Now a young woman, Jaenelle Angelline reigns as Queen of Ebon Askavi, but as isolated as she remains she still needs the help of her friends, her surrNow a young woman, Jaenelle Angelline reigns as Queen of Ebon Askavi, but as isolated as she remains she still needs the help of her friends, her surrogate family, her protectors. Daemon, her promised Consort, will sacrifice himself if it means keeping Jaenelle from annihilation as she works her powerful magic to restore balance to the land.
I've already talked about character development and gushed about how much I love these books, so I'll just say a few words more.
I did see a few things that seem symbolic in this trilogy, and probably missed loads more. For example, and this is just the connection I draw, in Queen of the Darkness when the Terreilliens have been let across the border into the realm of Kaeleer and taken land belonging to the Kindred (animals of various species who are also Blood), on the understanding that the land is uninhabited - it reminded me strongly of the European attitude toward settling Australia. The land was considered terra nullius, allowing the white people to claim the land without recognising the rights of the Aborigines, who had lived there for hundreds of thousands of years.
Not that I needed any more reason to loathe the Terreilleans even more!
I'm a little unsure, at the end of it all, whether the three realms were on different planes or in different places. There is a difference, and while I got the impression that Hell was definitely on a different plane, I'm a bit fuzzy about the other two. Ah well, it doesn't really matter. All in all, if you like fantasy, and even if you are a bit squeamish most of the perverted stuff is more implied than described (which is an important distinction), you will love this trilogy. It has politics, scheming, magic, dragons (kind of), love, passion, a winged race and adventure.
And, the true mark of success ha ha, I did feel my eyes watering at the end of this book. Poor Daemon. He is a truly magnetic character, for everyone around him as much as for the reader, though if the reader doesn't think he's magnetic they would have a hard time believing anyone else did!
The pacing is tight and quick, yet it slows down when it needs to. Bishop doesn't suffer that annoying tick of some other fantasy writers of detailing everything, or taking you through every conversation and its repercussions. Sometimes you just arrive at the end in the aftermath, which is fine, because that's hard enough to deal with. It's dark, it's twisted, it's beautiful....more
I would have read this book right after finishing Trickster's Choice but I'm always afraid there'll be too much rehashing of previous events etc., whiI would have read this book right after finishing Trickster's Choice but I'm always afraid there'll be too much rehashing of previous events etc., which gets really annoying. Instead, there's very very little, and what there is is slipped in there naturally. I was rather surprised at the things I'd forgotten, like about Duke Mequen! That was pretty significant, I'm surprised I'd forgotten that.
The Balitang family return to the capital of Rajmuat where the formidable matriarch of the family, Aunt Niritin, has things well in hand. The conspiracy amongst the Raka and the household servants, with Aly as spymaster, has some serious clout and Dove on their side. The Regents of the Rittevon boy-king, Dunevon, are suspicious, prickly, unloved and reactive; it doesn't take much from Aly to aggravate their worst points and turn the populace against them, though they certainly didn't need much help for that. Nawat, the crow-man, leaves Aly to help the rebels on other islands and to grow into himself. Gifts from Aly's home make things really interesting.
The relationships and politics in this particular volume are handled very well - never boring, even the plotting is exciting. What Pierce did with Sarai and Dove I absolutely love - she's not an author to be boxed in but allows for change and fluidity, and it worked out better than the original plan. I adored the darkings, which were very original and fresh and entertaining. While I did find that Aly's personal thoughts and feelings weren't delved into enough, especially in relation to Nawat, had I been reading this at 14, say, I would have been very satisfied. Probably my imagination was more active at the time and needed less direction?
There's great intelligence and craftiness in this duology, as well as enjoyable characters and unique fantasy elements. Highly recommended; just don't be distracted by a few cringe-inducing past tense verbs - "treaded" is NOT a word, the past tense of "tread" is "trod". Grrr....more
The first book of a two-book series, Canadian-Australian author Miller is a refreshing new voice in the genre. Set in the kingdom of Lur, the two raceThe first book of a two-book series, Canadian-Australian author Miller is a refreshing new voice in the genre. Set in the kingdom of Lur, the two races, Doranen and Olken, live alongside each other with a precarious balance: the Doranen, who came down through the mountains fleeing the evil mage Morg over six centuries ago, are born with magic and use it to control the weather and give smaller benefits to society, while the Olken, the original inhabitants of the land, occupy lower-class positions of farmers and merchants and servants, protected by the Doranen but at the same time repressed by them. Even so, they all revere Barl, the powerful magician who saved her people when she constructed the Wall that seals Lur off from Morg's poisoned, demonic reach.
Amongst a select group of Olken who still, surreptitiously, practice the Olken earth magic, Jervale's Heir, Dathne, sees the coming of the Innocent Mage, the one spoken of in the prophecy that the group has lived long centuries by. With his coming to the capital city of Dorana, she knows the Final Days are upon them, but not when they will start or how the Innocent Mage, an uncouth fisherman's son called Asher, will save them.
Asher has come to Dorana for a year, to earn enough money to buy his father a fishing boat. A chance meeting with the magickless prince, Gar, leads to monetary success and friendship. Asher is a great character, filling the generic fantasy role of "the ignorant peasant upon whose shoulders rests the fate of the world", but refreshingly different. It's not that he doesn't have a strong accent, that he doesn't want responsibility etc., but he's strong-willed, opinionated, unfawning (if that's a word), forthright, frank, honest, scathing and funny.
That's something else I really enjoyed about this book: the cheeky sense of humour. I also appreciated that Miller, who has worked with horses, knows the correct way to ride one - there's none of that annoying "guiding with the thighs" nonesense that I come across in so many books, especially fantasy. You don't use your thighs at all, you use your calves. It's just that when you get an inaccuracy like that it can be very distracting.
If you're in the need of some new fantasy, and you're getting tired of typical quest journeys, I recommend this one. It's not big on female characters, but the ones that are here are strong-willed and independent. It also has a good power balance, in that it's not an inherently patriarchal society. It deals with relations between ethnic groups, invaders and their conquered, and prejudice. The dialogue is fresh, the characters relatively original or at least drawn in a diverting way (such as the uptight, beureaucratic Darran), and the plot driven at a steady pace. Not bogged down in unnecessary detail or description, or following the usual path of fantasy (the constant travelling, for one), Miller has managed to do new things with an old formula, and leave it at a slight cliff-hanger. Thankfully, the second and final book, The Awakened Mage, is already out....more
The spring thaw has come again to the Highlands and Elspeth is once again leading a group of Misfits to Sutrium, the capThis review contains spoilers.
