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Previous SFF Author: Sharon Lee

SFF Author: Tanith Lee

tanith lee(1947-2015)
Tanith Lee has written more than 50 novels and nearly 200 short stories in the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery/thriller. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel (Death’s Master, 1980). She died on May 24, 2015.



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Companions on the Road: One is good, one is great

Companions on the Road by Tanith Lee

I’m a big fan of Tanith Lee. Like many great fantasy writers, Lee understood that to truly transport a reader, it’s not enough to talk about dragons or swords or magic systems. Readers are transported just as much or more by the way these things are talked about. Lee’s work has that eerie, otherworldly feel that characterizes the best works of this genre. She could make a story about a squirrel looking for nuts feel like something dredged from a forgotten and more romantic epoch.


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The Birthgrave: Tanith Lee’s first novel

The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee

Let me be clear: The Birthgrave has kind of a dumb plot. It’s repetitive, it’s all predicated on a prosaic twist that’s kept overly mysterious, and when the big reveal finally does come, it’s via one of the most blatant examples of deus ex machina I’ve ever seen. All the same, I’d still call this a good book. Maybe even a great one. That’s the magic of Tanith Lee: even her first novel, a work where she was clearly still working out her craft to an extent,


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East of Midnight: Races along on every page

East of Midnight by Tanith Lee

It Died Eight Times My Love. After that, Love Stays Dead…

Tanith Lee once again proves herself a master of young adult fantasy with this wonderful (but apparently little known) story of the battle of the sexes. Set in a gloriously created world where women ride horned lions and rule over mankind, East of Midnight is a book that is easy to read, yet raises a range of questions on the differences between man and woman and the way in which we interact with each other.


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The Castle of Dark: You won’t regret tracking it down

The Castle of Dark by Tanith Lee

It is continually frustrating to read a rich, suspenseful, beautifully crafted book and then find that hardly anybody else knows about it — such is apparently the case with Tanith Lee’s The Castle of Dark. Containing an imprisoned damsel, a spooky castle, a magical harp and a mysterious secret, this is a wonderful book that has the same tone and atmosphere of an old dark fairytale.

The chapters switch back and forth between two characters: Lilune is a strange young woman living with two hags in an abandoned and dark castle.


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Night’s Master: A gothic fairytale

Night’s Master by Tanith Lee

Night’s Master is the sort of book that not everyone will like, but for what it is, it’s brilliant. The styling is exquisite, the characterization direct and to-the-point in a way I’ve rarely seen before, getting right to a character’s essence without any muddying around. The plot concerned me at times while reading, but eventually proved itself beyond my expectations. I rarely say this, but this is a novel that stays with you.

As I said above, I did have my doubts coming into it.


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Death’s Master: Even more enchanting than the first FLAT EARTH novel

Death’s Master by Tanith Lee

On Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth, humans live in the space between apathetic gods and vain and meddlesome demons. In the first FLAT EARTH book, Night’s Master, we met Azhrarn, prince of demons and ruler of the night who found and loved a human orphan. I loved that book for its exotic setting and gorgeous fairytale quality, but Death’s Master, the second FLAT EARTH book, is even more enchanting. While the first book was a series of connected tales,


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Delusion’s Master: Peerlessly gorgeous

Delusion’s Master by Tanith Lee

In Delusion’s Master, the third of Tanith Lee’s FLAT EARTH novels, we’re introduced to another Prince of Darkness: Chuz, the Prince of Madness, who is handsome when seen from one side and hideous when seen from the other. Chuz watches humans and uses the opportunities they give him to practice his craft:

There were several doors by which Madness might enter any house; one was rage, one jealousy, one fear.

We first meet Chuz when a jealous queen tries to get rid of the baby she believes has caused the king to stop loving her.


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Electric Forest: Interesting, but not one of Lee’s best

Electric Forest by Tanith Lee

Magdala Cled is an unattractive disabled woman living in a world where genetic engineering has ensured that everyone around her is beautiful and healthy. She’s a genetic misfit who has no family, friends, or social support of any type.

When a handsome rich man offers to make her beautiful, she goes along with his plan. What Magda doesn’t know is that her new body is the clone of a scientist/entrepreneur that her benefactor is competing with and for whom he has some evil plans.

