Friday, December 28, 2007

Review: _Intrument of Fate_ by Christie Golden

A young woman gets pulled into a dangerous quest to deliver a message to stop a devestating war that changes her life. Her story is told in the Fantasy novel Instrument of Fate by Christie Golden. Set in a medieval style world of humans, elves and other magical beings, the book is made entertaining for readers through its characters, plot and themes.

The characters of the book are sympathetic for readers to identify with. Gillien Songespynner is part of a traveling performer family. She plays music and want to be a bard. Many hardships she experiences keeps her growing throughout the book, making her sympathetic. Daric Rhan comes into Gillien’s life when he is hired by an elf to protect her from dark forces. He has a problem with alcohol because of a troubled past. These main characters find strength in each other to survive their ordeals. Ms. Golden makes the characters realistic through subtle, vivid descriptions.

Next, the plot delivers plenty of action to keep readers hooked. The book starts with Gillien winning a music contest. An elf gives her an expensive, magical lute and tells her to give it to the Queen Mother in a far away city as an important message. Things turn dark for Gillien as she finds herself pursued by a vicious killer. She gains help when Daric joins her to help protect her. He hates the Ghil, a possum-like species that enslave humans. Events continue to build up to a satisfying conclusion due to the author’s tight plotting.

Finally, the themes covered in the novel keeps it entertaining until the end. The main theme of overcoming hardships is the strongest in the book. Main characters suffer through many difficult trials, forcing them to grow stronger as individuals. Friendship is another theme covered with two disparate people developing a relationship by surviving together. Ms. Golden’s choice of themes keeps the story interesting for readers.

Instrument of Fate by Christie Golden is an entertaining Fantasy novel that contains music, elves and magic. Sympathetic characters, an action plot and familiar themes keeps the suspense high and hooks readers for a nice reading experience. The book is out of print, so might be difficult to find, but worthwhile for an enjoyable read.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Some Gift Ideas for Christmas 2007

I apologize for the delay with this articles. This week’s article isn’t a formal one with paragraphs. I felt it just important to list some ideas for gift giving this year.

Books:

For gritty Epic Fantasy there is Steve Erikson’s Malazan books.

Conclusion to Terri Goodkind’s “Wizard’s First Rule” series with Confessor.

Urban Fantasy:

Widdershins by Charles de Lint

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Books by Patty Briggs

Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher


Software for writers:

Scrivner http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html

SuperNotecard

DVDs:

“Transformers”
Harry Potter movies
“Mists of Avalon”

Magazines:

Realms of Fantasy http://www.rofmagazine.com

Blackgate http://www.blackgate.com

Starlog http://www.starlog.com

I might update this article during the week with more ideas. Have a Merry Christmas!! :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Unicorns in Fantasy

Moonlight slants down through the trees of a forest to reflect from a pristine pool of water. A unicorn slips free of the forest to drink from the pool. It looks around for danger, glowing silver in the moonlight. This image evokes a sense of wonder in readers. Unicorns are mythical creatures that grace the pages of many Fantasy books. They are a staple of the genre. These creatures provide us with many hours of entertaining reading.

The classic Fantasy book about a unicorn is The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. It is the lyrical, beautiful story of the last unicorn in the world searching for the rest. On her quest she is helped by an inept wizard, a prince and a woman. She must fight against a red bull to save her brethren. Mr. Beagle is an excellent Fantasy author who brings this wonderful tale to life with descriptive prose.

Another book is Ariel by Steven Boyett. This book takes place in our world after magic suddenly appears and changes everything. A young virginal man travels this landscape with the unicorn Ariel for a companion. Ariel is a devoted companion with a wise cracking attitude. It is a poignant story of friendship and how love can change things as quickly as magic. (The book has been out of print, but seek it out in a used bookstore.)

Fantasy author John Lee wrote about unicorns in his Fantasy series about Strand. These books are a mix of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The humans are not native to the world of Strand. They are at war with Strand’s former inhabitants. A young wizard must find the unicorns to get their help in the war. The story of the unicorns, wizard and humans continues through four books. The Unicorn Quest is the first in the series.

Piers Anthony has unicorns in his books about “Proton and Phaze.” His unicorns are musical and can become humans. These books are a combination of Fantasy and Science Fiction too. The main character crosses a border between the two worlds. He is helped on the Fantasy side by a unicorn. She acts as his mount, friend and helper. Unicorns play an interesting role in this different series. Phaze Doubt will start you in this series.

A classic unicorn story to seek out is “The Silken Swift” by Theodore sturgeon. This tells the poignant story of a rape victim, an arrogant woman and a unicorn that grants his honor to a worthy person. Mr. Sturgeon is a classic Fantasy author of powerful, thought provoking stories. This one has a different ending that will make a reader cry.

Finally, if you like short stories about unicorns seek out the anthology The Immortal Unicorn edited by Peter Beagle. It has many stories written by several Fantasy authors The stories are very entertaining and some very thought provoking too. (The paperback version was split into two volumes.)

Unicorns are mythical animals that haunt our dreams and imaginations. They are an important aspect of the genre. A powerful symbol of purity, strength and other things, many Fantasy authors have told entertaining, thought provoking stories with unicorns in their works. More works will appear in the genre as long as these creatures inspire our thoughts.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wild Hunt in Fantasy

It is a warm Summer night in the country. A full moon rises over the hills to the east. You sit by your campfire watching the moon rise. The night is pierced by distant hunting horns and the baying of hounds. A man runs across the face of the moon along the ridge of a hill. He disappears into the night, but is soon followed by a pack of hounds. Riders on horses follow the pack, led by a figure with antlers on his head. Your heart pounds in your ears and a shiver runs down your spine. You have seen the Wild Hunt, which is a part of many Fantasy novels and stories.

Used by many authors, the “Wild Hunt” has its origins in mythology. In Germanic mythology it was known as the “Furious Host,” a group of tortured ghosts that swept through the night and attacked people. Later, the myths shifted with the addition of a hunting motif from Celtic mythology with the antlered leader ruling the Hunt. Scholars believe this stems from peasant fear of aristocratic hunting parties in the past. Whichever the case, the Wild Hunt was a dangerous thing to confront or try to escape. It was symbolic of wild, uncontrollable magic and creatures. Fantasy authors incorporate this mythical creation into many of their novels.

Guy Gavriel Kay had the Wild Hunt appear in his Fionavar Tapestry books of The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road. The Hunt represents a wild thread of chaos that destroys good and evil indiscriminately. Characters summon it only as a last resort because of this. The Hunt is not under control of the Creator of this universe where all others obey rules, providing a dangerous, unpredictable element to the books.

The Wild Hunt plays a central role in Dragon Moon by Chris Claremont and . This small trade paperback tells the story of a woman that takes part in a Renaissance Faire. One of the other fair attendees summons the Hunt for his won purpose of revenge. She must fight against the Hunt and her growing attraction the leader of the Hunt. This short book has an interesting plot, strong characters and an exciting ending. Dreamseeker’s Road by Tom Dietz is a Contemporary Fantasy set in rural Georgia. Another story in the David Sullivan sequence, this one involves a struggle between Fairy and the real world. David and his friends draw the unwanted attention of the Hunt. They are pursued through several worlds in trying to elude the Hunt with the help of the Morrigan. The book is full of a lot of action.

Author Jocelin Foxe uses the idea of the Hunt, but set in her own Fantasy world. In her creation, the Wild Hunt consists of men that committed crime against a goddess. These men wait in a limbo until summoned by a woman for help. They have one month to complete their mission or burn to death into oblivion. Each one has a chance at salvation if the love of a woman can keep them from returning to the limbo. The Wild Hunt: Vengeance Moon and The Wild Hunt: Child of Fire are both good books (see previous reviews on this site).

