Patricia Wrede's back-catalogue is now being published electronically. This one seems to be published as YA but certainly crosses age boundaries well.Patricia Wrede's back-catalogue is now being published electronically. This one seems to be published as YA but certainly crosses age boundaries well.
Kayl, a single (widowed) mother with two children is an innkeeper living a quiet life. Her biggest worries are taxes and a suitor she would rather have as a friend. When Corrana, a member of the magical Sisterhood of Stars arrives on her doorstep, closely followed by Glyndon, Varnan mage and her late husband's friend, her quiet life is overturned.
Kayl has not always been an innkeeper. Fifteen years ago she was a member of the Sisterhood herself, a warrior and a strategist, but when a joint mission to the Twisted Tower with three Varnan wizards (including Glyndon) went horribly wrong she decided enough was enough. She gave up her place in the sisterhood, married Kevran, one of the wizards, and settled down. Since his death (from natural causes - yes it happens even to wizards) she's carried on running the inn and raising her children, Dara and Mark, alone.
But that first mission to the Twisted Tower has had disastrous after effects and now Corrana is here to persuade her to take up her sword on behalf of the Sisterhood again and return to the place where her friends died. With a posse of dangerous magic seekers on their trail Kayl, Glyndon, Corrana and the children set off across country to the Sisterhood and from there, after some negotiating, to the Twisted Tower.
It's great to see the heroine of the story is a single mum with two kids. If not exactly middle aged, she's at least in her mid 30s. (Note I would have classed that as middle aged once, but now it seems incredibly young.) Her kids are not bolt-on extras, but are real people in their own right, the daughter, Dara, on the brink of growing up. There's a romance blossoming between Glyndon and Kayl though this isn't central to the story and is played down – much of the development off the page because a lot of the travelling (which takes months) is glossed over. The Sisters, however, apart from Corrana and to a certain extent Kayl's old team mate Barthelmy are a bit interchangeable.
As ever Patricia Wrede's worldbuilding is superb. There are humans and a glimpse of non-human races, too. There's a wider world of politics and racial tensions bubbling beneath the surface and a fair bit of infighting within the Sisterhood itself. There are – I believe – five books set in the universe of Lyra. This is the only one I've read so far, but the world is fully fleshed-out and you always feel as though there's a lot more going on here off the page....more
I enjoyed this book very much with one big 'but' which I'll get round to presently.
It's a well-paced coming-of-ageRae Carson: Girl of Fire and Thorns
I enjoyed this book very much with one big 'but' which I'll get round to presently.
It's a well-paced coming-of-age novel, with a richly described world encompassing mountains and unforgiving deserts, hidden villages and sumptuous palaces. It has a believable religion at the heart of the story and involves kings, princesses and a prophesy.
Princess Elisa bears the godstone – a lump of blue rock buried in her navel, a gift from her god to signify that she has some great service to perform, possibly even an act of heroism. Only one person is chosen in a hundred years and Elisa is not sure that she knows why it has to be her. She is a younger princess, in her own eyes, pampered, fat and lazy with little drive or political acumen. Give her time, she's only 16.
On her 16th birthday she's married off to the king of a neighbouring country, a man she's never met before. It's a political match. The country is in turmoil and Elisa's self-esteem takes another knock when she realises that he's only married her for the godstone and for the promise of her father's army to fight against invaders. Though he's polite to her and she begins to feel attracted to him they don't consummate the marriage. He won't even acknowledge her at first and he continues his relationship with his mistress. It's only when Elisa is kidnapped into the desert that her life begins to change and she begins to show how she might indeed fulfil her destiny as the bearer of the godstone.
I'm going to leave it there rather than heap major spoilers on top of the above minor ones. Suffice it to say that Carson cleverly subverts at least one obvious expectation. This is a book with romance in it, but it's much more than just a romance.
And now we get to the 'but.'
