2022 wyrd and wonder

Today is the final day of Wyrd&Wonder. I had a lot of fun exploring the other blogs and was impressed with how many of us participated. Thanks to our hosts Imyril, Lisa, Jorie, Ariana, and Annemieke.

I didn’t read and listen to everything I planned but I enjoyed most of the books I did get to:

Jane Yolen: Dragon’s Blood

Anthea Sharp: Faerie Song: A Dark Faerie Tale

Lois McMaster Bujold: The Orphans of Raspay

Theodora Goss: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

Lois McMaster Bujold: The Physicians of Vilnoc

Philip Pullman: La Belle Sauvage

The rest of my posts:

Wyrd & Wonder: Woodland creatures

Top Five Fantasies Since Last Wyrd & Wonder

Wyrd&Wonder: Current Read

Top Five Books Featuring Our Wyrd & Wonder Mascots

Top Five Single-Serve Fantasy Reads

Wyrd and Wonder: Top Five from a Favorite Subgenre: Faerie Fantasy

This is one of the Wyrd and Wonder prompts

Pick a fantasy subgenre you love and share some of your favourite books within it. What makes this subgenre so beloved for you?

I love faeries/fairies and elves, no matter if they’re immortal or “just” long-lived. I love both mischievous and heroic faeries, especially when both kinds are in the same story. I even enjoy them as villains. Urban fantasy is usually set in modern times and I enjoy those faerie stories but I especially enjoy historical settings. I guess my fascination started with fairy tales when I was young and now I enjoy exploring different kinds of faeries.

Wendy and Richard Pini: Elfquest

This comic introduced me to down-to-earth elves, very different from Tolkien-type ethereal immortals. Cutter is the leader of a small tribe of elves, the Wolfriders. They live and hunt in a forest, avoiding humans. But when the humans burn down their Grove, they must leave. The comic is available both free online at https://elfquest.com/ and as printed graphic novels.

Marie Brennan: the Onyx Hall series

The first book in this four-book series is Midnight Never Come. This series is set in the Faerie Court the Onyx Hall which is built underneath London. Each book is set about a hundred years after the previous one, so the human cast changes, but most of the faeries stay the same. The first book is set in 1554 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.

Elizabeth Bear: the Promethean Age series

Another faeries series in (mostly) urban setting. This series has two duologies. The first is “Blood and Iron” and “Whiskey and Water” intertwining faeries, werewolves, vampires, Arthurian mythos, and fairy tales in the modern world. The other duology, “Ink and Steel” and “Hell and Earth“, is set in the Elizabethian age and both William Shakespeare and Christofer Marlowe/Kit Marley are the main characters along with Morgan LeFay. The single book (One-Eyed Jack) is set in modern Las Vegas and the main character is the personification of Las Vegas. This series has both the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts and many different kinds of faeries.

Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

This eight-book series has a lot of my favorite things: fairies, dragons, parallel universes, and the main character is a Librarian and a spy. Irene Winters and her junior partner Kai face almost impossible odds at every turn. In this series, the faeries are creatures of chaos and storytelling. Each takes on an archetype from stories and must think and behave like the archetypal character.

Seanan McGuire: Toby Daye series

The first book is Rosemary and Rue. This modern urban fantasy series follows October, Toby, Daye’s adventures. She’s a half-blooded fae, a changeling, and a knight in service to Duke Sylvester. In the first book, Toby loses her human husband and daughter, so she’s depressed and stressed. Only the death of one of her few friends brings her back to the world of fae. This series just gets better with each book. While in the beginning, Toby is a loner her circle of friends grows slowly but surely. I love the eccentric characters!

The first book in the fantasy series the Book of Dust.


Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish publisher: Otava

Page count: 687

Finnish translator: Helene Butzow

This series is a prequel to the His Dark Materials series.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead’s parents run an inn called the Trout in Oxford. He’s a studious boy who likes to help people both in the inn and out of it. He’s also very observant. When three strange men come to the inn and ask Malcolm about a baby who is in the care of the local nunnery, he thinks it’s very strange. He hasn’t heard about it and tells them so. Later, when he’s on the Thames in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage, he sees a man looking for something. His daemon Asta thinks she saw where the man dropped the item. But before they can help the man, he’s arrested. Malcolm and Asta go and retrieve the item: a wooden acorn. They manage to open it and find inside a secret message. But they don’t know where to take it, so they keep it.

