Set in an alternate pseudo-Renaissance world full of magics, pointsmen, wizards, necromancers and deadly political games, Point of Knives by Melissa S...moreSet in an alternate pseudo-Renaissance world full of magics, pointsmen, wizards, necromancers and deadly political games, Point of Knives by Melissa Scott is a brand new novella that links the classic original fantasy Astreiant duology -- Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams -- by closing the gaps between the two books.
In Point of Knives, Scott's main characters Adjunct Point Nicolas Rathe and ex-soldier Philip Eslingen, now Caiazzo's knife or bodyguard, are thrown together again by unusual circumstances surrounding the double murders of father and son Grandad Steen and Old Steen, both rumored to have been pirates.
Circumstances are further complicated when Old Steen's son, Young Steen, claims his personal effects and an until-then-unknown wife shows up making the same claim. Seeking compensation for moneys owed, Caiazzo also lays claim to the man's possessions and dispatches Eslingen to represent his interests and to help Rathe with the investigation.
Nico and Philip can't help but be glad to be close again after last summer's affair, and although they know that neither can afford too close a relationship, both hope that the circumstances don't affect their friendship or their feelings for each other. Rathe is known for his excellent insight and trusts Philip even as he knows that as Caiazzo's knife, thug or blade for hire, Philip owes him loyalty. However, his feelings are deeply involved.
[...] he would only sound besotted. And I'm not, he thought. Not besotted. Fond of him, friendly with him --- gods, it was easy to slip into the habit of the summer, too easy to treat him as comrade and friend --- and if he was honest with himself, yes, he could become besotted. Could even --- He refused to utter the betraying verb, even in his own mind.
Nico and Philip agree that during the investigation they will take advantage of their time together as winter-lovers with a promise not to ask more from each other when that time ends. But will they? The murder investigation takes them from Point of Hopes' narrow streets into the dangerous neighborhood that is Point of Knives, and slowly becomes a coil that involves a deadly political game, gold, magists, alchemists, necromancers, and that when unraveled might prove deadly to Nico and Philip.
Point of Knives picks up on events a few months right after Point of Hopes ends and expands on the already established relationship between Nico and Philip. I was taken with the complexity of the world building in this fantasy, as well as with the excellent characterization. The police-procedural aspect of the novel is intricate and complete, with a gruesome beginning, excellent investigative work and a surprising, satisfying resolution. More importantly, it is through this key aspect of the story that Scott cleverly incorporates fantasy, adds details to her world, and develops a lovely romance.
The characters that populate this fantasy are regular folk that somehow stand out in this world where magics and alternate history intertwine so seamlessly and are so well crafted, that after a while all of it seems possible.
Points of Knives is a gorgeous addition to the Astreiant series. Melissa Scott takes this fantasy, fills it with memorable characters, and gives the reader more by incorporating a fully developed romance and a police procedural with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most finicky of readers. Highly recommended.
Death by Silver by Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold is a fantasy mystery with an unquestionable steampunk flavor that does not overwhelm the world-bui...moreDeath by Silver by Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold is a fantasy mystery with an unquestionable steampunk flavor that does not overwhelm the world-building, yet offers enough magic and subtle details to give this story set in a recognizable Victorian London, a very distinct atmosphere. There is quite a lot to enjoy in this well executed fantasy mystery with its delicious twists and turns, red herrings, murders by magic, personal struggles and a question of the heart.
The absorbing mystery drives the plot in Death by Silver as Scott and Griswold keep clues and details coming at a fast pace with well-executed red herrings, twists and turns. The mystery is well integrated with the world-building and the relationship struggle taking place between the characters. Most importantly, none of the characters in Death by Silver, including the villain(s), fall into the black and white category. Instead, they all display strengths and human frailty. Scott and Griswold effectively explore gray areas and the humanity of their characters through Ned and Julian's perspectives.
