At the time of the Divide, the air had grown so poisonous and polluted, those who lived on land endured short, ugly lives, plagued by sickness and misAt the time of the Divide, the air had grown so poisonous and polluted, those who lived on land endured short, ugly lives, plagued by sickness and misery. Thus, a great underwater refuge was built so that humanity might survive, and a chosen few were sent to live Below, that they might enjoy long, beautiful lives, breathing pure air, and populating the marvelous city of Atlantia.
Since that time, those Above grow the food and supply other necessities to those Below, hoping (it is said) to be rewarded in the afterlife for the bodily suffering they endure in this one. Atlantia reciprocates by trading ores mined by mechanical drones from the floor of the sea. This exchange is not equal, however, which is why each year young people who have reached a certain age are given the choice to stay Below or to lead a life of sacrifice Above, helping to grow the crops and produce the other things that Atlantia cannot provide for its citizens.
Every year, there are some who choose the sacrifice. Rio has always dreamed of going Above, not purely out of a desire to serve, but because she longs to feel the sun on her face, touch living trees, and walk for miles without ever reaching the edge of the world. But the choice of whether to go or stay is irrevocable. There are no visits, no communications between family members once they are divided. Their separation is as complete and as final as death itself.
Rio has a fraternal twin, who has been pleading with her since childhood to remain with her Below. “Though Bay and I are not mirrors of each other,” Rio says,“we’re still as near to the same person as two completely different people can be.” Yet Bay’s devotion to Atlantia is as strong as Rio’s desire to leave—and as the last children of their bloodline they would not, in any case, be allowed to both go Above. Rio remains firm in her decision to go Above until the unexpected death of their mother, Oceana, when Bay’s pleas take on a new desperation. Rather than leave her sister alone, Rio makes the painful choice to stay.
But when the day of the ritual choosing comes, Bay shocks Rio by making the choice to go Above, leaving Rio stranded Below. So Rio must not only endure the loss of her twin, but also the loss of her dream.
Left alone, Rio begins to notice that things are not quite right in Atlantia, that there are secrets that may lead to the truth of her mother’s death and to falsehoods about the very nature of their city and its relationship with those Above. Rio’s only remaining family member is her estranged aunt, Maire, who is one of those born with a powerful gift, the beautiful and compelling voice of a siren. The sirens are both valued and feared, and for the most part kept apart from the other citizens of Atlantia. Only Maire, the most powerful of them all, is able to live as she chooses.
Rio learns that Maire may hold the answers to all her questions about Oceana’s death, as well as other secrets, dangerous to know, equally dangerous to ignore. And Rio has a secret of her own: she too is a Siren, one who has suppressed her true voice in order to keep her freedom.
The setting is captivating and vividly portrayed: from the soaring beauty of the temple with its great rose window, to the chaos of junk and treasures in the deepmarket, to the workshops smelling of oil and seawater where the machinists repair the mining drones, to the constant sound of air pumping through the walls and out into the city.
Rio is an appealing character, both vulnerable and strong. The author does not minimize or trivialize her grief at being parted from her sister; it is raw and inescapable. Yet Rio is not a passive character. She asks questions, determined to solve the mysteries that surround her. She devises an elaborate and dangerous plan for escaping the city and going Above. She doesn’t flinch from the truth when she discovers that so much about her world is not at all as she thought it was.
For most of the book the plot moves along at a steady pace. As well as Rio’s longing for the world Above, her determination to achieve what she wants against all the combined weight of law and custom there are the mysteries to be solved and every answer leads to more questions. Rio’s tenacity in searching for those answers is as much a part of her story as her resolve to reach the world Above. But near the end of the book I thought the plot became over-complicated and muddled, and given that, the resolution seemed too easy and not at all credible. To me, it felt as though the author left out the one thing that could have made it work.
Because the story is told in first person from Rio’s viewpoint and we never get to hear the thoughts of the other characters, or see the world from their perspectives, most of them come across as just a bit flat. Perhaps—even probably—in some cases this is intentional, as with Maire, to maintain her mystery. But it would be nice if the boy who emerges as Rio’s romantic interest were a more rounded character. Yes, he is appealing, and there is more to him than initially meets the eye, but of his personality we see little beyond his kindness and loyalty. His romance with Rio is not, however, a major part of the plot, since it only really develops near the end. Because of that, I think some readers will be satisfied with his character as it is, and others will wish the romance had developed earlier.
