Get to Know the Fantasy Reader #BookTag

So this week, instead of new fiction, I’ve decided to try out this whole book tag thing. I ‘ve never done one before so hopefully it’s fun for you all. Feel free to try it out yourselves and tag me so I can read your answers!

Apparently there are some rules. Here they are . . .


  • Make sure you give credit to the original creators of this tag – this tag was originally created by Bree Hill
  • If you want to, pingback to the post you first saw this tag – I first saw this at Paperback Tomes, and then read some more of it at Lost In Neverland.
  • Have fun!

What is your Fantasy origin story? (The first Fantasy you read)

Wow. First question and I’m already unsure how to answer. This will go well . . .

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading Fantasy of some kind. I was only two years old when Dinotopia came out so I’m not sure how much reading I was doing at that point, but it was likely one of the first things I read. Probably the first book I read and was consciously aware of it “being fantasy” was the The Hobbit, and then Lord of the Rings. Of course I ate up all the Harry Potter books when they came out (except maybe the first two? I remember being slightly late to the game on HP)

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

I’d want to be in a Terry Pratchett novel. I feel like my life already has enough ridiculous hijinks happening in it anyway, so why not just lean in and let crazy take the wheel. Make it weird.

And maybe to just really up the weird, we could have a multiverse trope, or a time travel trope like Ground Hog’s Day. Maybe both?

What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty. Technically, I read The City of Brass, last year, and just finished The Kingdom of Copper (the sequel), and loved it just as much. Started The Empire of Gold yesterday and it’s shaping up to be good as well. This series has been such a breath of fresh air for me. I hope to be seeing a lot more from Chakraborty in the future (put Daevabad in space! Ok I’ll be calm down now).

What is your favorite fantasy subgenre?

Without a doubt Epic Fantasy. One does not read as much Brando Sando as I do and answer some other subgenre. I would just be lying to myself and everyone around me. I can get behind High Fantasy (honestly this is shades of gray), Sword & Sorcery or even Grimdark, but I’m a real sucker for those EPIC STAKES. Drop me in a secondary world (aka someplace that’s not earth but can be similar), and turn everything up to eleven! Give me your weird mythical creatures (weirder the better), and your less-than-holy gods; give me your warring kingdoms (and political intrigue), your fake history, and made up customs. Dazzle me with your magic . . .

Wow. I think I need to calm down again.

What subgenre have you not read much from?

Steampunk. Really any of the punks, but I think steampunk is the one I’ve been let down the most by. Not sure why, but in my mind, I just want every Steampunk novel I read to be like watching Wild Wild West for the first time, and then when (literally) none of them are, I get disappointed. This is completely my fault as I probably just need to spend some time searching around, and figure out which book is considered the quintessential Steampunk book . . . and then READ THAT BOOK before being judgy, but so far it hasn’t happened. If you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comments.

In a slightly more positive tone, I discovered something called Bronzepunk exists. I would like to search out and find more of that. The fun example that got me hooked is Achilles vs Mecha-Hector, by Jesse-Beeson Tate. Go and read it. It’s a wild ride (I mean how could it not be?). Sadly I’m still waiting for a sequel. Please write more of this!

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors

As mentioned earlier (and many many other times on this blog), Brandon Sanderson is definitely this for me. I’ve read like 30 of his books at this point and I’d probably read 30 more. I think Martha Wells is also achieving this status for me, though I’ve only read her Murderbot Diaries stuff. Hopefully I can visit some of her earlier stuff sometime soon.

So much! So little time!

How do you typically find Fantasy recommendations?(Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram. . .)

Recently? I get a lot of recommendations from my writing group. Like more than anyone can possibly read (which is wonderful). I am also signed up for about a billion newsletters from publishers. I try to keep up with industry awards, so if a book is doing well there, I’ll be more likely to read it. Goodreads also. Then sometimes insta.

What is an upcoming Fantasy release you’re excited for?

This is another tough question as I’m still trying so hard to catch up with last year’s releases that I haven’t payed much attention for what’s on the docket for this year (just look at that TBR).

BUT . . . I recently finished Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic (soo good) and while she seems to have plenty of titles I could go back and read (looking at you Gods of Jade and Shadow) I like reading new things too, so Certain Dark Things will probably be my next one. I’m sure there are some genre arguments to be made here, but I’m gonna consider it Fantasy and say that is the one I’m anticipating most at the moment.

What is one misconception about Fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

This is a tough question also, because I think the genre suffers from many misconceptions, but perhaps the most important to me, is that ‘Fantasy’ is just stories about white farm boys slaying dragons. This is just not the case anymore (though it may have been once). In a lot of ways, Fantasy has become something of a platform in which you can tell any story that you want. Want to read a mystery? Well what if it took place in post-Civil War Philadelphia from the point of view of a married couple working as conductors on the Underground Railroad. Well then check out Nicole Glover’s The Conductors.

How about a romance? Perhaps you should read Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand inspired by the Mughal Empire.

Or maybe you WANT to read about dragons. Well there’s still plenty of fresh takes there (look at Johnathan Strahan’s Book of Dragons)

Anyway, there’s something for everyone here in ‘Fantasy land’ so come on down.

**Call back to earlier when I said I didn’t read enough Steampunk . . . Apparently there are STEAMPUNK DRAGONS! I guess I’ll be reading The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swannick soon . . . this has been a fun digression.

If someone had never read a Fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

I’ve seen Harry Potter on a lot of these kinds of posts and I would have to agree, it’s probably the best place to start (as mentioned before, it was one of the places I started). Depending on how old you are, you might be looking for something a little more ‘adult’ (although HP seems very mature by the end of the series), I would recommend Brando Sando’s Mistborn next. I’ve had pretty high success with that one. I’d probably go with The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin next. It’s truly fantastic, and I feel pivotal in a lot of ways for where the genre is (or could be). It’s not a popcorn read though so . . . fair warning.

Who is the most recent Fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

I’ve been enjoying reading my friend Mary’s blog, The Inciting Event Blog. Recently, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her post on maps called How to Build a World Part Two: THE MAP. She also has a super cute dog.

Welp that’s it.

I think that concludes my first foray into book tags. If you’d like to see more of this kind of thing, let me know in the comments. I’ve got a bunch of these lined up that I could do so you’ll probably being seeing more of them in the future. Anywho, thanks for reading this far. I’ll see you next time!

Gideon The Ninth: Fun AND Provoking

I’ll admit, it’s been a little while since I read Gideon the Ninth (November 2020), but since Harrow the Ninth is a Hugo finalist, I thought it might be good to review the first book here, before my eventual review of the sequel. Please forgive any cobwebs that might blow by as I get going . . .

Initial reactions?

I think my initial reactions to this book were a little bit surface level, but definitely positive. Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a FUN book. This story is equal parts exciting, mysterious, thought provoking . . . and in a lot of instances, just weird. Obviously I loved it!

