Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Nebula nominees: or, how far behind are you in your reading this year?

I am this far behind: I have not read ANY of the nominees, even though I own three of them. Here are the nominees:


  • The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang
  • Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller
  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
  • Witchmark, C.L. Polk
  • Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse

I have every intention of reading Spinning Silver one of these days. Also The Poppy War. The other one I have on my TBR pile so far is Trail of Lightning.

Who knows, maybe the rest of them, but probably not. Can’t even guarantee I’ll get to the ones on my TBR pile; some titles have literally been on the pile for five years at this point. There is no hope of ever getting close to well-read in current titles, and in general I don’t worry about this, but I really am surprised I haven’t read Spinning Silver yet.

Also these novels are up for the Andre Norton award:

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time, Roshani Chokshi
  • A Light in the Dark, A.K. DuBoff
  • Tess of the Road, Rachel Hartman
  • Dread Nation, Justina Ireland
  • Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, Henry Lien

I haven’t read a single one of those, either. Tess of the Road is the only one I’ve heard of, I think.

Beyond novels, let me see . . . Martha Well’s has another Murderbot novella in the Novella category, so good luck to her. That’s “Artificial Condition,” the one that introduces ART, my favorite non-continuing character. Hopefully we’ll see ART again in the Murderbot novel.

My vote for best title among all the nominees, all categories:

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow 

Isn’t that a great title? Came out from Apex, you can read it here if you like, maybe I will do that but I haven’t yet, so I can’t either recommend or dis-recommend it.

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It’s raining slush here, and how is your winter going?

Normally we get snow first, THEN slush, but this morning February apparently decided the middleman is not necessary. Thus, I woke up to slush falling out of the sky. Not even sleet. I mean soft, squishy slush that oozes underfoot.

So, fine.

Here is a post from Book Riot: 15 spring poems to help us all get through the rest of the winter.

Here is one that caught my eye:


Come to me here from Crete,

To this holy temple, where
Your lovely apple grove stands,
And your altars that flicker
With incense.

And below the apple branches, cold
Clear water sounds, everything shadowed
By roses, and sleep that falls from
Bright shaking leaves.

And a pasture for horses blossoms
With the flowers of spring, and breezes
Are flowing here like honey:
Come to me here,

Here, Cyprian, delicately taking
Nectar in golden cups
Mixed with a festive joy,
And pour.


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Recent Reading: Extracted trilogy by RR Hayward

Okay, who likes time travel?

Not me, particularly. I mean, it’s not a trope I run away from screaming, but in general I’ve got this little twitch backward: Oh, time travel, really? Insert a little pause, a bit of foot-dragging, Well, I guess I’ll try it. Sometimes I do like a time travel story, in fact I suppose it’s not that rare that I like one, but still there’s that slight reluctance.

So I’m not sure why I picked up Extracted in the first place. Maybe I didn’t realize it was a time travel novel. Maybe it was recommended by somebody. Maybe it was a BookBub deal or something.

Still, I read Extracted and liked it well enough to go on with the second book, which was GREAT and then the third, which was a tiny bit closer to meh than GREAT. A fourth book would improve the series ending because poof, it wouldn’t be the ending anymore. In the meantime, I actually highly recommend the first two as a duology, while leaving the third for a bit to see if a fourth appears.

Okay, so Extracted and Exploded, the “Duology.” Let me try to tell you about them without important spoilers. I mean, there are going to be some light spoilers for the first book or I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the second book, but I do think nothing here would interfere your reading experience.

So, then. The first book begins with a mysterious and not that interesting (to me) prologue in which a man about to commit suicide is stopped by his son, a young savant who, it turns out, invented a time machine so he could go back and stop his father from the suicide. The father then discovers, via a little tentative exploration with the time machine, that  there’s a problem in the near future: something awful happened and everybody is dead, cities left in ruins. To stop this, he recruits, in quick succession, three people who have, he hopes, the skills necessary to figure out what happened and stop it from happening.

There, that’s the basic idea.

So the first book offers a tremendous amount of setup. These three people are extracted from their original timelines at the moments they would originally have died. I’ll name them here for easy reference: Ben, Safa, Harry.

However, the guy whose bright idea all this was mishandles everything and Ben falls into a deep clinical depression. Ninety percent of the first book takes place with Ben in this state . . . okay, fine, probably not quite that high a percentage. Sixty percent, say. Thirty? Probably somewhere between twenty and thirty percent of the story, but it just seems to stretch out and out. Not that this part is completely uninteresting, but for a long time Safa is trying to snap Ben out of it and it’s not working.

