Guest post by Marie Brennan: The Dreaded Label “Mary Sue”

Marie BrennanFor today’s guest post, I’m very proud to welcome Marie Brennan, whose two most recent novels A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents I reviewed here and here.

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to the two aforementioned Memoirs of Lady Trent and many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, WitchMidnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at

Please enjoy Marie Brennan’s guest post about the dreaded “Mary Sue” label and whether it applies to her character Isabella, Lady Trent.

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The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

Tropic Of SerpentsLast year’s A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan was a pleasant surprise for me: the first volume of the fictional memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent, who some thought to be a mere “ink-nosed girl” at the time of writing but who grew into a formidable presence and the world’s preeminent authority on dragons. (My full review of A Natural History of Dragons can be be found here.)

Tor recently released The Tropic of Serpents, which is the second part of Lady Trent’s memoirs. A direct continuation of the first novel, this sequel describes the fall-out from Isabella’s first adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, as well as her next adventure on the continent of Eriga.

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Irenicon by Aidan Harte

46031_Irenicon_MMP.inddThe city of Rasenna is divided, in more than one sense of the word. Geographically speaking, the city is split in two by the river Irenicon, which was blasted straight through the middle of the ancient city using Wave technology, a major feat of engineering by the Concordian Empire to subdue its main rival.

Maybe more importantly, though, the people of Rasenna are divided into factions. Competing families on each side of the river continually launch deadly raids and vendettas against each other. Bandieratori fight on the streets and roofs for dominance. Sofia, heir of the old Scaligeri ruling family and soon-to-be Contessa, is powerless to stop the waves of violence that weaken the already-divided city.

Then everything changes: Giovanni, an engineer of the same Concordian Empire that originally caused the Wave, arrives in Rasenna to build a bridge across the Irenicon. Concord once again wants to expand its reach, and Rasenna is in its way…

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Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins

TruthandFearWolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (review) was one of last year’s strongest debuts, a unique dystopian fantasy set in an alternate Stalin-era USSR with Russian mythological elements and vague hints of something science fictional happening out in space.

The story of downtrodden investigator Vissarion Lom hunting down the terrorist Josef Kantor at the behest of the totalitarian Vlast was mostly set in Mirgorod, a gray, rainy city that seemed to fall somewhere between New Crobuzon and Moscow. Wolfhound Century was one of the first novels in a long time that actually deserved the frequent comparisons to China Miéville, thanks in large part to Peter Higgins’ beautiful prose.

Truth and Fear is the direct sequel to Wolfhound Century and, as expected, picks up more or less directly where the previous novel left off—“as expected” because the one major disappointment about Wolfhound Century was its ending, which was, well, really not much of an ending at all.

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Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

LockstepToby is the seventeen-year-old scion of the McGonigal family, which is in the process of colonizing Sedna, one of the countless unclaimed orphan planets that can be found in interstellar space, far beyond Pluto but light years away from the next-nearest star. To secure ownership of the planet, the McGonigals must also claim every single one of its moons, so when a distant satellite of the planet is discovered, Toby is dispatched to go claim it for the family. But then something goes horribly wrong…

When Toby wakes up from coldsleep, he makes a number of startling discoveries. For one, his ship has been drifting through space for 14,000 years. In that time, humanity has spread out across the mostly lifeless universe, populating 70,000 or so planets that are now collectively known as the “Lockstep Empire.” And, somehow, his own family is at the center of all of this: his brother Peter is the tyrant-like figure known as the Chairman.

So begins Lockstep, the newest standalone science fiction novel by Canadian author Karl Schroeder.

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Giveaway winners! (Wolfhound Century giveaway)

WolfhoundCenturyThe winners of last week’s giveaway are…

Brittain B. of Shoreline, WA 

Michele M. of Woodinville, WA 

Chi S. of Salem, OR 

Stephenie S. of Bel Air, MD 

Chris T. of Taunton, MA 

Congratulations to all five winners! Your copies of Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins will be sent out shortly, courtesy of the nice folks at Orbit.

And… for those of you who didn’t win this time: thanks for dropping by the site and participating, and make sure to keep an eye on Far Beyond Reality. I will have some more great giveaways coming up soon, as well as the usual slew of reviews and other SF/F-related ramblings!

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Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro

HerHusbandsHandsI came to the works of Adam-Troy Castro quite late. Specifically, the first story I remember of his is “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs” in the excellent dystopian anthology Brave New Worlds, edited by John Joseph Adams. (This anthology ended up being my springboard to a number of other great authors, but that’s another story.) Shortly after I read that collection, the author’s name popped up on the Nebula short list a few times, for “Her Husband’s Hands” and “Arvies.”

I’m bringing this up because I believe that, based on the three stories I’ve mentioned so far, there may be many people who labor under the misapprehension that Castro only writes short fiction that is so extraordinarily dark that it borders on the disturbing. In the afterword for his newest collection, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories, the author explains at length that he has also written many optimistic, entertaining and uplifting stories and novels, and that he is “not just a sick bastard.” Well, sure. I’ll take his word for it. However, you really couldn’t tell from the stories in this collection, which is as grim as it is brilliant.

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