The main character, Gideon, is probably the main draw for most, and deservedly so. She is — by turns — funny, crass (I think one of the first lines, if not THE first line has to do with her looking at inappropriate magazines), self-serving, heroic, and very likable.

As the story progresses, we get to know her more intimately, and we see that the adjectives I just used are but one facet of Gideon, and that she has many more facets which encourage or contradict our impression of her seemingly at random (although nothing is ever truly random in a novel I suppose). To say it succinctly, Gideon is a mess, and she would probably be the first one to describe herself as such . . . after which she’d probably do pushups.

Now I don’t say that Gideon is a mess because I want imply that this is somehow bad character building, or bad writing. On the contrary I think it is excellent character building and excellent writing because it is super relatable. I guarantee that nobody reading this blog (so like all three of you) has ever found themselves living in a futuristic necromantic society (without having read this book I doubt I would have thought those two words could be used together) in which walking skeletons are quite common, and people routinely raise the dead from their graves. So far as I know, that doesn’t happen, so the fact that Muir is able to get us to relate to a character for which these things are even somewhat normal, is a feat in and of itself.

Then the author boots us into a kind of gothic puzzle-type mystery of which all of Gideon’s comfort with the paranormal, contrives to do her absolutely zero favors.

And then there’s Harrowhawk . . .

She is probably the next thing that people get most excited about when talking about this book. Harrowhawk is Gideon’s — again by turns — nemesis, friend, employer, enemy, lover, peer (she’s the only other person in all of Ninth House even remotely Gideon’s age) . . . and a list of other things that I’m probably too lazy to write here. If Gideon is a mess, Harrowhawk is a complete disaster (again in a good way).

I won’t say much more about this here, other than to say that my one complaint of the novel is that there is a pivotal change in Gideon’s perspective when it comes to Harrowhawk, and I wondered as I was reading, if someone in Gideon’s circumstances would have actually felt this way given all the trouble Harrowhawk puts her through. I’m unsure, but it definitely made for good drama.

I feel the last part of this book that goes in the ‘fun’ category is the aesthetic. Everything in this book is so unequivocally gothic, that it often rushes right past frightening, stays for a quick lunch in absurd, and then launches right into laughable. Again, I felt this was intentional, and very much ‘in-character’ for Gideon who seems rather fed up with all the doom and gloom that is the Ninth House.

Initial Reactions Implies there were then Secondary Reactions?

Yes, the ‘provoking’ part of the title.

So I did some googling to try to refresh my memory about what happened in the first book, and realized there was actually a bit of controversy regarding Gideon and Harrow’s relationship. It’s a queer romance, which was gathering hype, because representation is important, and their isn’t (to my knowledge) a lot of mainstream Science Fiction which includes this and so people wanted to be happy about it. This should not raise any flags, or be considered a controversy.

But a lot of people are taking issue with the fact that it’s so screwed up. Essentially, Harrowhawk is in a lot of ways abusive, and uses not only her power as head of Ninth House, but also Gideon’s feelings for her to further her own agenda. That abuse of hierarchy, some have condemned as Slavery Romance, and when looked at in such a light, is pretty gross.

But the publisher, Tor Books, argues there is value in depiction of problematic relationships in fiction, so long as they do not Romanticize them. Their argument goes along the lines that books like Dracula, and The Mysteries of Udolpho give readers a safe place to:

. . . encounter monsters, serial killers, and other dangers they might fear, so too they allow readers to look at problematic relationships from a safe distance.

They reference Gideon’s Gothic aesthetic and clear influence and then continue on to point out that:

Books that depict problematic relationships can be a crucial tool to help readers who may be navigating their own toxic relationships understand that other people have gone through the same thing and that they don’t have to accept it as normal.

Finally they come to:

To queer readers, many aspects of Gideon and Harrow’s relationship feel familiar. Queer people often end up forced to interact with someone they hate, such as if they’re the only two out kids at a small school . . .

Now a lot of this, I’m unsure how to talk about. I can see after reading some of this debate that my earlier complaint that someone in Gideon’s circumstances might have chosen differently, was woefully simplistic, and comes from a place of my own privilege and agency in real life.

As for the debate above, all I can say is that I don’t ascribe to a view of literature that must have all the unsavory things removed. Yes people model their behavior after things they learn in stories, but I don’t believe that the only way to model good behavior is to model only good behavior. I believe we are smart enough to distinguish when an author is glorifying something we don’t agree with, and that as long as we’re thinking critically about what we read, we will still walk away without feeling the need to go out and enact whatever atrocity we’ve just seen.

I believe that people can write things that hurt other people, intentionally or unintentionally, and that we should always look at the motivations for why we feel we need to write the stories we write. We need to make sure that we are not writing a story to hurt someone or silence them.

Finally, it seems to me, that despite the moral ambiguity represented in Harrowhawk and Gideon’s relationship, I didn’t feel that the book condoned this behavior in anyway, simply showed it, and allowed readers to do, as we’re doing now, discuss and come to our own conclusions.

So it’s a good book?

In my opinion, yes! Go and read it. Sorry this post was a bit of a ramble, but I think it’s important to think about these things. Gideon the Ninth won both a Locus Award, and a Crawford Award (unfamiliar with a Crawford), and was a Hugo Finalist which is what put it on my radar. It certainly wraps some difficult themes in a goofy-fun mystery/adventure, and for that, I think it is deserving of all the awards and praise it has garnered.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know in the comments.

Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer

Hi all! Another Friday, another story. In Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer, Max is in trouble with Ms. Pine and has to work with his new coworker, Trevor (god do we hate Trevor), to get out of it. We’ll see how it goes. If your curious about what got him into trouble, check out Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers post last week.

For anyone counting, this story was 1551 words out of a goal of 1500. I’m gonna say it’s good.

Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer

Trevor had been right, Ms. Pine did take 2nd floor access very seriously. Max nodded as she spoke and then, remembering they were on the phone, began inserting “yes” and “understood” at what seemed like appropriate intervals.

Max could barely hear her, instead focused on the numbness he felt inside. He was crushed. She explained, loudly, that some of the monsters kept on this floor were classified, or intellectual property, or dangerous! And Max did not have the proper clearance, signatures, or training to interact with them in any capacity.

Ms. Pine had never shouted at him before. Ms. Pine didn’t shout. She was always smiles and caring and adventure. Yes, he was in a lot of trouble this time.

Trevor stood in the doorway, somewhat hunched, trying to look anywhere but at Max. Sure Max had broken some rules, but he’d handled the situation properly and Ms. Pine never would have been the wiser had Trevor not called and told. Max had thought Trevor rude and curt before, but this had just been mean.

Ms. Pine asked to speak to Trevor. Max apologized one more time and handed over the phone. Trevor did not look pleased and Max felt a little better. Maybe Trevor had got in trouble too.

