I agree with those who expected more of this book. Let me explain what I thought was wrong with it. There's lots of folklore in this book, but it has...moreI agree with those who expected more of this book. Let me explain what I thought was wrong with it. There's lots of folklore in this book, but it has no depth or vitality. It was like a mythology cartoon. It seemed to me as if the author herself had no real connection with any of it. The way to make it real is to show us a context in which the old Gods and Goddesses had real meaning in people's lives and weren't just folklore. Show us the way people lived with their deities. At one point, Galina asks "Was it possible to be so remote in time and circumstance that there was simply no overlap?" That's exactly Sedia's problem. She has no means of reaching or reconstructing the past. They are just quaint old stories. (less)
Is this a romance? I've seen other reviews say so, but there's a strong implication that there's no HEA (Happily Ever After). HEA is a defining charac...moreIs this a romance? I've seen other reviews say so, but there's a strong implication that there's no HEA (Happily Ever After). HEA is a defining characteristic of romance. There is such a thing as "dark fantasy" and it can have romantic relationships (e.g. work by Jacqueline Carey). I'm thinking that this book belongs more in the dark historical fantasy category than paranormal romance. It is an unconventional book and therefore difficult to categorize.
I really liked the concept of a slave being aided by a vampire. I loved the protagonist, Luna. She's such a strong woman. (view spoiler)[ My favorite scene is when she literally rides to the vampire's rescue. You don't see human women rescuing vampires in vampire romances. It violates the gender roles of the genre. The hero in a romance is male even in the 21st century. A 21st century romance heroine may be strong enough to rescue herself, but she can't be allowed to rescue him. Romance readers won't respect a man who needs to be rescued. (hide spoiler)] I also liked the portrayal of the vampire. So many paranormal romance vampires are oh so macho and annoying to me. This one has sensitivity like Yarbro's Saint Germain or Nick Knight in the TV series Forever Knight. I really appreciate that.
The book is focused on Lanith, Tredan's wife, who is an engaging heroine. The structure of magic and the author's fantasy world are interesting and we...moreThe book is focused on Lanith, Tredan's wife, who is an engaging heroine. The structure of magic and the author's fantasy world are interesting and well-constructed. It was a good read.(less)
An Appalachian setting practically guarantees that I will be seriously interested in a book. The Tufa of this novel are supposed to have been in the A...moreAn Appalachian setting practically guarantees that I will be seriously interested in a book. The Tufa of this novel are supposed to have been in the Appalachians before white Europeans arrived. They reminded me very much of Zenna Henderson's People, and I very much liked a number of the People stories. (view spoiler)[They are supposed to be Fae. If I had known that, I would never have read this book because I am practically allergic to traditional Fae. So for me, it's a good thing that the Tufa aren't in the least bit like traditional Fae. Bledsoe has humanized his Fae and thus made them more sympathetic. (hide spoiler)]
I noticed the comparison to Charles De Lint in some reviews. Like De Lint, Bledsoe has a great feeling for music and its power. I love the Tufa's magical use of music. That alone makes this a top rated book for me. ["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is definitely the best alternate history novel that I've read. I only recently discovered this sequel to a book that has been a favorite of mine....moreThis is definitely the best alternate history novel that I've read. I only recently discovered this sequel to a book that has been a favorite of mine.
The Secrets of Jin-sheicentered on a wonderful concept, but I confess that I can't remember a thing about the plot or the characters. It was jin-shei itself that was indelible.
I think that this sequel is the story that really needed to be told about jin-shei. It is the one thing from the past that could not be destroyed and needed to be carried forward into the future. My wish is that our world's China could internalize this lesson. (less)
I very much enjoyed Strandloper. Other readers might have trouble with the dialects in this novel. I was able to decipher them without much difficulty...moreI very much enjoyed Strandloper. Other readers might have trouble with the dialects in this novel. I was able to decipher them without much difficulty, but the author gives no explanations or assistance to readers. Garner’s radical divergence from history might disturb those who prefer their historical fiction to be closer to verifiable facts. When historical figures are fictionalized, it’s delightful when the result speaks to me on a personal level, and is congruent with my own values. This is a lovely fiction from my perspective. It reminds me of all those very compelling Pagan martyr fictions about Hypatia of Alexandria. It’s too bad that the truth about Hypatia is more complex. I am someone who tends to research historical fiction when I’m interested in the subject it covers. So I proceeded to uncover the truth about William Buckley, the historical protagonist of Strandloper. Please note that if you are searching for him on the internet, you should add Australia to your search terms to avoid being deluged with results related to the conservative pundit William F. Buckley.
Even though Strandloper can't be considered historically accurate, it was an amazingly good story. It also led me to learn a bit more about Australian history through the research I did on William Buckley after reading it. I'm glad I selected this book as my Australian read for the Around the World challenge.
For the complete review including discussion of the real William Buckley and historical resources about him, see the latest post on my new book blog at:
I read a number of reviews here and didn't see anyone mention the connection to The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Both books have the sa...moreI read a number of reviews here and didn't see anyone mention the connection to The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Both books have the same pioneering French filmmaker as a character, and both authors consider him a tremendous influence.
