Tag Archives: Fantasy

Tea and Jeopardy 54 – Kate Elliot visits the tea lair

teaandjeopardy_geekplanet-300x300In this episode, the brilliant author Kate Elliott visits Emma in the tea lair. They discuss outrigger canoe racing, living with volcanoes and how we manage anxiety as writers.

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Credits for the sounds effects used in this episode can be found here.

Tea and Jeopardy 40 – A chat with Peter V Brett

teaandjeopardy_geekplanet-300x300The lovely Peter V Brett comes to the Tea Lair to talk books, knives and post apocalyptic cloning.

You can listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here.

If you’re interested in supporting Tea and Jeopardy and would like to join the Order of the Sacred Teacup, our Patreon page is here.

If you’d like to catch up on old episodes, there’s a full index here.

Enjoy!

Good Things – Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Quest coverI’m not even going to pretend that this is anything other than a love letter to the glory of Robin Hobb’s writing.

Having read Assassin’s Apprentice and loved it, and then having read Royal Assassin and loved it even more, I was fairly confident coming to Assassin’s Quest.

It had me by the unmentionables from pretty much the first page.

So, all the things I loved in the previous books are present here. Fantastic writing, good twists and an ever-present sense of tension that you occasionally get spared from but are never allowed to completely forget.

But above all else, it’s the characters. Robin Hobb’s characters are things of beauty. Nuanced, flawed, and so utterly believable. She made me love them all, except for the ones I was supposed to hate, and even then, they were painted as real, three dimensional things.

Even Robin Hobb’s animals have more personality than most other Fantasy protagonists.

*takes a moment to quietly contemplate Nighteyes*

It’s also epic in length, about twice the size of the book 1 and I never once felt like things were dragging. There’s also a real sense that things are earned in this series. Wounds persist, psychological scars become permanent character features and things lost are rarely recovered. In fact, far more often than not, terrible things happen but when there is a victory for the Fitz or his allies it is all the sweeter for it.

Robin Hobb is now, without doubt, my favourite fantasy writer. The writing is so good and the characters so compelling that they could be washing the dishes and I’d still be glued to the page.

Next stop: Liveship Traders.

Good Things: The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

IronGhost_v2-jpg-jpg-196x300Here’s a quick relatively spoiler free part review / part enthuse about the Iron Ghost by Jen Williams.

Around this time last year I wrote one of these for The Copper Promise. If you haven’t read that yet, do so immediately.

In short, I loved this book, and I’ve been trying to think about why. There are loads of fun fantasy monsters, fights and all the magical shenanigans that you might expect. The characters are fun and well-drawn and definitely one of the major appeals of the book for me. They’re still human (aside from the ones that aren’t) and they still screw up often. Sometimes they do wonderful and cool things though I did spend much of my time shaking my head at Sebastian, a lesser amount of time shaking my head at Frith and surprisingly little time shaking my head at Wydrin (which is worrying) but only because I’ve grown fond of them.

The villains are great too. In a really, really nasty kind of way. And maybe I’ve just got a poor memory but I don’t recall having so many moments of horror or exclaiming: “Euw!” when I read The Copper Promise.

But the thing about The Iron Ghost, the thing that recommends it most highly for me is that it is just so damn readable. The book is a good size and weight, ideal for blocking draughts or beating zombies to death, but I tore through it as if it were a thing half the size.

It’s fun, compelling, and just a little bit saucy. What’s not to love?

Also: BEST TAG LINE EVER!

Good things: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Royal AssassinHere’s a spoiler free part review, part enthuse about Royal Assassin.

You probably don’t need me to tell you how great this book is but I'm going to have a go anyway just in case. Royal Assassin is the sequel to Assassin’s Apprentice which I also rather liked.

There’s always a fear when reading the next part of a series you love, that the writer has already peaked and that it won’t be quite as good. No worries here though, Royal Assassin is an incredible work, in fact I enjoyed it even more than the previous book.

So why is it so good? It’s not like there are things here that have never been done before. It’s just that they’re rarely done so well. I loved the characters (except for the ones I hated but that was with such a passion it was its own kind of enjoyment). I worried for them (a lot). I delighted in their successes and felt sad for their losses.

