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review 2017-06-16 22:38
Dreams of Steel / Glen Cook
Dreams of Steel - Glen Cook

Croaker has fallen and, following the Company's disastrous defeat at Dejagore, Lady is one of the few survivors--determined to avenge the Company and herself against the Shadowmasters, no matter what the cost.

But in assembling a new fighting force from the dregs and rabble of Taglios, she finds herself offered help by a mysterious, ancient cult of murder--competent, reliable, and apparently committed to her goals.

Meanwhile, far away, Shadowmasters conspire against one another and the world, weaving dark spells that reach into the heart of Taglios. And in a hidden grove, a familiar figure slowly awakens to find himself the captive of an animated, headless corpse.

Mercilessly cutting through Taglian intrigues, Lady appears to be growing stronger every day. All that disturbs her are the dreams which afflict her by night--dreams of carnage, of destruction, of universal death, unceasing...

 

 

More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way.

Just when I thought that Glen Cook’s grimdark Black Company world couldn’t get any bleaker, any darker, or any weirder…. I realize that I am wrong. Mr. Cook, your dark imagination scares me!

But, I am still invested in the two main characters in Dreams of Steel, namely Croaker and Lady. Croaker provides the dark sense of humour of the two, with Lady remembering some of things he has said or imagining what he would say when she finds herself hip deep in slaughter. Lady can never be said to be the softer, gentler one of the pair—if anything, she is even more ruthless, willing to put heads on stakes to make a point. Revenge is everything!

There really are no good guys in this series, just shades of black. It would be a shock to the system to try to jump in here at book 5, without having read the preceding novels—the level of violence and disregard for life would be overwhelming. But my situation is like the proverbial frog in the pot of water—it has gradually come to a boil without my noticing!

Now my search for a copy of Bleak Seasons must begin. I couldn’t abide a constant diet of grimdark fantasy in my reading life, but I must know what happens to this two bloodthirsty duo.

 

Book number 258 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-05-04 19:08
Carpe Diem / Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Carpe Diem - Steve Miller,Sharon Lee

On the run from assassins, Val Con yos'Phelium and Miri Robertson are stranded on a distant planet and must learn to trust each other if they're going to survive and learn to love each other if they're going to heal the dark wounds of their past.

 

Carpe Diem picks up where Agent of Change left off, continuing the story of Miri Robertson and Val Con yos’Phelium. There’s good action, interspersed with more character development, both of which entertained me.

Lee & Miller have created some memorable aliens—I hope at some point to get more info about the Yxtrang, the race that everyone seems to fear & dread. I love The Clutch, the giant sapient turtles who view humanity rather like Tolkien’s Ents—we are hasty, but interesting. Of them, Edger, Val Con’s friend & adopted brother, steals every scene in which he appears!

And of course, we get more insight into Liad itself and Val Can’s family, who form the nucleus of this series. I find myself intrigued by the way that family works on Liad—and how this family is definitely different. Not only have they accepted Terrans into the fold, but they seem to be more genuinely fond of one another that other Liadan families. They also seem to have a predilection for life-mating, making the whole system of contract marriage that prevails on Liad a bit difficult for them.

Actually, I can see this series as an ancestor to the urban fantasy genre that I so enjoy today—it introduces the idea that fantasy and science fiction can contain a romantic story. Plus, the whole life-mate idea seems to be a predecessor of the mate-bond found in works like Mercy Thompson or Sarah J. Maas’s Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Book 256 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project. Looking forward to Plan B to get the next installment of the tale.

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text 2017-05-01 15:07
Prentice Alvin / Orson Scott Card
Prentice Alvin - Orson Scott Card

The Tales of Alvin Maker series continues in volume three, Prentice Alvin. Young Alvin returns to the town of his birth, and begins his apprenticeship with Makepeace Smith, committing seven years of his life in exchange for the skills and knowledge of a blacksmith. But Alvin must also learn to control and use his own talent, that of a Maker, else his destiny will be unfulfilled.

