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text 2017-02-17 15:27
7 Great Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Series
Storm Front - Jim Butcher
Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green
The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley
Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

At this point, it is no surprise to anyone that I am a fantasy fan, specifically urban fantasy. I like magic, monsters, adventures, etc. I also like revisiting characters and worlds, which means I'm definitely a series guy. I like a good standalone, mind you, but they are rarely as immersive as a long-running series.These are a few of my faves, and why. I am excluding the ones I discovered last year, as I've already discussed them elsewhere.

 

1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher  The Dresden Files - Jim Butcher

 

First Book: Storm Front (2000), ongoing

 

One of my all-time favorites, this series follows Harry Dresden, a professional wizard based in Chicago. It starts out as basically a PI series with magic, but dives much deeper into the lore starting with book 3, Grave Peril. Fast, funny, and exciting, this is the big daddy of modern UF, hitting #1 on the NY Times list a few times. There are 15 books in the series thus far, plus various shorts, novellas, and comics.

 

2. Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green   The Nightside series - Simon R. Green

 

First book: Something From The Nightside (2003), completed

 

This series takes place in the titular Nightside and follows John Taylor, PI, ne'er-do-well

and prophesied heir to the Nightside, as he solves crimes, learns about his birthright, and challenges the Powers That Be. The writing can be a bit repetitive, and there are a couple lesser books among the twelve (thirteen including a collection, which is fun but inessential), but some of the characters are just flat awesome, especially Walker and "Shotgun" Suzie Shooter. Can get a bit gruesome, but the humor is always spot on.

 

3. The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly  Samuel Johnson series - John Connolly

 

First book: The Gates (2009), completed.

 

A very funny combination of demonology and theoretical physics, intended for YA readers. A great trilogy about a young boy whose town is frequently treatened with demonic takeover. I'm not usually a YA guy, but this just flat rocks.

 

4. The Rook - Daniel O'Malley  Checquy series - Daniel O'Malley

 

First book: The Rook (2012), ongoing.

 

Another fun UF series, this one told, thus far, from exclusively female perspectives. There are many people in the world born with strange abilities and, in the UK, it is up to the Checquy to handle them. Very funny, often gory, and occasionally thought-provoking. As the second book, Stiletto, mostly abandons the lead from the first book in favor of two new characters, it will be interesting to see what happens in book 3.

 

5. Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett  Discworld - Terry Pratchett

 

First book: Color of Magic (1983), completed.

 

Confession time: I've only read six or so of these books and feel no pressig need to complete the series. I will read more of them, and happily, but am in npo rush, nor do I feel any need to read them in any particular order. There are about forty books in various subseries, plus various addenda, and, while there is continuity, flitting around has worked fine for me thus far.

 

6. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss  Kingkiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss

 

First book: The Name of The Wind (2007), ongoing.

 

An epic fantasy in the traditional vein, with great characters, beautiful writing, and interesting magic systems. This series follows Kvothe first as a student, then on various adventures. Stories within stories, an unreliable narrator, a school story, this is as interesting structurally as narratively. Am desperately anxious for book three.

 

7. On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony  Incarnations of Immortality - Piers Anthony

 

First book: On a Pale Horse (1983), completed.

 

Both the worst-written and most structurally ambitious of all these series. this deals with mere mortals who, in various ways, become incarnations of various concepts, such as Death, Time, War, etc. Originally intended as a quintet, then extended to eight books. I never bothered with the last three books because the first five tell a complete story. Said story is not told sequentially, as the books take place at around the same times. Instead, we get the same occurrences from different perspectives, slowly deepening context, and a growing sense of the underlying conflict. The writing isn't particularly strong, but the ambition is laudable.

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review 2015-12-19 00:19
On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1)
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

Like many others, I first read this book in high school and loved it. Now, I read this in my thirties, and find that while it is very dated in its treatment of women, it also still makes me think just as much as I did back then.

What really gets me about this book is that it challenges traditional ideas about the facets of Christianity. It makes you consider that the roles of Good and Evil are just jobs that are held more so than all powerful beings that don't care about the mortals they are trying to win to their respective camps.

Zane was a very easy to relate to character, and I liked his moments of crisis. Luna also was an interesting character to see in action, especially when she began to see beyond Zane's exterior. I also really liked the descriptiveness of the world building that was done.

All in all, it was an enjoyable return to a slice of my teenage years, and I'll likely continue the series at some point!

