May 2021

Wyrd and Wonder is almost finished. I had a blast reading reviews, challenge responses, discussions, and all the other posts. Huge thanks to the hosts imyril, Jorie, and Lisa!

I reviewed five books and enjoyed them all:

K. C. Hunter: Kana Cold and the Case of the Shinigami

Genevieve Cogman: The Secret Chapter

Dominik Parisien, Navah Wolfe ed.: The Mythic Dream

C. J. Cherryh: The Goblin Mirror

Martha Wells: City of Bones

My favorite was Cogman’s Secret Chapter which was just full of delightful dragon-fae banter and our heroes had to take part in a heist!

I also reviewed three comics:

Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602: The New World and the Fantastick Four

The Brave And The Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman

The Brave and the Bold comic was a surprisingly entertaining story where Batman and Wonder Woman are trying to solve the murder of a Celtic god. I read the first 1602 comic when it first came out and I remembered it surprisingly well. Despite the depressing lack of female characters, I mostly enjoyed it, too.

During May I borrowed Assassin’s Creed: Origins from the library and I’ve just started to play it. It seems very entertaining, so far, even though the beginning was quite confusing. The main character is a Medjay, one of the Pharaoh’s elite guards… and he goes around killing the Pharaoh’s guards and people? It was explaing when the second chapter started, though.

I also did some challenge prompts:

Top Ten Recent Fantasy Reads

Wyrd and Wonder: Fly my pretties

Wyrd and Wonder: Fantasy Around the World

Wyrd and Wonder: Fantasy around the World, part 2

Wyrd and Wonder prompt: Fantasy voices around the world

Throwback Thursday

I’m already looking forward to next year! And of course SciFi Month in November!

A stand-alone fantasy book set in a post-apocalyptic world.

Publication year: 1996
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 23 minutes
Narrator: Kyle McCarley

Most of the world is a desert called the Waste. The biggest remaining city is Charisat: a great place if you’re rich and local but not so good if you’re poor, a foreigner, or non-human. Khat is all three: he a krisman, a species which the Ancients created to survive the desert. However, many humans think that the krismen don’t have souls and so they shun the krismen. But not all humans do that. Khat’s business partner in their relic hunting business is a human Sagai. He’s also a foreigner so they banded together for mutual survival but they’re now loyal friends.

A wealthy man hires Khat to find a Remnant, a place left behind by the Ancients when they vanished. Khat is paranoid but he, Sagai, and Sagai’s family need to eat, so Khat takes the job. Of course, it turned to be quite different than he expected.

The other POV character is Elen, a young female Warder, a very high-ranking police officer of sorts. The Warders have magical powers and they’re recruited from the highest level patricians, so they don’t have many dealings among any lower-class people. Elen has quite a few preconceptions about them. It’s a shock to her to realize that her ideas aren’t always true. But she’s also quick to learn. She’s the only female Warder and so she sometimes attracts unwanted attention. She’s a trained fighter, too.

Khat has a dark past that haunts him. It’s very hard for him to trust anyone. In fact, the only people he trusts are Sagai, his family, and his widowed landlady and her kids. Khat defends them fiercely. He distrusts all high-class people and expects nothing but prejudice from humans and is rarely disappointed. But he’s also very good at his job, which a relic hunter. In this world, ancient relics are one of the biggest merchandise. Khat is very good at identifying if items are actual relics or fakes and he knows whom to sell them. He’s also very good at negotiation.

The city is a dystopia. Foreigners and non-citizens are subjected to harsh and draconic rules. On the other hand, scholars are respected. This is a fascinating city and world, and Welles takes her time to introduce them.

I mostly enjoyed the book. Relic hunting is a fascinating business. I also enjoyed the characters. Even though both Elen and Khat started as stereotypical people, they didn’t stay that way. I also really enjoyed Sagai and his family and the landlady’s family. Even though Khat isn’t related to them, they’re very much a tight family unit.

The plot takes a while to get going but it was worth it, for me at least.

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication year: 1992
Format: print

Page count: 308

Maggiar is a small and rural kingdom. Lately, it’s in trouble and king Stani’s old (and only) wizard Karoly insists that he must seek advice from his witch-sister. Nobody knew he has a sister or that she lives over the mountain where nobody ever goes. Except that Stani’s mother came from a country over the mountain. Trolls and goblins haunt the forests.