Still on the phone, Trevor walked down the hall and entered another room, then came back to the threshold with two clipboards in his hand. He finally said goodbye to Ms. Pine, and Max moved to the door to leave.

“Where do you think you’re going? There’s still work to do.” He didn’t move to let Max pass.

“I just assumed that with all the trouble I’m in, Ms. Pine didn’t want me around.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t. But your narrowly avoided catastrophe means Ms. Pine wants us to inventory everything in here to make sure nothing else is amiss. If I gotta work more, you gotta work more.” Trevor slammed a clipboard into Max’s chest. “Take the left side, I’ll start on the right.”

Max did as he was told, examining each of the strange creatures and checking off the items associated with each one. Did it have the proper amount of tails? Wings? Should it have antennae coming from there? Max enjoyed the work. He was seeing creatures that he’d never get to see otherwise, and maybe if he did this well, he could get back into Ms. Pine’s good graces.

But he couldn’t help thinking of Trevor. Why was he being so mean? He didn’t even seem to like this job, while Max adored it. He nearly called out to Trevor to ask but decided instead to refocus on the work.

The next creature on his list was called the Twelve-Eyed Starer. He checked the cube it was supposed to be in, and just like the picture on his clipboard, the orange worm-like creature “looked” up at him through the plastic.

It had five sets of white and blue eyes which swiveled here and there on the creature’s back. One pair focused on Max and he began to grip his clipboard very tightly and felt the desire to run though he found he couldn’t move. The eyes swiveled away, and Max let out a sigh.

Was it weird that the Twelve-Eyed Starer should only have ten eyes? He looked at the picture on the clipboard again to be sure. It showed the creature coming towards the viewer at an angle, – like a train or subway car – its tail trailing back towards the horizon. Only five “eyes” comprised the image, but its entire body wasn’t clear in the photo.

Now it was Max’s turn to roll his eyes. Maybe he should ask Trevor for help? Maybe he should ask him just to see if he’d freeze up like Max had done when looking into the eyes.

“Hey Trevor?” He said half smiling to himself. “Can you come take a look at this?”

Trevor sauntered over. “What?”

“You think this is a mistake?” Max said, trying to watch Trevor from the corner of his eye. So far it seemed he hadn’t looked directly at the worm. He was too busy acting aloof. “Thing’s only got ten eyes.”

That seemed to get his attention, but still, he didn’t look at the worm. “Tap on the side of the cube there would ya? Do it lightly but keep it steady.”

Max complied wondering what the boy was getting at. The Starer focused all its eyes on Max’s finger and Trevor finally bent forward to examine it. “Look here at the left side. It looks like it’s been sliced or something. There’s probably a segment missing. Clipboard says when they reproduce pieces break off and then regenerate like an earthworm can do. Or don’t you read?”

Max grimaced and continued to tap his finger. He really should have caught that. “Shouldn’t there be two Starers then? Shouldn’t there still be 12 eyes in the cube?”

“Who knows? Maybe the other segment is in a different cube somewhere. Maybe Ms. Pine sold it, or is using if for experiments . . .”

That’s when Max noticed that the gate on the cube hadn’t been sealed. In fact just the vibration from his finger tapping had begun to open the gate slightly and the Starer had noticed, floating towards the small opening on yarn like tendrils which made the creature resemble an oddly terrifying scrub brush. Max closed the cube gate. A hydraulic hiss signaled that it had finally been sealed shut.

Trevor rolled his eyes again and Max wondered briefly if they ever got sore, like an overused muscle.

“C’mon. Let’s go look for it.”

The silence that followed as they scanned the room was quite uncomfortable. Finally, Max couldn’t bear it anymore. “What is your deal? Ever since I got here, you’ve be rude and mean. Then you told Ms. Pine on me. And now it’s like your blaming me for this too. This is not my fault.”

Trevor turned to face him. “What? I’m supposed to just let you come in and take my job?”

“Well – ” Max stumbled. Obviously not but . . . “You don’t even like this job. Why do it? Why not work somewhere else where they appreciate – rude people!”

“I can’t! It has to be this job. Alright?!”

“Why? Why does it have to be this job?”

Trevor shook, as if he was fighting to move against the Starer’s gaze, but it was nowhere to be seen and he was looking right at Max. He was angry, struggling to control himself, not fight against the control of something else. Tears rimmed his eyes but didn’t fall.

Max relented. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pry. Have we checked over here?” Max started towards another group of cubes.

“It’s fine. It’s not like you could know, we just met today, and I don’t talk about it.” Trevor said softly. “My mom is sick. Medicine produced by the creatures here is helping her mend, but we can’t afford it on our own. Ms. Pine lets me work here and knocks my wages off the bill. It’s enough for us to get the pills. And now, because of your catastrophe earlier and your obsession with impressing Ms. Pine, that’s been put in jeopardy.”

For the second time today, Max felt crushed. He’d never even thought . . . what could he say? There wasn’t time to think on it for at that moment, he could see out of the corner of his eye, a tiny orange, blue and white scrub brush gliding across the floor.

Max didn’t move, but this time it was on purpose. “Trevor, do you see it? You should be the one to grab it. Whatever trouble you were in because of me will disappear if you’re the one to fix this.”

“I can’t.” Trevor said through clenched teeth.

“Nonsense. You have to – “

“Max!” Trevor hissed. “It’s looking at me.”

Max tried to maneuver behind it but the creature swiveled its eyes to look at him, freezing him in place, but allowing Trevor to move. Then the creature froze Trevor in place.  It couldn’t look at both of them though, and it was only a matter of time before one of them was able to grab it.

Max counted the turns. Alternating like this, Max would be the one to grab it. But Trevor needed the win.

When it came time for Max to move again, he stayed where he was clapping his hands to distract the creature. It worked! Trevor was nearly on top of it!

Sensing its imminent capture, the Starer shuttered and its swiveling eyes split to look at each of the boys. It looked ridiculous. Max found himself laughing and he saw Trevor smile too. No longer afraid, they came forward together and grabbed the creature, carrying it back to its cube and placing it within.

Ms. Pine called later to check on their progress, and Max could see Trevor tense as he reported what happened with the Starer.

“Well who managed to capture it?” Max heard from the receiver. Trevor looked uncomfortably at Max. What should he say? Max pointed at Trevor. He mouthed “You did.” Trevor rolled his eyes again, but there was a smile on his face. He’d keep his job after all . . .

The End

Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Teamwork Pt. 2: The Twelve-Eyed Starer. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!

Kingdom of Copper: DaevaBrilliant!

Wow. My titles for these reviews keep getting worse, but these books keep getting better. (If you don’t believe me just read my review of City of Brass. I said it was (Daeva)Badass)

But I really meant it. That book was amazing and this one is too! Everything that I loved about City of Brass remained in Kingdom of Copper, but Chakraborty seemed to find a way to eek out just a little more of each element. A little more hatred toward old enemies, a little more welcome from old friends, a little more discovery, and a lot more wonder.

