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April 3, 2019

After finishing Robin Hobb’s Golden Fool, my general reaction was that, in the best way possible, I’d been here before.
 

The second book in Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy bears more than a passing resemblance to Royal Assassin, the second book in her Farseer trilogy. In each, Fitz juggles multiple responsibilities while trying to face down a variety of potential threats. (In Golden Fool, the threats take the form of Piebald radicals from the previous book, Outislanders who preyed upon the Si...

March 15, 2019

Reading some authors (Jim Butcher, for example) is like downing a shot: the experience is fast and fiery, with no time to catch your breath before you’re done. Reading other authors is like sipping something mellower and savoring the flavor. Robin Hobb is my favorite vintage for this.
 

I loved her Farseer Trilogy, but I’d been delaying starting her next one because I knew how fully it would suck me in. Waiting didn’t lessen its hold: I read most of Fool’s Errand, the 670-page opening t...

February 5, 2019

Lindsay Buroker is a prolific indie author and co-host of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast. Since I’ve been listening to her marketing advice for several years now, I figured it was time to check out her craft by reading one of her books: The Emperor’s Edge, the first book in the series of the same name. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.
 

Amaranthe Lokdon, the main character, is one of the few female enforcers patrolling the capital city of the Turgonian Emp...

December 12, 2018

Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana is the best-written fantasy I’ve read in a while.
 

It wasn’t just the prose that got me (although Kay’s phrasing is often gorgeous). I loved the setup: instead of having one villain threatening to take over the known world, Kay has two, both sorcerers. And they’ve already divided up the Palm, a hand-shaped peninsula based on the boot of early Renaissance Italy. The resulting balance is precarious. “Today only the power of one keeps the magic of the other from b...

November 2, 2018

It’s hard to do better than Naomi Novik when you want a good historical fantasy.
 

Spinning Silver, her latest offering, is a riff on Rumpelstiltskin set in medieval Russia. Miryem, the daughter of a Jewish moneylender, takes up her father’s trade and finds she’s shrewd enough to turn pennies into silver and silver into gold. Her success attracts the attention of the Staryk King, the manifestation of Russian winter. He wants her to make gold for him, and eventually forces her into being...

August 6, 2018

Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest marks the end of what has become one of my favorite fantasy trilogies.
 

The story picks up where the second book, Royal Assassin, left off. The king is dead, slain by treachery. Fitz is thought to be dead too, and he’s broken again, this time in mind as much as body. (Hobb is rather fond of battering her protagonist.) After a long convalescence, Fitz sets out to avenge the king and find his true heir.
 

But the pacing remains slow, with a clear goal and som...

July 10, 2018

I still can’t put my finger on why I like Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy so much.
 

Sure, the magic system is fun. In Royal Assassin, the second entry in the series, we learn more about the Wit (telepathy with animals), the Skill (telepathy with people), and various other magics. And the world-building is intriguing. Hobb does an excellent job of weaving in legends of the mighty Elderlings so that, when they finally become a story focus, pursuing them doesn’t seem forced.
 

But there’s no...

June 2, 2018

What if names were designed to be destiny, determining which traits people had and how they acted? And what if you didn’t have a name, and people just called you “Boy” and “Bastard?” Who would you become?
 

That’s the initial question posed by Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, an excellent epic fantasy. Commoners in her story don’t get directives for names. Royalty do, though, and strive to live up to them. King Taker was a conqueror, King Shrewd a clever ruler, and Prince Chivalry a...

April 14, 2018

The Ascenders comes out today! The first chapter is below. Enjoy!
 

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The infernal pig shot out of Chase’s hands, scrabbling further into the woods and away from the colony.
 

Damn it all, but that sow was slippery.
 

Chase, having fallen onto the muddiest portion of the trail when the swine eluded his grasp (again!), picked his stout frame off the ground and sprinted in pursuit.
 

“Mila!” he shouted. “You blasted ball of bacon, come back here!”
 

That was two hours of chasing this pig...

April 7, 2018

The Girl with Ghost Eyes might be the first cultural fantasy I’ve read.
 

M. H. Boroson’s novel is packed with plenty of history too. The story is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown at the end of the nineteenth century. And there are references to legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act and events like the California Gold Rush.
 

But it’s the wealth of cultural detail that makes this book so unique.

The protagonist is a Chinese American immigrant named Xian Li-lin. She’s daughter to Chin...

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I write mostly speculative fiction. Usually fantasy, with historical elements mixed in. Sometimes there's a bit of mystery too, or (shhh!) even a little romance.

 

But it's weird—it's always weird. Consider yourself warned.

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