Saturday, January 28, 2012

SF/F Stories with Asian Leads

This post only covers from central, East and Southeast Asia. I'm covering the Middle East and north Africa in a separate post.
Related Posts: SFF Stories with Native American Leads, SFF Stories with Black Leads, and SFF Stories with Middle Easter Leads.

The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 24/7/7
  • Author with most works on the list: Eileen Wilks, with 8 books in her Lupi series
  • Biggest overall surprise: No ninjas. Huh. With all the assassin stories out there, I would have assumed I had read something more explicitly ninja-esque.  I'm going to have to hunt one down.  Also, I was a little surprised at the diversity. After doing the list for Native Americans, I was expecting patterns to emerge, even among excellent writers.  But, they're a pretty diverse group of stories.
and now for...

My Favorites

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SF/F Stories with Native American Leads

In an attempt to celebrate great examples of sci-fi and fantasy books with Native American protagonists, I'm writing down a list of my favorites.  It's part of a series of posts covering SFF stories with non-white protagonists. See also SFF stories with Asian Leads, SFF Stories with Black Leads, and SFF Stories with Middle Eastern Leads.


The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 17/5/6
  • Author with most works on the list: Patricia Briggs by a landslide - 8 books and 1 short story.
  • Most common trope: Coyote. A close second is the female half Native American/half white tomboy protagonist with grease under her fingernails from all her work as a mechanic or mechanical tinkerer. She can handle her own in an adventure and is prepared to defend herself if she has to, but would rather be left alone, especially since she has secrets to hide. Unfortunately, her secrets draw her into the preternatural world she's trying to avoid. Seriously, this describes half the protagonists!
  • Biggest overall surprise: There's only one full-blood Native American, and there are no (non-urban) fantasies on the list. There are also no stories set within a Native American culture (or magical version thereof), the stories always have the protagonist living in a white world. 
and now for...

My Favorites

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Non-white Protagonists in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

I was thinking recently about non-white protagonists in genre books I'd enjoyed.  One of the first things that struck me is that I'd probably seen an order of magnitude more books with non-white main characters in romance novels than in sci-fi and fantasy.

Which struck me as a bit odd.

Note, I was trying to recall stories with either a non-white protagonist and or non-white main love interest or both.  I didn't count stories with paranormal or alien races which have, say, yellow skin but which have cultures based on a European culture.

Anyway, I came up with a bunch of possible reasons for the romance vs sci-fi/fantasy discrepancy.  Many have to do with my less-than-awesome powers of observation and with basing conclusions on half-remembered anecdotal evidence.  Here are some others:

  1. There are just more romance books written total, so even if percentages are comparable, absolute numbers won't be.
  2. Romance series where each book centers on a different couple are really popular.  Readers tend to become fans of the series as a whole, not of a particular book.  So with this sort of format, you have a wider total main cast for the series and can make some of them non-white without making the whole series look too scarily "Ethnic" for those who might be put off by that sort of thing.  Of course, I don't see a lot of non-white main POVs in fantasy epics, which you'd think would be the same sort of situation.
  3. Having a protagonist or love interest who looks like you is more important to romance readers,  so publishing houses take the time to solicit/encourage books that specifically appeal to various ethnicities in the same way that they solicit particular story tropes.  Sci-fi and fantasy are supposed to be less formulaic so publishers don't even try to do it there.
Regardless of the reasons, I don't entirely like the result.  OTOH, I really enjoy the books I already read, so it's not like I have anything to complain about other than a vague, existential dissatisfaction with the situation.  I guess, rather than complain about the ones that I haven't read (all those sci-fi fantasy books with non-white protagonists that could have been there but which weren't), I've decided to celebrate the ones that I have enjoyed.  And maybe go out of my way to read some more over the next year or so.

In any case, over the next week or two, I'll be posting a series of lists about sci-fi and fantasy books that I've really enjoyed and that have non-white protagonists.   
  1. SFF stories with Native American protagonists
  2. SFF stories with Asian protagonists
  3. SFF stories with black protagonists
  4. SFF stories with Middle Eastern protagonists
I sadly haven't read enough books to create sci-fi/fantasy lists for Native Australians and Pacific Islanders or Latinos. It's doubly frustrating because I'm Latina, so I would have thought that I would have kept an eye out more for that.  

Anyway, if anyone wants to recommend books for me to read to add to the lists, just let me know. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Coexist by Julia Crane

I really wanted to like this YA paranormal romance.  The heroine is an elf that blends into human society, and the story looks like it has yummy romantic tension with less emo angst than the typical vampire YA PR.   But in the end, I couldn't suspend enough disbelief to enjoy it.  It may work better for younger teens.

