200th Post! And My Top 5 Forest Fantasy Recommendations #WyrdAndWonder

Wow. I can’t believe I’ve posted two hundred times already on this blog. While this feels like an important milestone, I am relatively unprepared for it. I didn’t plan anything special. No giveaways or special features. No discounts (lolz this blog is free anyway).

However, I have been participating in the month long celebration of all things Fantasy known as Wyrd and Wonder. For that, I’ve gathered a list of my Top 5 favorite Fantasy reads which are somehow related to the theme of FOREST. Anyway, here it is:

My Top 5 Forest Fantasy Books

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

This is probably the most recent thing I’ve read with a prominent forest in it (excluding Bear and the Nightingale, and The Girl in the Tower cause I’m trying not to make this whole month about those two books). I finished it for last year’s #WyrdAndWonder (2021), and wondered whether or not Emily Tesh should win the 2021 Astounding award (ultimately I said no). Even though I didn’t pick it for the award, I still thought it was an excellent read! I loved the language Tesh employed, and the mythical creatures revealed throughout the novella (primarily The Green Man, and Dryads).

Overall, I highly recommend.

The Runelords by David Farland

RIP David Wolverton (aka David Farland). I haven’t read much of Farland’s writing, but I recognized the name as an often acclaimed friend and mentor to Brandon Sanderson. I believe many in the writing community were upset to hear of his passing.

His most well known series, The Runelords, presents a pseudo-medieval world in which people can transfer attributes (like grace, or strength) through a process called endowments. Individuals with many endowments become super-human and are known as Runelords.

I only read book one of the series, but it was and interesting premise (and not hard to see the influence it had upon Sanderson) which quickly revealed itself to be quite profound. During the first book, which gives the series its name, the main character must find his way through a magical forest which is haunted by wights. I won’t give away too much about what happens, but suffice to say, this forest is the kind of forest we think of when we think about forests in a fantasy setting. Not quite the trope codifier (which I assume is Tolkien), but just a really great example of its use.

Highly recommend.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I’m sure this book will come up in a lot of posts this #WyrdAndWonder, so I won’t spend a ton of time talking about Naomi Novik’s great fairy tale inspired novel. What I enjoyed about the forest in this book was just how ALIVE it felt and how menacing.

Definitely a great read!

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, admittedly has many different kinds of stories within its pages, and most of them (if I remember correctly) do not have much to do with a forest. However, a few stories do, and what I liked so much about their representation here, is that they are so much different than the typical wooded settings we’re used to in a western fantasy setting.

There are all kinds of forests (like say . . . a palm forest) all over the world, and we really get reminded of that throughout this book.

Plus Okorafor is just an amazing author. I really need to do a re-read of her works for the blog sometime. Anyway, definitely read this one!

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

I’m sure nobody is surprised to see Brandon Sanderson on this list. Despite the fact that his worlds span continents, oceans, and even outer space, not a lot of forest settings immediately jumped to my mind when considering his work. However, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is good enough to fill in any supposed lack of forestry within the Cosmere. This forest is insane.

Essentially, the forest is haunted by “cognitive shadows” (called Shades) or ghosts which will effectively kill anything they touch, therefore creating a new Shade. This forest is so dangerous to the world’s inhabitants that people living near it have developed a set of rules for traveling through them which might keep them alive. There are three:

  1. Do not kindle a flame
  2. Do not shed the blood of another
  3. Do not run during the night

I think you can probably guess what ends up happening during the story hahah. Anyway, I like this one because it’s a nice little glimpse into other parts of the Cosmere, and (IMHO) is generally not like any of the other stories we’ve read in that universe. Perhaps some might consider it a random one-off, but for me, it just makes things more interesting. If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, I’d say this is a must read, and if not, probably still check it out anyway. It’s a lot of fun.

That’s it!

That’s the list. My top five favorite fantasy stories featuring forests in them. Also, if you haven’t already, please check out a little original piece of fiction I started for #Smaugust last year called Failmor Woods, which was written around a FOREST theme.

