A unique and unforgettable take on the Norse gods.
The culture of Iceland is explored, during the time period when Christianity just begins to encroachA unique and unforgettable take on the Norse gods.
The culture of Iceland is explored, during the time period when Christianity just begins to encroach on the old religion via Norway. It's a beautiful blend of myth and history, weaving such characters as gods, half-gods, "dwarves" and "giants" into a tapestry of characters who feel lush and real.
The book does a marvelous job of turning the original legend of Freya's necklace into a plausible story (as long as you're willing to accept a few premises, such as the concept of a woman turning into a falcon with the aid of a magic cloak.) As various characters struggle for possession of the legendary necklace, the Brisingamen, it becomes clear that they are really struggling with various aspects and facets of love. Their individual conflicts play out against the violent and chaotic landscape of Iceland, culminating in inevitable geologic tragedy that still has a bit of a silver lining.
The structure leans more toward the literary, with focus on prose and style, so if that's not your thing you probably won't enjoy Ice Land. However, if you are a fan of rich words, poignant emotion, and experimental structure, this is one you won't want to miss.
I listened to the audiobook with Davina Porter narrating. Every time Porter opens her mouth solid gold falls out, so if you want a bonus treat, get the audiobook version of Ice Land and enjoy....more
Okay, so it took me longer to read this book than I thought it would. That's because I seldom read any fantasy and it seldom holds my interest for lonOkay, so it took me longer to read this book than I thought it would. That's because I seldom read any fantasy and it seldom holds my interest for long, not due to any fault in Pale Queen's Courtyard. The book offers up a welcome change: far from yet another iteration of "farm-boy goes on a quest, discovers he's the Chosen One...SURPRISE!", Pale Queen's Courtyard takes the reader on an exciting journey/chase where sympathetic characters exist on both sides, both the pursued and the pursuer.
Set amidst a pseudo-Sumerian world that is brilliantly and subtly portrayed, with flawless editing and clear, engaging prose, this one ranks up there with the best fantasy I've ever read. Very highly recommended!...more
An imaginative, weird, and often funny look at what happens when one man dies and finds out the true religion was Zoroastrianism, and he's bound for aAn imaginative, weird, and often funny look at what happens when one man dies and finds out the true religion was Zoroastrianism, and he's bound for a rehabilitative Hell. Don't worry; he only has to stay for a little while, until he's been brought around. Unfortunately God and his/her demons reckon time differently from the way humans do, and his short stay in Hell stretches for a virtual eternity while he searches for the one book containing the story of his life among more books than there are atoms in the universe.
Cleverly, this novella explores the origins of religion and the role of violence in human nature as background themes. The little society which builds itself up in Peck's imaginative Hell is fun and funny, but it certainly has its problems, and goes through familiar evolutions as the eons pass. A novella, though, may not be the perfect vehicle for such a story. In some respects it felt too short, too pat for the larger ideas it contained. I would love to see this scenario redone as a full-length novel, so the characters and setting could be more fully explored, so the ending could feel like more of an unmistakable wrap-up (even considering not much is actually wrapped up; the ending still seemed abrupt), and so the entire Rebecca situation could feel like a more convincing motivation for the narrator.
It's hard not to compare two different works by the same author. So I won't try to avoid that. I recently read and loved The Scholar of Moab, Peck's novel. By comparison with this novella, Scholar was far more engaging and poignant, to the point that I couldn't stop reading it, even at inconvenient times. Longer forms may be Peck's greater strength, though I've only read two of his works, so how can I say for sure? In all, though, A Short Stay in Hell is worth reading. It's quick, smart, and funny, and boy am I glad I'm not in Hell....more
It's been a long time since I've read a midgrade or young adult novel this complex and carefully planned. The Legend of Witch Bane takes its inspiratiIt's been a long time since I've read a midgrade or young adult novel this complex and carefully planned. The Legend of Witch Bane takes its inspiration from old-school fairy tales -- the German kind, the Russian kind -- the real kind, where unspeakably bad things happen to children, where the stakes are higher than just winning the prince's kiss as in the Disneyfied versions recent generations have come to know. In the rich world and characters of Hendrickson's work, fans of real fairy tales will recognize the staple conflicts and settings of the Fairy Book collections of traditional, gritty, hardcore fairy tales.
True, once the Fairy Books were some of the best kids' reading around, but modern kids may not be prepared to tackle the high stakes and terrifying situations of real fairy tales. Hendrickson does an admirable job of spinning the old-school into the new-school, making the realms of the Fairy Books a little more inviting to today's reading kids. But only a little bit. Only just enough not to scare them away.
There are high stakes in this book, believable stakes for all the fantasy setting. I can see children of eight to fourteen or so being deeply enthralled by the power of this story, the bravery of its young protagonists, and the exciting ending. Of course, it's also not to be missed by adults who love a good kids' book.
Also worth mentioning are the absolutely gorgeous illustrations inside the book, which are not only lovely in their own right, but help lend an authentic Fairy Book air to the entire reading experience.
