Twice Upon A Time

Twice Upon A Time

Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth. Reimagined & Remastered.

FAIRYTALES don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s? Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and majick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure.

Featuring stories from Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward. Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover artwork by Luke Spooner.

Book Trailer
The Stories
Bog Trade

A Mythic Fiction reimagining of the epic poem Beowulf

Gudrun feels the weight of her father’s disappointment and resentment toward her, stemming from her physical differences from her sisters and her perceived inadequacies. Despite her efforts to please her parents, Gudrun is met with disdain and mistreatment. As events unfold, Gudrun finds herself at the center of a disturbing ritual involving sacrifice, which ultimately leads to her escape and discovery of her true identity as a member of a mysterious and misunderstood group known as the Grendels. With newfound clarity, Gudrun resolves to embrace her heritage and forge her own path forward.

Bo Balder
AJ Bauers
The Screw Up

A Space Opera reimagining of Benjamin Talbart’s Jack and the Beanstalk

A thrilling science fiction tale centered on Jack, an Obsolete Engineer with a penchant for self-deprecation and humor, facing what he believes is certain death. As he prepares for a high-risk mission involving a beanstalk-like device for interstellar travel, he humorously imagines his own eulogy, highlighting his exceptional skills and good looks. Unexpectedly, Jack finds himself in a series of dangerous and bizarre situations involving intergalactic creatures, advanced technology, and a struggle for survival. His journey is filled with twists, including a unique alien encounter, and showcases his ingenuity and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. The narrative weaves together themes of courage, friendship, and the unexpected heroism found in the most unlikely individuals, all set against the backdrop of a richly imagined futuristic universe.

Forbidden Fruit

A Dark Contemporary Fantasy reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes

A captivating tale of Karen, a woman ensnared by the allure of a pair of enigmatic red shoes she discovers in a vintage store. Despite leading a controlled and mundane life, Karen is inexplicably drawn to these shoes, which symbolize a vibrant and untamed aspect of existence she has long repressed. The shoes propel her into a whirlwind of experiences, culminating in her attendance at the Burning Man festival, where she finally confronts and releases her deep-seated fears and desires. The narrative beautifully weaves together themes of freedom, transformation, and the power of self-liberation through the symbolic act of dancing, ultimately leading Karen to embrace the complexity of her own identity beyond the confines of her previously rigid lifestyle.

Carina Bissett
Rose Blackthorn
Before the First Day of Winter

A Post-Apocalyptic Contemporary Fantasy reimagining of the Scottish folktale The Selkie Bride

Rose Blackthorn weaves a poignant tale of love and loss between Jordon, a man from a post-apocalyptic settlement, and Naia, a mysterious woman with a deep connection to the sea. As the seasons change, their bond deepens, revealing Naia’s true nature and her inevitable return to the ocean to fulfill a duty to her diminishing people. The story culminates in a heartrending departure, leaving Jordon with a promise of a child born of their love but destined for a life beneath the waves. This narrative explores themes of sacrifice, the enduring power of love, and the intersection of human and mythic worlds, set against a backdrop of a world struggling to rebuild from the ashes of its past.

Wonderland's Nightmare

A reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with Steampunk, Alternate History, and Dark Fantasy elements;
inspired by and set within her Dream Killers Series

The transformative journey of Red, a woman scarred by the tragedies of war and loss, as she navigates the fantastical and tumultuous landscape of Dreamland. Tasked with rescuing a lost child in a realm where her sister reigns as the White Queen, Red grapples with her inner darkness and the remnants of hope within her. Accompanied by the enigmatic Hatter, Red confronts the twisted manifestations of her own pain and discovers her capacity to bring change to Wonderland. Through encounters with whimsical and eerie entities, and the confrontation with her own despair, Red embarks on a path of redemption and self-discovery, challenging the boundaries of her own identity and the very fabric of Wonderland itself.

S.M. Blooding
Rick Chiantaretto
Tailored for the King

A Dark Fantasy reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes

A dark and captivating narrative that follows a king haunted by a nightmarish presence, as he grapples with the reality of his power and the haunting consequences of his reign. After experiencing disturbing dreams involving a mysterious little girl named Eden, the king’s sense of reality begins to unravel, leading him into a surreal and terrifying journey. With the kingdom preparing for his procession to claim the throne of England, he encounters two tailors, Vladimir and Balor, who present him with a revolutionary set of clothes woven with finely spun steel, promising protection and fear-inducing power. However, as the procession unfolds, the king is confronted by startling revelations about his own fate and the true nature of the world around him. This tale weaves a complex fabric of ambition, guilt, and the supernatural, culminating in a chilling climax that questions the very essence of power and redemption.

After the Bombs

A Post-Apocalyptic reimagining of the ballad of Robin Hood

A poignant story set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a man seeking stories of survival encounters an old, blind man with a profound tale to tell. The narrative unfolds as the old man recounts the harsh realities of life after nuclear devastation, detailing the struggle for survival in a West Virginia town spared from the worst of the bombs. He speaks of the early days of scavenging and solidarity, the dangers posed by outsiders, and the emergence of a cruel city named Camelot, whose inhabitants prey on survivors. The old man and his friend, Joseph, a former officer of Camelot turned ally, embark on dangerous missions to intercept raiding parties, redistributing stolen supplies to those in need, inadvertently becoming legends akin to Robin Hood. The story takes a deeply personal turn as the old man reveals his connection to the visitor, bridging the past’s hardships with a moment of reconciliation and familial reconnection, underlining the enduring human spirit amidst desolation.

Richard Chizmar
Liz DeJesus
The True Bride

A YA Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ The True Bride and set within her Frost Series

Jane, a young woman burdened by her cruel stepmother Clothilde, is unexpectedly aided by a kind old woman with magical powers. After enduring impossible tasks set by Clothilde, Jane is gifted a castle by the old woman’s magic. Jane’s happiness is short-lived when she falls in love with Prince Stephan, only to have him disappear on the eve of their engagement. Devastated, Jane abandons her riches to search for him, only to find Stephan engaged to another. Refusing to give up, Jane attends a ball to reconnect with Stephan, leading to a revelation of enchantment and betrayal. With the old woman’s guidance, Jane breaks the spell on Stephan, confronting the truth about their love and setting the stage for a new beginning together, away from the manipulations that kept them apart.

The Bone Harp

A Dark Historical Fiction reimagining of the ballad Twa Sisters

Court Ellyn tells the haunting story of Angharad, who is plagued by the memory of her sister Gwyneth’s tragic death in the floodwaters. Amidst the backdrop of May Day celebrations and family expectations, Angharad struggles with her own guilt and the favoritism shown by her father towards Gwyneth. The arrival of a bard, Nissyen ap Hedydd, with a mysterious harp rumored to be made from human bones, exacerbates Angharad’s turmoil. As Nissyen’s music fills the air with a ballad eerily reflective of Gwyneth’s death, Angharad’s guilt and fear of retribution spiral, leading her to a fateful confrontation with Llyr, her husband, whom she perceives as complicit in her misery. The story culminates in a chilling resolution by the river, where Angharad seeks an escape from the haunting echoes of her past actions and the looming specter of her sister’s death.

Court Ellyn
S.Q. Eries
Spear Among Spindles

A YA Contemporary Mythic Fiction reimagining of Achilles on Skyros and Homer’s Iliad

A modern retelling of the Achilles myth set in an all-girls preparatory school. The protagonist, Keelie, is actually Achilles disguised as a girl by his mother, Thetis, to avoid the prophecy of his early death in war. His true identity is revealed when the school is attacked by soldiers led by Odysseus, who need Achilles for the Trojan War as foretold by an oracle. Despite initial reluctance and the pain of leaving his close friend Deirdre and confronting his distant mother, Achilles accepts his destiny and joins the soldiers, acknowledging his need for a life with purpose beyond the confines of his hidden identity. The narrative explores themes of fate, identity, and the struggle between personal desires and destiny, all set against the backdrop of a contemporary school setting.

Patient Griselda

A Supernatural Fantasy reimagining of Boccaccio’s The Story of Griselda

A haunting tale of a woman named Griselda who finds herself ensnared in a surreal and dark existence after marrying Dr. Walter Salvatore, a man with sinister affiliations and intentions. Once an avid reader and dreamer with a passion for sewing, Griselda’s life transforms into a nightmarish captivity where she is subjected to bizarre rituals, including a grotesque wedding ceremony that binds her to her husband and his malevolent “Masters.” Her role as a wife becomes a harrowing ordeal of tests, sacrifices, and the bearing of children only to have them taken away, as part of a macabre pact with her husband’s demonic associates. Over time, Griselda becomes isolated and disoriented, her sense of reality blurred between wakefulness and dreams, as she clings to the vestiges of her identity through the flickering light of candles, likening herself to a Rapunzel trapped not in a tower but in a twisted, infernal version of home, where the lines between devotion, survival, and madness blur.

Steven Anthony George
Dale W. Glaser
My Name Is Melise

A Dark Science Fiction reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina

The harrowing science fiction story about Melise, a woman who awakens in a surreal laboratory with no memory of her identity, save for her name. As she navigates through a series of bizarre and terrifying encounters with oversized laboratory animals and a mysterious, gigantic laboratory setting, she grapples with fragments of memories and a profound sense of dislocation. The story reaches a climactic twist when she discovers that she is a clone, repeatedly brought back to life by her partner in increasingly smaller sizes to combat cellular decay, with each resurrection stripping away more of her memories and identity. The narrative explores themes of identity, memory, ethical boundaries in scientific pursuit, and the essence of selfhood, all set against a backdrop of a deeply unsettling, Kafkaesque experiment gone awry.