The villains in the book are also a standout, terrifying and mysterious in one case and wonderfully despicable in the other.

I admired the rhythm of the book too, the sprinkling of humour and happier moments, both giving relief from the constant threat but also heightening it.

And that’s it really. Brilliant characters, incredible storytelling and a good degree of twists and turns.

Like its predecessor, I didn’t find it an easy read. The book is tense and a lot of bad things happen to good people everybody. I also found that even when I wasn’t reading it, a part of the book refused to let me go until I’d finished it.

If you haven’t read it please do so that the next time I see you we can jump up and down together about how great it is.

Thanks!

Good things: Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

18th Feb Assassins Apprentice PB inddHere’s my spoiler-free, part review, part enthuse about Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb:

I’m a little late to this party as the book came out in 1995 but in this case, better late than never is certainly true.

It’s good.  Really good. Imagine your favourite superlatives and ladle them liberally onto this book. Repeat until thoroughly excited.

Assassin’s Apprentice is quite simply one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. It’s beautifully written, accessible, character driven, nuanced, with a world that makes sense, full of twists and turns.

A word of warning: heart strings are pulled without mercy and things are not always easy for our protagonist so don’t pick this up when you want mindless fun or back to back silly fights.

I’ll definitely be reading the sequel(s) but I’m deliberately going to wait before I do to savour the anticipation.

If you haven’t already, read it!

Good Things: Dreamwalker

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dreamwalker, the first in a fantasy series by James Oswald. This post is part enthuse, part review, guaranteed spoiler free.

This book has many of the elements you would expect in a fantasy novel: feuding royals, political struggles between different orders, murder, magic, magic swords of light (yay!), dragons, love, villains, heroes and sinister forces moving in the background.

Two things set it apart for me. The first is how little fighting there is and I mean that in a good way. I’ve read a lot of books lately that rely on constant combat to provide the thrills but here it is the characters and the story that draw you in.

The second is the pace of the book. It felt gentle, giving time for me to get attached to the characters and their lives before messing with them. And once it had me, I read through to the end in one sitting.

It was also nice to see Welsh names making an appearance.

So if you fancy something a bit more enchanting and a little less grim, I’d recommend giving it a look.

Confessions of a Squee Killer

I came across a set of tweets from Jen Williams this morning…

Jen Williams @sennydreadful

I will never understand the urge to harsh a squee.

Jen Williams @sennydreadful

you see someone enthusing about something they love. You think, "I know, I'll tell them I think it's shit. They'll appreciate that."

Jen Williams @sennydreadful

Or, just don't. People love different things. It's okay.

 

I agree with completely with what’s being said here. I do. I’m not a monster or anything*. But… I think I can understand it. There have been times when I see people raving about a film or book, saying the exact opposite of what I feel, and the urge to kill their squee is powerful.

Just before I go on, when I’m talking about a ‘squee’ in this post, I’m referring to a demonstration of love and excitement about something, usually connected to science fiction or fantasy in some way.

I can’t speak for squee killers everywhere but for me, encountering a squee I don’t understand can be a painful experience, creating a sense of distance between me and person doing the squeeing.

I’m used to not fitting in. Superheroes and magic and giant robots are enjoying a time of relatively mainstream cool these days but it was not always so. Growing up, I learned to be careful with who I shared my passions with and those friends who also loved things like Star Wars, Babylon 5, Dungeons and Dragons, Amber, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and running around the woods in silly costumes were rare jewels indeed.

And with those friends and the wider geek community I have a feeling of belonging that I often don’t in the wider world.

I’m used to people not getting what I love but when those people are in circles that I consider to be ‘my community’ or ‘my tribe’ it can be almost unbearable.

Conversely, when people I respect squee about something I think is terrible, it’s also unbearable. I feel like maybe I don’t understand them after all, maybe they don’t understand me.

That’s when the Dark Side become tempting.

Perhaps, it whispers, if you were to point out to them why the thing they love is rubbish, they’ll realise their mistake and then unity will return.