I’m probably making this book seem unappealing. Actually, there is quite a bit of excitement. The three extractions. Various other operations, some of which go wrong. People die. So the rest of the team goes back to an earlier point and does something else and recovers them before they die – ah, yes, time travel! Unpredictable consequences ramify outward. It becomes clear that someone suspects the existence of the time machine, and that this is a problem. The whole  world-is-destroyed thing takes a back burner, as everyone tries to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Sure looks like the bad guys are going to win –

– and right at the end, someone else appears and takes over as the officer in charge, pulling everybody out of the fire and back, at least, into the frying pan. Because time travel! This is the kind of story where wild deus ex machina moments are completely normal and even expected. Honestly, a lot of the desperate fighting-for-survival scenes must have been so much fun to write, it almost makes me want to write a time travel story of my own.

The second book, Exploded, is the one in which our heroes are finally in shape to deal with the big issues. We’re done with the setup, Ben has long since been pulled out of his depression, the team is operating as a team, goals are clear(-ish) and Miri, the woman now in charge, is a world more competent than the initial guy who was trying to run things.

So, having read the second book, I can say:

a) I like the characters.

They’re probably a bit one dimensional, but in a way that works. I particularly like Ben, who is the kind of really intelligent, perceptive person who is very difficult to write. Good job by Hayward here. Ben is really believable even though he’s certainly also a bit over the top.

Safa – I didn’t really get Safa in the first book. Her interactions with the others in the second book make her much more understandable as a character. I like her too. She is also a bit over the top, in a completely different way.

I like Harry. Everyone is going to like Harry. Yes, he is also a bit over the top.

And then Miri is kind of like Janus in Wexler’s The Thousand Names. You sure hope she’s really a good guy, because if she’s actually a bad guy in disguise, everyone is so screwed.

b) The story is really exciting!

A ton of fast-paced action, with many well-placed deus ex moments because, remember, time travel! Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve seen so many well-deployed plot twists since Patrick Lee’s The Breach trilogy, and that’s definitely saying something.

This story was exciting enough that I really must dis-recommend it as bedtime reading. If you’ve been reading this book as bedtime approaches, you may want to set it aside and read something calmer for a while. Or play solitaire. Look at kitten videos on the internet. Something in that general realm.

c) The writing is good.

But a little annoying because it’s in third-person-present-tense and my WIP is third-person-past-tense and then the present-tense thing would get in my head when I was thinking about my upcoming scenes and, well, that is probably not an issue for most of you, so it’s fine.

I’m sure one might pick stylistic nits with this duology, depending on your personal pet peeves, but the writing is very clean; none of the  minor issues that annoy me in a lot of books, no confusion of may/might, no use of “was” when it should’ve been “had been” – I guess verb tenses are something you’d better have down cold if you’re writing a time travel story – nothing like that.

Also, there’s plenty of humor. I paused at a couple of places and laughed for well over a minute at something thing that had just happened. The dogs all looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a thriller with this much humor in it.

d) The ending is excellent.

I mean the ending of Exploded. Which is why you may want to stop there, at the end of the second book, at least for a while.

e) The third book does not have a great ending.

The third book, Extinct, resurrects a concern that should have been finished and done with, something I dislike intensely. Granted, that kind of you-thought-it-was-over-it’s-not-over twist makes more sense in a time travel story, but still. I just did not really believe it. You could call it a gratuitous deus ex thing, rather than an appropriate deus ex thing. I mean, it’s the kind that makes the author look manipulative rather than clever.

Also, I kept wanting to shout JUST SHOOT [REDACTED], WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? There were about fifty people in position to do this and no one even tried.

In addition, the third book involves extensive villain pov chapters. I hate that. I don’t want to spend time with the bad guys, and besides that, I’m just fine with being surprised by their machinations. I don’t want to  see the good guys walking into disaster ahead of time.

But then glimmers of a redemption plotline appeared – I might have missed early signs because I was just skimming the bad-guy pov chapters – and 60% of the way through the book, that solidified. I do like redemption plotlines, so after that I was much more on board with those chapters.

At the end, there was an ending. Something important got tied up. One might suggest that it got tied up rather too briskly given all the buildup.


