Robert Thompson (RETIRED)

ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

Leviathan Wakes: Action-packed space opera that transcends the genre

Reposting to include Justin's new review.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

FORMAT/INFO: Leviathan Wakes is 592 pages long divided over a Prologue, 55 chapters and an Epilogue. Extras include an interview with the author and an extract from Caliban’s War, the second book in The Expanse series. Narration is in the third person, alternating between Executive Officer James Holden and Detective Miller, except for the Prologue (Julie) and Epilogue (Fred). Leviathan Wakes is mostly self-contained, coming to a satisfying stopping point, but the book is the opening volume in The Expanse series. June 2, 2011/June 15, 2011 marks the UK/North American Trade P... Read More

Deathless: Demands careful reading and close attention

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

CLASSIFICATION: Weaving together fairy tales and history, Deathless is kind of like Pan's Labyrinth, if it was told by Hayao Miyazaki and Neil Gaiman. Highly recommended for fans of adult fairy tales, Russian folklore, and Catherynne M. Valente.

FORMAT/INFO: Deathless is 352 pages long divided over a Prologue, 6 Parts, and 30 numbered/titled chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mostly via the protagonist, Marya Morevna. Deathless is self-contained. March 29, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Deathless via Read More

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: Different

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

CLASSIFICATION: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is epic fantasy that mixes together court intrigue, mythology, romantic/family drama, and celestial magics. It brought to mind everything from Jacqueline Carey, Lane Robins' Maledicte, and Marie Brennan’s Midnight Never Come to Gregory Frost’s Shadowbridge / Lord Tophet, John Scalzi’s The God Engines, Read More

Dragonfly Falling: It’s weird, but it works

Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Between introducing the uniquely imaginative concept of ‘Insect-kinden’ and showcasing a well-rounded display of characterization, world-building, story, pacing and prose, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold was not only an impressive debut, it was also a memorable start to an exciting new fantasy series. A direct continuation of Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling is basically more of the same, just on a larger and more entertaining scale.

Like Empire in Black and Gold, the highlight of Dragonfly Falling is once again the Insect-kinden who, with their diverse Arts and philosphies, continue to lend the saga a distinctive quality despite utilizing such familiar fantasy themes as war, slavery, conspiracy, racial/cult... Read More

Empire in Black and Gold: Ought not to work

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

If all I had to go by was the cover art (Tor 2008 edition), the title of the book and the synopsis, I probably wouldn’t give Adrian Tchaikovsky’s debut a second glimpse. After all, the artwork fails to capture the eye, the book title is bland, and the summary makes the novel sound formulaic. I mean how many times have authors written about a powerful ‘Empire’ bent on conquering the world and the unlikely heroes determined to stop them? For that matter, how many novels feature youthful protagonists who become much more than they ever dreamed of, haunted forests, a spy who can steal peoples’ faces, rescuing characters from slavers, inciting a revolution and so on? These are all common fantasy conventions utilized by Adrian Tchaikovsky, not to mention the requisite world map, hefty page count, and inevitable sequels. Yet, Empire in Black and Gold is ... Read More

Shadowbridge: Exquisite imagery and magic

Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost

Gregory Frost graduated from Clarion Workshop, authored five novels and the critically-acclaimed short story collection Attack of the Jazz Giants & Other Stories, and has been a finalist for nearly every major award in the fantasy field including the Hugo, the Nebula, the James Tiptree, and the World Fantasy Award.

Impressive, but what did I think of Shadowbridge? Well, for the most part I enjoyed reading Shadowbridge and while I may have liked the novel, I can’t say that I loved it.