The spring thaw has come again to the Highlands and Elspeth is once again leading a group of Misfits to Sutrium, the capital, in time for the first elections since the Rebels freed the Land from the oppressive Council and the fanatical Herder Faction. But not all the Rebel leaders want to relinquish their power in a free election, and the Rebels have a tenuous hold on the Land west to the Suggredoon. On the opposite banks, Soldierguards and Herder warrior priests called Hedra man the new border, and with their ships burned by the fleeing Herders, the Rebel alliance has no means of attacking the West and freeing the citizens there.
There are problems with the Rebel leader Vos, currently holding Saithwold, who has barricaded the people in the town and is censoring communication going to and from the area. When Elspeth and Zarak, another Farseeker, take a detour to see Zarak's father, Khuria, she learns that Vos is merely a puppet for her old foe, Malik, who is using Saithwold's isolation to work out an invasion plan with the Herders. In working to defeat him, Elspeth finds herself trapped on one of the three ships the Herders use, and on her way to Herder Isle.
Luckily, she isn't the only Misfit who snuck aboard a Herder ship - a number of Coercers disguised as Hedra are also aboard, and together they work to take over the Herder Faction from inside, discovering hoards of dangerous Beforetime weapons and a library of Beforetime books for the priests to study - books they publicly denounce and burn on the Land. From the One, the mad, obese leader of the Herders, Elspeth discovers that Ariel has gone to the West coast with plague seeds, to unleash a plague that will kill everyone. She is desperate to stop him, her nemesis, the Destroyer to her Seeker, to save the people trapped in the West.
As a summary, that's just the tip of a mighty iceberg. Truly there is so much happening in this book it's hard to know where to start (though I've already given away quite a bit!). This was the first time I've read this volume (book 5 in the Obernewtyn Chronicles), and I knew nothing going in - I didn't even read the blurb on the back. It was full of nail-biting tension, mystery, excitement, adventure, danger and discovery. The plot really moves forward, and there are many changes.
I was stunned and delighted that Elspeth infiltrated the Herders - and before the Coercers appeared to save her life, I felt such fear for her. Actually, the fear didn't end then either. I can't remember when was the last time I was so emotionally and intellectually engaged in a story - really feeling it, y'know? The atmosphere here is just so compelling and vivid, in that stone fortress of a compound/cloister, a mini city in its way, with secret passages in the thick stone walls and mute "Shadows", slaves, many of them with their tongues cut out, who Elspeth realises belatedly are all female. It's quite interesting, actually, that for a story that shows time and again that things aren't black-and-white, that life is more complex than that, the Herder Faction truly is out-and-out evil.
Ariel, though, is becoming a very complex character. I think he must be quite mad - what's the word that was always used to describe him? Defective, that's it. A Misfit term, one used when the Misfits don't have any powers - though it turns out he has a twisted form of Empathy and Futuretelling powers. You can really start to see the pattern of the dance he and Elspeth are playing now. She knows that he knows she is the Seeker, and she figures out that the reason he makes sure she's never killed or harmed, is that he needs her to find the Weaponmachines, and if she fails to turn them off or whatever she needs to do, it will be his turn, and he'll set them off and destroy the world. So far, his only motivation is his own kind of insanity.
One thing though, on this topic - considering how much time Elspeth spends thinking through things, going over the clues and connecting the dots, the one thing she hasn't mentioned in a long time is the one thing that started it all: seeing Marisa Seraphim's map of the Weaponmachines cache, seeing exactly where the weaponmachines are located. She's never shared with us any details of this - whether it's a place she recognises, or what exactly she saw (and how did Marisa come by it, anyway?). She is instead on a mission set out by Kasanda, the Beforetime Seer - Cassy Duprey - to find the four clues Kasanda left for her, things she will need to complete her task as Seeker. I can only surmise that these things, or information, will help her to disable the weaponmachines, not to find them - since she has that knowledge already, right? But has suppressed it?
Elspeth is a character I've always loved, and I felt such compassion for her in this book: the Herders and Ariel did something to Rushton that seems to have killed his love for her. She learns that it's not actually dead, but that Ariel tortured him and turned Elspeth, the very image of her, into a trigger, with Rushton the bomb. Ariel doesn't want to kill Elspeth - he needs her - but he has a lot of interest in causing others pain, always has done. His plan is for Rushton to try and kill Elspeth, but with Elspeth safe, she will instead watch her beloved die. Only by doing something Ariel couldn't have foreseen - his unfamiliarity with love, compassion, generosity etc. renders his forethought weak - can Elsepth save Rushton.
They have had such a hard road together, it seems like at the beginning of every book, something happens to tear them apart. One step forward, four steps back kind of thing. Elspeth has always struggled to balance her secret mission with everyday living, with being open with others, especially Rushton. She's been holding herself back, she realises, even when she thought she was giving herself, so that she still seems so isolated and lonely. She's aware, sardonically, cynically, how other people, especially the Misfits, look up to her and mythologise her, which only makes her feel even more isolated. I've been keeping track of her age, and I figure she's twenty or twenty-one in this book - she has changed a great deal over the years, and with each successive book, maturing at a nice, steady pace, in tune with her adventures and self-awareness. It's wonderful character development, and the story wouldn't be the same without such a strong protagonist.
The story is awfully long, though. It could probably have been tightened up a fair bit, and there were quite a few typos - names were often wrong (Ode instead of Aris, Port Oran instead of Halfmoon Bay), but I honestly didn't mind very much, it was just distracting and was hopefully fixed for later editions. It's very fleshed-out and involved, and again, it touches upon ideology and social issues. The nature of power, for instance, is always relevant:
"It is also that the Faction sets itself up to appear impregnable. That is a defence in itself, for if something appears impossible to break, then no one even tries to break it. But that same appearance of invulnerability is a weakness if those maintaining it believe it, too. Th Herders believed their Compound was so fearsome that no one would dare to enter it save those who had no choice, and so they did not defend themselves within its embrace. In a way, taking over the Compound has been like taking over the Land in the rebellion. The Councilmen had run things for so long they could not imagine truly being challenged, yet most of the Council's power rested on our accepting that it could not be challenged."