Stani agrees to send Karoly with the escort of guards, the master huntsman, and Stani’s two eldest sons. Bogdan is the heir, a brash and proud young man. Tamas is the middle son, quiet and studious. The youngest Yuri is just fourteen and over his protests, he needs to stay. Tamas doesn’t want to take his foundling dog, so he makes Yuri promise to look after him.

The journey up the mountain is hard. The weather is constantly against the small group and Karoly behaves oddly, speaking rarely and then in riddles. When they near Karoly’s sister’s tower, they are ambushed.

Meanwhile, Tamas’ dog runs away and Yuri decides to follow him. Yuri thinks that the dog is following Tamaes, so Yuri takes his pony and little provisions and follows the group.

Russian mythology has clearly influenced this story. The goblins and trolls aren’t what you’ll find in a European-inspired fantasy. Also, while the story has a lot of magic, it’s not clear-cut spell casting. It’s dreams and not being able to do or think what you want to. Willing things to happen and other people’s will is against you. It wasn’t really clear in the book, either.

Tamas and Yuri are the two main POV characters. Both are very young and trying to understand what’s happening around them. Tamas is trying to figure out who he can trust and that’s not easy. But he thinks things through rather than brashly leaping to conclusions. Yuri knows how to take care of himself in the woods, even though this is the first time he’s done it alone. He’s scared but determined to find the dog and later to find his brothers. For his age, he’s very brave. The third POV character is the master huntsman Nikolai, an experienced woodsman who is trying his best to protect the foolish people under his care. The other characters are quite distinctive, even the dead ones.

Most of the book has a claustrophobic, fearful atmosphere. The rambling, repetitive style adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s not very clear in places.

I liked the characters and the world, but the writing style didn’t really work for me.

Wyrd & Wonder’s 2021 prompt today is ”A backlist title you love or would love to read”.

This was very hard because most of my TBR is backlist and so are, of course, the books I’ve read.

But I chose Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs because I enjoyed it and the whole Divine Cities trilogy a lot.

Bulikov and Saypur: two cities which inhabitants hate each other with passion but which are linked by the past, present, and mostly likely by the future as well.

The story isn’t set in a typical fantasy landscape of horses and chosen ones, but in a more modern city where cars and firearms are typical, at least for the wealthier people, and photography is the new hot thing. Yet, some magic still works, too.

Shara Thivani from Saypur arrives to Bulikov to find out who has murdered her dear and respected friend Dr. Efrem Pangyui. Pangyui was a historian passionately interested in the Continent and especially in the gods. Shara suspects at first that the locals have killed him but the further she digs the more she finds unexpected clues. She’s a trusted operative (meaning: spy) for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which deals with Continental matters, especially with the remnants the gods have left behind: items, even creatures which shouldn’t exist. She is also something of a historian, like Pangyui but she has to be loyal to Saypur and not to truth or facts. Yet, it seems that even the minister of Foreign Affairs, who is Shara’s aunt, doesn’t trust her anymore.

Shara is a great character and so is her “secretary” the Northern barbarian Sigrud. He’s a one-eyed giant of few words but very decisive action. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Bulikov governor Turyin Mulaghesh, who was a colonel before she was sent to exile in Bulikov where she has to enforce policies she doesn’t care for. And Mulaghesh is a main character in the next book, the City of Blades.

Collects The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman issues 1-6.

Writer: Liam Sharpe

Artist: Liam Sharpe

Bruce and Diana must find out who killed King Elthe of the Formors.

Diana is taking a deserved vacation with Steve Trevor. They’re in bed when the old Celtic god Lord Cernunnos appears through a magical portal. He wants Diana to negotiate peace between two warring factions of old gods: the demonic-looking Fomorians and the more human-seeming De Dannan. They have hidden away from humans in Tir Na Nog for hundreds of years. But they’ve become restless and the home has become a prison for them. They are old enemies and now they’ve started fighting again. Cernunnos is the only one who can leave Tir Na Nog. Diana agrees to help.

Meanwhile, something strange is going on in the Irish Quarter of Gotham City. The people there seem lethargic and haunted. Batman of course investigates and strange dreams or spirits haunt him, too.