1. What the hell happened with Alpha?

2. What the hell, Kate?

3. What DOES the future look like now?

Given these wildly dangling threads, I do think there will probably be a fourth book. Maybe this year; Extinct only came out just a year ago. But right now, the endpoint of Exploded is a lot better than the endpoint of Extinct. My recommendation is just stop there for now.

I will also mention that all three books are really great deals as Kindle ebooks right now.

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Whoops, it’s Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?

Sorry, I didn’t think of that far enough ahead to do a themed post.

So I will steal Brandy’s! Here is Random Musings of a Bibliophile, whose post today is on Favorite Couples in SFF.

Plus she links to all the Top Ten Tuesday posts on that theme, in case you want more.

Brandy’s choices:

The queen and king of Attolia. Yep, saw that coming.

Harriet Vane and Lord Peter. That one too.

Oh, this is interesting — Christopher and Millie, from DWJ Chrestomanci books. Good choice!

Plus a handful of others I’m not as familiar with, and

Jaime and Dominique in Florand’s The Chocolate Touch. Yes yes yes. That’s my favorite couple in all of Florand’s romances.

Now, just to prove I can contribute, I’ll add a few of my own:

Cassandra and Kaoren.

Jade and Moon

Tremaine and Ilas.

Kate and Curren

Oh, hey, also —

Cordelia and Aral.

Here’s another from a book I haven’t read for a while —

Gabriel and Rachel

There, that’s ten couples total.

Did I pick one of your favorites?

Is there a literary couple I should’ve thought of but inexplicably forgot?

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Everything is so dark! Book covers today

One of the comments about the books featured in yesterday’s post is that they were all kind of meh. You know why? I hereby diagnose this problem as sheer lack of color and the ongoing tendency to make all book covers monochromatic.

What is this, anyway, a desire to look sophisticated? Look at this list here! Almost every single book — this is titles coming out this year — black black black grey grey grey and occasional very dark blue. I’m exaggerating, of course, but not that much. The only real exception is the first book, The Winter of the Witch. Other than that, very dark covers broken occasionally by paler-colored but monochromatic covers.

Here’s a list from B&N: their 50 most anticipated YA fantasy titles for 2019. Let’s just skim through this list — yep. Virtually ALL the covers are very dark and/or very monochromatic. Those that are red are all red, those that are gold are all gold, there are virtually none that break the all-one-color feel, though certainly the gold and red ones should stand out amid the black-grey-blue palette.

Here is one that is interesting:

BLACK! But with GOLD! I like it, actually. It’s got that thief-assassin vibe going for it — honestly, doesn’t that person just have to be a thief or an assassin? She is, too, or something like that, judging from the description:

… inspired by Hindu mythology and Indian history, the fates of a soldier and a rebel collide, changing the course of their world. Kunal is a duty-bound soldier and nephew to the dangerous General Hotha, who ruthlessly enforces Kunal’s obedience. Esha is the infamous Viper, committing acts of revenge on the wicked and the powerful—and her next target is the general.

Does anything there sound the least bit inspired by Hindu mythology and/or Indian history? Just wondering, cause I’m not seeing that myself, but then this is a very brief description. I do like soldiers and assassins.

Okay, I have now scanned through several different lists of upcoming SFF novels for 2019 and wow, the darkness and monochromatism is just overwhelming. I do notice that Ann Leckie has a fantasy novel coming out this year:

Black cover! I guess it’s impossible to escape from black and monochromatic covers this year.

Let’s by all means step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy some Michael Whelan artwork just for the sheer colorful contrast it provides to virtually all modern cover art:

There. Swirls and swoops of color, plus images that evoke a story. While bright sunlight might get old if every artist did it all at the same time, this year, a brilliantly lit, warm cover with a beautifully rendered dragon would truly stand out.

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US vs UK book covers: fantasy novels

Sarah Zatko commented that it would be possibly more fun to compare US vs UK covers for the kinds of books we all actually read. Totally true! So this morning I went and found a post — not quite as recent, but only a few years old — that does exactly that.

I don’t think I pointed out this post back in 2017 when it was published, so that was a chance missed. On the other hand, it’ll be interesting to have those literary covers in mind when you look at these 14 mostly-SFF covers.

Okay! So, let me take a look, and you can all join me in picking your favorites and least favorites. I wonder if any of these will strike any of us as actually repellent?

