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Topics - Elfy

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / RIP Julian May
« on: October 23, 2017, 05:35:29 AM »
This is sadly a bit late. Julian May, the author of the Saga of the Exiles (highly popular in the 80's when it first came out) passed away on 17 October, aged 86. This seems to have passed largely without note, which is a little sad, as she was a very popular author for some time. I'm rereading the series at the moment and struck by what a great TV show it would make now that we have the technical ability to pull it off.

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Writers' Corner / Milestones
« on: June 01, 2016, 05:23:46 AM »
Does anyone else get a little thrill when they hit a milestone in writing? Like hitting a specific amount of words? I know there's a long way to go, but seeing that amount of words can just give you a bit of a boost. I just hit 50,000 words on my current WiP and it made me feel good doing it.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / SFF books with spiders in them
« on: September 08, 2015, 07:17:56 AM »
Seeing as I thought we probably should stop hijacking the What Are You Reading thread with images and stories about spiders (we're probably also freaking out the arachnophobes as well), I thought I'd put this one up here for us to talk about books with spiders in them. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Spellsinger series are 4 that immediately spring to mind for me.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Tolkien's inspiration?
« on: August 01, 2015, 01:36:57 AM »
I was watching a thing on the History of Britain today and apparently a Brother Gundulf (later Bishop of Rochester) designed The White Tower. It seems too coincidental for the good Professor not to have drawn some inspiration for the name of his famous wizard.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Magical animals
« on: April 07, 2015, 04:43:15 AM »
I just read an article on Tor.com about cats in fantasy, and it struck me that plenty of fantasy books do feature animals. While I'm not a cat person personally, I did put a cat in my own YA portal fantasy Realmspace, and I think animal characters are quite cool to use in fantasy. What are other people's favourites? I quite like the Librarian from Discworld.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Books that make you cry
« on: November 26, 2014, 11:03:48 PM »
I saw a post in the currently reading thread where the poster said that a book made them cry and I wondered if other books have affected people that way. I know my wife has done it, and on public transport no less. I have a few that can reduce me to tears. There's a section in The Lies of Locke Lamora that no matter how often I read the book, and I have read it a number of times, still makes me cry. A.R Lloyd's Kine (think Watership Down, but with weasels instead of rabbits) has a part in the latter 3rd that does it. Out of the genre Wilbur Smith's Cry Wolf also has a scene near the end that makes me cry as well. I know the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords can affect people, heard stories about throwing the book across the room and have to compose themselves before going on. Any that do it to people here?

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I know Arry normally does this, but she's away this month, so I thought I'd start one up for us all to give our thoughts on our September reading.
I had a pretty decent month. I don't think I actually completed anything in August, but that's what happens when you're travelling overseas and seeing new and exciting things every day.
I read 8 books, various parts of the genre and by a variety of authors, including the Fantasy-Faction Anthology.

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Writers' Corner / Writing that inspires you
« on: October 04, 2013, 01:50:53 AM »
Seeing as we have a thread about books that make you stop writing, because it's just so damn good you don't think you can ever approach it, I thought I'd start one about things you read that actually inspire you to write, because the idea hits you hard. I recently experienced this with Theodora Goss' short story The Mad Scientist's Daughter (which I raved about on the What are you currently reading thread). So what have you read that makes you think, what if? And immediately gets ideas running about in your head? In short what inspires you to write?

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I just read the second of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid urban fantasy series and reviewed it on my blog (http://travelsthroughiest.blogspot.com). Here's the review for anyone who may be interested in the author or the series:

Last year when I read and reviewed Discount Armageddon the first of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series I said that it was urban fantasy in it's purest form, and it is. Midnight Blue-Light Special continues that. When I hear the words urban fantasy from now on I will think of InCryptid.

It's been three months since professional ball room dancer and cryptozoologist Verity Price hooked up with former Convenant of St George member Dominic DeLuca and saved New York's one and only dragon in residence (this is male dragon, there are many females). Life isn't too bad and Verity's nearing the end of her year long sabbatical and is facing the fact that she soon needs to make a life choice: dancing or cryptozoology. One is a life long dream, the other means that she makes a significant and life saving difference for others.

It's about then that Dominic tells her that the Covenant of St George are coming to town and to borrow from a well known Western movie: 'Hell is coming with them!'

