Women in SF&F Month Banner

After all the discussion recently about review coverage of women writing science fiction and fantasy and the female bloggers writing about these genres, I decided to dedicate the month of April to the women of science fiction and fantasy. Though I’m interested in the discussion overall, instead of talking about it more I’m choosing to make my contribution to addressing the issue by highlighting the women who are writing and reading SF&F.  Throughout the month I’ll have authors, book bloggers, and other commentators making guest posts.  While some of my guests will be discussing the subject itself, it’s not required to participate; the goal is just to get some interesting people, thoughts, and books all in one place.

This particular subject is one I’ve felt pretty strongly about for a while now. A few years ago, I noticed that most of the fantasy and science fiction books being talked about on many blogs and forums were written by men and started questioning whether or not there was a significant number of women writing these genres. Since then, I’ve of course found that there are many female authors of fantasy and science fiction books and it’s become very important to me to make sure their work is recognized and discussed. Usually I just do this quietly by reading and reviewing a lot of books written by women, but after the topic came up again I decided I wanted to do more to showcase the many women who are writing and reviewing all kinds of different types of fantasy and science fiction. So I started asking around to see if there was any interest in being a part of this and have spent the past 2 or 3 weeks gathering volunteers and posts.  (Yes, this is why my other posting has slowed down this month – but it will all be worth it, I promise!)

There will be more to come later, but I wanted to let everybody know what’s coming over the course of the next month.  Next week I’ll be kicking things off and we’ll have some great posts from people including Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Bear, and Carol Berg!


So I am horribly behind on reviews. I read a few graphic novels last year that I’d planned to write about, and there’s still a couple of books from last year that I haven’t reviewed. I’m not ready to give up on those two books from last year, either, since I’ve reviewed previous books in the series for each and don’t want a gap with an unreviewed book.

However, I am ready to give up on reviewing the rest of the books I haven’t talked about this year with the exception of the one I just finished (This Is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams). Actually, I’d only really be able to review one of those since the other book ended up being one I didn’t finish, but I wanted to at least mention both of them in case anyone else was interested in looking into them further.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

This is the book I did finish, and I rather liked it. I think this young adult novel is probably considered more historical fiction than fantasy, but since it is retelling a Greek myth, it fits with that theme. It reminded me of Jack Whyte’s fantastic Camulod Chronicles about King Arthur in the respect that it was a more plausible version of a famous myth (although that’s really all they have in common since Dark of the Moon is a fairly short stand alone book and the Camulod books are both thick and numerous).

Dark of the Moon is a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur, told from the perspective of both Ariadne and Theseus. Despite the hints in the book jacket, it does not have much romance at all but is more about Ariadne’s life as a future goddess of the moon and Theseus’s adventures on the way to and in Krete. It was a quick read, and I didn’t love it but I did enjoy it enough to keep it around.

For more details on this book, you can read a review of Dark of the Moon at The Book Smugglers. This is actually the review that made me pick up the book, which I hadn’t heard of before that.

Where I got this book: Christmas gift from books on my wishlist

Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint

Eyes Like Leaves
by Charles de Lint

While this year is the first time this was published in paperback, Eyes Like Leaves was actually one of de Lint’s earliest written novels. He decided he’d rather be known as an author of contemporary fantasy than epic fantasy so he decided not to have it published when it was written.

I had high hopes for this book since it was an epic fantasy based on Celtic and Norse mythology, but when I was almost halfway through it and still finding it a struggle I gave up. It’s one of those books that I didn’t think was terrible but just couldn’t get into. It was decently written and the mythology was well done, but it was extremely slow-paced with characters that never really came to life. The characters had potential to get better, especially since the wizards had some rather interesting powers, but I was just reading it to force myself to finish what I’d started. So I decided to call it quits and read something else.

For actual reviews by people who finished the book, you can go to io9 or The Little Red Reviewer.

