A Quiet Hero’s Journey: Processing Trauma in Fantasy

In The Goblin Emperor an airship explodes, killing the emperor and his three eldest sons. We later learn that this was not an accident, but the work of assassins. Later still, we learn that those assassins have been apprehended. Why am I telling you all of this? Doesn’t this ruin the book?

Not remotely, because the book isn’t about any of that. All of those action scenes, the scenes that would be in the trailer for Goblin Emperor: The Movie, happen off-page. Rather than showing us action sequences we’ve seen a thousand times, the book spends its time dealing honestly with aftermaths. As I read it I was reminded of another book that, on the surface, is quite different: Jo Walton’s Hugo-winning Among Others.

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Five Fantasy Books Steeped in History

“If the purpose of science fiction is to ask questions about where humanity is going, what is the potential speculative purpose of fantasy?” is a hyper-specific question asked by perhaps no one but me, and yet I am preoccupied by it endlessly. Tolkien had some answers to this, ones that were good enough to codify an entire genre. Among them was what he terms as eucatastrophe, that is: the joy a reader feels when the hero snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. In other words, it’s fine to write a story that exists for the sake of evoking powerful emotions in the intended audience.

This pulp view of Fantasy—exhilaration without subtext—has been the popular perception of the genre for decades, however Tolkien also believed that “fairy stories” were capable of imparting deeper meaning beyond mere escapism through, let’s call it empathetic verisimilitude. Careful world-building makes a fairy story real, and when the reader can suspend their belief to experience that new, fantastical perspective, they can learn to appreciate things about the real world in a new, fantastical way. Tolkien built his world on the foundations of his personal interests and knowledge base: the Germanic languages, Finnish mythology, Medieval poetry, the moral architecture of his thoroughly studied Catholic faith… this is the historical lens (well, kaleidoscope) through which Middle-earth was first dreamt of. The possibilities of Fantasy are almost endless when every writer is bringing their own unique set of peculiar, obsessive building blocks to the table.

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Series: Five Books About…

Sleeps With Monsters: Is This the Book I Wanted to Read?

A difficulty haunts me, now, when I’m reviewing or otherwise critiquing books: am I judging the book I in fact read, or the one I wanted to read? Sometimes they’re the same thing. Often they’re not, and the question of how much I resent the novel in front of me for not being different in these specific ways becomes a live and pressing issue.

Part of that’s because I need to reconcile myself to living with my brain on some degree of burnout for the foreseeable future. (It’s dreadfully frustrating to feel duller and more stupid than one used to be all the time.) Part of it, though, is that I’ve been spoiled in the past while by the number of books I’ve read in which queerness was both present (prominent) and unremarkable. It seems I’ve come to expect an acknowledgement that people like me can (do more than merely) exist with the pages of a narrative. When I don’t find that in the books I’m reading, it’s a constant nagging disappointment. Like I said, I got spoiled.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Steel Crow Saga Sweepstakes!

Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle in Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga – and we want to send you a copy!


A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic . . . and against her own flesh and blood.

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Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred: A Book at War With Its Past

What must it feel like to live in your own legend?

This is one of the key themes of Joe Abercrombie’s books: characters swept up in their own narrative, sometimes willingly, more often not. The burden of being a Named Man or a hero; the heart of the narrative, the one in the spotlight and the storybook.

[A Little Hatred continues the theme…]

Rereading The Ruin of Kings: Chapters 62 and 63

CAKE OR DEATH, Tor.com? Cake? Well, we’re OUT of cake! So instead, have a RROK Goddess of Death with your afternoon tea, won’t you? I thought you would!

This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 62, “The Gryphon Ring”, and Chapter 63, “Tea with Death.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.

Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!

[possibly with his friend Terry. RIP, sir]

Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Tamsyn Muir on How She Got Her Lesbian Necromancer Novel Shaped Up and Other Highlights from Her Reddit Books AMA

Tamsyn Muir’s epic-sci-fi-fantasy-necromantic-comedy debut, Gideon the Ninth, published last week. (From the writer herself: “Everyone agrees that Charles Stross put it best when he described it as Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! although I also really liked it when he just said Skeletons!”) To celebrate, the Nebula/World Fantasy Award/Shirley Jackson-nominated author dropped by r/Books for an AMA, and it’s chock-full of writing advice, fun facts about the world of the Ninth House trilogy, forthcoming book news, jokes, skeletons, big influences, thoughts on the HYPE, and more.

Check out the highlights below, and head on over to the AMA itself for more genre-busting goth goodness!

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Spock and the Myth of “Emotion Versus Logic”

Look, I’m just saying that Spock was wrong.

Not about everything, of course. But about his developmental crux, the war going on betwixt his delightfully pointed ears. People love to talk about Spock’s struggle to reconcile the two natures within him—the rational, staid pragmatism of Vulcan and the wild, untempered emotionality of Earth. The half-vulcan half-human spends his entire life trying to accommodate these halves, and seems to wind up somewhere in the middle. He takes what’s best from both of his ancestral cultures and knits them together beautifully, evolving into a mature and centered being.

Except that’s not what happened at all.

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