The third plot thread is around an old homeless Irish man who has lost everything pursuing old Irish legends.

When Cernunnos takes Diana to Tir Na Nog, they find out that king Elatha is dead, murdered. Elatha is the king of the Fomors although he looks like a human. Both his people and the De Dannan loved and respected him. Elatha’s right-hand man captain Furf blames the boy who found the king. However, Diana manages to stop the lynching of the boy and calls for a proper investigation. Only Batman can find out the culprit.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed it a lot. The art is gorgeous with lots of little details and full-page panels.

The story has a narrator who constantly refers to bad things happening in the future, but we don’t find out who that is until the end. Sharpe draws from the Irish myths and it really shows here. On the other hand, the new characters leave Bruce and Diana in their shadow, which clearly displeased many readers. The story also starts slowly with Cernunnos explaining the history of the two factions to Diana. Also, the ending was very open, begging for continuation.

The two warring factions are quick to take offense and use any excuse to fight. Diana must continually play peace-maker between them which was nice. Bruce insists that magic is just science they don’t know yet, which is very much in character for him.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are running again a very interesting Kickstarter. This time Rusch’s Diving Universe science fiction series continues with a new book, The Chase. 13 more days to go.

It’s already funded and reached the second stretch goal, so people backing it will get a new Diving Universe short story and Rusch’s SF novella Coolhunting. The pledges include the Colliding Worlds SF short story series and for writers How to write spaceships workshop.

A short story collection which has fantasy and SF retellings of myths from around the world.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Narrator: Samantha Desz

From Egypt to India to Ireland, these 18 stories take various myths and reshape them. I don’t know all the original tales, and sometimes I recognized it near the end, but that didn’t me stop from enjoying these stories. Surprisingly many of them are a mixture of fantasy and SF. Subgenres range from ghost stories to mythic fantasy to cyberpunk to space opera. It even has two horror stories.

Seanan McGuire: “Phantoms of the Midway.” Aracely has lived her whole life in a traveling circus. Her mom has forbidden her to go outside the circus, but Aracely wants to see the world. One day, she walks outside and meets a girl whose face is half-burned.

Ann Leckie: “The Justified.” Het is one of the Immortals. She has left behind her Sovereign and is content living alone on a cold planet. Then one of her sibs finds her. The Sovereign needs Het again. Reluctantly, Het returns and the Sovereign commands her to kill humans because of a small slight.

T. Kingfisher: “Fisher-Bird.” A kingfisher bird meets a huge, shaggy man who calls himself the Stronger. He has godblood in him and he’s in trouble. He can understand the bird, so the bird offers him some advice.

Rebecca Roanhorse: “A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy.” A Native American movie star’s girlfriend, Cherry, has died, and he can’t forget her. When his agent gives him a chance to relive Cherry’s life through her recorded memories, he jumps at the chance.

JY Yang: “Bridge of Crows”. A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest.

Arkady Martine: “Labbatu Takes Command of the Flagship Heaven Dwells Within.” Captain Labbatu is a thief, a commander, a lover, and an all-around badass. This is the story of how she takes the flagship with fighting, guile, and seduction.

Sarah Gailey: “Wild to Covet.” A childless couple finds the wild girl Thetis and raises her. But when she grows up, her adoptive parents force her to wear shoes and appropriate clothing for an unmarried girl. They also assume that of course she will marry, no matter what she wants.

Carlso Hernandez: “!Cuidado! !Que Vienne El Coco!.” Nadano is on a high-tech marine research ship that needs only one crew member, in addition to the AI Prudence which runs the ship. Also, Nadano’s baby girl Ela is on the ship. Nadano has some mental issues but the AI is also a skilled therapist. Then the little girl’s head changes to a coconut.

Stephen Graham Jones: “He Fell Howling.” Lycaen feeds human meat to Zeus. Furious, Zeus curses him to change into a wolf. The man realizes that by eating his own pups, he can change back to a man, for a little while. Horror.

Kat Howard: “Curses Like Words, Like Feathers, Like Stories”. The main character travels to Ireland to find incomplete stories, which she has promised to complete.