Where I got this book: ARC from the publisher


Songs of the Earth is a debut novel by Elspeth Cooper and the first book in the Wild Hunt trilogy. While it was released in the UK last year, it was only just released in the US the end of last month where it is available in hardcover and ebook. The next book, Trinity Moon, is scheduled for publication in the UK in July. The Dragon House will conclude the trilogy.

It’s rather difficult to sum up the plot of Songs of the Earth because it is the first book in a trilogy and it does seem to largely be setting up the next books by introducing the characters, the world, and the threats involved. It’s not until close to the end that main character’s purpose becomes apparent, and that makes it really hard to discuss key plot points without spoilers, but I will attempt it.

The first chapter of Songs of the Earth introduces Gair, a novice Knight of the Order imprisoned for the crime of practicing magic. After months of torture and questioning, Gair is brought before the Order for judgment and has no hope for mercy. The holy book of Eador states, “Suffer ye not the life of a witch” and those following the Eadorian religion take this tenet very seriously. Gair is found guilty of witchcraft, and the sentence is death by burning. To the surprise of everyone, it is then announced that Gair’s life will be spared due to exhibiting good conduct prior to being exposed as a witch. Instead of death, Gair will be branded with the mark of witchcraft, excommunicated from the faith, and banished from the Order. He must receive this mark and be outside the boundaries of the Order by sundown, a difficult task considering his weakened state after his long imprisonment.

Luckily for Gair, he is found by a man named Alderan, who was sent to help him. With the help of Alderan, Gair manages to escape the border and the pursuit of a witchfinder. Over the course of their time together, Alderan claims to be a scholar, but he has a lot of knowledge of what Gair has been through with his magic, including his ability to hear the music. Alderan says there are others just like Gair who can hear the songs of the earth and do magic, and there was a time when they would not have been persecuted but respected for this. He may be able to introduce Gair to some, and Gair is eager to learn how to control his powers so he no longer has to fear them.

Songs of the Earth is a competently written debut, and I think both the author and the series have potential. Taken as a single book, I did think the novel itself was rather mediocre since the pacing, storytelling, and main character all could have been much better, though. In spite of my misgivings, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next two books were indeed better than this one due to the way this ended.

This book does have some good points, especially that it is well-written. It doesn’t have particularly flowery language, but it gets the point across clearly and does have some rather unique descriptions. The writing and dialogue flow smoothly, and I think these are some of the best parts of the novel. Songs of the Earth also has both a strong opening and a strong ending. The beginning, focusing on Gair’s sentencing for practicing witchcraft and Alderan’s mysterious appearance, is quite compelling. There is an immediate reason to have sympathy for Gair, as someone who is unfairly treated for an ability he cannot help, as well as a good reason to want to see Gair succeed in his escape. The small bits of Alderan’s perspective also add an air of mystery of who he really is and who sent him to help Gair. Likewise, the ending is quite impressive and means some big changes for Gair, who should be facing some interesting challenges in the rest of the trilogy. However, the middle is rather uneven, and it is not helped by the lack of both originality and a compelling main protagonist.

While there is some time spent with some other characters, most of the book is focused on Gair – first his escape from the Order and witchfinders, then his time spent learning magic. As a main character, Gair was rather bland and typical fantasy protagonist fare. He’s one of those characters who is the best at everything, whether that’s magic or fighting or attracting the ladies. The only person who doesn’t seem to like him is jealous of the fact that he’s better than he is. Gair is very nearly flawless, showing great strength of character as well. During his sentencing, Gair is strong and unbreakable, and he seems to get over what was done to him remarkably quickly. (To be fair, there did seem to be a lot of time spent traveling immediately following Gair’s release that was glazed over, but I would still think being imprisoned, questioned, and marked as a witch would have a longer-lasting, larger impact on him than it seemed to.) Despite his amazing aptitude for both magic and sword-fighting, Gair is very humble and tries to hide some of his rarer abilities from the other students. The only real flaws I can think of that Gair had was that he lost his temper once and he broke a school rule, but neither of these happened under circumstances that made him seem particularly flawed. Gair is a character who seemed too good to be true, and he didn’t have enough qualities that made him seem human and realistic.