Overall, I found this a beguiling story with a delightful heroine, and enough complexity to the plot to appeal to adults as well as teenagers....more
Artificial intelligence researchers Manfred and Leonora Klee used to work for Ichikawa Laboratories. Which is to say: they were prisoners in the luxur Artificial intelligence researchers Manfred and Leonora Klee used to work for Ichikawa Laboratories. Which is to say: they were prisoners in the luxurious enclave Aritomo Ichikawa created to prevent commercial espionage—and equally to prevent his researchers from leaving him. But the Klees found a way, even knowing that their lives thereafter would be in constant danger from the assassins Aritomo would surely send to find them.
The setting is somewhere around the beginning of the 22nd century, and though Palmer is not specific, the world has clearly suffered some sort of environmental/technological disaster. The "nexus" has replaced the internet, and the nexus is far more pervasive, intrusive, and addictive than the internet ever was, for it is a way of interacting with society, of being constantly bombarded with information, that fosters dependence. It also makes it nearly impossible to live without leaving the sort of traces behind that someone with the necessary resources, such as Ichikawa labs possesses, will eventually pick up.
Once they gain their freedom, Manfred unexpectedly gives Leonora the slip; they will not meet again. As the book opens several years later, they are heading separate research teams, each with a very different philosophy and approach to creating artificial sentience.
Leonora is hiding on Malta, while a virtual copy in San Francisco acts as a decoy, interfacing, downloading, uploading, while layers and layers of virtual camouflage provided by her security expert, Hound, conceal her real location. Her team follows a traditional approach, creating a single AI, an android with a quantum computer for a brain. Manfred's team is in Philadelphia, trying to invent what Manfred calls "beautiful intelligence," by creating a network of individuals, none of them self-aware, hoping that together they will raise themselves to sentience.
But for both teams research is hampered by the need to keep moving and also by the need to create credible new identities with every change in location. Leonora's journey takes her team around the Mediterranean and across northern Africa, while Manfred's team crosses a devastated and dangerous America. Aware that a single slip could leave them vulnerable to Aritomo's minions (who never seem to be far behind) both teams must also meet the challanges of interacting with their evolving creations—and those creations are not evolving as planned.
Palmer is a writer of unique and remarkable imagination. He can also be a bit didactic. He has strong beliefs about the environment (he wants to save it) and religion (he believes it is a bad influence), beliefs that he wishes to communicate to his readers. While these are not absent from this book, they are less evident here than in some of his other novels. He is a man of ideas, and characterization is not his strong point. Instead, through discussions and diagreements between the various characters—particularly when they are faced by new and unexpected developments—Beautiful Intelligence examines theories about artificial intelligence, as well as posing philosophical questions about sentience, self-awareness, and conscience, about the ways that consciousness develops, and the dangers when technology advances far more quickly than our understanding. For someone (like myself) who does not have the necessary background to understand all the substance of these arguments, it can be at times difficult to follow, but even without that background, the chase, the tensions and shifting alliances within the two groups, make for a suspenseful and entertaining story. ...more
When I first saw this book standing on the shelf at my local library, the title made me think of vampires and demons — which was not at all what I wasWhen I first saw this book standing on the shelf at my local library, the title made me think of vampires and demons — which was not at all what I was looking for at the time. But the book was faced-out, and the cover was intriguing enough that I took the time to read the writing on the dust jacket: Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten. That was what decided me to add it to the pile of books I was already carrying.
The spell that keeps Clementine imprisoned in a hidden closet down in the cellar also keeps her alive, without food or water, light or air. There is only darkness, earth, the burrowing roots, and sleep ... and in that sleep endless dreaming.
When she is finally rescued by a boy named Fisher, she discovers that the life she knew before the cellar is quite gone. Her mother is dead, her home destroyed by fire, and her aunt has been reduced to a vague and fearful shadow of the vital woman Clementine recalls. Only her cousin Shiny and their childhood friend Rae seem to recognize and remember that Clementine ever existed at all.
This book is deeply rooted (no pun intended) in the folk magic of the American South, capturing the essence even while creating something new.
