Rob Rhodes (retired)

ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

Jirel of Joiry: A truly marvelous fantasy collection from C.L. Moore

Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore

Just recently, I had some words to say regarding the stories that Golden Age sci-fi/fantasy author C.L. Moore placed in Weird Tales magazine, during the 1930s, that dealt with the futuristic smuggler/spaceman Northwest Smith. But as most fans of Catherine Lucille Moore will readily tell you, Smith was not the only character from this beloved writer who made semiregular appearances in the legendary pulp that decade. From October ’34 until April ’39, Moore also regaled readers with a wholly different character: Jirel of Joiry. Whereas the Smith series runs to a total of 11 stories, starting in November ’33 and winding up with a belated coda in June ’57, the Jirel series consists of a mere half dozen tales. The Smith series is an amalgam of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, set in a futuristic, space-age setting, whereas the ... Read More

Iron Kissed: This story keeps getting better

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs, who has explored werewolf and vampire societies in the first two volumes of her MERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy series, turns her attention to fae society in this third volume. In the second volume, Blood Bound, Mercy had been lent a powerful knife, a fae treasure, by Zee, her former boss and a fae, to kill a demon-ridden vampire. When Mercy used the knife for an additional and very much unauthorized purpose, she knew there would be consequences and that she would need to repay the favor in some way. It turns out that owing a favor to one of the fae is pretty much as dangerous as owing a favor to a vampire.

Like the werewolves, the fae have been gradually disclosing their existence and some of their members to humanity, based on the theory that with the ever-increasing sophistication of technology, humans were going to find out about them anywa... Read More

Blood Bound: Briggs has created a detailed, layered world

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

Owing a favor to a vampire is pretty much always going to be asking for trouble. Stefan, a vampire who’s been a help and even a friend to Mercy Thompson, calls her at three a.m. to go witness his confrontation with a new vampire in town. But Stefan gives Mercy his word of honor that she won’t be hurt, and asks her to shapeshift into her coyote form to accompany him. The new vampire, Cory Littleton, has a rather mundane name, but his nature is anything commonplace: there is a demon inside of Littleton, and it’s not entirely clear whether the vampire is controlling the demon or is possessed by him. In any case, their meeting turns out to be fraught with danger and death, since Littleton possesses demonic-enhanced sorcerous powers that make him extremely dangerous to everyone in town, including vampires and werewolves as well as humans. As Mercy, Stefan and other vampires and werewolves combine to try to track ... Read More

Moon Called: A vulnerable, believable urban fantasy heroine

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is an anomaly: a female automobile mechanic who owns her own shop, half Native American, and ― in a world with werewolves, vampires, fae and other supernatural beings ― she is one of a very few “walkers,” or skinwalkers, able to easily shapeshift into a coyote at will, without regard to phases of the moon. When Mercy surprised her human mother by turning into a coyote pup when she was three months old, her mother, not knowing what else to do, turned her over to be raised by a werewolf pack. Mercy left the pack as a teenager, but still is watched over by the werewolves, particularly Adam Hauptman, the alpha werewolf who shares her back fence line and with whom she has a sometimes uneasy alliance. Their relationship is a confusing mix of attraction and, on Mercy’s side, bravado tinged with fear that the alpha werewolf will override her free will and autonomy.

When a starving te... Read More

The Lies of Locke Lamora: We love it!

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Trained from childhood as a thief and con-artist par excellence, Locke Lamora employs a silver tongue and quicksilver mind to divest the rich of Camorr of their excessive wealth. No sooner do Locke and his associates initiate their latest scheme, however, than they find themselves at the mercy of the mysterious Gray King, who intends to use them as pawns in his bid to take over the city-state’s underworld. As the Gray King’s diabolical plan unfolds, Locke finds his skills tested as never before as he struggles not only for his own survival, but also for the survival of his friends and Camorr itself.

In this scintillating debut novel, Scott Lynch establishes himself as a rising star of fantasy fiction. Like Read More

Rob chats with Guy Gavriel Kay about River of Stars

I’m happy to temporarily come out of FanLit retirement to spend some time with my favorite author, Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s newest novel, River of Stars, was released today and it’s as wonderful as I’d hoped (here’s my review). Bill and Kelly loved it, too. Trust us: you don’t want to miss River of Stars!

We’re giving away a copy of River of Stars to one random commenter with a U.S.A. address.

