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Search tags: my-science-fiction-fantasy-reading-project
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review 2017-02-21 19:55
Agent of Change / Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Agent of Change - Sharon Lee,Steve Miller

Once a brilliant First-in Scout, Val Con yos'Phelium was "recruited" by the mysterious Liaden Department of Interior and brainwashed into an Agent of Change—a ruthless covert operative who kills without remorse.

Fleeing the scene of his latest murderous mission, he finds himself saving the life of ex-mercenary Miri Robertson, a tough Terran on the run from a team of interplanetary assassins. Thrown together by circumstances, Val Con and Miri struggle to elude their enemies and stay alive without slaying each other—or surrendering to the unexpected passion that flares between them.

 

The Liaden Universe entertains again—I stayed up past bedtime last night to finish this novel and absolutely had to know how things ended. Except I now know that I will have to consult another title for “the rest of the story.” That’s okay, this was a fun romp.

What do you do when you are a hardened, take-no-prisoners spy who almost incidentally rescues someone and then you find yourself quite taken with her? Val Con yos’Phelium suddenly can’t just leave Miri Robertson in the lurch. He saved her life once and now it seems the two of them have become interdependent. Neither one of them is sure how they feel about it.

Although their developing relationship definitely has a starring role in the novel, there is plenty of action & adventure too. A new species is introduced to the Liaden series, that of the large, sentient turtles (The Clutch). The most prominent of them, Edger, reminds me of the Ents in LOTR—living & doing business at a stately pace, watching short-lived humans whip through the world at a frantic rate. I’m looking forward to seeing how these reptilian characters feature in future adventures. Not to mention the space mafia that they seem to be set up to oppose.

The ever-so-complicated Liaden world barely impinges on this book—our main characters never get near Liaden society, so there is less of the societal machinations prominent in Local Custom or Scout’s Progress. I look forward to future stories of Val Con and Miri.

Book 245 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-02-17 21:38
Sheepfarmer's Daughter / Elizabeth Moon
Sheepfarmer's Daughter - Elizabeth Moon

Paksenarrion — Paks for short — is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She's off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again.

And so her adventure begins... the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.

Here is her tale as she lived it.

 

I really wanted to like this tale more than I actually did. It had moments of greatness—as when Paksenarrion fights off her father and leaves home to join the army. (Although, as the daughter of a pig farmer, I will tell you that there are worse men that you could end up married to).

I read this book while on holiday and it always seemed that I was interrupted right in mid-battle, left wondering for many hours how things would turn out! That said, the battles were certainly not gritty like those described by Glen Cook in his Dark Company series. These were battlefield-lite. And although Paks is injured several times and has bad things happen to her, she leads the charmed life of the fantasy heroine.

What was refreshing was having a female main character who was competent with a weapon and interested in tactics. Now, how much is her own doing and how much is she being assisted by somewhat magical influences? This supernatural stirring in her life puts me in mind of Joan of Arc….

Book 241 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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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 - Garth Nix,Stephen Baxter,Holly Black,Michael Swanwick,Joan Aiken,Holly Phillips,Kelly Link,Ian McDonald,John Kessel,Jonathan Strahan,Paul J. McAuley,Greg Egan,Maureen F. McHugh,Margo Lanagan,M. Rickert,Paolo Bacigalupi,Kij Johnson,Elizabeth Bear,Robert Re
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.

 

Wanda

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review 2017-02-16 17:02
Magic's Pawn / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Pawn - Mercedes Lackey

Though Vanyel has been born with near-legendary abilities to work both Herald and Mage magic, he wants no part of such things. Nor does he seek a warrior's path, wishing instead to become a Bard. Yet such talent as his if left untrained may prove a menace not only to Vanyel but to others as well. So he is sent to be fostered with his aunt, Savil, one of the famed Herald-Mages of Valdemar.

But, strong-willed and self-centered, Vanyel is a challenge which even Savil can not master alone. For soon he will become the focus of frightening forces, lending his raw magic to a spell that unleashes terrifying wyr-hunters on the land. And by the time Savil seeks the assistance of a Shin'a'in Adept, Vanyel's wild talent may have already grown beyond anyone's ability to contain, placing Vanyel, Savil, and Valdemar itself in desperate peril...

 

Oh, what a validating novel this would be for a child who had no sports talent, but was being forced to participate anyway! Every boy convinced by his father to set aside his violin or book in order to fail dismally at baseball or hockey would be able to relate to Vanyel. Music is everything to Vanyel with academics running a close second, but his father only wants him to become a brutal swordsman.

Others who may relate: those who excelled in their own small pond (small town or small school), but find themselves out-shone by talented peers when they arrived at university. Vanyel is considered smart and musically talented at home, but once he is sent to his Aunt Savil at the school for Herald-Mages, his talents fall short of the mark.

Also a book for a youngster (in the 1980s) struggling with his/her sexual orientation. The good thing that comes out of this new situation is that Vanyel realizes that he is interested in boys—that’s why bedding girls at home was never alluring to him. And although some people are prejudiced against him for his orientation, the author makes it clear that they are “provincial” and not to be listened to. I was pleasantly surprised to find this viewpoint expressed so unequivocally in literature from the 1980s.

Like most teenagers, Vanyel is very self-centered. It goes with the territory, but it does make the kid hard to like (at least for a woman in her 50s). However, it was also disappointing that the instructors at the mage school made so little effort to see behind the arrogant pose that Vanyel used to protect himself. The situation improves as the book progresses, with Aunt Savil realizing that there is a great deal more to her nephew that she had previously realized and that maybe her brother was even thicker than she had thought. This is also a pretty standard plot device—I think of Simon in The Dragonbone Chair, who also starts as a self-involved teen (with fewer talents than Vanyel), but eventually becomes a person of character.

I had to wonder at the addition of the horse-like Companions—in order to become a Herald-Mage, one must be “chosen” by one of these superior, magical beings, who reminded me very much of the Houyhnhnms from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Maybe in the next book, I will figure out why the Companions are necessary to this world.

Book 244 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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