"When you speak of it in that way, it seems that power is like some ... strange agreement between the oppressed and the oppressor," Elkar said.
Cinda lifted her hand, and as it flickered, Elkar translated, "She says that power is not a real thing, like a ship, but an idea. And only by accepting the idea, do we make it real. She says that freedom is the same sort of thing: an idea that is nothing, until people believe in it enough to make it real." [p.481]
I love it when Fantasy fiction explores relevant issues and philosophy like this, examining the way society works. It's like Lloyd Alexander said, "Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it." (I really should think about reading one of his books!) Carmody does that and more, which is why she's been my favourite writer since I was in primary school and first read Obernewtyn.
Note: I read the Australian first edition. In the UK and North America, this book has been split into two volumes: Wavesong and The Stone Key.
It's a sweet, humorous book, written for a younger audience but easily enjoyed by an older one too. Based on the Cinderella story, there are a few notIt's a sweet, humorous book, written for a younger audience but easily enjoyed by an older one too. Based on the Cinderella story, there are a few notable differences, namely that Ella was "blessed" with the "gift" of obedience by the fairy Lucinda, who thinks all her gifts (such as turning you into a squirrel) are wonderful. Ella is the daughter of Lady Eleanor and a somewhat unscrupulous merchant, Sir Peter, whom she rarely sees. She grows up with her mother, who teaches her to slide down the banister, and the cook Mandy, who's not all she seems. She learns fairly early what a curse the gift is, where any command must be obeyed. The opportunities for being taken advantage of are mind-boggling (but strictly G-rated). Ella learns to be defiant even while she is forced to obey, but the trick doesn't always work.
When, at fifteen, her mother dies several things happen. Firstly, she meets Prince Char and forms a friendship with him, and secondly her father decides to send her to finishing school along with the two hideous daughters of Dame Olga, who has her sights set on Sir Peter. The daughters, Hattie and Olive, are greedy, rude and obnoxious, but things become worse when Hattie realises Ella must obey her.
Ella is desperate to find Lucinda and have her remove the curse, which leads her to run away from the finishing school and into all sorts of trouble. Unlike a lot of fantasy stories, though, this one isn't a quest story set on an endless road. Ella meets Elves and is nearly eaten by Ogres, but spends most of the story at home. Humorous escapades and a blooming friendship between her and Char balance out the cruelty dealt her by others. And the Cinderella aspect is given full due, but in a refreshing way. The similarities are there, but it never feels old and tired and same-y.
Also, Ella herself is a great heroine, smart and strong but not over-confident or perfect. She's a bit clumsy but has the gift of imitating languages and voices, and learning languages quickly. She's no defenceless damsel and she doesn't whinge, but her curse curtails who she really is. The moral of the story is fitting, but not lecturing. Levine has a much lighter hand than your average Disney movie, and there's not a saccharine moment. It reminds me a bit of the movie Ever After, so if you liked that then you'll like this book, and vice versa.
A joy to read, and very well written, Ella Enchanted took up a few hours of my time but will take up a much larger slice of my memory: for making me laugh at the end of an exhausting week, for being sweet but not cloying, wise but not preachy, and for revitalising an old fairytale....more
Fourteen year old Abigail Kirk lives with her divorced mother in a high-rise apartment in one of Sydney's oldest suburbs, The Rocks, right below the gFourteen year old Abigail Kirk lives with her divorced mother in a high-rise apartment in one of Sydney's oldest suburbs, The Rocks, right below the giant Harbour Bridge and near the Opera House. Over the summer holidays, she helps at her mother's antiques shop and relieves her neighbour Justine of the burden of her two small children, Vincent ("the high-rise monster"), and four-year-old Natalie, prone to fevers and fears and forever being bullied by her unpleasant brother. Abigail takes them to a nearby park, and there she watches a group of children playing a game called Beatie Bow. Vincent joins in, but Natalie hangs back to watch, and draws Abigail's attention to a waifish, poorly dressed little girl with very short hair, standing nearby and avidly watching.
The children's game is rather spooky, though there isn't much to it: they form a circle but for two of them, one to stand in the middle as "Mudda" (mother) who answers her "children's" cries of "what's that noise?" when they hear moans and other creepy sounds, and the other to hide under a white sheet and creep towards them to give them a fright. The children scatter, the ghost of Beatie Bow catches one to take her or his place, and the game begins again.
When Abigail's mother Kathy tells her daughter that her ex-husband wants to get back together with them, to make the family whole again - and take them all to Norway with him - Abigail is furious. She never got over the feeling of betrayal when he left them - left her, is how she sees it - for another woman when she was ten. In a miff and angry with her mother for wanting her ex-husband back, she goes to the park and when she sees Natalie's "little furry girl", she tries to talk to her. The little girl flees, and startled, Abigail follows, up through the narrow old alleys and stairwells, and suddenly, at the stroke of the town clock, finds herself in a world both familiar and utterly alien.
It's 1873 in Sydney Town, a muddy colonial town, and the little girl's family takes Abigail in after she sprains her ankle running through the streets after the girl - who says her name is Beatie Bow. The family of Scottish immigrants consists of Granny Tallisker, who has "the Gift", and Mr Bow, an Englishman suffering from a head injury after fighting in the Crimean War who married Granny's daughter, now dead of typhoid fever that took her newborn baby and another child as well. Mr Bow runs a confectionary shop on the ground floor, making all the sweets with his extended family's help. As well as Beatie, Samuel Bow has a son, a teenager called Judah who works as a sailor, and a younger son, Gibbie, who hasn't yet recovered from the typhoid fever that took his mother and who relishes planning out his own funeral and being sickly. Also living with them is their cousin, Dorcas Tallisker, known as Dovey, who has a limp leg from a childhood accident that was never set properly.
Granny and Dovey think that Abigail is "the stranger", whose coming has an important purpose to do with the Gift living on in the family - Granny is the last one, and there aren't many family members left. They won't help Abigail return to her own time until she's fulfilled her purpose in being here, whatever that is - even though, as Abigail learns, it means that one of Granny's four grandchildren will remain childless, one will have the Gift, and one will die young.