It was the concept that really grabbed my attention. Gregory Frost’s book introduces a world that is comprised mainly of ocean and the Shadowbridge, a seemingly never-ending bridge that is divided into numerous spirals and spans, each with the... Read More

Patient Zero: Like riding The Screaming Eagle

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

The summer I turned 30, I went to Great America with my two sisters and one brother-in-law. We rode the Screaming Eagle rollercoaster, one of those wooden rebuilds of old-time coasters, which (at the time) had the longest drop on the first hill of any rollercoaster in the world. As we reached the top of that hill, my sister turned to me and said, “It’s been nice knowing you.” Sure enough, that first drop about killed me; even worse (or better, depending on your perspective) was the series of corkscrew turns at high speed that came toward the end of the ride. I screamed so much that I completely lost my voice. Of course we rode the thing at least twice more that day. I had a ball.

You’re probably wondering what this story has to do with Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Well, substitute reading this book for riding that rollercoaster. It has all the... Read More

Horns: Frightening, sad and ultimately hopeful

Horns by Joe Hill

CLASSIFICATION: Horns is a murder mystery/love story/revenge thriller with a dark supernatural twist in the vein of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub.

FORMAT/INFO: Horns is 384 pages long divided over 4 titled Parts and 50 numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mainly via the protagonist Ignatius “Ig” Perrish, but also includes narratives by the villain and Ig’s older brother Terry. Horns is self-contained.

February 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Horns via William Morrow. The UK edition will be published on February 18, 2010 via Read More

Jade Man’s Skin: Not as enjoyable as first book

Jade Man’s Skin by Daniel Fox

Why are the second books of trilogies so difficult? Jade Man’s Skin is the second book of MOSHUI: THE BOOKS OF STONE AND WATER, a series set in an alternate China where dragons are real and jade has the power to make an emperor nearly invincible. I greatly enjoyed Dragon in Chains, the first in this series. And I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Jade Man’s Skin; only that I enjoyed it less. It seems to start somewhere and end somewhere, but there is a great deal of chatter in between.

In the second book in Daniel Fox’s trilogy, the dragon inhabiting the strait between the mainland of the empire (which is clearly China, though it is not given a name) and Taishu (which appears to be Taiwan in our world) has been mostly unchained, but is not entirely free. Not only is she somehow bound... Read More

Dragon in Chains: An uncommon fantasy setting

Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox

Most epic fantasy written in English has its basis in Western culture. While the worlds created in these books are not our world, they are generally recognizable: the use of language is comfortable, the foods are what we or our ancestors ate, the customs are basically familiar. Even mythological creatures look the way we expect them to, so that unicorns have horns and dragons have wings. When there are exceptions to these rules, the author is certain to provide an explanation, and the exception is often integral to the tale.

In recent years, however, the Far East has begun to appear in fantasy more and more often. Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET, for instance, is set in a vaguely Far Eastern milieu. R. Scott Bakk... Read More

Black Light: A refreshing mix of horror and urban fantasy

Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Stephen Romano

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan wrote the screenplays for Saw IVSaw VSaw VISaw 3D, and The Collector, which Dunstan also directed. Currently, they are filming The Collection — a sequel to The Collector — and have written Piranha 3DD, which came out this Thanksgiving from Dimension Films. Black Light is their debut novel.

Stephen Romano is an acclaimed author, screenwriter and illustrator. His works include the illustrated novel Shock Festival and adapting Joe R. Lansdale’s “Incident On and Off a Moun... Read More

The Emperor’s Knife: Impressive debut

The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams

The Emperor’s Knife first came to my attention thanks to an interview I did with Night Shade author Teresa Frohock. Because of Teresa’s glowing comments about the book and Night Shade’s recent track record with debut authors, expectations were high for The Emperor’s Knife, and for the most part, Mazarkis Williams’ debut lived up to those expectations. What impressed me the most about The Emperor’s Knife were the characters, specifically the main POVs of Prince Sarmin, the assassin Eyul, the Lord High Vizier Tuvaini, and the Felt bride Mesema.

