Friday, December 26, 2008

William Morris

J.R.R. Tolkien brought the Fantasy genre into prominence in the Twentieth century with Lord of the Rings. This book inspired many authors to try capturing the feel of the book with their own creations. Before Tolkien, there were many authors who wrote Fantasy too. One of these authors was William Morris. He was a multitalented writer, furniture designer and publisher of the late 1800’s. Living during the Victorian era in England, he was a socialist and wrote several books of Fantasy, which formed the major works of his fiction.

The Glittering Plain is a story revolving around the theme of immortality. The Undying King kidnaps the heroine because of his desire for her. The hero, trying to rescue her, faces obstacles like the people refusing to help him out due to fear of the king. The novel has an underlying core of humor, which the author provides with obvious clues.

The author’s most complex Fantasy is The Well at the World’s End. The four king’s sons draw lots to see who stays behind from the quest. Ralph loses the contest, but leaves in the night to begin it anyway. He must undergo several trials to reach the well and his redemption. Ursula joins Ralph on the quest in search of her fulfillment. They both change and grow as people. It is a very good book, but a little difficult in the language because Morris tried to write in an older style of language.

The author’s next book is a little different. The Wood Beyond the World is a dark tale set around the theme of faithlessness. It begins with a painful marriage in trouble that sends the characters off on hard journeys. There is a terrible evil to be overcome by any means. This book is short, but contains many vivid images created by the author.

Mr. Morris created a woman character to follow in The Waters of the Wondrous Isles. Birdalone is kidnapped from her family and becomes the slave of a witch as a child. She escapes from her island prison on a magical boat. The book tells her story through several magical adventures as she reaches maturity to become a strong, fully realized woman. It is an early book of women’s liberation with fantasy elements.

The Sundering Flood was the author’s last book, finished a few days before his death. Mr. Morris attempted to write a mythic fantasy with this book. The theme is about separation. Two lovers are separated by a river. There is a magic sword and they are helped by a virtuous knight. This last book is an interesting end to a creative career.

William Morris is one of the founding fathers of the Fantasy genre. He wrote many memorable Fantasy romances in the late 1800s of Victorian England full of strong characters, vivid settings and compelling themes. Multitalented, he wrote books, designed furniture and was a publisher with his famous Kelmscott Press. Many authors such as Tolkien and Lewis found inspiration from his books for their works. He is a challenging, but important author to read. Some of his texts can be found online at: http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au

Friday, December 12, 2008

_Kar Kalim_ by Deborah Christian

So you are tired of the standard fantasy novel and want something different? Try Kar Kalim by Deborah Christian. It is very different from the norm. The book is full of rich descriptions, interesting magics and a different plot.

Inya is a powerful sorceress living in the tower of Moontooth. She is the guardian of the gates to other worlds in her tower. Mistress of great powers, Inya is arrogant, aloof and overconfident. She greets visitors by wearing masks, awing them with her mystique.

One day, a young man comes to her tower to be an apprentice. He angers Inya with his binding spell upon her. She agrees to train him in order to use him to get a legendary crystal of power. They become lovers, but Inya is uncomfortable with Amrey's powers. He goes on her quest, but brings back a fake crystal. She seals the portal door behind him after he flees.

Years later, the gate is shattered open. A man comes through with his followers. He captures Inya, making her a prisoner in her own tower. Kar Kalim, conqueror of worlds, begins his bloody conquest of Draakmil..

The book has a lot to say about the darker side of human nature and power. This book has some very descriptive scenes of violence. I recommend it for those looking for something different in fantasy. My major qualm is the characters. Neither Inya or Kar Kalim are people you can sympathsize with very easily. Both are arrogant creatures of power. Be patient though and you will be rewarded.

This book was published several years ago. It’s out of print, but used copies are available.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: _The Tainted_ by Glenda Larke

Blaze Halfbreed returns in the final book of the “Isles of Glory” to save a friend from a terrible fate. She is helped by other characters is this rousing book of adventure. The Tainted by Glenda Larke is an action packed conclusion to an immensely entertaining trilogy. The author brings the trilogy to a satisfying climax through the setting, characters and plot.

First, the setting helps the book be entertaining with its realistic portrayal. Ms. Larke creates strong images with the different island kingdoms and cultures that sound like they could exist. One island has its main city built into a cliff along a bay where the palace is at the highest level and the poor live at the lowest. Even more interesting is the island with Tenkor and the Hub. Messages, passengers and cargo are transported up an inlet on the tidal bores. The author's thoughtful creation of the setting energizes the sense of wonder.