Anyone who grew up in Australia in the 80s will be familiar with this story. It was first published in 1980 but had a second life when the movie adaptation came out in 1986. You can watch the entire film adaptation on YouTube, which I've been doing while I write this review, mostly because I wanted to see if it was really like my memories. See, I remember watching the movie at school, with my class - grade five I'd say, when I was ten? That would have been 1989 I think. Well I'm not sure exactly when we watched it in class, and I think there was more than one time, but I remembered it as being really rather scary. I couldn't remember much except the Beatie Bow game, the "little furry girl" who seemed very mysterious to me, and the modern-day older girl (in the movie she's seventeen) being almost lured into the past. I remember the palms touching - that's one of the strongest things to have stayed with me throughout my life; I remembered it as being the key to the time travel. Of course, this doesn't even happen in the book! Anyway, I always had a very lively imagination that lived on darker images, so this certainly made an impression on me, even though I didn't really understand it all.
Perhaps because the movie spooked me, I never read the book as a kid. It was one of those very popular novels and my school library certainly had a copy, but I never had any interest in reading it until a few years ago when I hunted down a copy via Amazon (you can still get it easily in Australia, but I don't think it was ever in print in Canada!). I'll add this about the adaptation: it's very 80s but very good, it sticks pretty closely to the book and I think one of the reasons why my teachers liked us to see it, aside from it being Australian, was because it provides a good glimpse into life in colonial Sydney - how people lived, what it looked like etc. (If you've got a spare 127 minutes, definitely click on the link and watch the movie.)
Abigail isn't a bad sort at the beginning of the story, but as the months go by in 1873 and she spends more time with the Tallisker-Bow family, she realises just how selfish she's always been, especially in regards to her mother and father.
'I'm not kind,' said Abigail with a sickish surprise. 'Look how I went on with Mum when she said she wanted us to get together with Dad again. Look what I did to Dad when I was little, punched him on the nose and made it bleed. Maybe I've never been really kind in my life. And she remembered with a pang what Kathy had said, that awful day: that she had never, either as a child or a fourteen-year-old, offered a word of sympathy to her her mother. 'Yet here are these people, happy and grateful to be able to read and write, just to be allowed to earn a living; and they've shared everything they can share with me, whom they don't know from Adam.' These Victorians lived in a dangerous world, where a whole family could be wiped out with typhoid fever or smallpox, where a soldier could get a hole in his head that you could put your fist in, where there were no pensions or free hospitals or penicillin or proper education for girls, or even boys, probably. Yet, in a way, it was a more human world than the one Abigail called her own. [pp.76-77]
As the movie did later, the book recreates colonial Sydney with fine detail, in all its grimy, rotten-teeth glory. It's rich with atmosphere, some excitement and danger, and is more of a family history than a story of colonial Australia. It's Abigail's coming-of-age story, a time for her to learn a great many things: patience, selflessness and generosity, love and loss, to appreciate what one has, and to make the most of things. She falls in love with Judah, and on learning that he's long been betrothed to Dovey, learns how to let go. She takes on this family's burden of heritage as a personal one, and stops whinging and lamenting her lot in order to help them.
These are some very well-written characters. They don't read like characters in a book but like real people, captured by the author but not conjured by her. The story is quite simple, not over-crowded with plot hurdles or too much drama. It plays out convincingly, and Abigail is a strong heroine able to carry the story and bind it all together. The other key character of strength is of course Beatie Bow herself, who is a good counter to Dovey's gentleness and kindness. The book doesn't suffer from the film's "starry-eyed gaze" (there's a bit of glossy posturing and soft lens action that's distinctly 80s), and at fourteen, Abigail acts appropriately for her age.
The ending is great, if a bit convenient: I had forgotten how it went, but it ties everything up so well and doesn't feel forced. This is a wonderful time travel adventure story, a great journey through old Sydney Town's established streets, rich in layers of detail and history. At its heart, it is a story about getting perspective: on family, and love, and life in general. Abigail travels a long way in order to realise what her own family means to her, and how she can help make her mother - and father - happy again, as well as herself. I enjoyed reading this a great deal, and I'm so glad I did read it, even after all these years - it's never too late to read a classic, right? And read again and again, and keep the book alive by reading it yet again. It's always sad to think of how many great books flared brightly but with a short wick, to sink away, out-of-print for ever more, so I'm always happy when a book manages to survive, and be remembered and read again. Let's keep these modern classics alive, shall we? ...more
Vanyel, only fifteen, is the oldest son and therefore heir to a Holding. His mother is seemingly weak-willed and obsessed with her vapours, while hisVanyel, only fifteen, is the oldest son and therefore heir to a Holding. His mother is seemingly weak-willed and obsessed with her vapours, while his father is such a Man that he needs must push Vanyel into Manly pursuits as well, which includes letting the incompetent and ignorant Armsmaster beat the crap out of him. Vanyel is more interested in music. He's also self-absorbed, introspective, selfish, arrogant, a bit petulant - in other words, young and spoilt, as well as very handsome. His father, Withen, decides to pack him off to his sister Savil, a Herald-Mage who lives in the capital, training young apprentices.
Vanyel's one meeting with his aunt Savil years ago didn't impress either of them, and being sent off into exile doesn't improve his manners. He hasn't shown any Gift, any ability in Mage powers or creativity, not even in music, which shatters his only dream: to be a Bard. Savil isn't like her brother, though, and with her favourite protege, Tylendel, keeps an eye on him to see if he really is an arrogant little shit, or if he's hurting inside and needs help.
His attraction to Tylendel only makes him hate himself more, and fear the older boy's reaction should he find out - even though Vanyel knows Tylendel is shay'a'chern - gay. When the two do finally take the plunge, they fall in love, and become lifebonded. When Tylendel's twin brother is murdered, though, his pain and grief sets him on a dangerous path of revenge and retribution, drawing Vanyel along with him, with tragic consequences.
What starts out as a fairly conventional, formulaic fantasy doesn't stay that way long. While the land of Valdemar may be fairly typical in fantasy fiction in terms of its culture, attitudes, prejudices, sophistication and class structure (i.e. boringly medieval-to-middle ages), it's not entirely patriarchal or old-fashioned. Contrary to what I would expect from a fantasy world that's been revisited so many times, it is not detailed or richly described: you get mostly only a cursory glance at the landscape, which is where falling back on fantasy stereotypes of a medieval-English setting comes in handy. This would normally have alienated, disappointed and bored the hell out of me, but for the characters and the story itself.
