Classic Remarks: Are Genre Classics Respected?

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Do you think genre books receive the respect they deserve, even if they are considered classics?

I think this is such an interesting question, and I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the discussion around it. The short version of my answer is: sometimes.

Classic science fiction tends to get a lot more respect than classic fantasy, but only if it’s not *too* science fiction-y. Romantic mysteries and adventures get taken much more seriously than the gothic adventure novels of the Regency era. Classic romance novels get taken seriously until about the19th century.

Examples. Fahrenheit 451 is generally taken seriously as “literature,” and is even studied in school by most American students. It was written around the same time as The Lord of the Rings, which is generally dismissed by the literary folks as perfectly fine to read for fun, but not on par with, say, Catch-22. Frankenstein, widely regarded as the first science fiction novel, is likewise beloved and respected. Dracula (which, to be fair, was never meant to be “serious”) and the stories that inspired it are not. Isaac Asimov’s work is generally well-regarded, whereas HG Wells is an oddity. Brave New World has successfully made the literary canon, Dune has not.

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How to Write YA Fantasy

Main Character

Your main character absolutely MUST be a teenage girl. Ideally she should have a traditionally masculine identity, such as a warrior or hunter, and she must be proficient with weapons. A bow would be best, but knifes are okay too. She should have a tragic backstory that probably includes the death of one or both of her parents.

World Building

If you can come up with a unique magic system that would be best, but the most important thing is that there is some impediment to magic use. Possibly magic users are persecuted, maybe magic is something only a very few understand, but more likely magic has mysteriously or sinisterly disappeared. This should be an especial problem for the main character and her family who have depended on magic in the past.

This should be high fantasy, but it should probably be based on a culture that isn’t white so that you don’t get compared to Sarah J. Maas or J.R.R. Tolkien. Urban fantasy isn’t particularly popular right now, probably because the market was so over-saturated with it in the early 2010s. So find a way to make high fantasy unique.

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Review: The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

This is the way the world ends… for the last time.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.


This is a really hard review to write, because I can’t assume you’ve read The Fifth Season, but I really WANT you to, so I don’t want to give anything away. But this sequel is pretty impossible to talk about without giving anything away… I’ll summarize by saying OH MY GOD IT WAS SO GOOD.

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Middle Grade Review: Maya and the Rising Dark

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Series: Maya and the Rising Dark
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.


Maya and the Rising Dark is a Middle Grade fantasy novel based on West African mythology in the same vein as the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. It’s fun, upbeat, and easy to read.

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Review: Cemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.


Holy Smokes! What a cool book! In 2021 that doesn’t seem like quite the right word, but that’s really the best descriptor for this book. The plot, the characters, the aesthetic, the magic, they were all so cool.

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Middle Grade Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Series: Pandava Quartet
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?


When Aru Shah was announced three years ago I was *so* excited. I love that Rick Riordan used his influence to find and promote diverse voices to create a wealth of mythological modern-fantasy that he could never have created on his own. I was so excited to hear a new take, a new set of myths that I wasn’t already familiar with, a female perspective. And then I just … never read it? I’m so glad I finally did!

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3+
Content Warnings: asylums, self-harm, harm to animals
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own. 


It seems like I’ve read a lot of books about Doors in the past few years, but The Ten Thousand Doors of January has definitely been my favorite.

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Review: We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Series: Sands of Arawiya
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.


We Hunt the Flame was incredibly entertaining, and in that way completely lived up to my expectations. But it was also super trope-y, which I personally found a little disappointing.

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Review: Black Sun

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Series: Between Earth and Sky
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


WOW WOW WOW!!!! I was expecting something special from Black Sun because Roanhorse is such a fantastic writer, but all of my expectations were completely blown out of the water. This book is exciting, smart, unique, and so. dang. GOOD.

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Middle Grade Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.


THIS BOOK!!! WOW!!! I mean, what can I even say?, it won every award there is pretty much, and deserved it. It’s just so fabulous.

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