Hello! Welcome to the fourth SpecFic 101: Introduction to Speculative Fiction post. We’ve talked about Big Fat Fantasy and YA in the past, but now I want to go outside these classifications and just focus on amazing Australian authors. There doesn’t seem to be a need for a lengthy introduction, but I want to point out that one of my goals for this post is to show that, in Australia at least, women get a pretty high exposure in SFF circles. In fact, many of the most renowned female authors of speculative fiction are Australian, which is awesome.
1. Melina Marchetta
You’ll never get me to talk about Australian SFF without mentioning Melina. Surprised? Alongside her wonderful contemporary novels like Looking for Alibrandi and On the Jellico Road, Marchetta has written a poignant YA fantasy series called The Chronicles of Lumatere. She brings her trademark character development and amazing plotlines into a richly imagined fantasy world, and the result is simply superb.
Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.
Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.
But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself.
2. Jay Kristoff
Australian steampunk fantasy, with griffins. It sounded amazing to me the very first time I heard of it, and Kristoff certainly didn’t disappoint. Again, the story-building and characters are amazing, and everytime I pick up anything Jay writes I kind of just sit there and marvel at his talents. Yukiko is one of my favourite characters ever, and don’t even get me started on Buruu.
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
3. Marianne de Pierres
I hadn’t read anything of Marianne’s but when I saw the whole series at the bookstore, my curiosity was piqued (they are wonderful covers!). I could hardly believe the depth and complexity of the story that she wove throughout her Night Creatures trilogy – it’s delightfully dark and utterly fascinating!
Retra braves the intense pain of her obedience strip, and stows away to seek her brother Joel, gone two years for Ixion – island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community – no craving for parties or pleasure.
What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? What happens to those who grow too old for Ixion? Without Joel, is her eternal bond with a Riper guardian enough to save her?
Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.
Marianne has also written other books, including the science-fiction Sentients of Orion, the Parrish Plessis series, and the upcoming illustrated science-fiction/western Peacemaker.
4. Duncan Lay
Duncan needs to be recognised more – I wish I could force everyone to read his books! Well OK, force seems … too violent. But yes, his world-building is impeccable, and his characters are amazing. I was introduced to his work when his latest series, Empire of Bones, was released – the publicist sent me a surprise copy and I fell in love the writing and characters. The final book in this series, Wall of Spears, will be released in early 2014 by HarperVoyagerAU.
Sendatsu is a hunted man. His people, even his own father, want him dead. Cast out of his home, he finds himself in a strange new land, desperate to find a way to return to his children.
Alone in the land of Vales, Sendatsu is forced to rely on his talents as a fighter to survive. His skills are welcomes by two fugitives – Huw and Rhiannon – who are hurrying to alert the peaceful people of Vales to an impending invasion. When no one will believe them, Sendatsu becomes the wildcard in a fight for freedom.
Three centuries of lies and deceit are about to burst into bloody life around Sendatsu – when the last thing he wants is to be a hero.
Duncan’s other acclaimed series is The Dragon Sword Histories, which I ogle every time I’m at Dymocks because they have signed editions.
5. Jo Spurrier
Jo stormed the Australian fantasy scene in 2011 with her début Winter be my Shield, which was again sent to me by the wonderful Voyager publicist as a surprise. I think it’s absolutely brilliant, and especially love the depth she gives her characters and her very very cold world (ice, snow, blizzards, brrrrr).
Sierra has a despised and forbidden gift — she raises power from the suffering of others. Enslaved by the King’s Torturer, Sierra escapes, barely keeping ahead of Rasten, the man sent to hunt her down. Then she falls in with dangerous company: the fugitive Prince Cammarian and his crippled foster-brother, Isidro.
But Rasten is not the only enemy hunting them in the frozen north and as Sierra’s new allies struggle to identify friend from foe, Rasten approaches her with a plan to kill the master they both abhor. Sierra is forced to decide what price she is willing to pay for her freedom and her life …
Original, dramatic and unputdownable, Winter Be My Shield is the first in an epic fantasy trilogy from brilliant new Australian talent Jo Spurrier.
6. Garth Nix
I would be very surprised if any of you haven’t heard of this prolific author – Garth has written a number of works that have come to define the landscape of fantasy and science fiction. He’s written The Old Kingdom Chronicles which, aside from being quintessential, was one of my first forays into the genre, and The Keys to the Kingdom, The Seventh Tower, the middle-grade series Troubletwisters, with fellow Aussie extraordinaire Sean Williams, and a whole pile of others. I’m focussing on the Old Kingdom novels, because a long-awaited addition, Clariel, will be released next year!