They are very different books, of course. Selznick's novel is historical fiction which was thoroughly researched and documented by the author. It could have happened. Malzieu's book is characterized by many as a steampunk fairy tale. It's almost a fairy tale, but there's a very important characteristic of fairy tales missing. There's no fairy tale ending. The prose of the English translation is beautiful and there are wonders described. I found it to be both enchanting and tragic. (less)
Most of these stories were either original or well-written, not both. I'm the sort of reader that is willing to forgive much if the concept of a story...moreMost of these stories were either original or well-written, not both. I'm the sort of reader that is willing to forgive much if the concept of a story delights me, but I really prefer the writing to be up to par. Well-written stories on familiar themes are enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.
Yet the very first tale in this anthology is exceptional. "The Character of the Hound" by Toni Pi which takes place in China during the Song Dynasty, deals with the concept that tattoos prepare the body for spirit possession. That concept really jazzes me and it was so well told. It makes the entire collection worthwhile.
Another story that stood out for me was "The Right To Eat Decent Food" by Urania Fong. It was inspired by the author's experiences as an American born Chinese teaching in China during the SARS epidemic. I found the story charming, deft and mordant. The major irony is that if these American teachers continue to think in the same way about "decent food", they are probably destined to have heart attacks at an early age. (less)
Each book in the Naamah trilogy was a great adventure. They also had the dimension of spirituality as well as socio-cultural themes. That's the way I...moreEach book in the Naamah trilogy was a great adventure. They also had the dimension of spirituality as well as socio-cultural themes. That's the way I like my fantasy.
We get to see alternate Aztecs and Incas in this novel as well as Mithraic Spaniards. The Spanish seemed to be the most similar to our universe. This doesn't surprise me. The Peruvian adventure was at times quite horrific, but the resolution was inspiring. (less)
I don't recommend the anthology as a whole. Many weren't fully developed fiction. There were actually several that seemed to be written as letters to...moreI don't recommend the anthology as a whole. Many weren't fully developed fiction. There were actually several that seemed to be written as letters to the editor. There were also quite a number that didn't hold my attention.
Yet I absolutely loved Aimee Bender's story, "The Color Master". It was written from the perspective of the tailors who created the dresses for the fairy tale "Donkeyskin". I found it riveting in its intensity.
There are three types of Arthurian novels that I have encountered. There are the Christian grail books which have to take an unusual approach to inter...moreThere are three types of Arthurian novels that I have encountered. There are the Christian grail books which have to take an unusual approach to interest me. There are the de-mythologizing novels that explain away the magical elements of the myth in realistic terms. These can be well-written, but they aren't the type of Arthurian fiction that I prefer. Among them are books that focus on Arthur as a military leader and are mainly composed of battle scenes. Lastly, there are the Arthurian fantasies that go back to pre-Christian sources of the myth and emphasize its magical components.
Mercedes Lackey has written a hybrid of the last two categories. There are historical elements based on research into the cultures of the Celts of ancient Britain, but there is also magic. There are humans performing magical spells, and the non-human denizens of Annwyn, an ancient Celtic name for the realm of Faerie. There is a great deal of focus on a military leader in this novel, but it isn't Arthur. It's the protagonist Gwenhwyfar. She is a strong character with whom I could identify. I especially loved the way she totally despised life at Arthur's court, and how much the superficiality of the ladies of the court bored her. I feel the same way about any novel that primarily deals with royal courts.
The only reason why this book doesn't get five stars is because of a conversation that Gwenhwyfar has with the Christian Abbot Gildas. It's terrific that she found common ground between her Paganism and his Christianity, but it bothered me that she seemed to have a very modern perspective on sacrifice. In most contemporary religious practices, including modern Neo-Paganism, sacrifice has been attenuated or is entirely absent. Ancient beliefs in cosmic balance have given way to the idea that sacrifice is no more than a macabre superstition. That is the attitude that Lackey's Gwenhwyfar expresses. The reason why the shift in attitudes about sacrifice is important is because it was bound up in the relationship of humanity toward nature and the animals with whom we share this planet. Sacrificial offerings were meant to respect the spirit of the place where it was made and of the beings (both plant and animal kinds)that we kill in order to live. Traditional practitioners of the religions of first peoples are in continuity with this idea. The lack of any concept of sacrifice as an acknowledgment is both a cause and an effect of our distance from nature. It has led to ecological destruction and climate change. Our species will eventually be destroyed because so many of us have forgotten what our ancestors knew about sacrifice. Gwenhwyfar was brought up with a completely different world view. I would have thought that she would have understood sacrifice and that she would have expressed that understanding to Gildas in a way that he could understand--perhaps by referring to the Crucifixion and its symbolic re-creation in the Christian mass.
The concept kept me reading, but I found the characterization flat until the band of our heroes were cursed in a very interesting way that brought bot...moreThe concept kept me reading, but I found the characterization flat until the band of our heroes were cursed in a very interesting way that brought both the characters and a number of folk ballads alive. From that point on, I fell in love with the book. There were a number of wonderful scenes. I was reminded of a series of folk ballad mysteries by Deborah Grabien. This book deals with some of the same ballads that Grabien has focused on. I also liked the presence of the ghost of Sir Walter Scott who gets to explore his own family history in an unexpected way. (less)