Coexist, by Julia Crane, is the first book in a YA contemporary paranormal trilogy.  It's a story told mainly through the POV of sixteen-year-old Keegan, the light elf heroine, although the story does show scenes from her brother  Thaddeus, friends, and her Chosen (soul mate) Rourke.

The way Chosens work is that each elf has someone that's chosen for them when they're born (in a mysterious way that isn't explained), but they are not allowed to meet until they turn eighteen (it's also not explained who makes that rule).  Once they're both eighteen, the Chosen bond flares to life, and they instantly fall in love and can sense each other from far away et cetera.  At the beginning of the book, Keegan's learned Rourke's name, so every time she thinks about him, he feels it and can see of what she's doing.  Of course, being a teenage girl that knows she has a perfect soul mate out there somewhere, she thinks about him a lot, so he's constantly being distracted by her and desperately wants to meet her, but knows he should wait until she turns eighteen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: The Assassin's Curse by Lindsay Buroker

This is sort of like a yummy little snack to tide over fans of the "Emperor's Edge" series until she publishes the next hearty helping of bookiliciousness.  Recommended. 

The Assassin's Curse, by Lindsay Buroker, is a short story set in Buroker's steam-punk fantasy series, Emperor's Edge. If you're not familiar with the series, start with The Emperor's Edge before you read this one. Right now, at least, the first book is free, which is crazy, because it's a great book and a great series.

In any case, The Assassin's Curse starts off with Amaranthe and Sicarius training hard, but pretty soon Amaranthe finds a reason to investigate some suspicious smoke in the distance rather than finishing training. Of course, this soon snowballs into an mini-adventure which takes place over the course of a couple of hours.

The story doesn't move any of the main plot or character development arcs forward, and it doesn't show us any new facets of their personalities, so you can skip it without worrying about whether you're going to miss out on part of the series. OTOH, if you like seeing the Amaranthe interacting with Sicarius and getting herself in and out of scrapes (and who doesn't, really?), then you're guaranteed to like this, too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Telesa - The Covenant Keeper by Lani Wendt Young

Great world-building and three-dimensional characters help this YA paranormal romance stand out in this crowded sub-genre.  And I have to give the author extra kudos for basing the paranormal part of her story on Samoan mythology instead of just having the typical vampires and werewolves (not to say I don't love werewolves...).  Recommended, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Telesa, by Lani Wendt Young, is the story of Leila, teenager who travels to Samoa to get to know her long-deceased mother's family and heritage.  She also is trying to escape her very rich, very white grandmother, who is her guardian now that her beloved father passed away. She starts to get settled into her new environment, but strange things start happening to her and pretty soon she falls down the rabbit hole of the exotic paranormal.

It's a good set up.  By having the main character come recently from the States, Young introduces us to Samoa very smoothly.  And she does a great job of immersing the reader in the locale - sounds, smells, speech patterns, attitudes, etc. - without it feeling like a flowery travelogue.  The book is rooted in a sense of place that I found almost as appealing as the characters and plot. And I found the characters and plot pretty darn appealing. 7CQ28RUGKYQ6

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Dragonswarm by Aaron Pogue

This engaging sequel to Taming Fire mostly lives up to the promise of its predecessor.  I recommend it for anyone who read the first book, and recommend the series in general for anyone who's looking for a good heroic high fantasy.

The Dragonswarm, by Aaron Pogue, is a straight-forward high fantasy adventure that's tightly focused on the protagonist.  The first book was a really good coming-of-age of a hero sort of book, and this one continued by not only upping the ante in terms of magic and impact on the world, but also having him continue to grow emotionally.

The premise is that Daven, the main character, gets some dragon blood in him through an accident that happens in the first book.  This gives him crazy powers that other humans don't have.  He's also street-wise and an accomplished swordfighter with an intellectual bent.  No small-minded anti-heroes here!  Unfortunately, he's wanted by a tyrannical king (where wanted = wants to kill him), hated by powerful wizards, in love with a beautiful girl, but is mostly concentrating on the imminent dragonswarm apocalypse.  A guy has to have his priorities, after all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Time Mends by Tammy Blackwell

Time Mends takes up where Destiny Binds left off, both chronologically and emotionally, so read that first, then come back for this riveting and rewarding read.  

Time Mends, by Tammy Blackwell, is the second book in the The Timber Wolves series, it reminds me a little bit of the Empire Strikes Back in that it's an emotionally darker story that is clearly serving a different purpose than the first one.  This is Act II, not more of the same as we saw in the first book.

