Spoiler Review for Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Stephen Leeds is a man of many personalities. Or it may be more accurate to say persons. See, his mind has a certain ability, borne of mental illness, though not one anyone can quite put their finger on: in order to help him learn, cope with the world, or deal with new an unexpected events, Stephen can create new people in his brain, which he dubs aspects. These aspects help Stephen learn and store new information, but more than that, they’re created to help him get through the world. There’s his psychiatrist, his security expert, his historian and guide, and so many more, designed for different jobs: his survivalist, his photography expert, his forensic analyst, and more.

In Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds there was a lot to enjoy, and there were some things that let me down. Let’s discuss.

 

What I Enjoyed

The Reality of His ...

Trauma and Triumph: Myke Cole’s The Queen of Crows

Myke Cole surprised readers last year when the author of primarily military fantasy fiction told the grim but complex story of a young woman named Heloise, living in a world where wizardry would summon devils into the world, and only the tyrannical Order could keep the people of the world safe.

In The Armored Saint, Heloise lives in Lutet with her mother and father, and does her best to obey them, help the town where she can, and spend time with her friend Basina, for whom she harbors a love beyond friendship. But throughout the book, we see time and again the brutality of this world: how the Order cuts down any who oppose them, no matter how small the infraction, and how they force other civilians to aid them in “the knitting,” a fancy name for utter destruction of a town and its citizens who they fear have ...

Outside the Lines: Unique Narrative Devices in Fantasy

There’s something appealing about a book that does things a little differently. Maybe it doesn’t break the rules, but bends them? Tries something new? Experiments with narrative? That’s absolutely my jam. I love when writers find new ways, new formats, and new styles to help elevate narration. Tricks of the trade that deliver information, or tell the reader something new, or force them to look at a story in a new way.

Inspired by a bevy of these tricks in Ruin of Kings, coming soon from Jenn Lyons, I thought I’d highlight a few other stories that utilize different devices to burst free from the housing of conventional narrative, and try to teach the reader something in the process.

 

Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Ruin of Kings—the story of Kihrin, a young man coming to terms with his potential royal heritage, and the ...

A Non-Spoiler Look at Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Brandon Sanderson is well known for his high fantasy work, but he’s also known to stretch his wings and explore other worlds beyond the universe of the Cosmere. He’s got a middle-grade science fiction epic in Skyward, and a trilogy about rampaging dystopian superheroes in The Reckoners Trilogy. And here, in the brand new novella collection, Legion: the Many Lives of Stephen Leeds, he has the sci-fi-infused noir adventures of Stephen Leeds, also known as Legion, an expert in just about everything. Well, sorry, not him, but the people in his head.

See, Stephen Leeds has a condition, but it’s unlike anything anyone has ever seen. His mind manifests what he calls aspects, complete personalities and people conjured from his brain, each an expert in something he is trying to learn about. Stephen has churned out dozens of these aspects in the last ten years or so—Ivy, his ...

Everyday Magic: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

If there’s one thing I’ve learned reading Robert Jackson Bennett, it’s that when you think you know what he’s going to do at any given moment, you’re most likely going to be wrong. You think he’ll go right; he goes left. You think he’s going to climb a fence, and instead he barrels right through. Most often, when he hits a dead end and you suspect this is where you catch him, he grins, steps onto the empty air and begins to walk into the sky.

And in his latest novel, Foundryside, Bennett is firing on all cylinders, taking what at first seems to be something a little standard, a little rote, and infusing exhilarating new life into it through expert writing, complicated and distinct characters, and an intriguing, deadly, wonderful new city called Tevanne, where reality can be shuffled like a deck of cards, provided you can justify ...

Explore the Other Worlds of Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson may be known for his works of epic fantasy, but they’re certainly not all that he writes. With the release of his Legion omnibus forthcoming, as well as his new science fiction young adult novel, Skyward due out later this fall, I wanted to highlight those works of his that exist outside the Cosmere, the name for his inter-connected universe of epic fantasy stories. If you enjoy science fiction, superheroes, strange magic, libraries full of secrets, and multiple personalities, then it’s time to learn about the other side of Sanderson!

The Reckoners is a completed trilogy (Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity) about murderous superheroes and alternate realities, and features a young man who really doesn’t know how to tell jokes. David was young when the Epics—people with superpowers— started manifesting. Except when they used these powers, they turned bad. And the worst of them all is Steelheart, ...

You’ve Won The Battle, Now What? Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A staple of epic fantasy is the interrogation of good versus evil. A “Dark Lord” pursuing their own destructive ends, the civilizations caught in the middle of the war, and the forces of good and light doing their damnedest to push back against the shadow: It’s a tale as old as time, and the constant struggles between good and evil can begin to feel a bit stale and rote as the genre evolves. But with Redemption’s Blade, Adrian Tchaikovsky focuses the narrative not on the battle between good and evil, or on the far flung effects of its occurrence; rather, he starts it about five minutes after the war is over.

Celestaine of Forinth is an accomplished warrior and one of the few who managed to kill the Kinslayer, a warped but powerful evil being who had his sights set on the corruption of the known ...