Next, the characters bring the book to a satisfying climax b being memorable. Blaze has a part, but it is other characters that are on the main stage in this book. Ruarth Windrider begins his new life following Flame the woman he loves. She is subverted by dunmagic and treats him horribly. He must overcome Flame’s bad treatment and coming to terms with dramatic changes to his life. Elarn Jaydon lives in Tenkor. He is a tide rider, a person who rides the tidal bore to deliver messages up and down the inlet. His father disapproves of him because of his sylv magic talent. These characters interact with Blaze and others that help them grow. Ms. Larke creates memorable characters with interesting lives through strong descriptions and dialogue.

Lastly, the author brings the story to a satisfying conclusion with the plot. The book starts with Ruarth on a shop with Flame, dealing with his new circumstances. He does not understand Flame’s behavior. She heads to an island kingdom to marry a man she hated in previous books. Elarn meets the daughter of the head Keeper. She convinces him to learn to use his sylv power and to help her with her ideas. Events in the lives of these characters pile up to a rousing end involving all the haracters from the other books. Ms. Larke weaves the plot together deftly to provide an interesting, exciting climax to the book.

The Tainted by Glenda Larke is the final book of the “Isles of Glory” trilogy. The trilogy is brought to a satisfying conclusion in this book through its setting, characters and plot. Ms. Larke is a creative writer using her experiences from living in Malaysia and Australia to create imaginative books that stay with readers for a long time. This book was no exception.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Review: _Chronicles of the Last War_ by Laura J. Underwood

Laura J. Underwood is an author who creates interesting worlds and characters for her stories. Her stories set in the world of Keltora are vibrant with magic, adventures and memorable characters. Chronicles of the Last War is a collection of three stories of Keltora featuring the characters Eithne, Conor and Michan in a land torn by war.

“The Black Hunter” begins the story of these three characters as they meet for the first time. Eithne is a True Healer but her father decrees that she marry a man of his choosing for an alliance. She flees her family to become a healer. After her training, she joins a group of healers with the king’s militia on the war front. Conor Manahan is a sergeant in the militia. As warrior he feels something is wrong in the caste where the militia are staying. Michan is a battle mage who befriends Conor after someone tries to kill him. These three friends must fight a supernatural foe as their relationships grow in interesting directions.

In the next story “Willowherb,” the three main characters return to face new conflicts. They are on the battle field in a camp. Conor and Eithne must deal wit their budding romance. Michan senses a blood mage close by the camp along with the presence of a demon. When the demon attacks the camp, men are killed and the militia leader wants volunteers to kill the blood mage. Other problems put a strain on the characters, creating tension mixed in with the adventure of the story.

The last story, “Wyrd,” follows Eithne and Conor years later. Conor is a guard with a caravan. Eithne and their mageborn son Rhoyd travel with him. Every day the caravan gets closer to a certain place on the route that triggers dreams in Conor. He must deal with a past tragedy while fighting threats to the caravan. This is a bittersweet story with a nice ending.

Chronicles of the Last War by Laura J. Underwood has three entertaining stories set in the Celtic style fantasy world of Keltora. This Celtic Fantasy follows three people during a last fierce war. Supernatural creatures, magic and strong warriors created by Mx. Underwood provide vivid stories of interesting characters for readers. The book is available from Yard Dog Press at : http://www.yarddogpress.com

Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: _Fall of a Kingdom_ by Hilari Bell

Three young people from different social classes face trials and threats to their kingdom. Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell is the first book of the “Farsala” trilogy. The cultures depicted, the characters and plot weave together to provide an entertaining first book.

First, the author creates different cultures that makes the book entertaining. Farsala is a kingdom of tribal clans ruled by one house at a time. The deghans have a cultures based on horses and is Middle Eastern in flavor. Another culture is made up of desert nomads called the Sud. They have a strange magic that relies on talking with the spirits of things. Then there are the Hrum made up of a great empire that conquers other nations, constantly expanding. Ms. bell’s cultures have neat interactions that make the story more powerful.

Next, the characters help the story to be entertaining by being realistic. The three main characters are in their late teens and early twenties. Kavi is a peasant peddler who has suffered at the hands of the deghans. His resentment spurs in making difficult decisions that threaten his soul. Jaain is the illegitimate son of the deghan Merahb. His father has him as an aid and teaches him tactics. He must shoulder a difficult borer in the story. Soraya is the deghan’s daughter. She is tough, but arrogant and must learn to temper the arrogance to succeed in her endeavors. Ms. Bell imbues the characters with realistic traits of growth and keeps readers interested in their exploits.

Ultimately, the plot makes the book entertaining by telling an interesting story. The plot begins in the city of Setasafon where the deghan Merahb is trying to stop a political rival who demands the sacrifice of Soraya. Her father needs to stop the rival to retain command of the army. He knows the Hrum are planning to attack Farsala. Soraya goes along with her father’s plan to help him. She is hidden away in the mountains where she meets the Suud who teach her their magic. Kavi crosses paths with the commander ad is coerced into checking on Soraya periodically. He comes into trouble when captured by the Hrum. Jaain follows his father into the battle with the invaders which changes his life dramatically. Ms. Bell’s vivid descriptions bring the story to life with action.