This book, the sequel to The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West, was ridiculously well-loved by me as a kid, and it hasYET MORE HORSIES!!! Hooray!
This book, the sequel to The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West, was ridiculously well-loved by me as a kid, and it has stood up to re-readings as an adult well enough, though I don't revisit it as often as its prequel.
It's another fantasy set in the realm and mythos of equines, filled with warring gods and brave mortals in peril.
My feelings about this book can best be summed up in this simple way: "YAAY! HORSIES! HORSIES HORSIES HORSIESHORSIESHORSIES YAY!!!"
I am a huge animalMy feelings about this book can best be summed up in this simple way: "YAAY! HORSIES! HORSIES HORSIES HORSIESHORSIESHORSIES YAY!!!"
I am a huge animal lover and horses are among my favorite. I found this book in a grocery store's paperback section when I was about twelve years old, and my mom, praises be to her, never hesitated to buy me any book I wanted. Just look at the cover! It's a twelve-year-old girl's fantasy coming as close to true as can ever happen! It's got a magnificent Appaloosa with a fancy rainbow mane and tail! He's fighting some kind of spooky fanged/clawed horse! And there are dogs in this book, too! Dogs are rad! YES!!!
I still have that same paperback of The Heavenly Horse. I've never gotten rid of it. I read it several times as a kid, totally engrossed by the characters and the fantasy plot (if you must know: the Appaloosa breed is in danger of dying out, and patron god-horse of Appaloosas is sent to Earth to protect the mare who carries the last of the pure Appy blood. But he gets ideas of his own and steals her from her farm to live in the wild, along with a couple of her friends. Meanwhile, the Satan of Horses sends his lion/horse minion to Earth to kill the Appaloosa god-horse, who is now in a vulnerable mortal form.) It's a solid, fun fantasy plot, with gods warring and mortals caught between them.
Re-reading it as an adult, as I have done several times, diminished my enthusiasm somewhat. The writing is not the best I've ever read, although it's serviceable enough. There are facts about horses that the author got all wrong, and gross improbabilities as well; but my younger self still gets final say on this one. The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West is a fun, exciting book that's full or HORSES and MORE HORSES, and I still indulge from time to time when I need a familiarly comforting read.
Boy...I am surprised at how many people here gave this book a low rating and claimed it was "social commentary on women" or that the author obviouslyBoy...I am surprised at how many people here gave this book a low rating and claimed it was "social commentary on women" or that the author obviously has a low opinion of women or portrays women negatively. Really? Did we read the same book? This book is full of strong and admirable female characters...and even some not-so-admirable female characters who still cannot be said to be dumb, small-brained, only interested in sex, or any other misrepresentation slung about here in these reviews.
Maia is a fantasy novel by virtue of the fact that it's set in an imaginary place, but that's where the fantasy elements end. Otherwise, it's more likely to appeal to fans of historical fiction, with its focus on political intrigue, plots within plots, and the fates of rulers -- and their concubines. (Maybe that's why I found it so palatable. Rather than seeing it as some kind of condescension toward women, it strikes me as fitting right in with the rest of the historical fiction I love to read.)
The book is long, and Adams occasionally becomes long-winded, going into meandering digressions about various characters' histories. But the characters are so interesting and Adams' writing is so typically picturesque that it never bothered me enough to remove this book from my shelf. (In fact, I had three hardcover copies of this out-of-print gem, and I treasured them, but neglected to rescue them from my ex-husband's house when I moved out. :( )
The big strength of this book is its various characters, all of whom are well-painted and memorable. Contrary to what other reviewers thought, I found Maia to be not dumb or simple but compelling in her innocence and sweetness. She is sometimes naive, but she is earnest and kind, and when faced with a terrible situation (such as, for example, being sold into sexual slavery) rather than withering up and dying she adapts to her new world with the most positive attitude she can muster. As the novel progresses she grows a little older and a little wiser, and finally comes into her own as a heroic, brave young woman, willing to put her life on the line to save innocent lives. She's a main character worth rooting for, even if she's not perfect.
Occula is another female character who exudes confidence and power from the first moment she appears on the page. She is intelligent, cunning, possessed of great inner strength and patience that would make a monk envious. Occula is one of the most memorable characters in all of fiction, in my opinion, and for reviewers to write her obvious importance out entirely by saying that this book portrays a poor view of women is just ridiculous. This book wouldn't be what it is without Occula. She is integral to the plot and to the development of so many other characters and their subplots. I have a hard time imagining a sexist author would write such a character into his book. Or at least, a sexist author would "punish" such a character in some way for the mere fact of her greatness -- but on the contrary, Occula arrives in Bekla under her own terms, serves where she means to serve, and, in the end, gets exactly what she wants in exactly the way she wants it, and ends up fabulously wealthy and happy as a clam. This doesn't seem like the creation of a sexist writer.
Maia is a long, sensory, in-depth journey through Adams' fictional world, and the reader is guided by a host of fascinating characters. Don't pass this one up, especially if you love Adams' other works or if you are a fan of character-dense historical fiction....more