Although Lackey overuses italics - this when the story is narrated from Vanyel's point-of-view, to show his nature, but it wears thin pretty quickly - the prose is smooth and quite fast-paced. I much prefer these - I shall call them bildungsromen-style fantasy stories, compared to the Quest-motivated ones. I like stories where the characters are mostly stationary, where you get to watch them live, grow, mature, develop, learn through studies and interactions with others and, yes, adventures, but not quests. Quests get very boring, but it's more than that. There's something enjoyable about the low-key, homely, comfortable "static" fantasy story - most of the Harry Potter books are like this, especially The Order of the Phoenix, which a lot of people found boring but I really enjoyed - it's quite possibly my favourite even. It has precisely this quality, where you really get to know the characters, and you get to indulge in political scheming, feuds, that kind of thing. Magic's Pawn is one of those bildungsromen-type fantasies, but it's still a very busy book, and when adventure happens it certainly doesn't dither.
I did feel a bit like I'd walked in on a group of role-players and a game that's new but familiar: I had no trouble following the story or understanding the world, but because I haven't read any other books set in this world, there's a lot that isn't explained and plenty that you would expect would be dramatised but isn't - like the Companions (intelligent, magical horses) finding their Chosen (new Herald-Mages) - and the difference between a Herald and a Mage, or why some are both, is unclear. Also, what the Hawkbrothers do went mostly over my head; I really didn't understand that part of it.
Vanyel's story, though, was clear and passionately told. Despite his flaws - and he really is a self-indulgent, vain little shit most of the time - you still come to care for him and cheer him on. And I was proud of him, in the village scene at the end. I certainly want to read the next two, Magic's Promise and Magic's Price, to find out what happens with him....more
One of the most remarkable and unique fantasy books I've read in a while, Shadowbridge is about a watery world where a giant bridge goes on forever, bOne of the most remarkable and unique fantasy books I've read in a while, Shadowbridge is about a watery world where a giant bridge goes on forever, branching off into different spans and spirals, held together by an unknown magic and the whim of the Edgeworld gods. No one knows where it ends, or if it does in fact end, or even how it came to be. There is some land - islands, hills suddenly appearing - but the people on the Shadowbridge care nothing for how their food gets to the market, or why some spans are blessed and others are left to rot.
Across the spans travels Leodora, daughter of the famous puppeteer Bardsham. She grew up on an island called Bouyan, raised by her overbearing uncle, until he pushes things too far and she escapes to the bridge with her father's old friend Soter and two large cases of shadow-puppets. Like her father before her, she collects the stories of the spans and performs them for large crowds, all under the psuedonym of Jax because women aren't so welcome here, or anywhere.
She has a mysterious Coral Man in the bottom of one case that for years called to her from the bottom of the sea. Soter is harbouring secrets about her parents, both gone now. Their new musician, Diverus, has been blessed by the gods with the ability to play any musical instrument put in his hands. And two 'men' on a scary black ship are hunting Leodora.
This is the first half of a two-book story, to be concluded in Lord Tophet. It is so well written, you wouldn't be able to edit out a single sentence. I'm quite in awe. The characters are well developed and interesting; Leodora especially is engaging, quick and brave. Diverus I'm sure we'll get to know better in the next book, but I've already got a sweet spot for him. All sorts of creatures populate the spans, from all sorts of mythology, including Asian, and the architecture is just as wildly imaginative - such as the candy-coated homes of one ancient span.
I don't usually care for stories within a book, they tend to bore me. But the stories in Shadowbridge are wonderful. I particularly liked the one about how Death met his bride. There are still many unanswered questions about this world, but everything is carefully revealed and paced, and it's so well written (I just have to say that again) that it's hard to believe one man came up with this from his own imagination. I loved this book, and I highly recommend it....more
Ephemera is a world of fractured landscapes linked by stationary or resonating bridges that take you where your heart wants to go more often than wherEphemera is a world of fractured landscapes linked by stationary or resonating bridges that take you where your heart wants to go more often than where your will intends. It is a world of humans, demons, wizards and Landscapers, a world that listens to the hearts of its creatures all, resonating with those hearts and responding to them. It is a world of Dark and Light and a long history of manipulation, ambition and trouble.
Sebastian is a demon, half incubus and half human. He lives in a landscape created by his cousin, the powerful rebel Landscaper Glorianna - known, and feared, as Belladonna. Called the Den of Iniquity, it is a nighttime landscape of pleasure and debauchery - but something in Sebastian wants more than his lonely existence, more than giving pleasure to countless females through dreams or in the flesh. His heart's wish resonates with the heart wish of a young woman in another landscape, Lynnea, and Ephemera draws them together.
Darker things are afoot in the world, though. The Eater of the World, trapped in its own barren landscapes for generations, has been freed. The wizards work to their own agenda and turn Belladonna into the enemy - and she is the enemy, the only one who can fight the Eater of the World. As she comes to understand what Ephemera truly needs, that it needs Dark as well as Light, that both have a place, she above all understands that demons like Sebastian are just as important to Ephemera's existence as those humans who are "good".
Anne Bishop is an excellent writer of edgy, original fantasy, the kind of fantasy that speaks to the potential of the genre to delve into the nature of what it means to be human, as well as the nature of the world we live in. She creates fascinating, intriguing worlds that push us out of our comfort zones and confronts common assumptions and prejudices. Her work is refreshing and unique, approachable rather than alienating, and contains characters who feel very much alive.
Sebastian is written in a similar style to her Black Jewels trilogy, from the perspective of several different characters who offer different angles to the story, and embeds localised plot lines within a larger, more fundamental story arc (in this case, the Eater of the World). It worked superbly well in the Black Jewels, but here it was more scattered, and made it harder to ground myself in the book. Especially considering the title character, Sebastian, doesn't figure as prominently in the story as you'd think, given that the book is named after him. It's simply a case of having expectations and being a bit disappointed.
I hate to continue comparing this to the Black Jewels, but the latter did establish a pretty high standard. The characters of the Black Jewels were strongly drawn, diverse and interesting and endearing, and very sympathetic. I still think of them from time to time. The characters of Sebastian are paler in comparison, less solid, more clichéd. There was a degree of cheesiness - especially with Sebastian and Lynnea, whose romantic relationship was a bit corny and formulaic at times - that made me cringe a bit, and Sebastian wasn't as charismatic as he could have been.
