This is an anthology of short stories and flash fiction. I'll do aThe following review was otiginally posted on my blog: http://weirdmage.blogpot.com
This is an anthology of short stories and flash fiction. I'll do a quick, spoiler free, rundown of the individual stories before giving my overall impression.
BECALMED by Den Patrick
A story about the dangers of handling one type of stolen goods. This is a good story. It evokes a great sense of empathy, and I think on some level everyone can relate to it.
THE TROUBLE WITH DAYDREAMS by Catherine Hill
High sea piracy may not be for everyone we learn in this very short story. I really liked this. It's short, to the point, and it has a very nice ending.
BLACK ETHEL'S BEAST by Kit Marlowe
In this story a captain duels a stowaway. This is a good story, but one that felt too much of an episode of something bigger to me. Something bigger that I would very much like to read, I hasten to add.
NO QUARTER by Rahne Sinclair
A raging sea battle is the setting for this story, where magic plays a part. This is full of action. Despite its short length it doesn't stand behind many longer pirate adventures in its invocation of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of breaking timber. An excellent little tale with an epic feel.
LEAVE THE PISTOL BEHIND by Chloë Yates
A visit from an old acquaintance comes as a surprise in this tale. Very good story whose last sentence brought a grin to this readers face.
PAST LIVES by Jenny Barber
The catch fights back in this story. A story that gives a very nice twist to an archetypal story type. Very well executed.
NORA by Margrét Helgadottir.
A woman is attacked by pirates, and shows her true mettle. This story is subdued and effectful. It doesn't shout where it can whisper, but you will want to listen. A really good one.
PLUNDER by Fransesca Terminiello
A tense tale of a teenager at sea. This has great tension, and though you can sense what the outcome will be, it doesn't stop you from being dragged in by the excellent atmosphere created.
INSURGENT by Christian D'Amico
Space pirates find a ship with cargo that for them is a jackpot. Apart from the ending feeling a bit like the end of a novel's first chapter, this is an excellent tale.
GERONIMO by T.F. Grant
Modern piracy has consequences in this story of the future. This has an interesting premise, and it is certainly topical. I found this very interesting, and in some ways chilling.
PIECES OF 23 by Rob Haines
A tale of swashbuckling on the datasea. This is a fast-paced story set in a very different environment to those stories that precede it in this anthology. It's a very nice and original tale. Quite refreshing.
THE REAL DEAL by R.J. Booth
An author is kidnapped by a gang of ruthless pirates in this story. This is a good story, one that doesn't signpost where it is going, but it leads you to a satisfying end.
TRUE TO THE SONG by Asher Wismer
A pirate hijacking that is something out of the ordinary. This is a story with a surprising element in it. An element that very much sets it apart from most other pirate stories you will encounter. A great read.
SILVERMELT by Emma Teichmann
A musician gets caught up in events he doesn't quite see the scope of. Good story with a bit of mystery to it. It does however end very abruptly, and leaves you wondering if something is missing.
SKYWAY by K.C. Shaw
A woman grabs an unexpected opportunity in this Steampunk story. This is a brilliant little story. It has plenty of action and adventure, and a very enjoyable plot.
X MARKS THE SPOT by S.J. Caunt
A girl catches the "pirate-bug" at a very early age. This is a very enjoyable story. One that will most likely bring a smile to your face. A very nice ending to the anthology.
I am not sure I can really pinpoint what the fascination with pirates is. I've read enough about the real history behind what Hollywood serves up to know that their life was mostly very far from glamorous. And yet they still hold a fascination to me, as they obviously do to a lot of other people around the globe. If you are reading this, I will assume that you have been caught by some of the allure surrounding pirates, and is interested in reading stories about them. In which case this anthology will be something for you.
The quality of the stories is high throughout this anthology. Not every story hit me in exactly the right spot, but there were no real duds either. It is noticeable though that the word "piracy" does evoke a very particular image in many people's minds, and that this does lead to similarities between some of the stories. This wasn't a big problem though, and it can easily be avoided by not reading all the stories in one setting. It does mean that the anthology feels stronger when authors move away from the traditional image of piracy and in a different direction.
Nitpicking about stories being similar when the anthology is read in one sitting aside, I really liked this anthology. It is short, as are the stories in it, and it is all the stronger for it. This is excellent for those that want some short fiction that will fill a few minutes now and then. For those that like their fiction to come with a piratical leaning, this is an absolute must.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher....more
First I'll give a (very) brief spoiler free review of each individual story,This review originally appeared on my blog: http://weirdmage.blogspot.com
First I'll give a (very) brief spoiler free review of each individual story, and then I'll sum up my feelings on the whole anthology below that.
NEWTON'S METHOD by PAUL WEIMER
A tale of travelling to find a perfect partner. This is a neat little story that has a great high-concept idea backing it up. I really liked this little exploration of it. So much so that I would very much welcome Weimer exploring it in much longer form.
ELLIE DANGER, GIRL DAREDEVIL by ALASDAIR STUART
The combination of funerals and surprise meetings are not unusual in fiction, but Stuart puts a very nice spin on it here. This is an excellent tale that gives us a glimpse into a much bigger story. Stuart certainly shows that he's someone to look out for with this tale.
FATHER'S DAY by FRANSESCA TERMINIELLO
What begins with a child's point of view, and seems at first rather mundane, turns into a different type of story in the end. Both fun and a bit sad, and definitely something that makes you thoughtful. Terminiello has written a sweet little tale with quite a bit of depth to it. I like the feeling of being made to reflect while being entertained, and this delivers very well on that.
