Take the heinous crimes of Jack the Ripper, ramped up a notch or two, add the thrills and chills of a well-written crime novel, mix in the oppressive...moreTake the heinous crimes of Jack the Ripper, ramped up a notch or two, add the thrills and chills of a well-written crime novel, mix in the oppressive atmosphere most often found in dark fantasy novels, and what you come up with is Ghosts in the Snow, a superbly crafted and seamless mix of seemingly disparate genres.
Dubric Bryerly is the castellan of Castle Faldorrah, responsible for the safety and well-being of his master's, Lord Brushgar's, domain. When an unknown killer begins savagely murdering servant girls, more than Dubric's reputation is on the line. Cursed by the Goddess Malanna after his wife's murder some forty years ago, he is haunted by the ghosts of the dead...literally. They appear before him in a flash of blinding pain, wailing silently, lamenting their deaths. And until Dubric finds their killer, the ghosts remain with him, tormenting him as they grow in boldness and strength.
Used to dealing with murders born out of drunken rages or domestic disputes, the recent spate of murders baffles him. The murderer eludes Dubric's grasp, leaving no clues and no witnesses. All Dubric knows is that an innocent linen maid, Nella, has become the object of the murderer's twisted desire. Nella has a protector, however, in the dashing Lord Risley. Unfortunately, as bodies continue to pile up, the few clues Dubric and his team have found point to Lord Risley as the prime suspect. Now Dubric must decide if he's willing to gamble his life and the kingdom he vowed to protect on Risley's guilt, for if he's right, Faldorrah will be thrust into war, and if he's wrong, another innocent life will be lost when the real killer strikes again.
When I read this book for the first time, somewhere around 2005, I didn't know it was the first of a trilogy. All I knew was that it was an exhilarating, if gruesome, breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre. I'd never heard of anyone combining a forensic-style crime storyline with the fantasy genre. Heck, if anyone'd asked me, I wouldn't have had the first clue how to go about doing that. Somehow, Tamara Siler Jones' twisted little brain (and I mean that in the best of ways) managed to concoct this unique and inventive tale and I congratulate her for it.(less)
When I started reading The Darkangel, I wasn't sure I would like it. After all, it was told in such a melodramatic way as to read like the fantasy of...moreWhen I started reading The Darkangel, I wasn't sure I would like it. After all, it was told in such a melodramatic way as to read like the fantasy of a teenage girl. When I found out, however, that the book was published when the writer, Meredith Ann Pierce, was only 23, I understood a little bit better why I was getting that impression.
Though the book has its flaws, the story soon swept me up into in heady mix of folkloric and fairytale elements, set within a sci-fi framework of a planet colonized by a people called the Ancients many moons ago. I won't go into the details of a synopsis—others before me have done that, and quite well—but I will say that this is one of the most unique books I've read, weaving together disparate and seemingly incompatible story ingredients into a compelling dark fantasy. I'm just a bit disappointed that I came late to the party and didn't discover this series until now.(less)
It seems to follow a rule: The second book in a trilogy is invariably the weakest link, usually there only to bridge the story between the first and t...moreIt seems to follow a rule: The second book in a trilogy is invariably the weakest link, usually there only to bridge the story between the first and third books. I can't say this was 100% true for A Gathering of Gargoyles but I will say, if not the story, then the characters were weaker, especially Aeriel. I don't know what happened, but somehow she became dumber during the book. Despite numerous hints, whether about something as trivial as the cloak she wore or about something as important as her true identity, she had to be beaten upside the head with a sledgehammer before any of these concepts got through to her. And once they did, she had to act in the predictable dumb-heroine manner: “What are you saying? Are you saying what I think you're saying? You're crazy!” Despite that annoyance, the story continued its theme of intertwining various elements from folklore and fairytales, as well as a deeper exploration into the sci-fi background of Aeriel's world, into a lyrical story of transformation, rebirth, and empowerment.(less)
***WARNING******WARNING*** If you are easily disgusted, if you are at all squeamish, if you are put off by graphic descriptions of violence, do not, I...more***WARNING******WARNING*** If you are easily disgusted, if you are at all squeamish, if you are put off by graphic descriptions of violence, do not, I repeat, DO NOT read this book. To quote a review from the Sequential Tart, "For a nice, Mid-West housewife, Jones is a sick lady. I mean that in the nicest way."
In The Reach, the semi-wild outer lands of the kingdom of Faldorrah, young men are disappearing, being taken by someone, something unknown. Two molested and mangled bodies have washed up onto the shores of the local river, prompting Dubric Byerly and his investigative team to travel north, into The Reach and into the grip of dark and malevolent magic.