That's not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy this book, but I did feel it was a bit lacking and not her best effort. Still, top marks for originality and giving me something to chew on....more
Valen is a recondeur, a spell-casting Pureblood with the bent for maps, paths, trails and directions who escaped his family and the Registry to live aValen is a recondeur, a spell-casting Pureblood with the bent for maps, paths, trails and directions who escaped his family and the Registry to live a free life. For twelve years he has done as he pleased, living precariously and not always honestly, a slave to the nivat seeds that ease the sickness in him. Now twenty-seven, Valen - a thief, drug addict, liar, womaniser, and untrustworthy coward even - literally can't read, and is unschooled in his magic because of his rebellious childhood. The harsh treatment of his father and siblings didn't help form his character.
Abandoned by his comrade Boreus and left greviously wounded near an abbey, Valen takes the sanctuary the Abbot offers, as well as the food and dry clothes, and spins his lies to avoid detection. If found out, his own punishment will be dire, and anyone found guilty of aiding and abetting him would be executed.
He brings with him to the Abbey his grandfather's spelled book of maps, which the Abbot takes an unusual interest in. Caught in his web of lies, Valen is soon caught up in intrigue, politics and mystery but wants nothing to do with any of it. Still, he can't resist trying to unravel the secrets kept by the Cabal, and his first sighting of a Dane - one of the Danae, spirits of earth and trees, plants, rivers, lakes and mountains - affects him deeply. The monks of the abbey talk of the world's end, and as the dead King's three sons fight over the land, and the mad Harrowers burn fields and people alike, slowly Valen starts to believe in it himself.
The story is narrated in the first person by Valen, which is not usual in a fantasy book - I think because it's harder to introduce a reader to an unfamiliar world when the narrator has no reason to lay down exposition and explanations where necessary. Yet because of Valen's pondering nature, Berg manages to weave in exposition etc. smoothly. The first half of the book is a bit slow, but then it picks up and gets really interesting. The plot is quite complex, the details numerous and easy to miss, so it took me a while to read. Valen is a great character: flawed, at times cowardly, yet perhaps because he's the Black Sheep and we share his thoughts and understand his fears, he's charismatic and attractive to me.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this novel is its build-up to an apocalypse that mirrors (figuratively at least) what's happening in our own world today: the land is dying, ravaged, rotting, while people go about their worldly desires and ambitions with no concern for the impact of their actions. The Harrowers are mad, making no sense as they wilfully destroy in the name of purifying - this, too, is scarily familiar. Their attraction to the lower classes, while the rich people give priceless offerings to the temples in hopes of appeasing the gods, is totally understandable. I loved the focus on the land, on the pulse of the earth and the Danae who feel betrayed and now hate humans, and it was interesting to read a pre-apocalyptic fantasy novel that wasn't centred around some powerful, corrupt magic-wielder who must be stopped: it is not one man or woman, but all men and women, who are causing ruination.
What is less understandable, and what made me struggle through the first half more so than the second, are Valen's descriptions of places, scenery and even events. I was often confused, unable to clearly picture what was going on, and in the end had to stop trying. So I have a lot of vague, unformed pictures in my head when I think on certain scenes.
It's hard to say more without giving things away, so I'll just say, for those who have read it, that the ending made me as angry and frustrated as Valen felt, and I felt sick at the thought of the precious book in the wrong hands, especially considering who Valen spelled it to reveal its secrets to....more
This is why I love fantasy so much. After a recent string of okay fantasy novels, a couple of good ones but nothing to get really excited about, I'veThis is why I love fantasy so much. After a recent string of okay fantasy novels, a couple of good ones but nothing to get really excited about, I've rediscovered my passion thanks to this book. I'm so impressed, and so in love, I can't begin to describe it. But I can try to give you a feel for the book, if I can figure out where to start and how to do justice to this masterpiece.
Kvothe (pronounced like "Quothe") is a world-renowned figure of mystery with a disreputable reputation - a hero or a demon depending on which stories you hear. The real man has hidden himself away at an inn in the middle of nowhere with his apprentice Bast - we know not why - and it's not until the Chronicler discovers him there that he shows any interest in reliving his past life. Insisting that his story will take three days to tell, and that the famous chronicler must write it down exactly as he tells it, he begins to share his story: a child genius growing up with his parents' troupe, performing plays and tricks across the land while being taught "sympathy" (magic), history, chemistry etc. by a tinker, Abenthy, who had been to the University; to ending up homeless and penniless on the streets of Treban, a big port city. It's not until he's fifteen that he makes it to the University, and is accepted, though he's three years younger than is usual. Abenthy has taught him well, and combined with his impressive memory, natural talent, quick intelligence and training, he moves quickly up the ranks of the university.
There are many adventures and mishaps along the way, and while some plotlines come to a tidy end at the close of this novel, over-arching plotlines and themes have been given a solid foundation to continue on into the next books. It took a surprisingly long time for me to realise the connection between the number of days he will take to tell his story, and that this is "Day One" in the trilogy - it's told over the course of the first day. The only thing is, he's young yet (Chronicler judges him to be about 25, though at times he looks infintely older), and there are things happening in "real time" that intrude upon the story, that will need to be resolved I think - so while I have every confidence Rothfuss has excellent control over his creation, I would love more than three books :)
I can't think of the last time I was this impressed by any story, let alone a fantasy novel. I won't compare it to bloody George R.R. Martin like everyone else is doing because I don't see that they have anything in common, really - one is a work of pure genius and the other is utter crap. Comparing them only heightens my dislike of A Game of Thrones. In truth, it's simply a marketing strategy to compare new books to ones that are already really popular, in order to draw in a well-established audience.
This is an epic fantasy - epic in scope - but it's also a bildungsroman, a story of a person's life, a life journey (including the quiet moments), which I love. The character development is ludicrously good. The world-building is solid, believable and original - there're enough new elements to keep your interest, but not so many that you get confused and overwhelmed: a perfect balance. The design of "sympathy" is original and unique, and makes so much sense that I'm half-surprised it doesn't really work. It's complicated enough to not be trite, but one basic premise is the connection between things, the sympathy they have with each other - if you broke a branch in two, the two halves would still have a connection, like sharing the exact same DNA, and so if you control one half you affect the other half. Same with two pennies of the same metal, so that, if you were holding one and someone holding the other and they worked a "binding" on their half, and, say, lifted it in the air, then your penny would also lift. It's fabulous! It's an intellectual kind of magic, not a "wave the wand" type. It takes knowledge, concentration and effort, so in effect, anyone could learn.