1) The Caravel. I like both covers, though not sure the black background strikes me as super enticing. If I have to pick one, I lean toward the US cover. I like the curvy font better than the straight-line explosion type of cover on the UK version.

2) Strange the Dreamer. You know, I still have not even read the sample. I think I find the whole idea of this book sort of intimidating. I feel like I’ll have to really focus on it, which makes me put off starting it; and I think it may be rather tragic? Is that right? Which I have to be truly in the mood for. But as for the covers, definitely the US cover.

3) And I Darken. I have never thought much of that US cover. I think it was ridiculous to hide the “I” in the swordblade. Nothing about piercing a flower with a sword appeals to me, either. I don’t really like the UK cover, but at least you can easily read the title. I have to go with the UK version this time.

4) An Ember in the Ashes. I prefer the US version. This could be because the US version has a fantasy vibe and the UK version a possibly-SF-not-sure vibe, or something.

5) The Hate You Give. Don’t like either one. Thus we see that no, really, literary-style covers are not super appealing to me even when the book is YA.

6) And the Trees Crept In. Wow, what a creepy title. They changed the title as well as the cover for the UK edition. Vastly, vastly prefer both the US cover and title. Not remotely a contest. I am dying to know if UK readers actually somehow prefer their version. I just can’t believe anyone would.

7) Mistborn. Is that also “Mistborn” on the UK side? They’ve given it a different title again. But this time, to my surprise, I believe I prefer the stylized UK cover.

8) Throne of Glass. Not much to choose. Image is the same, just dark background / light background. I go with the light background of the UK version.

9) Heartless. Definitely the US version, but actually I don’t like either cover much at all.

10) My Lady Jane. The UK version. I like every single thing about it better than the US version, but most particularly I like the “not entirely” interpolation on the title, which, if present in the US version, is invisible.

11) Nevernight. Great title! I prefer the US version. I agree with the author of the post that the tagline on the UK version is really great, though I can see why the design people didn’t put a tagline on the US version.

12) Alice. Congratulations, book design teams! You have produced a really repulsive cover that makes me take a biiiiig step back from this book. I don’t like the UK version much, but I loathe the US version. Awful. And I was just beginning to feel safe, too.

13) Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Oh, now, this is a tossup. Unlike the author of the post, I don’t care about story relevance. But I do think perhaps I like the UK version better, even though I like the blue of the US cover better than the muted red of the UK cover.

14) A Darker Shade of Magic. The UK version is all right. The US version is just dead boring. Completely uninteresting.

Okay, let me count … That is only six votes for the US title, six for the UK version. And two where I honestly dislike all the covers, even if not quite equally. This is a much more even split than I would have expected, and yet here we are.

For me, the biggest difference is for Strange the Dreamer. I greatly prefer the US version of that one. Oh, and The Trees Crept In. Ditto for that one, not that I much want to read it, looks too horrific for me.

Okay, how do they look to all of you? And does anybody actually find the US cover of Alice remotely appealing?

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US vs UK book covers

Interesting post at the Literary Hub site, comparing covers. Wow, some of them are so different.

I should add, none of these are SFF covers. But they’re interesting!

My responses:

a) I would never in a zillion years have printed the words backward on a cover. Not only would I not have thought of that, I hate it. I literally couldn’t figure out the title Notes from the Fog without looking at the US cover. Plus I don’t like the cover image either. So for me, the UK cover is a big failure. I wouldn’t say I like the US cover either, though. Tiny, tiny print on an image of unidentifiable equipment doesn’t do it for me. If you click through and know what that equipment is, well, what?

b) For There There, the UK is the one I prefer, and I like it okay, though in a somewhat “well, whatever” kind of way.

c) Evenings in Paradise. Both are okay. I like the bright splash of yellow.

d) Killing Commendator. Hmm. Tough. Fine, okay, the one with the owl.

e) Asymmetry. The US cover. For a change, I agree with all the comments over at the post.

Okay …. glancing over the whole lineup, I see I prefer the US cover fairly strongly or very strongly to the UK cover on five out of sixteen covers. I prefer the UK cover fairly or very strongly for just one. In general, US audiences are expected to prefer US covers and vice versa, so that rule does hold here.

Out of all 32 covers, I find eight covers actually repellent, thus demonstrating, I guess, that I am not the target audience for literary book covers. For me, the worst, most repulsive cover is … no, hey, I don’t want to bias you. If you’ve got time, click through, scan through the covers, pick the ones you like most and least, and we’ll see if we all agree.