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell is the first book of the Farsala trilogy. This young adult fantasy follows the story of three young people whose lives are in upheaval. Jaain, Soraya and Kavi must save Farsala from the invading Hrum. Interesting cultures, characters and plot keeps the book entertaining until the end. The adventures of these three characters continue in Rise of a Hero and concludes with Forging the Sword.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Review: _Karavans_ by Jennifer Roberson

The people of Sancorra flee their homeland in Karavans to be free of the conquering Hencari. Strange men of the Shoia mingle among the humans with their own agendas. A giant magical forest awakens, threatening humanity with its movement. These are a few of the enticing plot threads of Karavans by Jennifer Roberson. The book is an interesting beginning to a new Epic Fantasy series because of its characters, plot and themes.

To begin, the author creates fascinating characters to impel readers into the story. Rhuan is a guide for the karavan. He is a member of the Shoia, a mysterious people with the ability to revive after being killed. Many problems plague Rhuan like remaining secretive, being feared and being on an enigmatic personal journey. His cousin Brodhi is an opposite personality who must overcome arrogance and contempt for humans. Women characters are fascinating too. Ilona is a diviner who reads hands to tell people their futures. She struggles with her feeling for Rhuan and curiosity about his background. Audran is pregnant and has her family. She fights to protect her family from the uprooting of their lives. All of these characters are intriguing thanks to the creativeness of Ms. Roberson.

Next, the compelling plot keeps readers engaged in the story told in the book. Audran, her husband and children arrive at the settlement where karavans leave from to go to other nations, fleeing the cruel Hencari. They need to join the karavan so her unborn child can be born in a new land as diviners prophesied. The karavan master Jorda will not let them join unless his diviner Ilona says it is all right. Rhuan backs the family joining too. On the road, Davyn, Audran’s husband, plans to leave the karavan and take a shortcut to their destination. The guide Rhuan counsels against this plan, saying the route will take the family too close to the perilous deepwood. Alisanos is a large dark forest that looms over people’s lives. Humans trapped in Alisanos never return or come back changed. The forest is alive, periodically moving without warning. This is about to occur again, increasing the tension and suspense of the book. Ms. Roberson weaves a gripping plot that holds readers until the end.

Finally, the themes of the book keeps he interest level high for readers. One of the themes is journeys taken that bring on change. Rhuan is on a journey to acquire his fondest desire. Audran’s family and others journey to find peace. These journeys are threatened by the chaotic force of Alisanos. Another theme is relationships and how they are affected by chaos. Relationships are challenged by the ever changing situations of the characters. The author presents the themes subtly in her vivid descriptions of the plot

In the end, Karavans by Jennifer Roberson is a fascinating, suspenseful Epic Fantasy. Characters, plot and themes combine to create an impressive first book of a new series. Ms. Roberson’s new series is a departure from her previous books and will be interesting for readers. I recommend this book and look forward to reading the next ones in the series.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Review: _Something Magic This Way Comes_ edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Sarah A. Hoyt

Science explains the way the world works most of the time making it sound very mechanical in many aspects. Human civilization has grown to its present day modernness thanks to scientific advances. Still, people have imaginations. Many wish for a touch of magic in the world. Something Magic This Way Comes edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt is an anthology of stories where magic touches the world. The short stories range from creepy to humorous and readers will find many of them entertaining.

A woman finds her life turned into chaos in “Raining the Wild Hunt” by Katie Paulk. Megan is jogging on a forest trail when an injured elf appears out ot the air in front of her. The elf, Delorias, tells her the Wild Hunt pursues him. She was the previous victim of an abusive husband, but is now tough and resolves to help Delorias. This story of survival continues as Megan strives to escape from Athaniel the Hunt leader. Ms. Paulk provides a thrilling story with a strong woman character.

“The Case of the Allergic Leprechaun” by Alan L. Lickiss is a humorous story combined with a private detective story. The detective, Frank, has a short man walk into his office asking him to find out who he is. When the man sneezes, Frank’s secretary disappears. Frank must solve the mystery and deal with magic to rescue his secretary. Mr. Lickiss writes a funny story that leaves readers smiling.

In “Firebird and Shadow” by Darwin A. Garrison, Missy Watkins hides in an alley beside a dead body of a friend. She is a young girl with magic powers, alone and fearing the attack of shadow people who will drain her power. A man tries to kidnap Missy, buy is stopped by the powerful mage Ms. Gerard. The story contains a nice magic duel to save Missy from danger. Mr. Garrison creates an entertaining story through vivid descriptions and intriguing characters.