As a sequel should, this book seemed to reveal new territories (sometimes literally) and new characters were introduced, along with new schemes and new mystery. So . . . Just another day in Daevabad I guess then.

Which is exactly what I hoped it would be.

I especially enjoyed Nahri’s development as she fought to gain a foothold (and let’s face it, freedom) in her new life as both a Nahid and wife to Muntadhir, but she never gave up on her passion for healing. When she decides to build the hospital, it really felt like the most Nahri thing ever. That she has to overcome so much to make it happen seems like the most (corrupt) Deavabad thing ever . . . And that Ali pretty much almost ruins everything seems like the most Alizayd thing ever.

But despite all of the (after reading the first book) familiar, there is quite a lot in Kingdom of Copper that is new. For instance, characters that were merely side characters in the first book begin to take on a life of their own. It is not that these characters were not well rounded in City of Brass, they were, but for some reason they just seemed more important in this sequel. Particularly interesting to me were Jamshid, Manizheh, Muntadhir, Zaynab, and Hatset which all became more developed characters in this sequel. I hope we’ll get to see more of them in The Empire of Gold, but I also hope that we’ll have a range of new characters to contend with, and I’m definitely excited to see what the finale brings to bear.

Speaking of the finale, it’s my sincerest hope that in The Empire of Gold we will finally figure out what is going on with the Marid. I googled around a bit, and it seems that much like in Daevabad, there is not much *ahem* floating around on the internet about the Marid. The Marid Wikipedia page tells us they’re a kind of Shaitan (any Wheel of Time fans are just gonna have to ignore that for now as I am not nearly caught up on my WoT or Islamic folklore to parse this out and say anything intelligent about it).

Wikipedia also says that it’s derived from the word for “rebel” and that it is used interchangeably with the word ifrit in One Thousand and One Nights (which it is seeming like I really need to read).

In Chakraborty’s Daevabad, Ifrit and Marid seem to be VERY different (and I think opposed? It’s kinda hard to tell which side the Ifrit are on), which would be an interesting twist if somehow the two were related. But I cannot possibly see how they would be.

Anyway, these are things I’m speculating on as I read, but I haven’t actually tried to do any research into anything yet, as I’m afraid of spoiling things . . . Maybe after I’m done with this series, I’ll fall down and Islamic mythology hole . . . We’ll see.

Anywho, Kingdom of Copper was great! If you haven’t started reading the Daevabad trilogy, I highly recommend it. It’s been nominated for a best series Hugo, and based on what I’ve read so far, I’m really hoping it wins.

We’ll see you soon with a review of Empire of God!

Leave me any thoughts in the comments, but hopefully no spoilers! See you next time!

Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers

Hey all. I had fun talking about Ancient Egyptian doggos last week, but I though another Max story was in order. This week he meets a coworker. Read on to see how it goes . . .

Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers

Who was this? Of course, Max had been expecting Ms. Pine. Every time Max had come over to the house – whether it be to feed Jebalix to a Slagorez, or empty the litter of a toxic cat – Ms. Pine had been there to greet him.

She usually left a cryptic note, and then greeted him at the door with a smile which let him know that whatever crazy thing that was about to ensue would be alright.

This boy, standing somewhat hunched in the doorway, did not smile, and he seemed to have no idea why Max was even there at all.

“I’m Max. I’m here to see Ms. Pine.”

“Trevor,” the boy replied. “Ms. Pine left a few hours ago. She said the normal guy flaked so I’m watching the cat for the weekend.” He tilted his head over his shoulder. “You’re welcome to come in and cool off for bit if you’d like. Looks hot out there.”

It had been a rather grueling ride over. He supposed Ms. Pine wouldn’t mind if he got himself a glass of water from the kitchen.

Max watched the boy. He didn’t seem to be doing much. He just sat playing video games. Perhaps Trevor needed help.

“Has Sphinxy had a canary this evening?” Max tried, hoping to prompt the boy to action.

“Ms. Pine gave him one before she left.”

“And she showed you how to change the litter? You have to – “

“I know what I’m doing.” Trevor said curtly. “I don’t need any help.”

Max continued to drink his water and twirl on his stool in the kitchen. Perhaps he should just ride back home. If Trevor, wasn’t going to let him help, then there was really nothing else he could do.

His eyes fell upon the stairwell leading from the living room to the second floor. It’s not that he had never noticed it before, he’d always just been so focused on the tasks Ms. Pine had provided for him that he never took the time to explore.

If she had a cat which required PPE to handle properly sitting in a plastic cube in her living room, just think of all the other strange things she might have hidden away on the second floor.  It had never crossed his mind to head up those stairs, but now it seemed irresistible.

He didn’t consider it snooping. It was . . . professional development. He could take on more jobs if he knew more about the rarities in Ms. Pine’s house.It had nothing to do with being more valuable than Trevor.

Max gulped down the last swallow of his water and hopped off his stool. “Hey Trevor? I’m just gonna head upstairs for a bit. I’ll be back in a second.”

“Are you approved? Ms. Pine is very particular about where her employees go in the house.”

“Of course I’m approved.”

“Whatever.” Trevor said rolling his eyes. “But if anything is out of place when she comes back, I’m not covering for you.”


Max took the first couple stairs quickly and then slowed his pace once he was out of Trevor’s view. He wanted to take this in.

Unfortunately, it looked pretty much the same as the last level. It had the same stylish but muted wallpaper, and the wood laminate was tidy but not sparkling.

The sparkle lay at the end of the hall, a crystal door, slightly ajar. Max felt a cool blue intensity radiating from behind the clear gate. Entering the large room, he was stunned. It held hundreds of the same type of cube in which Shinxy lived, each containing some different creature which Max had never seen.

Some had fins, others tentacles, many had wings, and some had all! Nothing seemed to be where it should, but it all seemed natural for whatever creature he laid eyes on.

Finally, his eyes came to find an unusual looking bird tapping the plastic of its cube and looking quite forlorn. Its wings were red with one gold feather each, then three gold feathers clustered around its tail. It had arms too and sat on crow’s feet with a parrot’s beak. Compared with everything else, it was quite normal.

This would be a good place to start he reasoned.

Approaching the cube, he saw a small plaque identifying the creature as a Phasing Icarie. Looking closer at the bird itself, Max noticed that one of the golden feathers had been broken – snapped off – close to the skin. The animal seemed to be in pain and before Max realized what he was doing, he’d opened up the cube and plucked the broken feather from the bird.

The bird hopped away, and held up its wing to check the wound. There was only a speck of blood. Satisfied it was not a serious injury, the bird puffed up its chest in triumph and chirped its thanks.

Then it disappeared.  

