Looking for Body Positivity and Fat Protagonists in YA Fantasy

The YA fantasy I grew up with had a paradox at its heart.

I wanted to be just like the heroes from these books, whose stories spoke to my experiences: feeling like I looked different than everyone else, like I didn’t fit in, knowing that my peers didn’t like or accept me, thinking that grown-ups couldn’t understand why I felt so isolated.

And yet I never once actually saw myself in these books. The heroes of these novels were invariably white, able-bodied, heterosexual, and cisgender. (Fortunately, this has started to change in the intervening years.)

They were also invariably thin. This has not changed very much at all.

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Crack the Case With 5 SFF Detectives

She walked into my office on a pair of gams so long she almost gave herself a haircut on the ceiling fan. She was a real classy website, the kind I didn’t normally see in my line of work, but judging from the black eye, her comments section could get a little rough.

She leaned on my desk and told me she had a job for me.

“I need a list of five detectives” she told me. “And I will pay you a modest amount.”

I leaned back in my chair, remembered it was a stool and rolled onto the floor.

“Sounds like a real easy job. What’s the catch, dollface?”

“They all have to be from science fiction or fantasy” she said, like she said things like that to men like me every day of the week. And maybe she did. Maybe that was one of her go-to article formats. Maybe the world was really that sick a place.

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Series: Five Books About…

Erewhon Books Announces Kalyna the Soothsayer, the Debut Novel From Elijah Kinch Spector

Erewhon Books is thrilled to announce the acquisition of Kalyna the Soothsayer, a debut novel from Elijah Kinch Spector following a woman born without the Gift of future sight that has been her family’s legacy for generations. She must pretend to tell fortunes for a prince who holds her family hostage—and navigate the potential collapse of the kingdom. World rights were acquired by Sarah Guan at Erewhon Books from Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates. Kalyna the Soothsayer will be available in February 2022 from Erewhon Books.

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The Red Mother

Auga, a wandering sorcerer, follows his brother’s fate-thread into the village of Ormsfjoll, where he expects to deliver good news and continue his travels. What he doesn’t anticipate is that to meet his brother he must first contend with the truth at the heart of the volcano that wreaks havoc on Ormsfjoll.

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First Chords of a New Universe: Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal

Here’s the thing about writers: they write. When I was a young reader venturing into the world of superhero comics, it surprised me when I’d see named I recognized from the DC and Marvel universes showing up on the spines of paperbacks; I’m pretty sure I still have copies of Chris Claremont’s First Flight and Jim Starlin and Daina Graziunas’ Among Madmen around here somewhere. But that shouldn’t have been as much of a shock as it was—the generation of British comics writers that followed (think Alan Moore, think Neil Gaiman) worked across formats from the outset, and that’s been the status quo ever since.

Some of the writers who made an impact on superhero comics in the last decade came from a prose background—Scott Snyder, G. Willow Wilson, and Eve L. Ewing among them. Benjamin Percy also falls pretty neatly into this category, with a body of prose work that includes everything from Red Moon, a sprawling werewolf epic, to the unnerving narratives found in the collection Suicide Woods. Percy has also written a host of superhero books for Marvel and DC, including runs on Green Arrow and Wolverine. But unlike many a writer with a foot in both camps, Percy also seems curious about seeing what he can transplant from one to the other; thus, his new project, dubbed The Comet Cycle, of which his novel The Ninth Metal is the first part.

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Elves, Murder, and Gallons of Tea: Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead

When The Goblin Emperor came out in 2014, a self-contained, standalone fantasy novel felt like a breath of fresh air. I can just read this one book and have the whole story in my head! I don’t have to plan years of my reading life around waiting for the next volume, or processing a cliffhanger ending, or worrying that the next book will be told entirely from the POV of Night Watchman #3 when all I want to know is whether Abused Princess #4 is still alive or not.