Walt Boyes’s “A Midsummer Nightmare” is the story of a group of people trying to stop a dangerous ritual from being carried out on the summer solstice. Harry Wilson is an insurance investigator. His Native American friend George calls him for a meeting. George tells Harry that someone is setting up a ritual that is disturbing the supernatural world. Events lead up to the appearances of a god and the Wild Hunt before things are settled. Mr. Boyes gives readers a nice story with some touches of humor.

The last story in the anthology, “Regency Sprite” by Dave Freer, is set in England during the Regency period. Told in the first person point of view of the main character, the story begins when a drunk Arthur stumbles home and finds a trapped fairy in the alley. He helps the fairy, but ends up in a struggle to stop an evil mage. Though the ending leaves readers wanting more, Mr. Freer contributes a clever story to entertain readers.

Something Magic This Way Comes edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt is an anthology of stories where magic touches our world in various ways. The stories range from serious to creepy to humorous with many of them entertaining reads and some thought provoking. Readers will find some enjoyable and memorable Urban Fantasy stories in this anthology.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Review: _Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses_ by Diane Duane

Elves are immortal. They are beautiful perfection too, making humans envy them. Humans resent and hate them for this emotion. Someone murders an elf and that sets off the mystery in this book. Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses by Diane Duane is an entertaining Fantasy that keeps readers intrigued with mystery and action. Setting, characters and plot combine to provide an engrossing book.

To begin, the setting gives the book a strong sense of place to get readers into the story quickly. The setting is a set of seven alternate universes where science and magic exist side by side. Different beings travel between the universes through gates run by fairy gold. There different versions of cultures in each universe. Earth and Lose Angeles is where the main characters live. Magic works in this world and justice manifests as a real force. Alfheim is the home universe of the elves, which is protected jealously by the elves, remaining mysterious to humans. Ms. Duane presents a vivid setting that draws readers into the book.

Next, the characters are interesting and likable for readers to want to follow. Lee Enfield is a forensic lanthanomancer dedicated to Lady Justice. She uses her power of Sight to see the truth and visions of crimes to give information to the DA’s office. Lee is conflicted by a recent break up, making her unsure of her ability as she is drawn into a dangerous situation. Her partner is Gelert, a madra or large white intelligent talking dog. He is extremely smart and loyal to his friend. These two main characters are made likable by the author through dialogue and plot.

Finally, the plot has plenty of action to keep readers going with the book. An elf is murdered on night. Lee and Gelert are called in by the DA to get visions of the crime. She sees a second killer present who is an elf too. This is curious because elves do not kill their people. While continuing the investigation, Lee receives a phone call from a stranger telling her to search for the elf king’s roses. This mystery draws Lee and Gelert into events that could destroy all of the universes.

Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses by Diane Duane keeps readers intrigued with mystery and action. The book remains entertaining by being engrossing through setting, characters and plot. Ms. Duane is a great writer that creates interesting books with appealing, thought provoking stories.Readers picking up any of her books will not be disappointed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Review: _Cry Wolf_ by Patricia Briggs

Fantasy author Patricia Briggs has done it again. She has added a new offshoot to her Urban Fantasy books with the beginning of the “Alpha and Omega” series. Set in the same world as her Mercy Thompson books, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs is an entertaining beginning due to the point of view, characters and the plot.

The author begins this new series by providing a different point of view. In the Mercy books, readers learn about the werewolves from an outsider’s view. This book lets readers see the werewolves from inside the pack. Readers get an inside look into pack dynamics from their viewpoints, helping make the book a strong, interesting start for the new series. Ms. Briggs brings the book to life with this shift of point view. The new viewpoint strengthens the characters too.

The characters make the book entertaining by having interesting lives. Anna Latham has been a werewolf for three years. Her life is in upheaval by finding herself in a new place with a new mate. She must deal with learning to be an Omega wolf and trying to overcome victimization from her previous life. Charles, Anna’s mate, is a dominant wolf. He is the son of the pack leader Bran and considered the wolf who cleans up messes. His Native American heritage gives him an edge with some magic ability. Having a new mate changes him throughout the book. Ms. Briggs creates realistic characters with understandable problem for werewolves.

Finally, the suspenseful plot makes the book a good beginning to the new series. The book starts with Anna arriving in Montana with Charles. She attends a funeral and gets confronted by pack members. Her discomfort increases with her many doubts of fitting into the new pack. Charles is sent after a rogue werewolf near the pack’s territory. Anna goes along to get to know her mate better. Another pack member has a problem with a witch, adding more complications to the situation. Exciting events happen that lead to a satisfying ending thanks to the author’s deft weaving of the plot.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs is an entertaining beginning to the “Alpha and Omega” series. A different point of view, interesting characters and suspenseful plot brings the lives of werewolves in this Urban Fantasy to life. The book stars with Anna And Charles in Montana, but another first story can be found in On the Prowl. This story tells how Anna met Charles. Ms. Briggs delivers another thrilling Fantasy for readers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Review: _Gilfeather_ by Glenda Larke

Write what you know is a motto writers follow using their knowledge and experience to bring their fiction to life. Glenda Larke uses what she knows to create a vivid, engaging story in her “Isles of Glory” trilogy. In the second book Gilfeather, Glenda Larke invents a gripping, exciting book through setting, characters and plot.