There was a fluttering sound and then a loud thunk as if something had hit the door. Max turned quickly to see the bird fluttering back from the door looking stunned. One of its golden feathers wafted to the floor beneath it. The creature disappeared again only to reappear at the opposite side of the room. It swooped low, in an effort to gain speed for the charge.

It would kill itself if it kept this up.

Max quickly moved in front of the exit and reached to intercept it. The bird disappeared again, just as his fingers were closing upon it. All that remained in his hand was a single golden feather.

The bird now clung to one of the other cubes, using its arms to help hold on, like a climber scaling a cliff. It swiveled its head like an owl to glare at Max with indignation.  Max approached slowly, but as soon as he got close enough to reach the bird, it disappeared and flew into the door.

The bird limped back to the far side of the room, clinging to the cubes only this time too high for Max to reach. He’d be here all day if he didn’t find a way to keep it from disappearing. It was then that Max realized he noticed hardly any gold in the animal’s plumage. Indeed there was only one gold feather remaining on its tail. All the other feathers had fallen to floor. They looked withered and expired.

Max thought of the game Trevor had been playing downstairs. How Trevor only had a limited number of shots to kill his enemy. The bird’s golden feathers were like its shots. It only had one left. 

Max opened the door hoping to coax it into making a move.

The bird let go of the cubes and swooped towards the open door. Max feinted as if he were going to try to grab the bird – it disappeared – and Max quickly turned and shut the door. The bird hit again, and while it was still dazed, Max grabbed it in both hands. It squawked and screeched, beating its wings to try and get away, but it did not disappear. Max held it fast and put it back into its cube.

He breathed a sigh of relief and turned to begin cleaning up the bird’s withered golden feathers. That’s when he noticed Trevor standing on the other side of the crystal door holding his cell phone. “Ms. Pine’s phone,” said the voice on the other end. “Who’s this?

To be continued . . .

Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Teamwork Pt. 1: Phase Feathers. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!

2021 Hugo Award Finalists Reaction Post

The Finalists are Finally here!

So, I know it’s Wednesday, and normally I would have posted another review of something from my prospective Hugo reading list, or perhaps a review of another book I’ve been reading, but this week is different . . .

This week, the finalists for said Hugo Awards were announced, and so I’m gonna do a bit of a reaction post. All of the categories are listed here, but for most of them I will probably have little or nothing to say. I’ll try to let the meatier reactions sift up to the top of the post . . .

Here we go!

Best Novel

For me, this is the most important category. Not to take anything away from any of the other categories, but it’s most interesting to me, because let’s face it, I’m more interested in novels. More interested in reading them, more interested in writing them, more interested in everything I can find out about novels. It’s just where I’m at.

So, what’s my reaction?

Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that I only managed to have read one of the books that actually made the finals. I’ve been playing a little bit of a game with myself every year since I became aware of these awards which is to see how many of the finalists I’ve read when they’re announced, and then judge myself for whatever the number was. I’ve come to consider it a bit of a pulse check to see whether I’m generally inline with the “genre” or not. It’s a bit silly, but I can’t help myself and I’ll probably never stop.

Last year I had already read three of the six books selected (my all-time high score), which to me, seems legit. When I first started playing this game, I was consistently reading zero of the front runners, but I also wasn’t reading a lot of recently published Sci Fi and Fantasy. I’ve tried to change that, and . . . sometimes I fair better than others.

Anywho, this year, the only one I’ve read was Martha Wells’ Network Effect. This is doubly disappointing as I had essentially written this one off in an earlier post. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, I have at least purchased. It is probably the one I’m looking forward to the most. I also had already purchased Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal.

I’ve read two other books in the Lady Astronaut Universe by Kowal (Calculating Stars, and Fated Sky) and loved them both, but I think I heard somewhere, that the new book does not take place from the point of view of Elma York, the Lady Astronaut. I’ve seen this sort of thing many times before, and Kowal is an excellent writer, so I’m sure I’ll love this book, but I’ve been procrastinating on it because of the main character change, and because of the fact that it’s been quite some time since I read the first two, and I’m wondering if I should do a re-read . . . that will be a game time decision.

I’m pretty excited for Harrow, just because I love the Locked Tomb Universe but given the end (which is all I’ll say), I have a lot of questions going in.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke seems like it will be quite a trip. I’ve never read anything by the author before, so this could be the surprise hit.

I didn’t really like Rebecca Roanhorse’s other Hugo contender, Trail Lightning, but I think I can go into Black Sun with an open mind.

That’s pretty much my reaction for the novel round. Onward!

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

I moved this up to the top of the list because to me, it’s in the same vein as the best novel award category. Apparently, it’s separate from a Hugo, so theoretically, the books in this category could win both which is kinda neat.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik the most. Have read some Novik in the past (Uprooted, and Spinning Silver) and while I enjoyed both of those titles immensely, I’m glad we’re in different territory here. I’ve got the first book in Novik’s Temeraire series on my shelf waiting to be read too. Looks like I have a lot of Novik in my future . . .

Also, very curious about Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. First, it has an excellent cover, and second, I just keep hearing about it.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher, I was thinking of picking up just on the title alone . . . now I have even more incentive.

The others in this category I haven’t heard of, but now is perhaps as good a time as any to familiarize myself with them.

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

I’m sneaking this one up to the top too, as I think it’s pretty important. Of the names on this list, Micaiah Johnson is probably who I want to win. I read The Space Between Worlds recently, and actually thought it would be a finalist this year . . . Ooops.

Would also be happy with Simon Jimenez winning for much the same reason. The Vanished Birds was great and (to me) belongs on the finalist list above.

I have read Jenn Lyons’ A Ruin of Kings, and while incredible in scope, and a massive undertaking, I wasn’t quite enthralled enough to continue the series.

Lindsay Ellis I haven’t read yet, but am somewhat familiar with her from her YouTube channel of all things . . . Am excited to read Axiom’s End.

A.K Larkwood (Unspoken Name) and Emily Tesh (Silver in the Wood) are unknown to me at this point but now that I google them, I realize that I have both of their debuts on my shelf . . . awkward . . . Well at least at some point, past me was excited enough about these books to buy them, so I’m gonna trust past me and get hype now.

Best Novella

Novella is probably going to be the next most interesting category for me. I managed to have read (but not reviewed) one title on this list which was Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted. It’s a fantastic story, but I’ll be honest, I’m hoping something else on the list surprises me.

I think the second strongest contender will probably be Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire. I’ve read three other Wayward Children books, and each one seems to be more impressive than the last. I think I’ll need to read two more to get to this one, and I’m pretty excited to start on that journey.

Ring Shout, by P. Djeli Clark is another I’m excited for. I’ve been eyeing his Dead Djinn in Cairo series for quite some time too but that’s not the point of this post.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, Finna by Nino Cipri, and The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo, I know relatively little about. You’ll notice two of them were on my Novel List so clearly I didn’t even know how long they were . . .

