Ep077 – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Magic’s Pawn is the first book in The Last Herald-Mage Series written in 1989.

Discussed this episode

  • One of the first openly gay characters in science fiction/fantasy. Vanyel, the protagonist of the book is openly gay; but do to the marketing and era, you have to read the book in order to find out that Vanyel is in fact gay. Lackey pushes the genre forward and incorporates representation of a gay characters all under the radar enough to not — in the real world — obtain negative marketing.
  • Plot Overview: A wandering plot through three novellas.
    • A coming of age story as Vanyel finds himself. His dream of becoming a bard, and then failing. And his finding of Tylendel and falling in love.
    • Vanyel finding happiness at court with his secret lover, Tylendel.
    • The aftermath of a the horrible death of Tylendel. Vanyel’s world is turned upside down, and horribly ruined as Tylendel dies and Vanyel must find his own way through the world. The last act follows Vanyel as he slowly heals and discovers his newly unlocked powers.
  • Plot discussion: the wondering plot, which is characteristics of this era of science fiction/fantasy. The death of Tylendel occurs at the middle of the book, but it wonders afterward and doesn’t peak as dramatically.

Upcoming Episodes

  • 11/22 – 2021 Hugo Award for Short Story Nominees
  • 12/6 – The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • 12/20 – And then there were n-1 by Sarah Pinsker – read to the novella here






Ep076 – House of the Spirits Part 2

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende Part 2

Isaac and Reid continue their discussion of House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. The second half of the book follows Esteban and his children, and grand child. The book follows the family conflicts and the military coup that occurs in the government.

Discussed this Episode

  • Foreshadowing and pacing. When the coup story plot occurs, it happens fast. These events were foreshadowed earlier in the story by alluding to events yet to take place; however, the physical actions were not foreshadowed.
  • A Look into Revolution. The coup that occurs in the story is roughly based on the 1973 Chilean Coup. Allende displays the precursors and aftermath of the coup, and not just what happened from a political standpoint, but also what happened to the under-privileged.

Upcoming Episodes

  • 11/8 – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • 11/22 – The 2021 Hugo Nominations for Best Short Story
  • 12/6 – The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker


Ep076 – House of the Spirits Part 1 by Isabel Allende

House of the Spirits Part 1 by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende’s debut novel, House of the Spirits, is a journey in magical realism. House of the Spirits follows four generations of the Trueba family against the backdrop of an unspecified South American country (Chile). In this first discussion of the story, Isaac and Reid dig into the first five chapters of the story, which focus on Esteban Trueba, as he rebuilds his family’s estate, marries Blanca, and begins to raise his family.

Discussed this Episode

  • The rudeness of Esteban. Esteban is not a nice person, and how to do write a “bad” character? Make them do bad stuff. Show them doing bad things. Here Esteban exhibits all of the worst traits of toxic masculinity. He rapes at least one servant. He is incredibly violent, directly striking servant or others; or indirectly by hiring others to do violence on his behalf.
    • You have to make a character redeemable. Perhaps the only redeemable quality is that Esteban is good at management, and he was able to bring the family estate back from ruin.
    • Additionally, Esteban doesn’t see himself as a bad person. He believes everything he does is perfect. That the hard work he does justifies taking whatever he wants.
  • Point of View mixture.  The book is interestingly written in both first and third person perspective. Several sections are written in first person from the point of view of Esteban and his grandchild Alba. The remainder of the story is written in third person.
    • The third person perspectives are written in a storytelling tone that dives into the details of the characters. The narrator in the third person moments gives opinions and insights to the characters and relationship between the characters.
    • The first person perspectives are in past tense and Esteban and Alba reflect on their family. These two points of view carry the weight of the events that have not yet happened. There is much sadness, doubt, and concern – or most of the time with Esteban, we just get his perspective of how he is the savior to the world.

Leave it to the Prose

Leave it to the Prose is a podcast dedicated to the discussion of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. Every other week Issac and Reid discuss a work of fiction (short story or longer form) from the perspective of a reader and a writer.

Upcoming Episodes

  • 11/1 – House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende part 2
  • 11/8 – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey




Ep075 – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Before Lord of the Rings there was The Hobbit. To many The Hobbit is the cornerstone work of fantasy writing, introducing readers to the high fantasy realm of Middle Earth. JRR Tolkien originally published The Hobbit in 1937 and ever since it has remained among the popular works of fantasy. The Hobbit is the story of a hobbit who is accompanied by many dwarves to get to an ancient dwarven kingdom and reclaim a treasure.

