[Note: This review was originally written in 2007.]
I opened to the title page of The Summoner, where the author had written in my copy, "Thank you for...more[Note: This review was originally written in 2007.]
I opened to the title page of The Summoner, where the author had written in my copy, "Thank you for believing." I gave her comment only cursory thought at the time, but it only took the reading of a few pages before I began to believe in Martin’s well-developed fantasy world and in her ability to lead her readers through it with an enchanting grace that obscures the fact that this is her first published novel.
This epic fantasy quest begins with a bloody and violent coup d'état on "Haunts", an evening of festivities when the line that separates the living from the dead blurs and ghosts walk freely among the living. The King of Margolan and his family are slain by order of the heir to the throne, Prince Jared, and the cruel and avaricious prince seizes power. After routing those loyal to the old king, King Jared is left with one small matter remaining: Jared’s younger half-brother, Prince Martris Drayke, has survived the coup and has escaped along with a handful of trusted friends.
"Tris" and his tiny band of followers prove to be elusive and, as the young prince begins discovering the true strength of his heritage, he learns that some of his greatest allies do not dwell in the lands of the living. Tris slowly gains the knowledge and control he will need in order to master the powers of a summoner -— a necromancer. He also learns difficult lessons in the laws, limits, and responsibilities that come with such potent magical power. Meanwhile, as he continues his mission to find a means to remove his half-brother from Margolan’s throne, Tris learns that Jared may not be his most dangerous foe. Another sorcerer of great power, one of the immortal vayash moru, is allied with the Margolan usurper and is setting in motion his plan to awaken and unleash the Obsidian King, thereby plunging the world into a reign of darkness. Tris finds that he must prepare for battles of both physical and magical nature. We learn, as do the young necromancer’s allies, that their fates are deeply intertwined and all will share together in triumph or defeat.
Although one might be tempted to describe a great deal of The Summoner as standard fantasy fare, such a generalization would be a misstatement and an injustice. Martin’s work easily rises above the standard due to the care she has taken in presenting the interaction between the living, the dead, and the undead. The background and detail evident in several of these encounters suggest that they could be easily expanded into novels or novellas and, perhaps, a prequel will appear someday. For now, however, we can be thankful for this breath of new life Martin has summoned into the fantasy genre. After the first few pages, I thought the author’s greatest strengths were a knack for character development and the creation of splendid settings. I was wrong. As I progressed through the tale, I soon found myself adding to my initial list of the author’s skills, admitting gladly that Martin’s command of foreshadowing, suspense, and intricate plot development are also noteworthy. The world, the characters that populate it, the social structures, and the laws of magic are all well conceived and skillfully presented by the author. The Summoner is the first volume of what Martin calls "The Chronicles of the Necromancer" and will be continued in The Blood King, due for release in January 2008. If The Summoner is indicative of what adventures lie ahead in this series, Gail Z. Martin is certain to keep her readers entranced from page one to the finale. (less)
In the city of Twailin a power struggle has been heating up for years. The fate of the city hangs in the balance as the Duke, others of the noble families, and factions of the Guilds ruthlessly vie for supremacy. The chessboard is cluttered with numerous pawns, but one very special pawn might sway the battle. But who will control this pawn?
Per the exacting instructions of the mysterious Grandfather, a weapon is fashioned. Through the painstaking labor of the wizard, Corillian, a perfect killing machine is created. Over the span of years, an innocent babe is transformed into a flawless, nameless assassin. He is simply “the weapon.” As a result of the wizard’s magic, the weapon has no emotion, feels no pain, moves silently, leaves no traces of his passing, and enjoys enhanced senses, agility, and strength. Grievous wounds knit and heal in moments. The weapon is trained by masters of the various martial arts in all forms of combat, armed and unarmed. His training does not include the clutter of social skills or human emotions. He has but one purpose: to kill.
This weapon is readied for delivery to a new master who will wield it to his advantage. But Corillian fails to deliver the weapon to this new owner, and a nameless young man, who knows nothing of the world and thousands of ways to end a human life, finds he must find his destiny on his own.
Based on his first brief encounters with society, the weapon makes the assumption that his name must be Lad. He thrills in his newfound autonomy, but Lad is unaware that the Grandfather’s hunters track him, intent on locating and capturing him alive—at any cost—by any means. After nearly two decades of waiting, the Grandfather is impatient to try out his new weapon. The Grandfather’s agenda remains a secret, even to his closest underlings, but there is no doubt that Lad, the weapon of flesh, is integral to the plan’s success.
