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review 2017-02-17 21:35
The Dragonbone Chair / Tad Williams
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard.

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.


Oh, the orphan boy with unknown talents, who under-performs until the pressure is applied—how many fantasy stories have you read with this structure? Let’s see--Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, The Belgariad by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, even to some extent The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (substitute “hobbit” for “boy”). Maybe even the King Arthur story to some extent—until young Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. It’s a well-used idea.

At the book’s beginning, I found Simon particularly annoying. As lives go in Midieval-like settings, his lot in life isn’t so bad, although the housekeeper Rachel does make his existence somewhat miserable. However, we all have to earn our keep, so pull up your socks, laddie, and make an effort! Even when offered opportunities to learn to read and to study, he complains! Typical 14-year-old, I guess, something I wouldn’t know about, having had the reading bug ever since I learned to read. Simon doesn’t appreciate his warm bed, three square meals a day, and secure surroundings until he has to flee the castle.

Once he starts running for his life, Simon begins growing up. He becomes a much more likeable character at that point and I began to get invested in his tale. He loses some of the ADHD qualities that made him a “mooncalf” in the beginning and becomes a much more focused young man.
I also appreciated a brand new take on trolls—making them smaller, wiser, and wilier. I liked Binobik and his wolf companion a lot. The Sithi are interesting in their ambiguity—are they enlightened, ethereal beings like the elves in Tolkien? Or are they the dark enemies of mankind? The world of Osten Ard is very detailed and easy to picture in the mind’s eye.

The writing isn’t the best ever, but the story is engaging and I am waiting impatiently for volume 2 at my public library, where it is ‘on order.’ No telling how long I will have to pause before I know what happens to Simon, the kingdom, and the Storm King!

Book number 239 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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text 2017-02-17 16:19
To pick up at the library on the way home....
Agent of Change - Sharon Lee,Steve Miller
The Conjoined: A Novel - Jen Sookfong Lee
Fire Touched - Patricia Briggs
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man - David Fisher,William Shatner
Skinwalker - Faith Hunter
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 3 - Holly Black,Peter S. Beagle,Stephen Baxter,Stephen King,Hannu Rajaniemi,Jeff VanderMeer,Meghan McCarron,Ted Kosmatka,Rachel Swirsky,Ken Scholes,Richard Bowes,Ted Chiang,Robert Reed,Elizabeth Bear,Kij Johnson,Paolo Bacigalupi,M. Rickert,Margo Lanagan,Maure
Spider's Bite - Jennifer Estep
The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family - Emer O'Sullivan
Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils - Lydia V. Pyne

I will undoubtedly have plenty to read this weekend!  And it is a long weekend, Monday being Family Day here in Alberta.


Happy Friday everyone and enjoy the weekend.



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text 2016-11-21 20:56
Reading progress update: I've read 17 out of 303 pages.
Whispers Under Ground - Ben Aaronovitch

Oh, Peter Grant, I've missed you!  Nice to be back in magical London.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-07-12 04:02
Old Man's War - John Scalzi

"Dealing with garrulous old farts every day had apparently taken its toll."



If you had to make a choice today about whether you'd sign up for an intergalactic military with a vague notion of living a longer life in an improved body and reporting for duty at age seventy-five, or living out your existence here on earth -- what would you choose?


I know what I'd do...I'd sign the dotted line.


So did John Perry. It may not have been as simple of a decision as I pretend it to be, but nonetheless, headed for the unknown, riding the elevator to the sky, he leaves it all (or what's left of his all) behind, never to return.


That's part of the deal. New life, new improved body, become a soldier...and you can't go back.


Luckily, he does it with a bunch of other people! The ones that stick together on that first enlisted day bond as only people who have no earthly clue as to what comes next can. They call themselves 'old farts'. I forgive them this title because it turns out I didn't have to read about their adventure together for the entire book - their banter did not delight me. Luckily, they split up relatively quickly to their own assignments after being gifted their new bodies. (At which point led to a chapter of sheer craziness that I'm not sure I totally understood).


Speaking of which -- I know most people have read this book -- did anyone else have very visceral anxiety when reading about how you obtained your new and improved body?


See, this is why I can't just enlist in an intergalactic military - I do not possess the imagination enough to fully comprehend what I'm getting my self into. I would have asked for that one-way ticket back down the crazy sky elevator, thank you very much, you can keep my teeth.


“How does it do that?” I asked.

“You don’t have the math for me to explain it to you,” Alan said.

“So it’s magic,” I said




So John Perry doesn't have the math (we have this in common), but he has a new green super body, and he's a pretty quick thinker (that's where our commonalities end), so he gets through some scrapes (my word for 'cool action sequences'). He gains notice and most importantly stays alive through his first year of service plus. He loses some friends along the way, but takes it like anyone who's lived as long as he has would...in solemn stride.


During these chapters the greater plot unfolds. It involves a superior race along with a lot of introspection.


You see, even while he's out making a way for those new Earth colonies, he lives each day with the soulful understanding that the best years of his life, the life he shared with his wife, Kathy, are gone.


“Forty-two years,” I said.

“How much did you love her?” Jane asked. “Your wife. Kathy. When people are married for a long time, maybe they stay together out of habit.”

“Sometimes they do,” I said. “But I loved her very much. All the time we were married. I love her now.”


Of course "Old Man's War" is science fiction, but it also has a love story that surprised me. Scalzi has a mindful understanding of aging, he writes John Perry in an universally relatable way - invariably, the longer you live, the longer you have to reminisce.


And because this is fiction, we find that John Perry can fight a war, be a hero and perhaps get the girl BACK. Maybe not all in one book, but there is hope...


This last is when I really find enjoyment in books. Though I can read the cynical, the heady, the scholarly, the dark, the literary...and find 'value' in them -- I read those to stretch. I find the thing that keeps me coming back for more is the hope.


In a book about a bunch of old, and let's face it, dying, people - there sure is a lot of hope.



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review 2016-07-04 22:03
An Artificial Night / Seanan McGuire
An Artificial Night - Seanan McGuire

October "Toby" Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael's realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael's inescapable power.


I’m not sure why I find this series so charming—I think it is because I absolutely adore the world of the Fae that McGuire has created here. I love how complex it is, how many kinds of fae entities exist in it, and learning the rules that govern it.

I’m hoping that the main character, Toby, improves over the arc of the series. I’m tired of her refusing to use a perfectly serviceable brain (although if she experiences too much more head trauma, I’m not sure that it will remain intact). I’m tired of her whining about how hard things are—use your head and figure things out. I’m tired of watching her push away all the people who want to help her. Just because you are a knight and a hero doesn’t mean that you can’t accept assistance from others, especially when there are powerful others who obviously care deeply about you. Hell, I find myself caring about her, despite all the things that drive me crazy.

I also hope that there will be more information on Toby’s mother, Amandine, at some point. There was a great big tease in this book, and I really want to know more details of the crazy fairy mother.

Once I pick up one of the October Daye series, I find I can’t set it down happily until I’m at the end and I then want the next book asap, please. So obviously, I will keep reading. I’m just trying to pace myself so that I don’t burn out on them.

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