Later, when Malcolm goes to the monastery, he asks about a baby and much to his surprise, a nun tells him that they are caring for a baby. She’s called Lyra and nobody is supposed to know that she’s there.

The first half of the book is building tension when Malcolm slowly realizes the depth of the secrets he has stumbled upon. We also get to know Dr. Hannah Relf who interprets the alethiometer at Oxford University. She’s also part of a conspiracy against the Magisterium, the religious organization that wants to control the world. We also meet some other conspirators. When the action starts to roll in the second half of the book, everything is in place. Well, mostly. The second half has scenes and magic that felt very random to me and they weren’t explained. Also, compared to the first half where the only magic are the daimons, the second part seems disjointed. Also, the main bad guy, Bonneville, seemed very strange.

Malcolm can feel quite a passive character who only reacts to events, but he’s just 11 and doesn’t know much about the larger plots. This can frustrate readers who are expecting a more Lyra-like main character. For the first half, Malcolm runs errands, spies for Hannah, and just talks with people building tension for the rest of the book and series.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read His Dark Materials series but I recently watched the first season of the TV show so I remember it well. I loved the daemons, again. Malcolm’s Asta still changes form at will and the adults have stable daimons who reveal a lot about their personality.

Some characters from the previous series appear. However, we already know what happens to Lyra so there’s no tension about what ultimately happens to her. Of course, I don’t read books to find out how the main characters will die, so this didn’t really bother me. Overall, I enjoyed this book and it’s a fine beginning to a new series. I just hope Pullman has some explanation for the random things that happened.

This is one of the Wyrd & Wonder prompts.

Time to celebrate shorter reads – what are your favorite fantasy zines, anthologies, individual short stories, novelettes, or novellas?

I like short stories and novellas. It was difficult to choose just five but here goes.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon

The first story in the Penric & Desdemona fantasy series. Penric is the younger son of a minor lord. He wants to study but the family can’t afford it. He’s studious, curious, generous, and kind. When the family finds him a marriage match with the daughter of a cheese merchant, he agrees to it and while he doesn’t love his bride, he can easily imagine that he will in time. However, on the way to the betrothal party, he meets a group of people: a couple of servants and an old woman clearly in distress. He offers to help the woman and receives more than he ever imagines: a demon.

In this world, demons are intelligent creatures but they don’t have bodies. Instead, they have to take over another body, animal or human. They’re also not evil but have, of course, very different experiences from any human which means that humans don’t necessarily understand them or their reactions. Also, if the host has a weak will, the demon can take over completely. Penric has no knowledge of demons or how to control them, so he has to learn it all from scratch. But he’s curious and willing to learn. This particular demon is about 200 years old but her most recent hosts have been Temple sorceresses, so she knows not to try to wrestle for control.

Penric and his demon are a delightful pair. I’ve enjoyed the series a lot.

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The Scottish Play

Porchia is one of three sisters and three witches. Their family tree of witches can be traced back to several centuries, only their methods have changed. Her job is to get rid of curses and other magic in theaters. Because acting, and writing, can produce magic, they can also produce curses so she and her two sisters are in high demand. However, something goes terribly wrong in the Lancaster theater where their mother is working on a curse and is killed.

3, Phyllis Irene Radford and Laura Anne Gilman, ed: The Shadow Conspiracy

In this short story collection, the short stories affect each other and the setting. In the first story the main character, Mary Shelley, (yes, she who wrote the Frankenstein) finds out about new science that she thinks is abdominal: it can transfer a human soul to another body. We get to see the consequences of this science in the other stories. Another scientific achievement is done by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; they create machines in the shapes of men. The metal men become more and more common, and are programmed for more and more varied tasks.

Apparently, it’s now only available as an audiobook.

4, Nancy Jane Moore: A Mere Scutcheon

It’s set in a world similar to the Three Musketeers, except that a woman’s honor is the same as a man’s, and not between her legs. The Queen has her guardswomen and the King his guardsmen, and they are often dueling each other. The Queen gives Anna D’Gart a mission: to get back the Queen’s necklace before the ball where the Queen is expected to wear the necklace. Anna and her loyal friend Asamir set out to retrieve it. Asamir is aiming to become a nun but not before she has lots of intimate meetings with a married count.