A Taste Of Winter

A Contemporary Fantasy reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen

A modern adaptation of the classic tale of Gerda and Kai, intertwined with the legend of the Snow Queen. In this version, Kai experiences a mysterious pull towards a cold, enigmatic woman who represents the allure of winter and its ruthless beauty. Gerda, Kai’s steadfast partner, notices his strange behavior and a growing obsession with snow, reminiscent of a childhood fear of the Snow Queen’s enchantment. As winter deepens, Kai’s attraction to the snow woman intensifies, leading to a confrontation that reveals deep-seated memories and a forgotten encounter with the Snow Queen from their childhood. Gerda, with the help of their friend Vilda and the symbolic strength of summer and warmth, fights to reclaim Kai from the Snow Queen’s grasp. The story explores themes of memory, choice, and the enduring power of human connections over cold magic, culminating in a poignant battle for Kai’s soul between the warmth of human love and the seductive chill of eternal winter.

Jax Goss
K.R. Green
The Night of Awen

A Mythic Fiction reimagining The Tale of Taliesin from The Mabinogion

The story follows Morfran, a young man grappling with the heavy expectations placed upon him due to his lineage and his perceived failures. His mother, Ceridwen, concocts a potion called Awen, intending for Morfran to drink it and become a king. The story takes a dark turn when the potion, meant to enhance Morfran’s abilities, ends up in the hands of a young boy named Gwion, leading to a series of magical transformations. As Ceridwen pursues Gwion with murderous intent, Morfran is torn between his loyalty to his mother and his sense of justice. The tale weaves through themes of destiny, familial duty, and the pursuit of personal identity against the backdrop of Welsh mythology, culminating in Morfran’s realization of his mother’s betrayal and his quest for redemption and self-discovery among the Druids.

Blood Medicine

A Historical Science Fiction reimagining of Jeanne-Marie Leprince Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast

The story of a young woman whose life takes an extraordinary turn when her father returns from a journey with a fantastical tale of survival against man-eating little people and a life-saving encounter with an Ice Giant. As part of a mysterious deal, she is claimed by the Ice Giant, who turns out to be a fur-trading white man bearing gifts for her people. However, the trader is not what he seems, and the woman is taken to a place of magic and technology far beyond her understanding. Through her journey, she discovers the true nature of her husband and his people, who are desperately seeking a cure for a terrible sickness that afflicts their land. The story weaves elements of Native American folklore with themes of sacrifice, discovery, and the clash between ancient traditions and incomprehensible foreign technologies, culminating in the woman’s acceptance of her role in a mission that transcends her initial understanding and fears.

Kelly Hale
Tonia Marie Harris
Thirteen Petals

A Historical Paranormal Fantasy reimagining of a legend from the Zohar & Grimm Brothers’ The Rose

The poignant narrative set against the backdrop of the Holocaust, centered around Rebecca, a young girl who finds a glimmer of hope in a rosebud given to her by a ghostly apparition of a child in a concentration camp. The story intricately weaves the horrors of life in the camp, marked by dehumanization and brutalities, with a thread of supernatural resilience and hope symbolized by the rose. As Rebecca and the other prisoners endure the unimaginable, the rosebud, untouched by the surrounding despair, becomes a beacon of hope and a silent promise of deliverance. The narrative builds towards a climactic revelation tied to an old Jewish saying about roses and thorns, culminating in a powerful testament to the enduring human spirit and the belief in justice and redemption, even in the face of overwhelming darkness and evil.

Eyes of Wood

A Magical Realism reimagining of the Scottish fairy ballad Tam Lin

A compelling urban fantasy tale that follows Maggie, a street-savvy young woman who navigates a dark, dangerous world where the lines between reality and otherworldly realms blur. On a fateful night, Maggie encounters a mysterious, fading man in a magical forest that materializes in the heart of the city. This encounter leads her into a whirlwind of events that challenge her understanding of reality, love, and her own strength. As Maggie grapples with the implications of a magical pregnancy, she must confront the malevolent queen of shadows in a climactic battle to secure her freedom and the safety of her unborn child. The story weaves themes of personal resilience, the power of belief, and the indomitable human spirit, culminating in Maggie’s transformative journey from a life of solitude to one of purpose and hope.

Brian T. Hodges
Tarran Jones
All That Glitters

A Paranormal Fantasy reimagining of King Midas & the Grimm Brothers’ The Girl with Silver Hands

A captivating fairy tale that follows the journey of Sigrun, a young woman with the magical ability to turn objects into gold, a gift she must keep hidden. When her father, driven by greed, attempts to sell her to the cruel Junker Risteard Von-Hislenad, Sigrun’s life takes a dramatic turn. An angel intervenes, guiding her to safety and into the arms of Prince Alarik, with whom she falls deeply in love. Their happiness is threatened by war and the machinations of Von-Hislenad, leading to a gripping tale of love, betrayal, and divine intervention. As Sigrun navigates her new royal life, confronts her enemies, and embraces her destiny, the story unfolds into a rich tapestry of courage, resilience, and the enduring power of love against the backdrop of a kingdom filled with intrigue and danger.


A Historical Paranormal Fantasy reimagining of the tall tales of American Folklore

A riveting story set in a rugged, mythical landscape, following Elsie Winston’s quest for survival and identity. Born to a community living in the shadow of legendary giants and tasked with a dangerous mission to retrieve the famed Oakley’s gun, Elsie’s journey is fraught with challenges that test her resolve and self-understanding. Along the way, she encounters Slue-foot Sue, a formidable and enigmatic figure with her own complex past and ties to the legendary Pacos Bill. As Elsie grapples with the harsh realities of her world and the prejudices she faces, she discovers strength and purpose, challenging the narratives imposed upon her by others. Through encounters with supernatural dangers and revelations of untold stories, Elsie’s quest becomes not just a mission for survival, but a journey of self-discovery and defiance against a world that seeks to define her by its own limiting tales.

Jason Kimble
Shari L. Klase
Princess In Peril

A YA Fantasy reimagining of Charles Deulin’s The Enchanted Canary

The enchanting tale of Princess Adrienne, who finds herself trapped in a dire situation where her freedom and happiness are compromised by her stepmother’s greed and sorcery. Forced into an arranged marriage to save her kingdom from financial ruin, Adrienne attempts to escape but is transformed into a bird and then imprisoned within an orange by her stepmother’s magic. Meanwhile, Prince Desire, equally uninterested in an arranged marriage, dreams of a girl unlike any in his kingdom and sets off to find her, inadvertently discovering Adrienne. Their meeting ignites a series of magical events that lead to Adrienne’s liberation and the defeat of the wicked stepmother. In the end, Desire and Adrienne’s genuine love triumphs, promising a future of love, freedom, and adventure, far removed from the constraints of their pasts.

Blood & Water

A Dark Paranormal Romance reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid

The tragic and transformative journey of a deep-sea creature entwined with the fate of a human maiden, bound by love’s profound and perilous power. Living in the depths, the protagonist is drawn to the surface world by the desperate plea of a brave sea maiden, whose love for a human compels her to seek a drastic change. This encounter ignites a chain of events, leading to a dark pact that transforms the sea maiden into a human, but at a grave cost. As she navigates the complexities of human emotions and society, her quest for love becomes a harrowing odyssey of survival, identity, and sacrifice. The narrative weaves a rich tapestry of love’s duality, capable of both salvation and destruction, ultimately questioning the true nature of freedom and the price one is willing to pay for it.

Alethea Kontis
Hannah Lesniak

A Magical Realism Romance reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Hannah Lesniak weaves a poignant tale of an antique ballerina figurine, forever fixed atop her glass mirror, observing the evolving world of toys around her. As the last remnant of the Old Regime, she witnesses the lively interactions of the New Regime toys, unable to partake due to her immobility and attachment to the mirror. Her existence is marred by the unwanted attentions of Jack, a boastful toy from the New Regime, who declares his affection for her despite her indifference. The arrival of a soldier toy, flawed yet beautiful in her eyes, offers her a glimpse of companionship and connection, only to be cruelly snatched away by the reckless actions of a child and the malice of Jack. As the story culminates in a tragic but liberating act of sacrifice, the figurine finds solace in her unwavering love for the soldier, choosing to join him in destruction rather than endure a life of isolation and longing. The narrative beautifully explores themes of love, resilience, and the yearning for freedom, all set within the enchanting and often overlooked world of children’s toys.


A Science Fiction reimagining of John Green Chandler’s The Remarkable Story of Chicken Little

A harrowing narrative set in a future where the Terran Unity governs humanity, and psi-guards with telepathic abilities ensure its continuity. Private Ethan Little, a member of the psi-guard with a rare foretelling gift, is haunted by a recurring nightmare of apocalyptic destruction that he fears may be prophetic. When he shares this vision with his Senior and other psi-guards, the chilling truth is unveiled by Commander Fox: an asteroid has been set on a collision course with the planet Cambrissa to eradicate its unique culture, deemed incompatible with the Unity’s ideology. This drastic action, intended to prevent the Cambrissians’ different way of thinking from threatening the Unity, will lead to the deaths of millions. Ethan’s revelation inadvertently exposes the dark underbelly of the Unity’s regime, leading to a heartrending conclusion where personal bonds are tested against the backdrop of an impending catastrophe, and Ethan faces an unthinkable personal sacrifice for the greater good of the Unity.

Wayne Ligon
R.S. McCoy
Ashes of East End

A Gaslamp Fantasy reimagining of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella

Set in Victorian London, the story is a riveting steampunk narrative featuring Ashton, a former duchess turned skilled thief, who navigates the complexities of society’s underbelly with grace and audacity. Disguised in a stolen corset and armed with a unique brass pistol, Ashton embarks on a daring heist, only to find herself entangled in a web of deception, betrayal, and unexpected romance. Her journey leads her to confront her past, including a tense reunion with her estranged father, and forces her to make pivotal choices about her identity and future. The story is a thrilling blend of action, societal critique, and personal transformation, set against a richly imagined steampunk backdrop, where Ashton must decide between reclaiming her noble heritage or forging a new path alongside a man who challenges and cherishes her in equal measure.