Leah Cypess: “Across the River.” The main character is a young Jewish man who wants to be a cantor but feels that his songs aren’t ready. Then he comes face to face with a sorcerer who kills Jewish people and he knows he must get help.

Jeffrey Ford: “Sisyphus in Elysium.” Sisyphus “amid the rolling green meadows of Asphodel” thinks about his eternal punishment.

Indrapramit Das: “Kali_Na.” Shiva Industries designed Goddess Durga to be an interactive goddess who turns faith to crypto wealth. To do that, the company made her able to learn from the people she interacts with. But when the vile trolls interact with her, nobody expects what happens.

Alyssa Wong: “Live Stream.” Diana is a gamer who livestreams her games. One day, a compromising picture of Diana is posted on the net, and many of her followers turn against her. She knows who is behind it, but she can’t prove it. Because he’s a famous gamer, and he forced her to do something she didn’t want to. But she decides to turn the tables on him. A powerful story of net harassment.

John Chu: “Close Enough for Jazz.” Emily has worked hard to develop tech that will let people who want to change their bodies or even their sex to do so. She has access to apples that when you eat one, it makes your body an ideal version of you, depending on what you consider ideal. However, since she’s a woman, her business partner does to pitching to the money men who are mostly white males. But the money men aren’t interested in funding a firm she desperately wants. This story touches on sexism and ableism in the tech industry.

Naomi Novik: “Buried Deep.” Ariadne loves her younger brother, who was born with the head of a bull. Their father Minos accuses his wife of adultery with Zeus and banishes the boy from his sight. Ariadne tries to help him anyway she can.

Carmen Maria Machado: “The Things Eric Eats Before He Eats Himself.” Eric has insatiable hunger. A horror story.

Amal El-Mohtar: “Florilegia; or, Some Lies About Flowers.” Lleu Llaw Gyffes is cursed in three ways. One of them is that he can’t marry a woman. So, his uncles make him a woman from flowers, Blodeuwedd. But nobody asked her if she wants to be his wife. Nobody cares that she has a hunger for roots and for freedom.

This is an excellent collection. Not all of the stories worked for me, but that’s usual.

Collects miniseries Marvel 1602: The New World 1-5 and Marvel 1602: The Fantastick Four 1-5.


Writers: Greg Pak, Peter David

Artists: Greg Tocchini, Pascal Alixe

The first miniseries follows the adventures of Bruce David Banner and Peter Parquagh in the Roanoke colony in the New World. Banner was the right-hand man of the murderous King James of Scotland and England. James sent Banner to the New World to murder Nicholas Fury, but when Fury disappeared, Banner changed to a monster, the Hulk.

The local newspaperman, Jonah Jameson, has hired Peter. Peter also became friends with Virginia Dare, the daughter of Roanoke’s governor. She can change to various white animals, but she can’t control the change nor what she does in animal form. Peter has his own secret as well. When a pack of dinosaurs is trampling the settlement, he uses his powers to save people and the Hulk does the same.

However, King James is growing impatient with no news from the Roanoke and he sends the Iron Lord and his faithful servant Rhodes to the colony with a group of soldiers. When they come to the shore, they arrest the governor for treason. Of course, Peter and Virginia must help her father. Meanwhile, Banner flees to the wilderness and wonders if he has any reason to survive. And greedy Norman Osborn wants to kill all the Indians on the island. Lots of plotlines and lots of characters.

The second story centers on Fantastick Four and their struggle against Otto von Doom. Otto was called the Handsome, but he was hideously scarred in the main series. He wants a way to cure his scars. When he hears about a city beyond the edge of the world, he thinks has found it. He kidnaps William Shakespeare to document the voyage – and his triumph of the FF. The FF follow Shakespeare in Ben’s ship. But Johnny has kidnapped a woman he’s fallen in love with, Doris Evans on the eve of her wedding. Doris isn’t happy about it but the FF can’t turn back.

Otto has allied himself with the Four who are Frightful: Medusa, the Wizard, the Sandman, and the Trapster. Trapster seems to be the only one without powers.

The FF follow Otto’s flying ship and they meet in the middle of the sea. Of course, they fight and attract the attention of a couple of other familiar characters.