The fantasy details are organically incorporated into the world-building throughout the story and make sense from the beginning. For example, details such as a recognizable London as the setting with true to time Victorian morals, behavior, and lifestyle, are subtly blended in with magic, enchantments, automata-building salesmen, alternate institutions, laws, some rather interesting flora, and religious beliefs.
However, the hearts of this story are our main characters and narrators Ned and Julian. The story is narrated from their alternating first point of view perspectives. As a result, Scott and Griswold give the reader an in-depth look into both characters that include personal history, intimate thoughts, fears, and feelings. They also give an excellent view of secondary characters and different perspectives of the unfolding plot. The shifts in point of view flow well as do the intermittent flashbacks employed to show the characters' pertinent past experiences with bullies at boarding school.
The extent of the bullying episodes is revealed slowly and blends in with the mystery, as Julian and Ned confront personal fears and consequences of those boarding school days while working closely with the man who bullied them. Also slowly integrated are our main characters' depth of feelings and insecurities as they circle each other and wonder where their relationship stands. This is not the main focus of the story, still, I love Ned and Julian's "friends and lovers to romance-in-the-making" conflict.
I loved everything about Death by Silver -- the world-building and excellent atmosphere, the characters and their personal struggles, the twisty well-paced plot and the delicious romantic relationship-building elements, all the way to the great ending. I just hope that Scott and Griswold are planning a series because these characters and world are begging for one! Highly enjoyed and recommended. (less)
I was introduced to Richard Bowes's writing by way of a short story. Later I read and really enjoyed his adult fairy tale book The Queen, The Cambion,...moreI was introduced to Richard Bowes's writing by way of a short story. Later I read and really enjoyed his adult fairy tale book The Queen, The Cambion, and Seven Others. His short story "Grierson at the Pain Clinic" in the Wilde Stories 2013 anthology was so unique and creative that I went hunting for his Lambda Literary Award-winning novel Minions of the Moon. So what is it that about Richard Bowes' works that grabbed me? I love the realism he utilizes to set up his fantasy. His latest fantasy novel Dust Devil on a Quiet Street has that quality in spades.
As a child I went to bed worried that the me who fell asleep would disappear in the dark and not be remembered by the me who woke up. I've never wholly lost that. It's one reason I write these stories.
Bowes's tale of dust devils, local ghosts and small gods begins in Greenwich Village on the evening of 9/11 right after the Towers fell. Richard's friend and old lover Megs insists that as a result of the tragedy, a rift opened and ghosts from past and present disasters are coming through and flooding the City. She can see them, and decides to search for the ghost of Richard and Megs' old lover Geoff. As this tale of ghosts, friendships, and lovers lost progresses, the reality of what happened on that beautiful, tragic September morning slowly creeps in as Bowes imbues the atmosphere and his characters with a sense of dislocation and disorientation so spot on that ghosts, dust devils and witch girls seamlessly become part of that reality.
As the story of Richard, Megs and Geoff continues, Bowes plays with time by relating events taking place in the present and connecting them to the past, taking the reader for a fantastic ride through a Village's past history full of the real and the supernatural. In the second chapter we learn what drives our main character and narrator, Richard. Supernatural events surrounding Richard's encounter with the eerie Witch Girls are weaved in with his college years, new friendships, sexual escapades, and a significant early childhood trauma that leads to a long battle with self-destructive behavior and drug addiction.
When I opened my eyes they were gone. I understood that what I'd done and what had been done to me were the misfortunes that come to a Witch Boy trying in all the wrong ways to be human.
The supernatural encounters continue as the reader is introduced to lovers, friends, writers, sexual escapades, and in the process is whisked back in time to a City that lived a long time ago. That is most evident in the Ray Light and Judy Finch incident where the narrator's strong presence is felt on the periphery while Bowes transports the reader to the 1960's in a mesmerizing story of young runaways, hippy life, hustlers, drugs, sex, psychic powers, and murder. Bowes brilliantly weaves the Ray Light incident throughout the whole book so that it blends in with the "memoir" style of this novel. But as I said before, he also plays with time, so that this and other events that begin long ago are effectively connected to events, or small moments, taking place in the present. It all works out quite well.
