Fairytale updates—like fanfiction—start with a built-in comfort level; you already know the characters and storyline. Is it easier for the author to build from archetypes or do they have to work harder to bring anything new to the table? In Cinder, and now Scarlet, Marissa Meyer tackles some of our most prevalent folklore with grace and invention. She brought freshness, warmth, moon colonies and androids to the Cinderella story, without losing any of the essential charm, timelessness or integrity. So I jumped into Scarlet, the sequel, with both eagerness and trepidation; it didn’t start with the same characters or setting—in fact it was half way across the world from New Beijing—and I cared a little less about Red Riding Hood. The sequel hopped between Scarlet and Cinder’s stories almost every chapter and while the new point of view was a little slower to ramp up, the chapters that continued the Cinderella story more than made up for it.
Any series whose hook starts with “Napoleonic wars IN SPACE” has potential, but when the rest is “fought by a kickass woman with a telempathic cat” I knew I was in for a rollicking good time. On Basilisk Station, and indeed the entire Honor Harrington series by David Weber, never fails to make me thrill with wonder and delight as I tear through the books and then, later, as I digest it, to think of all the sociological philosophy he snuck in while I wasn’t looking! I certainly absorbed it as I read, but it didn’t hit me immediately. I was much more concerned with whether Honor’s spaceship would actually fall apart mid-battle, or her crew would betray her, or the Empire that I was beginning to love would be torn apart. Afterwards, when I caught my breath, I had time to look back and marvel at the depth and breadth of the issues Weber started to tackle.
Harkening back to classic vampire tales, Clay and Susan Griffith’s The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1) is a delightful, entirely non-sparkly, gritty vampire tale on a grand and sweeping scale and a great look at what humanity means. This is no “vampires are integrated into our society!” story, but one of devastation, fear, romance and airships. The main character, Princess Adele, who is heir to the Equatorian Empire one based in Egypt, founded from the remains of the British Empire is struggling with her heritage and duties. Engaged to Senator Clark, an American war hero, to form an alliance between the two super-powers and about to form a marriage that will precipitate a world-devastating war against the vampires, Adele is strong and powerful from the very beginning.
The Greyfriar is an alternate history in which vampires rule most of the North while humans have retained and grown power in the Southern Hemispheres. The vampires, a different race, have significantly greater senses except that of touch. Without much elaboration, the authors paints this monsters as entirely different from humans in fascinating ways, from the very beginning.
Series: Steampunk Week
After you’ve defeated a Dark Lord, come home and found life goes on as normal, how do you return to faerieland? How do you get back to Narnia? How do you make something feel even more magical and wondrous than when it was brand new?
Well, a flying car and a murderous tree is a pretty good way to start.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was one of the very first “what happens after” books I’d read. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a great adventure book in which the boy turns out to be a wizard, a celebrity, a hero, and then defeats the Dark Lord all over again. But Chamber of Secrets shows what happens next and that fascinated me.
And then there was the psychology of a budding Dark Lord, an ambiguous, strange elf-creature, a truly fabulous dueling club, the history and redemption of Harry’s first friend and, of course, Lockhart.
Series: Potterpalooza on Tor.com
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine, will re-instill in you the sense of wonder, awe and terror of a small child’s first encounter with a circus. The gorgeous, war-torn aesthetic and the stunning literary prose will captivate the reader, but I warn you that the Circus Tresaulti, replete with the denizens and ideas it gives birth to, is as dangerous as it is glamourous
We are introduced, immediately, to a post-apocalyptic world in which a steampunk circus—men with seven foot metal arms, aerialists with hollow bones, living trapezes, men with metal lungs—travels through a ravaged world, constantly at war and constantly being destroyed. It’s stunning and a fascinating premise, but Valentine barely gives you time to settle into the landscape before she is genre bending and building. The prose is reminiscent of poets and magical realists—a child of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Catherynne M. Valente—while the plot is a magical wartime, coming of age, adventure novel. There’s a healthy dose of political intrigue and some thriller-like escape scenes woven in for good measure. Valentine builds and paints so swiftly and elegantly that you are backstage, on the crew of this strange circus—and stranger world—before you’ve even seen the show.