The setting makes the book exciting by being interesting. Ms. Larke is an Australian living in Malaysia. She uses her knowledge from these places to bring the story to life. Her setting is an archipelago of islands made up of different cultures. Magic consists of two groups, sylvs who can heal and dunmagickers who destroy and blight people’s lives. A third group are the Aware who can see magic and are immune to magic. The story starts on the island of Mekate, which has a tropical coast and the highland part of the island inhabited by independent minded people that herd selvers. The Plainsmen have a unique sense of smell that plays a major role in the story. The Xolchas Stacks is an interesting island group made of columns of land where the people live. These stacks will occasionally fall into the sea. Both islands add an intriguing touch to the book due to Ms. Larke’s unique ideas.

Next, the characters are realistic with flaws that keep the book suspenseful. This book focuses on the character Gilfeather. He is a Plainsman and physician from Mekate. His life changes after his path crosses with two women and he must deal with a crisis of conscience. Blaze and Flame return with problems still dogging them. Blaze must deal with worry for her friend’s increasing nasty behavior. Flame is consumed with killing the Dunmaster who corrupted her. These characters are brought to life by Ms. Larke’s wonderful descriptions.

In the end, the book's plot keeps the story exciting for readers. The book starts with Gilfeather traveling to a town because of his wife. She is going to be stoned for adultery. He meets Blaze and Flame, finding himself a fugitive because of them. Gilfeather gets caught up on the women’s pursuit of the Dunmaster Morthred to kill him. His people do not believe in magic or murder. Wanting to live quietly in exile, Gilfeather finds himself drawn to helping Blaze and Flame for various reasons. The plot continues at a rapid pace until reaching a gripping conclusion. Ms. Larke weaves a strong plot that keeps readers interested to the end.


Gilfeather by Glenda Larke is the interesting second book of the “Isles of Glory” trilogy. Setting, characters and plot blend the create a gripping, exciting story. This keeps the middle book of the series from being slow and uninteresting. The author leaves enough events up in the air for the last book, The Tainted. I look forward to reading the last book soon.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Review: _The Silent Strength of Stones_ by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

A troubled teenage boy lives by a lake with his father running the store while his father manages the motel. One day a girl enters the store and magic enters his life, bringing changes. The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a delightful Urban Fantasy by a talented author. Characters, themes and plot keeps the book entertaining for readers.

The characters keep the book interesting by being sympathetic. Nick Verrou is a seventeen year old boy with some problems. He feels desperately trapped in his situation, used by his father to runt eh store, but dreams of leaving one day and never returning. Nick also has a strange power he does not understand. Into his life comes Willow and her brother Evan, two teenagers with magical powers. They have problems too such as being sent away by their parents to strict relatives to learn control of their powers. Evan is rebellious and needs stability in his life while Willow needs to learn not to enslave people. Ms. Hoffman makes these young characters sympathetic through dialogue and descriptions of their relationships.

Next, the themes explored in the book makes it entertaining because readers can identify with them. Abandonment is explored in all of the young people’s lives. Nick is dealing with his mother leaving four years before without explanation. He also feels abandoned by his father who always yells at him. Evan and Willow suffer abandonment by being sent away by their parents. Another theme is loneliness. Nick feels alone without friends and living in an isolated place. This feeling drives him to wanting to leave. He feeds his desire for friends by watching people. The author weaves these themes deftly into the story delicately.

Lastly, the fast paced plot of the book keeps it entertaining. Events begin moving when Nick comes back from his lunch to find a piece of his grandfather’s fishing equipment gone. The lady who spells him during lunch sold it to a man staying at a cabin by the lake. Nick’s father gets angry and demands him to get the piece back. When Nick tries to get it back, He encounters Willow and witnesses magic. Then Nick finds a friendly wolf which changes his life and precipitates further mysterious encounters. Nick must try to save Willow and Evan by the end of the book. Js. Hoffman creates an interesting plot by keeping events moving quickly to make it an enjoyable read.

The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is an entertaining Urban Fantasy novel. The entertainment comes from the author’s talented handling of characters, themes and plot. The story of Nick’s coming of age and overcoming his problems is good. Though aimed at young adults, readers of any age will enjoy this book.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Review: _Blood Rites_ by Jim Butcher

From the first book I read with Harry Dresden I was hooked. Every book in this Urban Fantasy series about the private investigator wizard in Chicago is entertaining and interesting. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher continues the trend. This book’s characters and plot keeps readers hooked with change and mystery.