I particularly love how Bowes incorporates events that begin with the present as the setting but flow in and out of the past. In relating the death of New York City, Bowes turns to Richard's present and the ghost of a past lover Hal Dizeg, dubbed the Downtown Ganymede, who was legendary in the Village for his brilliant beauty and wealthy sugar daddies. Later they were involved as lovers in a relationship fueled by drugs that ended with Hal telling Richard: "I don't think you're really here, and you don't think I'm really human." But this chapter is about Richard's present and his nostalgia for the past. He is singularly harsh on a modern Manhattan full of yuppified New Yorkers, yet, not unexpectedly, Richard is always toughest on himself. The proof is in the pudding when returning as a ghost Hal leaves our aging narrator with these words: "It wasn't a soul you lacked, it was courage and timing, darling. You didn't know when it was your moment to die."
Dust Devil on a Quiet Street was more of an experience than I expected. It is a fantasy book full of those fantastic supernatural events some of us love, and yet, it is also much more. Bowes inserts himself as the central character, establishing a thorough connection with the reader while relating the highs and lows of life, such as they are or were, so that this book is an intricate, masterful blend of fantasy and life-long experiences gained during a lifetime of living in a New York City he knows and loves. Bowes is so good at using this device that there are times when the reader must wonder where reality ends and fiction begins. Highly recommended.
Favorite quote: (Chapter 11, Page 158) "Writing is the place where I can be as bold and compassionate and wise as I choose." (less)
I read The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker in two sittings, the pacing and adventure are that good! The story begins in a mythology-based contemporary sett...moreI read The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker in two sittings, the pacing and adventure are that good! The story begins in a mythology-based contemporary setting that surprisingly ends in the mythological world with a bang and a surprise.
The three main characters in this book were introduced in the short story "The Trouble with Billy," which first appeared in the Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up anthology. There, we met short, skinny Jamie, the only out gay kid in his high school as he was relentlessly bullied by Billy and defended by best friend Sarah. The Unwanted begins with Billy punching sixteen year-old Jamie on the nose at school, Sarah coming to the rescue, and Jamie going home with a bleeding nose without first asking for permission from school authorities. Poor Jamie is in for a surprise because when he gets there his mother is waiting. The mother that was supposed to be dead.
Jamie's parents have a lot of explaining to do -- one of them is the winged horse hanging out in his backyard! Once everything is explained, Billy and a bleeding nose are the least of Jamie's worries. It turns out that his mother is one of the mythological Amazons. As we know from Greek mythology, Amazons do not keep their male children and Jamie's mother left him to be raised by his father. Now there is big trouble brewing and the Amazons may be wiped out by an angry god. However, they have one chance, the Oracle's prophesy clearly says that a male child will save them. Jamie's mother believes that he may be that boy, and hopes he will go back with her to save her sisters and her home.
This is an adventure full of risks and danger! There is a romance, but there are also fantastic friendships, great magical moments, and dangerous battles filled with deadly villains. I enjoyed all of it. Jamie's personal situation captures the reader, but the slow-building danger and revelations really keep the reader going. I was surprised at how well the pacing works in this novel. It doesn't lag even when there's a lull in the action because there is that expectancy that something is about to happen.
As narrator, Jamie's voice is fantastic. Ricker hits the right young adult tone, so that Jamie comes off angsty, sarcastic, and humorous at the most unexpected of moments even as he deals with very serious situations. He's not a know-at-all or the big muscular hero who can do it all. As a matter of fact, he's small for his age, can't really fight, and doubts his abilities all the time. Young adults can relate to him as a character, including when it comes to his handling of family and friends.
