I first read this book almost thirty years ago, when it was my gateway to the world of modern fantasy literature. The writing style is extremely engagI first read this book almost thirty years ago, when it was my gateway to the world of modern fantasy literature. The writing style is extremely engaging, retelling the Irish folktales with a more modern style and tone works -- the characters take on a real life of their own and draw you in to their trials and tribulations.
From a purely fantasy standpoint, this book is the beginning of a quest tale: the hero must overcome the challenges of an unjust world while learning the secrets of his past. With the help of his friends and their fantastic powers, can he succeed?...more
That being said, The Elfin Ship reads a great deal like The Hobbit -- from a protagonist who would rather sleep in his bed at home than on the road, to a roguish magical character of uncertain power. The book reads like a fantastic journey, like a children's fantasy novel that can be appreciated by adults.
This is not a book that reads like a modern fantasy novel. Instead, it has a thoroughly dream-like quality; some of the items make more dream-sense than not. The world is still richly imagined, with little details that give you a feel of actually being there.
James P. Blaylock has written two sequels (The Disappearing Dwarf and The Stone Giant), but I've not read them yet. My understanding is they are less like direct sequels, and more along the lines of "further adventures," which suits me just fine. I read this decades ago, and to try to pick up the thread again after the time would be folly. I enjoyed this thoroughly as a teenager, and am not sure whether my tastes have remained such that I would enjoy the book the same way again.
I will note that, this book suffers the same fate as several books illustrated in the 1980s by Darrell K. Sweet, namely the cover bares only the most superficial resemblance to a scene in the book. It's exactly as if the publisher gave the illustrator a three-sentence brief of the scene's content, and then no-one reviewed the painting to make suggestions for correction, or no one cared how close it hewed to the story. I am certain this is what happened, but it's unfortunately since the scene depicted would, indeed, be the best scene for the cover in the book, but is completely misleading....more
Welcome to Gavagan's Bar (rhymes with "pagan") where it's always 1953, the bartender is Irish, and the drinks are never watered down! Where you can ruWelcome to Gavagan's Bar (rhymes with "pagan") where it's always 1953, the bartender is Irish, and the drinks are never watered down! Where you can rub elbows with mad inventors, dark wizards, and ancient gods masquerading as ordinary schlubs.
The Gavagan's Bar stories were written by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt between 1950 and 1956, and were among those stories that pioneered the modern Fantasy-or-Science-Fiction "Tall Tales." The idea was to write a sci-fi or fantasy story as an anecdote told in a bar. The style won't suit everyone -- the authors paint the characters and setting with broad strokes, as opposed to the detailed descriptions popular today. But the sheer creativity and bravado is fantastic, and the stories hearken to the earliest days of the American Science Fiction scene.
The 1950s era is in full evidence in theses stories. In Gavagan's Bar, ladies drink at the tables, not the bar. Gentlemen will be refused service if they start getting too drunk, and the racism and sexism of the era is mild but evident -- in the characters. Refreshingly, the characters' flaws are starkly evident, and the authors pull no punches. None of it was wince-inducing for this reader, but others may find it not to their taste.
The stories cover topics such as ancient gods walking among men and dark sorcerers who make dire pacts, little people and mythological beasts, modern wacky inventions and medieval alchemy. None of the stories is allowed to go too long; they're each just long enough for the gag to work. It reads fast. if you've ever read Dashiell Hammett or Robert E. Howard in the original, you know what I mean; it's a pulpy style of writing, where words flow off the page as fast as you can turn them.
The stories were ended prematurely by Fletcher Pratt's untimely death. L. Sprague de Camp writes a little in the afterword about a story idea that was left undeveloped. I'm left to mourn what might have been. We don't really have anything like this being written today. For analogues in the same vein, you have to go earlier: the "Jorkens" tales of Lord Dunsany, and the "Tales of the White Hart" by Arthur C. Clarke are usually cited as the closest in style, but I've read only a few of the former and none of the latter. In any case, if you're a fan of the tall tale, or the 1950s, and especially if you're a Sci-Fi or Fantasy fan who loves the TV series "Mad Men," you owe it to yourself to check them out....more
When you pick this up, it's important to remember that Jacob Grimm intended to write a collection of moral fables, tales to instruct in proper behavioWhen you pick this up, it's important to remember that Jacob Grimm intended to write a collection of moral fables, tales to instruct in proper behavior. He may have collected his stories from a set of Huguenot families, but he undoubtedly did a lot of editorializing in order to make his stories readable, to make them funny, and to make them morally correct.
This book collects all of the stories published in the original Grimm's Fairy Tales collections. There are repeat characters, and repetitive stories, sometimes with only minor variation. The classic Disney stories are here, but in the original form they are different than expected, sometimes jarringly so. Most of the stories will be new to modern readers.
The quality of the stories is somewhat uneven. Grimm obviously spoke to a lot of different storytellers, and so they are all constructed a little differently -- some are surprisingly modern in tone and characterization while others are old-fashioned and trite. Most of the stories are extremely short, taking up only a page or two; others are long and may incorporate elements from shorts stories read only a few pages earlier. In some cases this reinforces standard fairy tale tropes, while in others it seems more like lazy storytelling. The world the characters inhabit contains talking animals (except when it doesn't), evil witches (except when they're good) and wandering princes who acquire fantastic treasures only to lose it all a paragraph later in an unbelievable act of stupidity.