Now let’s see some comments. Have you read any of the stories I posted about? What were your thoughts. Any not on my list which should be? I’d love to here about them.

See you next time!

My 2021 Hugo Award Votes Cast!

Apparently this is what happens when an AI tries to make a Hugo Award lol

Hooray! The moment I’ve all been waiting for!

I’ve just cast my votes for the 2021 Hugo Awards . . .

It’s been almost exactly eight months since I got rather silly and excited about the 2021 Hugo Awards creeping into view upon the horizon and began reading a random list of books I thought might be eligible for the award. In that time, I nominated my favs and then later the finalists were announced (and I had thoughts). After that, I began feverishly reading and reviewing as many as I could.

I only made it through 18 contenders, in a variety of different categories, but I’m still going to count the exercise as a success, as I was slightly more ‘in the know’ than I had been when the finalists were announced. Also, I think I made a few friends on the internet pursuing this endeavor so that’s always nice.

For this post however, I think I’ll just say which one I selected as the top pick in each category. You can read all my reviews about the others if you want to later. Here . . . we . . . go!

Best Novel

For this one, I chose Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse! I think this was the surprise of the century for me considering I did not really enjoy Trail Lightning, but for me this book was just excellent fantasy. Network Effect by Martha Wells, and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir were my second, and then third choices. Sadly I never got around to reading the other contenders which is pretty agrivating because The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin has been staring at me from my bookshelf since last November, but alas somehow these others got ahead of it. This is a category that I WILL end up reading the rest of because I don’t think there were any bad choices here. Definitely still looking forward to this!

Anywho, moving on . . .

Best Novella

For me, Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi was the clear winner. Finna by Nino Cipri was a close second. I wish I had the chance to listen to Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey a second time so I could have reviewed it in light of the others, but alas . . . no time.

I literally only had 20 minutes left in Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo but a kerfuffle with my Libby app sent it on to the next person waiting and it says I won’t get it back for another eight weeks. I think I mostly got the gist of it though and am happy with how I ranked it.

The others I hope to be able to finish sometime soon.

Best Novelette

I ended up not voting in this category as I read exactly zero of the works involved. Well maybe 0.5 works if you count the few pages I got into Attack Helicopter. Anyway, will try harder next time.

Best Short Story

“Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell was the pick for me here, followed by “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Rae Carson (which I apparently didn’t review! Oops), and then “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer.

Hoping to be able to finish this category as well since they’re short. We’ll see later if I made a mistake hahah.

Best Series

This was another big category for me although I don’t think it was going to be very difficult to tell which title I picked. The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty was by far my favorite, followed by The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and then Lady Astronaut Universe by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Looks like I didn’t vote in this category.

Best Graphic Story or Comic

Or this one . . .

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

I didn’t do any reviews for this category, but I had still seen a few of the contestants. I believe my opinions stayed mostly the same. First place for Palm Springs, second went to Soul and I did finally watch Tenet and could not really make heads or tails of it so . . . it got third. I didn’t get a chance to watch the others for which I’m eternally sad.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Didn’t vote in this category. Almost no way I could have done enough watching to understand how the episodes worked with the larger series and judge which was most effective. It would have just been me rating my fav shows which didn’t seem in the spirit of the awards.

Best Editor, Short Form

I want Neil Clarke to get one of these! That is all.

Best Editor, Long Form

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is the only one of these I read with any consistency so I voted that one number one. Uncanny Magazine has definitely been everywhere though so I won’t be surprised at all if it takes the rocket. Strange horizons always seems to be in the game so I voted it third. The others I’m not really familiar with but will certainly be changing that fact as quickly as possible.

Best Professional Artist

Didn’t vote in this category. Sorry artists. You’re work is amazing, but I just don’t know who you are

Best Semiprozine

Also didn’t vote in this one.

