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.
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
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.
January 29, 2009
Snowwalker by Catherine Fisher
When Jessa & her cousin Thorkil are banished to the north by the sorceress Gudrun who has enchanted their land, they expect death. In a ruined castle they encounter her son, rumored to be a monster but he is more than what he seems. Thus begins an amazing adventure set in medieval Scandinavia (or Iceland) that culminates in a showdown with Gudrun beyond the world’s end.
I found the plot of Snowwalker to be as enthralling as Gudrun’s spells, and the characters had a lot of depth to them. This was actually published as a trilogy in the UK- The Snowwalker’s Son, The Empty Hand and The Soul Thieves. I had not heard of Catherine Fisher or this book before, just stumbled across it in the library and I’m glad I did! I’ll definitely be looking for more of her work.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I had planned on reading this book for a while but when I heard a film version was coming out soon, I decided to go ahead and read it.
Wouldn’t it be fun if characters from books could come to life into our world? Sure, but it turns out it’s not all fun and games as the protagonists of Inkheart discover.
Young Meggie enjoys travelling with her father, a bookbinder and listening to the stories he tells her. But her father has a secret, and when a mysterious fellow called Dustfinger appears one day, this begins to be revealed. Inkheart had a charming and whimsical flavor to it. It took a while for things to be set up for the plot to get going, but for those with patience, there are some treats in store. I also liked that there was psychological exploration of the villain, he wasn’t just a stereotypical bad guy.