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Looking forward to the next book by MWT

Here’s a column by Natalie Zutter for Megan Whelan Turner’s next book, Return of the Thief, which is now looking at a release date in 2020 rather than this spring.

Anyone who has been astounded by the twists and revelations in the past five volumes would agree that Return of The Thief will be well worth the time it takes to craft. And in the meantime, we readers can craft our wishlists for the series conclusion twenty-plus years in the making!

We sure can. Let me see what Natalie Zutter would specifically like:

a) More emphasis on friendships.

Sure, yes. I am particularly in the relationship between Gen himself and Sophos, and between the two queens.

b) No Deus ex moments.

Well, I don’t know. I kind of like it when we have a very small deus ex moment in this series. I particularly liked it when the god of thieves caught Gen when he started to fall off the roof that time.

c) More visions.

Yeah, no, not me. I prefer fewer visions, really, even though the one of the mountain erupting is a super important plot point. I really dislike precognition-type tropes.

d) Please don’t kill my favorite characters

Hah, yes, I’m dead sure we can all agree on this. Last thing any reader wants to lose a favorite character.

Though it’s way worse if the author appears to throw in a gratuitous character death in order to jerk the reader around. Suzanne Collins, looking at you. Also Stephen King. I don’t really expect MWT to do this? I sure hope not.

Plus of course readers are going to disagree about which characters’ survival are most important. Mine: Irene. I don’t want anything dire to happen to Irene. Also Gen himself. Among other reasons, I would count that as something dire happening to Irene.

And I really have a soft spot for Sophos.

d) Fool me one more time.

Oh, I expect we can count on a surprising twist in there somewhere. Yeah, this I’m not remotely worried about.

What I most look forward to: MWT has done really amazing things with pov in this series. In the next one, I am dying to see how she uses pov to influence the reader’s emotional reactions to the characters and manipulate the reader’s understanding of what’s going on.

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It’s Friday, let’s have some good news —

Happened across some great stories this morning, browsing the internet during breakfast:

Florida woman suffering a stroke said she needed ‘help’, her dogs ran and got it

“I said, ‘Mommy needs help,’ and then they were gone,” the woman said.

A Florida woman is crediting her two Labradors for saving her life after she suffered a stroke in December.

Maureen Hatcher’s dogs, Sadie and Bella, were caught on video running for help after she fell down in her St Augustine home alone, according to NBC-affiliate station WTLV .

The dogs can been seen in footage from Hatcher’s front-door camera running out of the house just moments before a neighbor comes over, finds her and calls 911.

Sometimes dogs amaze even me. I also heard of a case where a dog, also a Lab, woke the family up during a house fire. One of the children was too dazed and confused to leave the house, and the parents were so distracted by rounding up the other children they didn’t immediately realize this girl was missing. The Lab went and got her, took her by the wrist, led her to the door, stood on his hind legs to hit the door knob, and took her outside.

That was supposed to be a true story. I think it’s plausible.

Don’t want Labs to get all the credit, so here’s another nice story about a Pit Bull.

Don’t want dogs to get all the credit, so here’s something nice that went the other way: Marathon competitor runs 19 miles carrying a PUPPY after finding it in the road during her race

Khemjira Klongsanun, 43, noticed the other athletes dodging the dog seven miles into the 26-mile marathon in Ratchaburi, western Thailand.

She slowed down to kneel by the roadside and gently coax the trembling little Thai bangkaew breed dog over to her.

Thumbs down for all the athletes who bypassed the puppy, thumbs up for Klongsanun. Good for her, and she’s apparently adopting the puppy herself. Many heartwarming pictures at the link.

I suppose I shouldn’t focus solely on dogs here, and besides, this is the other really nice headline I noticed this morning. So for a completely different type of good news:

Novel Phage Therapy Saves Patient with Multidrug-Resistant Bacterial Infection

“When it became clear that every antibiotic had failed, that Tom could die, we sought an emergency investigational new drug application from the FDA to try bacteriophages,” ….

“To our knowledge, he is the first patient in the United States with an overwhelming, systemic infection to be treated with this approach using intravenous bacteriophages. From being in a coma near death, he’s recovered well enough to go back to work. Of course, this is just one patient, one case. We don’t yet fully understand the potential — and limitations — of clinical bacteriophage therapy, but it’s an unprecedented and remarkable story, and given the global health threat of multidrug-resistant organisms, one that we should pursue.”

