Quaternion is live …

There is no fate but what you make … but what if Fate is out to get you?

Teddy and her boys are back, Tuesdays and Thursdays on my Patreon.

They’ve faced Klotho once. They’ve barred her from her supply of unborn souls. But you can’t stop Fate … or can you?

First three episodes free! Start here.

Review – The Maid and the Orcs

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop … in the best way!

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop …

I love this series. It’s gone to the top of my TBR with each new release. And I think this is the best book yet. For a reader coming to the series fresh, I actually think this one could be read as a standalone. By tell the story from Alma’s point of view, the author has made everything fresh, the reader discovers things as Alma does. But reading the whole series gives SO much more depth to this story. Seeing the respect that the Skai scouts give Drafli. (Sniffle.) Finding out why Drafli stuck to the Skai ways for so long. (Sob.) Learning Drafli’s tragic history and the story behind his scar. (Waaaa!)

Nope, I never stopped crying. This story hit me in ALL the feels.

I’ve said in previous reviews how much I admire the worldbuilding in this series. Discovering who does the laundry in Orc Mountain gave this story so much depth. How they clean the floors? Brilliant. I’d never have thought of that. The author has always done a great job of making me feel that I was right in the story, smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, and feeling this world right along with the characters. Never more so than this story. Given that the series is written in third person, which is not my preferred POV (but the author makes it work), that is a real feat and a testament to the author’s skill.

I’ve already re-read the book twice. I’m sure I will re-read it again MANY times. Highly recommended!

Worldbuilding and the Orc Sworn Series

It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades.

Following on my reblog of Louise Hallett’s post on the mind-expanding qualities of speculative fiction yesterday, I thought this would be a good time to talk about world building. This is also going to be a fan-girl post. I’ve been reading Finley Fenn’s “Orc Sworn” series for over a year. The series is going from strength to strength: increasingly complex characters and relationships, higher stakes in the battle between the venal humans and the Orcs. The series is extremely steamy and that’s what gets a lot of focus in reviews and reader discussions.

But I want to talk about Fenn’s amazing world building.

What is world building and why is it important in speculative fiction?

World building is the creation of a cohesive setting for the story. I’ve talked about world building before and the importance of doing research, much of which never ends up anywhere near the page, to inform the narrative. But in this post, I want to talk about cohesiveness. Where an author is asking a reader to believe in things outside the normal frame–be it magic or faster-than-light travel or brutally hot but surprisingly caring Orcs–if the setting doesn’t hang together, the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief is ruptured and the pleasure of reading the story can be lost. All the pieces have to fit, or the whole structure falls apart.

Without wishing to ding masters like Herbert and Asimov, the old “trick” for creating a cohesive, but otherworldly, setting was a rather clunky framing method. Either with a long prologue to the story, or huge chunks of exposition in the first few chapters about what makes this setting different from our daily reality, the author dumps an alternative history on the reader. This alternate history can make enjoyable reading on its own (folks who love Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” I’m looking at you), but this framing method can also kill the pace of the story and make the first few chapters a long slog that the reader pushes through to get to the good stuff.

I’d argue that this framing method is one of the things that makes speculative fiction impenetrable to some readers. Not everyone wants to read (or write) chapters of backstory just to understand the rules of magic, or the three centuries of conflict between the Orcs and the elves, or the history of the galactic empire. When I engage with readers about my own speculative fiction, one of the things I hear over and over is that they read to escape and don’t want to have to think too hard about the story’s setting. They want to be immersed in it. They want to setting to be invisible while they enjoy the characters and conflict.

The rise of urban fantasy in the late 1990s and early naughties shook up traditional speculative fiction story structure by plunging readers right into the action. Urban fantasy writers “drip” in backstory to explain the rules of their world. There are few prologues and no “info dumps” of backstory. The world building is invisible to the reader because it’s parcelled out in a wealth of tiny, unnoticeable details. The husband/wife writing team of Illona Andrews in their Kate Daniels series are absolute masters of this form of storytelling. Over several chapters they drop in detail after detail of “the shift” and how waves of magic are now erupting over our once-familiar world. In this setting, there’s nothing unbelievable about lion shape-shifters and ancient Babylonian gods trying to take over the world.

Although the “drip” technique can be initially frustrating to readers trying to find their feet in the “new world” of the story, I’d argue it’s more rewarding in the long-run because the world built by the “drip” technique is more fully-fleshed, more completely realised. The “drip” method mirrors our experience of the real world. We don’t know everything about a new place when we arrive in it. We discover it, detail by detail, until we’re familiar with the place and immersed in a new reality.

The “drip” technique is not an easy path for a writer. It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades. When I read the Orc Sworn series, there’s never a moment where I don’t believe I’m inside Orc Mountain. From the emphasis on smells and textures in the descriptions–because it’s dark underground, so characters wouldn’t rely on sight–to the complex culture she’s built around the constant tensions of living together in small, enclosed spaces, Fenn’s world is richly, beautifully, masterfully realised. The setting permeates every part of her narrative. The Orcs are paranoid, isolationist, dominant (and sometimes domineering) exactly because they’ve been squirrelled away inside Orc Mountain, defending themselves against the hostilities of men. Where many stories spin outward from the characters to the setting, Finley Fenn’s stories spin inward from the setting to the characters. That gives Fenn’s stories a depth and realism that’s not always found in speculative fiction and why I’m an absolute devotee of the Orc Sworn series.

Book review – Feed

There’s fairy weirdness. There’s pronoun ambiguity. There’s moth parts (who knew?!). It’s wonderful.

I absolutely LOVED this story. It’s an enemies to lovers in a very untraditional way – a succubus and a Death’s Head Moth fae are paired by a kind of kinky fae Tindr, only they’ve been co-workers and fierce rivals for a long time. That adds a huge amount of tension to their amazing hook-up.

The story is one long s3x scene, but it’s perfect. There’s fairy weirdness. There’s pronoun ambiguity. There’s moth parts (who knew?!). It’s wonderful. And the best part? The domly affection and respect moth-boy has for the succubus. He expresses it in every touch, long before a few sentences where he tries to tell her how he feels. It broke me in the best way.

There’s a novel-length story coming (this one’s about 14k – an hour’s read) and the author has another story releasing this month, which I immediately pre-ordered after reading Feed.

Very special and highly recommended.

Feed is available here on Amazon and is in Kindle Unlimited.

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