THE COMPANISIM, THE TREASURE, THE THIEF AND HER SISTER by C.J. PAGET
A tale that is long enough to take us on quite a surprising journey. I really liked this from the start. It has a great atmosphere to it and enough twists to keep you firmly invested in the story. It's a nice mix of Thriller and Science Fiction. Paget is clearly an author I need to read more of.
KATE AND THE BUCHANAN by ANDREW REID
This story is about invention, and more importantly, the inventor. Reid's story starts out as straight forward Steampunk, and it continues in that genre until the end. But there's more important things told here than just that connected to the setting. It does get a bit heavy handed in what it says, but that works very well here. Reid is clearly someone to look for in the future.
GAME, SET AND MATCH by JULIET MCKENNA
This starts out looking like something completely different from what it turns out to be. This is very well written and has a nice rhythm to it. There's some very important points being made here. Your mileage may vary on whether it is too direct or not. Personally, I liked it a lot.
IN MEMORIAM by ROB HINES
Closer to what most people think of when you say Science Fiction than any other story in this anthology. This is about Artificial Intelligence and friendship. It took me a few pages to get into this story, solely because its style is so different from the other entries, but once I did I was stuck in. This is a powerful story. It packs a real punch and gets you thinking. Excellent work by Hines.
UNRAVEL by REN WAROM
A story of love lost, and a new beginning. Powerful. That's the first word that springs to mind when describing Warom's excellent story. This is a very emotional tale. It grabs you very early on and doesn't let go until long after you have read the last sentence. It's hard for me to come up with the words to describe how good I think this is. I can only urge you to read it for yourself.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST by SUZANNE MCLEOD
Longing for companionship can be made much harder with an interfering mother at your back. This feels like it's really lighthearted compared to the other stories in this anthology. But while it is fun, it is more than just a surface story. McLeod writes about something I think everyone who who has turned thirty can relate to, or at least empathise with, and she does it very well. I found it a really fun read, and like it a lot.
FRAGILE CREATIONS by ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY
Here we have a story of a noble who finds some mechanical artifacts enchanting, and their maker even more so. It takes a while to see where this is going, and it wasn't a big surprise. But that doesn't really matter, you will be happy to come along for the journey. This is well written and it tells a fascinating story. A very good ending to the anthology.
When I've read anthologies in the past it's usually been some sort of "Best of" or "Mammoth book of", or at least something that has some of the really big names of SFF attached to it. And there has always been at least one dud, stories that for some reason or other I didn't take to, that I could very well do without. This anthology has none of those two things. (Well, the names are arguable. You'll probably recognise some of them.) There wasn't a single story here that I felt wasn't for me, or that I felt was below par. The quality of the storytelling is very high here, above what can be expected from any anthology. It really is consistently very good throughout. Every author in here has delivered something that they can be proud of, and something which I have really enjoyed. The only story I feel like singling out from the pack (or should that be skulk?) is Ren Warom's. Even in this field of very good stories her offering stands out. It's slightly above the others in the impact it has, and it is clear that Warom is a very accomplished writer.
The theme for this anthology is given in the cover copy above. It isn't followed so strictly that it limits the stories we get. Most of them are Science Fiction in some form, but this is a really diverse offering. Even when what the stories tells us is very similar they do it in completely different ways. In fact this is the most diverse themed anthology I have ever read. With such a diversity there really is something for everyone here. It doesn't matter if you think Science Fiction isn't your thing, it's used more as means than an end here. This is simply great storytelling regardless of what genre you define it as being.
Simpson has certainly done an excellent job of putting this together. Despite consisting of ten different stories in different settings, by ten different authors, this book flows very well as a whole. As an anthology this really is one of the greats, and it is one of my absolute top reads this year. I can do nothing else to end this review than urge you to get a hold of this book. Especially for SFF fans this is an absolute must, and its SFF roots shouldn't stop you from grabbing it if you enjoy short stories. This is an anthology that should be read by everyone who enjoys a good story.
NOTE: An e-ARC of this was given to me by the publisher....more
This story is pretty typical for Fantasy in its set-up. We have a protagonisThis review originally appeared on my blog: http://weirdmage.blogspot.com
This story is pretty typical for Fantasy in its set-up. We have a protagonist that runs away from her family, and ends up being a "chosen one". Apart from the main character being female there isn't really much that is original in the basic premise. Add to that the setting is basically a School of Magic, and you wont expect too much originality. -Although it must be said that this book was first published ten years before Harry Potter first appeared in the stores, so accusing Lackey of copying Rowling when it comes to setting is totally wrong, unless you can prove Lackey has a time-machine.
The Heralds and the Companions are a great concept. And Lackey is very good at letting the reader discover more about it together with Talia, the main character. We learn a lot about the world of Valdemar and its Heralds without getting the feeling that the information is dumped on us. We are also introduced to an interesting cast of characters, they are diverse and they have a depth to them that makes them seem like real people. That we are mostly at one location helps to concentrate more of the novel on the characters, and especially Talia's, daily life. This works very well, and adds a lot to the story.