In the little town of New South Bend there are the so-called "crooked" people, families who are able to draw on the magic from down in the Hollow where the fiends—of which there are a great variety, some of them ghostly, some of them vaguely reminiscent of the more dangerous types of old-world fairies—and the hell dogs live. All these families have inherited fiendish blood from ancestors generations past, which is not something that recommends them to the ordinary citizens of New South Bend. There was a time when both groups lived together in peaceful coexistence, but that time is in the past ... ten years in the past.
Though Clementine doesn't remember it, that was when the magic of the Hollow broke loose in a devastating event known as the reckoning—birds fell out of the sky, flowers turned to dust, "It was like the whole world had just sprouted teeth"—and the frightened citizens turned against their magic-working neighbors, torching houses while the inhabitants were still inside. That was when her mother died, and Clementine herself was imprisoned down among the willow roots by someone with the craft to do so. Her aunt and cousin survived and their home still stands, though fire-damaged with most of the rooms closed up. Having no place else to go, Clementine moves into this claustrophobic environment, sleeping under Shiny's bed, and foraging for food in a house where Aunt Myloria has grown so fey and irresponsible that she rarely remembers to buy groceries.
In the course of a few days, Clementine begins to realize how potent her own powers are. This, and the fact that her imprisonment coincided with the reckoning, makes her wonder whether it was the power in her that was responsible for the reckoning and everything that followed, and if she had been buried away with good reason.
At the same time she is searching for the truth about herself, she feels the pull of an irresistable attraction to Fisher, the boy who rescued her. But Fisher spends most of his time with a bad element in the town, rough and idle youths who are particularly hostile to Clementine and her family. Nevertheless, Fisher's blood is crooked too; in fact his powers are formidable. Yet he is able to convince the other boys that he is as normal as they are, seemingly drawing them to him with a charisma so strong they are unwilling to see the truth.
So Clementine has another dilemma: is the boy she wants so much, who clearly wants her, going to be an ally or an enemy? Even when he apparently betrays her, she cannot keep away.
The story unfolds in prose that is at times poetic, without being in any way pretentious, and is always vividly evocative of its rural southern setting. The only fault that I can see is that the ending is a little rushed.
I am delighted to see so many new fantasies with American settings, drawing on our own magical traditions instead of borrowing directly from European mythology. But, putting my feelings about that aside, Fiendish is an excellent book in its own right, and I highly recommend it for adults with an appreciation for well-written YA fantasy, as well as the teenage readers for whom it is intended. ...more
A NIGHT ON THE MOOR AND OTHER TALES OF DREAD, by R. Murray Gilchrist
One might call them love stories, except that the emotions of the characters — soA NIGHT ON THE MOOR AND OTHER TALES OF DREAD, by R. Murray Gilchrist
One might call them love stories, except that the emotions of the characters — so frequently fierce and unhealthy — provide much of the horror. Often Gilchrist dwells on the psychology of his characters more than on the actual events, which can take place with devastating suddenness once they begin. Here we find love as a type of emotional enslavement, love that brings pain, jealousy that destroys, and a common theme that runs through the majority of the tales: love and death, friendship and death.
Many of the stories in this volume qualify as fantasy — tales of ghosts, basilisks, and vampiric women — but the settings, plots, and characters are so fantastic themselves, one almost fails to notice that a supernatural element has crept in.
There is, occasionally, something Lovecraftian about the stories — "The Crimson Weaver" is a good example— with touches of Dunsany and Smith. There are some, like "Witch In-Grain," where the style is even more archaic. But in most of the tales Gilchrist maintains his own style, his own voice, highly ornate by modern standards, yet in the very excess of the language lies one more disturbing element, which highlights the sensual decadence of the stories themselves. Gilchrist was fond of contrasting beauty at its most sublime — beauty in woman, beauty in nature — with elements that were subtlely grotesque. Sometimes it is the passion itself that is grotesque, as love becomes an agony, a madness.
Even friendship between his characters (especially between men and women) can be tremendously intense. Passion may come about through a meeting of the minds, a shared interest in art, philosophy, religion. When this happens loves seems to exist on a higher plane, but only for a time, because always the seductions of the flesh creep in. And Gilchrist's heroes have a tendency to be transported by love simply because the beloved is divinely beautiful, not because she is inherently loveable.
It all sounds frightfully overwrought and sensational, doesn't it? And at times it is. Yet there is a fascination, too, in the elegance and luxuriance of the language, the fervor and the violence.