The Wild Hunt finds its way into Young Adult Fantasy books too. It plays a role in the book The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner. A young girl gets caught up in a battle over magic. Her brother must save her from the dark forces and the Hunt. Mistress of Fantasy Jane Yolen tells a mythic tale in her book The Wild Hunt. It is the story of two boys, Jerold and Gerund, who get caught up in the battle between the King of
Winter (leader of the Hunt) and his wife Queen Summer. This is a deeply mythical tale for all ages.

A fear of wildness and the unknown is part of human nature. The mythical Wild Hunt is a symbol of this fear throughout history. Fantasy authors have used the Hunt in various ways in their books. Its presence brings suspense, danger and chaos to these books. There are many other Fantasy books with the Hunt in them. So, if on a dark night you find yourself alone in the country, listen carefully. Should you hear the baying of hounds and hunting horns, beware. Happy reading.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Review: _Summer Knight_ and _Death Masks_ by Jim Butcher

What would the world be like if magic existed? Urban Fantasy books try to demonstrate this in varying books. Fantasy authors like Charles de Lint, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews and several others portray magic and mythical creatures existing in our world. Jim Butcher brings magic and action to Chicago in his “ Harry Dresden” novels. Two more books in the series continues the further gritty adventures of wizard Harry Dresden.

Summer Knight opens with Harry in a deep depression, filled with guilt over his girlfriend who was nearly changed into a vampire. He has searched for a cure for months, letting his life and work slide. The fairy queen of the Winter court hires him against his will to find out who killed the Summer Knight of the rival Summer court. Harry is confronted by several dangerous creatures and a woman from his past he thought was dead while trying to prevent a war between the Fairy courts. Added to these events, Harry must contend with attacks from vampires due to events that ocurred in the previous book. Mr. Butcher keeps the tension and action flowing with crisp descriptions and character growth.

In Death Masks, Harry is hired by a Vatican representative to recover the stolen Shroud of Turin. He must battle ghastly demons to save Chicago and the world from their deadly plan. On top of this, he faces a duel to the death with the leader of the Red Court vampires to end a war between them and the Council of Wizards. More complications arise with the return of Harry’s girlfriend Susan. Harry has the help of many friends in his trials especially three crusader knights. Mr. Butcher keeps the action flowing to a satisfying conclusion of the book.

Summer Knight and Death Masks by Jim Butcher are two more entertaining novels of the “Harry Dresden” series. The author keeps the action fast paced to keep readers hooked. Harry, the main character, shows growth and changes in each book making him more complex and human. This keeps the series interesting for readers with each new saga.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Review: _To the King a Daughter_ by Andre Norton & Sasha Miller

Four different trees grow in a grand courtyard in the city, representing the four noble houses of Rendel. The trees represent the magic of the strength of the families. Two of the trees are slowly dying. To the King a Daughter by Andre Norton and Sasha Miller. This is the first book of the “Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash and Rowan” series. A hostile setting, interesting characters and twisting plot keeps readers hooked with adventure and intrigue.

The hostile setting creates the tone for the book. Rendel is a medieval nation ruled by four houses based on trees. The kingdom borders on the Bog, a swampy, tangle of wilderness filled with deadly wildlife and xenophobic people. A strange magic dwells in the bog along with ruins of an ancient civilization. There are several different cultures that clash. The Bog people hate all Outlanders and kill them on sight. Sea Rovers are a group of people that are seafarers, driven from their homes by invaders. Vivid descriptions by the two authors keeps the characters moving through many changing landscapes.

Interesting characters hook the reader for the adventure in the book. Ashen is an orphan raised in the Bog by a witch woman named Zazar. She faces hatred by the Bog people and only stays alive due to the protection of the witch. Her life is complicated by not knowing of her past, which pushes her search for identity. Ysa is the queen of Rendel who wants power and the ability to use magic. She is driven by a bad marriage as well as being a woman, which are not supposed to rule. These two main characters maneuver through a changing world of dangers while having to deal with many other characters that provide growth to them. The authors demonstrate growth in the characters through action and dialogue.

Finally, a plot with many twists drives the action of the book. The twists start at the beginning with men hunting a pregnant woman. Ashen is born and grows up in a hostile culture. She possesses a magical power that she needs to explore. Her fight for survival with changes in her life drives the story, along with Queen Ysa’s ambition for power. There is also a threat from invaders in the north destroying other nations. All the plot threads twist together for a good story.

To the King A Daughter by Andre Norton and Sasha Miller is an entertaining novel for readers. Adventure and intrigue are provided by a hostile setting, interesting characters and a twisting plot which keeps readers hooked. The first book of the “Cycle of Oak, Ash, Yew and Rowan” series is a fascinating beginning to a diverting Fantasy series.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dennis McKiernan

Fantasy authors strive to create vivid worlds to tell their stories in. They spend hours with their world building to bring their worlds to life. That is why readers remember Fantasy worlds like Middle Earth, Narnia and Valdemar. Dennis McKiernan is such a writer, putting in a lot of effort to bring his Fantasy worlds to life and providing memorable stories to the genre. He has written many books but is best known for those set in his world of Mithgar. All of his books contain vivid images, likable characters and memorable stories. Mithgar is a world with a vast history. Each of the books set in this world take place in some part of that history. A modern day issue usually forms the main theme of each book such as the environment, war and immortality.

The Iron Tower omnibus is the trilogy that introduces Mithgar to readers in an Epic Fantasy story of good versus evil. The Dark Tide, Shadows of Doom, and The Darkest Day tell the story of a battle between good and evil as the four races stand against the Dark Lord rising again. Everything rests on the shoulders of the Warrows, four Hobbit-like beings with jewel eyes who must save the world. This begins an entertaining saga to the history of Mithgar that will proceed in other books.

Two previously published separate books, Trek to Kraggen-Kor and The Brega Path, are combined into The Silver Call. This book explores the theme of how war can be considered romantic through characters obsessed with liberating a fortress from evil. Perry is a Warrow and historian. When visitors arrive in his village, he goes with them to take the fortress of Kraggen-Kor to meet his dreams of adventure. Many things in this book are similar to events in Lord of the Rings>/u> but the author adds a realistic edge to make a point about the romance of war.

The Dragonstone is another story of Mithgar revolving around the search for a dangerous artifact that will cause great trouble for Mithgar. Visions of a horrible war plague Arinn, an elven lady. She teams up with the warrior Aiko to roam the world to stop her vision from coming true. Part of their quest involves finding a one-eyed man, but they find two, which complicates matters. It is an exciting book filled with adventure.

Eye of the Hunter explores the themes of human impact on the environment and immortality. A comet returns to the skies of Mithgar after a thousand years. It signals the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Evil creatures are rising in the land, awaiting the return of their dead master. The descendants of Warrows, Riatha the elf and others must battle to stop this from happening. This is a stand alone book in the series with a tight plot and many battles.

Racism and intolerance are the themes pursued in Dragondoom. A young prince slays the dragon called Sleeth for its gold hoard. Events are set off by this slaying that brings two kingdoms to the brink of war. Mr. McKiernan brings this story to life with dragons and vivid descriptions of various scenes in the book. This is an entertaining addition to the author’s world.

Voyage of the Fox Rider features an exploration into the nature of evil. The heroine of the book is the Lady Jinnarin, a twelve inch tall Pysk. She seeks out her missing mate after seeing several weird auras. Along the way she finds allies and together they sail around the world in a mysterious boat. This is another entertaining book in the tales of Mithgar.

Another duology set in the world of Mithgar is Into the Fire and Into the Forge of the Hel’s Crucible. In the first book, two wandering Warrows, Tipperton Thistledown and Beau Darby, swear an oath to deliver a copper coin and warning message to a king in a far kingdom. They must travel through a dangerous war zone in their quest. The second book continues their quest as they are drawn into the war and chased by an evil mage. These more recent books of Mithgar have plenty of action and intriguing plots.