I found the story very compelling. Following Talia's journey is a very interesting story and I got hooked on really early. There are parts of the story that concern themselves with her coming to a completely alien environment and I felt that Lackey handled that nearly perfect. When the story turns to conspiracy and suspense it also works great. Lackey writes in a way that gets you invested in the events, as well as the characters involved in them. I did however feel that there was a bit of a problem with a change of pace in the latter parts of the novel, and the ending felt a bit rushed. It may be that the story would have been better if the novel was hundred pages longer. But that is really a minor niggle, I liked it enough that I immediately started on the next book in the trilogy.
This is a very good Fantasy novel, written in a lighter style than what most modern Fantasy is. There's no "gritty" here, and I think that is a strength. Lackey has written a very entertaining story that is by no means too "light" to be dismissed as fluff. If you like the Fantasy of the eighties, or is just tired of everything having to be dark and gloomy, I would strongly recommend you pick this up. It is also great to see Fantasy in an Epic setting that has a female main character, and if you ever miss that this is a must....more
This is a novel that have much in common with Fairy Tales, and its setting is very much reminiscent of A Thousand and One Nights. There's also elemen This is a novel that have much in common with Fairy Tales, and its setting is very much reminiscent of A Thousand and One Nights. There's also elements here that are reminiscent of traditional Epic Fantasy. After a beginning that is bound to a single city we are taken on a quest, and this quest blends Epic Fantasy with Fairy Tale in a seamless manner.
Clarke is very good at getting the Fairy Tale feel of the novel across. It's established early and never lets go as the novel progresses. But these elements don't constrain the novel, and it becomes apparent as the story progresses that it is not a simple Fairy tale re-telling. Instead it is a Fantasy novel that soon takes you on a journey through an interesting landscape. I'm always a bit skeptical of the "quest format" of Fantasy, but I needn't have had any worries here. Clarke makes the journey a very interesting one, and the change in scenery as the story progresses makes it a very interesting journey of discovery. From the desert setting of the beginning we are taken to different landscapes that become a great backdrop to this tale.
Although the story does follow a similar path to other Fantasy novels out there, there is more than enough here that sets it apart, it never feels like it's just following a formula. Clarke's main strength when it comes to the story is making the events that happen along the way unpredictable. Even when you get a sense of where the story is going she manages to get there in ways that were unexpected. While the larger through line of the story is interesting enough, there are also many small events here that are really interesting and add to the story a great deal. Clarke is very good at adding great deal of exposition and worldbuilding without bogging the story down. There's lots of little details here that makes the atmosphere of the world in the novel come alive, and that is a world where it is well worth spending some time.
There's a great deal of magic in the world Clarke has created. And that element of the book is done in a great way. It's certainly not wholly original, but what we are presented with here feels very fresh. We do get a good idea of magic's place in this world, and it feels like an integral part of it and not as an afterthought on the author's part. The way magic is done also feels very realistic, which in my opinion is a great strength in a novel like this.
We also get some very interesting characters here, especially in Ananna - who is also the one telling us this story. Clarke manages to get across early on what type of character Ananna is, and as the novel progresses we get to see her show herself as a well rounded and realistic person. She never become just a vehicle for the story, but stays believable in all she does throughout the story. Ananna does have her flaws, but those only make her become more alive, and they don't make her come off as annoying in any way.
The other main character, Naji, the assassin, is also very well realised. At first he seems a pretty standard mysterious figure, but as we get to know him better we see that he is much more than that. And despite him not always being the most forthcoming type, he does reveal that he has sides to him that make him feel like he's very much an individual formed by his past. We also meet quite a few other supporting characters along the way. Not all of them are as well developed as the main characters, but we do get to know them as more than just extras needed to get the story moving. There's especially one of them that stands out, and I think we may see more to her later. Clarke is very good at getting her characters come alive to the reader. They are interesting, and realistic, and are well worth spending a day with.
All in all this is a very good Fantasy story. Clarke takes us on a great journey, in very good company. The style the book is told in fits in perfectly with the story and adds to the novel as a whole. The Fairy Tale elements make it a great books for fans of Fantasy based around that, and the quest format makes it worth reading for fans of Epic Fantasy. And it's a novel I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to Fantasy fans of all ages. Clarke has managed to create a set of very compelling characters that inhabit a well realised and interesting world. A world it is well worth travelling to. I really enjoyed this story, and I can't wait to follow it further in later volumes.
This is one of those Epic Fantasy novels that show how far Epic Fantasy has come since the birth of its modern incarnation in 1977*. There is of cour This is one of those Epic Fantasy novels that show how far Epic Fantasy has come since the birth of its modern incarnation in 1977*. There is of course elements that you will recognise from the Fantasy novels of the 1980s, it wouldn't really be Epic Fantasy if there weren't, but this is a novel that shows how Epic Fantasy has "grown up" in the last 36 years.
I was quickly dragged into the story by Davies's writing, and after the first chapter I was already invested in the story, and the characters. When we first meet the main character, it's on the battlefield, a setting that Davies brings vividly to life, both here and later in the novel. But I want to begin with the main character, Captain of the First Company of the Antian Royal Guards, Alyda Stenna. Davies does a great job with Alyda, she's a great warrior and a great leader, but she never stops being a female. Neither is she a character that in any way is a male in "women's clothing", she is just a female soldier who has risen to lead, and in the world Davies has created that is something completely natural. What it really boils down to is that in Alyda we get a character that is very realistic, while being "larger than life" in the way a heroic lead of any work of fiction needs to be to make it through the trials and tribulations they are given.