I greatly admire Tanith Lee’s style,


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The Silver Metal Lover: A book of personal discovery

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

It’s unfortunate that Tanith Lee had to pass away for me to get the jolt of interest needed to read her work. The Silver Metal Lover (1981), one of her most loved works, is a story about an immature love that blossoms into a fully realized one, and about an immature girl who cries too often and falls in love too easily but blossoms into a strong-willed, independent woman. It’s a story about Jane, and her relationship with her robot lover,


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Metallic Lover: An unusual sequel to an unusual book

Metallic Love by Tanith Lee

Metallic Love (2005) is technically a sequel to The Silver Metal Lover, but (despite the same premise and a few reappearing characters) is so drastically different in tone and content that it barely counts as a continuation of Tanith Lee‘s earlier unorthodox love story between a young woman and a silver android.

That said, it is preferable if you read The Silver Metal Lover before Metallic Love,


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Faces Under Water: A beautiful but dated template of a story

Faces Under Water by Tanith Lee

I found the first book of Tanith Lee’s THE SECRET BOOKS OF VENUS series, Faces Under Water, in a used bookstore recently. To call Lee a prolific writer is to understate things somewhat. I had never heard of this series, set in an alternate Venice and based on the four elements. They were published by Overlook Press in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century.

Faces Under Water is short but dense,


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The Wolf Tower: Personal and interactive

The Wolf Tower by Tanith Lee

The Wolf Tower (also published as The Law of the Wolf Tower) is the first of a quartet of books concerning the young woman Claidi’s series of adventures in a fantasy realm, as told and recorded by her in her journal. Her story begins in the House where she works as a slave to the spoilt Lady Jade Leaf, which Claidi recounts in the book that she’s stolen from her mistress’s stationary chest. She’s not entirely sure what made her do such a dangerous thing,


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Wolf Star: Muddled but interesting story

Wolf Star by Tanith Lee

Wolf Star (also published as Wolf Star Rising) is the second of four books known as the Claidi Journals, stories told in the format of a diary by the young escaped-slave Claidi and her travels throughout a fantasy world in search of her origins and a home of her own. In the first installment, Wolf Tower, which you really must read if you want to understand what’s going on in this story, Claidi escaped the confines of the House with the handsome Nemian,


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Wolf Queen: Complicated

Wolf Queen by Tanith Lee

Wolf Queen (or Queen of Wolves in some publications) is the third of four books in the Claidi quartet, a series of books that are told in diary-form by the young heroine Claidi and her travels throughout a fantasy land. In the previous installments, Wolf Tower and Wolf Star, she has escaped slavery, destroyed a corrupt system, found her true love, been kept prisoner in a moving castle and escaped once more in a controllable star.


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Wolf Wing: Concludes a light but interesting series

Wolf Wing by Tanith Lee

Wolf Wing is the fourth and final book in the Claidi Journals, a quartet of books that follow a young heroine’s journey from slavery to freedom — and her untangling of the many mysteries and conspiracies around her — all in diary form. After many adventures in the first three books, Claidi is finally reunited with her beloved Argul, and together they plan their marriage and the return to Claidi’s previous home, the House, in order to release the slaves.


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White as Snow: A dark, richly archetypal novel

White as Snow by Tanith Lee

A maiden is kidnapped. Her mother searches for her, disguised as an old beggar woman. A deadly fruit is eaten. The maiden dies, but not necessarily for good…

Depending on how you flesh out the rest of the tale, this could either be the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, or the fairy tale “Snow White.” Tanith Lee weaves the two together in White as Snow until it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.


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Magazine Monday: Adams Takes Over at Fantasy Magazine

John Joseph Adams, in recent years the editor of a raft of excellent anthologies on different science fiction, fantasy and horror themes, has now become the editor of Fantasy Magazine. The March 2011 issue is the first published under his red pencil, so to speak, and its mix of new and reprint fantasy material is promising. All content is free on the web, though ebook subscriptions and editions are available for sale.

“The Sandal-Bride,” by Genevieve Valentine, is about Sara, a woman who needs to travel from one land to another to join her husband,


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Magazine Monday: Nightmare, May 2013

Nightmare Magazine has been very good from its first issue, but the May 2013 issue, the eighth, is extraordinary.

The magazine opens with “Centipede Heartbeat” by Caspian Gray. Lisa believes that centipedes have invaded the home she shares with Joette, her lover. Worse, she believes that the centipedes have actually invaded Joette: “Each time Lisa rested her head against Joette’s breats, she heard the centipedes. In between heartbeats there was the tiny sound of hundreds of chitinous footsteps against bone, of miniature mandibles tearing at organs.” It’s a horrible situation, especially because Joette refuses to admit what is happening — or is Lisa insane?