Keeping in mind that, along with Mother Goose's Fairy Tales and The Blue Fairy Book, this forms the foundation of the modern fairy tale tradition, this is definitely a key book to read to your children. And if, while doing so, you modify the stories to fit your audience and change the moral to fir your own personal code, remember that you are following in the tradition established by Jacob Grimm himself....more
I started this because I'm a fan of science-fiction and detective fiction, and thought this might be up my alley. In fact, the first book in this omniI started this because I'm a fan of science-fiction and detective fiction, and thought this might be up my alley. In fact, the first book in this omnibus does a good job of delivering. The later books are less classifiable, but nevertheless still deliver on entertainment. I found it interesting how Dan Abnett was able to tie up a lot of loose ends in the final chapters, although I found the future depicted exceptionally grim - I guess if you like that sort of thing, then this is the book for you....more
An entertaining fantasy story with a reasonable cast. The story starts out as a bog-standard fantasy about a succession crisis involving two princes aAn entertaining fantasy story with a reasonable cast. The story starts out as a bog-standard fantasy about a succession crisis involving two princes and their "wicked stepmother," and rapidly evolves with advances in technology and significant character development.
One thing that could have been better was pacing. Of the two main characters in the beginning (Wizenbeak and his hired mercenary captain/foreman Genzari) only Wizenbeak gets a full personality; it took a while for Genzari to have his own voice in the narrative. However, eventually everyone has their part to play and the characters develop as expected.
The sensibility of the book is very modern. The characters use modern idioms and think in modern terms. I know this is standard with many novels not specifically set in a fully developed setting, and it's not out of place here, but I thought it worth mentioning for those thinking of reading the book.
I was kind of surprised the book didn't include a map of Guhland. The important locations are described in good enough detail that it isn't vital, but it would have been an aid in following the author's shifting viewpoints.
Shadow Kingdoms is the first volume in a series dedicated to collecting all the published material of Robert E. Howard, one of the greatest pulp authoShadow Kingdoms is the first volume in a series dedicated to collecting all the published material of Robert E. Howard, one of the greatest pulp authors of all time. This book collects the first short stories and poems of his career, collected in unedited form.
It is interesting to use these stories to chart Howard's development as a writer. After several generic Pulp stories, he developed the character of Solomon Kane, three stories of which can be found in this collection. He also makes the first mention of the Atlantean king of Valusia, Kull, who would be a precursor to his most famous character, Conan the Barbarian.
Rounding out the fiction are a number of interesting poems. Most of them are short martial forms, meant to be stirring in nature....more
In this story, Kuttner tries to combine several fantasy themes into a science-fantasy whole - werewolves and vampires, Greek myths, and Lovecraftian tIn this story, Kuttner tries to combine several fantasy themes into a science-fantasy whole - werewolves and vampires, Greek myths, and Lovecraftian themes. It is a moderately successful story, though at times it feels rushed (probably because of its origin in the science-fantasy pulps)....more
As the middle book in a trilogy, The Tombs of Atuan is the middle part of the life of Sparrowhawk, the wizard hero whom the books are about. This is tAs the middle book in a trilogy, The Tombs of Atuan is the middle part of the life of Sparrowhawk, the wizard hero whom the books are about. This is the story of a quest of his middle years, before he became powerful but after he learned wisdom. As a bridging story, it shows development of his character, but curiously he is not the most important one in the book. The protagonist, Tenar, is different and yet similar - a woman of a foreign, barbarous culture, she is nevertheless also the implement of a great and terrible destiny, and a potential pawn of forces greater than herself.
Much as in the first book, the story contains a dream quality, all the more so since it takes place in a place strong with Ancient Powers, a place itself half in the realm of dreams. Again, the hero grows from humble beginnings, makes terrible choices that weigh on the soul, and studies to learn ancient and recondite lore. I find it ironic that the goal of this book, the rejoining of a powerful magic ring which was broken, is a direct counterpart to goal of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy which was the destruction of another magic ring....more
This book was my first introduction to fantasy literature in the late 70s/early 80s, and of all the reading choices in my life, that one has to be theThis book was my first introduction to fantasy literature in the late 70s/early 80s, and of all the reading choices in my life, that one has to be the best one I've ever made. After several readings, I think the original Earthsea trilogy is possibly the best classic epic fantasy series ever written. To my mind the fantasy genre conjures up fanciful images - castles, dragons, magical spells. This book supplies those in droves, and in the language of dreams.
Le Guin's words are perfectly applied to support and enhance your willing suspension of disbelief, to draw you deeper into the story. The plot itself is full of standard fantasy tropes which weren't so standard back then, but they're not labored. Each scene flows neatly from the last, characters develop and react exactly right, and the overall effect is far less mechanical and pragmatic than most modern fantasy literature.
Overall, I can't rate this series (and, as the lead-in novel, this book) highly enough for people who want to give fantasy a try....more