Alyda isn't the only great character in this book, making characters that feel fully alive is one of Davies's strengths. There are no cardboard cut-outs here, but complex living people who have their own hopes and motives for what they do. We are firmly in the upper reaches of society when it comes to the main characters, but that doesn't really matter, in that it is necessary to tell this exact story. There is however many supporting characters that come from lower in the ranks, this is not solely a story of the aristocracy.
I mentioned the word "ranks" above, and it is a central theme there, we are mostly in a military setting. Something that brings us to the middle of the central conflict. A conflict I might add that is what really gives us the basis for a great story. We see what is happening through few eyes, and because of that we don't get a ringside seat to everything that is going on. It does however bring us much closer to the events that are described. The story is almost intimate in nature because of the viewpoints used, and for Epic Fantasy my experience is that can be a bit hit or miss, here it is a bullseye.
Davies writes in a way that really makes you invest emotionally in what is happening to the characters she has created. As the story progresses that creates a lot of tension. The story goes its own ways, and you just have to come along to see what is happening. You're never really sure what is going to happen, because Davies's storytelling doesn't follow a formula. What we get is instead a complex tale that really comes alive. It's also told in a raw and honest manner. There's no "Hollywood style" sanitized violence here, it's brutal and at times uncomfortable. Davies doesn't filter, but gives it to us straight. That isn't always pleasant, but it makes for great authentic writing.
It struck me when I read this how much really happened, and how much I learned about the world the story is set in. There's very little travel to show you the world, and we don't get passages where we are subjected to extensive infodumping. Still I felt I got a good grip on where all of this was happening, and also a sense that there was much outside of that yet to discover. I've tried to come up with a good way to describe the feeling this was giving me, and the closest I can come is "dense", but that is not really correct either. This does require concentration, but that is not conscious. Davies lures you into her world, and you are so invested that it takes more effort to pull yourself out. I think maybe rich and vivid is the words I'm looking for, or maybe alive. -It doesn't really matter, I'm sure you understand by now that this was a story that I really got into and enjoyed.
As you probably have gathered by now, I think this is an excellent debut by Davies. My only "complaint" is that I wish there was more to read, I really didn't want this book to end. This is an Epic Fantasy novel that showcases the genre at its best, a book you really don't want to miss, every Fantasy fan should have this in their collection. Davies is an author we hopefully will be seeing much more to in years to come, I know I'll be eagerly awaiting her next novel.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the author. _____ *1977 saw the publication of The Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks) and the first Thomas Covenant book Lord Foul's Bane. I don't remember where I saw this mentioned as the birth of modern Fantasy, but the article made a very good case for it. And since I use it here, I obviously agree.
I'm a big fan of history, so I was immediately drawn in by the historical connection this novel has. The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island will be famili I'm a big fan of history, so I was immediately drawn in by the historical connection this novel has. The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island will be familiar to anyone who's ever had an interest in the "mysterious disappearances sub genre" of history, and Bond really does use it to great effect in her novel. I was especially pleased with the appearance of one historical figure who is connected to magic. It seems so logical when you read it, and it brings the supernatural elements from history to the present in a completely natural way.
The novel doesn't take long to show us the present day mystery that is the main focus of the story, and the novel is "up and running" before the reader has time to get settled in. Bond is great at setting a fast pace, the story moves along so quick that the slower passages feel like a welcome opportunity for the reader to take a deep breath. The fast pace of the novel doesn't mean that it feels rushed, the pace of events flows naturally from the page. The fast pace of the novel is not caused by the action, although there is enough of that to satisfy, instead the story is driven by mystery. Bond presents the reader with events that deepens the mystery and suspense throughout the novel. There are a lot of twists and turns to what is happening and although one element is not a surprising revelation that doesn't mean it is predictable. It is very hard to see what is coming, and the answers to mystery we do get doesn't take away from that. Bond manages to keep up the level of suspense all the way to the end, and when all is finally resolved it is a satisfying ending.
A novel isn't only driven by its story, it has to have characters that you care about in it. Bond has created some really great ones here. The main characters, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, come very well to life. Miranda is the protagonist of the novel, she is very well drawn and manages to feel both familiar and original. That there's something special about Miranda and Phillips will not come as a surprise, but the way Bond presents them, it doesn't feel out of place but just as a natural part of who they are. The supporting characters are also very well done, and they come with their own stories. We may not get to see it, but they are so alive on the page that you just know it is there. Even Miranda's father, who frankly gives a cliched first impression is shown to be much more than that later in the novel.
To sum up, this is really a great novel. It has a great supernatural suspense story at it's center, and the pacing of a good action-thriller. The Urban, or in this case rather Rural, Fantasy elements are suitably fantastic while still managing to be realistic. We get great characters whose story is a joy to follow, and who I wouldn't mind seeing again. Bond has written a Young Adult novel that shows the strengths of YA, and how good YA can be when done right. Despite not being anywhere near the YA age group I found this a great read, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. This is a great debut novel by Gwenda Bond, and it is a novel that deserves a place on the shelves of any Fantasy fan. And for those that are partial to Young Adult, this is a must buy.
Charlton is quick to get the reader into the story. And he is also quick to introduce a central mystery that is both interesting and intriguing. The Charlton is quick to get the reader into the story. And he is also quick to introduce a central mystery that is both interesting and intriguing. The mystery part of the story is presented to us in the first couple of chapters, and while this seems pretty ordinary at first the setting makes it something else entirely. While the story at times can seem predictable, there are several layers of complexity added as it progresses, and it takes several turns that I didn't expect. It is not an especially long novel, for fantasy, but it contains a lot of action and suspense. One of Charlton's strengths is that he does not overwrite, but lets the story flow without unnecessarily slowing it down.