For those with a taste for decadent Victorian/Edwardian horror, I recommend this book very highly, though with the suggestion that the stories be read one or two at a time, rather than overloading modern sensibilities by reading too many at once. If it were possible, I'd give this book 4.5 stars....more
This book was one of the first epic fantasies to come out of Ballentine's adult fantasy line back in the 1970’s, yet it seems that few readers are fam This book was one of the first epic fantasies to come out of Ballentine's adult fantasy line back in the 1970’s, yet it seems that few readers are familiar with either the book or the author today. Despite multiple award nominations and enthusiastic reviews, Miss Chant went on to publish only three more novels before she disappeared from the fantasy scene.
The premise of is familiar, although back in the 70s not yet a cliché: Three children are unexpectedly whisked out of modern-day England and dropped into the fantasy land of Kedrinh. There, they become pivotal figures in an epic battle between forces of good and evil. This, however, is no Lord of the Rings rip-off, like another fantasy written about the same time that I might mention. The world of Khendiol (of which Kedrinh is only a part) existed in Chant's imagination long before she wrote about it. Chant draws on familiar legends, Christian symbolism, and pagan mthology, and gives it all her own slant.
While the younger children, Nicholas and Penelope, are magically transported to the windy slopes of Black Mountain and a fateful meeting with the Princess In’serinna, their teenage brother, Oliver, is sent elsewhere, and fated to play a far more important role among the nomadic Khentor.
In’serrina and her entourage are climbing the mountain in order to watch a battle between the white eagles and the black -- a bloody combat, eerily lit by the red moon, which is also a preliminary test of strength between the powers of the Starborn enchanters, represented by the Princess, and their exiled kinsman, the magician Fendarl. Through long years of exile, Fendarl has grown in power, and now war seems inevitable, so even if the White Eagles are able to win this skirmish -- which is described powerfully and in detail -- there is no guarantee that the Starborn will prevail in the greater battle ahead.
Some confusion arises because Chant has a tendency to make too many of the names sound alike, but otherwise one of the delights of this book is the elegantly clear but beautiful prose, as here the Princess encourages the White Eagles to fight on, even though outnumbered:
She spread her arms and held out her hands to the White Eagles, and called out to them in a language Nicholas did not understand. It was a language of cold pure sounds; a language of words harsh and sad. It brought visions of bare shining rockscapes, or high lonely peaks of wintry solitudes through nights of splintering cold and days of piercing light. Every word seemed to come acriss vast gulfs, gulfs wider than space and deeper than time; one soul speaking to another across a schism made in the very beginning of the world. Nicholas' whole body shuddered as he listened.
The battle between the eagles ends with the rising of the white moon.
Separated from their party on the mountain In’serrina and Penny are captured by enemy forces. The Princess is weakened by her need to protect the children; otherwise her power would have been too great for her captors to overcome. Fortunately, Nick escapes to summon assistance.
After several days of defiant and anxious imprisonment, the Princess and Penny are rescued by Lord Vahn, grandson of a king allied with the Starborn. As they journey toward Rennath, her father's realm, it soon becomes evident that In’serrina and Vahn have a history, and this part of the story is particularly engaging as a Penny tries to decipher the romantic tensions between the adults.
The Lord was merely proud and silent; but the Princess was troubled and miserable, and Penelope grew unhappy watching her. She would sit on the horse with her head drooping, arguing endlessly within herself; and then suddenly fling her hair back and laugh defiantly, and start talking with fierce gaiety. But that was always the signal for Vahn to fall silent or to give curt answers. Once or twice her temper flashed, and they almost quarreled. On the whole Penelope preferred the Princess to be silent.
Though many readers will be reminded of the story of Aragorn and Arwen, at least Chant treats In’serinna’s dilemma -- in having to choose between her magical heritage and her deep love for Vahn -- as the wrenching and difficult decision it would undoubtedly be.
Chant’s ability to bring people, places, and cultures to life are truly impressive. She is at her best recounting Oliver’s experiences with the Khentor, whose society has been described elsewhere as a cross between Native American and Cossack steppe culture.
Whenever they just said 'the God', they meant Kem'nanh, Kem'nanh was theirs; they were Kem'nanh's. He was the king of the wind, the plains, the sea, horses, men -- anything fierce and free, anything Khentor. It was he whome, hailing him as Lord of the herds, they would thank in song and dance for their good hunting, for the game driven towards their spears. Then after the thanksgiving the hunters would stand forth , and act the story of the hunt. It surprised him the first time, that they told little about their own part; their praise they lavished on their quarry, telling how cunningly it had evaded them, how cleverly it kept watch, how only with the help of Kem'nanh the Hunter had it been killed.