And then I actually read The Goblin Emperor, and I cursed its standalone-ness, because I loved all of those characters so much I wanted story after story with them.

As you might imagine, the news of a sequel filled me with joy, and what I was especially happy about was that it wasn’t the continuing story of Maia, Perfect Cinnamon Roll Emperor. Katherine Addison has stayed true to the idea that his story was self-contained. Instead, she’s given us a sequel about Mer Thara Celehar, the Witness for the Dead, who proved so vital to the early days of Maia’s reign. And I’m ecstatic to say that Celehar’s book is just about as good as the young Emperor’s—but this time it’s a fantasy/mystery hybrid!

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Listen to Brian Staveley’s Short Story “The Last Abbot of Ashk’lan”

Back in 2015, Brian Staveley published his debut novel, The Emperor’s Blades, an epic fantasy about an emperor’s three children who have to figure out how to take over after his untimely death.

With its release, Staveley wrote a short tie-in story called “The Last Abbot of Ashk’lan,” about one of the characters that we met briefly, and now you can listen to the story, thanks to Brilliance Audio.

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8 SFF Books That Reimagine Literary Classics

One of the most fun turns in culture has been watching writers from a variety of backgrounds take established Western classics and treat them like glorious playgrounds. I personally like many of the books that are considered classics, or part of “the canon”—especially when I was still a student, I enjoyed the sense of testing myself against the books my teachers assigned, and I found that in top-down structure rewarding. I think an agreed-upon canon is an absolute, non-negotiable foundation for a healthy culture. But: the most vital phrase there is “agreed-upon.” Since…well, forever, really, the canon was populated by as many dead white men as U.S. currency, ignoring or actively quashing voices that didn’t agree with a specific narrative about Western civilization.

The current wave of books that are deconstructing and rebuilding the classics are a fantastic addition to the move to make the canon actually representative of our culture—a move that needs to be fought for ceaselessly as our culture literally lives and dies by it. Here are eight books that are doing the work of reshaping the canon to reflect humanity a little better.

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In Star Eater, Kerstin Hall Creates a World Like No Other

Engrossing, horrifying, and vivid, Kerstin Hall’s debut novel Star Eater is a hard one to talk about. This is in part simply because there’s so much there there—so much inventive worldbuilding, so much carefully structured power, so many things I want to exclaim over. As with many complicated things, it’s occasionally boiled down to something both accurate and not, a hook like “cannibal cat-riding nuns in space!”

This description isn’t wrong, but it’s nowhere near the whole picture, either. There are cats the size of horses; there are cannibal not-really-nuns and horrifying zombies (called Haunts); there is something weird about the world of Aytrium, with its Pillars and vague references to the Edge. But this isn’t a book about the meticulously created world. It’s about corrupted power, and the sacrifices necessary for change.

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Download a Free eBook of the First Malazan Fantasy Book–Gardens of the Moon–Before June 26!

We don’t want to alarm you, but it’s time to fight the a moon.

Friends, enemies, and frenemies, lend us your clicks and please download a FREE copy of Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, the first book in the epic Malazan Book of the Fallen fantasy series.

Then…prepare yourself for the kick-off of its SEQUEL series coming this November!

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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Series of Ambushes in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 33)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re covering Chapter 54, which really doesn’t go the way anyone planned. Rand, Nynaeve, Moghedien… nobody gets what they are expecting, in the World of Dreams or elsewhere.

It’s interesting to watch Rand go after Rahvin this week. We’ll see that he’s a formidable and terrifying opponent, but he hasn’t been built up as an antagonist the way Lanfear has been, or the way Ishamael was before her. So even though the events themselves are intense, it feels less intense and important than the confrontation with Lanfear last week. And Nynaeve is having her turn at a thematic payoff with the culmination of her confrontations with Moghedien.

Granted, what happens to Mat and Aviendha is a really big deal, but more on that on the other side of the recap.

[If you come out too close to him, he will sense it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

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