I love fantasy that has history, a world that has seemingly organically grown, and Charlton presents us with that. It is not done in info dumps, but is trickled out at natural points as the story progresses. By the end of the novel you'll have an idea of the world Nicodemus inhabits that makes it interesting to see what comes next. Even in the somewhat constricted world of Starhaven we get glimpses into the politics and conflicts of the wider world. Something Charlton does very well. The rivalries between different groups is handled with skill, and adds a lot to the story.
What separates this most from other works of fantasy is the magic system. Charlton has created a language based magic system that at first seems pretty straight forward and simple, but as we learn more it comes apparent that it is very complex. The magic is also in many ways integrated seamlessly into the story. And not used as a way of getting the characters out of impossible situations as we often see in fantasy. It is great to see magic in fantasy presented in a way that feels fresh and original.
In conclusion, I can say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable and suspense-filled debut from Charlton. It is not a book that is overly taxing to read, and it has a legacy rooted more in the traditional epic fantasy than the "gritty" or "new weird" that seem to be the vogue these days. I'd recommend this to any fan of fantasy, but especially to those that enjoy a good and complex magic system.
This is a continuation of the story in Wolfsangel, but it is not the usual direct sequel we are so used to from fantasy. Instead it is the next insta This is a continuation of the story in Wolfsangel, but it is not the usual direct sequel we are so used to from fantasy. Instead it is the next installment in the cycle of the story. And the cycle is also the central theme of Lachlan's fantasy series. The protagonists here are not the same as in Wolfsangel, but they are aspects of them. The story is moving on with different players, and I found this worked well. Lachlan maintains the saga-like quality of his prose, which is a good thing. It worked very well in Wolfsangel, and if anything it works even better here.
The story is really fast-paced. There's quite a lot of action, and even in quieter parts of the novel the story is moving along steadily. I can't think of any part of the book that was really a "rest-period", and this makes it a book that can be difficult to put down. There's a lot of magic in this book. But Lachlan doesn't use this as a prop, it is integral to the story he is telling, and it never feels like it is out of place. As with Wolfsangel there is also a presence of gods here, the dark and fallible Viking variety that will be familiar to students of Norse mythology.
The characters we encounter in the book have their separate tales to tell, and all of them are interesting. There are several main characters here that could easily have carried a novel by themselves, and they are propped up with supporting characters that are interesting in their own right. Lachlan makes use of several points of view. This can be annoying in some stories, but here they add up to giving a much greater whole than the sum of the individual viewpoints. The different protagonists are used to great effect to draw the story together and form a single narrative.
This time the location is outside the Scandinavian homeland of the Vikings, mostly in modern day France, but we also get to go to Russia. As someone who is Norwegian and interested in history I think it was really refreshing to see these lesser known locations for Viking activity used to great effect here. And it also makes me excited to find out where we are heading next in Lachlan's saga.
I can't think of anything I disliked in this book, it is very close to a perfect novel. For anyone who feels that modern fantasy is getting a bit stale this will be the perfect antidote. And if you have any interest in Vikings or Norse mythology Lachlan has created an excellent fantasy for you. This is a perfect read for dark winter evenings.
Let us start with getting one thing out of the way, I am Norwegian. And you get kind of wary of people stepping in and using your cultural heritage w Let us start with getting one thing out of the way, I am Norwegian. And you get kind of wary of people stepping in and using your cultural heritage when you come from a small region like the Nordic, or Norse, one. To give you an example, there was some jealousy in Norway when the Disney film Hercules was announced, we have just as rich a pantheon of gods. But once the film was released, and the Greeks started complaining, people sighed in relief that we hadn't been Disneyfied. -This is what a foreigner who wants to use Norse legends and sagas as inspiration has to tackle. (To be fair, there is still lots of Viking blood in the British Isles.)
There's no slow start to this book. Chapter one has plenty of action, and throws you straight into the story. But although this book has plenty of action, that is not what is its real strength. What Lachlan does best is take you under the skin of the characters. With few central characters he has time to let us really get to know them, and as the story progresses you get pretty intimate with the lead players. There were times where I really empathized with the characters in a way that few books make me do.
There's quite a bit of magic in the book. Thankfully Lachlan has stayed close to the shamanistic nature of Norse magic instead of using a AD&D based system. The magic here is very much a part of the story, and it is well integrated, and a Viking of the period would have no problem recognizing it. Lachlan also integrates the other paranormal elements seamlessly into his story. And when gods are involved you get a bit of the paranormal.
The lack of the huge overt treat, that is the mainstay of much fantasy, does make the pace seem deceptively slow. But there is a lot going on, and there is no down-time to get you bored. The story has an inner drive that captures you, and keeps you reading. While Lachlan gives us much information in the first sixty or so pages, he holds back a lot for the reader to discover later. The story has many twists and turns, and at times it will have you fooled as to what is going on. It draws to a satisfying conclusion, but promises there is more to come. And if you are like me, you will want to read more of this saga
Lets go back a bit, to where I started this review. Did Lachlan manage to stay true to the original Norse Sagas? -I think he did, in more ways than one. Not only has he gotten the feel of the sagas almost perfect, but he has stayed true to the Norse myths. There is no doubt that Lachlan has done his research for this novel. -To be honest, I got to say that I know he's been to Norway before writing it. He has also obviously done extensive research on the historical period, what is known as the Viking Age [Vikingtiden] here in Norway. Lachlan has managed to combine the sagas with fantasy and horror, and pulled off a magnificent novel. I am eagerly awaiting the follow up Fenrir, that is released later this year.