All credit to her, Ms Carson makes it clear that you don't have to be beautiful to do great things, and that's excellent, however, she does also make it perfectly clear that though you can be plain, you can't be FAT! and this is where I have a bone to pick. Elisa starts with such low self esteem that she can't understand why the handsome king wants her as his wife. She sees herself as totally unlovable. She wobbles when she walks and comfort eats because she feels unloved. Though she does perform one act of incredible bravery shortly after the book opens it's not until she undergoes various hardships that melt the fat from her ungainly body that she really begins to shine. She goes from being unable to walk very far without her body hurting, to being fit and slim and (oh-my-god) DESIRABLE in the matter of just a few months. Because of course she wasn't desirable when she was FAT for goodness sake! It's the wrong message in this day and age when girls suffer from eating disorders due to a distorted media view of the ideal body image. And that's why this book is getting a three star rating from me and not a five star one. ...more
The is the bittersweet story of Medraut, high king Artos' bastard son, born of an incestuous relationship with hisElizabeth E Wein: The Winter Prince
The is the bittersweet story of Medraut, high king Artos' bastard son, born of an incestuous relationship with his sister Morgause. Medraut, ostensibly Morgause's godson, returns to Britain after travelling in Africa and settles in Artos' court where his younger half-brother Lleu, fragile, unskilled and afraid of the dark, is Prince of Britain, Artos' heir. Even Lleu's twin sister, Goewin, seems more suited to rule.
Medraut is educated, intelligent, self-reliant and capable and his medical knowledge (learned in Africa and also from his 'godmother' Morgause) sets him apart. Time and again he helps Lleu to overcome his physical problems and improve his confidence and swordsmanship, yet all the while he is torn by jealousy and the desire for Artos' approval.
When Morgause comes to visit he saves Lleu from her scheming and warns Artos, but still events conspire to drive him into her clutches and to fall in with a plot which could cost Lleu's life.
This is a beautifully written, elegant book. It's a personal narrative by Medraut addressed specifically to Morgause, which doesn't become obvious until he tells of her visit from his own point of view, when suddenly he's talking to, 'you, mother'.
This interweaving of myth and legend with complex characterisation and layered familial relationships is compelling reading. Highly recommended. ...more
I really enjoyed this book, though it will take a little thinking about before I get it straight in my mind and could bear a second reading. It's a poI really enjoyed this book, though it will take a little thinking about before I get it straight in my mind and could bear a second reading. It's a police procedural with a difference because the city of Besźel and the city of Ul Qoma occupy the same space, existing side by side yet separate as if they were on different continents. From birth the inhabitants of one city are schooled to 'unsee' what's happening in the other lest they invoke 'breach' and are spirited away by those who keep the boundaries sacred, never to return.
When Inspector Tyador Borlú of Besźel's Extreme Crime Squad finds himself investigating the death of an unidentified girl he doesn't realise that the very special nature of the place he lives and works in will impact on the crime enormously, taking him over the strange border, into the heart of the other city, and leading him to tangle with dangerous conspiracies beyond his wildest imaginings.
I'll be honest I bounced off Miéville's 'Perdido Street Station', I thought it clever but lacking heart and sympathetic characters, however this book does have heart, in spades. Borlú is believable, well rounded and sympathetic main character, a dedicated cop, streetwise and dogged with a genuine desire to see justice done and a streak of anger directed at the villains. He enlists the help of Corwi, a young policewoman who has local knowledge and though she's a secondary character and we never get to see anything of her private life she's a young Borlú in the making, tough, dedicated and intuitive. Dhatt, Borlú's counterpart in Ul Qoma doesn't look too promising at first, but I warmed to him as Borlú did.
I still want to know more about the cities. Are they separated only by convention or is there a real physical boundary? There are districts which are purely Ul Qoma or purely Besźel but there are also areas which are crosshatched, where Besź and Ul Qoman buildings exist side by side (but never on top of each other) and traffic from the two cities share the same street, so drivers have to avoid vehicles from the other city while 'unseeing' them at the same time.