There is definitely potential for Gair to become more interesting in the next book given that the game changed significantly for him at the end. In this book, Gair was very much a generic sort of character who was hard to sympathize with or relate to after the beginning of the book. In contrast, some of the other characters were much more original and varied, particularly Ansel. Ansel is the Preceptor of the Order whose health is failing, and he spends all his spare time trying to find the answers to some questions about the Order’s past. I’d also be interested in learning more about Alderan himself and Masen, the gatekeeper.

Like the main character, the plot was also somewhat conventional. There are religious orders that persecute what they fear, a mysterious history, and veils between worlds that are breaking down. The religious aspects seemed very heavily borrowed from Catholicism to the point where it’s hard to think of it as being a separate religion in a completely different world. I think if I’d read this book many years ago, it would have appealed to me much more for the parts dealing with religious persecution, knowledge as power, and history being rewritten. As it is, I’ve seen these done many times before so it needs to bring something new to the story to really capture my attention, whether that’s characters I can get involved with or a story that sweeps me away. This book failed to do either of those consistently. There were times I found myself eager to read on, but there were just as many times when I was bored by the story so it ended up evening out so I thought it was an average novel.

Overall, I thought Songs of the Earth was a rather flawed book, but the series has potential if the issues with pacing and characterization can be worked out. It had a strong opening and ending, but the middle was rather unevenly paced with a lot of familiar elements that didn’t have enough spark to make the book stand out. The writing was decent, but considering the rather dull main character and a storyline that couldn’t always maintain my interest, I ended up feeling like on its own The Songs of the Earth is all right. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I can’t say I didn’t like it, either.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Other Reviews:

Instead of writing one huge post of all the books I’m looking forward to in 2012 with info on them, I had decided to highlight some of these books in their own posts throughout the rest of 2011. I’ve decided to carry this feature forward into this year as I discover new books coming out this year that sound interesting and continue with books of 2013 as it gets closer to the end of the year.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth is a book I’m rather curious about because of the authors involved – Terry Pratchett, the prolific author of the hilarious Discworld series and many more books, and Stephen Baxter, award-winning science fiction author. While I’ve read many of Terry Pratchett’s books, I have yet to read Stephen Baxter, although I’ve wanted to read one of his books for a while now. (My husband tells me I should read Anti-Ice.)

The Long Earth will be released in hardcover and ebook in the US on June 19th, and it will be available in the UK on June 21st.

I was all excited because I thought I found an excerpt, but it turned out to be a blank page that will most likely have an excerpt later. However, three characters from The Long Earth were recently described on Terry Pratchett’s Facebook page (along with the cover for Dodger, another book by Terry Pratchett that is coming out this fall).

About The Long Earth:

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Junior cop Sally Jansson is called out to the house of Willis Lynsey, a reclusive scientist, for an animal-cruelty complaint: the man was seen forcing a horse in through the door of his home. Inside there is no horse. But Sally finds a kind of home-made utility belt. She straps this on — and ‘steps’ sideways into an America covered with virgin forest. Willis came here with equipment and animals, meaning to explore and colonise. And when Sally gets back, she finds Willis has put the secret of the belt on the internet. The great migration has begun…

The Long Earth: our Earth is but one of a chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side in a higher space of possibilities, each differing from its neighbours by a little (or a lot): an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger the worlds get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular version of Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently. But only our Earth hosts mankind.

Other Books of 2012:

The Spirit Rebellion
by Rachel Aaron
441pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 6.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.06/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5

The Spirit Rebellion is the second book in the Legend of Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron, following The Spirit Thief. The third book, The Spirit Eater, is also available now, and all three books were released in an omnibus entitled The Legend of Eli Monpress in February. Spirit’s Oath, a prequel novella about how Gin and Miranda met, was also released last month. The rest of the series will be completed this year with The Spirit War in June and Spirit’s End sometime in the fall of 2012.