Robert Rhodes: I have in hand a beautiful edition of your new novel, River of Stars. Your previous work, Under Heaven, appeared three years ago, in April of 2010 April's no longer the cruelest month, is it? Both ... Read More

River of Stars: A beautifully crafted, moving novel

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Since this is a fantasy review site, let’s get this out nice and early. Outside of its setting — a fictionalized and truncated version of China’ s 11th century Northern Song Dynasty — there is next to no fantasy in River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest work. A few ghosts, an occasional fox-woman, and that’s it. So fantasy readers will have to take those few bones tossed their way and then settle for graceful, lyrical prose, beautifully drawn characters, moments that stab the heart, a masterful sense of structure and pace, and an overall elegance and skill that denotes a novelist in complete control of his creation. Oh, the things we put up with.

The storyline is roughly that of the aforementioned period in China’s history. The Kitai Empire, reacting to long-ago rebellions by army commanders against the royal court, has allowed its armies to grow weak and its commanders in... Read More

Green Rider: A popcorn action fantasy

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

The trouble with Green Rider (or, well, the major trouble with Green Rider) is that it all just feels a bit silly. This may be a bit of a chuckle for some of you as, let’s face it, our entire genre could be and is regarded as rather silly what with the Halflings and dragons and so on, but the trick we demand of fantasy authors most of the time is that they either embrace that silliness in a sort of ironic, look-I’m-clever-anyway fashion or they transcend it to make what should be silly deadly serious and gripping. Kristen Britain, unfortunately, has a prose and organizational style that never lets the reader forget just how incredibly silly her narrative actually is.

This is rather unfortunate as the plot isn’t actually too bad. The style gets in the way a bit here too, and I can easily see how distracted or skimming readers could lose the nar... Read More

Ad Eternum: This newest chapter is a treat

Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear

In 1962, vampire-detective Sebastien, having adopted the name 'Jack Prior,' returns from Europe to New Amsterdam, arriving not by airship but airplane. As he attempts to re-establish himself in the new world, he makes the acquaintance of a clique of sorcerers who invite him to join them in an ambitious endeavor. But old — indeed, ancient — habits die hard, and Sebastien must chart the course of his eternal voyage while buffeted by public protests against vampires and the sudden return of someone powerful from his past.

Ad Eternum (2012) is the fourth book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien. One should first read New Amsterdam, The White City, and Seven for a Secret, after which this newest chapter is a treat. At the risk of repeating myself, the tale and Ms. Bear's writing are elegant and sub... Read More

Green: Mixed reviews

Green by Jay Lake

Green is barely a toddler when her father sells her to Federo, a man who travels around looking for young female children on behalf of a faraway Duke. Taken halfway across the world, not even able to speak the local language, Green is imprisoned in the Pomegranate Court, where she endures a ruthless training program designed to mold her from an innocent, illiterate child into a sophisticated courtesan or concubine for the Duke’s court. Various Mistresses teach her the skills a lady needs and punish her cruelly at the slightest misstep or shortcoming. It isn’t until Green meets the Dancing Mistress, a catlike “pardine” who ends up teaching her much more than just dancing, that she begins to get a better understanding of the city surrounding the Pomegranate Court — and her real purpose for being there...

As a novel, Green (2009) is a mixed bag. There’s much to like here, and i... Read More

Rob Chats with Alex Bledsoe

Retired reviewer Robert Rhodes recently had a chat with Alex Bledsoe, author of the EDDIE LACROSSE MYSTERIES and the MEMPHIS VAMPIRES novels. His third EDDIE LACROSSE novel, Dark Jenny, will be available in print (Tor) and audio (Blackstone Audio) next week. Tor has generously offered a couple of copies of Dark Jenny for FanLit readers who live in the United States. If you'd like one, just leave a comment below and we'll randomly choose two winners. Be sure to check back next Tuesday to see if you're a winner.

Robert Rhodes: I've had the pleasure of reading ( Read More

The White City: It’s all very civilized and decadent

The White City by Elizabeth Bear

The vampire-detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa and his small 'court' visit the White City of Moscow on two occasions, in 1897 and 1903, both before and after his sojourn in an alternative America. On both occasions, someone closely linked to a politically-active young artist, Irina Stephanova, is murdered. As the mysteries in both 1897 and 1903 unfold, Sebastien confronts a much older entity inhabiting Moscow and, ultimately, the mystery of his own forgotten past.

The White City is the third book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien, after New Amsterdam and Seven for a Secret. However, in the world of the story, the events occur both before and after those chronicled in New Amsterdam, so I strongly recommend reading the latter book first. (Seven for a Secret Read More

20 Heroes: The Lady

Last in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Electra Wilson.

