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SFF Author: T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the vaguely absurd pen-name of Ursula Vernon, an author from North Carolina. In another life, she writes children’s books and weird comics. She has been nominated for the Nebula and the Eisner, and has won the Hugo, Sequoyah, and Ursa Major awards, as well as a half-dozen Junior Library Guild selections. This is the name she uses when writing things for grown-ups. Her work includes multiple fairy-tale retellings and odd little stories about elves and goblins. When she is not writing, she is probably out in the garden, trying to make eye contact with butterflies.
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The Seventh Bride: The miller’s daughter meets Bluebeard

The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher

One of the less well-known folk tales, Bluebeard, the tale of the aristocrat who has married several wives who have ominously disappeared, is dusted off and adapted by T. Kingfisher in The Seventh Bride, a middle grade/young adult fantasy. Note: Kingfisher is a pen name for Ursula Vernon, the Nebula award-winning author of the short story “Jackalope Wives“). Rhea, a fifteen year old miller’s daughter, is unhappily and unwillingly engaged to Lord Crevan, a nobleman whom she doesn’t even know.


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Toad Words and Other Stories: Enchanting folk and fairy tale retellings

Toad Words and Other Stories by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon works are adult works, like her wonderful Nebula award-winning short story “Jackalope Wives.” Regardless of the name she uses, I’ve been searching out her fiction ever since reading “Jackalope Wives.” T. Kingfisher writes lovely fairy tale retellings and other folk and fairy tale-flavored fantasies,


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Bryony and Roses: Bryony and the Beast

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

Seventeen year old Bryony and her sisters, Holly and Iris (I’m sensing a horticultural theme here) were the daughters of a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune through risky investments three years earlier. They moved to the remote village of Lostfarthing, where the now-orphaned sisters are barely scraping by. Bryony, a dedicated and enthusiastic gardener, hears about some particularly hardy rutabaga seeds available in a nearby village, and sets off to get some. Unfortunately, on the way back she’s caught in a spring blizzard. She and her pony are nearly frozen when they come across an impossible road that leads to an equally improbable manor house in the forest.


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Summer in Orcus: A Narnia-type tale spiced with wry humor and insight

Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher

Summer is a young girl whose overly protective, clingy mother tries to protect her from every possible danger, although Summer is allowed to read books about magic and shapechanging and such. (“Summer’s mother believed that books were safe things that kept you inside, which only shows how little she knew about it, because books are one of the least safe things in the world.”) But Summer’s mother is no match for Baba Yaga! One spring day Summer is found by Baba Yaga ― actually, she’s found by Baba Yaga’s chicken-footed house,


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Clockwork Boys: A company of strangers begins a suicide mission

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

The plot of T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys (2017) is of the “misfit company of strangers on a dangerous mission” type. Their country has been invaded by the so-called Clockwork Boys, nearly unstoppable, 10-foot-tall centaur-like creatures who are laying waste to the countryside. (I like the allusion to the out-of-control gang of boys in A Clockwork Orange.) The Dowager Queen has previously sent soldiers and spies to distant Anuket City, from which the Clockwork Boys regularly emerge,


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The Wonder Engine: Trying to beat the clocktaurs

The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher

The Wonder Engine (2018) is the second half of a fantasy duology by T. Kingfisher that began with Clockwork Boys, and it’s absolutely necessary to read that book first (a few minor spoilers for that book are in this review). Clockwork Boys relates how a company of condemned criminals ― Slate the forger, Brenner the assassin, and Caliban the paladin ― plus one straitlaced, misogynistic scholar named Learned Edmund,


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The Twisted Ones: A modern twist on an old horror classic

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones (2019) begins with mild consternation: Melissa, who goes by “Mouse,” has the thankless task of taking a trip to backwoods North Carolina, with her loyal redbone coonhound Bongo for company, to clean out her late grandmother’s home. “It’ll be a mess,” her father says, in a massive understatement. Consternation shifts to deep dismay: Grandma was a hoarder. It’s even worse than normal, since her grandmother was a cruel and vicious person, and something of her evil still infuses her house,


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Minor Mage: Questing with an armadillo sidekick