Once the Covenant arrive, even though their team is only three strong, every cryptid in New York is in danger. Verity tells the dragons to bunker down and warns the Indian Madhura siblings to get out of town. She tells her cousin the 'cuckoo' (other dimensional race of telepaths, Sarah is adopted and it's really complicated) to lay low and prepares to move herself and her colony of talking mice to somewhere safer than her semi legal sublet apartment.

We get to see some of the other Price family allies, like Verity's Uncle Mike, who is revered by the Aeslin mice as the High Priest of Godammit Eat Something Already. Verity's co-worker the waheela Istas also comes along in the hope of there being some significant carnage.

This was the first real good look readers got at the Covenant of St George and they well and truly lived up to their reputation. They are capital N Nasty.

The book is tight and action packed. I give kudoes to Seanan McGuire for not shying away from the fact that when you're playing this game people will get hurt and killed. McGuire has shown in both the Toby Daye and Newsflesh books (written under the pen name Mira Grant) that she can do tension and make you fearful for the fates of her characters and that happens again here. She has a way of keeping one riveted to the page and I had to finish half of Midnight Blue-Light Special in one sitting, because I just had to find out what happened next! This is rare for me. I'm not one of those people who generally get so involved with a book that the outside world ceases to exist.

This one finishes off Verity's story arc for now and the third book (Half Off Ragnarok, seriously I adore the titles) will follow the misadventures of another member of the Price family and in a different setting.

I liked something that was done later in the book and that's the switching of perspective. Writing a book in first person can limit you a little to the narrators view of things. McGuire got around it in Newsflesh by having the second book narrated by a different character and here she takes the perspective of Sarah for a while. I love Sarah as a character, she's just so quirky, so I really enjoyed seeing things through her eyes. A couple of times the voice slipped and she became Verity, but mostly she was believable as Sarah. In terms of presentations, Tara O'Shea's little dingbats at the top of each new chapter altered slightly to reflect the narrator's passion. Verity is a dancer and Sarah is obsessed by mathematics.

One negative thing that carried over from Discount Armageddon was the relationship between Verity and Dominic. I can buy them as partners working together, but I just cannot buy them being in a romantic, hot sex kind of relationship. I don't know why, it just doesn't work for me.

Back to the positives I completely adore the Aeslin mice and want a colony of my own, they started to develop some more distinct personalities in this and while I can see the problems inherent in overusing them I will be most disappointed if Alex Price doesn't have a colony helping/hindering him in some way in Half Off Ragnarok.

Something else that McGuire has done very successfully and you don't often see it in urban fantasy is create an entire world, history and very believable back story, not just for the cryptids, but their human allies and enemies.

I also really like that while she does mention well known cryptids such as bogeymen and dragons, she also finds more obscure ones like madhuras and waheelas, and then there's the ones she's invented herself such as the cuckoos and the Aeslin mice, this all adds depth to the books and the series in general.

I'm on board with this for wherever it takes me.

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I've seen a call already for this, so here goes. I know we have a general GoT S3 thread, but this one is specifically for those who have seen the show and want to talk about it. Fair warning there will be spoilers here. So if you haven't read the books or seen the episodes as they come out you may want to exercise caution.
Episode 1: Valar Dohaeris (new Valyrian word I think, not one of George's original 8) has been screened. What did everyone think? Have at it!

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Fantasy Movies, Comic Books & Video Games / Marvel Comics the Untold Story
« on: February 13, 2013, 03:34:47 AM »
I just recently read the above book. It's a pretty decent read for anyone interested in the company or the medium. It is understandably quite Marvel centric. If you'd like to read my thoughts on it you can find the review at http://travelsthroughiest.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/marvel-comics-untold-story-by-sean-howe.html

