Tough Traveling: The Big City

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is THE BIG CITY:

There has to be somewhere in Fantasyland where everyone comes together. All roads lead to Rome after all. A place where traders prosper, politicians scheme, and criminals thrive.

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What I’m Doing Wednesday (April 29, 2015)


The same books as last week, but with one addition which has a sort of interesting story behind it. I put Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel on hold at the library a couple of months ago, and I remember observing that it had one of the longest waitlists I had ever seen. This week I had some time to kill and decided to wander around the stacks at the library….. and what should I see but Station Eleven, on the shelf, just sitting there. So I took it… and signed it out… and no library police descended on me to take it away. I thought I would check online because, hey, maybe the waitlist just wasn’t as long as I thought! But instead I discovered I skipped 341 places in line!! Now it’s sitting on my bedtable evoking a confusing mix of guilt and excitement as I attempt to read it as fast as possible to minimize my shame.

I’m the worst.


Making sure I’m all caught up on Agents of SHIELD, in preparation for Avengers: Age of Ultron!


Starting in earnest on a new Dragon Age Inquisition play through with an elven dual-wielding rogue who I’m pretty sure is crushing on Iron Bull.

Awesome things about Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, so if you haven’t read that, go read this or this instead… or better yet just go read the book, because it’s AMAZING.

So: in lieu of a still-to-come review, I present you with this point-form, not altogether very academic, and possibly vaguely spoilery list of things I loved in Ancillary Sword.

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Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Fantasy/Young Adult – #1 Howl Series

“‘What do you mean by having this great ugly castle rushing about the hills and frightening everyone in Market Chipping to death?’

Howl shrugged. ‘What an outspoken old woman you are! I’ve reached that stage in my career when I need to impress everyone with my power and wickedness. I can’t have the King thinking well of me. And last year I offended someone very powerful and I need to keep out of their way.’”

As the eldest of three daughters, Sophie has resigned herself to an unadventurous life taking over her parents’ hat shop in the town of Market Chipping. Then one day, she somehow incurs the wrath of the evil Witch of the Wastes, who punishes her by turning her into an old woman. Taking this unexpected turn of events well in stride, Sophie decides to seek help at the home of the powerful and narcissistic Wizard Howl, well known for both his mysterious moving castle and his apparent penchant for stealing (and possibly eating) the hearts of young girls.

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Mini-reviews: Three favourite short stories that are available online

Cover art for ‘As Good As New’ by Yoko Shimizu. Image from here.

I am mostly a novel reader, but I do try to mix things up from time to time—so here are three of my favourite short stories I’ve read recently.  And the best thing is that all of them are available for free online!

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Links for Nerdy Procrastinators, April 24 (2015)

It’s Friday! Would you like to spend some time being a nerd on the internet instead of doing whatever else you should probably be doing?  If so, here are some links I enjoyed this week!

Tough Traveling: The Ace

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy. This week is THE ACE:

Some people are just ridiculously good at everything.  Be it magic, swordplay, or all of the above.  THE ACE has no equal.

name of the windKvothe, The Kingkiller Chronicles (Patrick Rothfuss)
I used Kvothe last week too, but I have to use him again because he is just the most Ace-like character I’ve read in recent memory. Whether he is being the world’s best musician, training to be a warrior with a prestigious mercenary group, or becoming the most powerful arcanist ever, Kvothe is just always the best at everything he tries. We even have whole chapters about how good he is in bed.  It’s… well, it’s all a bit much at times, quite honestly.

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling)
I feel like I’m choosing a Harry Potter character every week…. but how can I not mention my favourite know-it-all Hermione Granger? She is the best at everything. Harry would have been lost without her. No doubt about it: without Hermione, Voldemort would still be in power.  She is the real hero.

ancillary sword

Breq, Ancillary Sword (Ann Leckie)
I’ve chosen Ancillary Sword specifically because Breq was more flawed in Ancillary Justice (if nothing else, at least, she wasn’t the greatest at plan formation and execution).  But she has a steep learning curve, and Fleet Captain Breq in Ancillary Sword? She is smarter than you. She is stronger than you. She has faster reflexes and is better shot. She speaks all the languages. She takes time out from fighting injustice and classism to do ethnomusicological fieldwork.  Basically, to quote Seivarden: “Fleet Captain is pretty fucking badass.”

Lem, Zombies, Run!
Lem is brave, noble, thoughtful, and self-sacrificing.  He is the best runner that your rival settlement New Canton has in the zombie apocalypse – but he’s willing to lay his life down for you in the field anyway, because he’s just that sort of guy. He overcame his humble beginnings as an orphan to become a self-made millionaire, and his post-apocalyptic hobbies include saving children.  He also is a Nobel Prize winning chemist, a personal friend of Kofi Annan… and has an Olympic medal in luge.

Ace Rimmer, Red Dwarf

Sort of a two-for-one here, because Sam Yao jealously calls Lem ‘Ace Rimmer’ in Zombies, Run!  I had no idea who Ace Rimmer was, not having seen the British comedy series Red Dwarf. So when I got home from my run I looked him up on youtube, found this video, and started laughing.  For your viewing pleasure: The Ace, Ace Rimmer…. What a guy.

What I’m Doing Wednesday (5)

Recently finished Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones; this week’s library haul includes Cold Magic by Kate Elliott, Feed by Mira Grant, and Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine.

Ever since The Force Awakens trailer came out I’ve been in the mood for some lightsaber fights and stormtroopers… so I’ve been catching up a bit on Star Wars Rebels. It’s some good, wholesome Star Wars fun and I’d like to catch up before season 2 starts because HAVE YOU SEEN THE PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS?

star wars rebels



Finished Tomb Raider! I’m sorry I waited so long to play you, Tomb Raider, you were so much fun, and I can’t wait for Rise of the Tomb Raider now.

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)

Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Fantasy/Historical Fiction – Standalone

“Palaces have always fascinated me, even a gloom-filled structure like my father’s that was a fitting carapace for his vengeful obsession. For isn’t that what our homes are ultimately, our fantasies made corporeal, our secret selves exposed? The converse is also true: we grow to become that which we live within. That was one of the reasons why I longed to escape my father’s walls.”

The Palace of Illusions is retelling of the Mahabharata that focuses on the story of Panchaali, daughter of King Draupad: the princess born of fire, who married five husbands, and whose insatiable desire for vengeance would start a brutal, catastrophic war. I have never read the Mahabharata, which means that I cannot speak to how successful The Palace of Illusions is as a retelling or the ways it interacts with or enhances the original epic. As a further disclaimer, I bring no knowledge or insight on the Sanskrit epics, Hinduism, or Indian history in general, to my reading of the story. I can only speak about the potential experience to others for whom this might be their introduction to the Mahabharata and to this time and place in history—and I would say, it is a wonderful introduction.

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Book Review: The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Fantasy/Mythology – Standalone

“Hadn’t I been faithful? Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation – almost the compulsion – to do otherwise? And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been?” 

I want to start this review by noting that suggested this book is often tagged ‘children’s stories’. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S STORY! Seriously! Who is giving this to children to read?! Do you want to scar your children for life???

Now that we have that out of the way… The Penelopiad is the story of Homer’s epic the Odyssey, retold from the point of view of his doting wife, Penelope. After the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus’ travels home are constantly waylaid. As he spends years adventuring around the Mediterranean, at home Penelope waits for him, hearing tales of his heroics and fending off increasingly insistent suitors who hope to acquire Odysseus’ land and wealth.

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