Spoilers, some of the gorgeous illustrations by Kiri Moth, two free short prequels and an invitation to see the show at Genevieve’s Launch Party, Friday, May 6th in Brooklyn, below.
Throughout the draft process for Faerie Winter Janni Lee Simner, (@innaj on Twitter) would occasionally tell me she had yet to kill a small creature in Faerie Winter. (Spoilers! In Bones of Faerie, Liza’s cat died and in Thief Eyes, Freki did). Other than the cat dying—but dying well—my main, lasting, impressions from Bones of Faerie were of a gorgeous, scary world in which science and magic had been brilliantly mixed to create a nuclear holocaust in a Faerie world and plants that kill in a devastated human one. At the end of Bones I had more questions than answers. I longed for more in this eerie and compelling world with the girl who could bring people back from the dead, find her mother lost in the frozen Faerie lands, stand up to her abusive father and love a boy who turns into a wolf.
So, with excitement, I turned to this new installment, Faerie Winter, to see the aftermath of Liza’s actions and the consequences of mixing faerie and humans in new and delightful (to the reader) ways.
Since I got such a wonderful response from all you Crazy Cat Peoples in Training and just finished the second and third Carbonel books, I thought I’d start compiling a list of the awesome cat books (with a few other-animals stories stuck on the end, plus a few fabulous books that mention the word cat at least once!) that you all recommended. I can’t personally recommend all of them, but other people did wholeheartedly.
This is absolutely a work in progress and if you leave more ideas in comments I’ll totally add them.
My roommate has been catching up on season one of newWho and I’m halfway through episode 6 of newnewWho, so I paused to bring some Doctor Who into all your lives. Starting Tuesday, May 18th, for one week, this song will be available as a free download from parrygripp.com:
I’m totally loving the video too though; very silly, great pictures of the Ood (whom my roommate hasn’t met yet! Can you believe it?) and tiny adorable Theta, plus some great oldwho references.
I am proud to announce that I’m a Crazy Cat Lady in Training (and no, we won’t refer to that as a CCLiT, really). It is possible that I was put on Earth pretty much solely to provide an audience for all those books about cats. Not the “how to talk to your cat” or “cat solves a mystery but then cannot communicate with dumb humans!” kind, but the cats in space! or cats with magic! or cats with 6 limbs who are telepathic! books. I’m a total sucker for those. Prominently displayed on my bookshelves are Diane Duane’s Book of Night With Moon and To Visit The Queen. I recently started reading the Honor Harrington series and want a treecat so badly it hurts. I got Anne McCaffrey’s Catalyst as a gift this past winter, and let’s not even talk about how much Sabrina’s Salem and the cats in Tanya Huff’s Summon the Keeper series made me happy throughout high school.
For all that I love books about cats (and don’t get me wrong, also foxes and ponies and dogs and polar bears), when I start a new one, I’m always a little worried. When I was relatively young, my stepmother warned me away from all animal books because animals basically eat and die. She put it much less bluntly, I’m sure, but it’s pretty much always held true. Unfortunately she didn’t get to me in time to warn me off Black Beauty, but otherwise her advice has generally stood me in good stead. So, much as I hate when they’re too cutesy and kitsch-y, I actually prefer books that over-personify animals because then you know they have a chance of doing something other than dying. Of course, sometimes it’s just worth it anyway, like in Janni Lee Simner’s Bones of Faerie when [SPOILER ALERT: highlight to read] she kills the cat (actually, or in her new book Thief Eyes when she, kinda, kills the fox). Sometimes it’s the only realistic, sensible thing to do and if you don’t, you run the risk of being overly “precious” with them. I may not like it, but I get it. What I hate though, is when authors Cedric Diggory an animal (you know it’s true).
I’ve had Doctor on the brain (just finished the fourth episode this Sunday) in a bad way. I was listening to Carbon Leaf’s song “The Boxer” and in my head it became “The Doctor”. I was listening to the New Pornographers’ new song “Daughters of Sorrow” and I distinctly heard it as “Doctors of Soul” (Tell me that “We’d walk through the world as if by starlight/We’d be alright” isn’t about the Doctor and a companion?).
