Tag Archives: fantasy

On Paranormal Fantasy… and Being Real

I’ve been a fan of Faith Hunter’s books for a long time.  She’s a prolific writer, which means I’ve been able to sink my teeth into her books, particularly her Jane Yellowrock novels, with delightful regularity.  It’s good to have a hobby that’s good for me, too.

As she’s currently promoting and enjoying the successful release of Shadow Rites (the series’ tenth installment), you won’t have any trouble finding lots of positive reviews, all well-deserved.  The book delivers the best of the genre, and continues to build on the rich history of her characters and the familiar sights and sounds of the South I know.

I’m not going to echo those reviews.  They’re right, naturally, in calling tShadowRiteshis book a success, and a highly gratifying read.  But what I’m compelled to share is what sets Faith Hunter’s writing apart from so many others in the urban fantasy and romantic urban fantasy genre.

And here’s why:  I appreciate artistry and subtlety.  I love complications.  I love imperfections in a character.  I love cleverness without pretension.

To be honest, if I read one more paranormal fantasy in which the protagonist is a suuuuper-powerful beautiful gem who enchants everyone, craps vanilla, attracts sexy paranormal admirers like deer to a salt lick, and saves the day with a toss of her perfect hair and snappy comebacks, I will be violently ill.

Because, let’s be honest… they’re a dime a dozen in this genre.

Gag.  There I go.

No worries here.

Jane Yellowrock is corny, flawed, awkward, imperfect, silly, impertinent, irreverent, and, quite often, blind to her own shortcomings.  She is brutally honest, sincere, and real.  She feels betrayal and hurts deeply.  She lives a genuine life, if one steeped in myth, legend, and impossible, fantastic elements.

This is why Shadow Rites works for me, why Faith Hunter connects on a level other authors don’t, or can’t.

In short, her heroine is someone with whom, despite her history (deep, wide and tall), many readers will identify.  She has bad hair days.  She has difficulty picking out clothes.  She’s comfortable in her own skin, but aware that she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  She’s discovering herself, even as she’s a child in many ways, and, ironically, is also rather an old soul.

She’s sexy without meaning to be.  She fights, loves, and feels life deeply and with abandon.  When she hurts, you ache with the pain of the depth of it.

She’s in touch with herself and honest, even about the ugly parts.  And she’s okay with that.

It works.

Jane wouldn’t relax enough to sit down for coffee with me, but if she did, we’d be okay just sitting, not talking.  She’s a hero I wish I could be.  She’s honorable, brave, and intensely, immensely protective of those she loves.  She hurts and heals.  She cries inside for things she can’t change.  She feels guilt for things she can’t control.

She’s multi-natured, many-layered.  She’s what women are, and try to hide, and that’s ironic, as Jane Yellowrock isn’t human.

She’s a badass, but not for glory’s sake.   She soldiers on when it’s hardest because she’s who she is, and she lives a life full of purpose and meaning, even if no one else understands her journey.  Even when it’s lonely.

I’m delighted every time I dive into Jane Yellowrock’s latest adventures, and love that she’s in the hands of Faith Hunter, who understands that the best things in life come with a bit of wear on them.

Find Shadow Rites here.  For an extra-special treat, grab it on Audible, too, because Kristine Hvam does a wonderful job with this series, and you’re worth it.

It’s nice, in this day of polished edges and edited photos and ridiculously artificial Instagram “slices of life” (which are anything but real) to get something close to honest, even in a fantasy novel.

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On Anything-ism in Fiction, and Hypocrites

It cracks me up when people criticize fiction because it doesn’t present modern Western ideas about social matters in what’s considered a forward-thinking way. It is fiction. If you want to write fiction that seeks to reform someone’s thinking, do that. If you want to read fiction that changes and transforms the world, go, you. But to criticize the product of someone’s work and imagination because you disapprove of the theme is laughable to me, and small-minded. It’s saying, “Of course, you should be creative. Just don’t do it THAT way because it’s backward and icky and you’re horrible. Also, it hurts my feelings.”