Family issues are definitely on the forefront for Jamie: his father's and his own confused feelings for an absentee mother. Additionally, Billy the bully also becomes a key character in this young adult fantasy/adventure. The development of Billy's character, the issue of trust and the growing relationship with Jamie carries to the end of the story.
I loved The Unwanted. I found it to be both fun and highly relevant with central and secondary characters that young adults can relate to, and will enjoy seeing on the page. Additionally, Ricker takes some overwhelming risks with characters and story at the end that I believe give this read a unique touch. Highly recommended! (less)
Loved The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. Fast paced adventure romance with intrigue, excellent worldbuilding and steampunk details. I loved all the chara...moreLoved The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. Fast paced adventure romance with intrigue, excellent worldbuilding and steampunk details. I loved all the characters, central and secondary. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. A definite winner for me -- couldn't put it down until I was done with it.(less)
I love the cover for The White City (December 31, 2010). This was the first of the three stories in the New Amsterdam series that I purchased because...moreI love the cover for The White City (December 31, 2010). This was the first of the three stories in the New Amsterdam series that I purchased because it called to me. I read the series in chronological order of events and read this book after I finished New Amsterdam. The series really flows better that way in my opinion.
The White City is set in Moscow and believe me the setting is gorgeous! After the events that chased Sebastien and his court from New Amsterdam and the terrible loss experienced in Paris, he decides to move on to Moscow to bring an old acquaintance some sad news. Instead what he finds when he arrives at Irina Stephanova's studio is a murder. Soon, Sebastien, Abby Irene and Phoebe are embroiled in a crime investigation. But quickly Sebastien realizes that this murder is somehow connected to another murder that took place the last time he and Jack were in Moscow, a murder that also involved Irina Stephanova.
I loved New Amsterdam, but this has to be my favorite of the three books. It features two parallel mystery murder investigations and/or stories, one led by Jack and Sebastien, and the other by Sebastien and Abby Irene, both beautifully worked and weaved into one by the end. The characters, setting and atmosphere in this story are rich and well.. gorgeous. I loved the mood, the revelations that came from and about all the characters, and particularly about the wampier culture. The White City made me want more stories about Don Sebastien de Ulloa and more of Elizabeth Bear's writing. Highly recommended. (less)
I read this book when it was released, and have been waiting for the 2nd book... I read it BEFORE I heard any hype, sooo I didn't have any expectation...moreI read this book when it was released, and have been waiting for the 2nd book... I read it BEFORE I heard any hype, sooo I didn't have any expectations. I must say, I loved it! Loved the author's writing, as well as the storyline. It's original in its own way, what more can you ask? Can't wait for the next installment. Hope it doesn't disappoint.(less)
The Shattered Gates is Book 1 in Ginn Hale's brand new ten part serialized fantasy series, The Rifter. It is tough trying to review the beginning of a...moreThe Shattered Gates is Book 1 in Ginn Hale's brand new ten part serialized fantasy series, The Rifter. It is tough trying to review the beginning of a book instead of the whole thing, so I'm just going to give you my impressions on the world building and her introduction of characters at this point.
Ginn Hale begins the story in our contemporary world with John opening a letter addressed to his unusual roommate Kyle. The letter contains a key and John keeps it. In the meantime Kyle or Khalil is fighting a war in his own world. A strange world where there are such things as oracle bones and talking dogs. After a series of unusual events, John uses the key and unwittingly opens a gate that transports him and his two closest friends to a strange and hostile world where they find themselves trapped. When Kahlil realizes what has happened, he attempts to follow John through the gate. He arrives at a place that is both familiar and yet different. Kahlil finds himself alone as all he knows seems to be gone forever.
The initial part of the world building in this first part of the book was excellent. It's easy to understand and follow and fascinating enough to hook the reader. Of course there's still much left to develop, but having read this first episode, there's no way I wouldn't continue reading this book.