Since this is a review of the second book in the series, there will be spoilers for the end of The Spirit Thief. I reviewed it here if you’re interested in learning more about the series starting with the first book.

The Spirit Court had sent Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette to capture Eli Monpress, the self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world who was worth 55,000 gold due to the great bounty on his head – a bounty he’s intent on seeing increase until he is worth more than anyone in history. Yet Miranda’s plans of capturing the famous thief and wizard went awry when it became clear there was a much greater evil to be concerned with than restraining Eli, who was more a mischievous inconvenience than an evil man. Miranda set aside her mission, and instead worked with Eli to save the people of Mellinor and its Great Spirit, which would have drowned Mellinor if Miranda did not offer to contain it. Eli got away, but Miranda was confident that she made the right decision.

However, the Spirit Court does not appear to agree with her priorities or understand that by becoming a vessel for the Great Spirit of Mellinor she saved both the spirit and the people of Mellinor. When Miranda returns to them, she is promptly arrested and charged with the crime of conspiring with Eli Monpress to steal the Great Spirit of Mellinor for her own. She and Master Banage, who has been preparing Miranda to succeed him, both recognize that this is purely a political move made by one of Banage’s enemies. That doesn’t change the fact that Miranda must go to trial, although she has been offered a way out – if she agrees not to confirm or deny her guilt at her trial, she’ll be made a Tower Keeper, which will make her immune to the worst outcomes even if she is found guilty.

Miranda is outraged and refuses to accept these terms if it means she cannot tell the truth about what happened in Mellinor. Despite testimony from the Great Spirit himself, Miranda is found guilty at her trial and banished from the Spirit Court. Her banishment means that all her promises made in the name of the Court no longer apply, including the contracts she made with her spirits. Miranda’s honor forces her to choose to fight for her spirits and the promise she made to them, and she flees the court with her spirits and her ghosthound, Gin. Even exiled, Miranda is found by a spirit who requests her help. All is not right in Gaol, and she may be the only one with the ability to make it right.

Meanwhile, Eli is on a path that will also lead him to Gaol. In return for a replacement for Nico’s jacket, the creator of the new jacket asks for a favor instead of money from Eli’s abundant funds. To pay for the jacket, Eli is supposed to obtain a specific type of sword that is very rare. Eli is never one to turn down a challenge and when he learns one of these swords is being held in the supposedly thief-proof home of the Duke of Gaol, he can’t resist the opportunity to prove this claim false.

The Spirit Thief was a fun fantasy adventure that piqued my interest about the rest of the series. While it was somewhat traditional in some ways, it did offer a unique setting in which all objects had spirits and wizards were those who could communicate with these spirits. It had a few intriguing hints about the larger world with the glimpses of the League of Storms and the White Lady. By the end, I was invested in two of the characters – Eli, the charismatic thief and wizard who could convince nearly anyone or anything to do his will, and Miranda, an honorable representative of the Spirit Court of wizards assigned the task of capturing Eli. I had high hopes that the next book in the series would be even better.

While the general consensus seems to be that it is a better book, I thought The Spirit Thief worked better as a first book than The Spirit Rebellion did as a second book. The Spirit Thief gave me all the right ingredients to make me want to continue reading the series, and even though the sequel was definitely enjoyable, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll continue the series. I’m certainly not opposed to reading the next book since I really did have fun with this one – it’s more a matter of wanting more depth in the characters by the time I reach the second book in the series. With all the series I’ve started and the books I want to read, I need a little more to convince me a series is worth continuing, although there was enough I liked about this book that I’m not ruling out reading the third book either.

Some of the mysteries mentioned in the first book are built upon in this one, and I was completely satisfied with how much was revealed. The Spirit Rebellion gives us more about the White Lady, Eli’s past and family history, politics in the Spirit Court, demonseeds, and the Heart of War. The information given struck a great balance between giving readers more information but leaving out enough that there is still plenty to explore in the next books.