Fire & Ash

A Dark Supernatural Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ Red Riding Hood & Jeanne-Marie Leprince Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast

This captivating narrative intertwines the haunting tales of Rhiannon and Rowan, twin sisters entangled in a web of dark magic, betrayal, and a quest for power in Salem Village. Rhiannon, driven by revenge and the legacy of her witch mother, embarks on a path of dark sorcery, leading to tragic consequences and a chilling transformation. Rowan, in contrast, seeks love and redemption, finding solace in a forbidden romance with Asher Black, which culminates in a mystical union that defies societal norms and embraces the true essence of their inherited magic. As their stories unfold, the sisters navigate the treacherous waters of their desires, the weight of their ancestry, and the stark realities of their fates, all set against the backdrop of a community fraught with superstition and fear. The narrative weaves a rich tapestry of love, vengeance, and the indomitable spirit of those who dare to embrace their true selves in the face of overwhelming darkness.

Joshua Allen Mercier
Robert D. Moores
Redcap Charlie

A Dark Urban Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ Little Red Cap

A gripping tale that delves into the mystical and often perilous encounters between humans and the Folk, particularly focusing on the interactions with a redcap goblin known as Redcap Charlie. Set in a small New England town, the story intertwines the lives of various characters, including a mysterious man named Mr. Gantry, an eight-year-old girl named Janie, and two teenage boys, as they navigate the blurred lines between folklore and reality. The narrative reveals the existence of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts within the Realm of the Folk, with the latter’s growing restlessness and eagerness to break centuries of concealment and rules. Central to the tale is the deadly nature of redcap goblins, whose survival hinges on the blood of humans, a grim reality that becomes all too real for one of the town’s youth. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of disrespecting the Folk and the importance of adhering to the ancient rules governing human-folk interactions, underscoring the looming threat of the Unseelie Court’s return to the human world.

A Prophecy Untamed

A Multi-dimensional Contemporary Mythic Fiction reimagining of Deirdre from Táin Bó Cúailnge

The story follows Ashley, a young woman engrossed in the planning of her Celtic-themed wedding and fascinated by a story her grandmother tells her about Deirdre, a character from a parallel universe. As Ashley becomes increasingly drawn into Deirdre’s world, she experiences vivid dreams where their lives intertwine, leading to a deep connection between them. Despite warnings from her grandmother about the dangers of interfering with parallel universes, Ashley finds herself unable to resist the pull towards Deirdre’s life, culminating in a harrowing experience where their worlds tragically collide. The story weaves a complex tapestry of love, fate, and the thin veil between different realities, challenging the boundaries of time and space.

Diana Murdock
Nick Nafpliotis
The Wolf's Gambit

A Contemporary Science Fiction reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ Old Sultan

An action-packed tale centered around Brandon Sultan, a former black market operative turned legitimate, who finds himself in a tight spot when his long-time associate, known as The Wolf, comes into play. Sultan, now working a high-profile security job for the affluent Tarnath family, seeks The Wolf’s help to maintain his position, unwittingly setting off a chain of events that put him and his team in direct conflict with The Wolf’s formidable skills. As Sultan navigates through a series of intense confrontations, leveraging old friendships and facing betrayals, he is forced to confront his past and make difficult choices to protect his current life and those under his charge. The story weaves together themes of loyalty, the murky lines between right and wrong, and the depth of bonds formed in the face of adversity, all set against a backdrop of futuristic technology and genetic enhancements.

Swan Song

A Historical Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ The Twelve Dancing Princesses

This story unfolds against the grim backdrop of post-World War II Moscow, weaving a poignant narrative of love, loss, and redemption. Luc, burdened by the memories of his wife Lydia, a prima ballerina turned Resistance fighter, grapples with the aftermath of her disappearance during a Nazi raid. As refugees flood Moscow, Luc’s search for Lydia becomes a haunting obsession, intertwining with his struggle to come to terms with the betrayals and sacrifices made during the war. The story culminates in a powerful revelation delivered through a letter from Nik, a friend and betrayer, revealing the fate of Luc’s daughter Anastasia and offering a glimmer of hope amidst the devastation. Through vivid characterizations and emotional depth, Swan Song explores the enduring human capacity for forgiveness and the relentless pursuit of closure in the wake of unimaginable loss.

Elizabeth J. Norton
Bobbie Palmer
Iron Strong Adalie

A YA Fairytale reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ The Frog Prince

Princess Adalie embarks on a poignant journey from grief to empowerment after the death of her beloved father, the King. Mourning her loss and grappling with her newfound responsibilities, Adalie’s world is further shaken when she marries Goddard, a prince cursed to live as a frog, only to discover his cruel and tyrannical nature after breaking the spell. As her kingdom suffers under Goddard’s rule, Adalie is confronted with the harsh realities of leadership and the need for decisive action. With the support of loyal staff and Rune, a devoted guard, Adalie takes a stand against Goddard, ultimately reclaiming her throne and the peace of her realm. Through trials and tribulations, Adalie’s character evolves from a sorrowful princess to a resilient and wise queen, reflecting themes of courage, love, and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Wish Witch

A Contemporary Horror reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ The Three Wishes

Tom, a man caught in a vicious cycle of substance abuse and regret, unwittingly becomes entangled with a mysterious entity that grants his darkest wishes. As people around Tom begin to die in ways he drunkenly wished for, he finds himself the prime suspect in a series of bizarre and brutal murders. Despite his innocence in the physical act of killing, Tom is haunted by guilt and the realization that his wishes are being fulfilled by a sinister force. With each death tied to his reckless words, Tom is drawn deeper into a supernatural conspiracy, challenging his understanding of reality and forcing him to confront the true nature of the evil that listens when he speaks. As the body count rises, Tom must unravel the mystery of the Wish Witch, a journey that leads him to question the very fabric of his existence and the dark corners of his soul.

William Petersen
Rebekah Phillips
Brenna and the Spaceman

A Contemporary YA Science Fiction reimagining of the Norwegian fairytale East of the Sun and West of the Moon

A captivating tale of Brenna, who unexpectedly becomes involved in a galactic adventure when a spaceman named Alexander Bhaer, transformed into a bear due to a military experiment, seeks refuge at her home. Brenna’s courage and ingenuity are put to the test when she is drawn into a cosmic conspiracy involving General Ellison, who aims to create a powerful army using genetically altered beings. As Brenna navigates through this treacherous plot, she forms a deep bond with Bhaer, leading to a daring confrontation with Ellison to secure Bhaer’s freedom and return to their earthly home. The story masterfully combines elements of fantasy, romance, and science fiction, showcasing Brenna’s resilience and the power of love against the backdrop of interstellar intrigue.

Polyphonic Dream Machine

A Cyberpunk reimagining of Carlo Collodio’s The Adventures of Pinocchio

A riveting science fiction story that follows Pinn, a young boy whose consciousness is transferred into a synthetic body after being deemed an “echo,” a copy of a person considered legally dead due to a transfer mishap. Pinn navigates a dystopian world filled with seeker drones, deceptive allies, and the menacing Department of Transhuman Affairs (DTA) as he grapples with his new identity and abilities. Assisted by the enigmatic Pixxi and the integrated AI, Jim, within his new body, Pinn embarks on a perilous journey to rescue his father from the DTA, confronting dangerous adversaries and ethical dilemmas along the way. The narrative explores themes of identity, autonomy, and the blurred lines between humanity and technology, all set against the backdrop of a society wrestling with the implications of advanced cybernetic enhancements and the moral ramifications of artificial consciousness.

Asa Powers
Joe Powers
The Leatherworker's Deal

A Dark Contemporary Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ The Elves and the Shoemaker

The story unfolds in a downtrodden leather shop run by brothers Oscar and Russell, facing imminent closure due to economic hardships. In a desperate bid to save their business, their father, Cutter, mysteriously arranges for nocturnal artisans to craft exquisite leather goods, revitalizing the shop’s fortunes overnight. These “artisans” turn out to be otherworldly beings, summoned and bound to service, creating unparalleled work. However, a well-intentioned gesture of gratitude from Russell, in the form of crafted wristbands for these beings, unwittingly breaks their bond of servitude, revealing their true demonic nature. Freed, they express their “gratitude” by turning violently on the brothers, with ominous implications for anyone involved in their summoning. The story weaves a cautionary tale about the unseen consequences of desperate deals and the unpredictable nature of ancient, bound entities when freed from their chains.

The Scales of Rumpelstiltskin

A Magical Realism reimagining of the Grimm Brothers’ Rumpelstiltskin

A gripping tale that weaves magic, deception, and the unyielding bonds of family. It begins with Hamlin Barr’s uneasy visit to the scale smith’s shop, seeking magical scales for the king but instead discovering a girl, Lisa, claimed to spin straw into gold. The king, blinded by greed, demands Lisa’s magic for himself, not realizing the true nature of her abilities. As events unfold, the malevolent imp Rumplestiltskin emerges, seeking to claim his perceived due, leading to a climactic confrontation where the true magic within Lisa and her son Geddy is revealed. In a desperate moment, Lisa thwarts the imp by guessing his name, a secret her father had discreetly shared. The story culminates in an unexpected revelation about Geddy, hinting at a majestic lineage far beyond human ken, casting a new light on the scales’ supposed magic and the profound depths of familial love and protection.