The characters are also interesting, although at this point the world caught my attention much more. Hale concentrates a bit more on John's development than on Khalil in this episode, but there's enough information about both characters to give the reader an idea of what is to come. John has an affinity with the earth itself and seems to receive comfort from it. He's a bit of a lone wolf and although he shares part of himself with his friends, there's a lot there within him that's still unknown. I want to know the reason behind some of his reactions and can't wait to see where his character goes from here. Khalil is even more of a mystery as the reader receives only enough information to wet the appetite. We know he was chosen as the protector of his world and somehow failed by not keeping John from going through the gate. I can't wait to read more about him.
The Shattered Gates was engrossing. I was transported to this world and wanted to know more about these characters and the events that were taking place. Of course the tough part is waiting for that next episode to come along next month! This was a solid beginning to this serialized fantasy series. (less)
4.5/5.0 (B+) I absolutely loved The Iron Duke and Here There Be Monsters. When I first read those two books, the world building in Meljean Brook's scie...more4.5/5.0 (B+) I absolutely loved The Iron Duke and Here There Be Monsters. When I first read those two books, the world building in Meljean Brook's science fiction romance, steampunk world hit me like a two by four, and I fell in love with the characters that inhabited that world. In Riveted, Brook adds to that world building by stepping away from England and the New World and moving her story to isolated Iceland, incorporating a bit of Norse mythology, characters that are just as different as the location, and stepping up her use of social science fiction in this steampunk installment.
David Kentewess is leading an expedition to survey and map volcanoes in Iceland, but his one real mission for the last twenty years has been to solve the mystery of where his mother came from so he can keep a promise made to her on her deathbed. While waiting to board the airship Phatéon, he saves Annika Fridasdottor from a tricky situation at the gates of Castile, and finds that her accent and manner of speech match his mother's. Later, the runes she wears on her neck are also a dead giveaway. This is the closest David has ever come to keeping his promise and he's not about to let Annika slip through his fingers.
Annika Fridasdottor is also on a mission. Her family, comprised entirely of women, have lived in a secret and secluded village in Iceland guarded by tales of trolls, witches and magic. Five years ago she almost revealed that secret while woolgathering and dreaming, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled in her stead. Annika took responsibility, joined the airship Phaeton's crew and has been searching throughout the New World for her sister ever since. She is grateful that David saved her, but Annika endangered her family once, and after what she has observed of New World judgments and beliefs, is not about to do it again.
The story begins at a slow pace with David and Annika getting to know each other. Annika gives away much about herself just by the way she speaks. In the proper New World, Annika is considered improper and bold while in other ways she's shy and secretive. Annika doesn't quite fit in with others and stands out. Her upbringing has much to do with her behavior, however as we find out throughout the story, Annika doesn't quite fit in with the women in her village either because there she is seen as Annika the Rabbit, or a weak and timid girl, not bold or brave. Soon Annika is very attracted to David and lets him know in her own way, but he doesn't really see it and there is a good reason for that. David's background is just as intriguing as Annika's.
David is a gentle man, tender and loving, not an alpha male or even what I think of as a beta, but gentle. He lost his mother as a child and was brought up by his Native American father in a community where Native Americans were attempting to regain their culture years after their ancestors had converted and changed their names. David's father was a good, forgiving man and David a happy child even after he suffered the devastating loss of his mother, three of his limbs and an eye after a volcanic eruption. However as an adult, he is a man with baggage and not all of it is on the inside. After he grew to be an adult, David visited the Blacksmith in England so he is not only infected with nanoagents, but the Blacksmith grafted prosthetics on his missing limbs as well as an eye that looks like, but is not, a monocle. Most people look at him either with pity or as if he were a monster, and David is very self-conscious of his looks.
The best thing about these two outsiders, gentle David and improper Annika, is that although they don't seem to fit anywhere, they fit perfectly with each other. They both see each other as worthy of admiration and as the adventure gains momentum, a deep, passionate, sweet love takes over where in the beginning there was only a deep attraction.