Searching for the latest missing boy, Dubric, haunted as he is by the ghosts who've died unavenged, soon realizes the deaths are far more in number than he could've imagined. Now, more than one boy's life hangs in the balance. The safety of Dubric's pages, Otlee and Lars, two young men ripe for the taking, is endangered by the plague of evil magic, once thought to have been wiped off the face of the earth, which threatens to rise again. Following the tangled skein of clues leads Dubric into a confrontation with the most venomous of evil mages, a foe Dubric fought once before many decades ago in the soul-scarring Mage Wars. Will Dubric have the strength to vanquish this evil once and for all, before it destroys everyone and everything he loves?
I thought the first book was quite graphic and gory, but it was just a prelude to the violence depicted in Threads of Malice. Now, for me, that's not a problem as I'm not a squeamish person, but I'm not kidding about the warning I posted above. If you've got a strong stomach, then by all means, go ahead and read this book. If not, please don't, although you will be missing out on some mighty compelling and powerful storytelling. Jones' books are not all about the violence; each story weaves a complex mixture of romance, faith, family, and ordinary heartbreak into the horrendous crimes which sit at the heart of each book. One might not think that tender scenes of budding love and innocent courtship could fit amongst scenes of such brutal horror, yet they do, providing a balanced counterpoint of lightness to the weighty bleakness of the crimes. Tamara Siler Jones isn't a familiar name in the fantasy genre, but I think it's high time she gets some well-deserved notice.(less)
Murder comes once again to the attention of Dubric Bryerly, castellan of Faldorrah Castle. The decapitated bodies of livestock have been found in the...moreMurder comes once again to the attention of Dubric Bryerly, castellan of Faldorrah Castle. The decapitated bodies of livestock have been found in the downtrodden village of Quarry Run, followed by the decapitated bodies of human beings. Dubric and his team scour the countryside searching for clues, each one seeming to point at a more sinister menace behind the string of disappearance and death, Dubric's old bane, the poisonous taint of a dark mage.
From dark secrets locked behind the walls of a local sanatorium to sinister influences poisoning his home and new love, Dubric must put together each new puzzle piece and solve the mystery before a treacherous evil rises again.
In a way, I'm rather disappointed with this, the third book in the Dubric Bryerly series. I'm not disappointed with the writing, which is as taut and enthralling as ever, nor am I disappointed with the story, which was the richest and most complex of the three books. No, I'm disappointed by the fact that upon reaching the end of the book, there seems to be no more follow-up novels in sight. Which is quite frustrating as the end of the book did in no way end the stories of the characters involved. Quite the reverse. I am left hanging, eager to continue following the lives and adventures of these characters and saddened by the knowledge that, for the foreseeable future and to the best of my knowledge, I won't be allowed to do so.
Don't let that discourage you from reading this book, though. Though murder is once again the main feature, it somewhat downplayed, the novel instead focusing more on the relationships, personal and political, of the people driving the story. It felt as though the book was preparing itself as a springboard for a whole new arc of stories, by laying down more of the history of Faldorrah, the Mage Wars, and the political machinations which have brought Dubric into the position he currently holds. I've sent out a call to Tamara Siler Jones not to leave us readers hanging and she's listened. In fact, she has plenty more tales of Bryerly and company to tell, but if she doesn't get more support from the reading public, publishers won't know to publish her. You can do your part and support her by buying as many of Siler's books as you can; send publishers a message that she's a talent which needs to be supported and heard.(less)
I love this book, I really do, but my first thought upon finishing the first chapter was: Are teenagers today really so well-acquainted with...more4.5 stars
I love this book, I really do, but my first thought upon finishing the first chapter was: Are teenagers today really so well-acquainted with such ready wit and pert comebacks? Because I know I sure as hell wasn't when I was that age. Wit would come slouching over to me, fifteen minutes or more after I needed it, and grudgingly provide me with a spot-on reply, though, of course, by that time I no longer needed one. Wit and I were not the greatest of friends; we were barely acquaintances. My second thought upon finishing the first chapter was: Unspoken will appeal to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, not because Unspoken contains vampires, demons, or any other such things (though there are sorcerers), but because of the dialog, that wit I mentioned above, and the interplay between the characters. Kami and her compatriots are the new Scooby gang.
I've had a hard time putting my thoughts into words for this review. (A really hard time: I read this book back in September and I'm finally putting the finishing touches to this review here in January.) So I'm going to resort to my old “what I liked, what I didn't like” method.
What I Liked: Kami – She's lived with the voice of a boy in her head since she was a baby. She could've easily been a very melodramatic, swoony character, or bland and spineless, much like other female PNR YA heroines. Instead Kami was awesome. She didn't care that she was an outcast and the fact that she spoke to a voice in her head didn't keep her from making friends, running the school newspaper, and generally behaving as though she's perfectly normal – it's everyone else who suffers from the lack of a voice in their head. As a character, Kami's a cross between Buffy (I swear, I don't mean to keep bringing Buffy up, but, believe me, she works!) and Lois Lane: She's so determined to solve the mystery behind the Lynburn family and their history with Sorry-in-the-Vale, she's sometimes runs straight into danger, confident that her wit and intellect will let her get out of any peril.