Someone began beating softly on a drum, and the girls sang and clapped, and then came slowly winding out of the crowd in a chain, a dancing skein. Around the fire they danced, stepping delicately, their skirts swaying, their dark hair tossing, their high clear voices rising and falling together. Then the men began to sway and stamp, and to sing quietly; and more drums joined the first. Now the men too stepped out and began to dance, casting their own circle around the wreath of girls, and their deep voices joined the song. And the voices of the men were the dark sea, while the voices of the girls were the flying white foam; or the vast dark plain, and the silver light that ran rippling over it; or the wind-brought rumour of thunder,and the shimmering levin-light."
Adopted by the Hurnei tribe, Oliver is quickly absorbed into their society.
Never seeing his own face, never seeing any face that was not slant eyes dark beneath a cap of dark hair, high cheeked and small nosed, with a proud sombre mouth, he forgot that he did not look like them.
For Oliver, time passes at a different pace than it does for his young siblings, and it soon becomes evident that Oliver’s sojourn in Vanderei is of much greater duration than that of Nick and Penny, as he grows from adolescence to maturity within the tribal culture. By the time they meet again he has become so acclimatized to Khentor customs, language and ways of thinking, he barely recognizes the younger children, can’t even properly pronounce their names, and finds himself quite unable to slip back into his expected role as their older brother. From his viewpoint, Oliver Powell no longer even exists, there is only Li’vanh of the Hurnei -- and while some of Oliver’s memories still linger, they are distant and painful, challenging his new sense of identity. The undeniable love he feels for Nick and Penny only makes him feel guility and uncomfortable.
In addition to growing from boy to man, Oliver/Li’vanh has been training as a warrior. Portents that accompanied his first mysterious appearance among them have convinced the Hurnei (staunch allies of In’serrina’s people -- in fact, Prince Vahn is half-Khentor) that he will be their gods-chosen champion against Fendarl when war finally breaks out.
In the event, more will be expected of Li’vahn than simply courage in battle. For war has battered the land itself and sown the fields with dead. In the land of the Khentor, the goddess Vir'Vachal has been roused. Where she comes the people and the animals run mad and die. Unless she is under the earth it will not bear fruit, and they cannot bind her. Only a sacrifice will appease her. It is then that it falls on the Chosen One to pay the ultimate price....more
Long ago, I found this book, quite by chance, on a remainder table in a local bookstore. I had never heard of the book or the author, although apparenLong ago, I found this book, quite by chance, on a remainder table in a local bookstore. I had never heard of the book or the author, although apparently, as I learned later, Campbell and her books had some fame at one time -- there had even been some talk of a movie. How The Dark Twin faded after that into such obscurity is a mystery.
The setting is bronze age Scotland, approximately 500 BC. Drost is the son of the priestess Malda, and he was conceived during the spring fertility rituals. He doesn't know who his father is, and at first the question doesn't trouble him. He spends his early childhood with his mother in the "hearth house." There, Malda tends the holy fire and instructs the young girls of the tribe, and it is there that Drost catches glimpses of the feminine mysteries. As a result, when he is thrust into the company of the men later, he has a unique viewpoint on the “sickness” of his people, which has set the men against the women and the old matriarchal religion.
The Men of the Boar believe that the burden of kingship is too great for one man to bear. For this reason, it is traditionally divided between two men:the King, who is the war-leader and ruler, and a “Dark Twin” who acts as his companion and adviser (and who will rule the tribe alone if the King dies before his heir comes of age). This bond, no matter how it may chafe, is unbreakable; the two are joined for life. When Drost is chosen to be the Twin of the young prince Ailill, he is abruptly taken from his peaceful life among the women, and introduced to the harsher male cult and the "New Way." After a long, cruel period of initiation, Drost and Ailill are sent to live in a fort with other teenage boys, as the next step in their journey toward manhood. Life there is freer and wilder ... and more dangerous. In this way the young men of the tribe are expected to forge life-long friendships that strengthen the tribe as a whole. Unfortunately, there is no friendship between Drost and Ailill. Instead, there is an instinctive dislike between the two boys, made worse by Ailill's determination to see Drost not as a companion but as a rival. Gradually, Drost uncovers a history of murder, lust, jealousy, and betrayal involving their two families, which is at the heart of the "sickness" in the tribe.