The action in the story is slow to come as they travel all the way from Castile to a glacier in Iceland. It builds with the help of some excellent secondary characters rounding up the story and a hateful madman as a villain. The steampunk details are as excellent as I expected after reading previous installments, but in my opinion did not overwhelm the overall storyline. I particularly like the way Brook incorporates the women in Hannasvik and their culture with a bit of Norse mythology, and that she also uses that same culture to add some of that social science fiction I previously mentioned.
The villain's fate and the consequences to his actions are anticlimactic. However, it is interesting that the scenes that follow with Annika and David seem to be the real high point of the story, so that in the end Riveted read and felt more like a true romance. A sweet romance at that! The Iron Duke and Here There Be Monsters are still my favorite reads of this series so far, but I really enjoyed the differences I found in Riveted and for me it comes in at a close third. Now, I'm really looking forward to reading the next book and can't wait to see where Brook takes this series. (less)
There is something about a post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic, Sci-Fi Fantasy story that does it for me – mix in some Norse mythology and it’s a win-win sit...moreThere is something about a post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic, Sci-Fi Fantasy story that does it for me – mix in some Norse mythology and it’s a win-win situation. Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars has all of the above and more. She uses mythology loosely to construct her world and if you are familiar with Odin’s crew of Gods and immortals, you will recognize their integration into Bear’s world, her characters and usage of language.
Our fantasy adventure begins with the end. It’s the end for the Children of Light and their world – survived only by Muire, a waelcyrge (valkyrie), and Kasimir, a valraven (two-headed, winged, war-steed). Muire, who thinks of herself as the “least” of all her sisters, is not a warrior; instead she is a poet, historian and artist. She survives by fleeing that final battle where all her sisters and brothers – the einherjar or immortal warriors -- die. That single act of cowardice, the guilt and shame Muire carries with her, become the driving force behind her actions throughout this story.
Fast forward twenty three hundred years later and the world is again dying. This time, surprise, surprise it is a world of men, who after rising and inventing medicine, philosophy, space flight and metallurgy now live in an era known as the Desolation, under the Defile – a contaminated earth full of deserts and bleached bones, un-breathable air and a dead sea killed by bio-weapons and never ending wars. Only one city remains, Eiledon.
When Muire finds a truman dying in the shadows of darkness, with no traces of blood or bodily harm, she recognizes the manner of death and knows the killer. An old, powerful evil from long ago has returned and she must hunt it and kill it, or die trying.
The gloom and doom that permeate the world Bear constructs makes this a tough read through the first third of the book. Muire’s self-recrimination, guilt and sense of worthlessness, while understandable, were tough to deal with at times. Thank goodness for Kasimir who serves as her conscience and represents the hope and promise of a possible future. He has the faith in Muire that she doesn’t have in herself, and recognizes the courage and Light she possesses. Although Muire is the main character, and a strong one at that, once Bear’s well-developed and fascinating secondary characters start to emerge, I became immersed in her world. They were the ones that made this story work for me.
Thjierry Thorvaldsdottir, Technomancer of Eiledon, is known as the savior of the dying city. A combination techie/witch, she reigns supreme in the Tower, a floating bubble-like city she created – a city above a city -- adored by her students and guarded by loyal servants, the moreau or unmen -- animals with human-like abilities. Thjierry and Muire might be the only hope left for Eiledon. The unmen play a small, if key, part in the story. Selene, the cat girl with her claws, whip and smarts, is the most memorable of the unmen characters. I was touched by her toughness, vulnerability and courage – a definite reminder of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
Mingan, the Grey Wolf is a tarnished predator, traitor to all, but most of all to himself. He is a dark, fascinating character that took hold of my imagination and didn’t let go, even after the book was finished. Possibly my favorite in this book, his is the character that brings us the closest to the tragedy and duality that we often find in Norse mythology. Based on a cross between Fenrir the Wolf and Hati, the sun-eater, Mingan, together with Cathoair, a young male prostitute and bar fighter, take over the page whenever they appear. Theirs is a complex relationship --Mingan hunts Cathoair, whom he both loves and hates and in turn, Cathoair haunts Mingan. Cathoair is both more and less than he appears to be. By becoming important to both Muire and the Grey Wolf, he also becomes a catalyst and central to this story.