At first blush, the Timer Wolves series looks like it would be just another Twilight-wannabe, with its beautiful-yet-unpopular girl, slow introduction into a paranormal world, and a love triangle between the the girl, a longtime friend, and a mysterious new comer. It gets beyond that quickly though, by having a strong heroine with both agency and integrity and a plot that gets away from the manipulative "team this" vs "team that" and into a riveting star-crossed lovers story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge!

I've decide to participate in the 2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge 
*blare of trumpets*

At this point I'm going for Short Story Level - 75 Books, which means I'm going to read and review about 75 self-published books over the course of this year.  I'm behind in writing up reviews though, so we'll see how the year goes.  I'll fill in the list as I read the books.
  1. Katre's Summer
  2. Time Mends
  3. The Dragonswarm
  4. Telesa: The Covenant Keeper
  5. Twist
  6. Priscilla the Great: Too Little Too Later
  7. The Spinster & The Beast
  8. Suspicious Hearts
  9. A Lady's Point of View
  10. The Assassin's Curse
  11. Coexist (?  Maybe self-published?)
  12. Blood Will Tell
  13. Blood Past

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Soul Linked Saga

If there were a literary equivalent of the walk of shame for book reading, then this review would be me doing it.  These books are the craziest wish-fulfillment excuse for a series I have ever read.  The premise for this science fiction romance series is farcical.  The writing is mediocre.  But somehow I couldn't keep myself from reading all three.  It's my crack!  Be warned.

OK, so, here goes.

The premise is that among the thousand worlds there is a mysterious race, called the Jasani, who are born as triplets (called male-sets) and that each male-set does everything together, including sex, because they share a soul.  The Jasani are also magic-wielding shape-shifters (the first book is about the dragon-ish triplets, the second is the wolf-ish, and the third is great cat-ish).

The Jasani home world is modeled after an old west theme except on a world of lavendar skies and blue grass.  It comes complete with a horse and cattle ranch owned by the first set of triplets, and a small local town for shopping when they need the change of scenery.  Oh, and the first heroes are also the ruling royalty of the Jasani.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Fabulous.  This inventive, romantic fantasy has taken an interesting conceit and turned it into a deeply touching, character-driven adventure.  Part-way through writing this review, I had to stop writing to read the book again just because I remembered how much I enjoyed it.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, is set in a fairly standard, low-magic fantasy world, except instead of traditional magic, the world contains people who are very occasionally born with a grace.  A grace is a preternatural ability for anything from baking bread or whistling to fighting or mind reading.  Gracelings are recognized because at some point in childhood, their eyes change so that each eye is a different color.  Once that happens, in the country of Middluns, they become the property of the King.

This story is told from the point of view of the King's niece, Katsa, who has a grace for killing and has been used as the King's enforcer.  It's definitely a twist.  She's both the beautiful damsel and the brutal, antisocial thug.

Satisfaction Guaranteed and Perfectly Satisfied

I liked the characters and was in the mood for a friends-to-lovers contemporary romance, but they felt sketched in to me rather than fully fleshed out.  Meh.

Satisfaction Guaranteed and Perfectly Satisfied, by Tori Scott, are the first two of a planned trilogy.

They weren't horribly written, but the first one squicked me out at first when it seemed like the love interest was going to try to force or manipulate the female lead into having sex with him.  It got less squicky later, but I felt it still went too fast to be emotionally believable.  When they started, they had fallen out of touch and she had never really thought of him as a love interest.  A few hours later, they were passionate lovers.  A couple more hours and they were engaged and the book was over.

I liked the secondary characters better and they got together in the second book, which was a still too short for the story, but better than the first.

The Hedgewitch Queen

I really enjoyed this romantic fantasy novel.  It's a palace intrigue with some adventuring around the countryside thrown in.   Be warned - the main plot arcs aren't resolved by the end of the book.

The Hedgewitch Queen, by Lilith Saintcrow, is set in a world that felt a bit like a magical three musketeers, but told from the point of view of an idealistic young royal who has to flee with her musketeers (or, in this case, the Queen's Guards) after a palace coup.  The guards, of course, are led by a loyal, hot, mysterious captain of the guards.

Towards the beginning of the book, I thought I knew where it was going. Saintcrow uses some pretty familiar cliches, such as a magical jewel that proclaims the rightful ruler, hedgewitchcraft being less prestigious than court sorcery, etc.  However, she ended up surprising me a bit towards the end.  She manages to put in enough moral complexity that I'm still not sure how certain things will - or should - be resolved in the next book.  Kudos if she manages to wrap things up with an HEA without resorting to a deus ex machina.