In July, I received the opportunity to review the first two books in the Young Adventurer's Guide series. I've waited ever since for the chance to pick up the remaining books in the series and, as luck would have it, Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeons & Tombs recently crossed my desk.
The People’s Republic of Everything is the most recent short story collection from auteur author Nick Mamatas. Containing fourteen short stories and one novella, People’s Republic strays away from clear-cut genre definitions (unlike Mamatas’ prior collection, The Nickronomicon, which focused on Lovecraftian and cosmic horror) and instead veers into general speculative fiction. While the stories within People’s Republic may not be uniform in tone, setting, or style, they are all unified in conveying Mamatas’ left-aligned politics. While overtly political, People’s Republic is never preachy; its politics are seamlessly integrated into the stories, which range from the comedic to the tragic, from steampunk to folkish.
Sabbath is the newest novel from Nick Mamatas, author of I Am Providence, Bullettime, and The People’s Republic of Everything collection. At its heart, Sabbath is a neo-peplum story in the sword and sorcery vein, but a delight to genre fans as it takes on a cinematic quality, borrowing elements from fare such as Highlander, Terminator, Army of Darkness, Warlock, Beastmaster 2, and even 8 Heads in a Dufflebag.
On the Night Border is a collection of fifteen horror short stories by New York-based writer James Chambers. The stories within the collection are a mixture of previously published stories and ones appearing for the very first time. The tones and subgenres of the stories vary, from ghost tales (“Lost Daughters”) to possession (“Marco Polo”) to rich folks who have a dark, evil side to them (“The Many Hands Inside the Mountain” and “Picture Man”). Some stories dabble in other universes and IPs, such as Cthulhu Mythos-compatible stories (“A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” “Odd Quahogs”), Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak (“A Wandering Blackness”), Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow (“The Chamber of Last Earthly Delights”), and even '70s cult classic Kolchak the Night Stalker (“Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Lost Boy”).
The Duff meets Dungeons & Dragons. Clueless meets Conan. Princess Diaries meets Percy Jackson. Sword and sorcery meets high school romance. Such are the appropriate descriptors for R. Litfin’s The Lost Noble, the first book in her Chronicles of Royal High series which combines elements of high fantasy with young adult sentiments.
The most important thing to remember with any Watt O’Hugh novel is that time is not linear; in Watt’s case, it’s not even sequential most of the time. It’s been several years since I read the first two installments in Watt’s adventures as reluctant Western hero, time roamer, and member of the movement against the Sidonians, so re-entry into his quirky, time-defying story was a bit like participating in a polar bear swim: slightly terrifying, a little disconcerting, but ultimately refreshing and memorable.
If there has been a theme in the past ten years of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s been the struggle to bring accessibility to general audiences. While the game has experienced tremendous growth and acceptance and is now truly bordering the mainstream market, it still suffers from one major detractor: D&D is a complicated game and has a high barrier to entry. Dungeons & Dragons: Monsters & Creatures and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors & Weapons are the latest in a long line of innovations that attempt to convert the game into something more palatable.
Young adult novels are a hit-or-miss sort of thing. Some are breakout successes that speak to any aged reader, and some barely appeal to the very audience they’re targeting. The best young adult stories seem to be the ones that find a balance between tackling big, heavy ideas while also capturing the fantastical elements of life.
Penny White always loved crossing into Lloegyr, but being trapped into the alternate world adds a new set of challenges to the already exhausted Anglican priest. With Peter out of her life, Raven (the charming search dragon) presses his suit more seriously. The groups of humans trapped in the alternate world need shelter and a means of support (Penny included), and Clyde finally pushes forward with his desire for ordination. Ministering to not-weres, facing the harsh prejudice against snail sharks, and an unexpected marriage proposal don’t help our protagonist find time to reconnect with God, and she may hit rock bottom before seeing what matters most.
Stranger Things, the hit Netflix series created by the Duffer Brothers, tapped into the heart of all that was the 1980s. Not just the neon-steeped '80s of California and New York, but a rural, homey '80s. A world where Dungeons and Dragons had just come to pass; where home computers were just about to change our lives; where the threat of world war had become a distant memory. It's little wonder the series became a runaway success. The combination of snappy dialogue, a breakout cast, and a penchant for turning tropes on their head was everything watchers had hoped for.