Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read

This was one amazing ride. At first, the appeal of this story rested in the atmosphere of the setting, filled with wonder, and in trying to figure out what is going on. And then it broke my brain.

A pattern is visible over a night sky. The text reads "Remember it's only a game...Caraval, New York Times Bestseller, Stephanie Garber."
Image: Macmillan

Premise

Scarlett has dreamed of Caraval her entire life. She finally receives an invitation to the magical carnival, where participants compete to solve a mystery with a wish as the price, when it’s too late. Her abusive father is finally marrying her off, and she won’t jeopardize her chance to be free of him.

Her sister has other plans. Tella wants to escape their father as badly as Scarlett, but she wants to do it on her own terms. And she won’t allow Scarlett to give up on something she’s wanted so easily.

But Caraval is not the haven from their troubles that Scarlett wanted. Because the mystery that she and her competitors must solve? It’s the disappearance of her own sister.

Continue reading “Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read”

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Mythica: A Disabled Female Protagonist in a Classical Sword and Sorcery Setting

I enjoyed this story. It hits that lighthearted sword and sorcery B-movie spot.

This is a not-too-serious adventure with a classical fantasy feel—orcs, adventurers taking jobs in a tavern, a wizard-rogue-warrior-healer party makeup. It plays to those kinds of tropes pretty faithfully, with one major exception that makes the story pretty refreshing: the main protagonist is a woman with a disability.

I was plenty surprised to find that the main character was female, let alone disabled. (I mean, yes, it was made in 2014 and funded by Kickstarter rather than a studio, which probably explains it. And maybe there have been others like this that I’ve missed. But still. I’ve watched a lot of B fantasy movies back when Syfy was Sci-Fi, and seeing one that isn’t the standard man-goes-from-no-one-to-great-warrior-and-gets-the-girl story feels really new.)

Continue reading “Mythica: A Disabled Female Protagonist in a Classical Sword and Sorcery Setting”

Giveaways and Patreon

A couple of announcements:

Giveaways

I’m offering previews of each of my novels in one giveaway each. Head over to the giveaway site if you’d like to download PDF, MOBI, or EPUB files of the first chapters of my novels, or of any of the other stories available.

Fantasy heroines are featured in the giveaway “WHERE WOMEN RULE!” Over a hundred books/previews/short stories are on offer, one of which is a preview of my urban fantasy/post-apocalyptic novel, Terrestrial Magic–which will release in one week!

A woman sits on a motorcycle in an empty road. The text reads "Most people avoid fire-breathing carnivores that prey on humans. But where's the fun in that?"

YA fantasy is featured in the giveaway “Clean Fantasy Reads.” Almost fifty books/previews/short stories are on offer, one of which is a preview of my YA epic fantasy novel, Chains Carried on Wings.

The shadowy figure of a girl stands against a backdrop of the moon. The text reads "Chains Carried on Wings, Living on the edge of acceptance."

Patreon

I’ve put together a Patreon for my original fiction, which will launch once I meet the first stretch goal of $15/monthly installment (to cover the ebook delivery service). I don’t expect that to be soon, but I would like to start putting the idea out there as an option for whenever people start getting into my work.

Once it launches, patrons pledged at $1/monthly installment will receive the following:

1) Monthly installments of one of my projects–adventure fantasy novels, novellas, or short stories–via a digital download. Once the project is complete, I’ll combine the installments to provide you with the whole book in one package.

2) Access to each of my novels before their publication date via a digital download.

My goal is to make Patreon somewhere readers can get regular fiction from me, receive copies of my books before anyone else, and eventually, engage with other people who read my stuff.

But again, given that I’m pretty early on in my career, I don’t think this is going to launch for a little while. Though if I have any patrons pledged for whenever the installments start going out, while the stretch goal hasn’t been met, I might provide free behind-the-scenes content as a thank you for the interest.

Ruminating on Suspension of Disbelief Versus Expertise in Fiction

Words read "“It’s to all of our benefit if people contribute their expertise.”

Each of us has areas of knowledge that we’re more familiar with due to our own experiences. Which might make it harder to get into a story that veers into territory we’ve got a lot of familiarity with, especially if the work contradicts what we know about it.

This is just anecdotal, but I remember hearing about people with police experience having a harder time getting into crime thrillers, and even women who specifically avoided reading about female protagonists. I have personally put down a novel that made an inaccurate reference to Russian culture. (I grew up in America and am definitely first and foremost an American, but I was raised by Russian parents.)

