There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shaThere are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead. —Arthur Machen (quoted as an introduction to “The Horror at Red Hook”)
Everyone must read a little Lovecraft and Blackstone Audio’s recently published edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft is, in my opinion, the perfect way to do that. Like re-animated corpses, Lovecraft’s most popular stories from the 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines are brought back to life by some of the best readers in the business: Paul Michael Garcia, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Adam ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi......more
The Secret of the Key appears to be the final book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS adventures. This children’s series has been a bit of a disapThe Secret of the Key appears to be the final book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS adventures. This children’s series has been a bit of a disappointment for me and the only reason I have continued with it is that I requested a review copy of the audiobook edition of this final book and so I felt obligated to read it. As I have noted previously, and as Bill and Kelly have mentioned, the premise is fabulous, but the execution falls short.
The stories follow Ruthie and Jack, two sixth graders who find a way to shrink and explore the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. The two likable kids discover that the... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi......more
Rebel Angels is the second volume in Libba Bray’s trilogy about Gemma Doyle, a teenage girl who attends a finishing school in Victorian England. The mRebel Angels is the second volume in Libba Bray’s trilogy about Gemma Doyle, a teenage girl who attends a finishing school in Victorian England. The magic she inherited from her mother, a member of the secretive Order, allows her to enter the Realms, a beautiful fantasy world where she is able to control her surroundings. In the first volume, A Great and Terrible Beauty, Gemma arrives at school after her mother’s death and deals with all the usual things you’d expect to find in a YA novel about a boarding school. At first she is shunned by Felicity and Pippa, the two most beautiful and popular girls in the school, from whom she must bravely and nobly defend her roommate Ann, the overweight unpopular scholarship student. (These characters are present in just about every YA boarding school novel I’ve ever read.) When Felicity and Pippa find out that Gemma can ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi......more
The Sweet Far Thing is the final book in Libba Bray’s GEMMA DOYLE trilogy about four girls at a boarding school in Victorian England. Gemma has inherited a magic that allows her to cross over to the Realms, the fantasy world that’s the source of her magic. She and her friends Felicity, Pippa, and Ann have been trying to keep the magic safe from people who might use it to unleash horrors upon the real world, yet Gemma has promised to share the magic with the people who have helped her so far. In this book she must figure out how to do both of those things at the same time.
As The Sweet Far Thing begins, Gemma and Felicity are getting ready to finish school and enter genteel society where eventually they’ll be expected to take on the roles of wives and mothers. Ann will suffer a worse fate — she is to be the governess for a wealthy cousin’s brats. All three girls feel powerless, which is why they sometimes use the magic for both noble and selfish purposes. It’s easy to see how they could be seduced by the power of the magic.
As the girls are contemplating their futures, the East Wing of Spence Academy, which burned down twenty years ago when Gemma’s mother lived there, is being rebuilt. An old gypsy woman who lives in the woods tries to warn the workers and the headmistress that rebuilding the wing will open our world to evil powers. Meanwhile, when Gemma and friends visit the Realms, they find that Pippa, who now lives there, is acting strangely. In fact, everyone is acting a little strange and Gemma has no idea who she can trust. Alliances are shifting, people she thought were friends turn out to be enemies, and vice versa.
In my opinion, The Sweet Far Thing is a mess. I liked this series best when it dealt with the mundane world of Victorian England and the way that three young girls struggled with their lack of power in their society. Bray does a nice job with that part. When she brings in the magical elements, however, everything becomes nebulous and unstructured and, unfortunately, most of this long (way too long) book is about the fight over the magic of the Realms. When we visit there, I never feel grounded. It’s not clear what Gemma and others can and can’t do with the magic, why Gemma sometimes chooses to use the magic and sometimes doesn’t, who can and can’t use it, and what the rules are for its use. Also, we’re never sure until the end who’s on which side and people seem to keep changing sides and motives, at least in Gemma’s mind. I wasn’t sure why some important things happened the way they did or why Gemma’s friends were sometimes being so immature and disloyal. There are other specific plot elements that really didn’t work, but mentioning them would give away some of the plot’s twists. I’ll just say that I was never convinced about anything that was happening. I felt that way for hours as Gemma wallowed in confusion and indecision for hundreds of pages before finally dragging the story to an unpleasant and unsatisfying (but merciful) ending.
Though the GEMMA DOYLE series started off well enough with A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels, they don’t stand alone and they are not good enough to justify reading this insufferable ending. The audiobooks I read were brilliantly narrated by Josephine Bailey, but even her gorgeous voice couldn’t make me enjoy The Sweet Far Thing. Therefore, I just can’t recommend this series....more
Wisp of a Thing is Alex Bledsoe’s second stand-alone novel about the Tufa, an ancient race of magically gifted swarthy rural folk who live in the Smoky Mountains of Cloud County, Tennessee and may have descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann. You don’t need to read the first book, The Hum and the Shiver, though it’s worth your while and you’ll get a little more out of Wisp of a Thing if you recognize a couple of characters who make cameo appearances in this second book.
This story focuses on Rob Quillen, a musician who became popular after the country watched him experience a personal tragedy on a national TV reality show. Rob has come to Cloud County because a mysterious man told him that’s where he can find a song of healing. He knows it’s a long-shot, but Rob has nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.
As soon as Rob arrives, he realizes that strange things happen in Cloud County. The first person he meets is a feral girl who lives in the woods. Then he meets a vacationing couple that he hears fighting before the wife disappears. There’s a Tufa man who seems to have special power over women and another man who thinks he should make decisions for the whole clan, but there’s also a small cadre of women who wield some sort of magic that gives them a quiet but obvious authority. There’s a family of mean “white trash” folks, a disappearing graveyard, a dangerous cave on the side of a cliff, and an ancient curse that will take effect when the wind tugs the last leaf from the Widow’s Tree.
Rob unwittingly gets involved in all of these weird events and the treacherous factions of the Tufa as he faces the truth about himself, deals with his guilt and loss, and searches for a song that might mend his broken heart and let him move on. His experience with the Tufa will change him, but his presence among them will also, in turn, change the Tufa. Wisp of a Thing is a lovely haunting fairy tale about love and loss, the pressure of culture and tradition, and the power of language, music and dance. The characters are intriguing, the plot is mysterious, and the prose is evocative. The unusual rural Southern setting is dark and eerie. Next time I travel through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I’ll be on the lookout for those suspicious black-haired swarthy people, and if they start singing, I know I’ll be entranced.
I liked Wisp of a Thing even better than The Hum and the Shiver, mainly because I liked Rob and some of the other characters more than I liked Bronwyn, the protagonist of that first book. If you liked The Hum and the Shiver, you must read this one but, again, you don’t have to read The Hum and the Shiver first. Wisp of a Thing stands alone well enough. The audio version of Wisp of a Thing is narrated by Stefan Rudnicki who is perfect for this role. As always, I loved his performance....more
Widow’s Web is book seven in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. I wasn’t too impressed with book six, By a Thread, but I continue to read theWidow’s Web is book seven in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. I wasn’t too impressed with book six, By a Thread, but I continue to read the series because I’ve already purchased most of the books at Audible and, even though I recognize the problems with the plot and the writing, the truth is that I like Estep’s setting and characters well enough that I don’t mind reading the books in order to get them reviewed for FanLit. Based on the high marks the series gets at GoodReads and Amazon, I’m guessing that many readers are perfectly happy to overlook the little “issues” I’ve mentioned in previous reviews. Clearly, the formula is working for Estep.