Brian Rathbone
Julianne Snow
The Underbelly of the Pig

A Dark Contemporary Fantasy reimagining of the English nursery rhyme The Three Little Pigs

A dark, modern twist on the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs, set against the backdrop of crime, addiction, and betrayal. Clarence, Theodore, and Phillip are brothers with vastly different fates; Clarence falls into drug addiction, living in a seedy motel, Theodore is ensnared in gambling debts despite a seemingly suburban life, while Phillip ascends to the heights of finance, becoming the feared and powerful ‘Boss’ in the criminal underworld. Their lives intertwine disastrously when Clarence’s debts bring the ruthless enforcer BB Wulf to their doors, setting off a chain of events that lead to a harrowing confrontation at Phillip’s mansion. In a grim finale, familial bonds are shattered as Phillip reveals his true nature, orchestrating the elimination of his brothers to maintain his empire, underlining the story’s bleak commentary on greed, loyalty, and the cost of survival in a cutthroat world.

Sinobrody 0.9.8

A Dark Cyberpunk reimagining of Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard

Tracy Arthur Soldan presents a compelling narrative set in a future where mind emulation and synthetic consciousness are realities. The story revolves around Helene, a young woman who, unbeknownst to her, becomes part of a controversial experiment by Zygmunt Wojciechowski, known as Sinobrody. Wojciechowski, a genius in electromagnetic fields and the founder of Sinobrody Enterprises, has developed a process to digitally emulate human minds, aiming to preserve his consciousness as he faces death from a virus. The procedure involves scanning the brain with a hyper-MRI, which effectively destroys the organic brain while capturing its essence in digital form.

Helene, along with other individuals handpicked by Sinobrody, undergoes this transformation. Each of them becomes a digital mind operating in a custom system, believing themselves to be human due to the seamless integration of their consciousness with their body’s sensory inputs. Sinobrody’s ultimate goal is to continue his legacy and maintain control over his empire, even after his biological death. The story unfolds as Helene discovers the truth about her existence and the extent of Sinobrody’s manipulations, leading to a dramatic confrontation with ethical, existential, and personal ramifications.

Tracy Arthur Soldan
C.L. Stegall
The Black Stair

A Contemporary Horror reimagining of the Grimm Brothers' Rapunzel

Stegall delves into a dark and twisted narrative where Devin, driven by curiosity and malevolent intent, discovers a hidden tower in a forest, inhabited by Sage and her unique, sentient hair, referred to as the Black Stair. Initially drawn by Sage’s ethereal singing, Devin’s manipulative nature leads him to exploit Sage’s naivety and innocence, only to be caught by Aunt Juniper, Sage’s guardian, who reveals the perilous truth of Sage’s existence and the protective reasons for her seclusion. The story climaxes with Devin’s violent demise at the hands of the Black Stair, following his attempt to assert control over Sage, culminating in a chilling revelation of betrayal, the protective and vengeful nature of the Black Stair, and Sage’s tragic liberation from her confinement, setting off into an uncertain world draped in the guise of her otherworldly protector.

The Dragon's Tinder

A Supernatural Fantasy reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinder Box

A dark and captivating tale set in a realm where evil veils the night, and a young woman named Victoria discovers her true heritage and faces her destiny. Raised in luxury yet confined by her parents’ ambitions, Victoria rebels against an arranged marriage to the despicable Lionel Staunton, only to uncover her parents’ dark secret: they are vampires, part of an ancient lineage entwined with the powerful Staunton family. With the help of Ramona, a loyal servant with a mystical lineage of her own, Victoria learns of a powerful tinderbox capable of summoning revenants—spirits seeking vengeance on those who wronged them. Faced with her parents’ betrayal and the threat to her beloved Dorin, Victoria uses the tinderbox to unleash revenants upon her vampiric parents, bringing about their downfall. The story culminates in Victoria’s rise to power, her marriage to Dorin, and her reign as a just ruler, symbolized by a dragon sigil, honoring the legacy of the dragon’s tinder and the women who wield its power.

Brian W. Taylor
Kenechi Udogu
The Awoken

A Dark Sword & Sorcery reimagining of Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty

A gripping fantasy tale where Prince Philip, guided by the tales of a long-forgotten kingdom, embarks on a quest to awaken a princess cursed to eternal slumber. Accompanied by Sir Thomas, his squire Andrew, and a band of men, they venture into an enchanted forest, only to discover a realm trapped in time, its inhabitants preserved yet cursed. When Philip awakens the princess, Rose, they realize that the curse is far more complex and darker than a simple sleep spell. The kingdom awakens into chaos, with its people turned into mindless, undying creatures due to the prolonged curse’s corruption. Despite initial intentions of heroism and adventure, Philip and his companions face a harrowing struggle to contain the curse and save themselves from an eternal, nightmarish fate. Rose, revealing the depth of the curse’s grip on her people, decides to sacrifice her awakening for the greater good, plunging back into slumber to halt the spread of the curse. The story culminates in a desperate bid for escape and survival, leaving Philip and his party to grapple with the consequences of meddling with ancient sorcery and the realization that some fates are worse than death.

The World After

A Post-Apocalyptic Fiction reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea

A dystopian narrative set in a future where environmental cataclysms have reshaped society, focusing on Prince Claud’s personal and political life in this new world. The story begins with Claud encountering Bianka, a woman with whom he forms an immediate connection, in a public house. As their relationship develops, Claud proposes marriage to ensure the purity and continuity of the royal bloodline in a world ravaged by pollution and disease. However, the story takes a dark turn when it’s revealed that Bianka is part of a revolutionary group opposed to the monarchy’s role in the environmental disaster. The narrative climaxes with a betrayal, as Bianka and her cohorts expose Claud to the toxic atmosphere his family is partly responsible for creating, illustrating the theme of retribution and the cyclical nature of power and resistance in a fractured society.

Onser von Fullon
Deborah Walker

A Contemporary Mythic Fiction reimagining of the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale

A story that follows the surreal journey of a man grappling with amnesia, known only as the Traveler. Set in the historical port of Jaffa, the story unfolds as the Traveler slowly regains fragments of his memory, driven by an underlying fear of being pursued by an unseen force. His desperate quest for escape leads him to the Sally-Rose, a ship bound for Italy, where he hopes to find solace from his relentless dread. However, as a storm besieges the ship, the crew’s superstitions rise to the surface, labeling him as the source of their misfortune—a Jonah. The tale reaches its climax as the Traveler’s true identity and his cursed fate are revealed, casting him into a cyclical doom that he is powerless to escape. The narrative masterfully weaves themes of fate, redemption, and the eternal struggle for forgiveness, culminating in a poignant reflection on the human condition and the inexorable pull of destiny.


A Supernatural Fantasy reimagining of the Biblical story of Deborah the Judge

An epic fantasy that tells the story of Deborah, the last Guardian and Prophetess of Isteria, who is called upon by Adonai, the Lord of the Elements, to lead her people in a rebellion against the oppressive rule of King Jabin and his dark sorcery. After receiving a divine revelation, Deborah, with the Elemental Stones’ power, confronts King Jabin’s formidable army, including the monstrous Ulgorath, at the river Kishon. In a stunning display of elemental magic, Deborah turns the tide of battle, leading Isteria to its first victory against the Kaanites. Meanwhile, Jael, a steward of Corazon stags, faces her own battle when General Sisera seeks refuge in her home after the battle. In a courageous act, Jael kills Sisera, contributing significantly to the Isterian victory. Recognized by Adonai for her stewardship, Jael is bestowed with the Guardian of Earth title, marking her as a new ally for Isteria. The story culminates in a promise of future victories and peace for Isteria, with Deborah and Jael at the forefront of the rebellion against King Jabin’s tyranny.

Angela Wallace
Cynthia Ward
Red as Heart's Blood

A YA Dark Fantasy reimagining of the Grimm Brothers' Snow White

A reimagined tale of Snow White with a dark and intricate twist, focusing on the complex relationship between Snow White and her stepmother, Queen Lienhua. After the king’s death, Lienhua attempts to secure her position by eliminating Snow White, first by suffocation, then with poisoned fruit. However, Snow White’s resilience and the aid of seven dwarfs thwart her stepmother’s plans. The climax reveals a profound connection between the two women, as Snow White recognizes a deep-seated attraction towards Lienhua, leading to an unexpected and passionate embrace. This twist not only subverts traditional narratives of villainy and innocence but also explores themes of beauty, power, and the transformative potential of understanding and acceptance. The story culminates in a poignant moment where the mirror, once a symbol of envy and rivalry, acknowledges the true beauty in their united rule, suggesting a new era of fairness and love in the kingdom.

The Quiddity of Speculation: Great Steampunk Reads

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on July 30, 2013.***

The Quiddity of Speculation: Great Steampunk Reads

HELLO Again, Writers!

Welcome to Part Two of The Quiddity of Speculation: Steampunk 101! Saturday, we talked about the makings of a Steampunk story. In this post, we’ll discuss a few fantastic Steampunk reads. It’s such a rapidly-growing subgenre that I’ve chosen to break this post into sections to give you a little taste of everything. As you read this post, please be aware that there are loads of Steampunk books out there—and more being published all the time—and please don’t let your reading be limited by my choices.


[Book Cover] Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, Book 1) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, Book 2) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Blameless (Parasol Protectorate, Book 3) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Heartless (Parasol Protectorate, Book 4) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, Book 5) by Gail Carriger


ONE of my favorite aspects of the Steampunk subgenre is that it often features girls behaving badly, or rather, bucking the conventions set forth for them by society. Gail Carriger is one author who truly shines in this area. Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series (Orbit, 2009-2012) consists of five novels about Alexia Tarabotti, a half-Italian spinster born without a soul—all of which complicates her standing in London society. The first book, Soulless (2009), received an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association and was nominated for a Locus Award for best first novel. In a society where vampires and werewolves and are accepted as members of society, Alexia’s soulless state leaves supernatural beings unable to target her. But when a vampire attacks her and she kills him, she becomes suspected in a rash of vampire disappearances and embroiled in a fun, fast-paced mystery. The Parasol Protectorate is a fabulous, funny blend of Supernatural, Steampunk, and mystery.