It’s Time to Get Chosening: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

Kill the Farm Boy, the new comedy fantasy from accomplished novelists Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, is not for the faint of heart—that is, if you find all manner of puns terrifying. For every moment in which other writers would stray from the joke in front of their nose, for every bit of back and forth, for every tantalizing smidgen of wordplay that some writers wouldn’t dive into, Dawson and Hearne plow straight ahead. They don’t so much lean into the crucial comedy of this novel as they do invite it out to dinner, feed it tacos and tequila, and record every bit of banter that results.

Kill the Farm Boy is a smart comedy, not only because it skewers modern tropes with a deft but direct hand, provides twists and turns to what should be a classic quest, or has representation in sorely needed ways, but because ...

Over the Garden Wall: A Sweet, Strange Journey into The Unknown

If you’ve ever seen Over the Garden Wall, chances are you’ve seen it more than once—it’s a show that rewards repeat viewings. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a bit hard to explain—it’s an Emmy award-winning animated miniseries that first aired on the Cartoon Network in November, 2014. It’s weird, and beautiful, and not like anything else you’ve ever seen, and features the voice talents of Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd, along with John Cleese, Tim Curry, singer Chris Isaak, and opera singer Samuel Ramey, among others. I recently rewatched it, as I tend to do every November. Here’s why.

Everyone in my family dies in November.

It’s not an exaggeration. Every major death in my family, save one or two, happens between pumpkins and presents. The biting days of November are when my family says good-bye. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more have waved so long under skies ...

Flawed Futures Make for Better Stories: Ada Palmer’s Take on Utopian SF

At Readercon last summer, when I saw that Ada Palmer was hosting a kaffeeklatsch, I jumped at the chance to join in. Having just read her debut, Too Like The Lightning, a few months earlier, I was thrilled at the prospect of having an hour to sit with her and other fans and pick her brain about the vast, complicated world of Terra Ignota and the future of 2454 that she had painstakingly created. During the discussion, someone asked something about how she had written a utopia, to which Ada chuckled for a moment, possibly thinking over all the complications—all the wrenches she’d thrown into the gears, basically—when it came to creating her world. Then, she said, “Well, it’s not quite a utopia, as it is utopian,” which she went on to explain means that while the world itself is utopian in nature, the future itself is far ...

Why The Name of the Wind Still Resonates Ten Years Later

I first read The Name of the Wind a few years after it had come out, and I inhaled it. Afterward, it stayed inside my heart, lighting me from within like a candle flame. It was intricate and beautiful and complex, a tale of two different times, and two very different men: the hero of our story, young and full of confidence, and the person he became in the wake of tragedy. Then, I reread it, recognizing and reliving everything again—and yet, I saw more. I saw that the tales told are the same tale, spun out over and over again in different ways. And it blew me away, this recognition of the way stories shift and change and warp over time. And then I read it a third time, and I saw the details of histories underlying the bones of the modern tale, and the rhymes in the words, ...

In the Wake of the Everstorm: A Non-Spoiler Review of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer

It will be difficult to review this without spoilers, but I will do my best. See, Oathbringer is a tome that readers that have been waiting for since mid-2014, almost four years ago. The third novel in Brandon Sanderson’s juggernaut, his magnum opus The Stormlight Archive, Oathbringer picks up right after the devastating ending of Words of Radiance, and catapults readers into a world beginning to topple. Because now, there’s no hiding from the truth. The Everstorm circles around the planet, bringing with it the spren of crimson lightning, waking the docile parshmen. And as they waken, the Knights Radiant must once again speak the ancient oaths, and work to defend humanity from Odium.

Sanderson wastes no time in bringing readers back into his massive, complex world of Roshar, where superstorms sweep now from horizon to horizon. Kaladin, empowered from his oath at the end of Words of Radiance...

The Evolution of an Epic Fantasy Writer

Springing onto the epic fantasy scene a few years ago with his debut novel, The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley was clearly a writer of immense potential energy. His debut, the first in a trilogy, promised a family steeped in tragedy and power, facing hard choices while occupying a world of deep lore, chaotic forces, and endless mystery. And as the children of the Annurian Empire grew, so too did Staveley’s mastery and range in the telling of their story. From The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and through his newest novel Skullsworn, Staveley has continued to not only level up on a nuts-and-bolts level, but to push himself as a writer, delving further into those corners of the world where he finds himself unsure, and balancing along that narrative knife’s edge, pushes on and breaks into brighter worlds. Staveley not only has injected a major breath of fresh ...

Flawed Futures Make for Better Stories: Ada Palmer and Utopian SF

At Readercon last summer, when I saw that Ada Palmer was hosting a kaffeeklatsch, I jumped at the chance to join in. Having just read her debut, Too Like The Lightning, a few months earlier, I was thrilled at the prospect of having an hour to sit with her and other fans and pick her brain about the vast, complicated world of Terra Ignota and the future of 2454 that she had painstakingly created. During the discussion, someone asked something about how she had written a utopia, to which Ada chuckled for a moment, possibly thinking over all the complications—all the wrenches she’d thrown into the gears, basically—when it came to creating her world. Then, she said, “Well, it’s not quite a utopia, as it is utopian,” which she went on to explain means that while the world itself is utopian in nature, the future itself is far ...