Lad, through the controlled process of his creation, is like no other young man this, or any other, world has known. This fact was not lost on the author, who offers his readers the stark realities of a world rife with magic, intrigue, assassins, and death. This is not a tale for children, nor is it for those of meek demeanor. It is an often-dark exploration of man’s emotions, desires, hopes and downfalls. It is a clash of a wizard’s arcane spells and the magic of love, a battle of innocence against soul-consuming evil. The author’s treatment of the book’s characters is both consistent and insightful, allowing one to easily empathize with the heroes and loathe the villains. Some of Jackson’s characters fit neatly into one of those categories. Others, however, occupy that grey area between, adding spice to this tale as we struggle to sort them out. Weapon of Flesh is a fabulous tale of medieval fantasy that will leave readers begging for more from author Chris A Jackson.
I probably should have given The Coming of the Walrus only four stars. However, I'm allowing my personal tastes to override my critical sensibilities...moreI probably should have given The Coming of the Walrus only four stars. However, I'm allowing my personal tastes to override my critical sensibilities and awarding it that fifth star. Why? Just because I enjoyed it so much... After all, isn't that what reading is all about?
The Coming of the Walrus is the definitive novel for those who were born too late to experience the 60’s, or for those who fondly recall the 60’s, or even those who lived it but were too stoned then to remember any of it now. Here is author James Riordan’s hilarious tale of Dave Chalmers and his harrowing search for the greatest truth of all.
Dave Chalmers is a burned-out former reporter for Rolling Stone magazine. A fateful meeting with over-aged roadie Tom-Tom Brubaker at a concert in The Who’s “last” tour sets in motion a chain of improbable events and meetings. When Tom-Tom’s body turns up at the morgue following the concert, Dave Chalmers begins piecing together clues to a greater mystery and sets out on a personal quest to discover the identity of the legendary Walrus of Beatles song fame.
Chalmers, a reluctant, ill-prepared, and delightfully unlikely hero, soon finds himself whisked along on a wild, globe-hopping carnival ride of discovery—a roller coaster with angels and demons wrestling for the controls. Why are they interested in a nobody like Dave, you might ask? The answer is deceptively simple. Chalmers is determined to uncover the secret of the Walrus, to rediscover the source of all the “goodness” that existed in the 60’s and, perhaps, to satisfy his foot fetish or a few other fantasies. To make matters worse, Dave’s motivation for embarking on this quest is an enigma that even he cannot fathom. The author, skillfully stretching and manipulating even the most outrageous fables and conspiracy theories of the 60’s, soon has his readers hoping—and occasionally believing—that there actually may be something to the Walrus Myth.
In the broadest terms, The Coming of the Walrus is a tale well worth reading. If not for some adult language, situations, and themes, I would have recommended this novel to anyone who can lay hands on a copy. One should be aware at the outset, however, that it is meant for mature readers who are comfortable in knowing that their humor gyroscopes may be more than a couple degrees out of calibration. My initial impression of the book, based on its appearance and rather limited information about it, was very enthusiastic. As a reader, I was not disappointed by this fast-paced, madcap tale that reminds me of a quirky melding of The Da Vinci Code and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A great deal of the book’s charm rests in the raw feel of the work. Surprisingly, the over-sized, trade paperback format and a few scattered typos within add to its immediacy and appeal. The often-humorous revelations about human nature, presented through Dave Chalmers’ experiences, also have impact of a serious nature. After reading The Coming of the Walrus, it is easy to find oneself contemplating the big picture and marveling at the monumental battles between good and evil that raged in the 1960’s.
Even with the abundant humor straining to burst from between the covers of this book, readers can still believe that, perhaps, not everything about the Walrus is mere legend. Perhaps even peace, love, and understanding… So, dear readers, dive in for a swim with this Walrus, but watch out for the Roly-Poly Man! (less)
Nearly forgotten in today’s modern world, the old gods live on. They exist in those shadowy and obscure pl...moreA Delightfully Entertaining Modern Mythology
Nearly forgotten in today’s modern world, the old gods live on. They exist in those shadowy and obscure places far from the limelight, and their power has waned, but they live on. In Anansi Boys, Fat Charlie Nancy discovers this fact much to his surprise and discomfort. The circumstances of Fat Charlie’s ordered life shift drastically and humorously as author Neil Gaiman leads us through a wild and wacky tale that teeters on the brink of what is real and what is not of this world.
Fat Charlie is not at all fat, yet he cannot rid himself of the unflattering nickname his father bestowed on him. He has done all he can humanly do to distance himself from his father, an eccentric and embarrassing old man, including a move to England to put an ocean between them. Fat Charlie hasn’t spoken to his father in years, but Rosie, his fiancée, pressures Fat Charlie into inviting the much senior Nancy to their fast-approaching wedding. In his conversation with an old neighbor, Mrs. Higgler, Fat Charlie learns his father has died suddenly and unexpectedly—not to mention embarrassingly—on a karaoke stage. Fat Charlie returns to Florida to pay his last respects and bury his father, although he hadn’t planned on doing quite that much shoveling. While in Florida, Fat Charlie learns the utterly unbelievable truth about his father. And the truth is that old Mr. Nancy was none other than Anansi the Trickster, a god from the beginnings of time itself. As if that news were not enough, Fat Charlie also learns that he is not, as he had always believed, his father’s only son.