I'd actually be interested to hear if anyone else has read this and what they thought.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / What is Urban Fantasy to you?
« on: January 23, 2013, 12:16:28 AM »
There's been a bit of discussion about what direction the fantasy genre as a whole is going in over at the main forum: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/the-future-of-fantasy/
Our Fearless Leader (Overlord) rather cheekily suggested that Urban Fantasy shouldn't be called Fantasy. That got an impassioned response from one of our resident writers, who also happens to be an Urban Fantasist (Francis Knight, her debut UF novel Fade to Black is coming out soon, there's a review on the front page, and while I haven't read the whole book, I have read an excerpt and it looks fantastic, so I hope others join me in purchasing a copy when it hits the shelves). Francis outlined the difference between PNR (Paranormal Romance) and UF, which are often confused.
In recent times I've seen all sorts of things called UF, things that I wouldn't ordinarily put in the sub genre, but they do fit. I can list things until the cows come home, but I'd like people here to say what they consider Urban Fantasy. Not just books or authors, but what elements does a book have to contain to make you consider it as an Urban Fantasy novel?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Something Different
« on: November 11, 2012, 04:28:28 AM »
No, this isn't a post about Monty Python's Flying Circus, although one could argue that they definitely belong on a Fantasy Forum. 
Just recently I've seen a few posts asking for recommendations because people seemed to have exhausted the recent 'big things' in the genre that we regularly discuss here. Although new things and works by popular authors are wonderful we don't see much about older works and those that don't get launched in a blaze of publicity. I'm hoping that this thread will bring some of those to light.
I'll kick things off by posting a review I did of a book I read recently that I never would have heard of if the cover hadn't caught my wife's eye and prompted her to buy it. It won't be to everyone's taste, but that's not really the point. I never thought I'd like it until I gave it a go.

Chime by Franny Billingsley

I was left with one word when I finished Chime: Brilliant.

The hard part about reviewing Franny Billingsley’s excellent tale is to explain exactly why it gave me that feeling without totally spoiling it for any prospective reader.

It’s a very hard book to classify, and also to market. Given where my wife found the book (the YA section) it fits into the ever broadening field of YA literature. The best classification I can hang on it is YA Gothic Romance. That however doesn’t really do the book justice. Although it’s marketed as a YA book I can’t see too many YA readers really warming towards it. I had the feeling a number of times throughout the book that had I read it as a teen I wouldn’t have liked it, but as a fairly widely read adult I had a greater appreciation of the skill required to write a story like Chime.

It’s told in first person most of the time, although it does occasionally switch perspective for brief periods. It’s the story of Briony, a sheltered young woman who believes she is a witch, caused the death of her beloved stepmother, is the reason her twin sister is damaged, and therefore should be hung. Meeting and befriending the young tearaway Eldric, brings Briony out of herself and eventually convinces her that what happened to her stepmother and sister was not her fault and she should not feel responsible for the events or the fates of those women.

The relationship between Eldric and Briony is handled sensitively and skilfully with a great deal of humour and believability. Briony and Eldric’s relationship often made me recall that of Laurie and Jo in Little Women. The setting is truly fascinating. It’s hard to pin down a time, but the technology and fashion mentioned suggest that it’s early 20th century. Location is another one. The town of London is described as being not all that far away, so it’s somewhere in England, but the swampy setting kept making me think of Louisiana. Briony’s belief that she sees magical creatures and events that no one else can made me think of Jo Walton’s Among Others. The heroine of that book was not dissimilar to Briony and she also saw things and had beliefs that were left deliberately ambiguous. Eldric was also reminiscent in some ways of Among Others' ‘romantic lead’.

It was an entrancing book, full of glorious dreamy imagery. It was something you savoured as you read. Billingsley’s prose and sumptuous way of describing things combined with Briony’s somewhat unique, quirky and highly amusing way of viewing her world and the people around her were a joy to encounter.

Chime is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I urge everyone to find it and lose themselves in this dream of a novel.       

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Tad Williams is one of the most versatile authors I’ve encountered. From his Tolkienesque epic f trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn to  the cyberpunk tetralogy Otherland, he rarely visits the same territory twice. One of my favourite books ever is Williams’ standalone fantasy The War of the Flowers. I’ve been gradually reading more and more urban fantasy, so I was very happy to hear that Tad Williams had cast his eye in that direction with The Dirty Streets of Heaven.
 
Urban fantasy these days tends to be the province of vampires and werewolves, although zombies and faeries are starting to claim the territory. Another supernatural creature gaining popularity are angels. That’s where Tad Williams cast his line with The Dirty Streets of Heaven. Bobby Dollar is an earthbound angel who probably has more in common with Phillip Marlowe than he does with Gabriel or Michael. He swears and he drinks, he takes the Lord’s name in vain. Bobby’s job is to guide souls from death, through their initial afterlife trial, and if they pass he sees them off to Heaven.
 
Things are going relatively smoothly for Bobby and his partner Sam, they seem to win more souls than they lose, and then they’re saddled with an eager young beaver from Records who they nickname Clarence (his real angel name is Haraheliel), not long after they attend the death of a philanthropist and while they’ve got a body the soul is missing.
 
If Bobby can’t find out what happened then the futures of both Heaven and Hell are at stake, that’s if Bobby can keep himself alive long enough to complete his investigation.
 