 

This has to be one of the oddest fantasy series that I have ever read. O.S. Card gives early American history his own strange, imaginative torque. Cross Pilgrim’s Progress with the Belgariad, add in a dash of chemistry, alchemy, and magic, and you get this weird combination of the chosen one quest tale and religious allegory.

Alvin is definitely a “chosen one” with characteristics of Jesus and Joseph Smith both. His quest is to become a Maker, kind of an apprentice creator to God. Like the protagonists in most quest tales, he must learn to control himself as well as to control his talent. He is up against the Unmaker, the Satan stand-in for this series, which reminds me strongly of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry series.

The last volume dealt with race relations between settlers and Native Americans, which leaned heavily on the Noble Savage concept of the 19th century. This volume explores the relationship between white owners and black slaves. Both of these volumes leave me wondering what exactly Card is trying to accomplish in this regard—whatever it is, I didn’t get it.

Book 255 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-03-10 22:52
Oath of Gold / Elizabeth Moon
Oath of Gold - Elizabeth Moon

I spent the first two chapters of this book crying.  Why, you ask?  Because the second book left Paks in such a hopeless, lonely place and in the first couple of chapters Master Oakhollow takes her in and is SO KIND.  He demonstrates a kindness that’s often missing in our world today.

 

I had difficulty setting the book down—I really wanted to know what happened.  But I just couldn’t give it 5 stars, despite these two factors.  Once she was healed, Paks went right back to being a Mary Sue character, who could do no wrong and could see her way through all kinds (and I mean ALL kinds) of troubles without getting bent out of shape.  This despite assurances to her on several occasions that she is a better Girdsman now, because she knows how helpless people feel.  Plus she’s gone all religious and holy in the cult of Gird.  For a girl who used to fight & cuss in Duke Phelan’s troops, it was odd to see her go so far to the other end of the spectrum.

 

Having said that, Moon creates a fascinating world—I would have loved to spend more time with the elves and gnomes and know a bit more about their societies.  The ending, although okay, just kind of petered out.  Rather like a fairy tale, when they just say that everyone lived happily ever after.  A bit more detail in the resolution would have made me feel better about it.

 

All in all, this was a very enjoyable trilogy and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys high fantasy.

 

Book number 249 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-03-10 17:07
The Gate to Women's Country / Sheri S. Tepper
The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper

Tepper's finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women's Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning.

The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women's Council. As in Tepper's Awakeners series books, the rigid social systems are tempered by the voices of individual experience and, here, by an imaginative reworking of The Trojan Woman that runs through the text. A rewarding and challenging novel that is to be valued for its provocative ideas.

 

Very much a product of its time! Post-nuclear war, societies are sorting themselves out and we get to witness two ways of dealing with things. One is very, very matriarchal, the other over-the-top patriarchal. As I began reading, I started with the impression that I was exploring a very patriarchal set-up. Fooled me! Yes, the women and men live (mostly) separately and the women must present sons to the warriors to be raised in warrior culture. But women control almost everything else (medicine, agriculture, trading, education, etc.). Not very religious, but any references present are based on Greek mythology. Sex is viewed as healthy & desirable as long as disease is prevented.

On the other extreme is a community apparently organized much like the polygamist culture in Bountiful, B.C. and in Utah. Older men appropriate all the women & girls for their own “harems,” leaving the young men frustrated and angry. Sex is viewed as an evil necessity, but still avidly desired and “religiously” pursued. Very religious society, based on the Judaeo-Christian model.

Although the author does seem to favour the matriarchal culture, my impression from the book is that she wanted to show that NEITHER extreme is desirable and that both fail in crucial aspects. Perhaps influenced by Margaret Atwood’s excellent The Handmaid’s Tale as well as other post-apocalyptic novels of the 70s and 80s. A bit dated today, but worth reminding ourselves that we can co-operate together to run society fairly.

Book 247 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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