First, the changes in characters keeps this book in the series interesting. Growth in the main character helps. Harry Dresden changes a little in each book instead of remaining static. He overcomes difficult circumstances as in previous books and this time deals with loneliness and lack of family. Readers and Harry learn something new about his life by the end. Harry’s police friend Murphy changes a little too from her dealing with supernatural criminals. Other secondary characters add to the entertainment of the story. Mr. Butcher deepens his characters with interesting situations.

Next, the plot creates a strong mystery to keep readers hooked. Harry is asked by the White Court vampire Thomas for a favor. He tries to find out who is cursing an erotic move maker, which kills the women around the film maker in disgustingly spectacular ways. The investigation brings him into a clash with dangerous Black Court vampires and angry magic users. Along the way Harry makes a discovery that changes his life for the future. The author keeps the plot tight and suspenseful with plenty of action making the book hard to put down for readers.

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher is another exciting book in the series about wizard private investigator Harry Dresden. Change and mystery occurs in the characters and plot to hook readers for an interesting, entertaining read. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next volumes in the series.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: _Summers at Castle Auburn_ by Sharon Shinn

Growing up is a hard part for young people. Trying to understand the world of adults is difficult enough without having to deal with politics. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn tells the story of a young girl navigating her way through such a fantasy world. The book is an entertaining read due to the setting, characters and plot.

First, the setting helps to keep the book entertaining by creating a realistic sense of place. Set in a Medieval like kingdom of different provinces, the central power of the realm is at Castle Auburn. A regent keeps the kingdom running until the young prince comes of age. Within the kingdom there is a large forest inhabited by the Aliora, a magical people that resemble fairies. The setting is brought to reality my Ms. Shinn’s wonderful descriptions.

Next the characters in the book makes it entertaining for readers. Coriel is the main character who tells the story. She is fourteen and an illegitimate member of the nobility, living with her grandmother and training to be a healer. Spending her summers with her half sister at Castle Auburn, Corie comes of age around court intrigue and romance. Kent is the son of the regent. He tries to keep the prince from causing scandals for the kingdom. His kind nature and maturity throughout the story helps Corie grow into a strong, independent woman. Ms. Shinn brings the characters to life with snappy dialogue and action.

In the end, the book remains entertaining due to the plot, which keeps the story moving. The story begins with Coriel going on a hunt with her uncle Jaxon to catch Aliora. Corie learns of the Aliora queen and her uncle’s obsession with catching the queen. Every summer. Corie returns to the castle a little older, with more skills as a healer and learns more about life. Watching Corie grow with each new visit keeps the plot going to a satisfying end. Ms. Shinn weaves a good story with interesting twists to the plot.

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn is a fun read. The setting, characters and plot combine into an entertaining Fantasy book. Ms. Shinn is a talented author who provides fun and thought provoking stories for readers. Her talent grows with each new book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review: _Forests of the Heart_ by Charles de Lint

A frozen city lies crippled by a punishing ice storm. Dangerous spirits roam the streets threatening several people. These people must band together to stop the a dangerous monster full hate set loose on the world. Charles de Lint weaves another exciting tale set in the mythical city of Newford with the novel called Forests of the Heart. Setting, characters and plot blend to crate a gripping story that entertains readers.

The setting creates a strong sense of wonder with its concrete and fantasy atmosphere. Though a creation of the author, the city of Newford is described vividly to make it seem a real city of the modern day world. People hold jobs and live through everyday problems such as dealing with winter weather. Newford also has its fantastical side with the magical beings and creatures that wander its streets. This book mixes the images of Newford with images of the desert land of southern Arizona. Native American mythology adds to the setting more striking images that enhances the story. Mr. de Lint provides an excellent setting for the characters to live in.

Next, the characters are realistic, which allows reader to like them and keep reading. The author creates characters with problems that increase when the spirit world intrudes in their lives. Betinna comes for Arizona with inherited powers of a healer. She is torn about how her magic affects her life. Ellie is a sculptor with an unknown strong talent for magic who gets pulled into accepting strangeness in the world. Hunter is a record store owner dealing with a failed relationship. Then there are Miki and Donal, a brother and sister with a tragic past. These characters are brought to life my Mr. de Lint’s talent to create sympathetic characters.

Finally, the plot contains suspense and wonder that makes the book gripping until the end. Winter is harsh in Newford. The story begins when Ellie gets a card from a mysterious stranger for an artist’s colony. She is given a commission to remake a mask. Spirits called the Gentry want the mask to take the land away from the local spirits. This conspiracy draws in the other characters into a dangerous battle in the spirit world. Events get nastier when Donal lets loose an ancient, monster spirit on the world. Mr. de Lint keeps the action coming and the plot tight. His use of Celtic and Native American mythologies adds wonder that keeps the story gripping.