While the new knowledge gained worked for me completely, the pacing was a little bit uneven. It had a very strong start with some interesting implications about Eli’s past right in the prologue and Miranda’s homecoming and trial. Eli’s part of the story took a while to really get going for me, though, since he wasn’t as vibrant as in The Spirit Thief. Instead of talking to spirits, antagonizing Miranda, and pulling off heists, he, Nico, and Josef started the book by getting Nico a new jacket. I can completely understand why some time was spent on this since a lot of what we learned about demonseeds took place in these sections, but I did find them a little dull. Out of his party, Eli is the only one who really has personality so I’d much prefer reading about one of Eli’s schemes to learning more about Nico or Josef.

Once Eli did begin focusing on a new plan, his parts were much better, particularly once he met up with Miranda closer to the end. The two of them are great together, and I love how Miranda hasn’t given up on capturing  him. The way they clash is so much fun – they have such a similar mindset when it comes to spirits, yet Eli is so loose about other things (like thievery) and Miranda is so much more straight-laced and honorable. (I do want to note that when I say they are great together, this has nothing to do with romance or what seems like a potential romance in the works. I’ve seen a lot of people say they thought this was a romance from the covers so I just want to clarify that there has been no romance at all in these books so far.)

As with the first book, I still like both Eli and Miranda a lot as characters and that’s the major reason I might read the third book. Unfortunately, they are the only characters who are at all compelling and I didn’t think any more dimension was added to their characters than in the first book. Miranda was shown to have a devotion to duty and honor in the first book, and she still does. She does struggle with what it means to truly serve the spirits, but her character still seems to be defined by loyalty, dutifulness, and competence without any other defining characteristics. Likewise, Eli continues to be self-assured and quite fun to be around, but we also don’t learn a whole lot about him as a person that’s new. There is more learned about his past, certainly, but not a lot more about who Eli really is. It’s emphasized more that he does not believe in forcing spirits to do one’s will, but that was shown in the first book. While I enjoy reading about both of them, they weren’t incredibly deep characters to begin with and I would like to see more depth with both of them.

Josef and Nico had a little more time in the spotlight in this book, but they both really need to be fleshed out a little more if they’re going to be important characters with their own scenes apart from Eli. Josef is still the swordsman and Nico’s still a somewhat quiet girl with a growing demonic problem. More is explored about the parts that make them special – Josef’s reluctance to use his magic sword and what it means for Nico to harbor a demon. None of this gives them more personality or makes them truly shine as characters, though.

The Spirit Rebellion is an entertaining book, although it does have a few slow parts once it gets past the very beginning. It had more about the interesting plot points and setting that I wanted. However, I would have liked a little more from the characters, despite the fact that I still really like both Eli and Miranda. It also suffered a little from the lack of time spent with Miranda and Eli together that was so enjoyable in the first book, and my favorite parts were after the two met again closer to the end. While it was fun to read, I’m not sure The Spirit Rebellion gave me quite enough reason to continue with the series – but I’m certainly not ready to rule out the possibility of reading the next book, either!

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt on Amazon

Other Reviews:

Sorry that it’s been quiet this week. I’ve been working on a project for next month that took up most of my spare time this past week, but more about that will come later!

This week I have two books that came in to tell you about. Actually, I’ve already talked about one of them before because it was one of my most anticipated books of 2012, so I’ll just point you to the post on Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear for more information on that one. The finished hardcover copy showed up this week, and it is a gorgeous book. It will be released on March 27 and since I wrote the post I just referred you to an excerpt from Range of Ghosts has gone up at tor.com. I’m reading this after I finish This Is Not a Game.

I haven’t talked about the other book here before, though, so here it is.

The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. BeaulieuThe Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

I got this book because it is on my wishlist and I saw the Kindle version was free. This was yesterday and it is still free today so if you have a Kindle you may want to take a look at it. If you don’t, you can still download the first 15 chapters of The Winds of Khalakovo and read them to see if it’s something you’d like.

This is a debut novel and the first book in The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. The second book, The Straits of Galahesh, will be released on April 3rd. The first fifteen chapters of The Straits of Galahesh are also available to read for free.

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo…