Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger

Into the Drowning Deep is about a scientific expedition to retrace a voyage that’d gone missing seven years prior. No one knows what really happened to the Atargatis, except that the ship was found with no one left alive. But that failed voyage left consequences–for a young scientist who wonders why her sister never came home, a professor who carries the guilt for making the last expedition possible, a company whose reputation was left in tatters after the fiasco.

These people and more assemble to solve the mystery of the Atargatis…but how many of them will survive the answer?

Hands reaching out towards a streak of blood in dark water. The text reads "Into the Drowning Deep, New York Times Bestselling Author Mira Grant."
Image: Orbit

There is absolutely no way I would go anywhere near a story where the premise is ‘killer mermaids’ if I didn’t already trust the author.

I rarely venture into the horror genre at all, though I make exceptions for character-driven adventures. And Mira Grant (a penname for Seanan McGuire, who writes probably my favorite urban fantasy series ever) knows how to write a powerful, emotional story. Continue reading “Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger”

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Colette: The Trailer is Better than the Movie

One of the rare times I watch a non fantasy/sci-fi movie, I was really excited for Colette.

Based on the life of a French novelist in the 20th century, Colette follows an independent-minded woman who marries an author–or at least, the man who puts his name on the books. Her husband is more of an editor/manager, with the actual labor done by ghostwriters. Writing a story for him that turns into a huge hit, Colette evolves into someone who wants control of her creativity and credit for her work.

The movie is decent, but kind of a letdown after the absolutely fantastic trailer. Continue reading “Colette: The Trailer is Better than the Movie”

Roundup: Books-to-TV, Critical Role’s Animated Series, and a Book Award

Grad school is pretty hectic at the moment, so I don’t have time to write a long post. But I figured I’d mention a few recent geeky news items, and a personal update.

1. Have you guys heard about the Lord of the Rings TV show coming to Amazon? I’ve just found out it will be set before all of the action in the original trilogy and The Hobbit–which is super exciting, because I really want to see new plotlines and characters in fantasy TV.

2) Speaking of book-to-movie adaptations, Leigh Bardugo’s stories are going to have a Netflix adaptation, though I’m still confused about exactly what is being adapted. There’s been talk about both of her first two series, which have different plotlines, different characters, and take place on different continents. So are there going to be two Netflix series? Once series combining both stories? What’s going on?

Either, anything that adapts Six of Crows’ amazing fantasy heist is worth keeping an eye on.

3. Critical Role will be making an animated series. They put up a Kickstarter last week that became fully funded within an hour of launching, blew through every stretch goal (forcing them to come up with new ones), and is currently somewhere around $6.7M. Because that’s the power of a dedicated fanbase. (I backed the project too, especially since some of their rewards will be available to everyone, not just backers.)

This is pretty cool, because the format for the regular show is esoteric enough to be a bit of a barrier towards viewers who aren’t already familiar with or interested in tabletop RPGs. But an animated series will create a new possible entry point.

4.  Chains Carried on Wings is a finalist for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards! It’s in category 4: Books for Teenagers. Maybe I should have led with that, instead of burying it at the bottom. But when it comes to this self-promoting nonsense, even mentioning it is already an improvement.

5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

The prompt for this post is for Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

So…this list turned out pretty queer. 3/5 of these books have queer main characters. Apollo in Thalia’s Musings is bisexual. One of the three protagonists in The Bone Palace is trans. I think something like four of the protagonists in Fire Logic are gay.

Granted, this isn’t everything I loved that’s under 2,000 Goodreads ratings–I selected the five that were easiest to talk about, and ignored multiple works in a series. And maybe Thalia’s Musings should be exempt since it’s also a web serial, and those aren’t usually huge on Goodreads, but still. The works that happened to be on this list all have unusually prominent queer characters for sci-fi/fantasy novels, and this list is specifically for books that haven’t received that much attention.

Which is a little disheartening to think about, so I’m just going to get on with the list. In no particular order:

The Final Formula

A woman with a vial and candles standing before a rundown hallway. The text reads "The Final Formula, Becca Andre".
Image: Becca Andre

Continue reading “5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads”

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”

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”

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”