This Blog is Dead; Long Live the Blog!

Since there hasn’t been a book review in actual years, you probably already suspected this blog was dead. It was murdered by the madcap pace of the last two years of my life–since 2016, I’ve had two kids, found a full-time job, sold my first book, quit my full-time job, and am now under contract for the second book.

(Just all my dearest dreams coming true at once. That’s all.)

If you ever read and liked the reviews here: Thank you. Seriously. Reading and talking about books was the keyhole that lead me through the door into actual writing, and it’s taken me further than I ever could have hoped. I’m well past the second star on the right, soaring straight on till morning.

If you’re interested in following my fiction-writing, I’m most active on Twitter (@AlixEHarrow), and I’ve got a static author-y site here: https://alixeharrow.wixsite.com/author

(Yes, I know real authors buy actual domain names. I’ll get to it. Eventually).

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The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage: An Annotated Bibliography

fisk_mississippi_meandersIf you haven’t already seen my undignified squealing on social media: I have a story up at Tor.com. It’ll also be available as part of Some of the Best of Tor.com, the free ebook. It’s an anticolonial fantasy about American empire-building and indigenous knowledge and landscapes that fight back.

It also has a whole fictional bibliography of nineteenth-century travel narratives, partially based on genuine imperial travel narratives. Since so many people have been clamoring for more information on this (read: since I spent a long time researching it), I thought I’d publish an annotated bibliography to accompany the story. Here’s the full list of everything I cited and why: (more…)

Rings of Anubis

rings of anubisI like many kinds of books, as most readers do. I like time-traveling love stories and Man Booker prize winners, space operas and fairytale retellings, Steinbeck and Rowling and Morrison and Ondaatje, cheap paperbacks and classic reprints. I like many kinds of books because they do many different things (they do despair and hijinks and truth and love and magic), and I need all of them at different times. The thing E. Catherine Tobler’s Rings of Anubis does is simple but often undervalued: it does fun.[1]

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Dustbaby

small-sept-previewAfter a vast and echoing silence, I’m thrilled to say I’ve got a new story up today at Shimmer Magazine (the delightful crew of editors and readers who I definitely haven’t hypnotized/bribed to publish me once before).

If you’re interested, follow this here link to find an odd little story about changelings and loss and the Dust Bowl. You should also check out the rest of the issue, with stories by K.L. Owens, Stephen Case, and Rachel K. Jones.

If you do follow that link, and end up scratching your head and wondering how a story like that came into the world, here it is:

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Sorcerer to the Crown: A Subversive Regency Romp

sorcerer to the crownIn the fantasy genre, the medieval period of European history has always taken center stage. Perhaps it’s the allure of feudal hierarchies that attract so many writers and readers; maybe it’s the undeniable appeal of the bubonic plague or the sheer romanticism of open sewers. More likely it’s the manufactured nostalgia of the twentieth century, which looked backwards into time and discovered that princes made better heroes than plutocrats, and swords in stones were more straightforward systems of kingship than this messy democratic business.

Nineteenth century Britain, though, comes in as a close second in terms of popularity. Steam power and corsets and carriage rides and people whose dialogue has manufactured exclamations in it! Oh! What a sight! (I should note that I’m allowed to make fun of it, because I love it dearly). The popularity of this era is more complex. I like to think part of it’s the sense of swelling, inescapable, world-altering transition permeating the century that gives it such attraction, and the series of dramatic juxtapositions that creates—queens and railroads, arranged marriages and evolutionary theory, all jumbled together.[1]

But it also seems like there are other, less savory motivations behind the veneration of the 19th century, particularly when it’s the white, male, British, upper-class experience of the 19th century that is most often recreated. Once can’t help but feel there are large contingents of readers and writers eager to escape into an imagined past without all these nasty complications about race and gender and class, where the superiority of Anglo characters and the silence of everyone else is a convenient byproduct of the era. Recent works in the genre have absolutely challenged that narrative, that let’s-never-talk-about-imperialism, don’t-worry–about-the-slave-trade, there-are-totally-only-white-dudes-here nonchalance. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books do so slowly, almost timidly, accumulating radicalism as the series progresses, so that even though her protagonist is the picture of an English gentleman, he is plagued by questions of freedom and equality. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is perhaps more direct, with Stephen Black and Lady Pole and Vinculus and Childermass scurrying unseen at the edges of the story, undercutting the singular agency of the magicians themselves.

But none of them—or none that I’ve read—are as ferocious and delightful an attack on exclusivity and racism as Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. It is this cleverness and awareness and bravery that ultimately makes the book so worth reading, and gives surprising depth to what might otherwise feel frivolous. (more…)