RACE THE SANDS
Sarah Beth Durst
Monster racing! Within the first few words of this novel, you get introduced to an epic sport in this desert fantasy world, one that is both dangerous and hopeful. Our protagonists include Tamra (named after Tamora Pierce) and Raia—the former is a trainer and the latter becomes her trainee. Both of their futures are inexplicably twined as they they not only train together in order to set each of their futures right, but also struggle against governmental forces that are in flux behind the scenes.
Having both older and younger women in the lead seats of the story opens up the audience widely to encompass separate generations, each with a relatable conflict. Along with these two women, there is a third point-of-view character—a man who is striving to find the beast their most beloved and now recently passed-on ruler has been reborn as. His search takes him to the least likely creatures—the monsters (called kehoks) themselves.
This story is for those who want to read about second chances, about paving your own way, about fighting against rules that only exist for rules’ sake. I especially recommend this for those who love immersive secondary-worlds, with imaginative magics and creatures, that you might envision yourself right there with the characters riding your very own kehok.
THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY
This novel took me for an emotional ride. The lead character, Nora, is a thirty-five year old woman who, at the start of this novel, is in a pit of despair and depression, believing that she’s a failure, that she’s unaccomplished, that she’s missed out on chance after chance in her life. This is a novel about regrets, about how we hold on to them, how we envision these other lives as perfect bubbles that we might have had if we’d only chosen the right decision at certain crossroads in our lives.
This is the exact chance Nora receives once she arrives at the midnight library. She is allowed to try out all the lives she might have had and, ultimately, pick the one she wishes to live, the one she feels she should have had all along, to keep forever.
Beautifully written, this novel is especially for anyone feeling similarly to Nora, feeling as if you’ve missed out on who you could have been or what you could have accomplished. It’s for anyone who would love that sense of trying on all those other countless parallel yous that might have existed.
One day during each week we were taught by a guest rather than Jeanne. These guests included: J. G. Faherty, Brandon Sanderson, Eric James Stone, E.C. Ambrose, Barbara Ashford, and Scott H. Andrews. Each of them taught a class on a different subject, from horror and world-building, to plot and publishing. They would all have Q&A sessions, and a few of them would stay for our Salon & Games after our group thank yous.
There were also a few guests who came for a very limited time. These included people such as Carrie Vaughn, James Joseph Adams, & Sheila Williams. They each did a Q&A session with us and some of them then did private critiques with a few people. Sheila Williams was kind enough to give me some advice on how to be a shy, socially anxious person within the industry as she’s also dealt with similar struggles and that was incredibly helpful and inspiring.
A few of these guests also did critiques with us. Brandon Sanderson did an in-class one for me, while E.C. Ambrose and Scott H. Andrews did private ones. Some of the guests were kinder and gentler than others, and some of them were more than willing to support us in our journeys, which was beyond kind of them :)
As a part of our thank you to each of our guests, Jeanne and Amy showed a past Odyssey t-shirt that represented something similar to what they would be getting once our year’s came in. This was actually what they were sent: our 2020 aptly named Viscerally Vexing since it can stand for both the crazy year we’ve all been having and the words we struggled over during Odyssey.
I think the best part of the having the varied guests drop-in virtually for us was to really shine a spotlight on how different people’s opinions are, how subjective the magazine and novel world is, and how our own specific writing voice has a home, we just have to discover where that is.
<3 Marie C.
Posted in Odyssey Workshop
Tagged critique, fantasy, flash, horror, lecture, novel, odyssey, reading, sci-fi, science-fiction, short story, workshop, writing
GHOST WOOD SONG
by Erica Waters
There’s something haunting about this novel. It follows a young woman who grew up in a house with ghosts, ghosts that would appear whenever her father played his violin. Now, her father is long dead and she has taken up music in much the same way her father had, with dreams of his violin haunting her, as if the instrument calls for her to play it.
Grief plays a large part in this novel, as Shady works through her emotions that still linger on since her father’s death. The magic in this story is a slow crawl, that rises via music and threatens to destroy Shady’s life rather than solve the problems surrounding her family and their painful, tragic history. This novel is atmospheric, with a great cast of flawed, relatable characters. Care is given to the romantic relationships Shady is pulled between, respecting both sides of her bisexuality while also acknowledging the importance of platonic friendships.
This is a contemporary fantasy, set in a rural area of the United States.
by Martha Wells
Are you surprised to see this one here? I doubt it. I am one of those people who adore Murderbot in all its glory and have already recommended the previous novellas. In fact, I could probably go short-hand and just say that from henceforth, if the story belongs to Murderbot, then I recommend it. But there would be no fun at all in never
gushing writing about my love.
In this novel, an old friend of Murderbot’s returns and doesn’t seem to be friendly any longer. Some of Murderbot’s humans are kidnapped, leading to it having to determine how to keep them safe, while also investigating the mystery of what happened to its friend.
Science-fiction done from the perspective of a merciless killing machine, who really isn’t so merciless, and certainly isn’t just a machine. And who, really, would just like to be left alone in order to binge drama shows.