September 14, 2012
Child of the May by Theresa Tomlinson, Sequel to Forestwife
Magda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows restless and longs to experience life outside the forest. She gets her chance when John & Marian allow her to accompany Robin & the Merry Men on a quest to rescue the noblewoman Matilda and her daughter Isabel. They have both been imprisoned by the sheriff until Matilda agrees to allow Isabel to marry FitzRanulf, the sheriff’s bloodthirsty mercenary chief. At first stubborn and petulant, Magda grows a lot as a character as the book progresses. She learns that life outside the forest isn’t as fun and glamorous as she thought. This was a short and easy to read book- about the level of 10-13 year olds or so. But I enjoyed it as a fun adventure, as well as a story with depth and historical realism. I think older teens and adults who like Robin Hood legends and stories set in the Middle Ages would like it.
Read March 2011
December 14, 2009
Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (1 of Tales of Alvin Maker)
The book is set in an alternate colonial America, where practitioners of magic have been exiled. Alvin Miller is born the seventh son of a seventh son- and thus his family & community expects him to be destined for greatness- that is if he can survive to adulthood. For he seems continually set by accidents. Is someone- or something out to get him?
Yet while a supernatural threat may be looming, religious, political and racial conflicts are closer to home.
I enjoyed the historical scenario, as described and revealed by Card. I was reminded a bit of Little House on the Prairie, despite it being an earlier time period, settling a homestead is much the same.
I might’ve given it more stars but I thought the characters were not very well-developed. This is just the first book of a series, though so I expect Alvin and others will become more fleshed out in later books. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in early American history, folklore and folk magic.
Note: just a warning that the Native Americans are referred to as “Reds”, “savages” etc. which was rather jarring to me. I don’t think (I hope!) Card means to be racist, but rather it’s meant from the settlers’ POV.
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Book 2 of Temeraire series)
Throne of Jade begins with Capt. Will Laurence being informed by his superiors of a diplomatic problem. Since Temeraire’s egg was acquired by the capture of a French vessel, and the egg was a gift from the Chinese, they now want Temeraire back! After some negotiation, it’s decided that Laurence will accompany Temeraire on a voyage back to China and they’ll figure out what to do there.
Some have complained that the sea voyage that takes a good chunk of the book is rather slow, and it can be at times. But I found the culture clashes between the British and the Chinese to be very interesting.
Upon arrival in China they discover the very different way dragons are treated there. The Chinese were the first to tame & breed dragons, and so they are much more common there than in the west. Thus, their roles are not limited to the military. I think the best part of this book was watching Temeraire mature & grow as a character as he begins questioning the status of dragons. Novik brings up many thought-provoking moral and cultural issues. It seemed like it took me most of August to get through this book, but it was worth it!
March 9, 2009
The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson
Fleeing an unwanted forced marriage, orphan Mary runs away to the woods of England. She is worried about the wild creatures and outlaws that live there, but willing to take her chances. Her nurse Agnes follows her, and proves to be an essential companion and mentor, who is knowledgeable of herbal healing and wilderness survival. They become part of a community of people who live in the forest avoiding the oppression of local lords, including Agnes’ son Robert.
The idea of a Forestwife, a wisewoman healer who lives in the woods is cool, and makes sense- wouldn’t the Merry Men need a healer? And I also like the description of the seasons and what people did in preparation/reaction to them.
The story was well-told, and historical authenticity fleshed out the feel of the setting. The dialogue uses a lot of archaic words, which might be difficult for some, but I found it understandable.
It seemed like Theresa Tomlinson really did her research, and it helps that she grew up in the areas associated with the Robin Hood legends! This is part of a trilogy, the other books are Child of the May, and Path of the She-Wolf, the latter has only been published in the UK unfortunately. However it does look like there are copies available online for decent prices.
July 9, 2008
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (Book 1 of Temeraire series)
Captain Will Laurence doesn’t realize what he’s getting into when he and his crew come across a dragon’s egg on a captured French ship. But before he knows it, he becomes the master (or partner?) of Temeraire, a charming and inquisitive dragon. In his world, dragons and their riders serve in the Aerial Corps, battling other nations’ reptilian forces.
The first third or so of the book is concerned with the training of Temeraire and Laurence, so it takes a while to get into the action. I found the training to be interesting, however as it further explains the logistics of draconian battle and Laurence, a proper British gentleman finds himself rather shocked by the social mores of the dragon riders. So military history buffs, be patient and you’ll see our heroes match their wits and strength with the wiles of Napoleon’s cronies.
Cheryl at Loose Ends