It is only after he returns to England that Fat Charlie meets this brother, Spider, and the pleasantly drab life Fat Charlie had so carefully woven begins to unravel in an series of bizarre events that defy explanation using any known natural laws of the universe. At the forefront of all of Fat Charlie’s difficulties is his carefree brother, who appears to be a magnet for mischief and mayhem. The author points to two critical forces that drive the events in Fat Charlie’s life. First, "Human beings do not like being pushed about by gods. They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside, underneath it all, they sense it, and they resent it." And, second, there is an ancient rivalry between Anansi and Tiger—-a bitter enmity between elder gods that now centers on Fat Charlie.
Anansi Boys, Gaiman’s side-splitting sequel to American Gods, is a tale to be treasured for the author’s keen wit, stinging irony, and inimitable blend of dark and whimsical humor. But be very cautious; once you’ve read Anansi Boys, you’ll be tempted to read it again…just to be sure Anansi, the trickster god, hasn’t changed the story since you closed the cover.
A Neil Gaiman Feast... As if he had written it expressly for those who think they have no reason to read an anthology, author Neil Gaiman presents a s...moreA Neil Gaiman Feast... As if he had written it expressly for those who think they have no reason to read an anthology, author Neil Gaiman presents a smorgasbord of thirty-one very good reasons in Fragile Things. While this collection of short fiction cannot provide the same experience as feasting on one of his novels, it does allow a reader the time to savor and digest each delicate morsel before moving on to the next bite. What a delightful literary meal!
In Fragile Things, Gaiman serves up an erratically varied stew of short fiction, which, for some readers, may be somewhat unsettling. Perhaps foreseeing this possibility, the author has included an informative and entertaining introduction that is useful in appreciating the pieces presented thereafter. These tidbits, introductory background notes regarding each tale or bit of poetry, are helpful in the reader’s full understanding of the author’s work. It is within the introduction, also, that one discovers which pieces have been awarded critical recognition, such as Locus Award-winning “October in the Chair”, or Hugo Award-winning “A Study in Emerald”, the latter an unusual blending of H.P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In predictably unpredictable Gaiman fashion, a thirty-second short piece, “The Mapmaker”, is found tucked neatly into the introduction.
The range of subject matter is wide, yet the voice throughout is unmistakably Gaiman: his stories contain an irrational plausibility that seems to stem from the ease with which he appears to write. To entertain his fans and to entice new readers, the author offers his readers appetizers such as a trip to hell in “Other People” and a brief foray into the world of filmdom’s “The Matrix” in the short story “Goliath”. Those who are familiar with Gaiman’s earlier work will revel in Gaiman’s tales and in the poems scattered between them. As an added incentive for his followers to remain faithful, the author closes the anthology with “The Monarch of the Glen”, a novella that revisits the world and main character made popular in his earlier, widely acclaimed novel, American Gods.
The poems and short stories nestled between the covers of Fragile Things afford glimpses of the author’s creativity; each view comes from a slightly different perspective, under varied shades of light and dark, and yet all are seen through the same prism—that fragile thing that is Neil Gaiman’s boundless imagination. This collection will become a welcome addition on the shelf of any Gaiman fan, and is an open invitation to the uninitiated. Welcome to the banquet. There’s a place at the head of the table just for you, dear reader.
Some books, though the details of which are hazy in my memory, remain notable simply because I remember that I enjoyed reading them at the time. Louis...moreSome books, though the details of which are hazy in my memory, remain notable simply because I remember that I enjoyed reading them at the time. Louise Cooper's The Book of Paradox is one such novel. Perhaps, someday, I will read it again to see if it has managed to weather the test of time. Luckily, I shall not have to hunt for a copy. I have kept the copy I read over a quarter-century ago because I enjoyed it so much "back in the day".
Maybe 2012 will be a good year for revisiting selected old favorites.(less)
A very quick read and worth even more time than it takes to get to the final page. "Sorcerer's Legacy" stands as an impressive first foray as an autho...moreA very quick read and worth even more time than it takes to get to the final page. "Sorcerer's Legacy" stands as an impressive first foray as an author. Janny Wurts possesses a beautifully broad vocabulary that lends itself well to the telling of this (or any other) tale. The duel between two sorcerers in chapter nine is particularly impressive as an example of immersing your audience in the moment -- I was almost afraid to take my eyes from the page for fear of seeing a magical battle raging in the room with me.
Janny - I know you're out there, so here's what I really think: "Sorcerer's Legacy" is a GREAT book of wizardry, court intrigue, love, and tragedy (in spite of the "ho-hum" artwork on this particular edition). I was disappointed in the fact that I didn't discover you as an author until quite recently, and now I will have to make an effort to catch up. Thank you for this thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future... as soon as real life allows...(less)