This Tenth Doctor: The Musical video has been going around the internets that I frequent and I’ve been slowly working my way through it (yes, it’s long). I think my favourite bit might actually be the “I’m a CHAV” Cassandra moment. Mostly though, I love the idea that 10—and a little 9—is, post-regen, sitting at home watching reruns of himself. (If I bring the popcorn, can I come snuggle on the couch? Please?) I’m particularly fond of some of the music choices and every time “All by myself” comes up I giggle.
It is distinctly possible that there is a slight fixation on Jack dying, but John Barrowman does it so very well.
Nina Lourie wants to know why you aren’t listening to the New Pornographers’ album, streaming at NPR through May 4th, yet?
Why did no one tell me that maths would help me make contact with aliens? If I’d read Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang in school, my maths teachers would have loved me much more.
Also I would have invented time travel, because I’m pretty sure that came out this April from :01.
So I don’t feel quite as betrayed by the universe that I only just read it. But I finally did and now so should you.
Do you like Irish myths? Magic? Goddesses? PUPPETS? If not, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. If, however, you do, and are in New York City this Friday or Saturday, you can see all of the above at Manhattan Theatre Source’s premiere of The Map of Lost Things. From the program:
Eight old Irish stories spark off stone and unfurl. Children turned into swans, salmon turned into philosophers, a sea of sadness and the music of things happening….
There are some amazing retellingsand in some cases, re-imaginingsof Irish myths woven into a modern framework, with stunning puppetry and great live music. Lír abandons his beloved crossword puzzles when his children are turned into swans; Niamh Chinn Óir begs Oisín to go to 80’s night at the Tír Na nÓg disco; and Cuchulain and Ferdia are more than just foster-brothers. What could be better?
I can tell you!
I made dress for a war-goddess out of garbage bags and broken bits of umbrella (and copious amounts of duct tape). Also, Megan Messinger, Tor.com’s very own everything, choreographed a fight with hurley sticks. Wanna see? Then go to the show!
I have a confession to make: I’m kind of obsessed with the song “Hey There Delilah“. It gets stuck in my head for hours. Other things I am enamoured of include pretty SF&F art and weird body mods (no really, 2:48, tell me that’s not awesome).
Things I never knew: how to pronounce 99% of all Cthulhu-related words.
Here, in the shape of a lovely little video montage and song, is “Hey There Cthulhu”, by The Eben Brooks Band, the answer to all my prayers. Well, I guess, the answer to the prayers of everyone who wants R’lyeh to rise again to the accompaniment of overly catchy radio hits.
I know what I’m going to be singing for the rest of the day…
Nina Lourie is having a monsters from the deep kind of day and has been watching this video of an octopus stealing a camera all morning.
I read and loved Gail Carriger‘s Soulless almost a year ago now. I even read it on the subway, despite the fact that parts of the cover were bright, shocking pink! (Yes, it was still embarrassing. But totally worth it. It clashed with my hair. Oh, design woes.)
So, I was really excited to find this video on my internets (via @DelReySpectra):
And even more excited to find out that the next books were going to keep the awesome font, but not going to keep the colour which totally destroyed any chance I ever had of looking like a cool kid on the NYC subways.
Particularly, I snarfed my tea at 1:27, so watch out that you aren’t drinking when that comes up. (What do you mean, I should have put the warning before the video? Oops.) And if anyone can give me a gargoyle that looks like that I will love them forever. I would name it Fred and cuddle it.
Feeling an intense desire to go reread Soulless now. Didn’t Changeless just come out? Must. Find.
Nina Lourie now has tea up her nose and is currently reading Spellwright by Blake Charlton, which is only fueling her gargoyle obsession.
Lindsay Ribar starts us off:
Come on. After the hour-long season premier of True Blood on Sunday night, is there any other line of dialogue that I could possibly use as a title? “You are my miracle,” uttered by a completely straight-faced Bill Compton to his pissed-off lover Sookie Stackhouse, embodies nearly everything I love about this show. It’s shamelessly, hilariously campy, but the camp is delivered with such sincerity that you can’t help going “Awww” while various sets of characters (mostly Bill and Sookie) trade lines of dialogue fashioned out of pure cheese.
It also helps that said cheese often leads directly to some really screwed-up (yet somehow hot) sex scenes. But anyway.