We’ll see.

Best Novelette

Unfortunately, I know almost nothing in this category. I’ve at least heard of Aliette de Bodard. Her Servant of the Underworld has been on my list for quite some time but I haven’t read it yet.

In any case, it will be a fun to try out some new authors!

Best Short Story

This is another category where I’m pretty out of my depth. I’ve read one book and a few short stories by Yoon Ha Lee, but haven’t found anything by them I’ve super enjoyed (although I have high hopes for Dragon Pearl).

Right now, Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer is looking the most interesting based off the title alone. We’ll see! . . .

Best Series

Unabashedly, I want The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty to win this category. I’ve recently finished The City of Brass and am almost done with The Kingdom of Copper (to be reviewed on this blog soon!), and I pretty much can’t wait for The Empire of Gold. It’s probably the most I’ve enjoyed a series since the early days when I started Mistborn . . . wow I’ve just had a revelation . . .

Anyway, I will not be disappointed if Wells takes this for the Murderbot Diaries. It’s a long series but definitely one of my favs as of late.

I couldn’t get into Scalzi’s The Interdependency which is surprising, because I have long considered him one of my favorite authors. (you can read some of my past posts on his work like my review of Miniatures and Redshirts . . . and I though I’d written more on him here. Oh well here’s a Scalzi Tag so that future me won’t have to search for posts about him)

Lady Astronaut which I mentioned above is an incredible series . . . I wonder if this would include only the first two books, or the one that is being considered now for novel? Either way, would not be sad to see Kowal win this either.

October Daye (by Seanan McGuire also mentioned earlier) and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang are both series I’ve never read so . . . Can’t say much about them.

Best Related Work

I can’t say I know much of what is up for an award in this category except: Woah! What is George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)

I mean I watched as much of the 2020 Hugo as I could, and it was awkward, and maybe a little off-putting, but wow it sounds like there is a lot to unpack which I missed. I’ll be reading that shortly.

Best Graphic Story

I’m just not a Graphic Novel person. Not yet. Anywho, none of this looks familiar. Not much to say here.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Movies! First impression was surprise to see Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga on the list. I haven’t seen it (but love Will Ferrell so I definitely want to).

Palm Springs will probably be my choice for this. I’m a sucker for “Groundhog’s Day” type storylines, and I felt this one really brought something new to the table.

Soul is probably the one that should take this award just on merit alone. If not for Palm Springs I would vote for it.

Tenet – I’ve been looking for an excuse to just buy this one . . . looks like now I have it.

May still check out Birds of Prey, but I think I sort of missed its moment. Will probably still check it out.

I haven’t heard of The Old Guard yet . . . Maybe that means it’s the sleeper pick haha.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

I’ll be honest, without re-watching these individual episodes, and maybe the whole shows to give them context, I’m not really sure how to make this decision. If She-Ra hasn’t won anything before in this area, I’d say that I would want it to go to that show.

Mandalorian may deserve a prize just for making me feel like I should continue to keep watching Starwars media.

The Good Place is always a fav . . .

I haven’t watched much Doctor Who

Best Editor, Short Form

Some familiar faces here. Neil Clarke, editor of Clarke’s World Magazine is probably the person on this list who’s work I’m most familiar with. Looking at his wikipedia page though, it appears he’s been a nominee for this award 8 times! (wow). Basically every year from 2012 to 2020 with the exception of 2015 . . . impressive. He’s done an amazing job and I would be upset if he doesn’t take home this award in 2021.

Best Editor, Long Form

Sadly, I don’t know any of the Editors on this list . . .

Best Professional Artist

Again, unfamiliar . . .

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is probably my fav short fiction mag in this group. I think it’s last award was in 2017 so . . . maybe time for another?

Strange Horizons is probably the other one I’ve read the most, and has apparently been a finalist every year since 2013. Maybe this will be the year!

Uncanny will also be a strong contender here. I’ve really been reading a lot of them (well what little short fiction I’ve read recently has come from them), so I would not be upset if they take this award either.

I haven’t read FIYAH yet but am anxious to check it out.

Best Fanzine, Best Fancast, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist

I’ve grouped these together for brevity as they are essentially all the same answer . . . Which is that I don’t recognize much here.

Best Video Game

So this is the first year this category has been available, and I was super excited to hear about it being created. I’ve been pretty much glued to my PS4 since this pandemic started and so I thought it might be a good one for me to flex some insight . . .

I have played zero of the games on this list hahah. Animal Crossing is a cultural phenomenon but sadly not one on PS4. Final Fantasy VII Remake seems a little sus in my opinion as it’s a remake . . . I guess since this award hasn’t existed in the past I’ll let it slide (ya know because I have control over these things)

Hades is probably the game on this list I’m most excited to play. Love greek mythology and the gameplay mechanics seem intriguing . . . plus literally everyone I know won’t stop talking about it.

Last of Us Part II is interesting to me for a different reason, namely, story. So far, from what I’ve heard of this game so far, it really brings storytelling in videogames into the realm of literature. I thought this of the most recent God of War game, so I’m anxious to see this happen again with a new title. But . . . I need to play the first one first. I think it’s on sale for $10 right now so I really have no excuse . . .

Ooof I think that’s everything

Wow. We did it! We got through the whole list! This is way too long to proofread and I’ll probably miss the mistakes anyway.

Let me know what stuff you’re most excited for in the comments and thanks for reading this gargantuan post!

Until next time!

Ancient Egyptian Doggos!

Tomb of Tutankhamun, 18th Dynasty Egypt (ca. 1325BCE). Photograph taken in the Cairo Museum, 2007, by Jon Bodsworth] Public domain

So, this post might seem a bit out of the blue, but I’m hoping in the long run it will just be the start of something I do semi-frequently. Also, this blog has randomness built into it, so you’ll just have to run with it.

Long story short, while doing research for a work in progress (hopefully finished this month!), I fell down an Ancient Egyptian research hole (of which I’ve fallen down many) and discovered a lost city . . . rarely looked upon by modern eyes . . . and it was filled with doggos!

Ok. I didn’t really discover anything except the wikipedia page for Cynopolis, but even this simple thing, started me on a much longer journey (I’d say at least 3 more articles) to try and discover:

Just what exactly is going on with dogs in Ancient Egypt anyway?

It turns out, much like modern times, a lot of things.

Most people are probably familiar with Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead. Much like the Greek god Cerberus, Anubis “was considered the watchdog of the dead”. He:

“. . . was associated with funeral rites, he supervised the mummification of the deceased . . . Undoubtedly, though, his most important function was guiding the souls of the deceased to Osiris and a council of thirty-seven lesser gods/judges who determined the fate of the soul, based on its earthly behavior. Anubis, then, is also associated with resurrection, as well as death.” – pg 126.