And then there's 'breach' – the folks who turn up from nowhere to apprehend transgressors – and who seem to obey no laws but their own.
A fascinating and layered story, highly recommended. ...more
This is debut novel by my friend Dave Evardson, songwriter and musician from Grimsby, North Lincolnshire, which is where the book is set, though it'sThis is debut novel by my friend Dave Evardson, songwriter and musician from Grimsby, North Lincolnshire, which is where the book is set, though it's a post-apoclyptic Lincolnshire/East Yorkshire around which has been built a massive, impenetrable wall. Is it to keep people in or something else out? That is essentially the question asked in this book and whether it gets an answer or not depends on your point of view.
I was initially thrown by the fact that the main character is a marshal and his mode of transport is equine. The opening scene the marshal's camp is attacked by arrows. My brain kept jumping to the wild west, and it took me a while to sort it out. Once I realised the location I had fun guessing exactly which bit of the area they were in.
The level of technology and society is faux-medieval with law abiding settlements set in wild tracts of land beset by outlaws. (We never see any large settlements or hear much about them.) The good guys keep slaves.
The marshal is a young lawman, Dominic Bradley.
There are one or two first novelish flaws. To be honest the first chapter is a little clumsy, but it picks up after that and rattles along at a good pace with Dominic finding clues which lead him towards a discovery that turns the pseudo-medieval setting on its head and leads him to discover something about the wall while thwarting a pretty nasty villain and finding true love.
Three stars may be a bit generous, but it's not possible to give two and threequarters. This is an ebook from Fireship Press with a print-on-demand facility. I originally read it pre-publication, but now have a shiny paper copy. Thanks, Dave....more
A short story - or maybe novelette (hard to judge the length on a kindle where progress is marked in percentages not pages) - set in a universe whereA short story - or maybe novelette (hard to judge the length on a kindle where progress is marked in percentages not pages) - set in a universe where time travel is changing the past. The future is percolating backwards so that 1975 is futuristic. James lives in 1898 in rural Utah, but his father is an ambassador to 1975 and during a visit to the future Dad disappears. With his mother about to remarry James is left to figure out his own life, combining lessons learned in both time periods to work out what he really wants to do. He's a child of both worlds, but doesn't really belong in either
I didn't intend to read this right now, but the first paragraph dragged me in and wouldn't let me go. It's a gentle story about identity and finding your place in the world with some neat forays into the potential effects of time travelling....more
For some reason I missed blogging this book when I first bought it as an e-book from Book View Café, so this is to remedy the omission.
The Macallans rFor some reason I missed blogging this book when I first bought it as an e-book from Book View Café, so this is to remedy the omission.
The Macallans run the city. They are not only a tough-as-old-boots Mafia-like crime family, but they are magical too. No wonder no one can withstand them. No one except one of their own. Young Ben Macallan has had enough. He wants a normal life, university, a girlfriend who isn't scared witless of his family's reputation. He 'disinvests' from the family firm. And they aren't really sorry to see him go; they don't think he's got the guts for the lifestyle.
It's all going so well, but then members of his family start to die – horribly – and Ben learns that blood is thicker, and stickier, and messier than water, and a damn sight more complex. Like it or not he's drawn back into the family business, seeking the murderer, following clues in true whodunnit style. Not only whodunnit, but whydunnit.
I bought this before I had a kindle and had to read it on screen as a pdf. It says a lot for the book that I stayed glued to the laptop and read it straight through. It's gripping, visceral and nail-biting. The pace is relentless without feeling rushed. Mr. Brenchley makes you care about the characters in spades, and not just the main characters either. Even the innocent bystanders and thuggish members of the family get your sympathy - mostly.
Ben struggles to find his place in life, and in the manner of all good coming-of-age stories undergoes change by the end of the novel.