As the story unfolded, defining the Dark and the Light became difficult, gray areas expanded and I found myself reading slower, savoring every moment, not wanting the book to end. And as I concluded my journey with Muire and her ragtag group of friends and foes, after experiencing depths of despair and selfishness, the power of friendship and love, I found that in the end, this book was mostly about redemption and self-sacrifice.
There is potential in this world for other great adventures. Hopefully, Elizabeth Bear will give us more. If you like Fantasy, Sci-Fi and mythology, this book is certainly for you.(less)
(3.75/5.0) B- I liked this epilogue/novella about Rhys and Mina. I particularly enjoyed the fact that as they adjust to marriage and work through fears...more(3.75/5.0) B- I liked this epilogue/novella about Rhys and Mina. I particularly enjoyed the fact that as they adjust to marriage and work through fears, they have taken the time to form their own little family with Anne the Tinker. Still, Scarsdale is the most memorable character in this short story with his unbearable situation. It is heartbreaking, and I'm hoping that Brook finds a great resolution for him. I also wonder if the storyline used as part of the mystery in this short about children working as laborers and automatons taking over factories will be fully realized in a future story.(less)
Dust by Elizabeth Bear is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy, a 2007 release. The trilogy is categorized as science fiction, however I found...moreDust by Elizabeth Bear is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy, a 2007 release. The trilogy is categorized as science fiction, however I found enough fantasy elements in this first book that places it firmly into the science fiction/fantasy category for me. This didn't surprise me overmuch after having read some of Bear's other works and discovering her talent to seamlessly weave fantasy with mythology, so why not with science-fiction?
Bear takes a broken down ship in the middle of space and creates a whole world out of it with cities, societies and customs. The most recognizable concept in Dust is that of a medieval society. There are the ruling noble houses -- the House of Rule and the House of Engine (or the Commodore's Quarters and Engineering) -- knights, quests, chivalry, honor, political intrigues, inheritance issues, war, swords, servants, ancient bloodlines, and even names like Sir Perceval, Tristan and Benedick. Then Bear mixes in not-so-subtle religious references -- God, Angels and even a depiction of the Garden of Eden -- with a necromancer, a dragon and a basilisk along the way. It's quite the smorgasbord, yet it all fits together and it made this an exciting read.
The story seems simple enough; the world is in danger from two different fronts and it must be saved at all costs. Sir Perceval, a knight from the House of Engine is captured by Ariane, a Princess from House of Rule, and surrenders honorably. Ariane severs Perceval's wings with her unblade, committing a dishonorable act that will trigger a war between the two Houses. Ariane's father, the Commodore, reprimands her for her actions and she responds by killing and consuming him to acquire his knowledge and memories. At this point it's clear that Ariane is making a move to control House of Rule and Engine. In the meantime Rien, a servant girl tending to Perceval, makes a few surprising discoveries and the two girls escape and embark on a journey throughout the ship to stop a war between the two Houses.
Perceval finds herself as the center of the conflict between the "Angels" and the war between the Houses. However, it is Rien who really effects the changes in this story and turns out to be the courageous "knight" of the piece. As the character with the most growth from beginning to end, she became a favorite. Rien begins as a fearful servant who is Remade by Perceval from a Mean (a human who doesn't have a symbiont) into an Exalt, and after unknowingly consuming the memories of the original Chief Engineer and finding her family, her strength of character really comes through. Jacob Dust was also a fascinating character that took me for a ride from beginning to end by just trying to figure him out. I also loved his interactions with the other Angel entities and Perceval.
