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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 2016-05-31 00:00
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery - Tanith Lee,Garth Nix,Robert Silverberg,Bill Willingham,C.J. Cherryh,Caitlín R. Kiernan,Gene Wolfe,Glen Cook,Greg Keyes,Michael Moorcock,Tim Lebbon,Jonathan Strahan,Steven Erikson,Michael Shea,Lou Anders,Scott Lynch,K.J. Parker,Joe Abercrombie,James Enge Please note: this review will be updated as I read more stories from the anthology.

So as I mentioned this is an anthology of short fantasy (presumably sword and sorcery, but you really have to stretch the definition) stories. While we are here let us give a tribute to the grandfather of the genre who is still the unsurpassed badass:
Conan
The collection consists of the following:

Goats of Glory by Steven Erikson.
Five surviving soldiers came to a quiet backwater village to have a restful sleep. It turns out, something is not quite right in there and poor guys got every fun imaginable - including desperate fights for their lives - except for rest and relaxation.

This does not have anything to do with Malazan. I finished his magnum opus and it left me relatively cold. It turns out when Erikson is severely limited by the length of the story he writes (these are not called short stories for nothing) he can be great. No people whining non-stop about the miseries of life for 900+ pages, no endless wanderings in a handy desert, but good action. It is still typical Erikson which means I could predict even the last line of the tale had I thought about it, but it is still worth 4 stars.

Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company by Glen Cook.
The tale takes part between the first and the second books of the main series. A whole lot of familiar faces are back, including Captain, Lieutenant, Elmo, Silent, Otto, Hagop, Goblin, and One-Eye. It turns out the last two had an apprentice called Third! Poor guy. Croaker often mentioned that the Company is not nice, but he rarely shows really nasty parts. This one is one of such rare moments.

This was the reason I got my hands on this anthology. People familiar with my reviews know I love the series. The only catch is you need to be already familiar with the characters to fully enjoy the story. One-Eye winning in cards alone worth the whole book. Add to this great dialog and Croaker narration and you have 4 stars - if you have read at least the first book of the main series.

Red Pearls: An Elric Story by Michael Moorcock.
Elric travels to the other side of the world (make it whatever you want from this description) in search of something. The other side turned out to be quite strange. There are some people/creatures to kill and some souls to drink with the fabled Stormbringer.

This one was a mild disappointment. On one hand, it was too weird even for an Elrik story. On the other hand, it is too ordinary for an Elrik story. Sounds confusing, but this is exactly my impression. Oh, and the final resolution was way too simplistic. 3 stars on the weak side of 3.

The Fool Jobs by Joe Abercrombie.
A band of ragtag northern barbarians led by a guy named Craw who appears in Heroes (the best book of the series, in my opinion) is about to commit a heist. What could possibly go wrong? Let me give you a hint: everything.

This could have been excellent, but it does have a big problem: the story itself cannot decide whether it is humorous, or grimdark. It started kind of funny, but quickly developed into a good old massacre. As a result it does not quite succeed in either. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 just because Craw is my favorite character of the favorite book of the series.

So the final rating for now is 4 stars which I will update later with review of more stories.
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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 2016-03-18 23:21
Uprooted - Naomi Novik

Now, this isn't undying literature--but it's hardly shoddy either. But I admit, for personal reasons, this is my crack. Partly this is because of one character in the book that so strongly reminds me of a favorite character in a certain famous fantasy series. I won't name him, since a great deal of my first shock of pleasure was in recognizing him.

I loved Novik's Temeraire books--dragons in an alt-universe Napoleonic Wars. I loved this one even more. Not just the characters, but I loved the world Novik plunged me into from the first twist on the dragon and the sacrificial maiden tales. There's a heroine to identify with and root for--and she isn't a beauty with purple eyes. There's friendship; there are villains who turn out to be heroes, and seeming heroes who even as villains you feel some sympathy for. There's a dark, well-imagined fairy-tale world--but not the Disney kind--more like the original Grimm tales. And I loved the ending on several levels. This was a delightful and consuming read. A gift from a friend, and a greatly appreciated one--she knew just what would brighten my days :-)

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