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher

Oliver is a minor mage in two senses: he’s only twelve years old, and he only has three magical spells, and the one to control his allergy against armadillo dander doesn’t count for much. The aged and increasingly absent-minded village mage wasn’t able to teach Oliver much before he died. But he’s all the magic his village has, so when a severe drought strikes, Oliver is ordered by the frightened villagers to go to the distant Rainblade Mountains to somehow “bring back rain.” No one, including Oliver,


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A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking: A whimsical feast, with teeth in it

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

A dead body is an awful thing to find on the floor of a bakery, especially when you’re a fourteen-year-old baker’s assistant with just a minor talent in magic, enough to make gingerbread men dance and biscuit dough turn fluffy on command. It’s worse when the city inquisitor decides to accuse you of the murder, for no particularly good reason. It’s even worse when you realize that there’s a mysterious assassin on the loose, targeting people who have magical powers, no matter how insignificant.


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The Hollow Places: I read it in one sitting because I was afraid to put it down

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

 … and we watched the willow branches bow outward from the passing, and it was invisible except that invisible was not the right word, because its not-there-ness hung in the air like an afterimage.

The Hollow Places (2020), by T. Kingfisher, reminded me a lot of the other folk-horror novel of hers I read recently, The Twisted Ones. Both take place in or close to small southern towns,


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Nettle and Bone: A princess, a dog, and a fairy godmother like you haven’t seen them before

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

Kingfisher’s Nettle and Bone (2022) was exactly the book I needed to read when I read it, so I am grateful to it and the writer for that. Kingfisher’s original fairy tale is a satisfying read at any time, with characters who engaged my imagination and find original ways to solve their problems.

Marra is a princess, the third daughter of a small kingdom with a deep-water harbor, nestled between two powerful warlike nations,


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What Moves the Dead: A nifty horror story

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, doesn’t try to out-Poe Edgar Allan in her 2022 novella What Moves the Dead. Instead, she flips “The Fall of the House of Usher” sideways, giving us a creepy, atmospheric, heroic and sometimes funny look at the doomed siblings Madeline and Roderick, the moldering mansion they’ve inherited as the last of the family, and the surreal, creepy mountain lake or tarn that laps at the walls of the house. While the house of Usher does fall,


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A House With Good Bones: Not the roses! Not the roses!

A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

“There was a vulture on the mailbox of my grandmother’s house.”

A couple of weeks ago there was a big discussion on Twitter about “cozy horror.” I followed it, but never really understood what “cozy” was supposed to be. I feel confident saying that T. Kingfisher is the queen of Cozy Horror, though —if “cozy” means there’s a house (haunted or not) and the ending has some bit of optimism. With 2023’s A House With Good Bones,


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Thornhedge: You will sink into this story

Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

Thornhedge (2023), by T. Kingfisher, is a bittersweet fairy tale that starts off on familiar ground and shifts, making us consider who defines the monsters and the heroes. This brief novella reads as smooth as cream, and the story seems simple, but it is not.

Toadling is a fairy, left to maintain a hedge of thorns around a tower, where an enchanted maiden sleeps. From this, you might think you know the story. Toadling is dutiful, strengthening the thorn hedge to discourage the eager knights and princes who come at first,


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What Feasts at Night: This Easton outing is less creepy, more scary

What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher

Alex Easton, protagonist of T. Kingfisher’s 2023 novella What Moves the Dead, is back with a second adventure in 2024’s What Feasts at Night. Joining Easton is loyal batman Angus and the unflappable British mycologist Miss Potter. This go-round, Easton and company face less of the science and more of the supernatural.

Alex Easton is Gallacian by nationality (a small imaginary country somewhere in central Europe). Easton is a “sworn soldier,” anatomically female but living as a man as part of the military.


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Magazine Monday: Fantasy Magazine, Women Destroy Fantasy

Fantasy Magazine was folded into Lightspeed Magazine in 2012, but it came out of retirement in October 2014 for the Women Destroy Fantasy issue, one of the stretch goals of a Kickstarter for an all-women edition of Lightspeed. I was one of the contributors to the Kickstarter, and, as my review last week revealed, I greatly enjoyed the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine that was another stretch goal of the same Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report that the fantasy issue is just as “destructive” and enjoyable.