This was a fun read, especially if you liked the main 1602 comic. The New World deals with colonialism and Banner wrestles with the terrible things he has done for the king. It has so much story that the end feels a bit rushed. A couple of more issues would have fleshed out the conflicts and the side characters a bit more.

In the FF comic, David touches on the collision of scientific and religious worldviews. Sadly, I didn’t really care for how that ended. Will Shakespeare was added for some comic relief; other people said some of his most famous lines. Sue is invisible for most of the comic, but she’s pregnant and for some reason the fetus is visible, which looks really strange.

I think the FF are more, er, archetypal than usual: John is a drunkard womanizer, Sue is a bickering girlfriend, Reed is so focused on science that he doesn’t understand people around him, and Ben… is a gruff sea captain. However, the plotline partly rehashes one of the oldest storylines in FF.

It was fun to see the different versions of the characters I know, and I enjoyed the collection more than I expected.

The sixth book in the Invisible Library fantasy series.


Publisher: Ace

Publication year: 2020
Format: print

Page count: 336

This sixth book in the Invisible Library series is just as entertaining as the previous books and I’m looking forward to the next.

This time our Librarian/spy/book acquirer Irene Winters is sent to retrieve the only copy of a book written in Ancient Egypt (a scroll, really). The Library needs the book so that they can stabilize a world that is important to Irene, so she’s anxious to get it. However, the current owner of the book is a powerful Fae, a canny negotiator who owns a lot of precious items. In exchange for the book, he wants another item, a painting. Irene, Kai, another dragon, and a group of Fae must steal the painting from another world. Of course, things go wrong.

Kai, who is a dragon prince, isn’t too happy about working with the Fae. In this series, dragons are order incarnate and the Fae are chaos. Each Fae personifies an archetype from stories and behaves according to their archetype. The group also includes another dragon but Kai doesn’t care for her at all.

This was a fun and fast-paced heist story. Unlike the previous books in the series, it doesn’t have much politics, so it’s a change of pace. We also get to meet Irene’s parents, if only briefly. However, from the end, it seems that politics will continue to play a larger role in the next books. I’m also surprised that nobody has strongly objected to Kai and Irene’s relationship, so far, given their important roles in the current politics between the dragons and the Fae.

The cast of characters is mostly new, but they are rather distinctive. I hope we’ll meet them again.

This is a really fun series with dragons, the Fae, many, many alternate realities, and fast-paced adventure. On the other hand, the adventures don’t leave time for character development. Also, this book hints at a larger plot, but I’m not sure if Cogman will ever return to it because she has left previous larger plot hints open. I enjoy the worlds and the characters enough that I don’t really mind that, though.

Today the prompt is about fantasy authors who are not from the US or the UK. I’m from Finland so I decided to highlight three Finnish authors.

Hannu Rajaniemi is probably most known for the Quantum Thief science fiction trilogy. But he’s also written Summerland which is a spy novel set in an alternate 1938. In that world, people can communicate with the dead and the dead can visit the land of the living. The book can be considered either SF or Fantasy. From my review: “Rachel White is one of the few women in British Empire’s Secret Intelligence Service. She and a male colleague are handling a man who has defected from the Soviet Union to the UK. But the ex-Soviet doesn’t tell anything and in the end, he kills himself just after he has whispered to Rachel the codename of a Soviet mole in UK afterlife, the Summerland.”

Johanna Sinisalo’s first novel Troll: a love story (or Not Before Sundown in the UK) is quite realistic fiction set in Tampere, Finland. It has one fantasy element, the troll. Her other translated works are science fiction. From the back cover: “A novel of sparkling originality, Troll is a wry, peculiar, and beguiling story of nature and man’s relationship to wild things, and of the dark power of the wildness in ourselves.”

Emmi Itäranta also writes both SF and fantasy. Her second book, the Weaver (or the City of Woven Streets in the UK) is a hauntingly beautiful book with a very strong atmosphere and setting. From my review: “Eliana is a young weaver who lives in the House of Webs, the House where the weavers live and work. She works hard, is rather quiet, and takes turns being a night-watchman inside the House. However, she has a couple of dangerous secrets: she’s one of the Dreams, who spread the deadly Dream Plague. If anyone finds out, she will be confined to the Tainted House. She can also read and write which is a rare skill in this world, so she must constantly conceal her skills.”

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