This, being a "Young Discworld" novel, features a teenage main character, Tiffany is 16 in this book. Other than that there is not much that is diffe This, being a "Young Discworld" novel, features a teenage main character, Tiffany is 16 in this book. Other than that there is not much that is different from the other Discworld books. Pratchett writes in the same style as he has always done. And anyone who avoids this book because it is labeled as Young Adult (,the publisher's website says 12+,) does themselves a huge disservice.
In my opinion this is perhaps the most serious Discworld book in recent years. It still has the trademark Pratchett humor, but the themes are very serious. Then again it would be difficult to make fun of growing up, responsibility,and bullying. And these are some of the main themes in this book. All is told through the eyes of Tiffany Aching, who is a witch, and this gives Pratchett plenty to play with. We get the some important lessons about the misconceptions about witches from fairytailes, and we also learn a lot about what a Discworld witch's real responsibilities are.
It's easiest to see that this is a Young Adult novel by the many life-lessons that Pratchett manages to weave into the tale. There really is a lot here that an intelligent teenager can take away. And of course any teenager reading Pratchett will be intelligent. But I didn't feel that Pratchett ever got preachy, he presents things and lets the reader decide for themselves.
The story also has room for an overarching plot that is quite sinister. In fact it is part horror story. This is very well handled, and does not feel forced upon all the other things that happen in the book.
In my opinion this book shows that Pratchett is still going strong. Any Discworld fan who doesn't already own this should go buy it at once. -But I most say it helps if you have read the "Witches"-books and the previous three books about Tiffany Aching. At the least you should read "Equal Rites" before embarking upon this book.
First a little bit about each story, and then a summary at the end.
WHO SLAYS THE GIANT, WOUNDS THE BEAST by Mark Chadbourn
A story of Christmas eve inFirst a little bit about each story, and then a summary at the end.
WHO SLAYS THE GIANT, WOUNDS THE BEAST by Mark Chadbourn
A story of Christmas eve in an England at war with the Faerie. Chadbourn manages to convey quite a lot about the larger world in this short story. You get a feel that there is much more that could be told here, without that distracting or detracting from what is being told. The story itself is a well executed tale of suspense, and love.
REINS OF DESTINY - A WARS OF LIGHT & SHADOWS STORY by Janny Wurts
Wurts' story doesn't stand to well alone. I've never read anything of hers before, and I felt this was more of an excerpt than a stand alone. But as an excerpt it functions well. It gives a glimpse into a much larger story that seems interesting. There's a real possibility that I will pick up Wurts' Wars of Light and Shadow books in the future after reading this short story.
TORNADO OF SPARKS by James Maxey
A very nice little story of dragons. At first glance it may seem like many other fantasy stories, and the themes of it are not new, but Maxey manages to give it some good twists that sets it above its common Fantasy tropes. Well worth a read.
GRANDER THAN THE SEA by T. A. Pratt
A good little contemporary fantasy about a town. Pratt manages to give us a good deal of information in a limited space, and the setting seems fully realized. The story in itself is also a fun take on the stories about weird religious groups and their gods. Pratt also manages to put in a sweet little love story.
THE PRINCE OF END TIMES by Hal Duncan
A very complex story, at least when it comes to language and structure. Duncan does it very well, but having only read it once, I feel a bit too distanced from the story by the complex prose. This definitely needs a re-read to really get a grip on it.
KING TALES by Jeff VanderMeer
The title is certainly accurate. VanderMeer has managed to tell three complete tales in a few pages. All of them are in the traditional fairy tale style, and they are all very good. These absolutely needs to be read.
IN BETWEEN DREAMS by Christopher Barzac
An interesting story about a woman in Tokyo. It's done well, and I didn't see where it was going before it had taken me there. That being said, it is barely fantasy. And what little there is of fantasy elements here is in my opinion not really necessary for the story to work. But I still really enjoyed it, and it is well worth the read.
AND SUCH SMALL DEER by Chris Roberson
This is a strange story. Not so much for what it is about, but it is a prequel story to two well known characters in fantastic literature. I found this to be a very interesting tale, and Roberson has presented it in a way that suits the story and the literary legacy of the characters perfectly.
THE WIZARD'S COMING by Juliet E. McKenna
I thought a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's debatable if this is a beginning or a middle, it certainly does not have an end. To me this felt like either a prologue or the first chapter of book two of a trilogy/series. This is a shame since McKenna's writing is very good, and despite its shortcomings this made me want to read more of her work. I just did not get why this was chosen to represent her in a short story anthology.
SHELL GAME - A JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY STORY by Mike Resnick
This is a pretty standard detective story, except for a few minor details. It's humorous and it's Urban Fantasy. Resnick has written a funny little story, and I liked it very much. I'll also be on the lookout for stories with the same main character, because this is a sort of story I would like to read more of.
THE SONG HER HEART SANG - A STORY OF THERA by Steven Savile
A combination of romance and quest fantasy. Maybe not the most original combination in the world, but Savile has managed to draw in some very thoughtful observations on the fact that you should be careful what you wish for, into the mix. A very nice story, with just enough sugary sweetness.
