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”

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”

Tyranny: Fighting Your Way to Power and Agency

The last hold out against an all-powerful conqueror

The armies of the Overlord have conquered most of the known world. The Tiers is the last battleground remaining, as the rebels make one final, desperate stand against two of the Overlord’s fiercest generals–who might hate each other more than they hate their mutual enemies.

You are an agent of the Overlord, directly answerable to the Overlord’s head of justice, Tunon. Sent to deliver an Edict–a powerful magic that follows the exact stipulations laid out when it’s first read–you declare the Overlord’s words that everyone in the valley will die unless they claim the rebel’s base.

‘Everyone in the valley’ includes you, by the way.

Which makes you as much of an interested party here as anyone. You hold authority as an agent of the Court, and you have to decide how you’re going to use it. Will you work with one of the generals? Will you work alone? Or, in a daring move when faced with the seemingly inevitable dominance of the Overlord, will you defect to the rebels? Continue reading “Tyranny: Fighting Your Way to Power and Agency”

First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)

This topic prompt was proposed over at Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Thankfully, my old blog serves as an online record of my first book reviews (from 2012!). Wow, was I nowhere near as good of a writer then as I am now. In chronological order, here are the first five books I’ve ever reviewed and a quote from my not-that-well-written thoughts on them. (Also some criticisms about my former self’s reviewing skills–but with full appreciation that using whatever words I had back then is what allowed me to get better.)

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora

Genre: Fantasy

The view of a city built over a canal. Text reads "National Bestseller, The Lies of Locke Lamora, 'Fresh, original, and engrossing...gorgeously realized.' - George R.R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Author of The Republic of Thieves."
Image: Spectra/Random House LLC

“This book, set in a city evocative of Venice, is about a group of conmen who unwittingly become dragged into the middle of a political power struggle…From gladiators fighting sharks to a religious cult obsessed with their own mortality, it’s the details of the world and how it works that pulls readers in.” – World Building in The Lies of Locke Lamora  Continue reading “First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)”

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”

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”

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”