“This book,” Campbell reveals in an author's note at the end of the novel,” evolved at a time of deep anxiety and physical exhaustion, out of a series of brief waking dreams ... The name ‘Yssa’ came out of the blue; I began to wonder (correctly, as I found later) whether I was dealing with a primitive version of Tristan and Isolde.”
Yet Campbell’s Tristan (she calls him ‘Drost’) doesn’t meet his Yssa until late in the book, their time together is brief, and the love story plays a very small role in the plot. It doesn't really matter. Drost’s own story is more than compelling enough.
Campbell brings this bronze age world vividly to life with simple but evocative prose, reminiscent of Mary Renault's excellent historical novels. Campbell was a respected archeologist, and her knowledge of the period provides a sense of authenticity, though she also draws on myths, legends, and ancient rituals, as well as a great deal of informed extrapolation.
But it is the story that is important, and it does not disappoint. Told in first person viewpoint, we must trust that what Drost tells us is true. Fortunately he apprears to be a reliable narrator and keen observer, as he unravels the riddle of his own begetting, and uncovers the darkest secrets of his tribe. There are other characters brought sharply and dramatically to life: the sly priest Talorc; the bard Felim, who effortlessly manages to keep a foot in both camps; the enigmatic elder priestess known only as the Old One, doomed to a life of wandering; and the noble Melduin, whose unnamed sacrifice (possibly a ritual wounding) brought a tragic end to his love affair with Malda.
While there is no overt magic -- no wizards or fantasy creatures -- the story reflects a world view that sees supernatural forces at work in everything. As Drost's history becomes more and more absorbing, the reader will believe too ... at least while the story lasts....more
This collection includes ten pieces of short fiction and three essays. I found the quality of the stories uneven: some were exceptional ("Let Maps toThis collection includes ten pieces of short fiction and three essays. I found the quality of the stories uneven: some were exceptional ("Let Maps to Others,""The Sun and I," and the remarkable "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong"), others enjoyable enough but by themselves nothing special.
Except … well, except that in this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The characters in these stories face moral and ethical dilemmas, challenges to their artistic and academic integrity, reap the unexpected consequences of good (and bad) intentions, betray, are betrayed ... so that, in combination, the stories add up to a brilliant exploration of all these themes and how each relates to the others.
In the process, Parker introduces a varied cast: philosophers, alchemists, academics, and magicans; rogues, confidence men, and opportunists. There are no answers here, only ambiguities and bitter ironies. The convolutions of the longer stories (each with several twists before the end) can be hard to follow, but are ultimately worth the effort.
If the rating system allowed, I'd give this book a 4 1/2....more
Often, I find short fiction unsatisfying because the characters and the plot seem undeveloped. That was not so with the stories in this collection. AlOften, I find short fiction unsatisfying because the characters and the plot seem undeveloped. That was not so with the stories in this collection. Almost every story finds its perfect length, and between them they showcase Rambo's capacity for invention -- some stories set in fantasy worlds, others in our own contemporary world where magic intrudes on the mundane -- as well as her insight into human nature. Her prose, which has been praised by others, is so beautifully clear that it is easy to overlook the poetry, with metaphors that evoke ordinary things in ways that are surprisingly eloquent.
There is a sadness to many of these stories, a darkness lurking around the edges, though there is hope, too, and transformation. Those that impressed me most were the title story, "Her Eyes Like Sky, And Coal, And Moonlight," "Magnificent Pigs," "The Towering Monarch of His Mighty Race, Whose Like the World Will Never See Again," and "The Dead Girl's Wedding March." The last story in the collection, "Grandmother's Road Trip," is a story about the indignities of old age and the dilemmas of caring for an aging parent. Despite (or because) of the fantastical element, there is such a painful authenticity to this story, at times I found it difficult to keep reading. Implicit in the story is the knowledge that with the passing generations roles change. ...more
For those looking for something fun and funny in the way of a regency romance, you couldn't do better than read The Duke's Tattoo. What a wonderful boFor those looking for something fun and funny in the way of a regency romance, you couldn't do better than read The Duke's Tattoo. What a wonderful book, so funny and tender! I loved the characters and the dialogue. I can't think when I have enjoyed a book more. The premise is hilarious and the way the plot developed, the attraction between the main characters, was handled exceptionally well.