Rrrright. So, see, criticizing George R. R. Martin because Game of Thrones is violent and sadistic, and, at times, sexist, is kind of stupid. Anyone who doesn’t like those thinOneOfThoseDaysgs ought to be forewarned and not read the books, unless you enjoy the inner turmoil that results from reading graphic everything vile, but you’d be missing out on so
me killer intrigue and world building (which I always admire in a plot, but the latter
is not in academic vogue at the moment). The same goes for any other matters addre
ssed in the books. They aren’t about changing society, and if the series makes you think, yay. But it’s fantasy, which kind of means anything goes, and often does.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But don’t insist that artists/musicians/authors change what they do because it grates on your sense of social outrage. I saw someone attack Emilia Clarke because she defended GoT against critics who call it sexist. Ironically, some of the comments coming from detractors were, frankly, sexist. Can’t have it both ways.

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Review: Anne Bishop’s “Vision in Silver” Shines

There’s nothing ho-hum about the characters, the world in which they live, or the premise of this book. Of the three books in the series to date, I enjoyed Vision in Silver the most. Here, you see how the progressive social project initiated by the Courtyard has long-reaching effects on humans (“a two-legged kudzu”) and others (Named’s creAnneBishopVision in Silverations) alike, and encounter the first results of the conflicts between them when it goes very wrong elsewhere.

I cannot say that there’s another series in the urban fantasy genre that’s remotely like this one.  That, in a genre that sometimes borders on — dare I say it? — dull, trite and cliché, owing to everyone and her third cousin dipping a toe into the supernatural pool, is a rare treat.

This isn’t a cop-out, but there hasn’t been another book outside the series that leaps to mind that has a similar premise. This is good, but it makes comparisons difficult. If you’re looking for a human-supernatural bodice ripper, this isn’t it. It’s also not a human-versus supernatural element the way the genre usually presents it; in this series, humans are the “clever meat” — how the dominant species (the Others) describes them.

Some scenes stood out and made me a bit teary-eyed.  It happens, but not as often as it should.  I became downright sniffly as I read scenes where human children and young Terra Indigene (earth natives that are the equivalent of supernatural shape shifters) interact… absolutely adorable.

I want to play with wolf puppies now.

Other notable moments:  “Words can be a weapon as devastating as a gun”
— this quote from the book applies to a number of situations in the book, a few of which made me a little angry. As for scenes that made my heart ache, the struggles of the relocated cassandra sangue endure qualify. To give further details would spoil a truly entertaining and engaging read.

I’ll tell you this: I enjoyed this series so much, I introduced my 70-year old mother to it. She enjoys it so much, she ordered her own shelf copies of the books, and has shared them with her friends. They loved them.

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Robin Hobb Has Outdone Herself:

I’m absolutely thunderstruck. I’ve been completely spellbound from the moment the words began spilling over to me. From the very first page, Fool’s Quest completely took me in, and, despite the fact that I’m a huge fan and I’ve read the entire
series with voracious abandon, this is in every sense, the best of the entire series to date.

First of all, yRobin Hobb Fools Questou should know that it will pull new readers back to events from earlier novels. If it seems a lot, it’s because the Farseer books and their companion series, while connected, are distinct in their stand-alone ability. They are incredibly rich and worth the time to explore on their own. Yes, you can still follow along through the masterful retelling of those events throughout the story arc… but having read the others, you will find yourself rewarded with an honestly amazing read.

I have cried twice already, damn it.

This series takes the best of it all and revisits Fitzchivalry Farseer at precisely the moment where the first book in the Fitz and the Fool series left off. This is our reward for being left gasping, “What on earth just happened?” at the conclusion of Fool’s Assassin.

You will barely have time to catch your breath.

It’s that good, and that incredible.

More than that, Hobb makes the transitions between the chapters incredible — those delicious, tantalizing “excerpts” from old ballads, letters, texts and observations from histories and characters both unknown and well-known to those who follow Hobb’s work. They are beautiful and quotable and they will leave you in delighted amazement. Hobb is a poet every bit as much as she is a spinner of epic fantasy, and her sense of humor and dramatic irony are an added bonus.