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Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, January and February 2014

The January 2014 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death” by Adam Howe. Gibbons is the proud owner of Eddie Gein’s car, a genuine relic of the murder on which Alfred Hitchcock based his movie Psycho. Gibbons has a carnival show built around the car, a regular “Disneyland from hell,” and he can’t figure why it isn’t the huge success he expected when he spent his inheritance from his mother on the thing. But not only don’t people flock to see his show with a two-bit carnival traveling from town to town;


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Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, Women Destroy Horror Issue

I wouldn’t normally review a magazine from last month, but the October issue of Nightmare Magazine is something special, and it’s still available. In this issue, Women Destroy Horror! Issue 25 is devoted to horror written by women, the result of a Kickstarter originally intended to help women destroy science fiction (in the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine) that met its stretch goals. (Full disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter.)

The guest fiction editor of this issue is Ellen Datlow, who is the foremost horror editor working today,


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SHORTS: Valentine, Bradbury, Palmer, Lee

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. 

“Given Advantage of the Blade” by Genevieve Valentine (August 2015, free at Lightspeed Magazine)

If you’ve ever wanted to have a cagematch between Snow White’s stepmother and the evil queen in Sleeping Beauty, this is the story for you. It’s also the story for you if you find the never-ending woman-on-woman violence inherent to many of our most beloved fairy tales getting a little old.


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SHORTS: Pratt, Liu, Lee, Klages, Maberry

These are a few of the online short works we read this week. Our themes this week are libraries and books, mixed with some poison and zombies. As long as we keep the zombies and the poison out of the libraries, it’s all good.  

The Fairy Library by Tim Pratt (2013, free on Apex, Kindle magazine issue, also included in Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories by Tim Pratt)

When I realized I had,


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Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies

Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye

Marvin Kaye’s Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack than its earlier sister volume, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors. Whereas the editors of that earlier collection chose to select one story from each year of the magazine’s celebrated 32-year run (1923-1954), Kaye has decided here to not just limit himself to the periodical’s classic era of 279 issues, but to also include tales from each of the four latter-day incarnations of “The Unique Magazine”


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Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears: Excellent anthology despite my twisted gut

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (eds.)

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tearsis the third in the series of fairy tale anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It’s a very good collection; in quality it’s probably equal to its immediate predecessor, Black Thorn, White Rose, though I didn’t personally like it as much for reasons I’ll elaborate below.

My favorite of the stories is Ellen Steiber’s stunning novella “The Fox Wife.” Set in nineteenth-century Japan, it concerns a domineering husband and his young wife who shows signs of becoming a kitsune,


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Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror: Another wonderful collection from “The Unique Magazine”

Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror edited by John Betancourt & Robert Weinberg

This is the seventh anthology that I have reviewed that has been drawn from the pages of Weird Tales, one of the most famous pulp magazines in publishing history. Each of the previous collections had employed its own modus operandi in presenting its gathered stories. Weird Tales (1964) and Worlds of Weird (1965) had been slim paperbacks featuring previously uncollected stories. The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) had spotlighted tales solely from WT’s very first year.


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Black Heart, Ivory Bones: All that’s best of dark and bright

Black Heart, Ivory Bones edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Black Heart, Ivory Bones is the sixth and final entry in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s series of fairy tale anthologies. Of the six, I’ve read four, and each has its own particular flavor, its own unique mood. While all of the books contain a mix of light and darkness, in this volume there seems to be more of a balance: “all that’s best of dark and bright,” if you will. The mood that Black Heart,


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The Green Man: Read it slowly

The Green Man edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

In fairy tales, whenever someone journeys into the forest, you just know something strange is about to occur and that the protagonist’s life is going to be changed forever. The same is true of the stories and poems featured in The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. With this collection, editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling kicked off a series of young adult anthologies, each devoted to a particular theme. Here, the theme is wild nature,


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Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance,


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Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R.


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Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don’t like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you’d expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They’re just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don’t read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time.


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Songs of Love and Death: Tales of star-crossed lovers

Songs of Love and Death edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of Love and Death is the third anthology that George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited together. Like Warriors and Songs of the Dying EarthSongs of Love and Death brings together some of the biggest names that SFF has to offer and they set these authors to work on a common theme.

Martin and Dozois offer a cross-genre anthology that ranges from Robin Hobb’s epic fantasy “Blue Boots,” which tells the story of a romance between a young serving girl and a silver-tongued minstrel,


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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction.


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Next SFF Author: Tosca Lee
Previous SFF Author: Sharon Lee

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