Of the main characters although Perceval was well developed, she was also my least favorite as I found her to be emotionally weak. On the other hand, there were secondary characters that were key to the story -- Tristen, Benedick and particularly Ariane -- who either piqued my interest or were likable, but whom I thought could have used further development within this first book.
In the other works I've read by Bear, she approaches sexuality openly through her characters. In Dust she includes a hermaphrodite, an ungendered character, one who chooses to be celibate, homosexuality, and taboo subjects. I loved Bear's seamless weaving of science fiction and fantasy and again enjoyed her approach to sexuality through characters and how she makes it all work.
Dust is well plotted, has excellent pacing and fascinating world building. I enjoy Bear’s writing style and this book is no exception. However I did have a problem with the very beginning of the book where I felt the story was bit rushed and lacking in detail. It took a couple of chapters for everything to “gel” for me. Once it did, the story took off and I couldn’t stop reading.
This is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy and obviously there's more. Bear ties up the most important threads of this particular story -- Perceval, Rien, the war between the Angels and the “world’s” immediate fate -- but there's more. The story ends with a bang, and I mean of epic proportions, and at this point I was glad I had the second book, Chill, available to read immediately as I became obsessed with this world's fate. This is a book I recommend for those who love science fiction, fantasy, or just a great adventure full of creativity and fantastic characters. (less)
With The Sea Thy Mistress, Elizabeth Bear concludes The Edda of Burdens trilogy by going forward in time to about fifty years after Muire's sacrifice...moreWith The Sea Thy Mistress, Elizabeth Bear concludes The Edda of Burdens trilogy by going forward in time to about fifty years after Muire's sacrifice and completes this post-apocalyptic trilogy by returning -- to a lesser extent -- to the cyberpunk fantasy style and atmosphere found in the first book. She seamlessly joins the story lines from the two previous books and focuses on Cathoair as the central character.
As with the first two books in the trilogy, there's a dark, doom-like sense and atmosphere that permeates the story. But unlike what happens in By the Mountain Bound, there's hope and light by the end. Having said that, the journey to the light is a tough one. These are tormented characters and in this book Cathoair's past as an abused child and male prostitute come back to haunt him. Bear doesn't stint when it comes to digging deep into this man's damaged soul, his guilt, self-loathing or pain. She thoroughly explores that pain and in turn the sensitive subject of abuse. The characters' internal struggles parallel those of the world that surrounds them. Losing would mean a final end to Valdyrgard.
The story is told in short chapters and shifts from character to character, as seen from their points of view. This gives the beginning of the story a choppy feel and slows the flow and pacing until about page 74 where the points of view are reduced and the plot begins to concentrate on Cathoair and Cathmar. This is also where the pacing and my interest in the story picked up. Even with the choppy beginning, I was surprised when I found myself fully emerged in the story, wanting to know more about Cathoair and getting what I wanted.
In-depth characterization is also found in secondary characters and knowing what ultimately motivates them provides a sense of completion to the book, and in turn the trilogy. Most important of these characters are the Imogen, Selene the moreau with the soul of a Valkyrie, and Aethelred, with Cathmar thoroughly developed as a new, key character. Heythe's need for revenge and destruction are explained, however her real motivations seemed both obscure and rather futile to me. There is no further development for Heythe, making her the weakest character of this story.Bear also gives the reader a full, final view of a redeemed Mingan. He and Cathoair again share deeply emotional moments, bringing the story to a fully closed circle.
Ms. Bear's talents for in-depth characterization, while weaving a fantasy tale with mythology, are impressive. These characters, although obviously patterned after those of tragic Norse mythology, are unique and Bear's own. A tale where everyone seems to win by losing what they love most, by acceptance of self and others and ultimately through forgiveness, The Sea Thy Mistress is a deeply nuanced story and a solid conclusion to this trilogy.