Aching God, Mike Shel

The tendency to pigeonhole Aching God as a simple Dungeons and Dragons adventure is tempting (not that such efforts should be cast aside because many a good story has come from the table-top). Shel’s debut has all the trappings of a role-playing game: there is a band of adventurers, each with a different skill set; there are monsters to slay…

The Hod King, Josiah Bancroft

How does a fantasy book reviewer critique a work that he unabashedly loves? Do I try to make up bad things about Josiah Bancroft’s newest Book of Babel? Do I scour it for the tiniest typo and the smallest grammatical error simply so I don’t come off as an advertisement for Orbit Books? I mean, I guess…

Orconomics, J. Zachary Pike

Satirical fantasy has never been my sub-genre. I like Terry Pratchett (no way I’m getting through this review without mentioning Pratchett, so might as well get it out of the way), but not in the devotional way of many of fantasy connoisseurs. I get it.  There’s no denying the clever writing and imaginative world-building, but for whatever reason…

The Boy Who Walked Too Far, Dom Watson

Note – This review originally appeared at Fantasy Book Critic as part of the SPFBO contest of 2018.  Defining fantasy, as a genre of literature, is one of the trickiest things in this industry. There are so many sub-genres now, as well as decriers of genre who insist that everything should simply be called literature,…

Blackwing, Ed MacDonald

Blackwing feels like the love-child of The Black Company and Dark Souls, but potentially grimmer than either (an impressive feat). On paper, this is my dream combination. The Black Company is one of the best anti-hero fantasies ever written, and Dark Souls is likely the best fantasy video game series ever made. This should make…

Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is a book about the outsider, the stranger, that individual who does not fit into modern society for reasons that range from obscure to obvious. Keiko hovers somewhere in the middle of that spectrum because to all outward appearances, she is as normal as anyone walking around. She has a job, lives…

The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura

As an avid fantasy reader, the notion of fate is one in which I am well-versed. Fantasy novels often have a multitude of prophecies or destined heroes, and it always requires even more suspension of disbelief than already necessary to read speculative fiction. What I do not often encounter in any fiction, fantasy or otherwise,…

Kingdom Come Deliverance

In college, I minored in Medieval Studies. This is not a common area of coursework in many colleges, but Western Michigan University has an entire department devoted to ye olde ages of yore. The program is fairly well-known, and they host a medieval congress every year for all the academic nerds of the world to…

Ms Ice Sandwich, Mieko Kawakami

It is not often that I so blindly stumble upon a Japanese author without knowing anything beforehand. In this case, I was quite literally browsing library shelves and came upon Ms Ice Sandwich. What a quirky title, I thought, and a Japanese name. I guess I’ll read this. Browsing library shelves, it turns out, has…

The Emissary, Yoko Tawada

Writing weird and quirky fiction,the kind that borders on the fantastic, seems to be a tradition in Japanese literature. Between Haruki Murakami, Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe, and now Yoko Tawada, there is no shortage of puzzling but delightful stories pouring out of Japan. Tawada is no stranger to the Japanese fiction landscape, but she was…

Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid

I have lost count of how many coming-of-age books I’ve read in my life. It seems like every author, at some point in their career, writes about someone growing up. Growing up is a universal commonality, and so the success of this type of narrative should be no surprise. I happily admit that when well-written,…

The Emperor of the Eight Islands, by Lian Hearn

It seems so obvious to merge fantasy with Japanese folklore, and yet so few authors have done so. Fantasy is historically seldom translated, however, so even if there had been a slew of Japanese fantasy books, I likely wouldn’t know of them. That Lian Hearn is a British woman living in Australia is possibly the…