Mr. McKiernan concludes his Mithgar books with Silver Wolf, Black Falcon. Bair is the first child born of an Elven mother in hundreds of years. He carries the blood of four races in his veins. Prophecy states that he is destined to be the Rider of Planes. His friend Aravan takes him on a journey, which eventually leads to a confrontation with Kutsen the Dragon King and Ydrai. This book has plenty of action and brings the series to a satisfying end.

Finally, Dennis McKiernan moved away from the world of Mithgar in his recent novel Once Upon a Winter's Night. This is a complex retelling of the fairy tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" with some mythic elements from the Greek myth "Cupid and Psyche." Camille is a young girl from a poor family. One winter night a white bear comes to the door carrying an offer of marriage from the Prince of Summerwood. She accepts the proposal to get money for her family. After traveling to the prince's fairy kingdom, Camille discovers she must break a curse to help her prince Alain. Mr. McKiernan brings this tale of adventure and romance to life with his vivid words. The book is a strong, new addition to the author's works.

Dennis McKiernan is a masterful author of Fantasy. He writes different books full of likable characters, memorable scenes and plenty of adventure. His Fantasy world of Mithgar is what he is best known for, with books spanning the vast history of his creation. Some critics complain about the similiarities to Tolkien’s books, but he does bring some intriguing stories to life with a lot of action. He is entertaining and a writer worth reading. The author’s home page is available at: http://home.att.net/~dlmck/

Friday, September 21, 2007

Review: _Coyote Road_ edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Trickster characters play an important role in the mythologies of many cultures. Native Americans have tales of Coyote and Raven. In NOrse mythology there was Loki. Many others appear in other stories from all over the world. A trickster can be a hero or character that fools people. Stories of tricksters can be found in the anthology Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Readers will discover many entertaining stories written by several Fantasy authors in this book.

“Wagers of Gold Mountain” by Steve Berman tells the story of a Chinese man who runs afoul of two trickster spirits. Set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush era, Ji Yuan seeks the help of wo spirits to save his brother’s life. They offer to save his brother if he will free their servant from jail. Ji Yuan is in a tough dilemma by not wanting to free a killer on the world. The author tells a god story by blending Asian spirits with American lore.

The Greek trickster god Hermes plays a role in “The Listeners” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Nysa is the youngest slave girl in a household where the women listen by the men’s conversations secretly. Nysa learns of her master planning to give her to his loathsome friend for a night of pleasure. She prays to Hermes to save her from this fate. Ms. Hoffman provides an interesting tale of ancient Greece.

Rachel is a student in a private school. She waits for her friend to return to spend time playing games. Discovering her friend gone, RAchel plays a game with the housekeeper which turns into a dangerous gamble for survival in “Friday Night at St. Cecilia’s” by Ellen Klages. A nicely woven plot by the author makes the story entertaining until the end.

Charles de Lint provides a strong tale with “Crow Roads.” In this story, Annie watches a mysterious young man with long black hair deal with some bullies. Annie comes from a poor section of town but has potential and dreams. She is touched by the magic of a trickster that changes her life. Mr. de Lint’s descriptions brings the story to life.

One of the most vivid and memorable stories is “The Constable of Abal” by Kelly Link. Ozma travels wither her mother Zilla who is a fortune teller seeking something. They see and collect ghosts. The story begins when Zilla murders the constable and Ozma keeps his ghost because she likes him. They flee Abal to end up in Brid where Zilla takes a job as housekeeper to old Lady Fralix. Ozma grows bored in the town not understanding why her mother stays. The story resolves into a satisfying climax.

Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is an excellent fantasy anthology. The stories about trickster characters range from humorous to serious, but most are entertaining. A wide range of authors provide interesting stories that readers will enjoy. This books makes a nice addition to the previous ones done on other themes.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ann Marston

There are many good women authors in the Fantasy genre. New writers come along to add their unique voices and stories to the ever growing genre. Ann Marston is one of these voices. She takes elements of Celtic Fantasy and brings to life her Fantasy world of rune blades, magic and adventure. Her books are full of interesting characters, intriguing plots and powerful themes. They span through generations in two trilogies, The Rune Blade and The Sword in Exile. So lets explore the books of this entertaining author.

Ann Marston’s first book is Kingmaker’s Sword. It starts with a young slave boy named Kian escaping his masters. Along the way, he gains possession of a magical sword and meets his uncle Cullin. Ms. Marston weaves a strong tale of adventure with these characters. They live in a world loosely based on Celtic mythology and culture, but with a flavor all her own. She brings the story of Kian to a fulfilling conclusion that leaves you wanting for more.

That comes in the next book of The Western King. This is the story of Kian’s and Kerri’s sons. They must come into their maturity to fight the blood sorcerers of the Maedun. The three sons have to overcome personal troubles to help Celi and decide who gets the sword Kingmaker. Ms. Marston continues creating a strong story that spans generations into the next book.

Broken Blade completes the first trilogy with the grandchildren of Kian. The Maedun sorcerers try to smash the protective magic of Celi. Brynda, daughter of Keylan, must protect the king. A rune blade is shattered in the process. This book ends in an unsettling manner, leaving a lot of things in the air. Characters find their destinies with Ms. Marston’s deft touch, but leaves opening for further books.

The new books form the Sword in Exile trilogy. It begins with Cloudbearer’s Shadow. Years have passed and Celi is under control of the Maedun. The magic is gone from the land. Gareth comes home after years of exile to a ruined kingdom. He must fight evil in his family along with the Somber Riders that patrol the island. Luckily, he has the help of Lowra, a strong warrior woman. This is a dark beginning that will play out in the next two books thanks to the author’s continued intricate plotting.

King of Shadows is the second book. This delves deeper into the battle to free Celae from the Somber Riders. Lowen is a woman warrior waiting for a prince to protect. She waits with her Rune blade for the man she is destined to help come.

Ms. Marston brings the tale of entangled generations and magic to a close with Sword and Shadow. In this book, readers meet twin royal brothers born is secret. Acaren is born to rule and has his beautiful love Eliene to help him. Rowan is born with the power of legendary magic, but must find his soulmate to free it. These four must try to break the spell on the island of Celi that forbids them to return. To do this, the brothers must go on a quest to find two Rune blades on the mountain home of the seven gods and goddesses. The author wraps up this multigenerational story of magic, romance and adventure with memorable characters and vivi descriptions.

Ann Marston is a talented Fantasy author that has added her unique voice to the genre. She writes powerful stories of adventure and magic using elements of Celtic mythology, Irish and Scottish culture. Her books span across generations in telling the tales of Celae and the Rune blades. She creates memorable characters and vivid battle scenes that readers will enjoy. Unless Ms. Marston writes under another pen name, she has not published any books in recent years.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Review: Outremer Trilogy by Chaz Brenchley

The time of the Crusades is an interesting point in history. Christians from Europe tried to retake control of the Holy Land. Knights Templar came to prominence. There were many bloody battles in the name of religion. Fantasy author Chaz Brenchley uses this period of history as a template for his “Outremer” series. In this six book series, he explores clashes of cultures and religious strife, mixed with magic in a world similar to our own. Magical creatures such as the djinni and ifrit add intriguing touches to this gritty series of war and love.

The Devil in the Dust is the first book, beginning the story of two characters. Marron is a young warrior priest in training. He struggles with guilt and his religious beliefs, finding his religion cruel. Julianne is a young woman on her way to an arranged marriage to a baron. She is the daughter of the King’s advisor, trained in the ways of diplomacy and intrigue. Their lives change at the fortress Roq de Rancon after some events happen. Julianne meets a young girl Elisande and a djinni in the desert who gives her a destiny. Marron faces doubts about his faith in the face of several dark events. Mr. Brenchley creates a strong beginning with characters growing through an intriguing plot.