5, 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. From “The Mythic Dream” short story collection.

A Penric and Desdemona fantasy novella.


Publication year: 2020

Publisher: Spectrum Literary Agency

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 126

Penric is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife, newborn daughter, and mother-in-law. Penric’s demon Desdemona and his wife have managed to settle into an amicable relationship. Des is a 200-year-old chaos demon inhabiting Pen, so not every woman could have done it.

Then Pen’s wife’s brother, General Arisaydia asks for Pen’s help. A mysterious disease has attacked his men, a bruising fever. Pen agrees to look things over but is promptly lured into trying to cure it and find out where it came from. Because he doesn’t know how it spreads, he can’t return home or he could accidentally infect his family. Des can’t just cure the sick; she can only assist their own healing and that takes days or weeks. Pen desperately wants to cure everyone but one sorcerer isn’t nearly enough, especially when there are sick people not just in the military fort but in surrounding towns.

Pen is a scholar delighting in reading, translation, and writing. While he can use his demon to speed healing, he isn’t a healer or a physician, not anymore. This story reminds us why. Because only the most difficult cases are brought to him and he will break himself trying to help them. So, this story had definitely a darker side. Fortunately, it also has others, especially after the halfway point. I very much enjoyed the character introduced later in the story but won’t spoil them.

Des doesn’t get a chance to snark much, this time. Two of her previous hosts were healers so she knows all too well how spirit-breaking the work can be. Also, some people are too scared of Pen to let him try to help while others expect him to wave a hand and cure everyone. When he can’t do that, these people blame him. So, the tone isn’t as cozy and cheerful as in some of the others.

Still, a good read, but probably not the best place to start the Pen&Des series.

The second book in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club.


Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 24 hours, 27 minutes
Narrator: Kate Reading

The members of the Athena Club are all young women who have suffered because of their fathers’ scientific experiments. Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde are half-sisters, and their father is the infamous Dr. Jekyll/Mr.Hyde. Catherine Moreau was fashioned from a panther by Dr. Moreau. Justine Frankenstein was the female monster that the famous doctor created. Giacomo Rappaccini exposed his daughter Beatrice to poisons, so she can’t even touch other humans without poisoning them. Now, they all live together in the same house as best friends, who bicker a lot.

Their fathers (creators) were all members of the Alchemical Society. Now it seems that the Society is again experimenting on young girls. Mary’s former governess, Miss Mina Murray, sends a telegram to Mary that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped and Miss Murray asks for the Club’s help in finding her. Mary and the others agree, even though it means traveling to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, they all can’t afford to go, so Mary and Justine decide to take the trip. Of course, it’s difficult for women to travel alone and Justine is very tall for a woman so she poses as Mary’s brother. And before they can even cross the channel, they realize that 14-year-old Diana has disguised herself as a boy and followed them. They have no choice but to allow her to come with them. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Catherine have adventures of their own in England.

This book is mostly a road trip. Mary, Diana, and Justine travel all over Europe in carriages and trains, with Diana complaining about boredom and hunger. The writing style is similar to the first, meaning that the characters interrupt the story constantly with their complaints and opinions. This is fun at first, but adds a lot of pages to the book and robs all tension, just as happened in the first book.

This time, too, we meet famous literary characters (Sherlock Holmes and Watson make a brief appearance and Irene Norton (Adler) becomes the women’s ally) as well as more obscure characters. Since Van Helsing is involved, the reader can guess early on what sort of monsters and monstrous women the characters face. This was one of my frustrations with the book. Because I knew what they were facing, the characters felt very dense at times. The other frustration was with the constant interruptions and in an audiobook I can’t skip over them. Also, lots of unnecessary details. But if you can overlook these things, this is a delightful book.

I love the characters. Their personalities play off each other very well. I also love the idea of taking minor female characters and giving them their own voice and empowerment. The Alchemical Society is also a great idea and we get to know a lot more about it.

The main story is wrapped up, but the final chapter ends with a huge cliffhanger and there’s a continuing subplot about Holmes and Watson. So I dived right into the next book.

Today Wyrd & Wonder prompt is current read.

As usual, I have three current reads:

In print:


It’s the first book in his new fantasy series The Book of Dust. It returns to the His Dark Materials universe, but before that series.

In audio:


It’s the third book in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club. I just finished the second book yesterday and had to dive into the next book.