In the White Garden are many mirrors and many pools. She wanders among them in the unfailing daylight, watching as glass and water open on the crossroads of distant lives.

In an ivy-framed mirror, a shepherd girl weeps, unable to touch her oldest friend, bound in a tomb of ensorcelled ice. In one pool a young emperor stands at the edge of desert and ruined highway, choosing knowledge above all the pleasures of his world; while in one beside it, a queen becomes a beggar girl, and a servant becomes a queen, so that one might seek her husband's fate, the balm for her shattered heart.

An old man teaches a boy to read. A young woman rides away from the only father she has known. A man of myriad voices gently sings, in his ... Read More

20 Heroes: Love & Winter, Yelena’s Story II

Nineteenth in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes, this is part 2 of "Love & Winter: Yelena's Story" which was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Art is courtesy of Lialia.

Continued from part one

She slammed the palace doors behind her and threw herself against the seam. The wood shuddered, and snarls and barking echoed inside. Teeth snapped, then nothingness.

With her back to the doors, Yelena panted from the chase and squinted into the vale’s clouded light. The snowstorm had passed. Above her the white mountains loomed in silence. Her earlier tracks led away from the palace, toward a shape—

... Read More

20 Heroes: Love & Winter, Yelena’s Story I

Eighteenth in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes, this is part 1 of "Love & Winter: Yelena's Story" which was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Art is courtesy of Lialia.

The four sorcerers gathered that night in the iron tower by the river Dnal. “Brothers,” they said, “this day has proven us equal in power. Let us depart then, one to each end of the world. Let each hone his craft, take an apprentice, and return in one-and-twenty years, and on that day let the greatest be decided.”

At daybreak they departed, soaring among the clouds: one to the dry grasslands of the West; one to the East, in the woodland of mist; one to South, beyond the burning desert; and one to the No... Read More

20 Heroes: Morrigan

Seventeenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Anders Finér.

One of the baron's guardsmen grunted and pressed a candle into her hand. No sooner had she grasped it than another shoved her through the shadowed doorway. The door slammed behind her, snuffing the candle, and its iron bar thudded into place.

"Jackwits," Morrigan snapped under her breath. The garments they'd given her, such as they were, were ridiculously inadequate in the keep's dank catacombs, and the door-gust had chilled her skin to gooseflesh. She closed her eyes and calmed her thoughts, focusing on the aether around her. A heartbeat later, she summoned her grim-cloak from it, sighing as the sleek fabric settled around her like a living shadow. Then she held out her hands, tossing the candle aside, and called her arc-s... Read More

This Crooked Way: A clever, witty, darkly whimsical series

This Crooked Way by James Enge

Already an exile, Morlock Ambrosius is now also officially an outlaw in This Crooked Way. Winter finds him wandering when his horse, Velox, is stolen. Previous adventures have earned Morlock’s loyalty to the mystical steed and it’s apparent that the horse theft is a tactic to lure Morlock into a series of traps orchestrated by an enemy from his past. So into the dangerous pass called the Kirack Kund — dwarvish for "The River of Skulls" — The Crooked Man goes. This quest will end up lasting several years in which Morlock encounters golems, monsters, rival sorcerers, insectoid tribes, thieves, street gangs, and dragons, and even sort of adopts (or perhaps is adopted by) a misfit family.

This is the second novel Mr. Enge has written about his intriguing character. He has also written short stories about Morlock in Read More

20 Heroes: Caterina

Sixteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Andreea Ifteni.

Shadows always covered the entrance to the Grotto, and the black muslin of her veil made it doubly hard to see. She easily recognized, though, two of the beggars gathered before it. The first was an old man, thin and handless — a twice-caught thief who seemed to live beneath a particular willow and never failed to greet her. He bowed his head and called, "Hail, your majesty. I am sorry for your loss." She went to him and carefully placed a coin between his toes.

"Thank you," she whispered and, straightening, turned to another beggar, a wild-haired young woman with a dirty face, who sat and clutched a stained rucksack to her chest, swaying and humming an unknown tune — Elisa, her former handmaiden in disguise, whom... Read More

Assassin’s Apprentice: An old favorite

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I read The Farseer Saga years ago and have since considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. It's one (along with The Lord of the Rings and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn) that I often suggest to new fantasy readers. But after more than a decade of reading deeper and further into fantasy literature, I've often wondered how well this saga would now appeal to my more mature (I hope) palate. When Tantor Audio recently released The Farseer Saga Read More

20 Heroes: Takhara

Fifteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Emma Rose Paterson.

