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: