Take the French and Indian War. Change the names of the people and places. Add in a dose of magick and a dragon (wurm). Mix in a methodical opponent wTake the French and Indian War. Change the names of the people and places. Add in a dose of magick and a dragon (wurm). Mix in a methodical opponent with frightening powers, intrigue that crosses an ocean, a prince more interested in research than expectations, brave young men relearning the world around them, stubborn persistence in the face of peril and the end result is At the Queen's Command.
Michael Stackpole has created a riveting world that parallels our own with the first of his books in Crown Colonies. As a former history major, I enjoyed comparing what I knew of this time period (the 1760s) and the world portrayed in these pages. Change is brewing on many fronts, political and cultural.
Owen Strake arrives in Mystria on assignment to survey the wilderness after weeks of ocean travel. A combat veteran and nephew of a powerful Duke, Owen is used to a life of being slighted by those who look down upon his father's Mystrian heritage. He's not used to being looked down upon for being a soldier of the Crown or for wanting to follow orders. He's horrified to learn that most expect him not to make the survey at all, to hire men to do the work for him and those men not to accomplish the job either. The purpose of the survey is to better know the lands of Mystria in the event of war with Tharyngia (the Crown Colonies version of France).
Owen's persistence to do his job earns him a number of enemies, starting with the Colonel stationed in the town of Temperance. Owen's manner impresses Prince Vlad, nephew of the Queen. He is set out on his mission with the aid of one Nathaniel Woods, an outsider with little use for society. Alongside Nathaniel is Kamiskwa of the Altashee tribe. On the journey, the group discovers a variety of disturbing evidence and comes under attack. When they survey the bodies after the attack, one of the men is someone who died two years earlier. More fearsome yet is a fort being constructed by Du Malphias, a Ryngian commander of ill report from the continent. Owen, injured severely, gives himself up to capture so Nathaniel and Kamiskwa can get news back to Vlad.
After Owen's captivity, other characters start providing point of view chapters. At first, I found this disorienting. It was a good choice for the book in that story widens and one character's viewpoint would not accurately convey the complexity of the conflict. The arrival of additional characters from Norisle adds to the drama, specifically with young Lord Rivendell, a foppish fool incapable of reading the dangers before him and bent on glory. Manipulating Rivendell, Vladimir and Owen is the influential Duke of Deathridge. As a campaign against Du Malphias unfolds, the Mystrians struggle to find any way to survive when the Norillians do not listen, supplies are weeks behind and the enemy has undead servants.
The conclusion moves quickly. From reading other books by Michael Stackpole, I suspect there is a twist of trouble ahead for these characters in future books. I look forward to the release of the second book in October 2011 to see how this tangled web moves forward. ...more
The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde is one that I find a lot of enjoyment in with its mad cap action, book jumping, dastardly villains, inventioThe Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde is one that I find a lot of enjoyment in with its mad cap action, book jumping, dastardly villains, inventions and satire. I especially enjoy the interaction with all the different Book World characters that have no business knowing each other.
While I think my favorite in the series remains The Well of Lost Plots, I found this to be a great addition to the series. The Book World had an upgrade so there is now geography between the books. While this has led to a reduction in direct book jumping, it does make for some very interesting scenes in the adventure, including an almost disastrous episode in a mimefield (Yes, mimefield not minefield--Mimes are dangerous).
This book follows the written Thursday Next, the A-8 character who plays Thursday in her series of books. The written Thursday is far more huggy, more peaceful than the one in the real world. She has to deal with a fractious book cast, which is terrorized by a cantankerous dodo. While trying to train and rein an understudy who is terrified by multiple readers, the written Thursday is also trying to figure out the whereabouts of the real Thursday after a red-haired character declares her missing.
Aided by Sprockett, a robot butler she saved from a stoning in Conspriacy, Thursday struggles to solve an accident case where part of a book crashed to ground. A bed setting survived the fall, but the scene debris has all had its isbns destroyed. Thursday's been told to wrap up the case quickly, to not make a big splash with the case. she find she can't let it alone.
Throw in the dangerously suspicious Men in Plaid, a brewing multi-genre war, a book mutiny, and a trip into the Real World, One of Our Thursdays is Missing is a great romp through literary fantasy. Written Thursday is pressed to her limits when tossed into meeting Landen and the real Thursday's kids while trying to figure out where the real Thursday could be. On written Thursday's side is her uncanny resemblance to the real Thursday. More troubling is that she has the real Next Jurisfiction badge instead of the fake she's always carried.
For those uninitiated to the series, this would not be the best book to start with as there are references throughout to the previous books, mostly in the form of written Thursday wanting her books to be more like the events in real Thursday's life. For fans of the series, there is a brief appearance by SpecOp agent Spike Stoker. There is sadly no Mycroft and only the fictional equivalent of Thursday's father.
My copy of One of Our Thursdays is Missing was a gift from a good friend....more
As a reader, I enjoy learning more about the worlds in which individual books and series take place. I suppose you could say I am a backstory junkie.As a reader, I enjoy learning more about the worlds in which individual books and series take place. I suppose you could say I am a backstory junkie. I also love fantasy and crime shows. Side Jobs fit into that perfectly. These stories and novellas coincide with The Dresden Files. Many of the stories have appeared in different anthologies or on Butcher's website. The stories span the length of the Dresden chronology with "A Restoration of Faith" coming before Storm Front and "Aftermath", a novella original to this book coming directly after the events of Changes.
Two of the stories in Side Jobs feature narrators other than Harry. "Back Up" is a novella about Thomas Raith, vampire and Harry's half-brother. It has one of my favorite quotes in it. "Harry's a Wizard. A genuine, honest-to-goodness wizard. He's Gandalf on crack and an IV of Red Bull, with a big leather coat and a .44 revolver in his pocket." This novella covers a lot of what Harry doesn't know - from White Court business to the ugly side of a case that could have went a lot worse. Thomas trying to get information out of Bob the skull is pretty amusing as well. "Aftermath" is narrated by Karrin Murphy, whose anguish over recent events is very real. She has to solve a supernatural case without Harry's assistance.
The Alphas, former college students who learned to turn themselves into wolves, show up in a number of stories, markedly in the rather disastrous events the day of Billy and Georgia's wedding, in "Aftermath", and in "Day Off". Michael, former bearer of one of the swords, features in the Warrior. His daughter Molly, Harry's apprentice, makes a few appearances as well.
I enjoyed reading how the different stories came about in Dresden's notes before each story. It becomes clear why some of them had the themes that they did. "Day Off" was for an anthology where authors of supernatural and horror fare tried a bit of comedy.
I have not yet read the entire series, but I am very much looking forward to reading Ghost Story after reading "Aftermath"....more