If you want a fun jigsaw puzzle, try this…
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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I got something fun in the mail this month. Howard Tayler, of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic series, released a fun jigsaw puzzle. It features some iconic worlds from hard science fiction crossed with magical fantasy. It was a fun and sometimes challenging puzzle (expanses of stars don’t offer a lot of clues for how they fit together). Looks like there are still some on the shelf at Topatco if you like jigsaws.
In other news, I’m attending a writing workshop this month, organized by a group called Writer Unboxed. It’s fun. I get to meet other writers. I hear interesting talks about the craft of writing. And I don’t have to leave home. It’s all virtual, through a platform called AirMeet, and it’s the closest experience to an in-person conference I’ve had, and I’ve been doing online meetings since the early ’90s. (The community I was a part of practically invented online conferencing and certainly invented the lynchpin technology – the World Wide Web.) This conference has the milling around meeting other people while waiting for the session, the breakout tables to have conversations. The sessions have organic Q&As, applause and laughter and other feedback, and the ability for the speaker to invite audience members “up on stage” to be a part of it. I’m really hoping this takes hold and replaces the sterile Zoom conferences we’ve become used to these past few years.
Sellenria: The Starship and the Citadel
Chuck Boeheim, Daniel Elswit
It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock.
As a scientist, Stenn didn’t believe in magic. But when a monster from legend ground his equipment into dust, Stenn was forced into roles for which he hadn’t prepared. Apprentice to an assassin for one, advisor to the heir to the throne for another. When archaeological digs were conducted via telepresence, he didn’t expect to get dirt under his nails and blood on his hands. Now his fate hinges on his ability to embrace his greatest role: the new warlock.
Readers have called this a cross between Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, as well as a tale of self-discovery, set in a journey through a fantastic land. All legends have a kernel of truth, but the full story can be surprisingly different.
What We‘re Reading
Visit our archive of reviews and recommendations on the Books We Like page of our website. You‘ll find over one hundred recommendations in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Non Fiction.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
The story opens with Mary Jekyll, daughter of the famed Doctor Henry Jekyll, burying her mother while wondering how she is to avoid the poorhouse. The family fortune has all been spent by her father and his mysterious associate, Edward Hyde. She soon finds the daughters of other famous scientists with whom to take common cause, such as Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Beatrice Rappaccini. They enlist the help of a renowned detective to help them discover the secrets of their fathers’ shadowy Society of Alchemists.
This story is a delightful mashup of a number of Gothic horror stories and other tales of the Victorian age. It has an unusual structure, couched in a framing story of the young women writing the story of their own adventures, with plenty of editorializing voices bickering about just how the just-recounted scene had really happened. It’s also a cozy mystery, which means it’s a little slower paced, a little more meandering than a lot of other fantasy stories. I enjoyed the change of pace and will be looking for the next two installments.
Six of Crows
When Kaz Brekker is offered a fabulous payment for an impossible heist, he sees it as a way to the top of the heap. He sees it as a means of revenge. He assembles a team of misfits to accompany him to infiltrate the most impregnable fortress in the world. They all come with baggage; none of them trust each other, and some of them can barely be restrained from killing each other. That makes them perfect for the job.
In its bones, this is an ensemble heist novel. It has the crew of specialists learning to work together to plan and execute an intricate plan. Of course things go wrong; everyone has to step up and have their heroic moment when the time is right. But there are also subplots about romance, about freedom and oppression, about redemption, and much more. This is a tale that works on many levels. I’ll be looking for the next installment to see where the Crows go next.
Minimum Wage Magic
Freelance mage Opal “cleans” apartments for a living. Meaning: she bids on the rights to clean out abandoned spaces for the value of the artifacts (often magical) that were left behind. She lives in the city of Detroit, which became a living god-being when magic flooded back into the world.
Business has been bad and Opal is in a bind with rent and debts. Then a bid simultaneously lands her with a murder case, a secret that is valuable beyond belief, and a thoroughly unwanted partner. Opal follows a twisty trail of clues through the seamy underbelly of a magical city, staying one step ahead of increasingly deadly competitors. And trying to keep the holder of her debt from calling it in and taking her off the playing board.
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Midwinter at Bhisho
Earl T. Roske
Providing aid becomes a fight for survival. When Imara lands on Abira with the rest of her company, things don’t feel right. And it’s not just the constant, falling snow. Bhisho’s townsfolk are nervous. This makes the Hospitallers wary. Then, thieves come in the night.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Four hundred and thirty thousand years ago, the first Nephilim came to Earth in search of gold. After a perilous journey, the Stargazer, the Nephilim flagship, lands on the alien world. First contact with what is thought to be an intelligent creature doesn’t go well. A decision to burn the surrounding grass, enrages the creatures, a large pack of dire wolves. Now, the Nephilim are being hunted, not for food, for revenge. Wolves are not the only hostile creatures they will face. There are water dragons, sabretooth tigers, deadly vipers, and more. This is the story of their struggle to survive and create the first city on Earth, Eridu.
Buy via StoryOrigin
The Blood Queen – Part One
Merick N.H. Ulrik
How does an innocent young girl become an all powerful evil Blood Queen? But with greed and decadence and a desire for power there came a vacuum, a rift in the universe which gave an opening for an extreme old evil to gain form and power once again. When evil is allowed to choose its form it doesn’t come in the form of a gory beast but in the most seductive form possible.
Free via StoryOrigin
Memoir of the Last Survivor
During the destruction of the Eldenhaven Academy of Dracomancy, Yenderen, former master of Iclindir, makes his escape, wading through the crumbling hallways of the Academy as its paltry forces wage war with the Alliance brought by Albrecht Therin. As he escapes the Academy, Yenderen’s wounds and exhaustion get the best of him, making him collapse by the edge of the nearby jungle, only to be accosted by memories returning to his mind after centuries being locked away. Yenderen remembers his days as a scholar from Farendell, a time he shared with the only woman he had truly loved.
Buy via StoryOrigin
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