Somehow, their squee makes me feel insecure. And I think that’s the point of all this. Squee killers are moving from a place of insecurity because it’s rare that they simply offer their opinion with a comment like:

“Yes, the effects in Prometheus were excellent, although I must admit I found the representation of the scientists hard to believe and that made it harder for me to suspend disbelief.”

Instead going for something like:

“Prometheus sucks in every way! The plot is rubbish, the characters laughable. And how did she run with that injury? And why didn’t she run sideways! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! And if you think otherwise you’re a ****weasel!”

Ahem.

I think this is because a squee comes from the heart. It’s a primal thing. And geeks don’t just like their fiction, they adore it. More than that I think we identify with it. For me, it is far more than just entertainment. I often hold fiction and the creators of said fiction up to my own moral standards and that can make me a tough audience.

But when I enjoy fiction, it feeds me in a deep way. Or it makes me feel warm and smile. Sometimes I actually feel it changing me as I read it and when that happens I want to share those good vibes.

I want to squee.

My name is Peter Newman and I’ve gone ten months since my last squee kill.

 

*Before alcohol only.

Good Things: The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

Check out the cover. It's gorgeous.

Check out the cover. It's gorgeous.

Over the last few years there have been loads of great things (books, films, blogs, people) that I have meant to blog about and not got round to. So, in a very relaxed way I’ve decided to start by talking about a book I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading: The Copper Promise by Jen Williams.

So this is part enthuse, part review though it’ll be spoiler free I promise.

First a disclaimer: I have met the author and imbibed alcohol in her presence.

Right, onto the review. The Copper Promise is a fantasy novel and is brilliant. The characters are recognisably fantasy enough to feel immediately comfortable while being different enough to feel fresh. Most importantly I liked them and cared for them, even when they screw up. And they screw up quite often.

There’s magic, gods, monsters, taverns, pirates, knights, epic battles, dungeons, mysterious caves, wise women, mystics, demons, cannibals, dragons, tons of bad guys, an abundance of scars and a mild hint of sauce.*

The writing is pacey and fresh, funny at times but also serious enough to feel tense as well.

Above all, this is fun**. The Copper Promise is not a short book but I tore through it, often muttering to myself things like ‘just one more chapter…’

I’m loath to say more as I hate spoilers*** and you can read blurbs for yourself. But go read it. It’s brilliant.

If you like GIF’s Andrew Reid’s review is also well worth checking out.

 

*Seriously, what’s not to like?

**I almost didn’t write this because the word fun is sometimes used for things that are rough round the edges. This isn’t. In fact the ‘fun’ here is well crafted and probably took a ton of work to achieve.

***Which is why I’m not a pro book reviewer. I’d suck.

Pointy Problem

This is the third story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and was inspired by a prompt sent in by John Wiswell (aka @Wiswell).

If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here. Remember I'll only accept prompts that come in before the end of September.

 

“Where’s my normal doctor?” asked Yaser.

The small, suited stranger smiled apologetically. “I’m afraid they’re not available at the moment.”

“Doctor Evania didn’t want to see me did she?” Yaser flicked his head right, then left. “This always happens. She’s the third one! Is it me? Is it something I said?”

“No, no, nothing like that. Why don’t you come in?”

Yaser cantered nervously in the doorway. “I don’t see how you’re going to do the operation in here.”

“Operation?”

“Yeah, I need you to get this thing off of me! It’s driving me crazy!”

“Let’s start again shall we. Why don’t you come in and sit down.”

Yaser trotted in and sat awkwardly on the couch.

“Much better. Now, my name is Doctor Moriba. I understand you’ve been having problems for,” he glanced at his notes. “Six months now?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s right.”

“Would you mind telling me how it started?”

“Again? I’ve been over this two times already.”

Moriba’s eyes were gentle behind his glasses. “I understand. It must be very irritating for you but I prefer to hear it straight from the…” he coughed. “I’d rather hear it first-hand.”

“Alright, fine. So it was back in November. It was cold last year, lots of black ice. There were all kinds of weirdos about so I was careful. I’d gone to see Janice.”