[Book Cover] Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School Series Book 1) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School Series Book 2) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School Series Book 3) by Gail Carriger


[Book Cover] Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School Series Book 4) by Gail Carriger


IN 2012, Carriger began a spin-off series set in the same world as The Parasol Protectorate and aimed at young adults. In the first book, Etiquette and Espionage (Little, Brown 2013), we meet Sophronia, a girl from a middle-class Victorian family would rather dismantle a clock than learn to serve a proper tea. Desperate to improve Sophronia’s manners, her mother enrolls her in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s isn’t your typical finishing school, though—along with dining and dancing and etiquette, the girls are taught the fine arts of deception and espionage. This book is rousing fun and the start of a promising series. Carriger follows up with Curtsies and Conspiracies.

**Since this post was first published, two more books in the Finishing School Series were released, shown above, in addition to The Delightfully Deadly Series, which are also set in the Protectorate universe.

[Book Cover] The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman


[Book Cover] The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman


[Book Cover] The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman


ONE of the classics of the Steampunk subgenre is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy. Pullman excels in overall world-building in this trilogy, which consists of The Golden Compass [US] / The Northern Lights [UK] (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000, all Scholastic). The two main characters, Lyra and Will, live in a world where each person is protected by a personal guardian known as a daemon, the animal embodiment of their innermost being. The trilogy is extremely thought-provoking, drawing inspiration from physics, religion, and other disciplines as well as parallels to classic literature, even taking its title from Milton’s Paradise Lost. With strong religious elements, His Dark Materials often draws criticism for being anti-Christian, but the religious elements are just one of many courses in the banquet of food for thought provided by this wonderful fantasy read.

[Book Cover] Leviathan (Leviathan Trilogy, Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld


[Book Cover] Behemoth (Leviathan Triology, Book 2) by Scott Westerfeld


[Book Cover] Goliath (Leviathan Trilogy, Book 3) by Scott Westerfeld


[Book Cover] The Manual of Aeronautics: An Illustrated Guide to the Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld


MY first exposure to Steampunk—and my favorite to date—was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy. In the first book, Leviathan (Simon and Schuster, 2009), we meet Alek, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary and son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on the very night that his parents are assassinated by the Serbs. Alek runs for his life along with two of his tutors as war breaks out between the Clanker (Axis) and Darwinist (Allied) nations. As the world goes to war with huge animal-shaped machines on the Clanker side and the Darwinists’ giant floating ecosystems of genetically engineered creatures, Alek forms an unlikely alliance with Dylan Sharp, a Darwinist fighting in the British Air Service…and gets more than he bargained for when he finds out that Dylan is really a girl named Deryn. The trilogy continues with Behemoth (2010) and Goliath (2011), providing a wonderful Alternate History of World War I from start to finish. All three volumes also feature the art of Keith Thompson, and the illustrations are a treat in their own right and a bonus factor to the well-crafted story. In 2012, Westerfeld and Thompson collaborated once more on The Manual of Aeronautics, further exploring the world of the Leviathan Trilogy and giving a broader stage to Thompson’s artwork.


[Book Cover] Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant


IN 2011, editors Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (wife and husband) teamed up with a host of popular Young Adult authors to produce Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick). This anthology features contributions from Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Holly Black, and many others. Don’t let the Young Adult tag fool you—there’s truly something in this volume for everyone, as it brings Steampunk to such unexpected places as the wild American west and features everything from Time Travel to supercomputers to comic strips.

[Book Cover] Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling


Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Tor, 2013), edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, is another fantastic Steampunk short story collection. In addition to containing great short fiction from such familiar names as Gregory Maguire, the introduction to this book contains one of the best definitions of Steampunk I have ever read, as well as an exploration of the popularity of fantasy stories during the Victorian era. If you’re looking for a good way to start exploring Steampunk, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an invaluable resource.


[Book Cover] SteamDrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks by Chris-Rachael Oseland


YES, we’re Speculative Fiction freaks here at The Bearded Scribe…but sometimes our obsession becomes a little too much and must come off the page. SteamDrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks by Chris-Rachael Oseland and Vicktoria Riley (Palmyran Rebels, 2012) is a perfect quick read and just the book to throw in your bag for your next con or cosplay event. As its title indicates, SteamDrunks contains recipes for over a hundred cocktails as well as a guide to stocking your bar with period-correct spirits. You don’t have to be a drinker to appreciate this book, either. I’m a teetotaler, but I couldn’t help laughing out loud at some of the instructions that go along with these recipes, such as “toast the fact that your family probably won’t die of river poisoning tonight, and drink until you pass out.” After I laughed my way through this book in one sitting, I bought it for Joshua last Christmas.


THESE titles are just a sampling of what’s available in Steampunk literature, and more is being published every day. Now that I’ve told you about my favorites, won’t you please tell me about yours with a comment on this post?

Until next time, Keep Calm and Scribe On!



The Quiddity of Speculation: Steampunk 101

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on July 27, 2013.***

The Quiddity of Speculation: Steampunk 101

GREETINGS, Fellow Writers!

Welcome back to The Quiddity of Speculation, where we dissect the various subgenres of speculative fiction and talk about some spectacular books from each! Today’s Quiddity is a favorite of mine—Steampunk! I love this subgenre for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because it revolves around history and one of my favorite time periods to research. Pull up a chair and a teacup and join me for an airship ride into the wonderful world of Steampunk!


IN looking for a suitable definition of Steampunk to use for this piece, I ran into a bit of a sticky situation. According to, it is “a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.” Here’s where it turns sticky, though: Within the broad genre of speculative fiction, Steampunk is a veritable Russian nesting doll—a subgenre of a subgenre of a subgenre. In the preface to Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Tor, 2013), authors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling inform us that while this type of literature has experienced a surge in popularity of late, it is but one piece of a broader subgenre known as Gaslamp Fantasy, which in turn is a particular type of Historical Fantasy.

HISTORICAL Fantasy may be set during any period of history. Datlow and Windling tell us, “Gaslamp tales can take place at any time during the 1800s, from the Regency years to Queen Victoria’s long reign… The stories may occasionally stray into the Edwardian era, but the genre ends with World War I.” Steampunk in particular, though, is nearly always set during the Victorian era, when technology was advancing with the Industrial Revolution, but the world was still powered by steam.


1. Inspect Your Gadgets....

PROBABLY the most recognizable hallmark of Steampunk is the gadgets. If you’re looking to write a steampunk story, ask yourself, “What if steam power had no limitations?” Just how much could be accomplished using gears and copper wiring? What problems might arise from using this technology? Let your imagination have no limits when it comes to gadgetry in steampunk writing. Even if you’re not an accomplished artist, sketch a few key devices out before you write about them. If the writer does not know exactly what a contraption looks like or how it works, neither will the reader. The more elaborate and accomplished your technology is, the better the story will be.


THE thing that separates steampunk from straight-up science fiction is a recognizable setting, both in terms of location and time period. Although most Steampunk is set in England during the Victorian era, there’s no need to be a slave to those boundaries. As Windling and Datlow told us, Steampunk is a particular breed of Gaslamp Fantasy, and that encompasses a very long time period. The Industrial Revolution makes a convenient backdrop for advancing technology, but it is by no means the only era in which to set a steampunk story. The trick is for the writer to know their setting well enough to insert a believable and technologically advanced storyline.


SO, you know where you are in space and time and you have amazing gadgets at your disposal. Now comes the seriously geeky fun part. Twist up the details that you learned in your history classes! There’s a catch here, though: you’re going to need to do some research. In order to believably twist history, you must first know history. Do your research before you start to write and your job will be infinitely easier. Keep researching as you write and allow details to morph as needed. As you learn, change a few key things. Merge multiple characters into one, kill off an important historical figure, or stage a power struggle. Show off your gadgetry by giving the characters a reason to use it. Have fun with this! Just don’t go overboard—remember that you need to keep the setting recognizable for the reader.

{—Helpful READING—}

I really can’t say enough good things about the preface and introduction to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Tor, 2013), which contains a great definition and historical information about the Gaslamp Fantasy subgenre as a whole, and of Steampunk in particular.



STEAMPUNK is currently surging in popularity in the publishing industry, and it has been said that it may even supplant dystopian and paranormal fiction as the next big thing in publishing. It’s also a perfect canvas for imagination to run wild in both the writer and the reader. Stay tuned for Part Two of this post, where I’ll discuss a few of the Steampunk books I adore!

The Quiddity of Speculation: Great Dystopian Novels

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on October 23, 2012.***

The Quiddity of Speculation: Great Dystopian Novels

WELL met and welcome back, Beardies!

Welcome to the second part of the first post in our new series, The Quiddity of Speculation. In the first part, we discussed the ingredients of a good dystopian novel. Now, in the second part, we’ll be talking about a few books and authors who have done the job spectacularly. As you’re reading this post, please keep in mind that there are scores of great dystopian novels available, and don’t let my choices limit your reading. If you don’t see your favorite on this list, please tell me about it in the comments—I am always looking for suggestions!


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Scholastic, 2011) combines classic dystopian elements with a humorous twist. Lord of the Flies meets Miss Congeniality when the contestants of the Miss Teen Dream Pageant are marooned on an island following a plane crash. Through the humor, Bray develops a quasi-dystopian society along with a scathing indictment of ageism, sexism, consumerism, and reality-TV culture. Although some may not consider this book a true dystopia, I have chosen to include it in this list because it delivers in all three key areas of dystopian fiction—setting, revolutionary thinking, and food for thought—and continued to resonate with me long after the last page.