It’s the next novella in the Penric and Desdemona series. Again, I really enjoyed the previous story and ended up starting the next right away.

A Penric and Desdemona fantasy novella.


Publication year: 2019

Publisher: Spectrum Literary Agency

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 127

The novella is set about a year after the events of “The Prisoner of Limnos”. Learned Penric and his demon Desdemona have been together for thirteen years, so they know each other very well. Now, they’re on a ship headed back home. But pirates attack the ship and take it. Penric strongly suspects that they are Quadrene, people who worship only four gods and consider the fifth one, the Bastard, a more powerful demon. Penric is a divine, a priest, of the Bastard. Also, if the Quadrenes know that Penric has a demon inside him, they would kill him. So, he pretends to be a humble scholar.

The pirates throw him into a filthy hold with two small children they’ve captured from a previous ship. The sisters are terrified. Penric realizes that he is the answer to their prayers and it’s his duty to protect them.

This was a fun, quick read, as the Pen and Des novellas tend to be. There’s no character development, though, so it’s lighter than the others. Also, it has darker undertones because the pirates in this story aren’t romanticized. They’re murderers, rapists, and slavers. The sisters’ fate would be awful without Pen. Otherwise, this was a fun adventure, even though the ending was quite convenient.

Penric is his kind, thoughtful self, and a delightful POV character. Desdemona is just as delightful, but their interaction is far more practiced here than in the first stories (of course). No surprises. This is a good, light read for fans of the series. But I recommend starting with the first, Penric’s Demon.

Dragons are my favorite mythical creatures! I’ve read quite a few books with dragons and some comics, too.

1, Naomi Novik: Temeraire / His Majesty’s Dragon

”Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.”

This series has many dragons, some valiant, others scheming. One of my favorite series.

2, Genevive Cogman: The Invisible Library

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.”

This world has both fae, representing chaos, and dragons representing order. Irene Winters is a Librarian trying to stay neutral between them.

3, Rachel Aaron: Nice Dragons Finish Last

This is the first book in the urban fantasy series and I haven’t yet read any of the others, but I have the second and third waiting in my Audible TBR. While the world, or at least the parts of Detroit we see, is pretty bleak, the writing style is full of humor.

”As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever.”

4, X-Men comics

Kitty Pryde’s pet dragon Lockheed is actually an alien from another planet. But he’s very clearly a very spirited dragon even though he’s very small.

5, Anne McCaffrey: Harper Hall Trilogy

Yes, McCaffrey has the more adult Dragonriders of Pern series which is full of people riding dragons. However, I have more fond memories of this trilogy aimed at young readers. It’s set in the same world as the Pern series.

Young Menolly finds a net of tiny dragons and befriends them. She’s a gifted musician but her parents forbid her to play and sing.

A fantasy short story based on the Pied Piper fairy tale.


Publication year: 2019

Publisher: Fiddlehead Press

Format: ebook

The Strigosa Conservatory is next to the city of Hamlin. The Conservatory is a cold, joyless place. Some night the Pipers play a magical song, the Calling, that draws all sorts of vermin from the city, including rats. But the song also calls for unwanted children. The kids who come to the Conservatory are tested for musical ability. Those who pass are taken in as students. It’s hard work and the Pipers are relentless teachers who never compliment the kids. Some of the kids who don’t have musical ability return to the city as servants. Others are never seen again.

Three years ago, Linnet and her younger sister walked past the gates, drawn to the magical Calling. Linnet was sure that they would both pass the test and be students together. So she worked hard to pass the test. But to her shock, her sister didn’t pass it and was sent away, as a servant.

The students of the Conservatory aren’t allowed to leave the grounds so Linnet hasn’t seen her sister in three years. She worked as hard as she could to learn to play the violin. She’s hoping that when she’s a Piper, she can leave and see her sister. Her Piper teacher finally says that Linnet is ready to start to learn the Calling, the magical song. Linnet is overjoyed but even playing the first sequence of the song physically hurts her.

Linnet is still young and very focused on seeing her sister again. The world is quite dark: the kids in the conservatory are beaten and are given barely enough to eat. There are also hints that some meet a darker fate. And yes, the story does have faeries.

Instead of just one Piper, the conservatory has many of them. They play violins, pipes, drums, and lutes. I loved the magical music theme. There aren’t enough stories with magical music in them.

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