At a glance, these characters may seem stereotypical — Sarmin possesses a unique magical ability, Eyul is torn between his duty to the emperor and guilt for those he has killed, Tuvaini has aspirations for the Pe... Read More

Ganymede: Priest is writing the best steampunk around

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

When Hollywood makes a movie of Ganymede — and they have to — I hope they subtitle it “The Battle of Barataria Bay.” That sequence comes near the end of Cherie Priest’s latest CLOCKWORK CENTURY novel, and is fasten-your-seatbelt, grip-the-arms-of-your-chair exciting.

Priest’s books always feature strong women, and in Ganymede, the main character is Josephine Early. Josephine lives in New Orleans, running an upscale bordello. Nearly twenty years into the American civil war, the Confederacy is having trouble holding New Orleans and has called on its political ally the Republic of Texas to help occupy the city. Early’s hometown is filled with brown-shirted Lone Star soldiers and administrators, and she has grown to hate them. As a free woman of color, she is all too conscious of how easily she can lo... Read More

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

FORMAT/INFO: The House of Silk is 304 pages long divided over a Preface, twenty numbered/titled chapters, and an Afterword. Narration is in the first person, exclusively via Dr. Watson. The House of Silk is self-contained. November 1, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The House of Silk via Mulholland Books. The UK edition (see below) will be published on the same day via Orion Books.

ANALYSIS: Between 1887 and 1927, Sherlock Holmes appeared in fifty-six short stories and four full-length novels written by the famous detective’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since then, the popular character has appeared in countless stories in literature, film, tel... Read More

Dead of Night: One of the best zombie novels I’ve ever read

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

CLASSIFICATION: Dead of Night is a zombie/horror/techno-thriller hybrid that combines the relentless pacing and action of Dean Koontz and James Rollins with the characterization of Stephen King and the gore and terror of George A. Romero and The Walking Dead.

FORMAT/INFO: Dead of Night is 368 pages long divided over 105 chapters, with each chapter denoted by location. Narration is in the third-person via numerous POVs, but mainly follows two characters in Officer Dez Fox and reporter Billy Trout. Dead of Night is described as a standalone novel, but the ending leaves room for an obvious sequel or two. October 25, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover and Trade Paperback publication of Dead of Night via Read More

Ashes of a Black Frost: A disappointing conclusion

Ashes of a Black Frost by Chris Evans

PLOT SUMMARY: Amidst a scene of carnage on a desert battlefield blanketed in metallic snow, Major Konowa Swift Dragon sees his future, and it is one drenched in shadow and blood. Never mind that he has won a grand victory for the Calahrian Empire. He came here in search of his lost regiment of elves, while the Imperial Prince came looking for the treasures of a mystical library, and both ventures have failed. But Konowa knows, as do the Iron Elves — both living and dead — that another, far more important battle now looms before them. The campaign in the desert was only the latest obstacle on the twisted, darkening path leading inexorably to the Hyntaland, and the final confrontation with the dreaded Shadow Monarch.

In this third novel of musket and magic in Chris Evans' Iron Elves saga, Konowa's ultimate journey is fraught wi... Read More

Eyes to See: Solidly entertaining

Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

FORMAT/INFO: Eyes to See is 320 pages long divided over 56 numbered chapters. Each chapter is subtitled either ‘Now’ to represent the present, or ‘Then’ to represent the past. For the most part, narration is in the first person via Jeremiah Hunt, but the narrative switches to various third-person POVs (hedge witch Denise Clearwater, an unnamed creature, etc.) throughout the novel. Eyes to See wraps up some of the book’s main storylines, but it is the first volume in the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle and will be followed by King of the Dead in 2012. October 11, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Eyes to See via Tor. Cover art is provided by Read More

The Revisionists: On the Edge

The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Thomas Mullen is the author of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers and The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today, was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize. He lives in Decatur, Georgia with his wife and two sons.

PLOT SUMMARY: Zed is an agent from the future. A time when the world’s problems have been solved. No hunger. No war. No despair.