“‘Hail Anubis: The Dog in Religion and Myth.’” Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan David Cummins, Carolina Academic Press, 2013, pp. 123–150.

No pressure there right?

But how did this come to be? The author of the previous quote, Bryan David Cummins, thinks that:

“it might be related to a primordial fear of the wolf and, more specifically, to the wolf as competitor and apex predator. With the dog as companion to the afterlife and as guardian of the un­derworld, it might be that we have, in our imaginations, melded on the one hand the dog as wolf/predator and, conversely, the dog as a friend and servant to humankind as we make our way from this world to the next. Whatever the case might be, there is a near universal religio-mythical association of the dog with death the afterlife, and the passage between the two.”

“‘Hail Anubis: The Dog in Religion and Myth.’” Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan David Cummins, Carolina Academic Press, 2013, pp. 123–150.

So all cultures love their doggos, or at the very least have them around.

What does that mean for our furry friends in Ancient Egypt?

Well, it seems similar to today, in that dogs probably occupied various places in society depending on where they lived, who their owners were (if they were owned), and what was available to them. Much like humans, some probably lived in luxury, while others had to fight to survive (a dog eat dog world so to speak). Cummins writes:

“The domestic dog, being a product of culture, in its various guises and roles reflected these social realities. Ancient Egyptian dogs, Thurston writes, were classified in a manner similar to their owners: there was a minute minority that enjoyed luxury; others functioned as hunters, soldiers, and guards attached to the ruling class; there were temple dogs for ceremonial and ritual purposes; and, at the bottom, the feral dogs that scavenged for a living”

“‘Hail Anubis: The Dog in Religion and Myth.’” Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan David Cummins, Carolina Academic Press, 2013, pp. 123–150.

But you said ‘city filled with doggos’ . . .

Yes. Yes I did. Apparently, in the city of Cynopolis (also called Hardai), pupper worship reached the pinnacle of its form. Cummins says:

What has been dubbed “the cult of Anubis” reached its greatest development in Cynopolis, “the City of Dogs.” Cynopolis was also known as Hardai by the Greeks. The city was a religious and commercial center that became, in the words of anthropologist Mary Elizabeth Thurston (1996:33), “a kind of mecca for Anubis worshippers, attracting thousands of pilgrims who came to beseech this deity for special favors on their behalf. Dogs thrived on the city streets, seeking food from visitors, and in its temples, where both dogs and priests were supported by the generosity of the city’s residents.

“‘Hail Anubis: The Dog in Religion and Myth.’” Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan David Cummins, Carolina Academic Press, 2013, pp. 123–150.

I mean . . . who doesn’t want to live there? Right?

Lastly, in something that I think today we would consider ‘meta’, Egyptians would also mummify their dogs once they passed. In essence, they were offered back to Anubis, who would look after his canine brethren in the afterlife. Again, Cummins, quoting Hall:

The predictable elaboration of this practice was the offering of a mummified form of the animal itself which the god was sure to recognize. It was perhaps inevitable that Cynopolis was not only “the city of dogs” but a “funerary city of dogs,” where the mum­mification of the beloved companion dogs that were brought here were ensured an existence in the afterlife (Hall, 2003:148).”

“‘Hail Anubis: The Dog in Religion and Myth.’” Our Debt to the Dog: How the Domestic Dog Helped Shape Human Societies, by Bryan David Cummins, Carolina Academic Press, 2013, pp. 123–150.


Not much of one, except to paint a picture. A whole city devoted to man’s best friend. Imagine walking to work and meeting your god in the street . . . telling him he’s a good boy and maybe giving him a pat or a scritch behind the ears.

I’m sure there was much more to life in ancient Cynopolis than just being around dogs all the time. I’m sure at points there was unrest, and crime like any city (I’m also wondering who did all the scooping). The wikipedia page says there was even a war between the city and a neighboring one that worshipped fish.

But I like to think that the simple scene I described above must have happened at some point. That it was an idyllic moment, and that it perhaps was the sort of thing that happened often. I like to imagine a life in which it was normal to be so devoted to something that is clearly devoted to you, and wonder how it would feel to express that reverence with the kind of formality that religion allows (and often demands).

Annnnddd that’s all I have for now. Love your dogs if you got em . . .

Further reading?

So I came across this article while writing this post. It looks more at dogs in literature, but I thought it was ‘on-topic’ so to speak. Enjoy!

The Curious Symbolism of Dogs In Literature and Myth – Interesting Literature

Hey again, I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look at what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. 

Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!

Should ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ get a Hugo?

No? Of all the books I’ve read so far on my quest to predict 2021’s Hugo winner this is the book I’ve enjoyed the least.

Now this will perhaps be something of a hot take as this book seems to be universally loved by fans and critics alike. It’s a bestseller in the New York Times, USA Today, National Indie, and Washington Post.

WaPo calls it a “Genre-defying tour de force” in their article: V.E. Schwab delivers another compulsively readable novel with ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’

Gary K. Wolfe over at Locus believes that “. . . most readers will fall in love with Addie as fully as Schwab herself has. And, well, she is pretty cool.(here’s the link to the Locus review)

And there are probably about a million other reviews online from major publications and small blogs like my own that would agree with those sentiments and have come up with their own ways to put their love of Addie into words.

I don’t want to take away from that. Live your joy. I will not try to deny that there was plenty to love in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (in fact, I’m going to start my review by listing the things I did like about the book because I think that is generally more useful, and if you are only gonna read so far you might as well learn about the good things) . . .

But this book wasn’t that for me.

**slight spoilers ahead**

(I’ve never done a spoiler warning on this blog before I don’t think. It was kinda fun!)

Fine, What Were the Good Things?

This quote:

“Freedom is a pair of trousers and a buttoned coat.”

Pg 163 (you know what book we’re talking about)

I was only slightly sad that she didn’t point out the joy of pockets. Now you may say, “What do you know of this? You’re a man.” Indeed, but I have talked to women before and occasionally they talk back. Sooner or later, they all mention pockets.

Needless to say this book is filled with gender commentary like that, whether it be in the little things like the clothes Addie is and isn’t allowed to wear (and what she feels able to get away with since she won’t be remembered), or one of the overarching themes of love and possession (aka abusive relationships). I especially enjoyed the way the book’s bi and queer relationships were in full view of the reader without any subtlety (or apology). They are simply a part of the world, and this is as it should be.

I also thought the main premise was intriguing and put something new (at least to me) on the themes and considerations of immortality.

And of course, the prose are expertly written.

Good. Good.

So what gives?

For me, two things mainly. The first: little or no sense of wonder beyond Addie’s original meeting with The Darkness. And second? Paaaacccciiinnnggg.

For the first, it is useful to think of WaPo’s review of ‘genre-defying’. Typically, this kind of sentiment is seen as an achievement, but I felt that in the case of Addie LaRue (randomly italicized because I thought it sounded like a mystery title), it was the book’s biggest weakness. A music venue in an abandoned subway tunnel is perhaps the most spectacle we get after establishing our MC’s curse.

