the fiercest raiders the world has ever known, they revered a uniquely flawed pantheon of gods and goddesses.  Unlike pantheons around the world, the gods of the Norse could be killed.  Their names have long since transcended folklore, appearing in everything from science-fiction anime to fantasy novels set in new worlds.  Even existing franchises once known for other settings, such as the God of War series of video games, has moved into the north.  And influence of the Norse is not diminishing.

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