In Tower of the King’s Daughter, the second book, the story of Julianne and Marron continues. Julianne is confronted by the djinni again to go to the Sharai. She must seek a way to escape from her escort to save her father and is helped by her mysterious companion Elisande. After thwarting an attack on the fortress, Marron becomes the squire of Ransom knight Anton d’Escrivey. He finds himself torn between loyalties to the knight and justice for his friends, troubled by the fanaticism of the Order. The story builds to an interesting conclusion leading to the continuation in the next book. Mr. Brenchley keeps the plot tight with a dark edge to the story of Outremer.

A Dark Way to Glory, the next book, finds the characters on a long desert trek. Julianne wants to get to the desert city because of the djinni Khaldor’s prophecy. She travels with several companions from the previous books. Marron now struggles with an alien power in his body, growing distant from his friends with the passing days. They are joined by Sand Dancers, a group of fanatical men warriors waiting for the Ghost Walker to lead them into battle. The journey is grim with new surprises added by the author that deepens the story. This leaves readers wanting to get to the next book.

Events move quicker in the next book, Feast of the King’s Shadow. The main characters find respite in the Sharai Stronghold of Rhabat. This is a desert city carved into the cliffs of a secluded bay near a dead sea. Julianne finds herself drawn to the tribal leader Hasan, torn because of her marriage to another man. Marron finds himself in difficulties due to not being a member of the Sharai as their prophesied Ghost Walker. The companions find themselves threatened along with the Sharai by an army of ifrit. Again, Mr. Brenchley keeps the story moving to a cliff hanger ending, leaving a reader to seek the next book.

The fifth book, Hand of the King’s Evil, begins with a search for a missing character. Julianne has been kidnapped by an enemy. Her new husband seeks her with his army following at his back. Coren, Julianne’s father, and her various friends search for her across the desert. Marron helps in the search, but gets caught up in his own problems. In the wider world of Outremer, strange things happen. The ifrit and djinni continue to manipulate things for their own unknown purposes. A mysterious holy man who performs miracles leads his followers to a castle for reasons of his own. War looms by the end of the book for all factions.

The last book End of All Roads brings all the events into a final confrontation. Three armies battle over the nation of Surayon, leaving death and devastation in their wake. Marron is healed and the Daughter removed from him. He must now deal with being human again. Julianne must deal with her two husbands being in the same country. Their friends deal with their own difficult problem that move the story forward. Mr. Brenchley brings the final book to an interesting end with an unexpected twist.

Chaz Brenchley’s “Outremer” series is an exciting read set in a fascinating world based on the Crusades. Religious war, clashes of cultures and intervening spirit creatures mix into an in depth story of dark, gritty action. Characters pursue peace in a world torn by many problems. The author provides readers with an action packed story that leaves readers thinking after the series is finished.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Review: _Magic Bites_ by Ilona Andrews

Magic rises in waves, creating havoc in cities all over the world. Technology fails during the magic and monsters appear that kill people, creating a need for those to fight the problem. This is the premise of the new urban fantasy novel Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. The book is a dark, gritty fast paced read with suspense due to an exciting setting, interesting characters, and an eventful plot.

First, the author provides an exciting setting that helps make the book suspenseful. Set in Atlanta, Georgia where things change rapidly. Skyscrapers collapse when the magic rises. Technology fails, requiring alternative magic solutions to allow life to go on as usual. Vampires, operated by controllers, creep along walls. Many varieties of shapeshifters share the city with other creatures and magic users. This necessitates groups of humans that protect people from dander, which are a knightly order and mercenaries.

Next, the book’s interesting characters helps build suspense. Kate Daniels is a mercenary with a hidden past. She is a tough fighter, hard on herself and possessing a cynical attitude. Kate meets her conflicts head on and with plenty of sarcasm. Curran is the leader of the shapeshifters. He is protective of his people and deals honorably with others, but has room to grow. The author creates powerful characters with intriguing backgrounds that keeps the tension going.

Finally, the book is suspenseful with its eventful plot. The book starts with Kate Daniels finding out about the murder of her guardian. Determined to solve his murder, she is drawn into dealing with the vampire controllers and shapeshifters in the city. Her investigation leads to the discovery of missing women and other murders. Kate has a strong reluctance in working with others due to her enigmatic past. Ms. Andrews provides a tight plot with plenty of action, building the suspense to a satisfying end.

Mixing elements of mystery with urban fantasy, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews is a action filled book that will please readers. Suspense is kept at a high level with an exciting setting, interesting characters and an eventful plot. Further books are planned in this series, which is helped by this debut novel. Kate Daniels is an entertaining addition to strong women characters of urban fantasy like Mercy Thompson and others. Overall, this was a fast paced, enjoyable book.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Romance Fantasy

A new sub-genre is growing in Fantasy. It is Romance Fantasy, which mixes elements from the two genres of Fantasy and Romance. This appeals to readers from both genres. Mixing elements from different genres can lead to new exciting and entertaining works. Publishers, recognizing this potential, are developing new imprints that focus on the crossed genres. Established and newer Fantasy authors are contributing new books to this new category.

Mercedes Lackey provides a book with The Fairy Godmother. This book uses the elements of fairy tales. There is a land of five hundred kingdoms where Tradition must be upheld. One girl does not want to be the Cinderella of her kingdom because of a bad experience. Her fairy godmother takes her on as an apprentice, which goes against the tradition. This leads to more problem for Elena Klovis as she encounters a bad mannered prince. Ms. Lackey puts her talent into providing a new book with entertaining characters in this new area.

Elphame’s Choice by P.C. Cast blends romance, fantasy and some Celtic myth in its story. It tells the story of a woman chosen by the goddess Epona. Elphame travels to a deserted castle to make a new home, following her destiny. She has trouble settling in because of dangerous survivors and victims of the previous war living in the forest nearby. The author provides an interesting books filled with vivid descriptions and strong characters.

Elaine Corvidae writes books that mixes the two genres neatly. Wolfkin is the beginning of a trilogy about shapeshifters, intrigue, war and love. Suchen is the steward of a stronghold. She is sent on a journey to meet the queen’s representative and stop the danger to the kingdom. Yozerf is a shapeshifter sent by the wizard Ax to help Suchen in her mission. They must fight demon’s and dark magic to succeed in their endeavor. Her other books have strong elements too and are entertaining reads.

In Camelot’s Shadow by Sarah Zettel has Arthurian elements. Risa does not want to become the sacrifice of an evil wizard. She meets Gawain and goes to Camelot with him to hide from her nemesis. An expert with the bow, Risa finds herself caught up in court intrigue as she comes under a powerful spell. She fights to save the kingdom and herself. Ms. Zettel provides an entertaining book to the romantic Arthurian sub-genre.

For those that prefer their romance with a darker edge, Sherrilyn Kenyon is an author of many books with these types of elements. Her most popular books are part of a series called Dark-Hunter. Dark Hunters are immortal warriors without souls that hunt and destroy daemons to protect humans. They are similar to vampires, but do not drink blood. The most recent book in the series is Seize the Night. It is the story of the Dark-Hunter Valerius. He faces prejudice from the others as he helps vampire hunter Tabitha fight a dangerous resurrected Daemon. Ms. Kenyon is a master at creating Dark Fantasy books with suspense and romance.

Author Rachel Lee recently contributed a book to this sub-genre with Shadows of Myth. In the story, a young woman named Tess Birdsong wakes up among bodies of a massacre without her memory. She becomes a part of a group of adventurers on a quest to save their world from a dangerous mage. He is using the Ildun Bane, assassin mages, in his schemes. Ms. Lee creates an entertaining story of vivid images and strong characters.

A recent publishing line of Romance Fantasy books is Luna books. They publish books by women authors that contain magic and love. The books vary in setting, with some possessing elements from different sub-genres such as Arthurian, Historical and Epic Fantasy. Information about the publisher can be found at the site: http://www.luna-books.com It contains information on the books, authors and informative articles about writing.