As for the characters and their growth, I am so impressed and so in love I will no doubt do a bad job of expressing it. While Kvothe's story is told in his voice, first person, the present day interludes are told in third person omniscient, but usually from certain characters' points of view. You get a mix of other people's impressions of characters, and a gentle showing that tells us even more. The genius is in how Kvothe is portrayed: while telling the story, himself as a young boy, already having experienced tragedy and sorrow and despair, and already feeling the weight of worldly concerns, but still with a lot to learn, comes across strongly. This is counter-balanced with Kvothe as a man, having been through all that and more and had it shape him into something subtly different, yet still very much the same person. If it had been written poorly, there would have been discord between the two Kvothes, but there isn't. He has so much charisma, and is such a complex sort, that I really felt for him. I may even have a bit of crush, actually. He's not good or evil, but he's suffering from a conscience: he's very human, and lonely, despite the friendship of Bast. At the same time, he's a god-like figure, an amazing musician, a skilled fighter, and a powerful magician. One moment he's commanding and chillingly masterful, the next he's doing Bast's bidding and fetching food and cutting wood for others. I expect it's his contradictions and complexities that draw me to him.
The writing style is smooth, the pacing just right (though the first few chapters take a while to get you into the story, you still need to read them closely because there're a lot of details in them), and the prose isn't cluttered with boring, irrelevant descriptions or pointless details. It's a fat book and a long story, but it flies by. While it needed better proofreading - there were a lot of problems with dialogue punctuation; there were a few lazy typos; he never once used a semicolon when he should have; and he always used "lay" instead of "laid" (but hey, at least he was consistent) - the prose itself is engaging, often humorous, detailed but not overly so, and never boring. I also loved the little songs and ditties that are included, and the stories within Kvothe's story.
Likewise, the way he doles out the various plots, revealing and hinting at the right moments, building up tension and anticipation, giving clues that start to coalesce into a stunning picture, is, frankly, impressive. The supporting cast, while not as fully explored as Kvothe (it is his story, after all), are in their own ways vividly portrayed and gradually explored. There's no chunky exposition or a description of a character shoved at you all at once. It's more a show-not-tell kind of book, appreciating the intellect of its audience and our ability to figure things out for ourselves. Nicely done. There was a while there, when I was reading, that the prose gave me the same kind of thrill as reading a sex scene in a romance novel might - but it could have just been the excitment of the story.
One last thing (though I could go on forever): I loved what he did with dragons. I won't spoil it by saying more, just that it's original and delightful - this coming from someone who's been known to get a mite bored by dragons in fantasy.
I would easily recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy, but also to people who enjoy great stories told wonderfully well. As many non-fantasy readers loved Harry Potter, they would also love this book....more
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.
REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS.
That is why they are so hard to catch." [p.7]
So begins Roald Dahl's classic tale of a boy and his grandmother and their terrifying run-in with the witches of England - and The Grand High Witch herself. Orphaned at seven years of age, our unnamed narrator now lives with his grandmother, who is quite the expert on witches. Now, the witches of Roald Dahl's imagination are evil, children-hating women who aren't even human. They have claws on their hands, are bald, have extra-large nostrils for sniffing out children, and no toes on their feet. They dress up as lovely ladies and trick children into getting close to them, only to turn them into slugs or rodents or chicken, or make them disappear entirely. Their main goal in life, it seems, is to eradicate the world of children.
When the boy and his grandmother spend the summer holiday at a hotel in Bournemouth, on the coast, in order for the "bracing sea air" to help his grandmother recover from pneumonia, he finds himself eavesdropping on a meeting of all of England's witches and The Grand High Witch, who has hatched an evil plan to rid England of all the "revolting little children" in one go, by turning them into mice with poisoned sweets. What can one little boy do to stop two hundred evil witches? Or maybe the question is, what can one little mouse do to stop them?
Illustrated, as always, by the amazing Quentin Blake (whenever I see his work, I think "Roald Dahl", and whenever I see Roald Dahl, I think "Quentin Blake" - the two are just a perfect match for each other and sooooo iconic), The Witches is a terrifying and exhilarating story that, when I first read it in about grade 4/aged 8, became a firm favourite of mine and stayed that way. Re-reading it now, so many years later, it came back so clearly, the story is like an old friend (I read it many times as a kid).
It's interesting that, when I was a kid, the plot didn't strike me as at all implausible - I don't mean the witches, but their plan is rather nonsensical. It certainly does now! When you read it as a kid, you're so there in the story, it becomes larger-than-life, and very real. Not that you start believing that grown-up women could actually be witches - kids can always tell the difference between imagination and reality, but they love to get drawn into a fantasy world.
It's also interesting that we never learn the narrator's name, and also interesting that his parents were from Norway and moved to England: Dahl's parents were also from Norway before emigrating to Wales, and I love the homage he pays to his roots with the boy's cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother and the stories she tells about fishing in Norway.
There's a great line in the book towards the end, where the narrator says: "It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you." (p.197) It always makes me feel so warm, because it puts things into perspective. I'm not about to say what The Witches is really about, thematically or morally or otherwise, because I think ever reader will take something different from a story, but the love between Grandmamma and her grandson, considering what happens, is so special. To have someone love and support you no matter what - and they make such a great team! She doesn't have anything much in common with my Nanna, who used to look after me a fair bit when I was little, but they did have that in common, so I always felt like Grandmamma was a fictional extension of my own Nanna, and thus strengthened the bond between us.
The Witches isn't as weird and wacky as, say, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG, but it's more weird and wacky than Danny The Champion of the World. It's probably along the lines of Matilda, which I've yet to re-read, or The Magic Finger (likewise). So I couldn't say whether The Witches is a good place to start if you've never read any Dahl, but it is a ripper of a story from this beloved children's author!...more
This second book in the series has the same pace as the first, Beguilement, the same laid-back tone, but the details are becoming more complex, the seThis second book in the series has the same pace as the first, Beguilement, the same laid-back tone, but the details are becoming more complex, the setting more detailed. Lakewalker history makes an appearance, and I have to say that the idea that the malices (the creatures spawned from the original malice that "hatch", as it were, and cause destruction, death, and blight to the land) were the direct result of human interference in the natural order of things, intriguing to the extreme. Add to this the theory that this sparsely-populated land has been shut off by the peoples of the southern continents until the problem has been decisively dealt with, and we get the germs of an interesting and unique fantasy setting.
