The Toll of Another Bell is a bit of a fantasy mash-up, if an entertaining one, its magic and mayhem swirled with a bit of sci-fi and a dash of historThe Toll of Another Bell is a bit of a fantasy mash-up, if an entertaining one, its magic and mayhem swirled with a bit of sci-fi and a dash of historical imaginings. It veers through a wide speculative spectrum, casting forth myths, enchantments, magic, strange creatures, and mad science in its wake.
Here are some quick thoughts on each of the stories.
Breath: This story is soft and subtle, with a seamless blend of character and parable. The setting and fantasy world is rich and creative, a delicate fabric that perfectly suits the story.
Awareness: The beginning of this story was a bit tangled for me as I tried to decipher my way through the opening puzzle motif, but once my brain clued in, I found the story captivating. The narrative had a tense precision to it without losing its mystical undertone of fantasy and surrealism. And I loved the ending.
Phoenix: An excellent modern re-imaging of the Orpheus myth. The tragic quest, the juxtaposition of the contemporary world against mythology was all woven together in an well-crafted tapestry.
Life Under Research Conditions: This story leans more heavily into the sci-fi realm than fantasy, but it was a kick-ass story regardless. The first-person narration, from the point of view of the traditional “monster”, lent the story a different, sympathetic intimacy I enjoyed.
The Year of No Foals: This tale is the star of the book, with a charming, cozy allure that draws you in and never lets you go until the end. It has a sense of wonder and hope, built atop an undercurrent of heartbreak, and melds the fantasy seamlessly into the story.
Naoki No Yokai: This story was light on the fantasy elements, but I enjoyed its historical, slightly off-kilter world, and the mystery that unravelled. I did have a minor quibble, however. There were a few clever, modern in-jokes that peppered the story. While amusing and witty, they pulled me out of the narrative and marred the flow of the story for me.
Jilted River: Another quiet story, but one with much clout. It was a lovely blending of folktale, superstition, and family ties to create a beguiling narrative.
Tower Gods: This one reminded me a bit of an old fashioned boy’s adventure story, complete with giant robots and mystical mentors.
Reality As We Know It: This story was a very entertaining tale that twists the fantasy element a bit, turning the fantasy creatures into regular people, instead of the other way around. It has a spectacular voice and set of characters, and a sweet tone.
60 Seconds to Midnight: I found this one a engaging yarn with sci-fi and Lovecraftian overtones. The ending was a bit open-ended, though. I love to see a sequel to the story, or to have the tale expanded into a book.
Overall though, the book is a great read and I recommend it....more
I am one of the authors in this book, so take this as you will, but I felt the rest of the talented writers in this book deserved a review.
If you likI am one of the authors in this book, so take this as you will, but I felt the rest of the talented writers in this book deserved a review.
If you like your paranormal and urban fantasy chocked full of gods, goddesses, and legends then this anthology is a perfect fit. Nine talented authors bring ancient myth into the modern era, deftly mixing magic into our everyday reality and beyond. All the stories have a unique voice, from a touch of fairy tale in The Brother-Sister Fable to detective noir in Charon’s Obol (think Harry Dresden meets Phillip Marlowe for that one), and much, much more. My favourite tale in this anthology (and that was a difficult choice) would have to be Two Spoons. I loved the soft, well-crafted atmosphere of the narrative and the setting, and the creative take the author used for a distinctive “deal with the devil” story.
Legends and Lore is a fantastic book, and I recommend it....more
An enthralling view into a bygone era that is part memoir, part history lesson. It lends insight and breathes life into past events, both famous and nAn enthralling view into a bygone era that is part memoir, part history lesson. It lends insight and breathes life into past events, both famous and not, and shows the humanity behind the headlines of WW I, and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Through facts, history, and some charming speculation, the book weaves a fascinating look behind the doors old English aristocracy that is a delight to read....more
Birds of Passage, the second book in The Raincoast Trilogy, is a darker, more sombre novel than the first; a harsher glimpse of a transitory journey tBirds of Passage, the second book in The Raincoast Trilogy, is a darker, more sombre novel than the first; a harsher glimpse of a transitory journey through a decaying world. The book evokes a bittersweet melancholy, where the remnants of human civilization are more profoundly marked as a dying breed.
The book begins years after the events of the first, in a world that has devolved considerably. Frost’s Farm still exists, but the people there cling to faded hope as disease and death ravage their settlement. The characters of the first book, Noor, Daniel, Wing, have given way to the new generation, Cloud, 99, Fraser, and Fraser’s dad, Blaine. Birds of Passage is their story, full of sadness and tragedy. They have one hope, to go north and find a new place to settle, a new place for the farm.
The novel portrays its unforgiving world honestly, and convincingly, depicting a compelling vision of a ruined society struggling to endure and stay alive. It has some interesting things to say about human nature, both its savagery and nurturing aspects, and our survival instincts as a species. I may not have agreed with everything the author wove into the story, but it made for fascinating reading. The book focuses on action over reflection, external stimuli over internal, perhaps a bit too much for my liking, but still manages to weave an intriguing and captivating story. The pace slows and meanders in the middle of the book, when the characters find themselves embarking on a journey away from the farm, but not enough to be overly detrimental to the plot.
However, the book is not without its problems. I found the central characters in this book slightly less engaging than the first, perhaps due to the lack of an unifying character such as Frost in the original novel. The story is told as more of an ensemble piece, and while it does work, for me the depth of characterization was somewhat deficient at times. I found the character of Fraser especially frustrating, with the motivation for some of his actions incomplete. Without a more in-depth look at the bond between father and son, I found it hard to sympathize with Fraser’s loyalty to Blaine. This limitation is somewhat mitigated with flashback scenes near the end of the book, but it may have been a case of too little, too late.
I don’t think the book is quite as good as the first in the series, it is still a terrific novel, and one I recommend. ...more
Terra Mechanica is a lush, diverse journey through strange, yet familiar histories, full of intrigue, airships, pirates, villains, clockwork machineryTerra Mechanica is a lush, diverse journey through strange, yet familiar histories, full of intrigue, airships, pirates, villains, clockwork machinery, and emotional nuances. Each story opens a distinct world, and sails you through a fascinating expedition of wonder and beguiling characters. While most of the roads you explore are straightforward, with few twists, they are all pleasant, enjoyable and a delight to explore.
The anthology is devised of nine stories, all built around the same theme: a world journey. The settings are varied, from an across Europe trek, airship flights in Russia and the South Pacific, a chase from France to Morocco, Indochina and Quebec, voyages to Western America, and to India and beyond. Each story holds a different point of view, while keeping the feel and aesthetics essential to steampunk.
As with all anthologies, I enjoyed some stories more than I did others, although I can’t say there was one I truly didn’t like. I preferred the ones with more emotional and reflective style, finding Dr. Pax’s Great Unsinkable Bird by J. R. Potter, Seven-year Itch by Rie Sheridan Rose and Priority Passage by S. D. Simper as highlights of the book, but I also enjoyed Dots, Dashes, and Deceit by Jay Barnson as a delightful adventure romp. However, the showpiece of the entire book, for me, was The Promise by Michael Cross. I loved the way that story shifted through vignette glimpses of lives, weaving a captivating patchwork whole, but still leaving pieces to the imagination of the reader. If there was one story that I found slightly disappointing, it was Ripper Bound by TC Phillips. While I found it well written and a good read, the plot, to me, seemed a bit predictable in its direction. And to be fair, I may have been a bit more critical with this one, as it falls very close to the horror genre.
Overall, Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology is a charming, and entertaining book, with shades of stories running from dark to light. I highly recommend it. ...more