Romance Fantasy is a fast growing sub-genre of Fantasy that mixes elements of the two genres. This mixing attracts readers from both genres and creates new books that could also come under Epic, Arthurian, Historical, etc. type books. These books contain strong heroines that must struggle to accomplish tasks and maybe find love. Readers can find something entertaining and to their tastes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Writing Fantasy: Where Do You Get Ideas?

Many beginning and aspiring writers seek out information from professional authors about the craft of writing. The most common and persistent question they want to know is: Where do authors get their ideas? The answer is from everywhere and everything. Ideas are all around us most of the time. It is amazing where you can get ideas. Ways to obtain ideas can be relatively easy with the right tools, which I will share some of mine in this article.

First, two important things you should have with you as a writer. Always carry a notebook, minicassette recorder or something to write on with you. Ideas can be sneaky things. Write them down when you think of them. They can easily be lost in the daily business of our lives. Getting them down allows you to come back later and lets you continue with life until later. Don't be shy about people seeing you either. You are probably thought of as just someone writing notes down. With these things handy you can be ready for ideas most of the time.

One of the most important ways to get ideas is observation. A writer must learn to become a good observer. Watch people wherever you go. Observe the way they look, dress and how they act. Listen to different voices and mannerisms to know how people talk. This can help in writing dialogue. Look at the scenery surrounding you and describe it with active verbs and adjectives. Allow impressions to capture your thoughts and write them down, no matter how trivial you might think they are. You might not use all of these things, but it is helpful for visualizing scenes. Extending your observations to other things will be helpful too.

There are many things that can be sources of ideas for an author. Reading lots of different things and on different subjects can provide ideas. Clip articles that spark your interest. Put them away for future reference. Keeping a file box of index cards with ideas and information notes on each card can be helpful if you don't have the room for large file cabinets. Movies and television can spark some ideas too. You might think of different plot twists to spur your imagination or get totally different ideas. Conversations or discussions with friends, family and other people can generate ideas too. If something stands out, be sure to write it down when the conversation is done.

Dreams can be a valuable source of ideas, scenes or help. The subconscious part of our minds can bring forth interesting images while we sleep. Keeping a dream journal to record your dreams for ideas is important. I keep a tape recorder by my bed at night to record the dreams when I wake up. It's better to do this while the dream images are fresh in your memory. Waiting until morning risks forgetting them. I use another technique also. When I have trouble while working on a book or story, I attempt to put my dreams to work. I'll think about a particular scene before drifting off to sleep. This sometimes can trigger a dream about it that could provide you with ideas for your work. This technique can give you some interesting results. Be warned though, it doesn't always work every time.

Ideas are not hard for an author to find. They are abundant and can be found almost anywhere. Writers only need to be open minded to find ideas. Observation of people and surroundings can help with characterization and setting. Reading, dreams, movies, television, conversations and discussions are all sources for ideas. Keep a notebook or cassette recorder handy and let the ideas come. You might not use all of them, but there are always more to come.

Other sources for help:

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jim Heffron

The Writer’s Idea Workshop by Jim Heffron

Ideas in 90 Seconds by Ken Rand

Friday, June 29, 2007

Review: The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

"Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ-call him what you will," I said. "What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die." (from Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart) The King Arthur legend inspires a lot of Fantasy authors to tell the story with their unique voices. One of the most fascinating characters of the legend is Merlin. Author Mary Stewart tells his story in her Historical fiction trilogy with Fantasy elements. She provides a story full of detail, vivid images and realistic characters in a time far from our own. Using historical details blended with Arthurian legend, Mary Stewart creates the unforgettable life of Merlin.

The Crystal Cave is the first book in the trilogy. Readers meet Merlin at the age of five living in his grandfather's household with his mother. The Roman Empire has left Britain to its own resources. Merlin faces being an outcast as his powers begin to manifest. Eventually he leaves to find his father after his teacher is killed. While working for his father Ambrosius, Merlin helps defeat the High King Vortigern by using his powers to fortell the future. The book continues the story of his young life until the conception of Arthur. Readers see a Merlin driven by forces to bring about a future no matter the cost.

The second book is The Hollow HIlls. It picks up with Merlin taking care of Arthur, teaching him and dealing with Uther Pendragon. When Arthur is older, Merlin helps him attain the throne by setting the sword Caliburn in the stone. Ms. Stewart uses historical information about life in that period to add a realistic edge to this book too. Merlin tries to prevent Aruthur from commiting incest and conceiving his doom of Mordred. It ends with Merlin in middle age and Arthur as High King.

The last book is The Last Enchantment. In this book, readers learn of Merlin's last years before he disappears from the legend. Merlin continues to advise Arthur, but fails in preventing the massacre of babies in Arthur's attempt to eliminate Mordred. He travels around Britain to get information for the king. Merlin meets Nimue as a young girl and falls in love. He accepts his fate in her love. We see an old Merlin waiting for Arthur to come visit him outside his crystal cave in Wales before the end.

The "Merlin" trilogy by Mary Stewart is an entertaining, imaginative story of the life of Merlin. Ms. Stewart uses historical details, vivid images and Fantasy elements to give readers a memorable character of Merlin and realistic portrayal of Britain of that age. Her writing is crisp, clean and descriptive, which brings the story to life. The books are available separately or all three in one volume. Readers will enjoy the journey through Merlin's life.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Review: _The Borderkind_ by Christopher Golden

The Veil separates the human world from the legendary. Sometimes humans slip through, lost forever to the human world. Many long to go home and await a savior to help them get back. One group of mythic creatures can cross the Veil at will, living in the two worlds, but they are being hunted down and killed. Christopher Golden continues the story of these two worlds with the second book of the “Veil” series called The Borderkind. This book is a suspenseful addition to the series due to its setting, characters and plot.

In the book, the setting of the Veil is vivid helping to keep the book suspenseful. Readers follow characters in the world of the Veil. The world is split into two kingdoms, Euphrasia and Yucatazaca, separated from the human world by the magical Veil, a magic border that is difficult to cross. Legendary creatures of myth live in the other world where magic exists. The two realms are ruled by humans. There is a mysterious third race of Atlanteans, powerful warriors or mages who act as advisors to the kings. Mr. Golden uses the setting to increase the suspense of the novel by contrasting the two worlds and their dangers.

Next, the suspense is increased by the portrayal of realistic characters. Oliver Bascombe grows more in this book. He faces more challenges, torn between saving his sister and helping his Borderkind friends. Oliver has pressure added with a price on his head. Collette Bascome deals with imprisonment and avoiding slipping into madness. Julianna, Oliver’s fiancĂ©, fights against the fact she cannot go back home. The Borderkind are interesting characters too. Jack Frost is a creature of winter, deadly and unpredictable. Kitsune has a fascinating dual personality between a woman and fox. The author brings the characters to life by making them realistic, which makes the book more suspenseful by inducing readers to care for the characters.

Finally the author creates a suspenseful book through an action plot. The book starts with Oliver and his companions seeking temporary refuge at Twillig’s Gorge. A Borderkind betrays his group at the sanctuary and adds a new mystery to Oliver’s life. There is a prophecy among the lost humans that a half human and half legendary born person will tear down the Veil, reuniting the two worlds so the lost humans can go home. Oliver has no idea what the prophecy means, but splits up with his companions to go rescue his sister from the vicious Sandman. Julianne, Oliver’s fiancĂ©, tries to catch up with him while Collette suffers torture from the sandman. The plot leads to a cliffhanger ending to set up the next book in the series. Mr. Golden weaves a tight plot with a lot of action and few lulls in the story.