Gaming Vicariously: Rolling the Dice with Critical Role

Fan art by Amanda Oliver Elm If you’ve ever participated in a role-playing game, you know that moment: when everything is on the line, the monster is this close to defeat, and you have the perfect opening. All you need is a little cooperation from your dice. You take a breath. Your party holds theirs. You toss the dice. And when it’s a success—or even better, a crit—that blooming bubble of joy, giddiness, and celebration bursts from you and your party, as your DM describes the moment of victory. If you miss that feeling of unrestrained, breathless happiness at the twists and turns to be found in a roleplaying game, then you’re probably the perfect audience for Critical Role. Started by gaming and nerd channel Geek & Sundry in late 2014, Critical Role chronicles the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition adventure of eight professional voice actors and friends. They started playing Pathfinder together a year ...

Hearts of Darkness: The Short Fiction of Shirley Jackson

lottery-jackson

< p class="frontmatter">December 14, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of Shirley Jackson’s birth. To celebrate, we’re taking a look at some of her most memorable novels and short fiction. If you asked anyone about a American short story that stuck with them for their entire lives, it would not shock me if they were to think for a moment, and then say, “that one story, ‘The Lottery,’” followed up with some form of, “that shit is fucked up.” One of the seminal works of American short fiction, “The Lottery” is the most widely-read piece of Shirley Jackson’s to worm its way into the heart of many a reader, but it is far from her only piece worth of attention. While “The Lottery” remains her best known story, Jackson was a prolific writer of short fiction, and though her other stories may not have involved a signature pile of smooth stones, they ...

Brandon Sanderson’s Arcanum Unbounded: A Non-Spoiler Review

Arcanum Unbounded Brandon Sanderson, the epic fantasy sensation known for putting out tomes thicker than some cookbooks, has now put out a collection of short fiction which is actually just as large as some of his novels. (I’ll give you a moment to let all that sink in.) All play aside though, Arcanum Unbounded represents a first in several capacities. First, this is the never-before-collected of short fiction that Sanderson has written across his story universe, The Cosmere, now all together in one beautifully bound space. Second, and of more excitement, this is the first time we as readers are getting a full glimpse into the wider universe of the Cosmere, complete with star charts, constellations, and planet/realmic notations, with plenty of revelations to keep even the most avid Sanderson fan happy. All of the stories save one, which we’ll get into toward the end, have been published already in ...

Growing an Anthology Series: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016

basff-2016 Last year, John Joseph Adams and guest editor Joe Hill introduced the inaugural edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, bringing together twenty of the best stories published in the year 2014, a mixture of rockets and robots, magic and myths. That the rich worlds of science fiction and fantasy short fiction were finally getting their recognition in the mainstream was a joy to many, and Adams and Hill nailed it, crafting a brilliant collection that celebrated writers new and old, across a wide spectrum of identities, as accessible to newcomers as it was to seasoned readers. And with such a success in the first volume, there inevitably came the question: what will next year’s look like? In the hands of Adams and guest editor Karen Joy Fowler, Volume Two continues to spotlight amazing writers exploring difficult and brilliant concepts, and while the overall styles of the ...

The Art of Survival in Imaginary Worlds: N.K. Jemisin, Robert Jackson Bennett, and Sarah Beth Durst

BKBookFest-ImaginaryWorlds Moderated by fantasy and science fiction writer Alice Sola Kim, this incredibly well-attended panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival featured Robert Jackson Bennett, N. K. Jemisin, and Sarah Beth Durst sitting down to discuss the use of politics, power dynamics, social systems, and threats in their various fantasy worlds—each of which includes dangers not just on a physical level, but in myriad forms such as colonial and social oppression, toxic social structures, geographic fragility, and magical/divine retribution. For an hour, the authors delved into their construction of these worlds, how and why they chose themes and struggles to focus on, and the ways in which they are able to skirt by people’s perceptions of the fantasy genre in order to explore real-world issues they find concerning or fascinating. The panel started off with readings from each of the authors’ work. Bennett read a passage from his novel City of Stairs...
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Why Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is So. Damn. Powerful.

Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone It’s a typical morning, as typical as they come. You wake up and shower, listening to your favorite shock jockey blab on the air. You make a cup of coffee and read the paper, all the while keeping an eye on the clock. You hail a cab, and despite the intense traffic, you manage to make your way to work and even manage to impress your boss. Except that in this world, your shock jockey is a rogue elemental riding the airwaves, spreading gossip. Your cab could be a riderless carriage that touts you around the bustling streets, or possibly a giant dragonfly like creature, whose legs wrap around your body and fly you to work. Your office is probably a giant glass pyramid, fitting into the city like a perfect puzzle piece. And your boss? Yeah, he’s an immortal sorcerer whose constant tampering with the forces of the universe ...
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