Best Fanzine

I voted for Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog on this one which was crazy cause I’m pretty sure I hadn’t even heard of them until after they were nominated. Even the nomination didn’t get me following them but randomly I saw a post of theirs on twitter and it was over from there. They’re great!

Nerds of a Feather I think I’ve read before so I gave them second place. Everyone else I’ll need to pursue later on.

Best Fancast

Didn’t vote in this category either.

Best Fan Writer

Nor This one . . .

Best Fan Artist

Nor this one either . . .

Best Video Game

I was soooooo excited about this category, but after all the time we had to try different things, I never ended up playing any of the titles. I made it through most of The Last of Us part 1, but didn’t feel good about voting for part 2 based on the first game. Anyway, I’ll get there someday.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

Ayyyy! Finally another category I actually have something to say in. I was kind of surprised that I blitzed through so many of these titles because I don’t normally read YA, but these were all excellent books.

I ended up choosing Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. This was a tight race with Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. And Legendborn by Tracy Deonn was also great but I enjoyed the others more. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik had soo much going for it but unfortunately made some pretty big blunders. Still looking forward to Last Graduate though.

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

Phew! We’ve made it to the last category. For this, my choice was Micaiah Johnson for The Space Between Worlds, followed closely by Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds. I really can’t wait to see what these two authors put out next.

Emily Tesh brought up a strong third place for Silver in the Wood. I’m excited the sequel seems to already be out.

Unfortunately I didn’t really get to the others (except Jenn Lyons who I just could quite get into).

So . . . I guess that’s it!

Woah. I can’t believe I’m finally here. I’ve voted in a Hugo Awards . . .

Cool.

Of course this certainly isn’t the end. There’s still the WorldCon itself in which the eventual winners will be announced. I’m sure I’ll have thoughts about that.

And then also there’s still a pretty long list of books, stories and media that I did not get a chance to consume. I’ll probably keep updating my Links to Hugo Award Finalists I’ve Reviewed page as I go, and may even update it to include multiple years as I’m sure I’ve previously, and will likely review some more for different years. We’ll see.

So what are your thoughts? Did I pick well? Have you voted yet? What did you vote for? Let’s get hype!

Should ‘Silver In the Wood’ win Emily Tesh an Astounding Award? (aka best debut) #WyrdAndWonder

A hard question to answer. Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh is a great novella for many reasons.

The first reason, is its up close-and-personal interpretation of the ‘Green man’ myth. Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with the folklore surrounding this figure, so I can’t really comment on Tesh’s interpretation.

The impression I have though, using really only this story as a reference point, is that The Green Man is a kind of tree spirit, similar to a Dryad from classical mythology (indeed there is a dryad that follows our main character around and is very protective of him), which protects the forest and keeps out all the bad stuff that wants to come in. However, a few things set our main character apart:

  • he is male and most dryads are female in the book
  • he lives near a big oak tree which might make him something like a Hamadryad but I’m not sure

This sort of mythic existence puts him in a sort of tenuous relationship with the rest of the wood’s inhabitants. At first, humans see him as wild and scary, but ultimately get over it as the story progresses.

Whatever the folklore textbooks have to say, the interpretation written here feels simultaneously personal, and mythic in a way which is really engaging and is probably the first thing I noticed about the book.

I feel this mythic quality is accomplished by the second awesome part about this novella: Tesh’s prose. They’re lovely, and seem to rely on some seemingly impossible phrases (how exactly does time pass “slow and green”) which don’t hang up the reader, but give us our own freedom to imagine their implications. Throughout the entire work, we’re in a place where things don’t quite make sense but are nevertheless mystical and fantastic.

This novella’s final and perhaps most endearing quality is its romance arc. It seems to try and hide itself behind the thickets of legend and worldbuilding, but the reality is that this story does not start until Tobias meets Harry Silver, and can’t end until . . . well I won’t spoil it. Needless to say, it is the thread that pulls us through.