The Borderkind by Christopher Golden is the second book of the “Veil” series. Setting, characters and plot blend together to crate a suspenseful novel that keeps readers hooked. Mr. Golden writes a gripping, interesting story of two worlds with mythical creatures and growing heroic characters. Waiting for the next book in the series will be hard.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Review: Dragonmaster Trilogy by Chris Bunch

Three nations get into a war that drags on for years until the countries integrate dragons into an air force. Dragons and their fliers become an integral part of the war. Fantasy author Chris Bunch tells the story of one dragon flier and his war experiences in the “Dragonmaster” trilogy. (“Storm of Wings” trilogy in Britain.) Readers follow one character as he grows through the vicious war. The author presents a gritty action story with battles of magic and dragons told with vivid descriptions.

The first book, Dragonmaster, begins the story of Hal Kailas and his dream of becoming a dragon flier. After leaving his small coal mining mountain village, Hal spends time wandering Deraine doing various jobs. He meets a man who owns a dragon flying show and joins it. When the job with the show vanishes, Hal finds himself conscripted into the army for the war between Deraine, Sagene and Roche. His life changes while fighting in the brutal war until he joins the newly formed dragon flier squadron. The book details his training and life through the author’s vivid, realistic descriptions of war and fighting with dragons.

Knighthood of the Dragon is the second book of the trilogy. This book continues Hal’s story through the years of the war. The war has been vile with heavy casualties for the three countries. Mostly a stalemate, Hal comes up with knew ways to break the stalemate and end the war. He combines magic with his dragon fliers to give Deraine a powerful advantage over the enemy. Mr, Bunch creates an action packed plot full of aerial battles. His characters remain realistic and affected by the war.

In The Last Battle, the third book, Hal Kailas deals with the aftermath of war. He finds his life lacking, undecided about what an ex-dragon flier should do with his life. The nation of Deraine no longer needs him. His marriage becomes strained. Hal does various things that get him in trouble with the king. After finding himself in prison for a short time, Hal settles on a plan and a new adventure begins with an exploration to find out what dragons are fleeing from in the west. The last book has plenty of action and concludes the trilogy nicely.

The “Dragonmaster” trilogy by Chris Bunch is an entertaining series. Full of gritty details, the reader follows Hal Kailas through his career from an inexperienced youth to a seasoned warrior dragon flier. Mr. Bunch does not hold anything back about the futility of fighting wars that are stalemates. He does this with thorough descriptions of the training of soldiers and battles fought in the books. Readers of fantasy that like military action and dragons will enjoy the books.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Review: _Wheel of Dreams_ by Salinda Tyson

Several years ago one of the publishers began a line of books that showcased newly discovered authors. Books were printed occasionally in this line. Wheel of Dreams by Salinda Tyson was one of these books. The book is an interesting read due to its setting, characters and plot.

Ms. Tyson sets her story in a world with different cultures revolving around a religion full of strife. It is based on the wheel and one god. Conflicting interpretations of the religion led to a schism among the cultures, creating an ongoing strain. Cartheon is a northern city with some people gifted with the magic of dreams. One city is a cosmopolitan free state that relies on trade. The south is controlled by a repressive church and priesthood that considers women soulless and those with magic witches. This setting of contrasts puts the characters in motion.

Keira is one of the main characters, a woman living in the oppressive south. Her father is abusive and with her mother dead, she fears ending up with a cruel fate. Possessed of the dream gift, she must flee to seek a new life. Nikka Roshannon comes from the free city state. He meets Keira and has conflicted feelings about her. These characters grow through a time of war while learning their new powers and getting help from other characters. Hipolla teaches Keira survival in strange lands. Beren, an orphan, teaches them about caring for others. This helps throughout the story.

Lastly, the plot keeps the book interesting by maintaining a fast pace. It begins with Roshannon buying Keira from her father and marrying her. While traveling back to his home, she leaves him. Keira travels north, masquerading as a man, seeking Cartheon and dodging armies. Roshannon and Keira grow more upset with a magical bond they share that leads to difficulties. They find themselves trying to resolve personal problems in the middle of a religious war. Ms. Tyson weaves several elements into an exciting story.

Wheel of Dreams by Salinda Tyson is an entertaining book from a new author. Setting, characters and plot come together to create an exciting story of people in the middle of a war trying to find love. The author has promise. Unfortunately this appears to be the only book she has written.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Book Review: _The Red Wyvern_ by Katherine Kerr

The ancient Celts and their culture fascinates people today. Historians do not have a complete knowledge of them due to their oral traditions and their destruction by the Romans. Many authors use what information that is known to create imaginative books in the subgenre of Celtic Fantasy. Katherine Kerr created her own fantasy world of Deverry. The Red Wyvern is a strong addition to her world and the first book of the “Dragon Mage” series. A richly detailed setting, memorable characters and suspenseful plot makes the book an entertaining read.

The richly detailed setting brings the story to life. Ms. Kerr weaves Celtic culture, magic, elves and dwarves together for her world of Deverry. Characters move through a land of duns at war to restore a rightful king. Souls are reborn again and again to work out wrongs from past lives. There is a vivid history of clashing peoples sharing a world with strange magic and creatures. Dweomer is a magic that is done by masters for both good and evil by calling on spirit creatures to enact spells. All of these details creates a strong believable setting for the book.

Next, the author brings the story to life with memorable characters. Strong women characters and brave warrior men are part of the story. Lillorriga is a young girl being used by a conniving mother exploiting her magic gift. She is more attached to her foster mother Bevyan from another clan and finds herself in a struggle to save lives. Merodda, Lillorriga’s mother, is an ambitious woman striving for power in a male dominated society. These two women find their struggle linked through several lifetimes. The male characters are memorable too, ranging from brave warriors to vicious killers. Burcan, head of the Boar clan, refuses to give up his power at any cost, even by committing atrocities. His cruelty is balanced out by the brave warriors of the Silver Daggers, serving the rightful King.

Finally, a suspenseful plot makes the book entertaining. Ms. Kerr writes the plot tight with intervals of intrigue between battles that keeps the reader hooked. The plot is split into two stories. It begins with Rhodry spending time in a northern kingdom. Niffa gets married in this time, which throws the story into the past during a civil war. This is the story of the characters’ struggles in one other their past lives. The Boar clan is trying to maintain power as regent of a young boy while the rightful king fights to regain his throne. This creates tension among the nobles as they must choose sides. Most of the story hinges on the young girl Lillorigga of the Boar clan and the choices she makes.

The Red Wyvern by Katherine Kerr is an exciting addition to her world of Deverry. A richly detailed setting, memorable characters and suspenseful plot brings the story to life and makes the book entertaining. The book is a welcome addition to the subgenre of Celtic Fantasy. Readers should enjoy this book.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Review: _Road to Ehvenor_ by Joel Rosenberg

The “Guardians of the Flame” Fantasy series tells the stories of people from our world who are transported to a world of magic to live out their lives. The Road to Ehvenor by Joel Rosenberg is the sixth book in the series. It is a fast, entertaining read due to its interesting world building, realistic characters and adventurous plot.

Fantasy authors can make their stories better with interesting world building. Creating a realistic setting makes the story more vivid. This book has a effective setting of magic and cultures in the author’s created world. The world consists of a medieval setting with magical wizards and creatures. There are slavers, which the characters fight against to bring democracy to the world they live in. Ehvenor is a city with an embassy of Faerie that creates wild, chaos magic and warps the city and surrounding region. Attaining the city is the goal of the characters.

Next, realistic characters keeps the action going throughout the book. Walter Slovotsky is the main character. He suffers from nightmares and feelings of inadequacy of getting older while dealing with a disintegrating marriage. Ahira is his dwarf friend who is very stable, a good fighter and has wisdom. Andrea is a wizard, but suffers from addiction to magic. These people are from our world. They bring a different point of view to the fantasy world. Jason, Andrea’s son, is an accomplished warrior but inexperienced in strategy, needing to learn from his elders. The author portrays these characters through dialogue and action, giving them real flaws that makes them human.