Discussed this episode

  • Episodic Nature. The Hobbit in many ways follows an episodic structure where each chapter has little to do with one another besides that every encounter that occurs is on the path towards The Lonely Mountain. Every 40 pages the dwarves encounter a new enemy or puzzle and it is either their over powered wizard or tiny hobbit that saves the day.
  • Narrative Voice. The story is told by a storyteller, who at times breaks the forth wall to explain certain details of the world. In the beginning hobbits are explained, and then later on ways of elves and dwarves and men and dragons. The Hobbit plays to a younger audience because there is helper text that the storyteller is happy to dive into.
  • What is focused on. There are interesting choices that Tolkien makes when diving into details. For example the dwarves encounter a stash of ancient swords, of which two are given powerful names. Gondolin as an ancient elven kingdom is mentioned. There is an old raven. But the elven king doesn’t get a name (within the text). It is interesting how there are certain aspects of the larger wold Tolkien chooses to intertwine within this story and what elements are left out.

Also Discussed

  • This is not our first work of Tolkien discussed, do check out our episode on The Fall of Gondolin.

Upcoming Episodes

  • 10/25 – House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende Part 1.
  • 11/1 – House of the Spirits Part 2.
  • 11/8 – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Leave it to the Prose

We are leave it to the prose, a book discussion podcast where we break down the critical aspects of a work of fiction from a reader and writer perspective.




Ep074 – Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought by April Daniels

A modern superhero story. Dreadnought features Danny, our protagonist who gets the superhero mantel thrust upon her. But with the mantel came a body change. Danny physically become a woman, her ideal body. The story of Dreadnought follows Danny as she deals with the good and bad of not only having to take up the role of the most powerful superhero in the world but also coming out as a trans woman.

Discussed this Episode

  • The A and B plots
    • The A plot is a typical superhero mystery story. Who killed Dreadnought? How do we find the killer? In the A plot we explore why Danny wants to be a hero, how Danny seeks to be and do good.
    • The B plot is different from the typical superhero story. Typical superhero origin stories follow a character wanting to return to normalcy, but the mantel gives Danny her ideal body. Danny does not want to go back. The B plot follows Danny’s transition and her family’s reaction to her becoming a woman.
  • Danny’s very real story
    • How do you tell a real story? Use honesty. Within the B plot Danny is not accepted at home, but there are contradictions within this non-acceptance. For example Danny has a good scene with her mother when they go bra shopping, and suddenly the mother could be a supportive figure.
    • The B story is a retelling of many coming out stories. From initial hinting from Danny to the final confrontation where the parents say the all too real “how could you make this decision about us.” These are lines taken from real life.
    • Those who have gone through a coming out story will find validation in this book. Those who have not gone through a coming out story will experience first hand the frustrations, sadnesses, and triumphs of fighting to be yourself


Leave it to the Prose

We are leave it to the prose, a book discussion podcast where we break down the critical aspects of a work of fiction from a reader and writer perspective.

Ep073 – All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Martha Wells is an accomplished author, active since 1993. All Systems Red is the first work in the Murderbot series, a series that follows Murderbot as they are the security unit on a seemingly harmless planet. Of course the planet is not as harmless as it was reported to be, and as such a mystery unfolds as the scientist come into conflict with another dangerous faction on the planet. All Systems Red won the Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novella.

Discussed This Episode

  • What makes an award-winning work? – How Murderbot Shines.
    • All Systems Red contains a fine story, but the character of Murderbot shines through. Murderbot is an incredibly awkward security (killing-machine) robot, which stands in stark contrast to the assumption of what the reader would assume to be a murder-machine.
    • Murderbot is shown in various social situations where expectations of the scientists and Murderbot are on very different views. For example, the scientists believe that Murderbot would be more comfortable not wearing their helmet, but in fact Murderbot would prefer to wear their helmet. We see a growth in character as Murderbot slowly becomes more comfortable with the scientists. Especially in the beginning we get shown moments of Murderbot saying or acting in the wrong way, and feel the social cringe of how Murderbot would just want to go back to their cube and disappear.
    • The awkward feelings of Murderbot are often conveyed through extended monologues in Murderbot’s narrative of over analyzing the situation. We feel Murderbot’s extended train of thought, following the anxiety of the social interactions.
  • The growth of Murderbot
    • Through the reactions Murderbot has to the environment around them, we see Murderbot change their behavior; but Murderbot’s growth is shown through reactions and not necessarily like the traditional arc where Murderbot is the active decision choice.
    • Reactions of Murderbot transitions from “I am here for this contract” to “I don’t want to be beholden to a contract.”
    • The model of Agency/Capability/Likability change: Agency changes from Murderbot having no agency to more agency.

Also Mentioned in this Episode

Upcoming Episodes

Ep072 Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior is a ghost story of loss. Published in 2017, Jones explores how the event of a death of a father cascades into a young adult story of finding a way through life. Isaac and Reid strongly recommend this story.