A MAN FALLS by Jay Lake
A story with a very good, and interesting, central concept. There is much to love here, in fact too much. This deserves much more than the short story it is crammed into. It doesn't help that the ending is both a bit weak, and very unfulfilling.
O CARITAS by Conrad Williams Set in a post-apocalyptic London devastated by an earthquake. This is a strange story, that seemingly shifts focus at one point. Williams pulls together an ending that is both chilling and surprising.
LT. PRIVET'S LOVE SONG by Scott Thomas
Thomas has written what at first seems like a traditional love story. But it has a twist that turns it in another direction, and makes it much more than that. A very satisfying tale that manages to encompass both personal events and some greater events.
SHINANDAGA by Lucius Shepard
This story is very much of the lit fic type. And the fantastical elements, that make it fit into this anthology, are more ones of surrealism than fantasy in my opinion. But that does not mean I didn't like it. Shepard has written a great weird story.
QUASHIE TRAP BLACKLIGHT by Steven Erikson
A humorous story that is a bit hard to follow. Not only because there are multiple points of view, but because it is decidedly insane. It is a bit difficult to know if this tale should be credited to a great imagination or a good "medicine cabinet".
Usually with anthologies like this I find about half the stories to be good, a quarter very good/great, and the final quarter meh/bad. This is not the case here. I've read quite a few anthologies over the years, and I would say that this is without a doubt one of the top fantasy ones, maybe even the best. I think every fan of fantasy should have this book in their collection. And it can also serve as a great introduction to anyone who has not read fantasy before. Get one for yourself, and one for a friend who doesn't "get" fantasy.
There was some major events at the end of the second book in this series, Changeless, so this was an eagerly awaited book for me. And I was not disap There was some major events at the end of the second book in this series, Changeless, so this was an eagerly awaited book for me. And I was not disappointed.
The opening chapter gives us a quick reminder of past events, and also gets us up to date with the story of Alexia. This is a action-filled book, and Miss Carriger doesn't waste anytime in throwing us right into the middle of it. An early mystery is thrown into the mix, and we are off on a fun journey into Alexia Tarabotti's Europe.
It is the traveling that helps make this book so good. By having Alexia travel out of the United Kingdom, in this case to France and Italy, Miss Carriger gets the opportunity to show off more of the world we are in. And she does this magnificently. There is a sense here that this is a fully fleshed out alternate history Europe. Among other things, we get to know much more about the paranormal's special place in UK society, and how some of the other countries in Europe sees them. This adds another layer to the background, or should I say Worldbuilding?, that Miss Carriger has put into the world of the Parasol Protectorate. As a fan of history, both real and alternate, I really appreciate that.
Right from the start of the book we have events that helps us understand better who Alexia is, and how she has become that way. We get to see even more of how her family is, and this especially feels true to having formed the personality Alexia has become. We also get some surprising and intriguing information about Alexia's family background.
There is a parallel plot going on here, that I will not call a B-plot as it is just as fascinating as the story of what happens on Alexia's travels. And it also adds a lot to both characters and the world the story is set in. There's also quite a bit of historical fact, to this alternate world, sprinkled about in the book, something I found very rewarding. (Also keep an eye open for the hilarious names of some of the incidental characters.)
Miss Carriger has continued the story of Alexia Taraotti in excellent fashion. This book gripped me from the first page to the last, and I am already looking forward to the next installment, Heartless, that is coming in June this year. Whether your interest lies in Victoriana, alternate history, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, or just an action-packed adventure, you almost certainly will find something to love in this book.
This is urban fantasy. Or to be specific, what urban fantasy was during the nineties, before it somehow got usurped to define something that even its This is urban fantasy. Or to be specific, what urban fantasy was during the nineties, before it somehow got usurped to define something that even its fans have problems differentiating from paranormal romance.
Miéville does cities very well, and he does the London of this story excellently. The world building is great, this London seems alive and breathing, and it is well realized enough that it doesn't take much suspension of disbelief to see that it could be this way. There are a lot of religious cults in this book, and some readers may find that these are a bit of a stretch. But you don't actually have to plow too deep into the myriad of religions that exist today to find out that they are entirely plausible. Some of them are even pretty close to what is out there in our world. The organizations that Miéville populates his London with are also well within the reasonable. I especially liked the FSRC, and have no problem seeing that such a unit could exist even in our world.
The book begins with events that seem normal enough, but the strangeness start before the first chapter is finished. And from there on its a journey into a weird and slightly askew London that is well worth a visit.
We also quickly get to know most of the principal characters, and they are for the most part excellent company throughout the story. There was one exception from this for me , Marge. She seems to be far to normal to take things in her stride the way she does. And this grated on me for parts of the book. I also found Billy Harrow a bit to diffuse at times, he seems to both deny what is happening, and be fine with everything at different parts of the story. And I felt the switch in his character to more active towards the end of the story was more of a plot necessity than natural progression of him as a character. These are however minor points, the setting and characters serve the story well. And Miéville does both of these parts of the novel expertly.
So to what I found as a strength in The City & The City (review here), the prose, and Miéville's use of it. It just does not work here. Technically it is excellent, as always with Miéville, but it does not serve the story, rather it detracts from it. At times it seems as the author uses his grasp of the English language to confuse the reader, and make it harder for him/her to understand what is going on. Several times there are long and unnecessary complicated passages that slows down the action. And this got on my nerve several times, and it really made it hard for me to keep reading at times. That these long passages are largely absent when there is more happening, and never really adds anything to the story, also made them feel a bit like padding.