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.
She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.
7. KJ Taylor
Once again, a Voyager publicist sent me the first book in The Risen Sun series, The Shadow’s Heir, and I decided to read the prequel trilogy, called The Fallen Moon, before I started it. Both are very enjoyable, and the last book in The Risen Sun, The Shadow’s Heart, will be out soon 😀 The Fallen Moon series features one of the most compelling anti-hero plots I’ve ever read, and The Risen Sun series follows it up with themes of redemption.
In the land of Cymria, humans and griffins rule side by side.
To be a griffiner — the human companion and ambassador to a griffin — is to have both status and dangerous responsibility. Arren Cardockson is a despised Northener, a people conquered and enslaved centuries ago. By freak chance, Arren became a griffiner, but many resent and fear his existence. When his griffin dies during an attempt to catch a wild griffin, Arren′s life spirals out of control.
Meanwhile, chained in a cage behind the fighting Arena where rogue griffins entertain the crowds, the mysterious black griffin dreams of escape. When Arren is sent to the Arena, his meeting with the renegade griffin sets his life on an inexorable path of murder, conflict — and an encounter with his past.
Darkness cannot be caged.
8. Jessica Shirvington
Jessica’s Between the Lives, a poignant book about a girl who lives each day twice – once as the perfect daughter of privileged parents, and again as a kid labelled as a troublemaker in a lower income household – is one of my favourite books of the year. This book deserves all the praise its already received, and then some more! Shirvington is also the author of The Violet Eden Chapters, a five-novel series centred on fallen angels. The last book of this series, Empower, came out recently in Australia, and will be out soon internationally.
Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.
Until now, that is …
For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.
With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?
9. Kate Forsyth
Kate is a brilliant storyteller – her lyrical writing and vivid realisations never fail to impress me. My first foray into her work is the gorgeous Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens, which she contacted me about when my blog was still very young, and asked me if I wanted to review it. There was much happy dancing, because an author was contacting me, and I still have the same reaction on the rare occasions that authors email me. I once recommended Bitter Greens to Maggie Stiefvater when she asked for “books like [her’s]”.I think she enjoyed it too (I’m not sure as she didn’t get back to me, but the two people who saw our conversation and picked up Bitter Greens loved it). Since then, I’ve bought (and not read, as usual) Kate’s The Witches of Eileanan series, and her latest release, The Wild Girl. Kate has also written lots of stories for younger readers, including The Chain of Charms and The Starkin Crown.
Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…
Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.
After Margherita’s father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued…
Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.
10. Sam Bowring
I talk about Sam at every opportunity. I’ve had a few wonderful opportunities to talk to him as well, and I’m always surprised by how unassuming he is. I think his books are the bees knees! His first published series is The Broken Well Trilogy, which cleverly examines whether good and evil, positive and negative, translate into the human soul. His more recent books comprise the Strange Threads duology, which I absolutely loved. Since I talked about The Broken Well Trilogy in a previous SpecFic 101 post, here’s a look at Strange Threads.
Centuries have passed since the Wardens slew the tyrant Lord Regret, but while the Wound that he ripped in the sky remains open, the earth trembles and the sun vanishes without warning.
The great warrior Rostigan wanders Aorn, weary of battle and unwanted renown. With him travels his lover, the minstrel Tarzi, who hopes she may soon witness further deeds from him worthy of song and tale. Despite Rostigan s reluctance to re-enter the world, she may get what she wishes for . . .
When they travel to the once magnificent city of Silverstone they discover it has been wrenched out of existence. Journeying onwards, they come to learn the disturbing truth. The land has descended into chaos for the Wardens, now craving destruction, have returned from their ancient graves and Lord Regret s malicious legacy grows ever stronger, corrupting the very nature of reality.
So, how many new authors have you got on your lists? If you’re particularly industrious, you may have already read them all! So I have a few more!
- Sean Williams – equally accomplished at writing fantasy and science fiction, Sean is an Australian icon;
- Paula Weston – her angel themed The Rephaim series is brilliant, one of the best examples of the genre, in my opinion;
- Amie Kaufman – check out her début These Broken Stars, which she co-wrote with Meagan Spooner;
- Ian Irvine – my favourite of all his series is The View from the Mirror, but he just writes amazing books all the time;
- Michael Adams – his début, The Last Girl, is a riveting apocalyptic YA set in Sydney;
Ok ok, I’ll stop now!!
Let’s Discuss: Have you read any of these authors? Have you enjoyed them? Do you have any more to add to the list?