Her character building is among the best of any book series I’ve ever read… and I’ve read widely and continue to be amazed at the quality and breadth of writing she produces.

In terms of narration, it may be a bit of a jar initially if you’re used to the different narrators between the series. However, Elliot Hill delivers fantastically. He seems to flawlessly transition between characters — both human and non-human — and has a depth of storytelling ability that truly enhances an already wonderful book.

If you have credits to use, do not hesitate to use them on this book. My only regret is that, once I’ve devoured it, I have to soldier through the long wait until the third book’s release!

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Jim Butcher’s “Aeronaut’s Windlass” — Review, and The Shaking of Fists

Wow. Just… wow.  I received an ARC of The Aeronaut’s Windlass from the publisher and I’m still reeling from the effect this book has had on me.

Let me first note that I’m a huge Butcher fan. As much as I love the Dresden Files books, and the Codex Alera books even moreso, I initially balked at the news of the Cinder Spires project. Why? I resented any distractions that might redirect his efforts elsewhere. And, steampunk? Was it really necessary for Jim Butcher to go that route? No, I said. Absolutely not interested, I said.

How stupid of me. I should have known better.jim-butcher-aeronauts-windlass

Let’s forget it’s Jim Butcher we’re talking about here. Forget that The Cinder Spires series is not The Dresden Files or Codex Alera. It does not matter one damn bit. The book is amazing. The characters are compelling (I’ve a hard time trying to choose a favorite — how he managed to develop so many imaginative and varied characters in a single book blows me away — some of them aren’t even human; then again, this shouldn’t surprise me, considering how fond I am of some of his other non-human characters). Admittedly, I cringed a bit at the first few pages, and then forgot why, because I got sucked into this wonderful adventure against my will.

It’s so, so good. And I really did not expect it to be, and part of me didn’t want it to be.

It’s not fair, and it’s not right. Now I have to wait for him to write sequels to TWO COMPLETELY DISTINCT BOOK SERIES, and there are only so many hours in the day. I almost don’t care, except that I really, really do, and I hate the fact that I’m dying to read the next installment (and THIS BOOK isn’t even due to be released for a few months yet, which means he probably hasn’t even started the next book!). Ugh. Just, not what I needed in my life, Mr. Butcher. So not right.

This book is what might happen if Joss Whedon handed Jim Butcher the reins and said, “Dude. The people want more. Pretend Firefly had a half-sibling. Now author a new book series and blow them away.”

Now stop imagining it. Buy the book.

Back to “wow”.  This book not only holds its own against the best in the genre, but it’s going to displace some of the heavy hitters on many a bookshelf. You will not regret one minute of all the sleepless hours you’ll spend devouring it.

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More Than Just Vampires and Wizards: Why Young Adult Fiction is Worth Your Time and Money

I love books, and always have. I’m always eager to uncover an old — or new — book to devour, and, if it’s a worthy candidate, share with others who also have a passion for reading. Many of the books I consider classics aren’t titles you’d find in the adult fiction section at your friendly neighborhood (or even online) bookstore. I’m an avid reader in just about any genre, but I’m frustrated about the bias and lack of enthusiasm I still encounter for the books in young adult fiction. This isn’t to say that I don’t understand the sentiment.

There’s both fantastic writing and less-than-stellar writing in any genre, to be sure. Lately, however, I’m finding a wonderful depth, richness and quality in the Y.A. (young adult) literature. For readers who know their books, there’s plenty to love about titles in this category: they may be written and marketed to folks between 14 and 21, but the best of them transcend any silly marketing ploys or over-saturated plot lines.

While young adult fiction is still part of children’s fiction, it’s distinctly different in tone and subject matter, and not only because the protagonists are teens or young adults. They still have the basic novel structure and character development of most adult books, but they’re typically more concerned with the coming-of-age of their protagonists or the difficulties faced by someone who’s growing up. So what makes them different from an adult fiction book with similar themes?

Read more here.

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