Finally, the adventurous plot keeps the reader hooked for an exciting read. told from the first person point of view of Walter, he and companions pursue a quest to the city of Ehvenor. Rumors of strange marauding creatures in the countryside starts the action. When the group investigates, they encounter a pack of wolves led by an intelligent monster wolf. This event triggers a journey to the city to stop the attacks. Mr. Rosenberg keeps the action coming quickly with numerous battles and vivid descriptions

The Road to Ehvenor by Joel Rosenberg is an entertaining book in the “Guardians of the Flame” series. Interesting world building, realistic characters and an adventurous plot hooks readers into a good story with plenty of action. It is a nice addition to a popular Fantasy series.


I’m adding this review as a bonus this week. It is short because the book is a fast read for readers:

The Road Home by Joel Rosenberg is a completion to the story told in the last book review. This book continues the story of Walter Slovotsky and Jason Cullinane. Walter struggles with the the realization of his getting too old for adventures and battles. He must come to decision about his life. Jason searches to find his boyhood friend Mikyn to stop his murderous rampage. An entertaining read, this book brings the story to a satisfying conclusion with plenty of action. It is a fast read and nice addition to the “Guardians of the Flame” series.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Review: _Blood Bound_ by Patty Briggs

Werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters and other creatures their heads again in the tricities area of western Washington state. Mercy Thompson begins a new adventure in the second book Blood Bound by Patty Briggs. The novel is a rousing, suspenseful adventure with interesting characters and a gripping plot.

The interesting characters draw readers in for a good story. Mercy Thompson returns in this second book with new dilemmas she grows from. She still lives in her trailer and is a mechanic, coyote shapeshifter. Torn between two powerful alpha werewolf men, she fights to maintain her independence, not wanting to be dominated by them. Adam, the leader of the local werewolf pack, is a strong, wise leader. He tries not to push Mercy into a relationship she is not sure of. Samuel, an old boyfriend, brings in more confusion to the triangle. Added into the mixture is the enigmatic vampire Stefano show brings in more complications. Ms. Briggs keeps the character relationships dynamic, which makes them likable for readers to stay with the story.

Next, the author keeps readers hooked with a gripping plot. the book is suspenseful from the beginning. Mercy’s vampire friend asks for her help in stopping a vampire that murders people in large numbers, which might expose the vampires’ existence to the world. She and her friend are nearly killed by a sorcerer vampire possessed by a demon. The danger presented by the killer sorcerer threatens all supernatural beings. The werewolves become involved when Mercy is threatened by the sorcerer. Mercy must race to save her friends though she is weaker compared to the others. Ms. Briggs keeps the plot suspenseful with vivid descriptions and plenty of action.

Blood Bound by Patty Briggs is an exciting second book of the “Mercy Thompson” series. Interesting characters and a gripping plot keeps the this urban Fantasy suspenseful and entertaining. Readers will remain hooked until the rousing end. The book is a nice compliment to the first one, Moon Called. I await the next book with eager anticipation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Review: _Spirit Fox_ by Mickey Zucker Reichert and Jennifer Wingert

A young father kills a just born fox as his daughter is born, not realizing the consequences for the future. This sets in motion the intriguing events of a Fantasy novel written in collaboration by two talented authors. Spirit Fox by Mickey Zucker Reichert and Jennifer Wingert is an engaging book with its interesting magic system, tormented characters and entertaining plot.

This interesting magic system is part of the vivid setting, which has a Celtic flavor. Magic in the Marchlands is of two varieties. There is healing magic used by healers to help people. Another magic is the rare spirit links. Some individuals are born and linked with an animal at birth. This bond gives a person and their link mate longer lives and special talents. Destroying the links kills the linked partners. One other magic comes from the foreigners to the land. It is destructive and used by the military Hooded order. The authors provide interesting complications with the magic system to create strong conflicts.

Next, the authors create some appealing tormented characters that engages readers with sympathy. Kiarda is a young woman with a serious problem. She has lapses of memory and wakes up naked in odd places. Her lapses make Kiarda withdrawn from people. Maddock, Kiarda’s childhood friend, is the son of the stable master. He loves Kiarda, but knows he can not marry her since she is the daughter of nobles. Also, he learns how to use a sword, which is forbidden by the priests of their religion. Their problems lead to a sad misunderstanding. They are helped by many concerned friends. Bevin is Kiarda’s healer friend that does not know how powerful she really is. Adan is a helpful older cousin from a nearby manor. These characters are brought to life by the author’s descriptions of their lives.

In the end, it is the entertaining plot that hooks readers into the book. Kiarda has one of her memory lapses in winter, which creates a dangerous situation for her friend Maddock, forcing him to flee. After a time, Kiarda goes on a quest to find her friend to make amends. Along the way she had her companions discover a small invasion company of foreign soldiers and mages threatening the people. Though the plot feels a little rushed at the end, the book has a satisfying climax. The authors weave an interesting story together from several neat plot threads.

Spirit Fox by Mickey Zucker Reichert and Jennifer Wingert is an entertaining collaborative novel. An interesting magic system, tormented characters and fun plot engages readers for a nice read. Many readers should enjoy this book. It is a good summer read.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Review: _Anansi Boys_ by Neil Gaiman

Trickster gods are part of many mythologies of different world cultures. Native Americans have Coyote and Raven. Norse mythology has the darker god called Loki. Author Neil Gaiman uses the African trickster spider god Anansi in his award winning fantasy novel Anansi Boys. In the novel, the author provides for an entertaining book with memorable characters, a humorous plot and use of interesting mythology.

Memorable characters keep readers hooked in a story to make it entertaining. Mr. Gaiman provides great characters for this book. Fat Charlie is embarrassed by his father. He moved away to England in order to get away from him, feeling his father never loved him Through new discoveries, Charlie grows and changes from dealing with his magical brother, criminal boss and fiance. Spider, Charlie's brother, is another memorable character. He is annoying and obnoxious, using his trickster powers for personal gain and vexing Charlie. Spider’s ordeals help him to make changes in his life. The author creates an effective story with these characters’ experiences for a powerful story.

Another aspect that keeps the book entertaining is the humorous plot. The story begins with Charlie getting a call about his father’s embarrassing death. He must return home for the funeral and discovers he has a brother. Strange events revolve around Charlie’s life after he meets Spider. Humor and magic fills Charlie’s life as he grows to overcome fears and evil in amusing ways. Mr. Gaiman is a master at keeping the plot moving with funny moments to keep readers entertained. His vivid descriptions creates a wonderful story.

Finally, the use of interesting mythology helps the book’s entertainment value increase immensely. The author uses the African trickster spider god Anansi and other myths form Africa to bring the story to life. He mixes the mythology with ghosts and other fantasy elements to provide a thought provoking story of a man who is the son of a god. This gives readers a different perspective on the modern world, all done with humor.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is an award winning mythic fantasy novel that entertains readers. The story of estranged brothers is brought to life my memorable characters, a humorous plot and the use of interesting mythology. Mr. Gaiman writes entertaining novels that are unforgettable for readers. This humorous novel is an excellent companion piece to his darker book American Gods. Both novels are excellent reads for the fans of the genre.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Review: _Troika_ by Louise Cooper

Pandora opened a box and let the ills out on the world in Greek mythology. Fantasy author Louise Cooper takes this theme, making it the central story of her “Indigo” series. Indigo let demons loose on her world and must now search the world to destroy them before she can resume her life. Troika is the fifth book in the series continuing the story. The book is an entertaining addition to the series because of the characters, setting and plot.

Strongly developed characters keeps the reader’s interest. Indigo is a sad, cursed woman. Driven on a quest to destroy the demons she loosed on the world, she is made immortal by a goddess. That immortality creates a terrible loneliness she must overcome to achieve her goal. She has one companion and friend in the female wolf Grimya, who is intelligent and has the ability to talk. Together, they provide a memorable relationship to survive their latest trial. Ms. Cooper gives readers realistic characters that a reader can sympathize with throughout the story.