In the end, Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint is an excellent addition to his city of Newford books. The book is a gripping, entertaining read due to the setting, characters and plot. Mr. de Lint uses different mythologies to bring the spirit world to life with vivid descriptions and action. Readers will remain hooked until the poignant, satisfying climax of the book.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Review: _The Outstretched Shadow_ by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Imagine growing up in a city where magic provides all the comforts for the citizens. The High Mage’s council decides everything for the good of the populace. There is no change allowed at any time. Darkness looms on the horizon. The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory is an Epic Fantasy novel that is the first book in the “Obsidian Mountain” trilogy. This novel is a strong epic because of its characters, plot and themes.

The characters in the book help to give it an epic feel by being likable and sympathetic. Kellen, the main character, is seventeen and feels stifled in the city of Armathelieh. He is the son the Arch Mage, pushed to emulate his father in every way. Immensely bored, Kellen wishes he could leave the city but it is forbidden. His pursuits to find a purpose for his life leads him to a different magic that changes his life. Idalia is a Wild Mage living in the forest. She is a strong independent woman that has a settled life. Her life becomes disrupted when she is uprooted from her home due to events and she must struggle with emotions and problems that arise in the upheaval. The authors describe the characters’ lives vividly, building their personalities slowly as the conflicts of the plot increase.

The plot has an epic quality because it builds slowly to an impressive conclusion. Beginning slowly, readers see Kellen living in the stifling city of Armethalieh, trying to live up to his father’s expectations. His discovery of the three books of Wild Magic set him on an epic path to his destiny. Outlawed by the Council of High Mages, Kellen flees into the wilderness and finds new avenues for his life. Events caused by the machinations of the Demons leads Kellen to his fate as he tries to save the elves. Building the plot slowly, the authors creates a interesting story that moves toward a satisfying ending.

Finally, the themes explored in the book makes it a strong epic. One of the themes is coming-of-age. Kellen begins his growth as a seventeen year old realizing the corruption of the city. His life changes as he is thrust out into eh world and he deals with his growing magic talent Another theme is the battle between good and evil. Savage Demons also known as the Endarkened have been in exile for centuries. Their queen is subtly moving on her plans to take control of the world by corrupting human mages and trying to weaken the elves. The forces of good are badly fragmented due to mistrust and hatred between the many races. Themes are woven into the story by the authors for a compelling epic

The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory is the first book of of the “Obsidian Mountain” trilogy. This collaboration of two authors creates an interesting start to an Epic Fantasy series. Characters, plot and themes blend to make the book a strong epic novel that is entertaining. Readers will enjoy following the characters in their conflicts with the demons.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Melanie Rawn

From the moment I started reading this author's first book, I was hooked. Dynastic kingdoms full of intrigue and battle, mages and dragons populate the complex Fantasy worlds of writer Melanie Rawn. Her works are full of intriguing characters, vivid settings and well drawn plots. Readers will be surprised and astonished with her works.

Ms. Rawn got an idea about a man hunting dragons. She spent an entire weekend writing about this hunt. That is how Dragon Prince was born. This book begins a series of Epic Fantasies about Rohan, Sioned, Pol, Sunrunners and dragons. Rawn's world is made up of several kingdoms ruled by vicious High Prince Roelstra. Rohan, a desert prince, meets and marries the powerful Sunrunner Sioned. Together, they fight against Roelstra to free the kingdoms.

Sunrunners are the mages of Rawn's world. They have the power to use sunlight for communication, healing, battle and other things. Weaving sunlight is a powerful talent that can corrupt at times. The dark mages of the world weave starlight. Rohan must contend with the three angry, ambitious grandsons of Roelstra in the next two books Star Scroll and Sunrunner's Fire.

The next three books take place a generation later with the story of Pol, Rohan's son. He is faced with filling his father's rule, an invasion by Viking like invaders and dealing with his powerful Sunrunner cousin Andry. Stronghold, The Dragon Token and Skybowl are darker than the first three books. They tell excellent stories of love and adventure with a very good climax. All the books are long and satisfying.

Rawn's next series takes place in a new Fantasy world of Lenfell. Three mage sisters fight a private battle among rival factions of Mageborn people. The Mageborns nearly destroyed this world in the past, so are under tight rules. A renegade mage wants to start a new war. Striving to overcome their differences, the sisters must stop this mage. The Ruins of Ambrii and The Mageborn Traitor are the two books published so far. The last book, The Captal's Tower, is forthcoming some day.

Ms. Rawn collaborated with two other Fantasy authors, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot, for The Golden Key. The book is about the civilization of Tira Verte and the painter mages. Artwork is highly prized in this world. Paintings are used as official records of everything like weddings. One family has the power to manipulate time and reality with their paintings. This book tells the tale of Sario, a member of this family, that uses his power to get the woman he loves and sets off world shaking problems. With tree top writers of the Fantasy field collaborating on this work, readers are left with a book of depth, complexity and beauty that few books have these days.