Most recently, I read a genuinely amazing book that leaned on science harder than the average novel does–and overall, did a pretty good job with it, considering that the author isn’t a scientist. But there were still a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, enough that I don’t feel comfortable naming the book or author because I don’t want it seem like I’m calling them out over anything. Continue reading “Ruminating on Suspension of Disbelief Versus Expertise in Fiction”

Longest Books I’ve Read

I missed this topic when it originally posted for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). So since this week was a free topic, I thought I’d take the time to go back to it–after all, as someone who’s read a lot of epic fantasy, it would just be wrong not to participate.

I fully expected epic fantasy to dominate here. And for the most part, that’s exactly what happened, though two historical fiction novels managed to rank alongside them.

I used page and word counts from Kobo, because they don’t have different sized paperback versions to confuse the issue. And because their word count estimates for the two books I’ve listed with them are accurate. So there’s some reason to trust we’re getting an accurate measure to work with (though note that their page counts tend to run long relative to Goodreads or Amazon). For the two books on this list which were out-of-print and therefore not on Kobo, I compared Amazon mass market paperback page counts.

The shadow of a dragon. The text reads, "Now the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones, New York Times Bestseller George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords."
Image: Bantam

Continue reading “Longest Books I’ve Read”

Top Five Platonic Friendships in Books

The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is platonic relationships. I thought I’d be able to pick out my selections for this pretty quickly. But to my surprise, I ended up eliminating a few potential choices because the platonic/romantic status of a relationship was left ambiguous.

In no particular order:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
A woman stands in a window with a rose. There is imagery of trees and plants, along with birds and dragons. The words read "Naomi Novik, Uprooted."
Image: Del Rey

I really wanted to avoid selecting this book, because it came up in my last TTT list as well. But that would be disingenuous, because Uprooted blows most other novels out of the water with its focus on friendship. Agnieszka and Kasia’s friendship is the heart and soul of this book. It’s given the kind of development normally reserved for a romance (while the romance is relegated to a lesser role–which I’m totally happy with, by the way. I think that should be done more often.) Continue reading “Top Five Platonic Friendships in Books”

How Cloak and Dagger Develops Its Con-Artist Heroine

I couldn’t sworn I’d already posted this, only to find I had a draft saved on my computer and no record of it on my blog. Oh well, at least I remembered to do it before the second season of this young adult superhero TV series comes out.

Cloak and Dagger has some seriously subtle character development, and it is astounding to watch. In the other post I wrote about it, I literally spent 600 words gushing over the first ten minutes, that’s how much there is to unpackage in this show. Today, I want to talk about co-protagonist Tandy’s character journey over the course of the season. Continue reading “How Cloak and Dagger Develops Its Con-Artist Heroine”

My Five Most Memorable Villains for Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, Top Ten Tuesday gives a weekly prompt for a list of books, and this week’s theme is villains. Interestingly enough, when I was going through the list of the books I’ve read, I found that I usually remembered the protagonists much better than the villains. So for me, this became an exercise in finding the stories where the villains stood out in my memory, where something made them stand out. And then figuring out what that something is.

In no particular order:

The Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire

A woman stands in a forest, with butterflies flying around her. The text reads "New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire, Hugo Award nominated series, The Brightest Fell, an October Daye novel"
Image: Tor

The character of Amandine had been vaguely hinted at in earlier books in this urban fantasy series, a picture emerging of a distant fae mother with a rift in her relationship with her half-human child, who nonetheless cared about her kid’s life. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when we finally met her. But it wasn’t for her to become the villain of the story. Continue reading “My Five Most Memorable Villains for Top Ten Tuesday”

New York Comic Con 2018 and Critical Role Live

This past week I attended both New York Comic Con and the live show for Critical Role in New York. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well enough to make the most of it, but it was enjoyable all the same. There are my highlights:

Critical Role Live: The weekly session of voice actors playing DnD that I keep talking about. (The above animated sequence was widely cheered by the audience.) This turned out to be a good time to catch the live show, because there were apparently a bunch of problems with the audio online. The first hour was fantastic, the energy in the room infectious, but I did get a progressively larger headache as the night went on. I actually remember thinking, ‘well, this is still good, but I’d probably have caught more of what’s going on from home.’ Nope, turns out the live show was still the best place to be. Continue reading “New York Comic Con 2018 and Critical Role Live”