Girl Genius’ Epic Mad Science Steampunk Adventures Introduce Underground Libraries and Underwater Science Labs

A woman with a book, and an elegantly dressed mechanical woman in front of an organ. Text reads "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science! GirlGenius.net".

Girl Genius continues to be one of the more fascinating adventure stories I’ve ever read. This web comic series has been putting out one new page three times a week since…what, 2002? And it keeps adding new fascinating setting and characters, revealing new dimensions to information first introduced over a decade ago. But despite the epic plot, the humor is perfect to keep the tone of the story lighthearted.

A Smart, Practical Heroine Surrounded by Chaos

I really do love Girl Genius. Especially its creative, practical (but sometimes absentminded) protagonist Agatha, who just wants to do right by the people relying on her. And create wonderful inventions that, contrary to expectations, don’t result in mass murder.

Agatha understands the family legacy–both the evil overlord vibe her ancestors had going and the heroism of her father and uncle–but rejects all of those things as a model for herself. I especially appreciate how she refuses to cut ties with her family’s creations just for the sake of public perception. Continue reading “Girl Genius’ Epic Mad Science Steampunk Adventures Introduce Underground Libraries and Underwater Science Labs”

Happy 2020: Round-up for Innkeeper Series and Sagas of Sundry’s Dread

Happy New Year, everyone!

To start off 2020, two things to potentially check out:

Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

The next installment of Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper series is currently running as a web series prior to its official release as per usual with this series. This is an urban fantasy/sci-fi about the Innkeeper Dina, who runs a magical inn that acts as a waystation and point of neutrality for aliens (some werewolf and vampire-like) from space.

I don’t know that I’d recommend this as a starting point for newcomers, though. The beginning very much feels like it builds on the action of the previous stories.

Sagas of Sundry: Dread

I’ve written about this show before (Sagas of Sundry: Dread, and the Chilling, Psychological Story of Five Friends Haunted by their Experiences)–but back then, the series was behind a paywall. Now, it’s migrated to YouTube.

Since the 6-part story is newly accessible, I thought it was worth pointing out again. Here’s a few excerpts of what I’d written about it before.

Genre: Mystery/supernatural/horror web series/RPG Continue reading “Happy 2020: Round-up for Innkeeper Series and Sagas of Sundry’s Dread”

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles

I was super surprised to discover I’d never actually done a list for this topic before? And since That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is having a free topic, now is a great time to remedy that. Including all of the covers would defeat the purpose of having the titles stand on their own, so this post will have to do without.

Titles can do a lot to pique our interest, but it is genuinely hard to pull off even when the author/marketing team wants to–because often it’s more important to have the title match the genre and brand. I find that very few titles stick out. These are the ones that really impressed me (please note that I haven’t read all of them yet):


Dead Witch Walking

Did I say that authors have to choose between cool titles and branding? Because here’s Kim Harrison, proving that’s not always the case. This is still the greatest urban fantasy title I’ve ever come across even over a decade post-publication. Continue reading “Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles”

Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff

The background is a spades playing card. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Stephanie Garber, Legendary, A Caraval novel."

I reviewed the first book, Caraval, here. 

Caraval is a magical carnival where participants compete to win a prize. At the previous Caraval, Scarlett competed to save her sister Tella and win their freedom. But Tella hasn’t shared all of her secrets, and those secrets will have her competing in the next Caraval–where she’ll have to choose who to save, and who to sacrifice.

In a way, Tella had been the hidden protagonist of Caraval. Scarlett might have been the narrator, but she was walking on a path that Tella laid out for her. Tella’s decisions drove the entire plot of the book. So it was super exciting to get the next book from her perspective, because though I like Scarlett, Tella has so much more agency.

And true to that promise, Legendary starts us off by revealing a whole heap of Tella’s secrets and motivations. She’d had access to way more information than we’d known (through the eyes of her sister) in the first book. And she’d tracked down that information because she’s been fighting fate for a long time now–and she’s not about to stop now. Continue reading “Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff”

Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role

 

(The show starts around the 6-minute mark, as it doesn’t seem to be autoplaying from there properly.)

Victorian London is holding its annual cat show at the Crystal Palace–an exhibition center made of glass, now fallen into disrepair. It is under the guise of this event that six enterprising professionals are hired to “procure” an artifact from the closed portions of the building for a collector. A world-trotting explorer, an enterprising daughter of Japanese ambassadors, an archivist from the British Museum, an engineer previously employed by Edison, a spiritualist, and a veteran now employed by the gentlemen collector paying for this enterprise–all of these people venture into the depths of the Crystal Palace to find much more than what they were looking for.

