September 22, 2012
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl, a millionaire and a child prodigy, has been mostly left on his own since the dissappearance of his father, and by his depressed and bedridden mother. He uses this freedom to develop a diabolical plan to manipulate fairies for their gold by kidnapping Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. (Lower Elements Police) Little does he know, that he’s not exactly dealing with Tinkerbell. This fairies are well-armed with both ancient magic and advanced technology and they do not take kindly to human meddling.
Describing the inner thoughts of the characters gave them a lot of depth, as well as explaining details of the fairy underworld without overloading the reader. My favorite characters were the gruff, cigar-chomping Commander Root, Foaly the techie centaur and Artemis Fowl himself. As he reacts to events, adjusting his plans, he sometimes has moral doubts and wonders at what point he is going too far. We can see that for all his precociousness and power, he is still a vulnerable and lonely boy.
This was a fun, page-turning adventure, kind of a parody of James Bond-type novels that take themselves too seriously. While there is a lot of comical zaniness in here, Colfer has created a sophisticated and well-thought out plot. This is a good “cross-over” book that would appeal to adventure, science fiction and fantasy readers alike.
Read in September 2012
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
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
(I wrote this in 2010, 5 years after I read it, so I didn’t remember too well, especially considering its complexity! But, here goes: Game of Thrones is the beginning of an epic saga, a Song of Ice and Fire. The throne has been usurped by Robert Baratheon, and after he dies with no children a struggle begins for the kingship. This is a long and complex story full of manipulation and betrayals. It’s gritty medieval realism is the exception in a often soft and romanticized genre. The story and characters were interesting, but it was so long it was a lot to slog through. He also switches characters perspectives in each chapter, but I didn’t find that hard to follow. All in all, I didn’t like it enough to continue reading the series, especially considering the length of the books.
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
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
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt
In a time of poverty and famine, stories abound of Jackaroo, a highwayman who helps the poor. Gwyn, an innkeeper’s daughter thinks this is all nonsense. Yet her life begins to change after a Lord and his son ask her to accompany them on a map-making expedition. As Gwyn learns more about the world around her, she starts to wonder if Jackaroo is in fact a real person.
This book has a slow pace, but I enjoy the poetic descriptions.It’s refreshing to have a focus on ordinary peasant characters when so much of fantasy is focused on the upper class.
It seems rather light on magical elements, and the world, simply called “the Kingdom” is fairly generic. I liked seeing a different take on the Robin Hood concept, and Voigt challenges us to wonder about the origin of legends.
Read March 2010
July 24, 2012
Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs
I find it amusing how there are now so many really specific niches of mystery novels- mysteries for dog lovers, knitters, park rangers and yes now tea lovers. Theodosia Browning runs the Indigo Tea Shop in a peaceful, historic district of Charleston, NC. But on the night of the Lamplighter Tour, a annual event showcasing the stately homes of the area, a ruthless* real estate developer is found dead, with a cup of tea from her shop in is hand. When the police detective casts suspicion on her and her employees, she decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate. This proves difficult, as the developer is disliked by many in the community.
I would definitely say this is more of a book for tea-lovers who like mysteries, rather than mystery lovers who casually like tea.
That said, the story drew me in, Theodosia was a unique and appealing heroine
and the descriptions of the characters and the historic city of Charleston also added interest. This is a nice, light read, and while a murder mystery, it is still not gruesome or that creepy. So you can give it to your grandma the tea maven 🙂
(*So what does ruth-ful mean then?)
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 16, 2009
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
This is a beautifully written novel, that reads like a fairy tale with its simple yet poetic language. I can see why it won the World Fantasy Award. Sybel, a young woman trained in magic by her late wizard father lives on Eld Mountain alone with the legendary beasts he collected.
One day, a baby is brought to her to raise. In spite of her doubts, the boy Tamlorn grows to melt her heart and reconnect her with humanity. Her suspicion of human society and its politics and wars seems warranted however, when Tamlorn’s true parentage is revealed and she falls in love with an enemy of his people.
McKillip says many interesting things in here about love, relationships, power and how easily it corrupts. It went in a different direction than I expected. My main complaint is, the writing became rather melodramatic and soap opera-ish in the last third or so of the book. Still, I overall enjoyed it and would recommend it to fantasy-lovers.
Read in September 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.