Speaking of which, the land itself is a kind of southern United States type of setting (not that I've been there, but going by the books I've read and the movies I've seen ... it reminded me somewhat of To Kill a Mockingbird in landscape, for example), the people reduced to more primitive means of farming and minimal manufacturing since the Kings and nobles disappeared (or became malice, as the theory goes), and the gods became "absent". Now there are just the farmer folk, and the Lakewalkers, the descendents of the nobles who hunt and destroy malices from a mix of a feeling of responsibility, and because they are the only ones who know how and have the ability to do so.
Beginning just two hours after the previous book ended, Legacy takes no detours into extrapolation or catch-up or anything like that, but does help jog the memory (if, like me, it's been nearly a year since you read the first book and your memory's hazy) with naturally-placed reminders and explanations. After their highly unusual wedding - because it is forbidden for Lakewalkers to marry farmers; it taints their lines and thus weakens their groundsense ability, which is what enables them to destroy malices - Dag and Fawn make their way to the Lakewalker camp at Lake Hickory. Their marriage is treated with a mixture of derision, scorn, disbelief, astonishment and anger. Dag's mother, Cumbia, and brother, Dar, are the most virulently opposed.
Trying to get his marriage recognised isn't the only problem: Dag's broken arm is still healing, leaving him pretty much completely handicapped (he lost his left hand fighting a malice several years previous), and when the Raintree Lakewalkers call for help in fighting a strong and well-organised malice, Dag is given the job of captain, leaving Fawn alone, until she senses that he's in trouble and needs her.
There's a lot of Lakewalker prejudice against farmers, which doesn't endear the reader to them as a whole, though they can also be loyal, friendly, generous and show much more gender equality than the farming folk (not that the farmers don't also have many positive attributes). The estrangement between farmers and Lakewalkers becomes a more central issue, and adds to a growing complexity that makes this story much more satisfying than, say, A Game of Thrones, with its lack of focus, unlikeable characters and sledge-hammer style plotting. I like subtlety, and while the first book was a pleasant read with some conflict, drama and tension, I wasn't expecting a great deal from this series. But with the pacing and tone perfectly matched to the setting and cultures, and the slowly revealed situations and history, I'm really starting to appreciate McMaster Bujold's talent, and I can understand why she's a multiple award-winner in both fantasy and scifi.
One thing I just have to say: I'm still having trouble with "Dag" as a first name. Most of the time I can go with it, and it does fit the character, but it's just so hard... having used the word all my life for quite different meanings. ...more
The pace and ideas continue in the second installment of the Bartimaeus Trilogy with The Golem's Eye.
Kitty's character gets more exposure and "page tThe pace and ideas continue in the second installment of the Bartimaeus Trilogy with The Golem's Eye.
Kitty's character gets more exposure and "page time", while Nathaniel, now a very pompous 14 year old working high up in the government, tries to track her down as leader of the Resistance, and hopefully find a link between her and the giant clay golem trashing London. At risk of making the ruling class (the magicians) look incompetent, a lot of pressure is on Nathaniel's young shoulders.
Bartimaeus, true to form, feels he is the only one truly sensible. With his entertaining views on everything from other djinn to Nathaniel himself, he continues to be the most engaging character. The wit and satire also continue, and the ending has a satisfying climax as we draw closer to solving the over-arching plot....more
The Droughtlanders is the first book in the Triskelia series and the premise is frightening - because it's so possible. It is set sometime in the futuThe Droughtlanders is the first book in the Triskelia series and the premise is frightening - because it's so possible. It is set sometime in the future, untold decades or centuries after the Group of Keys has essentially dominated and manipulated the rest of the world and wiped out 92% of the world's population by weather control, water rights and biological and environmental warfare.
The Keys are a group of otherwise isolated walled cities dotted around North America (whether Keys exist in Europe and elsewhere isn't mentioned), and between them all is a parched wasteland where impoverished, disease-riddled Droughtlanders scrape a living, often brutalised, raped and murdered by the Guards from the Keys, who think of Droughtlanders as little better than rats.
With so few people left, factories, mines and sweatshops ceased and our technological and consumer goods disappeared - but the Group of Keys established a new leisure class, ressurecting "tea parties on perfectly manicured lawns, stormy nights spent playing cards in cozy parlours, afternoons at the piano or with friends, a pantomine at Christmas" (p.31) with the healthiest of Droughtlanders to serve them.
Triskelia is a mythical place harbouring an equally mythical group of rebels. After Eli sees his mother talking and hugging a Droughtlander through a gap in the wall one night, he learns that his mother is a rebel, a Triskelian, just before she dies in a bomb blast orchestrated by his father, the Chief Regent for Chancellor East. No longer able to live with the lies, his horrible twin brother Seth who wants nothing more than to join the Guard, or his autocratic father, Eli flees into the Droughtland with a horse, his dog Bullet and vague directions to the woman who buried his mother, in the hopes of finding legendary Triskelia. On the way, he's forced to reexamine all his assumptions and prejudices about Keylanders and Droughtlanders.
This is a vivid book, tightly plotted, perfectly paced and very well written. It draws you into this world from the very first scene, and is familiar enough to be scarily believable. The post-apocalyptic premise is a logical outcome from one particular path we might walk down today, and the way different groups - the privileged and the underprivileged - would evolve to meet it also rings true. Mac has a great handle on her prose and her characters, especially with Seth and Eli, who are recognisable teenagers going through great changes and forced to rethink things - not always to great or positive effect.
The scenes of both Eli and Seth travelling in their separate ways through the Droughtlands were my favourite parts. The Droughtlands is the most interesting part of the story, for me, and the most heart-wrenching. The brutality meted out by the Guards is shocking, but helps reinforce the belief the Keylanders have that the Droughtlanders are less than animals. The Triskelian rebels aren't cliched, and the ending was quick and sudden, which worked well.
If you're looking for something new in YA fantasy, this'd be a good one to try. And - because I can't resist any opportunity to plug my favourite author - if you like this or you like these kinds of stories, I also recommend Isobelle Carmody's Scatterlings, which is one of my favourite books....more