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review 2018-08-06 22:26
Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Starless - Jacqueline Carey

I’ve just been on an adventure with Khai and Zariya. The desert sand is still wedged in creases, the sea salt adhering to my hair, and some jungle forest mystery patch is making it’s home in the shady part of my imagination. I’m a long time fan of Carey’s works but Starless may have surpassed them all.  The plot was unexpected, the characters unforgettable, and the settings deadly beautiful.

A beautiful mythology wends it’s way through the plot. The stars, children of the sun Zar and he three moons, were cast from the heavens ages ago. Now these stars reside throughout the world, each gifted and bestowing their gifts upon mortals. Sometimes this is through direct interaction, sometimes through objects like rare seeds or a magical pearl.

The story is told through Khai’s eyes. He grows up in a desert fortress being trained by the monks on a variety of skills. He was born with a destiny: to be the Shadow to the Sun Blessed, Zariya. Once we’ve gotten to know Khai good and well (several years have passed), he goes to the royal palace to serve as Zariya’s body guard and confidante.

Since I had already fallen in love with Khai, I wasn’t sure I would bond as well with Zariya. Her world is so very different from the desert fortress but she has not been without her trials. An affliction challenges her daily. On top of that is the endless intrigues, making it difficult to trust anyone other than her Shadow. Zariya, being the last daughter of the last wife, believes she is destined for a simple marriage and child bearing. However, prophecy steps in and drags Zariya and Khai off on a world-saving adventure.

If Jacqueline Carey were ever to write horror, she would send a tremble through the entire genre. The creepy critters from the sea that threaten to decimate the world are truly things of nightmares. I thought the ants from the 3rd trilogy in the Terre D’Ange Cycle were scary; however, the critters from Starless take the cake.

I loved the gender fluidity of Khai’s character. The desert people call it ‘bazim’ (not sure on spelling). Khai grew up among only males but once he moves to the palace, he spends most of his time in the women’s quarter, guarding Zariya. There he learns about women and starts questioning his own gender-based roles in society. It’s all very well done. As Khai interacts with more cultures, each shares their take on the matter, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes bluntly. Khai grows by leaps and bonds and I loved his character all the more by the end of the tale. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Caitlin Davies did a great job with this book – a truly top notch performance. She provided so many different accents, keeping all the characters unique. Plenty of emotions, subtle and not, were on display in this tale and Davies gave them all their due. I especially enjoyed the valiant Mayfly. 5/5 stars.

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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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review 2017-01-10 16:49
The Knight and Knave of Swords / Fritz Leiber
The Knight and Knave of Swords - Fritz Leiber

Dark Horse's republication of Fritz Leiber's immortal tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser reach a turning point with this new edition of Leiber's final stories of the two intrepid adventurers. Their journeys have taken them from one side of Nehwon to the other, facing life-risking peril at every turn. Now, in a set of stories that show us Fafhrd and the Mouser both on their own and together, they will face some of their most challenging obstacles, and - against assassins, angry gods, and even Death himself - the duo must battle for their very lives. With a mixture of high adventure, moving drama, and broad comedy, The Knight and Knave of Swords is a perfect endpiece to Leiber's stories of the stalwart comrades.

 

 

 

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Cranky Old Men edition

We’re old, we’re gray, get off our lawn.

A somewhat unfair assessment of the last FatGM book by Fritz Leiber, who died 4 years after it was copyrighted, at age 81. A few statements within the first few pages seemed to indicate that he was writing to placate fans of the series—you know us fans, we are always clamouring for more adventures of our favourites! I imagine that it’s hard to scrape up enthusiasm for a project that feels rather forced on the writer, especially after 50 years of writing these adventures.

Fafhrd and Mouser are reluctant adventurers in this installment. They would far rather settle down with their current lady-loves, go on the odd commercial venture, and live comfortably for the rest of their lives, but when your life is entwined with nosy gods there are bound to be interruptions.

Leiber was obviously concerned with issues of mortality while writing this, as Fafhrd and Mouser end up with a spell on them, making them elderly in outlook before their time. His earlier beautiful vocabulary gets much coarser in Knight and Knave and I don’t think he got the same delight out of writing about these two rascals anymore.

It was rather sad to watch the decline of the barbarian and the cut-purse, just as it is sad to watch the subtle decline in an elderly relative.

Book 238 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

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review 2016-04-26 12:28
Magic, Battle, humanratlikecreatures that may or may not give you nightmares... awesome ^_^
Fire and Sword (Sword and Sorcery) (Volume 1) - Dylan Doose

There was suspense, action, drama, funny scenes, rather gruesome horrible scenes, character development, and maybe even future nightmares of scary human/rat like creatures. All in all I think that this was great, I could have read it in one way if I had had the time. I give this book 4.5 stars because I really liked it.

 

For the full review click on the link :): https://mybookfile.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/dylan-doose-sword-and-sorcery-fire-sword/

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review 2016-04-22 12:00
Magisterium: The Copper Gauntlet - Holly Black,Cassandra Clare

THE COPPER GAUNTLET is the second book in The Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. The book continues the story of Callum Hunt who having completed his first year at the Magisterium, is about to start his second but this time he knows a terrible secret that could have terrible consequences. Despite this Call wants to return to the Magisterium and his friends.

I really enjoyed reading THE COPPER GAUNTLET and thought it was a brilliant addition to The Magisterium series. After the revelation in THE IRON TRIAL I was curious about where the story was going to go and Black and Clare did not disappoint in this book. A lot happens in THE COPPER GAUNTLET in a very short amount of time. On the one hand, there was so much going on that I didn’t even notice this until I reached the final pages of the book. On the other, it has left me desperately hoping that the third book in this series picks up where this one finishes because I want to know more!

Call is a brilliant main character. I think one of the things I most enjoy about him in this book, is his determination to protect those he cares for. He also has really awesome friends in Tamara and Aaron. And I have to take a moment and talk about Havoc, who despite being a wolf and therefore not speaking is a huge presence on the page. He is definitely one of my favourite characters of this series. Call and his friends do a lot of growing up in this book, and I think Black and Clare do a good job in setting up the possibility of future events in this book.

The plot of the book is surprisingly complex, and there are a lot of twists and turns. After the first chapter, I was pretty sure I had an idea where the book was going to go but Black and Clare surprised me. Some of the things I thought might happen did, but there were plenty of other events that I was not expecting at all. THE COPPER GAUNTLET is a strong second book, and in my opinion it really builds on the groundwork of THE IRON TRIAL. The world of The Magisterium is steadily growing more complex, and I have really enjoyed watching events play out so far. I’m curious to see where this series is going.

If you are a fan of magical boarding schools, and have not already done so then be sure to check this series out. There are a lot of elements to this series that are similar to other books in this genre, but Black and Clare approach it in a slightly different direction from what you would expect. As the second book in the series THE COPPER GAUNTLET really adds to the world building of The Magisterium, and we learn more about Call’s story. If you enjoyed THE IRON TRIAL then you will adore this book.

This review was originally published on The Flutterby Room.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2016/04/22/review-the-copper-gauntlet-by-holly-black-and-cassandra-clare
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