The Scooby gang – Kami's best friend, Angela, is a sarcastic, lazy individual, who will sprawl out on any flat surface (or even not-so-flat) in order to take a nap. In fact, she prefers napping to any kind of action. Yet, when Kami needs her, Angela is there to help, usually unwillingly, usually with a smart-aleck comment, yet, regardless, she shows up. Angela's older brother, Rusty, acts rather like Kami's older brother as well. Just as lazy as Angela, and just as unwilling to fly into action, he's also just as ready to defend Kami should she need a knight in shining armor... even though Kami is perfectly willing to act as her own knight in shining armor and fusses under Rusty's protection.
Holly – Though technically part of the Scooby gang, she deserves particular mention. Initially drawn as your typical beautiful, buxom air-head, she soon puts everyone in their place, including Kami, by demonstrating that she's more aware of how people perceive her than those people might believe. She also demonstrates that she has more depths to her character than expected. Holly turns out to be one of Kami's best friends and staunchest allies.
Damn near everything else - The story, the writing, the plot, the pacing, the modern take on the Gothic theme. Even the veddy British aspect of the novel.
What I Didn't Like: Jared's reaction to Kami – (view spoiler)[When Jared finally meets Kami and figures out she's the voice he's been hearing in his head at the same time Kami discovers Jared is the boy she's been hearing in her head, his antagonism towards her is slightly understandable (after all, seeing in reality what you've only dealt with in your imagination has to be slightly jarring) but afterward, though he grudgingly behaves in a friendly manner towards her, he has this thing about her not touching him. Every time she does, on purpose or accidentally, he recoils away from her as though her touch burns him. (hide spoiler)] It's a reaction I don't particularly understand and as the novel goes on, it's a reaction which becomes rather old after a while. However, since this is just about the only thing about the book which vexes me, I really can't complain too loudly.
In the end, I truly adored this book. However, it won't be to everyone's taste, I'd imagine. Personally, between the wit, the characterizations, and the British atmosphere, I'm not sure which appeals to me more. This is one time I'm glad a recently released book is not a stand-alone but is part of a series: I can't wait for the next book!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
As much as I hate to, I feel I have to DNF this one. It's just not catching on with me. Well-drawn and atmospheric, I really, really wanted t...more4.5 stars
As much as I hate to, I feel I have to DNF this one. It's just not catching on with me. Well-drawn and atmospheric, I really, really wanted to like A Triumph for Sakura, but it's just not connecting with me.
So why then did I rate the book so highly? Because I know there are readers out there that will absolutely lap up this book and sob desperately for more. And on a simple technical level, I can't blame them. Ridler is a damned fantastic writer. He's created a world here that's gritty and grubby and downright depressing as hell, filled with old-school style vampires that you really don't want to meet in a dark alley. Yet despite the vampires, it's a world that's vividly realistic: you can smell the blood and sweat of the fights, feel the heat from the press of bodies, hear the cheers and jeers and thumping of feet. And the story is told in a tight, attention-grabbing manner: the narrative flows, the dialogue feels genuine, and you get enough info about how the world of A Triumph for Sakura came to being without Ridler relying on lengthy exposition or falling into the trap of using info dumps. The only hiccup for me were the frequent flashbacks to Vietnam experienced by Ned Bangs, Sakura's trainer and the actual focus of the novel. I get that Bangs is suffering from PTSD, even as a vampire, and that Ridler is simply showing the triggers and consequences, but it seemed excessive. Although no specific year is given, it's obviously been several decades since Vietnam and in that time Bangs hasn't been able to come to grips with even just a little bit of his experience there? Those little interludes were just a bit too frequent and attention-disrupting for my liking. Even so, the story still has its merits. Sadly, though, in spite of all its charms and achievements, A Triumph for Sakura is just not connecting with me on a visceral level. Which really sucks. For me, that is.
This is the first book I've (semi-)read by Jason Ridler, thanks to him contacting me and offering me a copy in exchange for an honest review. (As he put it, “If you love it, hate, or think it was meh, totally cool.”) Despite the unfinished state of A Triumph for Sakura (which, I promise, I will try to finish at a later date because it bugs me; just consider it to be on hold at the moment), don't for a moment think I won't try reading any of Ridler's other novels. Because he's certainly got a unique voice that I want to hear more of- uh, of which I want to hear more. Oh, screw it. Who really cares anyway?(less)