THE publication of The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008-2010) was the beginning of the current YA dystopian fiction craze. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or trapped under one) and have missed the hype surrounding this trilogy, the nation of Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which must send one girl and one boy each year to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live television. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen for the Games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. In doing so, she sparks a rebellion that will change the world as she knows it. Katniss is, at best, a reluctant heroine, as she wants only to save her sister. The Hunger Games Trilogy perfectly exemplifies that while revolution is a hallmark of dystopian fiction, sometimes the best revolution is the one that starts accidentally.




AN interesting take on dystopian society is The Chemical Garden Trilogy, by Lauren DeStefano. The first book, Wither (Simon and Schuster, 2011), establishes a world in which a botched attempt to create genetically-perfect children has caused all girls to die at age twenty and all boys to die at age twenty-five. As a result, a teenager’s only job in life is to repopulate the world, which gives rise to widespread polygamy. The protagonist, Rhine, is one of three wives to Linden. The action moves slowly in this dystopia, but it is an excellent example of character-driven literature. DeStefano follows up with Fever (Simon and Schuster, 2012) and Sever (Simon and Schuster, 2013).


William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (Faber and Faber, 1954) was the first acknowledged dystopian novel. Although not an immediate success, it eventually became a bestseller and is still required reading in many schools. Its plot centers around a group of boys who survive a plane crash and the disaster that ensues when they try to govern themselves.





The Giver by Lois Lowry (Bantam, 1993) won the Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature, becoming the first dystopian novel to win a major literary award. Lowry returned to the world of The Giver with two companion novels, Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004), and a sequel, Son (2012), all Houghton Mifflin), finishing off The Giver Quartet. Jonas lives in a seemingly perfect world where every family consists of a mother, father, and two children and no one ever feels pain. When Jonas enters the adult world at the age of twelve, he is assigned to be the Receiver of Memory—the person who will carry the memories of the past into the next generation for all of society. In his training with the mysterious man known as the Giver, however, Jonas comes to realize that all is not as perfect as it seems.




IN Veronica Roth’s Divergent (Katherine Tegen, 2011), Beatrice Prior lives in a future Chicago wherein society is divided into five factions, each of which values a different quality in its members. Beatrice was raised by Abnegation (the selfless), but at the age of sixteen, she will take a test to determine if she should continue in that faction or become a member of Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the kind), Dauntless (the brave), or Candor (the truthful). Her test results, however, reveal that she is none of the above, but rather Divergent, and thus considered a danger to society. Although this is a stellar novel for many reasons, Roth excels at developing the setting in what remains of Chicago. Beatrice’s story continues in Insurgent (Katherine Tegen, 2012), and Allegiant (Katherine Tegen, 2015), to close out The Divergent Trilogy.





TALLY YOUNGBLOOD is the heroine of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Series (Simon and Schuster, 2005-2007). In the twenty-fourth century, Tally is about to turn sixteen. When she reaches that milestone, she will undergo the Surge, an extensive cosmetic operation that will turn her from an Ugly into a Pretty, the beginning of her adult life. Just before the operation, though, she discovers place called the Smoke and the people who live there, all of whom have chosen not to undergo the Surge. Through the “Smokies,” Tally learns some shocking truths about the effects of the Surge and about her society as a whole.


DYSTOPIAN fiction is currently one of the hottest trends in young-adult publishing, and excellent dystopian novels abound. I hope you will take the time to read a few of these, but please don’t be limited by my choices. I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorites, too—please tell me about them in the comments!

Happy Reading & Happy Scribing!



The Quiddity of Speculation: Dystopia 101

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on October 22, 2012.***

The Quiddity of Speculation: Dystopia 101

G’DAY to you, Beardies, and welcome back!

Any day that I get to write a post for The Bearded Scribe is a good day, and today is no exception. Today, we’re unveiling the first post in a new series we’re calling The Quiddity of Speculation. “Quiddity” is a word to which Joshua introduced me while we were throwing around titles for this series. According to Merriam-Webster, quiddity means “whatever makes something the type that it is.” The quiddity of a thing, then, is its very essence. In this series, we’ll dissect different types of speculative fiction in detail, exploring the definition and distinguishing characteristics of each. I’ve literally been researching this post since I joined the team here. It’s been a long time coming, so without further ado, let’s get to it!

ONE of the most interesting aspects of my job as a librarian is seeing the literary trends as they come and go. Five and a half years ago, when I started my library career, vampires and werewolves were in their heyday. I’ve now witnessed the gradual decline of the paranormal romance, followed by the meteoric rise of dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature triggered by The Hunger Games. Although these sub-genres are usually considered one and the same, I’m choosing to treat them separately, starting with dystopia.


MERRIAM-WEBSTER defines “dystopia” as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” First used in about 1950, the word derives from Latin and describes a place that is the opposite of the perfect society (utopia). In literature, dystopia describes a work of speculative fiction about a society that, in trying to be perfect, goes terribly wrong. Dystopia is one type of post-apocalyptic literature, but its keystone is that it features oppression caused by humans, such as police or government agencies, rather than by circumstances beyond human control.



LIKE any Speculative Fiction, dystopia hinges on world-building. The most important piece of the dystopian world, though, is the setting. In building the dystopian setting, the more detail the writer adds, the better the story will be. Important considerations include not only physical descriptions of the setting, but also political systems, cultural norms, religious beliefs, family structures, even climate and weather patterns. The writer should also think about how the world came to be as it is. War, greed, genetic engineering, failure to conserve natural resources, and good intentions gone wrong are just a few likely catalysts. By definition, though, dystopian societies are created by human error, not natural phenomena.


DYSTOPIA is all about the conflict of protagonist versus society. While the setting is key, the action builds in the form of a revolution against the setting and those who control it. To incite such a conflict, an author need only plant one seed in the mind of one character. Such a seed need not even start out as an intention to start a rebellion. Side conflicts may develop as the character’s “unconventional” way of thinking causes him or her to run afoul of authorities or even other characters who resist change. In developing the conflict, the writer should consider the impact of the protagonist’s thoughts or actions on every other aspect of the society, so that an intricate web of conflicts is woven.


ONE of the articles I read while researching this post talked about the evolution of dystopian literature. The first recognized dystopian novel was William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, published in 1954. Early dystopias featured settings that were far-fetched, with technology that was beyond belief for the times—frighteningly resonant perhaps, but not necessarily possible. More recent dystopias take the fads and problems of our current society to new levels, leaving the reader to wonder if such things as, for example, the reality-television crazed culture of The Hunger Games can be so terribly far away. In any generation, though, a good dystopia leaves the reader with plenty to think about.

{—Helpful READING—}

AS stated above, I’ve literally been researching this post since the day that I joined The Bearded Scribe’s team. I found the following two articles to be especially helpful.

  • Teenage Wasteland: What’s Wrong with YA Sci-Fi These Days?” by Ashley Belanger, originally appeared in the Orlando Weekly on August 15, 2012. I read it when it was reprinted in the September 5-11, 2012 issue of Detroit’s MetroTimes. The full text of the article is available online by clicking the link above.
  • The Other Side of Dark,” by Linda A. Gann and Karen Gavigan, appeared in the August 2012 issue of VOYA (Volume 35, Issue 3, pp. 234-238). Unfortunately, VOYA is only digitally archived through subscription-based services. If you are interested in reading this article, your local librarian should be able to help you obtain a copy.

And so, Beardies, we reach the end of this first edition of The Quiddity of Speculation. Please stay tuned for my next post, which will include a list of my favorite dystopian fiction. If there is a specific type of speculative fiction that you would like me to explore in a future post, please feel free to comment with your suggestions!

As Always, Happy Scribing!



Book Spotlight: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Series by Kenneth Oppel

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 30, 2012.***

Book Spotlight: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Series by Kenneth Oppel


Call me indecisive if you will, but making “Best of the Best” lists is my own personal brand of librarian kryptonite. I just can’t decide! Usually, the best book I’ve read this year is the one I’m reading right now. So, instead of making my own list, most of the time I read the books that are on everyone else’s lists.

This Dark Endeavor, the first book of Kenneth Oppel’s The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Series, was on a 2011 list from one of my librarian idols, Lynn Rutan. Along with colleague Cindy Dobrez, Lynn writes a blog called Bookends that I follow religiously. She called  This Dark Endeavor  “a steampunky Frankenstein retelling,” and from that description alone, I was hooked. Everything Lynn promised, the book delivered, and when the second book came out in August, the series skyrocketed to the top of my “Books to Spotlight” pile.




SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Victor Frankenstein lives the typical life of a young gentleman of privilege in eighteenth-century Geneva. Victor idolizes his twin brother, Konrad, and the two are virtually inseparable. One day, exploring in Chateau Frankenstein with their cousin Elizabeth and best friend, Henry Clerval, they discover a secret room filled with arcane tomes—the Dark Library that once belonged to their ancestor Wilhelm Frankenstein. Victor is intrigued by the contents of the Dark Library, but his father makes him promise never to return there. Then, Konrad becomes gravely ill, and even the best physicians in Europe seem unable to help him. Heartsick and desperate, Victor returns to the Dark Library in search of a cure, embarking on a quest to brew the Elixir of Life and save his beloved brother from certain death.

{DISCLAIMER: Normally, when doing a Spotlight on a series, I would include the premise of the second book, too, but doing so would spoil the ending of the first. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.}



THE retelling of archetypal and classic stories is currently one of the most popular trends in young adult publishing. While retelling is one of my favorite literary techniques, I always approach these books with some wariness because so much can go so very wrong. Kenneth Oppel does everything right in his reimagining of the classic story of Frankenstein. All the hallmarks and the spirit of the original story are present, but the retelling breathes new life into the classic. The portrayal of Frankenstein as a teenager makes the old story accessible to a new generation, and hopefully, more readers will discover the original through the retelling.