Miéville's tendency to write literary fiction prose just doesn't fit with keeping a reader present in a fantasy setting, in my opinion. His obfuscating prose style really did this story a disservice. And I found myself wishing, at several points, that he had written this in the same style as Un Lun Dun, and saved his obvious literary fiction aspirations to when he is actually writing a literary fiction novel.
I have to say that I was actually pleasantly surprised with how good this story was after my experience with The City & the City, but at the same time I felt that Miéville has come full circle, and is now back where he was in Perdido Street Station. I am hoping that his next book will be as good as The Scar, my favourite book of his so far.
If you are a fan of the urban fantasy that is represented by books like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, you should find this an excellent read. And if you happen to be a fan of the UF wing of urban fantasy, I urge you to read this, and see what we who read urban fantasy in the 1990s think about when we hear the name.
The second book in a series can be a tricky one, but Newton pulls it of with his effort. We pick up the story a short while after the events of Night The second book in a series can be a tricky one, but Newton pulls it of with his effort. We pick up the story a short while after the events of Nights of Villjamur. All the main characters have relocated, and most of them is now to be found in the city of Villiren.
Newton doesn't waste any time here. By the end of the first chapter we are already re-introduced to some of the main characters from book one, and have gotten our first glimpse of their new situation. Again most of the story is bound to a city, with only the occasional foray to other locations. But although the overall structure of City of Ruin is similar to Nights of Villjamur, this is not in any way a retelling of the story of book one. In fact the differences between the two cities serve to flesh out the world Newton has created, and also gives the reader an appetite for more.
The action is on a much grander scale than in the last book, we get a battle that in some ways reminded me of the real world battle of Stalingrad. Newton handles the battle action very well., and as in real life, you are never quite certain who is going to survive in the end.
There's a second story-thread following other characters from the first book, this is in many ways different from what I expected. This part of the story is pretty weird compared to the other. And I had a bit of trouble getting them to fit together in my mind at first. But as the story progresses Newton manages to make it not only understandable, but important to the overall story.
I had one problem with this book, and that was connected to a death. Newton brings one character I was interested to know more about back from book one only to kill him almost instantly. This felt unnecessary to me, and it annoyed me for quite a while. In fact it seems like Newton has a predisposition to kill off characters that he has finished with instead of letting them fade away from the story. This is not a mayor issue, but just a small annoyance for me personally, that I think not everyone will notice or be affected by.
I'll end this review by saying that I find Newton's ideas and writing engaging and intriguing. City of Ruin got me even more hooked on this world than I was after Nights of Villjamur, and I certainly looking forward to the next installment: The Book of Transformations.
Unsurprisingly this book follows directly on from the events of "The Dragon Keeper". It does start off with a info-dump prologue that at first glance Unsurprisingly this book follows directly on from the events of "The Dragon Keeper". It does start off with a info-dump prologue that at first glance looks like a unnecessary read if you come directly from the previous book. But the prologue not only recaps the events of book one, Hobb has hidden some interesting new info in it, so it is an essential read.
This book takes place wholly away from the civilization of the Rain Wilds, and follows the journey of the dragons and their keepers further into the wilds. Not only the physical wilds of the Rain Wild River, but also the wild landscape of the human psyche. Parts of the book looks at the dynamics of a group of individuals who are cut off from civilization. Some of what happens reminded me of "Lord of the Flies", and i would not be surprised if Hobb has drawn some of her inspiration from William Golding's novel.
There is a bit more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", and the overall pace of events is stepped up a bit. There are still passages that are largely devoted to character building, and that is certainly still a large part of the story, but there is quite a few events happening in the physical world too. It quickly becomes clear that there actually was a bit more happening in book one than was told to the reader. This was mostly very natural, as it was hidden from the point of view characters at the time. One development did make me feel a bit cheated as I felt the character should have noticed earlier, or at the very least had a feeling of something going on.
One thing that there is certainly more of here than in book one is romance. Not that it is in any way turned into a "Romantic Fantasy", but there is a bit of "action" in the book. This comes naturally with the story, and at least one of the developing relationships has been telegraphed since early in the previous book. Robin Hobb also manages to sneak in some surprises on the romance front, and one of them comes as such a surprise that I doubt anyone will catch on before the reveal.
What was the most interesting part of the book for me was finding out about the relationship between humans, dragons and elderlings. This is revealed in more detail here than in any of Hobbs previous works. This relationship between three races is something that has been part of Robin Hobb's fantasy world since "The Farseer Trilogy" and to see what looks like most of the mysteries revealed is very satisfying.
Having mentioned earlier in this review that there is more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", I feel the need to say that it is by no means an action oriented adventure. But as with the previous volume in "The Rain Wild Chronicles" I felt that the slow pace fitted the story. I've read several reports that these two books were first intended as one, and I have no trouble believing that. It might be possible to read this book as a standalone, but I would definitely recommend you read these to books as a split volume and begin with the first one.
The ending of this book, and as far as I know "The Rain Wild Chronicles", was a bit of a letdown. Not because it was a badly written ending, or that it didn't finish the story. It did however leave me with a lack of closure that almost screams for a follow up. I hope it comes in the form of another trilogy from Robin Hobb, and that she's working on it now, because I want to read it as soon as possible.