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SHORTS: Kingfisher, Jones, Ferebee, Swirsky, Lecky

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

“The Dryad’s Shoe” by T. Kingfisher (2014, free at Fantasy magazine, $2.99 at Amazon for magazine issue)

“The Dryad’s Shoe” is a charming Cinderella retelling that features Hannah, a young woman who is far more interested in gardens and bees than fancy gowns and dukes’ sons. When the local duke holds a masquerade ball for his son,


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SHORTS: Muir, Emrys, Sanderson, Kingfisher

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir (2015, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine July/August 2015 issue, Kindle)

Sixteen-year-old Hester Blake is having an unconventional summer: octopodes are in the laundry, deep-sea fish keep showing up in a pond, and salty, oily rain falls from the sky. Normal people are worried about global warming, but the Blakes belong to a long line of seers and scribes,


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SHORTS: Link, Hand, Marr, Kingfisher, Brennan

Here are a few of the short stories we read this week, all of which are free to read online.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2015, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone,


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SHORTS: Ronald, Vernon, Tregillis, Kowal, Hartley, Deeds

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we’ve read recently that we wanted you to know about.

“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (June 2016, free at Clarkesworld or paperback magazine issue)

Dr. Kostia is a keynote speaker and panel participant in an academic conference. Her specialty is extra-terrestrial intelligence ― specifically, the analysis of some radio-like transmissions from an alien race called the Coronals.


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SHORTS: El-Mohtar, Wilde, Zinos-Amaro & Castro, Fallon, Larson, Kingfisher, Zhang

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we’ve read that we wanted you to know about. 

“Biting Tongues” by Amal El-Mohtar (2011, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue. First printed in The WisCon Chronicles (Vol 5): Writing and Racial Identity)

“Biting Tongues” is a speculative poem which slowly reveals the tenaciousness of the character or characters involved, through a progression from social expectations of their voice and bodies to their true form.


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SHORTS: Gregory, Roanhorse, Vernon, Mamatas & Pratt, Clarke, Lowachee

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we’ve read recently that we wanted you to know about.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (2005, free in print and audio at Clarkesworld, November 2017 issue; originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2005 issue)

I love what Daryl Gregory does with drugs. “Second Person, Present Tense” is about the parents of a girl who died after overdosing on a drug called “Zen” or “Zombie.” Unable to cope with their loss,


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SHORTS: Cho, Stueart, Palmer, Kingfisher

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few excellent stories, including two of the recently announced Hugo nominees, that we wanted you to know about.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (2018, free to read online or download at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog). 2019 Hugo award winner (novelette).

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, by Zen Cho, is a Hugo-nominated novelette about an imugi,


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SHORTS: Kingfisher, Brazee

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are two more reviews of recent Hugo and Nebula award-nominated stories.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” by T. Kingfisher (2018, free at Uncanny magazine, $3.03 Kindle magazine issue). 2019 Hugo award nominee (short story).

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” is a charming little diversion, among a steadily-growing list of charming short works, by T. Kingfisher. This one also happens to be a 2019 Hugo Award nominee!


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SHORTS: Roanhorse, Liu, Lee, Goss, Kingfisher, Bear

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week’s post reviews several more of the current crop of Locus Award nominees in the short fiction categories.

“A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy” by Rebecca Roanhorse (2019, anthologized in The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe). 2020 Locus award finalist (short story).

In the future, people’s memories can be stored and preserved even after they’ve died, and other people can inject them like drugs.


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The New Voices of Fantasy: A diverse and worthy collection

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter Beagle

This collection of nineteen fantasy short works, edited by Peter Beagle, is definitely worthwhile if you like speculative short fiction. Many of them left an impact on me, and a few are true standouts. These stories are by relatively new authors in the speculative fiction genre and are all fantasy; otherwise there’s no discernable overarching theme.

These stories have almost all been published previously over the last seven years, and several of them are Hugo or Nebula winners or nominees.


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Next SFF Author: Kaza Kingsley
Previous SFF Author: Patrice Kindl

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