His mission is to ... Read More

The Monster’s Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes

The Monster's Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes edited by Christopher Golden

FORMAT/INFO: The Monster’s Corner is 400 pages long and consists of 19 short stories. Also included is an Introduction by the editor Christopher Golden, and biographies of all of the anthology’s contributors. September 27, 2011 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The Monster’s Corner via St. Martin’s Griffin. The UK version will be published on the same day via Piatkus Books.

ANALYSIS: The New Dead was one of my favorite books of 2010, so when it was announced that Christopher Golden was putting together another horror-themed anthology, I couldn’t wait. Like The New Dead, Read More

The Sacred Band: A rewarding conclusion

The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham

The most pleasant surprise about The Other Lands, the previous book in the ACACIA trilogy by David Anthony Durham, was that it broadened the scope of the series tremendously. Ushen Brae, the setting for a large part of the action in that book, proved to be a complex and interesting place, with its non-human Auldek tribes, several strata of human Quota slaves (from a warrior caste to an organized “Free People” resistance movement), the mostly extinct Lothan Aklun race, and a rich and fascinating history. The Sacred Band doesn’t expand the series’ fantasy world to the same extent as The Other Lands did, although it does reveal some inland areas of Ushen Brae that were previously unseen. Rather than expanding the world, The Sacred Band instead bui... Read More

The Night Circus: On the Edge

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Erin Morgenstern studied theatre & studio art at Smith College. She is a writer and artist whose work is described as “fairy tales in one way or another.” The Night Circus is her first novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, “the Circus of Dreams”, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway — a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standi... Read More

Spellbound: Even better than Spellwright

Spellbound by Blake Charlton

PLOT SUMMARY: In a world where one’s magical prowess is determined by one’s skill with words and ability to spell, Francesca DeVega is a gifted healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. Her life is suddenly thrown into chaos when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death. Now Francesca is in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand — one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again.

Meanwhile, it has been ten years since Nicodemus Weal escaped the Starhaven Academy, where he was considered disabled and useless because of a disease that causes him to misspell magical texts. Ten years since he battled the demon Typhon who stole his birthright and murdered his friends. Unable... Read More

Shadowplay: Exciting sequel

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

On the surface, Volume 1 of Shadowmarch has all the makings of a fully realized epic fantasy: maps, appendix, a rich background history, excerpts (Book of Regret, The Book of the Trigon, Revelations of Nushash) to preface each chapter, a huge cast of characters, races, locales, gods, goddesses and much more to bring the world of Shadowmarch to life.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more involved in making a great fantasy and I felt that Shadowmarch was sorely lacking in some areas. First and foremost, the overall story is clichéd, uninspiring and predictable. Sure, some plotlines are interesting to follow like Quinnitan’s arc in the kingdom of Xis or Chert’s fun adventures, not to mention the concept behind the Shadowline/Shadowlands which offers something a bit different, but for the most part Shado... Read More

The Taker: Beautifully written, heartfelt

The Taker by Alma Katsu

FORMAT/INFO: The Taker is 448 pages long divided over four Parts and fifty chapters. Narration switches between Luke Findley’s third-person POV set in the present day, and Lanore McIlvrae’s first-person story which is set in the past and comprises most of the novel. From chapter nineteen through the end of chapter twenty-four, the book features a third-person narrative from Adair. The Taker is largely self-contained, coming to a satisfying conclusion that wraps up the novel’s major plotlines, but two sequels have been contracted. September 6, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The Taker via Gallery. The UK edition was published on April 14, 2011 via Read More

Promise of the Wolves: Completely charming

Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

CLASSIFICATION: In the publisher’s press release, Promise of the Wolves is compared to Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear and Richard AdamsWatership Down, neither of which I’ve read. So for me, I was reminded of The Lion King — if the movie had been set 14,000 years ago in southern Europe and starred wolves, ravens, humans, and elkryn instead of lions, meercats and warthogs — Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and White Fang and Call of the Wild by Jack London. Because of some v... Read More

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