A cross between historical fiction and arcane horror, this is a role-playing adventure with a cast of professional voice actors. And it’s awesome. Continue reading “Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role”

5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)

This is an interesting Top Ten Tuesday prompt (by way of That Artsy Reader Girl), that I’m interpreting as characteristics I’d like to see in protagonists. And there are definitely personality traits I want to see more of in heroes (especially female heroes, who usually get a much more limited range of characteristics to work with). I’ll be ignoring the stuff I think is already pretty common, like various types of compassion or diplomacy.

Here’s five things I wish more protagonists would be:

Awkward

There’s a stereotypical notion of awkwardness, but the reality is way more varied than we usually get to see in fiction. As someone who’s pretty awkward myself, I want more representation of that range. And I want those kinds of characters to be mostly unapologetic about how they are.

Examples: Beka (Terrier), Keyleth (Critical Role)

An image of a pendent, with a creature's head on it, with the words "#1 New York Times Bestsellling Author Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper, Terrier, 'Tamora Pierce is a pillar, an icon, and an inspiriation.' - Sarah J. Maas, #1 New York Times bestselling author" Continue reading “5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)”

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal

A woman with a knife. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Seanan McGuire, Night and Silence, An October Daye Novel"

If I needed any more evidence that grad school was driving me hard here it is: I didn’t even realize the latest October Daye novel had been out for a year. My ultimate auto-buy series, the one that’s reached a dozen novels now without my interest in the story dipping even a little.

Yeah, wasn’t expecting that. But now I’ve finally caught up with my favorite series…just in time for the next book to come out.

Centuries of Backstory Catching Up with Our Protagonists

The protagonist of these novels is Toby Daye, a part-fae detective whose heritage is so convoluted even she’s still figuring it all out. Daughter of a powerful but absent blood worker and a human man, Toby has had to carve a place for herself in a world that didn’t want her. She’s built her own circle of support, solved mysteries, been declared a hero of the realm…and made ridiculously powerful enemies. (Though to be fair, her greatest enemy had already been in place the moment she was born.) Continue reading “Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal”

Chains Carried on Wings is a Semi-finalist in the YA Genre of the 2019 Kindle Book Awards

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."

The 2019 Kindle Book Awards are ongoing, and they’ve just announced their Category Semi-finalists today–with Chains Carried on Wings making the cut in the YA genre.

So that’s pretty cool.

This book was all about being non-standard, from the way that my protagonists fit into their world (or don’t) to the fantasy cultures populating my story. Whether I pulled that off or not is up each reader to decide, but the experience of writing it really meant something to me, and I’m glad it does something for other people as well.

Agents of SHIELD S6 Gives Us Adventures in Deep Space and Alien Invasions

I’m trying to unpackage my feelings about this latest season. I loved most of it. But then the last episode happened and it was…a little ridiculous.

Keeping the Plotlines Fresh

After so many seasons and so many threats, the show somehow still manages to find innovative threats that feel fresh. The world keeps getting bigger. The season opens with half the team on an escapade through deep space, heading into alien territory that they usually steer clear of. Meanwhile, a huge mystery is introduced back home.

I spent the whole season on the edge of my seat, hyped to find out what is happening, how it’s happening, and who has what motivation. Continue reading “Agents of SHIELD S6 Gives Us Adventures in Deep Space and Alien Invasions”

Jessica Jones Brings Three Seasons of Character Development to a Close

It’s the end of the third and final season of Jessica Jones, a gritty show following a superpowered PI.

And wow, does it go places.

The climax of season three is the culmination of the character work from the past three seasons. The first half of the season only hints at what’s building, but by the time it comes into fruition, it feels like both a logical progression and something too extreme to have predicted. I don’t think the execution is always as good as the idea it’s trying to convey–a few of the details open themselves up to nitpicking and criticism–but the broad strokes are clear and powerful.

Every Season is Deeply Personal

Looking back on the entire show, what strikes me is how much every season centered around personal stakes for Jessica. This is not your normal day-in-the-life detective or superhero show. Each season centers around one plot, and that plot is always massively entwined with Jess’ life. And while each decision is harder than the last, somehow that progression coincides with Jess putting herself a little more together after the mess she starts out as. Continue reading “Jessica Jones Brings Three Seasons of Character Development to a Close”