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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner


Starspawn
AuthorWendy N. Wagner
Series: Pathfinder Tales 34
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 9, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384331 (print); 9780765384324 (eBook)

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Wendy N. Wagner’s Skinwalkers! Once a notorious viking and pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her home, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they arrived in the lost island’s alien structures, however, than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up...



Brannigan's Review

I'm back! I know I know all of my ones of fans have been crashing the site begging me to write a new book review, so thanks to Floyd in Briar Hook, Delaware for sending all of those emails and for your trailblazing social media campaign. Much love.

Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner was the best book for me to read to get me back into reviewing. It has pirates, natural disasters, a mysterious island crawling with all kinds of half-man, half-fish creatures. A Lovecraftian monster, treasure hunting, battles, creepy crawlies and even a dolphin being sacrificed to a dark god by the deep ones. I mean really!? What more could I want in one book. Nothing that's what. Now, lets get into the juicy bits.

The protagonist is Jendara, an ex-pirate mother of a mute son named Kran who's married to Vorrin, the captain of the pirate ship Milday. Jendara was in a previous book entitled Skinwalkers, also by Wagner. There are several mentions of past adventures that took place last year, which I assume is from the first book, but thankfully I never felt lost in this book. I was able to enjoy the current adventure without needing to go grab a copy of Skinwalkers, but if you're like me, you will want to read more about this crew. All right, back to Jendara. She's a very nice character: a strong woman, mother, wife and adventurer. Wagner did a great job balancing all the sides of this character and in the end helped her feel completely real and relatable.

The story starts off simple enough with Jendara and her son Kran on an island in an archipelago, when a tsunami hits and destroys most of her village. Right after the event, her husband and his crew of pirates arrive to offer aid, and explains that an island has risen out of the sea nearby and is covered in ruins and riches. Jendara and her son join the crew on a quick treasure hunt/exploration of the new island in hopes of using it to help the islanders recover from the tsunami. The rest of the story takes off from there. Kran and Vorrin both get enough time on the page to get a sense of their characters, but there isn't a lot of detailed information given. I truly believe these bases were covered in the first book along with the rest of the crew, which didn't bother me a bit. I had enough information about each supporting character that the story warranted. The island itself is the antagonist of this story with plenty of different creatures and groups causing problems for the crew. We get hints to this island's past, but a lot of it was left hidden, which added to the mystery.

Wagner knows how to weave a story. Everything starts off nice and calm, and then wham!, the action starts and it doesn't let up. She threads in plenty of mystery about the island, the people found there and their intentions. We're left to wonder about several different character's fates as the party explores the island. Wagner colors the story with just the right amount of humor to keep things from getting too dark and stressful, but doesn't ruin the overall mood.

My only complaint would be by the ending of the book there were five different groups on the island, including the crew, and I didn't feel I got enough of an explanation about the motives and means of each of the groups. Now, that's not saying the ending is unsatisfying or rushed. I just wish I knew a little more. Wagner gives different levels of information about each group so this is a sliding scale. Not withstanding this one issue, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. You don't always need to know everything to enjoy a book.

Starspawn is the type of book that brings out the kid in me. There's so much going on and written in such a way that each event builds on top of the other creating a crazy ride. It's books like this one that remind me why I love fantasy and renew my love for the genre. Just knowing there are authors out there writing books like this will keep me young at heart forever. For those of you who would like to know, there is violence and minor language. I would recommend it to teens and adults.





And for those who'd like to read Skinwalkers:

Skinwalkers
Pathfinder Tales 19
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
    eBook, 404 pages
Paizo Publishing, April 15, 2014
    Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
As a young woman, Jendara left the cold northern isles of the Ironbound Archipelago to find her fortune. Now, many years later, she's forsaken her buccaneer ways and returned home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son, Kran, in peace. When a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home, however, there's no choice for Jendara but to take up her axes once again to help the islanders defend all that they hold dear.

From author Wendy N. Wagner comes a new adventure of vikings, lycanthropes, and the ties of motherhood, set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015


Please welcome Wendy N. Wagner to The Qwillery. “Scab Land” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the seventeenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Wendy:  Thanks for having me! I like working in both forms quite a bit. The wonderful thing about writing short fiction is that I can keep the entire story arc in my mind, which makes it easier to see how all the details build up to make a piece work. When I'm writing a novel, I have to keep very careful notes so I don't forget anything.

