September 14, 2012
The Dream-Maker’s Magic by Sharon Shinn
Safekeeper’s Trilogy: Bk 3
Another beautifully told coming-of-age fantasy from Sharon Shinn! Dream-Maker’s Magic focuses on the evolving friendship of two misfits- Kellen, whose mother insists she was born a boy, has been raised as such. She presents herself as either gender depending on her mood or the situation. Gryffin is a physically handicapped boy who is very smart and determined to succeed. The two go to school and then work together in an inn/restaurant. I like how the author depicts the change of the seasons and the seemingly simple yet multi-layered life of a small town. The plot ended up moving in ways I did not expect- so you may be in for some interesting surprises.
The exploration of both gender identity and disability was also very intelligently and sensitively done- it makes you think without being politically preachy.
This the 3rd in a trilogy of loosely connected books set in the same unnamed kingdom- the others being the Safe-keeper’s Secret and the Truth-Teller’s Tale. I thought this was the best of the three- I still recommend reading them in order though.
Read in March 2009
Falcondance by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The next book in the Kiesha’ra saga focuses on Nicias Silvermead, son of the falcons Kel & Andreios (the prince Sebastian) As both a falcon & a guard to the princess Oliza he is both an outsider and and a privileged member of the court. When his magic begins to emerge, Nicias must journey to Ahnmik, the island kingdom and ask his grandmother Araceli to bind his magic. However, when he arrives he realizes that things are much more complicated than they seem. Readers will finally get to learn more about the mysterious falcons and their magic. I have to agree with another reader that I’d like to see Oliza developed more as a character, she seemed more interesting than Nicias, but maybe we’ll see more of her in the next book, Wolfcry.
All together, I found it to be an engrossing read, but later on it was hard to follow the complex magic & politics of the falcons.
Read November 2009
June 4, 2010
Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Book 1 of the Kiesha-ra
The serpiente & avian shapeshifter clans have been at war longer than anyone can remember. Finally out of desperation Danica Shardae, heir to the avian throne accepts Zane Cobriana, the enemy prince as her mate. In spite of enormous opposition the two work towards peace.
Will their alliance- and their relationship be successful?
This is the beginning of what is sure to be a gripping saga. The dark yet hopeful tone is reminiscent of our own often war-torn world. The contrasting cultures of the passionate snakes and stoic, practical birds is fascinating, yet the author doesn’t bog us down in too much detail.
It can be a bit melodramatic at times but that is perhaps to be expected in a teen novel. Danica won me over with her wisdom and determination and though Zane seemed somewhat creepy at first he developed a sensitive side as he let his guard down.
Read October 2009
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!
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
June 14, 2008
Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg (Book 1 of the Majipoor Cycle)
This book was literally shoved into my hands by my fiance with an exhortation of “You have to read this!” After reading, I have to say, he did me a favor! It takes place on Majipoor, a large planet that was long ago colonized by Earth and races of other planets. Much of the technology has been lost, and Majipoor is at a feudal, agricultural level of development and something of a galactic backwater. But overall, it is a peaceful and prosperous world.
Here we find Valentine, a young man who has forgotten his past. He joins a troupe of traveling jugglers, and immerses himself in the art and the carefree life of an entertainer. But Valentine is not who he seems, and when he discovers his true identity, he faces a great challenge, and a journey across much of Majipoor.
Silverberg has created a fascinating world, filled with many colorful characters of various species. The significance of dreams, and their interpretation, figures prominently in Majipooran culture- even in the social order. The Lady of Sleep guides the people with prophetic dreams, while the King of Dreams punishes wrongdoers with nightmares. It was an exciting and suspenseful adventure. I look forward to the next book in the series, Lord Valentine Pontifex and the continuing political intrigue it will reveal.
April 28, 2008
Street Magic: Book 2 of the Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce
In the next book in the Circle Opens, Briar and Rosethorn have travelled to the east, to the Near Eastern-style city of Chammur in Sotat. Rosethorn is helping the local farmers, while Briar cultivates plants to sell.
Briar discovers in a chance encounter that Evvy, a street child has a magical gift with stones. As he begins teaching her the basics of meditation and magic, they get caught up in the conflict between street gangs that struggle for control of Chammur. Each of them wants Evvy for their own, to use her to find precious stones.
As with Magic Steps, Street Magic was suspenseful, intrigue-filled adventure.
November 21, 2007
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
While trying to outrun bullies, Nita escapes to her favorite refuge- the library. While poking through the children’s section she finds a series about careers- “So You Want to Be a…Police Officer, Teacher, Doctor, Wizard” wait, Wizard?! Nita gets the book and finds that it is a handbook on how to become and act as a wizard. Wizards, in this world are a lot different than the conventional view of them in fantasy. They are charged with slowing down the process of entropy- the death of the universe by conserving energy and maintaining balance. In searching for a lost possession, Nita and her new friend Kit find themselves in an alternate New York City ruled by malevolent machines with minds of their own. The world depicted in the book is fascinating, and the plot is a suspenseful and often hilarious adventure.
While physics obviously works differently in this universe, Duane uses scientific concepts in telling the story, so I think it will likely appeal to readers who tend to prefer science fiction over fantasy, while fantasy enthusiasts like myself will find the unusual take on magic to be interesting.
I look forward to the next in the series- Deep Wizardry.
Take a Thief: A Novel of Valdemar by Mercades Lackey
Much of Take a Thief reads like a fantasy version of Oliver Twist- an orphan boy who runs away and joins a gang of pickpockets. Skif is a clever and resourceful lad who learns to survive no matter what. Skif’s routine is interrupted with a tragic fire- which he suspects was not an accident. As he investigates it, he finds that the arson is connected with other wrongdoing. The wretched circumstances which he and his peers endure is astounding- it reminded me of the all too real poverty that exists in our own world. All too often in fantasy we see only the perspective of the nobility, while the everyday lives of the lower classes are only briefly touched on. The reader may wonder where the plot is going- and it indeed about 2/3rds of the novel is about Skif’s life on the streets, until he reaches a fateful turning point.
It takes place over the course of about 5 years or so. But the journey towards that place is a colorful adventure, and it is worth the ride. The action and suspense of the story kept me hooked. This is the second Valdemar book I’ve read, the other being By the Sword. I wouldn’t count this book among my favorites, but I thought it was pretty good. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something different in fantasy other than the usual knights, princesses and dragons.