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review 2015-07-29 00:00
On a Pale Horse
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony An absolutely hysterical and morbid take on Death! This book honestly delighted me, and bemoan the fact that current and modern writing isn't this quality. I can't wait to read the next book.
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review 2015-07-14 18:53
On a Pale Horse / Piers Anthony
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

 

I can see where I would have been really into this series if I’d read it as a teenager. I was just busy reading at that point in my life and not very much into evaluating what I was taking in. It is a very male-oriented story, with women being mostly objects that they compete for and fight over. The male characters evaluate women by their age and attractiveness, although Zane/Death comes to grudgingly admire Luna’s strength, intelligence, and morality. If I had children, I wouldn’t encourage them to read this series, but if they did, we would need to talk about the role of women in it and why it shouldn’t be used as a model for relationships. The female characters often say some very chauvinistic things, as if Anthony believed it was acceptable to be prejudiced as long as the female characters voice those thoughts (e.g. that as women get old, they just bag & sag and lose all their attractiveness, implying that without youthful attractiveness they really aren’t worth anything anymore).

 

The writing is acceptable; the morality is extremely black-and-white. Having characters like God and Satan included in the list of characters plunges the reader very much into a Christian universe and there is no escaping that uni-religion slant. Since I attended Sunday School as a child, I was conversant with the details of that worldview, but I wonder how many modern young people would be? It might be interesting for non-Christian readers, although I would hate for them to get their Christian theology from Anthony, or it might be off-putting.

 

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the horse/car Mortis and the idea that a new person in the Incarnation of Death could shake up the job quite a bit.

 

I’ve read these books out of order (it doesn’t affect their understanding all that much since they’re fairly simplistic), so I’ve only got a couple to go. I’ve abandoned Anthony’s Xanth series because it bores and annoys me, but I haven’t made any hard-and-fast decisions about this one. Not my favourite author, although I can understand what others may see in his work.

 

Book number 181 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.

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review 2014-12-21 17:11
Behold a Pale Horse
Behold a Pale Horse: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland - Peter Tremayne

Another story set in Peter Tremayne's strange 7th-century Ireland, a free, democratic and egalitarian society where kings are elected, there is complete equality between men and women, slavery is unheard of, and everyone has a hot bath every evening.

 

Actually, this story is set in Italy, not Ireland, but Fidelma keeps making invidious comparisons, so neither we nor anyone else around her is allowed for one moment to forget that Italy is a very backward and primitive place compared with the south-east of Ireland.

 

I am beginning to wonder whether not just fictional characters but you and I – "real" people in the "real" world – have different pasts, different histories; that we in fact inhabit different worlds.

 

I am an only child, but I have friends who assure me that their childhood memories are different from those of their siblings – and as regards certain important incidents, totally different. My own memories do not altogether coincide with those of my mother and grandmother. That we might expect. But it amazes me to find, when I sit down with old school friends to chat and reminisce over a drink, that our memories often differ dramatically.

 

So why should I be surprised that Peter Tremayne's idea of 7th-century Ireland is so different from mine? Perhaps we both lived previous lives in early medieval Ireland – but a different early medieval Ireland, in what were obviously different worlds, different universes.

 

I am not carping. I love Tremayne's Ireland – and Europe – and I adore Fidelma. She is everything I would wish to be if I were fortunate enough to live a life in that Ireland at that time.

 

And now, on with the story.

 

Tremayne begins by telling us that on a visit to the Trebbia Valley in Italy, he was persuaded to set a Fidelma story in the famous Abbey of Bobbio. As it was difficult to arrange chronologically, he broke his usual habit of writing the books in sequence and set this one immediately after Shroud for the Archbishop, when Fidelma was on her way home from Rome where she had been with Brother Eadulf and whom she had no reason to believe she would ever meet again. (I love knowing what is going to happen later!)

 

After being caught in a storm, the ship she is on puts in at Genua (sic) for urgent repairs. And while she is waiting for another ship to come along on which she might take passage, she learns that her one-time teacher, Brother Ruadan, now an old man, is at the Abbey of Robbio. He has apparently been set upon by robbers and is not expected to live more than a few days. Naturally, she hastens there to bring him comfort, only to find that it was not robbers at all. He had been beaten up and left for dead because he got wind of a conspiracy of some kind centred in the Abbey itself. At least one person had already been killed, and others will follow as Fidelma begins asking questions and the conspirators start to panic.

 

Various monks keep taking her aside and telling her she is in danger, she should leave now, immediately, but that of course only makes her more determined to stay and solve the mystery.

 

As does being abducted and taken to the lair of a mountain war-lord, one of whose various sources of income is selling young females who fall into his hands to slavers! Would Fidelma ever see Ireland – or even Italy! – again?

 

A good story, one of Tremayne's best, replete as always with distinctive characters, and his handling of the return to the young and less self-confident Fidelma is flawless.

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