Is all speculative fiction a big gay metaphor? In Charlaine Harris’ most recent Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead and Gone, werewolves and shape shifters come out of the closet and vampire-human marriage is legalised in the state of Louisiana. Is Sookie herself going to come out of the supernatural closet? Are supernaturals the next big civil rights movement? At least in the world of the telepathic barmaid we’ve come to know and love through the previous eight books and one season of HBO, it appears so. The book’s focal mystery center around hate crimes, but the murder turns out to be much closer to home for Sookie and her brother, Jason, and so much more strange than the authorities could fathom.
I reread the previous eight Sookie Stackhouse books in anticipation for the ninth, which came out in May. What I’d forgotten is nothing can quite prepare you for a new Charlaine Harris book. Before I started the ninth book I felt confident that I remembered the cast of characters and the previous situations well enough to handle whatever she threw at me. I was wrong. A whole new race of supernaturals to explore! Two new sets of supernatural battles to fight! New relationships to angst about! I did occasionally wonder why characters like Bill and Quinn could go from being a big deal to being minor so quickly, or how Sookie could go from caring (if ambivalently) about the Queen of Louisiana’s well-being to saying “She’s dead? Oops,” but it was more than off-set by the growing feeling I have that Harris has an over-arching plot idea for the series and that I am only beginning to discover the world in which Sookie lives, which feels so familiar despite its obvious differences. The earlier books in this series felt much more like stand-alones linked by the same characters and same world but in the later books I’m beginning to find strands of plots and characters that I barely noticed previously assuming much more importance in a way that makes me sit up and say “Oh ho! She planned this! Sneakily!”
“The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Nick kept his sword under the sink.” How could you not pick up a book that starts like that?
The book in question is Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, which occupies a special place in my library, right next to Lorna Doone by Richard Blackmore. The connection is a solely personal one, but they are the only two novels I’ve read that mention Tiverton, a small town in England, where I grew up.
Admittedly, that’s not why I grabbed Demon’s Lexicon as soon as I could, which is significantly more fun to read than Lorna Doone. I got hooked on Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog when friends who were into the Harry Potter fandom recommended it to me. This is what I learned from her wonderful “stumbling towards publication” posts:
Step 1. Have crazy adventures throughout England and Ireland.
Step 2. Accost people, including mechanics, roommates and literary agents, wide-eyed, with an adorable Irish accent while hideously sleep deprived.
Step 3. Gather a group of amazing YA fantasy authors together in an Irish castle and frolic.
I was hugely excited to get her first book, the beginning of a trilogy, which came out on June 2nd. In retrospect I didn’t actually stop to learn details of the book I was hyping to all my friends. Things I knew before from her blog: There was a sixteen-year-old boy named Nick and his older brother Alan; Nick worked as a mechanic; there were demons; also possibly magicians. When I finally got my hands on it, I was a little leery of the very bright cover. The emo-hair, the pout and the obviously magic necklace didn’t give me confidence. Neither that, nor the back cover copy which is equally dramatic, gives the slightest sense of how very charming and sympathetic these very screwed-up characters can be. Brennan has now posted the cover art from each country as she receives it and I significantly prefer almost every other design.
From the beginning I fell madly in lovenot with either brother individually, but with Nick and Alan as a team. Their relationship is the strongest part of the book and Brennan, obviously working to her strengths here, weaves it into the plot incredibly neatly. The book jumps straight into the conflict, so the characters and their relationships become obviouspainfully so in some situationsin a hurry. While I was distracted by the action I almost accidentally formed a great picture of this highly dysfunctional duo and their insane mother.
Brennan’s very first lines start to build a world that catches you off guard, almost indistinguishable from ours except that certain people know demons exist. The demons are so desperate to leave their plane of existence and enter ours that they’ll seduce, possess and destroy humans in the process. There are also magicians who use and abuse the demonssacrificing people along the wayand innocent bystanders who often get caught in the fray. In the first group are Alan and Nick, their crazy mother who screams if Nick comes near her and an entire Goblin Market support-network of magician haters. In the latter category fall Mae and Jamie, a girl Alan has his eye on and her recently demon-marked brother, among others.
But now I’m about to enter the realm of spoilers. So if you haven’t read it and don’t like spoilers, stop here and go get it! I can sum the rest of the review up very briefly: if you like urban fantasy at all, if you like smart, funny writing and really good twists, you will like this.
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