East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The stories of Smoke

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A few days ago I was told (once again) that I should find me an alias (as if…) to “differentiate my offer” and “avoid confusing my readers” – the poor creatures being of the sort, apparently, that might be shocked and confused to find I write historical fantasy, science fiction, occasionally horror, thrillers and adventure.
And confused readers apparently stop buying your stories.

Now, I usually assume my readers are strong-willed enough not to be scared off by the fact that a story of mine does not fall in the same genre as the previous. And indeed, I usually point out a number of excellent writers that wrote across all the spectrum of fiction without changing their names.
I usually mention C.J. Cherryh as a good example, or Tanith Lee, or Poul Anderson, or Jack Vance.

Quite recently I was completely awestruck by the works of American SF and fantasy writer Linda Nagata, and after enjoying colossally her SF novel Edges (probably one of the best novels I read in 2020), I went and got me a few more titles from her catalogue, and I am currently reading a fantasy – because really I wanted to see if Nagata is as good with her fantasy as she is with her science fiction.

Turns out she is.
The volume Stories of the Puzzle Lands collects under a single (beautiful) cover two novels and a short story, featuring Smoke – a warrior and adventurer that happens to be not completely human, and capable (you guessed it) to turn into smoke in case of need.

As I am going through the book, I am finding quirky and unusual characters, an intriguing and fully developed world, and a nice mix of action and speculation.
The stories are presented as “grim”, and indeed there’s a certain amount of brutality – but there is also a sort of twisted humor in Smoke’s adventures, that brings some relief to the reader.

All in all, from the look of it, a highly recommended addition to your fantasy shelf.
And really, I might stop reading this because I’d rather read fantasy in autumn – but the plot is quite addictive, and I might stick with the book instead, breaking my habits. It’s indeed that good.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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