“Janice?”

“Yeah I know, ugly name. Poor kid’s got a tough start there. But don’t let that fool you. She’s a beauty, pure you know, like the ones in the stories, a real princess.”

“I’ve never heard of a Princess Janice.”

“Of course you haven’t, nobody has. That’s not her true name.”

“I see. And why were you going there?”

“You ask lots of questions, I like that, makes me feel like you’re paying attention. Evania never said anything. I’d just talk for hours and hours, trying to fill the gap, keep things nice and she’d just stare at me. Now I think about it she was one creepy lady.”

“You were telling me about your reason for visiting Janice.”

Yaser lifted his head proudly. “I’m her special friend that nobody knows about. I normally stop by every three months or so.”

“But something went wrong this time?”

“I walked the rainbow path through to her room like normal. The nightlight was on which was a shame as I could see the crappy bear pictures her mum had hung up everywhere. Seriously these parents have no class, no class at all. Janice was awake and smiling. She has the cutest smile. She’s going to be a total prince slayer when she grows up. So I go over and lower my head respectfully being careful not to poke her with my horn. And then…”

“And then?”

Yaser’s eyes screwed shut. “She likes to shake it up and down, like a handshake. I’m expecting to feel her little fingers pull my head up an inch, then down an inch and repeat three times. It’s our little ritual. But she doesn’t do that and after a while I look up and she’s giggling and I don’t understand and then I see it!”

Moriba’s pen paused over the paper, waiting patiently.

“She’s put a pencil sharpener on the end of my horn! A frigging pencil sharpener! Who leaves a pencil sharpener with a four year old for goodness sakes! Those things have blades. She could have killed herself!” Yaser tossed his head angrily. “I try everything to get the bloody thing off; jumping, shaking, butter, everything! But it won’t budge. You gotta help me doc, I’m going out of my mind here. I need an operation.”

Moriba said calmly, “Yaser, look up to the top of your horn and tell me what you see.”

“I see a silver pencil sharpener wedged on and…oh my stars, is that rust on the blade? I think I’m going to be sick. You gotta operate now!”

“We did operate. Look again. There’s nothing there.”

“It’s invisible!”

“It’s not invisible. There’s nothing there.”

“Then why can I still feel it?”

“It’s a phantom sensation, caused by the trauma. You’ve convinced yourself that it’s still present even when the evidence tells you otherwise.”

Yaser stood up. “You’re just a bad as the others. If you’re not going to help me the least you can do is give me some medicine for the pain.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Why don’t we try something else?”

“Not the chant!”

Moriba ignored the eye rolling. “Repeat after me: I am a happy Unicorn.”

“I am a happy Unicorn.”

“My horn is pure and undamaged.”

“My horn is…Oh forget it. I need pills, strong ones.”

“I’m sorry, that wouldn’t be right.”

“Come on Doc, I’ll make it worth your while.”

“No I’m sorry.”

“I can make you live longer. You don’t fancy a few extra years? Or I could help you find your true love. All I need is a few tabs of the good stuff.”

“I’m already married.”

“Doc, I’m not talking about marriage I’m talking about love. Tell you what, you pick who you want your true love to be and I’ll make them fall for you. Who do you like?”

“No, this is completely inappropriate.”

“Kylie Minogue? Angelina Jolie?”

“Please stop.”

Yaser closed his eyes, tilting his head to listen better. “Ah, I’m getting it now! You like them younger. Sorry, I’d just thought given your age that, never mind, Megan Fox it is! She’s yours, just give me the pills!”

Moriba sighed sadly and pulled a bottle from his desk. “Here, take two.”

Yaser gulped them down without water. “Thanks Doc, I think you and I might get on after all.” He turned and cantered towards the door, lurched three paces to the right and passed out.

After Moriba called security he sat down to complete his notes. Delusional Unicorns were the worst liars but he’d check to see if Janice was a princess, just in case.

 

(Original prompt: I would very much appreciate a flash fiction about a unicorn that got itself stuck in a pencil sharpener and suffering panic attacks over how to dislodge the thing.)