I guess you could call me a pants-plotter hybrid (is that a “plantser”?). For my two work-for-hire novels, I really had to get good at working to an outline, and I really enjoy having a framework constructed before I start digging into the real writing. But when I write on my own, I enjoy having a lot of flexibility, too. I tend to start with a very loose outline; I'll write a bit, and draw up an outline for the next section, write a bit, and then stop and do a detailed outline of something that's bothering me ... I go back and forth throughout.



TQ:  You are also a poet. How does writing poetry affect (or not) your prose writing?

Wendy:  I find that when I'm working on poetry, I'm much more conscious of the images I'm using and the rhythms that occur in my prose. The rhythms and shapes of words really change the reader's experience, I think.

I've been on a poetry break for the last year, but I'm hoping to get back to it this summer!



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Wendy:  I can't think of any! I'm a pretty boring writer. I just sit down and work!



TQ:  Describe “Scab Land”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Wendy:  It's about the secret stories families and landscapes keep beneath their surfaces.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Scab Land” that will not give away the story.

Wendy:  The title comes from the name of a real geographical feature—the channeled scablands—of Eastern Washington. It's a very gray landscape with a lot of agriculture, and the story is about a farming family.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Scab Land”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Wendy:   My parents live in Eastern Washington on a property that's been in our family for generations, and my grandmother actually came out to this dry, gray place on the train. She'd never seen the town or the farm, but she had met my grandfather and fallen in love with him, so she left everything to be with him. She was from Maine. She would tell me stories about Maine, and I could tell, even though I was just a very, very little girl, that she missed it desperately. So I always knew there were things that haunted her, and that idea of a haunted grandmother stayed with me.

I think every place has a genius loci. Some places slap you with their ambiance, and some you have to listen a little harder to, but yes, every place is full of stories that are just bleeding out into the air and waiting to inspire us.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Scab Land”.

Wendy:  All my favorite lines don't make any sense if you don't read the story!



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Scab Land” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Wendy:  “Scab Land” is definitely a fantasy story. It started out as a literary piece, but I wasn't quite happy with it, and when the call for Genius Loci went out, I revised the piece to make it speculative.

Sure, they're useful. They help you find things you enjoy. I go to the library and browse through the mystery shelf because I like who-dunnits. I dig through the gardening section because I want to find books about gardening.

I know I should have a more serious answer than that, and I know there are a lot of discussions about the different ways to define the different genres. What's fantasy? What's science fiction? What do you call a piece with some magic but also space ships? At what point do subgenre classifications become so specific they're no longer of any use?

There are over a million books published every year and we need tools to help us find what we're interested in. Genre may not be the greatest tool, but it is one.



TQ:  What's next?

Wendy:  I have a lot of short stories coming out this year—I have a story in Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, an anthology about Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger; She Walks in Shadows, an all-women-written anthology about women characters in Lovecraft's stories; and Cthulhu Fhtagn!, a new Lovecraftian anthology from Ross Lockhart.

I'm also serving as the guest editor for Nightmare Magazine's Queers Destroy Horror! special issue (due out in October), which I'm really excited about. And I have a second novel coming out in the Pathfinder Tales line, but I'm not sure when it will be released.

It's a busy year!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.


About Wendy N. Wagner

Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015
Wendy N. Wagner grew up in a remote town on the Oregon coast, a place so small it had no grocery store and no television reception. When the bookmobile came every two weeks, the whole town gathered to explore its latest offerings. Books were her lifeline, her window into the outside world, and soon, an obsession.

Her short fiction has appeared in magazines like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Lovecraft eZine, as well as many anthologies, including Armored, Heiresses of Russ 2013, and The Way of the Wizard. She is the Managing/Associate Editor of Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, and is the former Assistant Editor of Fantasy Magazine. Skinwalkers is her first novel.

Wendy lives in Portland, Oregon, with her very understanding family. You can keep up her at winniewoohoo.com or find her on Twitter, where she’s @wnwagner.

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. WagnerInterview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015

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