Next, the author provides a vivid setting that draws readers into the story. The world of this book has some continents and large islands. This story is set on a northern island near the polar zone. There is a harsh environment of bitter cold winters and dangerous animals like snow tigers that people must know how to survive through. In the book, it is this vivid setting that drives the plot into interesting directions. Ms. Cooper uses believable descriptions to portray a natural place of forests during a winter of blizzards, snow and cold, which helps drive the main plot elements.

In the end, it is a suspenseful plot that hooks readers into the story the most and keeps them reading. Indigo searches for a demon while traveling through the winter landscape. A sudden vicious blizzard forces her and Grimya to take shelter with a family for many weeks. They are drawn into the troubles of the the family as strange events begin to occur. Indigo has the added complication of trying to avoid falling in love with the head of the family who looks like her lost true love Fenran. The weaves the conflicts of the plot together into an entertaining adventure story.

Troika by Louise Cooper is a nice addition to the “Indigo” Fantasy series. The heroine’s quest to rid the world of dangerous demons grows with each new book. This book’s characters, setting and plot weaves into a suspenseful tale of adventure, sorrow and love. Readers could not ask for much more in a book and will want to seek out the other books in the series.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Review: _Full Moon_ by Jim Butcher

The cable Scifi Channel will debut a new television series in 2007 called “The Dresden Files,” based on the books by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden is a wizard private detective in Chicago created by Mr. Butcher. He solves supernatural crimes in the “Dresden Files” book series. Full Moon is the second book in the series. Readers will be hooked due to the book’s descriptive setting, interesting characters and action plot.

The modern day setting with supernatural elements brings the story to life. Chicago is a huge city with a criminal element. Added to this mix are dangerous magical creatures from the Never Never. This Chicago is full of vampires, spirits, fairies, ghosts and myriad other things. Humans refuse to believe in magic, but the police department has a special investigation unit to solve unexplainable crimes. In this book, werewolves play a prominent role. Mr. Butcher does an excellent job of creating different types of werewolves to keep the action going. Gritty, vivid descriptions makes the setting very realistic for readers.

Next, interesting characters keeps readers hooked into the story. Harry Dresden is a likable main character for a private detective and wizard. He has an honorable personality despite a troubled past of suffering, always trying to do the right thing. His strength helps him overcome severe obstacles thrown in his path. Karrin Murphy is a tough police detective who uses Harry as a consultant for strange crimes. Her frictional relationship with Harry adds a strong element to the character dynamics. Mr. Butcher’s characterizations are gritty and realistic bringing the characters to life.

In the end, it is the action plot that hooks the reader until the final chapter. The book starts with Harry called to the scene of a grisly murder. He meets some FBI agents that nearly shoot his friend Murphy. This plunges him into the dark world of werewolves of many different types. He fights his way through with magic while suffering injury and loss along the way. The plot keeps moving at at quick pace with no slow spots. Mr. Butcher deftly weaves the plot together to create a powerful, gripping story.

Full Moon by Jim Butcher is an entertaining, suspenseful addition to the “Dresden Files” series. The descriptive setting, interesting characters and action plot snags readers into the story and keeps them hooked until the end. If the new tv series turns out to be as entertaining as the books, the producers will have a hit on their hands.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Book Review: _The Aware_ by Glenda Larke

In recent years, new voices have added their contributions to the Fantasy genre. Many of these voices are coming from all over the world. One of the new voices is an Australian who lives in Malaysia. Glenda Larke’s trilogy of the “Isles of Glory” have been published in the United States. The first book, The Aware, is a lively book due to an imaginative setting, memorable characters and suspenseful plot.

The setting of the book gives it a strong sense of place by being very imaginative. through descriptive passages, the author brings the world on the Isles of Glory to life for readers. This Fantasy world consists of islands with different cultures on each. The Keeper isles maintain the peace by preventing pirates and smuggling. Keepers possess one of the two magics called sylvamagic, which is used for healing and illusion. They try to counter the corrupting dun magic and those who practice it. Another group of people, the Aware, possess the last talent of being able to see magic. Focusing on the island of Gorthan Spit, the story takes place on an island that is a dumping ground for outcasts, slavers and outlaws of the Isles. Gorthan Spit is a setting full of intense characters that makes the book interesting.

Another aspect of the book is the memorable characters. Blaze Halfbreed tells the story in the first person point of view. She is an outcast because she is a halfbreed. Wanting legal citizenship, Blaze works as an agent for the Keepers because she is Aware. A strong warrior with no friends, she is cynical and struggles to leave her terrible past behind. Flame is a sylvtalent woman that helps Blaze grow along with Tor Ryder who is Blaze’s love interest. Ms. Larke Brings these characters to life with vivid descriptions and snappy dialogue.

Finally, a suspenseful plot holds the reader’s attention until the end of the book. The main character, Blaze, arrives on Gorthan Spit. She is sent there on a mission to find a missing island heir. While searching for the missing woman, she is drawn into the mystery of an evil dun magic user. Blaze must discover who the evil mage is to save her new friends. Along the way she discovers love and friendship, and what is truly important to her. Ms. Larke weaves together several plot threads to create action and conflict.

The Aware By Glenda Larke is the first book of the “Isles of Glory” trilogy. The imaginative setting, memorable characters and suspenseful plot makes the book a lively read for readers. Ms. Larke is an interesting Fantasy author that is adding an entertaining Fantasy world to the genre. The other two books are: Gilfeather and The Tainted. These will be reviewed in the future.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lynn Abbey

Over the years many women have added their unique voices to the Fantasy genre. They bring interesting perspectives and characters with their works into the genre. Fantasy author Lynn Abbey has added her unique voice with several books. Her books range from Epic to Contemporary Fantasy. She is creative with interesting worlds and populates them with fascinating characters and magic.

Ms. Abbey’s first books were the “Rifkind Saga” of Daughter of the Bright Moon and The Black Flame. These books tell the story of a witch with talents that is called to be a priestess of the goddess. The combination of magic, sword fighting and war blend to make an exiting adventure of the young woman. The strong woman character with talents will become the author’s trademark in future books.

Her next series involved another young woman with magical talents. The “Unicorn and Dragon” books take place in an Eleventh century world with a war between Anglo-Saxsons against invading Normans. Revolving around the theme of a Celtic pagan religion against a patriarchal one, this Historical Fantasy has strong women characters and interesting plots. Unicorn and Dragon and Conquest are the books in this series.

Ms. Abbey’s next books were The Wooden Sword and Beneath the Web. The Walensor web allows mages to commune with the gods. Berika wants to flee her abusive husband. A goddess sends Dart to help her. They venture to the main city to prevent the destruction of the web and all magic. The magic is intriguing in this different Fantasy world.

Siege of Shadows is the beginning of a planned trilogy. (The other books are on hold for now.) It is an Epic Fantasy about a mysterious gold throne called the Siege of Shadows. The twins, Kyle and Kiera, must overcome temptation and schemes to solve the mystery of the throne. Like her other books, this one has great characters and interesting magic.

Ms. Abbey ventured into the realms of elves with Jerlayne. The young woman of the title wants to marry another elf despite her families’s protests. She is drawn into a battle of wills and tragedy. Jerlayne is a strong woman characters with talents.

In recent years, Ms. Abbey added Urban Fantasy to her works. Out of Time is the story of Emma Merrigan, a librarian living a quiet life. She takes in a terrified girl that lead to trouble. Emma discovers she can slip through time and is a descendant of witches. The book revolves around the powerful themes of abuse and courage.

Lynn Abbey is a talented Fantasy author comfortable in many different Fantasy worlds. She populates her books with strong women characters with magic talents. Her books cover strong themes centered around plots full of adventure. She writes books set in role playing universes too. Many of her books are out of print, but worth finding. Her web site is at: http://www.lynnabbey.com