Discussed this Episode

  • Displaying and showing loss and being alone.
    • Having people, but not really having to show aloneness. Junior has a family, but there is a caveat to each possible connection. Mother is only there during crisis moments. Brother is a younger brother with a mental disability. The ghost is friendly, but maybe not.
    • Showing potential that has been taken to emphasize loss: give the character a redemption arc that is never fulfilled. Junior’s father is given an entire future of becoming a celebrated dancer, despite not showing an interest. The act of dancing becomes Junior’s eventual goal, and there is a connection to the father as Junior pursues dancing. The loss is underlined every time Junior brings up the life that his father could have had.
  • The POV of Junior provides the characteristic of youth and allows for an unreliable narrator.
    • The reader and the narrator are on the same page. Junior does not hide information from the reader, instead the story of discovery is felt and taken at the same pace with Junior.
    • Junior’s youth conveys the question of “is this magic real?” Is the ghost real? What killed the dogs? What supernatural elements coincide with real world events?
    • Junior is still a kid and doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t have all of the information.
  • Given the length
  • One to one substitution of Mapping the Interior and The Turn of the Screw in school curriculum.


Ep071 The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

An expansion of the Arthurian Mythos, The Buried Giant follows an elderly couple as they begin to remember a past they had forgotten. Kazuo Ishiguro, a winner of the Booker Award, and author of such works as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, explores a world of a forgetting mist a world of swords and sorcery.

Episode Discussion

  • Focus on the journey, not the destination. The main couple seek the village where their son traveled to and lived; but, along the way each interaction is another story from side characters.
    • The characters that are met simply exist to tell their stories, but each story for the most part is an independent story.
    • Distance from the action. Character stories are buried within other character stories, and in order to get to the plot point.
  • Full Circle. The story has one story which comes back around, and that is the story of the boatman. The boatman can only take one person at a time, unless there is great love, at which point there can be two taken at a time.
    • The book can be framed as a short story with a novel in the middle of it.

Ep070 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

What does the mass production of biology look like, and what are its consequences? These are the questions proposed in the 1931 book by Aldous Huxley: Brave New World.

Episode Discusion:

  • What were our first introductions to Dystopian Fiction? (The Giver, 1984, Harrison Bergeron – by Kurt Vonnegut)
  • A broad overview of classical dystopian fiction (Brave New World, We, 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, The Water Knife, IQ85) vs more modern Young Adult Science Fiction Fantasy (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Red Rising, Trail of Lightning).
  • Literary Perspective of Brave New World – How does a novel use story-telling elements to make a philosophical point.
    • What is the theme?
      • Reid Interpretation: What does the mass production of biology look like and result in? — In service of stability.
      • Isaac Interpretation: What would it look like if leadership of society could exhibit control down to the level of thoughts?
    • Theme Conveyed: Contrast of Characters
      • Each character lays on a spectrum of complete love and adherence to the society to the opposite and complete dissidence with the society. In how these characters interact the reader is able to contrast the different location of each of these characters on this spectrum. Bernard feels apart from this world and seeks something more, but compared to Hemholtz, Bernard is more self-centered. John cannot stand the society where his mother when allowed to return cannot imagine leaving it again.
    • Theme Conveyed: Villain Monologue
      • Mustufa Mond at the climax of the story provides the monologue of why the society must exist as it does.
      • A Platonic Dialogue where we care about the characters: John – and his disgust at the world; Hemholtz – and his desire to seek something more.
  • Philosophical Perspective of Brave New World
    • An argument for portions of this book being true today.
    • What are the “societal” pressures currently placed on people?

Upcoming Episodes

Ep069 Izzy Wasserstein Short Stories

Short Stories of Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is a prolific new writer, writing and publishing over twenty-five short stories in the past four years! In this episode we discuss three short stories.

Episode Discussion

  • Dead at the Feet of a God – read it on Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    • A story written in reverse chronological order. Wasserstein plays with linear narrative by revealing additional information by going back in time. By wrapping a past with a return to the present the reader gets a clear juxtaposition between the world of the past and the world of the present and the motivation of the main character.
      • The world of the past builds on the additional loss of the main character. Of meeting and possibly falling in love, and then going farther back to see that the society has changed into this worship of this new god.
      • How the theme of “chipping away” ties in with the character by utilizing this non-linear juxtaposition between past and present.
  • Pattern Recognition – read it on Daily Science Fiction
    • A work of anti-humor, where an expectation is set up and then is intentionally not resolved.
      • The dangers of anti-humor. Once the punch line of the joke is known, you cannot have it used on you again. The length of setup of the joke must be taken into account so as to not appear that you’re wasting the audience’s time.
  • Like Birdsong, the Memory of Your Touch – read it on Fantasy Magazine
    • A stream of consciousness.
    • Isaac and Reid dig into the possibilities of the meanings in this abstract weaving of thoughts.

Upcoming Episodes

  • 8/2/2021 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • 8/16/201 – The Buried Giant by Kazua Ishiguro