"Wake now, little sister," she hears Eldest Sister say. She breathes and pearlescent light washes over her eyelids. Outside a woodpecker's beak thrums against a tree trunk; a goldeneye duck calls on the pond. She smells silk and jasmine... and something more.

She lifts herself onto one elbow and finds Eldest Sister kneeling beside her. Never, outside of the temple, has she witnessed Eldest Sister kneel. But a smile illuminates her wrinkled face, and upon her outstretched palms, redolent of leather and steel, lays Takhara's sword. The metal gleams like moonstruck water, with an edge sharper than a wild poet's tongue.

"I ... I am alive," she says. She remembers stepping into the Spirit Garden ... Read More

20 Heroes: Torsten

Fourteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Tiziano Baracchi.

He wakes before the dawn bell. His hips and fingers ache, and the flagstones beside his cot send a shiver through his legs. He tugs his feet into his slippers, then stands with a soft grunt and pulls on his over-tunic. He takes a step toward the dim outline of the door and forces his fingers to search the shelf beside it until they grasp a shard from a broken urn. He cannot see the image there, a crescent moon in a bit of night, a bone-white curve on glazing long-faded to gray. His fingers feel its smoothness, though, and the roughness of the fractured sides and the edges sharp enough to draw blood.

“What is known cannot be lost,” he murmurs in words all but forgotten from the outer world. He sighs an... Read More

20 Heroes: Scarlet

Thirteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Mates Laurentiu.

"Are you sure, then?" Mathias asked her. "I know this is the life I've led you to, lass." He shifted his crutch, the wood slanting beside the ghost of his right leg. "Are you sure it's the life you want?"

Scarlet finished buckling the saddlebags. She turned and took in his weathered face, the cottage and garrison wall behind him. Now or never. She looked down and smiled.

"Of course not," she said. "But unless the world changed last night, and the Wardens will accept a woman, it's the life I have. The life you gave me, captain." And because it was time, her sight blurring with tears, she added, "Father."

He nodded rapidly, lips trembling within his graying beard. "They'll accept you," he said, hi... Read More

20 Heroes: The Brute

Twelfth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Chenthooran Nambiarooran.

I know what you're thinking. You're here from desperation. Because, most likely, a loved one's been kidnapped or cursed. Or because you — dabbing your brow with a cloth, clutching it like the end of a rope — are the one cursed. And you've come to this tower, beside the Plaza of Red Shadows, where the blazing daylight might reveal the blade drawn against you, but never deter its master. You've come with a bag of silver and turquoise beneath your clinging tunic and a honeyed plea on your tongue. You've come to beg the warlock Korentis Korh for aid.

But what do you find? Not a silver-haired presence, adorned with silk and shimmering tattoos, but a man large and slab-muscled enough to make black... Read More

The Battle for Middle Earth: Tolkien’s divine design in LOTR

The Battle for Middle Earth by Fleming Rutledge

Fleming Rutledge may be the ideal critic of The Lord of the Rings. An ardent student of English literature, an orthodox (Episcopal/Anglican) priest, and a gifted writer, she brings to bear impressive resources in analyzing an often- or over-analyzed work. In doing so, she builds an impressive case in support of a seldom-heard conclusion: Tolkien's masterpiece is a masterpiece not only of storytelling, but also of theology and, perhaps, evangelism.

In making this case, Rutledge relies not only on her careful reading of the text (including its prequel, The Hobbit), but also on Tolkien's letters (as indicated by extensive and informative footnoting). In particular, she challenges commonly held ideas about the epic, including but not limited to the following: (1) it is a tale of pure good versu... Read More

The Serpent and the Rose: Nothing new

The Serpent and the Rose by Kathleen Bryan

Averil is the daughter of a duke of Lys, trained from childhood in the magical arts on the Ladies' Isle. Gereint is a fatherless farmboy who possesses a powerful, untamed streak of wild magic. As the sinister king of Lys and his advisor, both practioners of dark magic, unleash a plot to remove the realm's nobles and awaken an ancient evil, Averil is summoned back to the mainland, while Gereint chases after a band of Knights of the Rose, hoping that their Order can train him. In time, Averil and Gereint find themselves together as unlikely allies and, perhaps, the only hope of both their realm and world.

As is obvious from that brief summary (and its faint echoes of Star Wars, among other tales), there is little new in The Serpent and the Rose, the first book of The War of the Rose trilogy by Read More

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