ONE of the things I love about retellings is how they make me think about familiar material in new ways. Although I am quite familiar with the story of Frankenstein, this is the first time that I’ve really connected with the protagonist. When it comes to saving a loved one, how far is too far? Is it ever okay for humans to play God? These are just a few of the questions with which the teenage Frankenstein grapples, and somehow, by putting them into the mind of a teenager, Kenneth Oppel made them resonate with me even more deeply. There are, of course, no easy answers for either Frankenstein or the reader, so the book continues to echo long after the last page.


AS stated, though this was far from my first exposure to the story of Frankenstein, it was the first time I have been truly able to connect with the protagonist. This connection is, in part, due to Oppel’s outstanding characterization, which humanizes the protagonist. The teenage Victor Frankenstein has a brash, larger-than-life personality. His emotions run deep, particularly his love of his twin brother, and though he sometimes makes the wrong decisions, he always does so for the right reasons. Based on past experience, I never expected to love this character, but I found myself viewing him as a much-loved but highly-exasperating younger sibling, wanting to strangle him one moment and loving him to pieces the next.



IN The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Series, Kenneth Oppel tackles an old subject in a new way, portraying a familiar protagonist in a new light and leaving the reader with many lasting questions. This portrayal makes a classic accessible to a whole new generation. The first two books of this planned series are a treat for speculative readers and I can’t wait for the next installment.

Happy Reading and Happy Scribing!



Book Spotlight: The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1) by Michael Scott

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 17th, 2012.***

Book Spotlight: The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1) by Michael Scott

GOOD Evening, Beardies,

Back in May, we did an Author Spotlight and giveaway with Michael Scott, author of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series. The contest, and his subsequent interview, were very successful, so it didn’t take us long to decide to do a collaborative series of Book Spotlights featuring each of the Michael Scott, author of the Flamel books. Unfortunately, finding time to collaboratively write the posts took much longer, but we finally did, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring you the first in this series of Book Spotlights.



FAMOUS alchemist Nicholas Flamel died in 1418—at least that’s what the records say. There’s only one problem: his tomb lies empty, a suspicious coincidence for someone who supposedly discovered the secrets of immortality.

While their parents are on an archaeology dig in Utah, twins Josh and Sophie Newman are forced to stay in San Francisco with their Aunt Agnes for the summer. Both quickly find jobs in order to save up money for a car. Josh’s boss, Nick Fleming, seems like a great person, but a strange turn of events reveals that “Nick Fleming” isn’t who he seems, and Josh and Sophie find themselves on a journey in which they discover that they may have legendary powers of their own.



AS we were reading this book, we were astounded by how many of the world’s mythologies were seamlessly united in the story, but in his interview, Mr. Scott enlightened us about his inspiration for this:

"The original idea was to create a series that unified all the world's mythology, based on the simple premise that at the heart of every story is a grain of truth. As I research folklore all over the world, it has become clear to me that so many of the world's myths and legends are incredibly similar, and some are almost identical. So I came up with the idea that I would feature as many of the world's folklore and myths in one story, and populate my world with immortal human characters. The only created characters in the series are Sophie and Josh."

THE premise of a unified world of mythology, wherein the truths of one legend are retold in each of the others, is masterfully set in The Alchemyst. We are intrigued by this premise, eager to continue our joined efforts, and curious what Mr. Scott has in store with the other five books of the series.


MICHAEL SCOTT seamlessly weaves many real historical figures into his story, and manages to preserve their integrity while using them in creative, yet believable ways. This blurs the line between fantasy and reality, making it even easier for the reader to slip into the fictional world. It would take ages to list the whole cast of historical characters in this book, but here are a few:

  • Nicholas Flamel (1330-1418) worked as a bookseller and scrivener in Paris. After his death, he developed a reputation as an alchemist because of his work on the philosopher’s stone and his quest to understand an alchemical tome called The Book of Abramelin the Mage. Flamel’s wife, Perenelle (1320-1412) served as his assistant and became known as a sorceress and alchemist in her own right. The Flamels were known as great philanthropists in their lifetime and both have streets in Paris that bear their names. They were buried in Paris, but their grave is empty, paving the way for further speculation about their immortality—and for Michael Scott to set them down in a twenty-first century bookstore under the assumed names of Nick and Perry Fleming.
  • Dr. John Dee (1527-1609) was a noted mathematician, occultist, astrologer, and served as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He developed a plan for the British Navy, determined the coronation date of Elizabeth I through an astrological reading, was imprisoned for treason for reading the horoscopes of Elizabeth I and her sister Mary, and is rumored to have hexed the Spanish Armada. He is also said to have been the inspiration for the Shakespearean characters of Prospero and King Lear. He is the villain-in-chief of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series and has been chasing the Flamels for centuries. According to Scott, Dee’s relentless pursuit of the Flamels is to blame for many disasters, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of an anarchist and an acclaimed feminist. At the age of eighteen, she conceived the idea for her best-known novel, Frankenstein, on a dare while staying in a summer home in Switzerland with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her husband’s friend Lord Byron. The trio had been reading ghost stories and had a contest to see who could write the scariest story. In The Alchemyst, Shelley is said to have based her novel on a story she heard from Dr. John Dee.


WITH the above-mentioned use of actual Historical figures and integration of Mythology from several different cultures, Elizabeth and I agreed that Michael Scott‘s pile of notes must have been extensive. He is, indeed, nothing short of a master when it comes to world-building. His blending of ancient and modern, of legend and truth, and—most amazingly—of fantasy layered within an urban reality are all done seamlessly and with delicate precision. Specifically, within the area of world-building, the following areas need spotlighting.

  • Magic. Scott’s system of magic is one of the most unique we’ve encountered. His use of Auras is a blend of the existing belief that auras can be perceived as colors, and the introduction of his own creation—that they also have an aroma unique to their owner.
  • Shadowrealms. In The Alchemyst, we are only privy to view one Shadowrealm—a separate dimension created by an Elder upon banishment from the Earthly realm—but we are told that there are many. By introducing us to Hekate‘s Shadowrealm, Scott is able to set aside his Earthly setting for one that doesn’t conform to its limitations. Within this Shadowrealm we are introduced to several fantastical creatures—both of legend or otherwise—and we are also reminded of Scott’s love affair with mythology with his inclusion of Yggdrasil.
  • Landmarks. We know from reading other reviews that Mr. Scott uses several landmarks around the world within the Flamel series, but it’s his exceptional ability to describe said landmarks—such as Alcatraz—with great detail that blows our minds. Again, just thinking about the size of his research notes humbles us. Given the size of the research notes for our own respective writing endeavors, we can only imagine!



The Alchemyst pulled us in with its stellar world-building, creating a unique magical system and using real historical figures and pinpoint descriptions of real-world landmarks to make a solid, believable world. On top of being an exceptional writer, Mr. Scott was gracious enough to allow us to pick his brain about his inspirations and creative process in a fantastic interview. We are, and will continue to be, huge fans of Michael Scott and the Flamel series; stay tuned for our collaborative Spotlights on the next five books.

Happy Reading & Happy Scribing,

***The Alchemyst (2007) by Michael Scott is published by and copyright Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

Book Spotlight: Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 3) by Kristin Cashore

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 8, 2012.***
Since this post was published, two more books—Winterkeep (2021) and Seasparrow (2022)—were released, and the 5-book series was re-released as The Graceling Realm Series.

Book Spotlight: Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 3) by Kristin Cashore

WELCOME back, Beardies!

Thank you for sticking with me through a week of posts about the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy! I hope you have enjoyed the posts as much as I enjoyed reading the books—and then dissecting them from a writer’s standpoint! Today we reach the final installment of Seven Kingdoms, Bitterblue, which is the sequel to Graceling, set eight years after the conclusion of that book and forty-eight years after the end of Fire.



EIGHT years ago, Princess Bitterblue and her mother, Queen Ashen, escaped the evil clutches of her father, King Leck of Monsea in the Seven Kingdoms. Ashen was killed in the escape attempt, but Bitterblue survived and went on to assume the throne of Monsea at age ten. Now, though, Bitterblue is Queen of a nation with many problems. Leck was a tyrannical, sadistic ruler and had the Grace, or supernatural talent, of deception. During his thirty-five years as King, Leck’s Grace forced his subjects to accept every word he spoke as truth, rendering them completely unable to think for themselves. Bitterblue wants to set things right, but her advisers seem determined to drown her in useless tasks, refusing to answer her questions about Leck’s reign or even allow her to make amends for his wrongdoing. Frustration leads Bitterblue to devise her own way to seek the truth, and she discovers that Leck’s cruelty went far beyond her wildest dreams. Not only that, there are those in Bitterblue’s court who would rather see her killed than expose the truth about her father.


A Special Thanks to Ali St. James, a.k.a. The Polite Yeti for re-blogging this image from an original post from Penguin Teen, as it is through her Tumblr that Joshua and I found it.

1. MAPS...

MAPPING is an important part of world-building. It keeps the writer from geographical inconsistencies–and the need to edit for those inconsistencies! Maps also help the reader visualize the setting. Kristin Cashore‘s mapping is second to none, with double-page maps of Bitterblue’s castle and rooms, Leck’s rooms, the East City, the Seven Kingdoms as a whole, and more. I am a huge fan of maps in fantasy books, and when I purchased my copy of Bitterblue, I spent an hour in the Barnes & Noble café just ogling the maps. Ironically, on that same day, Joshua did a great post on world-building and maps. If you haven’t already, please take a minute to go check it out!