My only gripe, is that I felt like I was left wondering in a few too many places. The story seems to have complex character relationships based on a complex and long history, but I felt like we never got enough of that history to understand why the action we were taking would bring about the end we desired. Even in a scant 100 pages, there was at least two moments in which I wondered why we where seeing something and ultimately felt the scene could have been pruned away.

Astounding Award?

I suppose the answer to this question will ultimately come down to how it stacks up against the competition.

This title is a great read, and there is much to love within this bite-sized package. There is a clever mythology at play here, a genuinely enjoyable romance, and beautiful prose, but I also felt that some key information was missing, while other sections seemed to provide things which weren’t relevant.

Looking back at my review of The Vanished Birds, I seemed to have similar complaints, although I feel it’s longer page count might give it some more leniency than Silver in the Wood. Short works don’t have as much time for extra material. Every word counts.

Micaiah Johnson’s debut is probably still the story I’ve enjoyed most in my Hugo Contender read-through (though I’m not going to look back through all the posts to make sure I didn’t contradict myself). My review of The Space Between Worlds cites strong characters, and a well-developed setting as it’s strong points, and I believe that in these categories, it simply out-performs Silver in the Wood.

No Astounding Award for Tesh this year (in my rankings at least), though I’m sure she’ll contend for other awards in the future. If you’ve made it this far in the post, I’m hoping you’ll still go read Silver in the Wood as it is a great book!

If you have questions comments or gripes, leave em in the comments. Thanks all!

#WyrdAndWonder Kickoff post!

IMAGE CREDIT: pegasus images by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

Hey all, so there’s this thing that happens in May called Wyrd & Wonder, in which fans of Fantasy Lit from across the internet get together and celebrate this awesome genre. I’ve watched from the sidelines in years past, enjoying all of these wonderful blog posts and twitter threads, but this year, since I’m blogging again, I thought it might be cool to participate.

I typically post reviews on Wednesdays, so I’ll continue to do that, but I’ll try to keep them as Fantasy genre related as possible. For anybody following my long list of Hugo contenders, you’ll notice that most of them are on that list too (double duty!) and some are even Hugo Finalists (triple duty!).

I will also try to post a response to one of their challenge posts. Mostly this will be on Mondays, but there will be a couple other random days as well, if I have time, or because I thought the challenge prompt was cool.

Finally, if for whatever reason, you actually come to this blog to read my fiction, I’ll continue to post new fiction on Fridays. I cannot promise that these stories are considered ‘fantasy’, but most of them so far have involved made-up animals so . . . that seems pretty fantastical to me.

Below is my plan as it currently stands. I’ll revise the titles and provide links here as I do the writing for this. We’ll see how this goes . . . Very excited to be a part of it all. Thank you @deargeekplace, @imyril & @joriestory for putting this together! Can’t wait to see how this goes . . .

Here’s the list:
May 3rd – #MapMonday: Using Emerging Tech for Fictional Maps
May 5th – Should ‘Black Sun’ get a Hugo?
May 9th – Spine Poetry for Mother’s Day*Failed this one as alas, I spent the entire weekend at the beach with mom. Plus my book shelf is not suited for this challenge AT ALL. Gotta work on buying some Titles that aren’t so ‘in world’. Oh well.
May 10th – Mixed feelings: The Truth About Dinosaur Lords
May 12th – Review: Song of Achilles
May 17th – Can’t Wait to read! (twitter post) and Desert Island Reads (catching up from last Wednesday)
May 19th – Review: Silver in the Wood
May 24th – TBR: 11 Fantasy Books I should have read by now
May 26th – Review: Empire of Gold – deadlines are the worst. I spent the time I could have been working on this trying to finish up editing for my WIP to submit to critiques. I got it done (sorta) and sent it off . . . fingers are crossed it’s goes well. I’ll still review Empire of Gold at some point but just not for #WyrdAndWonder
May 31st – Wyrd and Wonder Wrap up Post!

Enjoy! and feel free to leave comments on what you’re most looking forward to this May for Wyrd and Wonder.