The Adventure Zone Creators Travis McElroy, Clint McElroy, and Carey Pietsch on the Leap from Podcast to Graphic Novel


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This time last year, an extraordinary alchemy occurred: Through meticulous plotting, a lot of enthusiasm, intense collaboration, and gorgeous artwork, The Adventure Zone DnD podcast became a graphic novel. Itself a spin-off of the McElroy brothers’ podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me, The Adventure Zone has taken on a life of its own; their first campaign spans 69 episodes, the first 6 of which were adapted into their very first graphic novel last summer, The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins.

After garnering huge acclaim (and hitting the NYT Bestseller’s List), it was only a matter of time before a second graphic novel would arrive. The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited! publishes July 16th, returning to the world of Magnus, Taako, and Merle—this time they’re seeking a Grand Relic hidden somewhere on the eponymous locomotive, where it seems foul play is at hand…

I had the ...

Family, Food, and Futures in The Sol Majestic by Ferret Steinmetz


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Kenna is starving.

He has been for a while now. And if his parents cared for anything as much as they care for their Inevitable Philosophies, the highly specific and highly amorphous guiding lights they’ve dedicated their lives to, maybe he wouldn’t be so hungry. But traveling the stars in cramped transport units, unable to fend off bullies who steal his highly-processed nutrition crackers, Kenna arrives at Savor Station so hungry, he’s almost willing to steal to live. And then he stumbles upon the line for The Sol Majestic. A restaurant so renowned, so grand, it holds reservations years in advance, its mysterious owner Paulius hosts a contest every night: one table, free of charge, for anyone who can answer a riddle. When Kenna stumbles upon the right answer, his life is forever changed—the doors to The Sol Majestic are opened to him, an entry to a world he never ...

A Rollicking Tale of Revenge: Sam Sykes’ Seven Blades in Black


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Over the course of his first six books, Sam Sykes has worked very hard to illustrate his vision of what fantasy fiction can be, focusing not just on epic battles between magic users, but also on the price they pay, and what the horrors they see can do to their heart, mind, and soul. He shows us not just the heroes of an age working together to vanquish a great evil, but also the horrendous friction that can result from a half-dozen very different people working together, and the sense that maybe that there’s more to the story behind that great evil than one might suspect. And there’s not just the sweat and steam of flirting between protagonists on display, but also the agonizing heart-pain of loving someone who you fear you’ll never understand, and who is just as scared that you’ll leave them before they have a chance to ...

A Stunning Debut: Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire


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In this stunning debut, Mahit Dzamare is the latest in a long line of free peoples who have had to live under the influence of the one of the largest imperial powers in the known galaxy: the Teixcalaanli Empire. The vast Empire is a source of culture, poetry, fashion, literature, oration, ethics, and more, whose influences spread across their many systems and beyond, like arrows of sunlight streaking into the dark of space. And while very few are able to stand up to and apart from the Empire, Mahit’s people on Lsel Station remain independent, though they exist next to and within the grasp of the Empire, aided by an ambassador on the surface of the Teixcalaanli capital—a planet simply called “The City,” heart and jewel of the Empire.

When a sudden call for a new ambassador comes to Lsel Station, Mahit is chosen and hurriedly given her imago, the ...

Instruments of Our Own Destruction: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett


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Vigilance, a new novella by Robert Jackson Bennett, is a love story between America and its guns—and as with all toxic relationships, someone’s going to get hurt.

In a near-future America undergoing a fast, steep decline—a nation where the young have left for safer and brighter ports, while an older generation hangs on by its fingernails to the old vision of what America could be—a right-wing news organization has found the exact thing to prey on their fear. This America, much like our own, is both fascinated by and numb to the horrors of mass shootings: people are still willing to watch the coverage, and not yet sick of it enough to turn away from the brutality. So John McDean, one of the lead marketers for Our Nation’s Truth television network, has turned shootings into a reality TV show: Vigilance.

Bennett spares no detail in painting a picture of ...

Hidden Depths and Dangerous Waters: Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler


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Django Wexler is an accomplished fantasy writer, as evidenced by his epic fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns, as well as his middle grade series, The Forbidden Library. Between those two series, he’s shown that he can write complex, complicated characters of all ages while also tackling larger issues woven around weighty themes such as war, family, love, and more. With his newest novel, Ship of Smoke and Steel, Wexler flexes those powerful muscles once more, and ventures forth into the realm of Young Adult fantasy with a world that’s built around brutal magic, flexible morality, complicated feelings, and the difficulties of growing up when all you’ve ever been is a weapon.

Eighteen-year-old Isoka is an enforcer in the Sixteenth Ward of Kahnzoka, toiling for the larger bosses to keep order, and making enough money to keep her younger sister away from the brutality of it all, safe and secreted ...

Old Enemies, Renewed: Barren by Peter V. Brett


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The story of the Warded Man may be over, but there is still more narrative to be mined from the world of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series. His latest novella, Barren, finds everyone adjusting in the wake of the Warded Man’s deliverance of the ancient combat wards. Nowhere is that struggle seen more clearly than in Tibbet’s Brook, once home to Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, whose members have since begun to adjust to being able to fight back against the demons that appear at their doors every night.

Set during the final act of the last book of the Demon Cycle, The Core, Barren finds the demon princes organizing for one last push against humanity. With their new line of queens about to hatch and start looking for food, the Brook will be tested like they never have before. Leading us through that test is Selia, ...

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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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 ...