Tag Archives: historical fantasy

Book Review: Doctor Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

22 Sep

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a real-life organization that lends a bit of background color to Doctor Potter’s Medicine Show, might have found this novel an effective bit of ammo in their arsenal against the evils of Demon Rum, Wicked Whiskey, Sinful Ginful, etc. They would probably have found it an appalling actual read, but it might have served better than their marching around with signs and their uplifting sermons and their heartfelt testimonials ever did. The descriptions of the unpleasantness of actually being drunk, of addiction, of the consequences of a drinking binge (both social and biological), and of just how nasty a bottle of rotgut can taste and smell, will surely make many a reader look askance at the next cocktail proffered him or her.*

I doubt, though, that Eric Scott Fischl wrote with this aim in mind as he brought these desperate characters together in this diabolical plot. After all, alcohol is not anyone’s biggest problem in his version of Oregon and Idaho in the late 1870s. Continue reading


Guest Post: Switching Between Lanes, by Stephanie Burgis

17 May

I think that every writer who’s ever read publishing advice online has probably come across at least one article on the importance of “branding.” Apparently, to be really smart, writers ought to be figuring out the one thing that they’re best at — or the one thing that connects the most with potential readers — and then sticking to it no matter what, so that fans will know exactly what they’ll get from every new novel by that author.

I know I sound a little snarky in that description, but I’m actually not arguing with it as a strategy. I’m sure that it is a smart, practical way to build a successful career.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been much good at sticking to my own lane. There are too many wonderful genres that I love as a reader, and I get frustrated whenever I try to shut out all but one of them in my writing life. Before I sold my first books, I published dozens of adult f/sf short stories, and I drafted full-length novels for both adults and kids. Then my first agent, back in 2005, took me on with an adult historical fantasy manuscript, and it felt like my first big step onto the publishing ladder. Aha! I’m almost there! Continue reading

Book Review: CONGRESS OF SECRETS by Stephanie Burgis

5 Apr

Known for her Regency-era fantasy series for middle-grade readers that began with A Most Improper Magick (published as Kat, Incorrigible in the US), Stephanie Burgis’ debut novel for adults, Masks and Shadows, similarly combined romanticism with the fantastic. Her sophomore novel, released at the end of 2016 by Pyr, continues this formula. Well paced and passionately infused with historical details and characters, Congress of Secrets will appeal to readers who enjoy a touch of magical darkness balancing Austenesque romance and historical intrigue. Continue reading

Angels, Demons and 1930s Spain: The Los Nefilim Trilogy by T. Frohock

13 May

The 1930s of Spain was a time and place marked by terrible oppression, a vicious civil war immortalized in works of the time such as Picasso’s Guernica and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s a setting relatively near at hand in time and space, but one which has only modestly been depicted and inspirational to the world of genre fiction. The film Pan’s Labyrinth, notably, captured the brutality of the period in the story of Ofelia and her connection to faerie, even as the unredeemable wickedness of her stepfather shines through the narrative of the film like a witchlight. Ian Tregillis’ novel Bitter Seeds takes the popular tack that the Spanish Civil War was a rehearsal for the Second World War in having his German supermen field test their developing powers during the conflict.

T. Frohock’s trio of novellas, set in her dark fantastic Los Nefilim universe takes place in the years just before the full breakout of hostilities. Continue reading

 On Fury and Fairies and the Remnants of Gods by Gillian Polack

22 Oct

The other day, someone said to me that Tolkien’s elves were the real thing, because he was a Medievalist and so he knew. I’m a Medievalist and I know, too, and what the real thing is depends so very much on where one is and what one is writing. I’m not at all certain that Tolkien would have liked to be told that the closest thing to his elves in Old French tales are the blonde fairies (with hair that is red-gold, like fine wire, and the palest of skins and the prettiest of rose colouring on their cheeks) in the Arthurian romances. They are not the stuff of folkdom. They’re not even terribly legendary. They’re the object of quests by knights who don’t quite fit at court. They have the best tents and the most beautiful horses and an unlimited number of handmaidens more beautiful than anyone else in sight apart from the fairy herself. They’re not that real. When I stop and think about Tolkien’s elves, they’re not quite as perfect, but they come close at times. They’re not perfect because they’re annoyingly “I know so much and don’t see why I should tell you.” Neither of them have wings.

These fairies are not the hidden folk of any of the various regions in Western Europe. They’re a literary construct. In fact they appear in the Marvel and DC of their time. I shall refer to the lead fairy (the one who the knight wins) as the Nick Fury of the magic realms from now on when I need to, on panels. Continue reading

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