Like the Baron's Betrothal there was more sex than I prefer in a romance novel, and one particularly long sex scene, but it was so perfect for the characters and so emotionally satisfying I loved it in spite of myself.
I'm putting this on the shelf with my favorite Georgette Heyer's to be reread when I am sick or feeling depressed and need something guaranteed to make me smile. ...more
Light reading, but perfect if you love regency romance and want something amusing to lift your spirits. I'm really somewhere between four and five sta Light reading, but perfect if you love regency romance and want something amusing to lift your spirits. I'm really somewhere between four and five stars on this one, because I felt the middle sagged a little, but I enjoyed the characters and the dialogue so much I am giving it a five. A funny and charming book.
For those who prefer their regency romance novels sweet instead of sensual, be warned. There was more explicit sex in this book than I really like to read about, but she carried it off without making me cringe (I usually do, more for the writing than for the sex itself) so while not-making-me-cringe may sound like faint praise it's actually a tribute to her writing ability....more
Let us establish this at the very beginning: these are not Tolkien’s elves, neither the noble and aloof elKINGDOMS OF ELFIN, by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Let us establish this at the very beginning: these are not Tolkien’s elves, neither the noble and aloof elves of The Lord of the Rings, not the passionate and reckless elves of the Silmarillion. Where they are passionate, it is of another type altogether. They are sophisticated, fashionable creatures, egotistical, and selfish, and even though capable of intense attachments, they are generally fickle: essentially a cold-hearted species. The stories in this collection are full of whimsy and humor, but often of an uncomfortable kind.
Warner’s style is elegant, simple yet very detailed. As much of the story is in these details — beguiling if you love that sort of thing, tedious if you don’t — as it is in the actual events. If you don’t like her style you will not like these stories, and vice versa. There is no author behind the scenes winking at the audience as if to say, “do not take these stories seriously.” Very little is played for laughs. There is no need; the irony and the absurdity speak for themselves. If you are a fan of broad humor, it is likely that you will not enjoy these stories.
In the course of this collection, we visit a number of different realms, located in our own world but invisible to human eyes. Each of these realms is distinctive, both like and unlike the mortal realms in which they are located.
Into their own world they may occasionally admit mortals, but almost always in infancy as changelings, who live among the fairies only so long as they remain young enough to be comely. Then they are discarded during a sort of fairy house-cleaning, and sent back into a world they neither know nor understand. Of the fairy children who are exchanged for them — robbed of their immortality, knowing nothing of their true origins — there is only one story describing the fate of a single individual. Yet if Warner’s fairies are cruel, it is a heedless cruelty, rarely calculated; they simply don’t think beyond what they want. “Elfhame strikes cold,” says a fairy nursemaid, and that is no exaggeration at all.
Though all these stories have a decided charm of their own, there is (as you may have gathered by now) frequently a darkness behind the humor and the glittering façade, for Warner’s fairies seem to know nothing of morality, and only the rules of courtly behavior. For the most part, the elfin nobles are caught up in the idle pastimes and seasonal fads of the various courts, but they are also prone to sudden enthusiasms, sometimes for quite mundane hobbies like fishing or embroidery. This is but one of their many contradictions. Slightly smaller than humans, they are winged but do not fly. This is reserved for servant fairies, who must be agile and swift indeed to satisfy the whims of their betters. Flying, you see, is considered vulgar for the upper classes — though the temptation to take flight is sometimes over-mastering, and practiced in secret by those who can’t resist.
The title is a deceptive, for these realms of Faerie are ruled exclusively ruled by females. As a race, they are are often infertile, and succession to the crown is not hereditary, so infidelity is hardly an issue though they do marry. Queens take lovers, but their attention soon wanders elsewhere, and really, they are so autocratic and exacting, it seems to me that it must come as a relief to her husband or her lover when a queen decides to lavish her affection on another. Yet the title of Favorite, when it is bestowed, is envied by all. As in so much else, pride seems to take precedence over practicality.
If you are still reading, yet have never known the delights of these sophisticated little tales, if you have never experienced the transitory pleasures of a mortal in Elfin realms, then you would do well to seek them out, but the book is not easy to find, and the individual stories are scattered through numerous collections and anthologies. ...more