Tad Williams generally likes a lot of room in his books to set things up, possibly why he usually writes epics that are about the same size and weight as your average housebrick. Urban fantasy audiences don’t really go for this and they also tend to like their stories episodic, so that they at least get some sense of closure by the end of the book.  For a Tad Williams book The Dirty Streets of Heaven is really fast paced and still maintains excellent character development and back story mixed in with some high octane action.
 
Sometimes with popular fiction in a particular sub genre you can get some stereotyping, this wasn’t the case here. Even the peripheral characters were well drawn. I was particularly impressed with Bobby’s ‘love interest’ Casimira, the Countess of the Cold Hands.
 
One thing that was handled both with class and humour was the depiction of Heaven and the descriptions of the angels. It would have been very easy to inadvertently offend people with this, but it never happened and I really liked the ideas behind it.
 
I couldn’t shake the image of Bobby I had in my head as actor Misha Collins. I know this is because Misha Collins plays earthbound angel Castiel in the TV series Supernatural, this is also further evidence of the growing popularity of angels in modern urban fantasy. The fact that the book reads largely like a bit of a whodunit also lends itself to a cinematic view in my head.
 
The Dirty Streets of Heaven was really well done and a breath of fresh air in the genre. I’m definitely a fan and the good news is that there are two further Bobby Dollar books planned for the future. If they’re anywhere near the quality of The Dirty Streets of Heaven then this fallen angel has a long and successful career ahead of him.

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A few months ago I read a new urban fantasy by Chuck Wendig called Blackbirds. Blackbirds was the story of Miriam Black, a young woman cursed with the ability to see a person's moment of death simply from skin to skin contact.

Blackbirds took the reader by the throat and dragged them on a harrowing journey through life's seamy underbelly. It was narrated in 3rd person present tense by the foul mouthed Miriam, and it did not pull it's punches. It wasn't an easy book to read, but it was quick purely from the fact that it compelled you to read on.

Because of the impact Blackbirds made on me, Mockingbird was on my must buy list as soon as I heard about it. I was overjoyed recently to wander into my local SFF bookstore and see Mockingbird with Joey HiFi's striking cover art on it. I'm really pleased that they retained Blackbirds' cover artist and that he went with the same style; Miriam's wild hairstyle being composed largely of birds. You have to be careful with the covers, a close inspection reveals things about what lays within the pages, so if you don't want to be spoiled, don't really examine it until you've finished the book. Mockingbird isn't quite as eye catching as Blackbirds was, but I think that's largely because I preferred the hairstyle on the first book.

It's been some time since the events of Blackbirds and Miriam is trying to settle down to a more normal life with her truck driver boyfriend with the heart of gold and patience of a saint; Louis. Miriam is not by nature a pleasant person, and her curse makes it hard for her to even pretend to be normal. Soon enough her temper gets the better of her, costs her a job and leads to a vision of impending murder. Once again Miriam manages to thwart destiny.

Because she's out of a job Louis arranges her to use her ability with a friend of his to foretell her death. The woman works as a teacher at a private school for girls, girls with troubled lives, the school is as much a reformatory as it is a place of learning. Miriam sees a bleak future for a girl in the school, this twelve year old will die quite horribly unless Miriam does something about it. It's going to take every bit of ingenuity and all of Miriam's fighting spirit to put this one right.

Blackbirds and Mockingbird both have Wendig's marvelously raw and descriptive way of looking at general life. While the subject matter is by it's very nature and the bleak outlook of the protagonist, fairly depressing, there's still a macabre sort of humour about it. Miriam's take no prisoners style of talking is frequently funny, and it's just part of her character.

While Blackbirds was largely a one hander, Miriam gets some allies in Mockingbird. There's Louis of course, Lauren the girl from Caldecotts, who starts Miriam on her mission, is also prominent and I think Miriam can see a lot of her in the smart mouthed pre teen. The teacher from Caldecotts; Katey, who doesn't look like a Katey according to Miriam, is also a welcome addition and ally.

Mockingbird finishes on a high note, sort of, and if there were no more Miriam Black stories this could have ended them, but happily there are and Cormorant is due out in 2013.

If you enjoyed Blackbirds then you will love Mockingbird and if you haven't read Blackbirds then you should do so immediately and then read Mockingbird. Both books are among the best, rawest urban fantasy I have ever read and will keep you turning the pages until the very end, then wish there was some more.

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