I wanted more.

For the second, we have these short little chapters, which alternate between past episodes in Addie’s Life, and her “present” in 2014 (it was super interesting to read why Schwab chose to set the novel before 2016). At first, the short and punchy prose make these snippets fly by, and we feel like we’re running through the book instead of reading it. But after 50 such portions (and 3 parts!) we’re only halfway through the novel. I’ll admit, I had started typing up this post at that point, thinking I was going to put the book down.

By the halfway mark, Luc (the villain) didn’t really seem all that consequential. He sort of just shows up randomly which I guess could be stressful on its own but we don’t really have the full context yet though we think we do. We’ve seen a lot of Addie by this point, but all we know is that she’s proud, somewhat selfish, and suffering a whole bunch because of one bad move a long time ago. Whatever is going on with Henry is still a mystery.

Now, all of these things do get wrapped up and threaded together by the end (in a way that I’m still unsure whether or not is satisfying), but here too, we run into the constant stop-start, of these tiny chapters. By the last fifty pages, I just wanted everything to happen already.

Perhaps this is just me though . . .

So Hugo?

I don’t doubt this one will be a contender, but if it makes the finals (which it very well may given how popular the author and this book seem to be), it will not be the one I vote for. I enjoyed the premise and the way the story delivered its messaging, but I was really missing that sense of wonder, and on a more practical point, I almost put the book down because of the pacing . . . if I had then there would have been no chance for me to see all the things I ended up enjoying about the book, and that is definitely a problem.

Thanks all. Hope you found this review useful! Sorry it was a bit of a downer.

Please skin me alive, leave your thoughts in the comments! Until next time . . .

Rapunzel’s Tower

Hey all. It’s Friday so I thought I’d let Max go play. I was aiming for 1,000 words and ended up with 1,055. I’d say not too shabby. This piece is also exciting because I found my first continuity error between this story and the others. I decided to leave it in as these shorts are just practice. If you catch it, post it in the comments. Enjoy!

Rapunzel’s Tower

Max smiled as his pencil traced an arc across the page. He wasn’t quite sure what the arc would form – maybe a wing, or a claw. Ooh the hump of a roller coaster! – but it felt good to sit at his desk, drawing to kill the time until his friend Tim came to pick him up. It felt good to have time to kill on the weekend.

A little red stone near the end of Max’s desk began to buzz insistently. For the third time in three weeks, it was Ms. Pine. Reluctantly, Max placed his palm on the table, and listened to the message.

Hi Max,

Are you avoiding me? Anyway, I have another job this weekend. Please get in touch!


Max sighed and spun around in his chair. As he had last week, and the week before, Max made no move to reply to the message. He was done with putting his life at risk, done with being scared to go to work, done with Ms. Pine. From here on out?

No more monsters.

The doorbell rang and Max ran down the stairs and greeted his friend Tim. Immediately they began to talk about how much better today’s adventure would be as compared to last week’s. Max tried to match Tim’s excitement, but something was off.

They’d gone to play laser tag two weeks ago, and that’s when Max had noticed it. Though he was running, and jumping, and shooting, he felt as if something were missing.

He’d felt it again, at the pool party over at Kimmy’s house. The other children laughed as they splashed each other with water from the pool or ate cake and ice cream. But Max couldn’t bring himself to join them. If Tim hadn’t dared him to jump off the high dive, he might never have felt better.

Now, as he looked out at the neon flashing signs, and a thousand bulbs of light which arced into the sky, Max knew he’d be able to get it back. Whatever it was.

“Which ride do you want to go on first?” Tim asked as they waited to enter the amusement park.

Max looked around and saw a large tower that stood higher than all of the other rides in the park. At the top of the tower, was the statue of a woman with long golden hair, looking down across the park. Her golden hair cascaded down her back, flowed off the edge of the tower and eventually became the track for the ride which looped and twirled its way down to a knight who stood near the ride’s exit.

“You can’t go on that ride first Max, are you crazy? It’s the tallest one!” Tim said, putting his arms around Max’s shoulders. “You have to build up to it. Let’s try something a little easier first.“

Max allowed Tim to lead him away from Rapunzel’s Tower and onward to something that looked like a caterpillar chasing a leaf held by ants. It was just ok. The next one they tried covered almost the entire park, soaring on the wings of a Pterosaur, feet dangling high above the earth. Tim looked more exhilarated than Max had ever seen him in his life. Max supposed it was nice for him too.

Finally, they returned to Rapunzel’s Tower.

An attendant pulled the padded harness down over them and checked to make sure it was secure. With everything in place, the car began to slowly spiral upwards as if the passengers were walking up a spiral staircase to the top of the stone tower.

Max looked over at Tim who seemed to blanch a little more with each floor they ascended. Max’s anticipation was twofold. Would this thrill be the one? When this car finally dropped, would he finally feel that missing something?

They crested the top of the rise, and glided smoothly towards the drop. Max’s heart was butterflies in his chest. This was it!

There was a resounding crunch and the car stopped.

Max and Tim hung suspended over the tracks looking down to the pavement bellow. The other guests looked the size of ants and Max longed for the safety of the caterpillar ride. This was too much. It was too high. How on earth had he thought that this was what he was missing?

Max pushed against the padded harness holding him in place but it wouldn’t budge. Somewhere in the distance, an attendant was explaining into the loud speaker that the ride would need to be evacuated. Just remain calm.

When the fire department arrived and began to bring everyone down, Max was shaking as he descended the rungs. As soon as his foot touched the pavement, he ran towards the exit. He didn’t make it very far though; for some reason, it was too hard to breathe.

As Max stood with his hands on his knees, bent forward, trying to catch his breath, he heard an “Oww!” cried from somewhere in front of him. A second exclamation allowed Max to find its source: a young girl standing in front of a glass aquarium of Jebalix. She reached inside and their snapping beaks moved to nip at her hands.

Max was surprised by the fluidness of his motions as he approached the girl. His hands didn’t shake at all as he removed some leather strips from a hook on the wall and laid it within the aquarium. The jebalix bit into it, as he knew they would, and he pulled the leather back towards himself, removing their beaks. The girl was delighted, a grin spreading across her face as she reached into the aquarium to pick up one of the now harmless monsters.

Max realized he was delighted too, for as he’d helped the girl everything seemed to fall into place. The missing piece had been found! It had been the monsters all along that he’d been missing.

Tim walked up looking shaken, and stressed. “Is everything OK with you Max? You were shaking as you left the ride and now you look like you’ve just won an endless supply of free ice cream.” Max blinked a second looking at Tim. “What? Uh yea, I’m fine. Wonderful actually. But we should get going. I have a message I need to reply too . . .”

Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Rapunzel’s Tower. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!