Resistant bacteria have been a real concern for some time, as I’m sure you’re aware. Imagine a world where a parent has to risk dire infection if they choose to repair their child’s hare lip — that’s the kind of thing that could happen if every surgery carries the risk of terrible infections. I’ve had faith that we’d come up with something clever to avoid that problem. This is certainly looking promising.

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Sainthood in fantasy

Neat post by Jessica McAdams at tor.com: The high costs of fantasy sainthood

The defining feature of fantasy is the reality of the supernatural within the narrative—whether the supernatural element in a given story involves magic or gods or some other force-yet-to-be-defined. Yet in my favorite fantasy books, what fascinates me isn’t the magic, and it isn’t the gods. It’s the characters that I think of as the saints, not in the strictly religious or Christian sense, but those who dedicate themselves fully to a higher power—those crazy-dedicated, all-in, vision-haunted warriors and children and priests.

More than that, it’s the costliness of fantasy sainthood. In the most moving fantasies, those who choose to follow their god or goddess or magical deity end up paying a price for it. Sainthood doesn’t come free.

Yet even though the risk of losing everything is clear, these books also make it plain to the protagonist that this is only path truly worth taking. Sure, you might lose everything, but this is still the way to beauty and glory. The only thing to do is to put your life—your very self—on the line. Not that it’s the only sensible thing to do—it’s not sensible at all. Just that it’s the only thing there is to do—at least for someone like the protagonist, who has seen something of the divine, and now can never unsee it. Nothing else will satisfy. Nothing else will even come close.

I don’t know that I would conflate magic with the supernatural; I believe those two terms refer to quite distinctive phenomena. But leaving that aside, this is a good point. And McAdams provides great examples:

The Curse of Chalion, and obviously the Penric novellas absolutely qualify as well.

The King of Attolia, not such a perfect choice, but certainly arguable — click through and see what McAdams sees as the heart of the story. I’m not sure I agree, but maybe. I’ll have to think about it.

The Deed of Paksennarion. Yes indeed, another perfect choice.

Bright Smoke Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge. This one I haven’t read. McAdams says:

Hodge’s world of Viyara is a bit different from the previous examples in that it might or might not have gods—the various groups of people still alive in the story’s one surviving post-apocalyptic city disagree on the subject of the gods’ reality.Our protagonist, Runajo, doesn’t believe in the gods, but she does believe in the power of blood, and of death, and of sacrifice. She has good reason for her beliefs, too: her city only survives because of the magic wall that surrounds it—a wall that is kept alive through the blood sacrifices of its people.

Hmm. I wonder how that unrolls — I mean, specifically, beyond the rest of McAdam’s comments. Right now I have a hard time seeing how this book qualifies for the list, as I would consider gods, or God, to be fundamental in sainthood.

Last, another one I haven’t read:

The Year of the Warrior by Lars Walker.

Though Walker’s book is the only one on this list that ostensibly takes place in the real world, it’s a story about a false priest. Aillil is an Irishman taken captive in a raid. To save his skin, he pretends to be a holy father. He lives out the rest of the book in a land far away from his home, carrying out his charade as best he can in a world that suddenly seems charged with the supernatural—for both good and ill.

Aillil is probably the least likable protagonist on this list—he’s certainly the least noble. He is a vice-ridden man, and even though some of the causes of his suffering aren’t his fault, a lot of them are. Yet even though he’s mostly comfortable in his sins, he isn’t allowed to stay the way he is—as he discovers the reality of the supernatural after his capture, his false profession of faith becomes terribly real, and the need for him to be a real priest in a land filled with demons and worse becomes terribly urgent.


I will add one more, that gets into this list although the sainthood part is not yet available:

Hild, by Nicola Griffith, a wonderful book about the woman who will eventually become Saint Hilda. Wonderful book, just wonderful; my favorite book of the year the year I read it, which was, let me see, 2015. Just a masterpiece. From Griffith’s blog, I note this tidbit from a recent post:

But my main focus of 2019 will be to finish Menewood, that is, the sequel to Hild. This is one of the biggest, most challenging and thrilling things I’ve ever tackled (I have to keep a spreadsheet of characters; as of yesterday, there are over 200 names). Right now it’s going well.


Any other saints or saint-like figures you can think of in SFF?

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