I have loved the characterization in these novels from the beginning, but it is especially well-done in Bitterblue. The last time the reader saw Bitterblue, she was an immature girl of ten years, on the run from her cruel father, and she acted like it. In this volume, the reader sees how her memories were distorted by her father. She feels this distortion acutely, which makes her a sympathetic heroine. In the beginning of this story, Bitterblue is in many ways still a child and very naive. By the end, however, she has grown into a remarkable young woman and a good monarch, able to see that not all cruelty is intentional and that sometimes the best way to make amends for the past is to offer hope for the future.

3. GRACES...

AT the center of Kristen Cashore‘s fantasy world are the Gracelings, each with a unique, supernatural talent known as a Grace. Not every character is Graced, and the previous books only explored Graces in major characters. Bitterblue, however, contains several Graced minor characters, many of whom work in the castle. Queen Bitterblue employs a kitchen hand Graced with the ability to tell by the look and smell of a person what they would most like to eat at any given time, and a servant Graced with absolute fearlessness. Perhaps my favorite Grace of all, though, belong’s to Bitterblue‘s librarian, Death (whose name rhymes with “teeth”). Death’s Grace is speed-reading, with perfect recall of everything that he reads. The descriptions of the Graces keep the reader interested in characters that would otherwise simply fade into the background.

4. love IN MANY FORMS...

SOMETIMES I feel like writers forget that love comes in other forms than just romance. Even worse, I have read many books where a romance seems to be forced into the plot. Thankfully, Kristen Cashore avoids both of these pitfalls. Confused and afraid, Bitterblue is constantly surrounded by people who love her. She has friends to laugh with, shoulders to cry on, and people to give her advice. Bitterblue never finds lasting, romantic love, but love is not missing from the story. I also truly enjoy the portrayal of homosexual characters in this trilogy. They simply exist in these pages as a matter of course, and, for the most part, are accepted by all. I only wish the same held true in our world, and I applaud Kristen Cashore for celebrating love in so many forms.



IN The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Kristin Cashore has built a world that is complete and real, populated it with characters I would love to have as my real-life friends, and made me eager to visit it time and again. In Bitterblue, Cashore leaves the characters in a place where I am content to let them go, bringing the trilogy to a satisfying close—though, if she ever did write another book, I would read it gladly.

Happy Reading and Happy Scribing!



***Bitterblue (2012), by Kristin Cashore, is published by and copyright Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Book Spotlight: Fire (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 2) by Kristin Cashore

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 7, 2012.***
Since this post was published, two more books—Winterkeep (2021) and Seasparrow (2022)—were released, and the 5-book series was re-released as The Graceling Realm Series.

Book Spotlight: Fire (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 2) by Kristin Cashore

WELCOME back, Beardies!

Thanks for joining me for the second installment in my series of posts on Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. Today, we’re discussing Fire, the second book in the trilogy. First published in 2009, Fire is a prequel set forty years before the events of Graceling, in a neighboring kingdom called the Dells. Fire has only one character in common with Graceling, but as unorthodox as this may seem, it is a stroke of genius for the trilogy as a whole.



ACROSS an impassible mountain range from the Seven Kingdoms lies the Dells, a kingdom populated by both humans and monsters. Fire is the last of her kind, a human-shaped monster, arrestingly beautiful, skilled in archery and music, but taught to hate and fear herself by her father. Like all monsters, Fire can read and control the thoughts of others, but she finds the ability repulsive and uses it as little as possible. The Dells, however, stands on the brink of civil war, and the King’s men arrive to take Fire to King City to serve as a spy and interrogator. On her journey, she forms unlikely alliances that allow her to reconcile her human and monstrous natures and explore feelings she never knew she had.


1. RACES...

THE monster races are the centerpiece of Fire. Nearly every species in our world has a monster counterpart. These creatures all look more or less the same in our world, except gloriously colorful. All monsters are physically attractive and have the power to control minds. From bugs to birds to fish and even a human, the various monster species are described in perfect detail, bringing them beautifully to life. Among humans, monsters are as despised for their bloodthirstiness and mind control abilities as they are in demand for their beautiful pelts and feathers, which are used as decorations in the homes and clothing of the wealthy. Fire is proof positive that fantasy isn’t all vampires and zombies—unconventional races make for unforgettable world-building. For more on races, please check out Joshua’s post on this topic.


CONFLICT is the core of any story, and a great story will contain not just one conflict, but rather a series of conflicts that play off each other like ripples in a pond, driving the plot forward. Kristin Cashore weaves an intricate web of conflict in Fire. Fire is the last of her kind and her father taught her to hate herself and fear her powers, so the human side of her is constantly at war with her monstrous nature. As civil unrest grows in the Dells, however, the King demands Fire’s services, forcing her to use the powers she so despises. Further conflict arises when Fire begins to fall for the commander of the Army, Prince Brigan, who may die in the looming war.


PHYSICAL description of setting is important, but for world-building to be solid, cultural norms within a fantasy world must also be explained. Kristin Cashore fully explores the culture of the Dells. Culture is a vital part of Dellian life. Fire is revered for her skill with the violin, and the reader learns that medicine in the Dells is highly advanced. Other cultural norms such as funeral customs are also established, and the frontispiece of the book contains a Dellian mourning poem. Descriptions of culture help to establish the setting, but also allow the reader to be fully immersed in the lives of the characters.



KRISTIN CASHORE continues spectacular world-building in Fire, adding unforgettable characters and expanding her setting. Though it does not continue the story as started in Graceling in a conventional sense, Fire is a welcome addition to the trilogy and leaves the reader eager to return to the world of The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy.

Happy Reading and Happy Scribing!



***Fire (2009), by Kristin Cashore, is published by and copyright Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Book Spotlight: Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 1) by Kristin Cashore

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on September 6, 2012.***
Since this post was published, two more books—Winterkeep (2021) and Seasparrow (2022)—were released, and the 5-book series was re-released as The Graceling Realm Series.

Book Spotlight: Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 1) by Kristin Cashore

WELCOME back, Beardies!

Back at the beginning of May, Joshua asked me for a list of titles I’d like to feature for Book Spotlight. Bitterblue, the final installment in Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, had just come out, and the trilogy as a whole topped the list. I even owned all the books and had already read the first two. Because of all the reading I have to do for my job, though, often the books that I own fall to the bottom of the pile because I have all the time in the world, rather than the three weeks allowed by a library checkout, to read them. Thus, months passed, and a Spotlight on Seven Kingdoms never came. Then, one night, I asked Joshua for my weekly assignment, and he specifically asked me to read Bitterblue. Turns out, in his words, he’d “been waiting for that Spotlight with white knuckles.” Well, what could I do but oblige him?

Originally, I set out to do just one post on The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, but quickly realized that the trilogy simply had too many strong points and too much depth for one post to do it justice. So, at Joshua’s encouragement, I have decided to cover this trilogy in three separate posts. The first installment of the trilogy, Graceling, hit shelves in 2008 with immediate success, bagging tons of literary hardware. It was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association; was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award for best young adult debut novel that year; and also snagged the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.



IN the Seven Kingdoms, sometimes a child is born with a supernatural talent known as a Grace. A Grace can be anything from mind-reading or weather prediction to the ability to climb any tree in creation. Katsa has a frightening Grace: She’s been able to kill people with her bare hands since she the age of eight. Katsa’s uncle, King Randa, has used her as an enforcer and thug for years, sending her to kill or maim subjects who don’t obey his every whim. Tired of being used, Katsa takes matters into her own hands, forming a group called the Council that operates undercover to prevent her from having to do Randa’s bidding. Then a Council mission leads her to a new friend, a young princess in grave danger, and a sadistic ruler with a secret even more deadly than her Grace.



KATSA is a heroine for the ages and truly stars in her role as Graceling’s protagonist. Her character arc is complete and realistic. In the beginning she is only able to see herself as the Graced thug that her uncle has made her to be, but the moment when she has the courage to take matters into her own hands makes the reader want to stand up and cheer. By the end of the book, she sees herself as far more than just King Randa’s enforcer, and her process of self-discovery is beautifully done. This stellar piece of characterization landed Graceling on the Amelia Bloomer Project List of best feminist literature for young adults in 2009.


The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy as a whole is a fine example of complex plotting, and this first volume sets the stage. Graceling is perfectly paced. It hits the ground running with Katsa’s dramatic rescue of a kidnapped prince, and it never looks back. The action is nonstop, but also organic, never feeling forced or contrived. There are enough quiet moments to allow the reader to catch their breath, but the plot doesn’t drag down. The ending, too, leaves the reader content, with plenty of room for a sequel.


KRISTIN CASHORE’s Gracelings are so realistically drawn, it takes an effort not to look for them in real life, but what really resonates with me is the way that Gracelings are treated by society—and the way that Cashore builds this flawlessly into her world. A Graced person has eyes of two different colors, so they are easy to pick out from a crowd. In most of the Seven Kingdoms, Gracelings are feared or reviled. All Graceling children are given to the King as soon as their eyes “settle” into two different colors. If the child’s Grace is useful to the King (such as Katsa’s killing), the child becomes the property of the King; if not, the child is sent home in disgrace and usually lives as an outcast for the rest of their life.



Graceling is the perfect blend of solid world-building, fast-paced adventure, and phenomenal characterization. It stands alone easily, but also leaves the reader eager for more stories about these characters. While I don’t often agree with award selection committees, I do agree that Graceling has all the makings of a modern classic and is a feast for readers and writers alike. I hope you’ll join me in the next few days for my Book Spotlights on Fire and Bitterblue.

Happy Reading & Happy Scribing!



***Graceling (2008) by Kristin Cashore, are published by and copyright Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.