After a long time of not publishing any books, Ms. Rawn has returned with a new one. The book is an Urban Fantasy called Spellbinder.This new book takes place in modern day Manhattan. Holly McClure is a witch who is special to her coven. Her blood makes their spells last. She is in love with a U.S. Marshall named Evan Lachlan. Together they must help her coven to fight a sociopath Satanist called Noel. The book is an interesting different type of book for the author.

Melanie Rawn is a wonderful Fantasy author of books with complex plots, memorable characters and imaginative settings. She has a clear writing style that keeps the adventure, court intrigue and action going at a steady pace. Readers might find her books hard to put down once started. They will not be disappointed with any of her books.

Further information about Melanie Rawn and her books can be found at:

http://www.melanierawn.com

Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: _The Lost Ones_ by Christopher Golden

People get a good feeling of satisfaction when they finish something. There is a sense of accomplishment in completing things. Such a feeling comes when readers finish a trilogy or series of books. The third book in the “Veil” trilogy called The Lost Ones by Christopher Golden completes the series. The book leads to a satisfying conclusion due to its interesting setting, fascinating characters and exciting plot.

First, Mr. Golden’s interesting setting helps lead the book to a satisfying conclusion. The world of the Legendary is separated from our world by the Veil, a border that can only be crossed one way by humans. The humans, called the Lost Ones, must live among mythical creatures in a dangerous world of magic. This world has two kingdoms, one made up from European myths and the other based on Central American myths. In addition, the mythical city of Atlantis and its people creates a fascinating landscape for the characters to survive through, brought to life by the author’s vivid descriptions.

Next, the fascinating characters moves the story to its gratifying end. Oliver Bascombe returns in this book, locked in a dungeon cell along with his fiancé and sister. He must deal with the betrayal of the Borderkind fox Kitsune and reconcile himself to his heritage in order to save two worlds. The Borderkind legend Kistune must overcome her guilt for betraying Oliver in order to save her people. Another intriguing character is the new Sandman with the three personalities in one body and how he changes. Mr. Golden brings his characters, both human and legend, to life by giving them realistic emotions and motives.

Lastly, an exciting plot pushes the book to its satisfying conclusion. The story begins with Oliver, his sister and fiancĂ© trying to escape from their prison. They languish in Palenque while the kingdoms of Euphrasia and Yucatazca go to war. The people of Palenque blame Hunyadi the Euphrasian king for the assassination of their king. Both sides have been manipulated by the Atlantean Ty’Lis and his plot to seal the Veil forever. Only the prophecy of the Legend born brings hope to the Lost Ones and the saving of the world. Mr. Golden keeps the plot exciting with intrigues, pursuits and a grand battle until the end.

The Lost Ones by Christopher Golden is the exciting conclusion to the “Veil” trilogy. An interesting setting, fascinating characters and exciting plot brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. Readers will enjoy this entertaining end to a good series of Dark Fantasy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Review: _Magic Burns_ by Ilona Andrews

Books in the subgenre of Urban Fantasy are popular among many readers today, especially Fantasy. Many of these books have strong women characters that hook readers into the books. Kate Daniels returns for more adventures in the second book Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews. The book is a gritty, entertaining read because of its twisted setting, intense characters and fast paced plot.

The twisted setting of Atlanta, Georgia hooks readers into the story quickly. Magic returned to the world in a tidal flow several years before. The magic warped Atlanta into a weird place. Skyscrapers collapsed. There is a giant canyon full of twisted metal running through part of the city. Vampires and shapeshifters vie for prominence while humans must deal with the changes magic brings by forming an Order of Knights and Guild of Mercenaries to stop the more vicious magical manifestations. Ms. Andrews creates a vivid setting that keeps the story dark and entertaining.

Next, the intense characters keeps the book entertaining. Kate Daniels is a tough woman mercenary with secrets and problems. She possesses a secret magic that requires her to keep every trace of her blood from being collected by anyone. Desperately lonely, Kate struggles with having close relationships because people she loves usually end up dead. Curran is the fierce leader of the Pack, a group of various shapeshifters. He is attracted to Kate but puts her off with his arrogance and bossiness. They make a volatile couple as they deal with other characters throughout the book. Ms. Andrews keeps the characters interesting through a first person point of view narrative and snappy dialogue.

Ultimately, the main element that keeps the book entertaining is a fast paced plot. The story begins with Kate going out on a job to keep a maniac from burning Atlanta down with a fire salamander. She stumbles into a mystery of a missing witche’s coven when she saves a young girl named Julie from some nasty sea demons. Magic is building up to a flare, which will lead to some Celtic gods manifesting and destroying the city. Kate must deal with Curran, vampires and a flirty archer as the book builds to a spectacular conclusion. The author keeps the plot going with plenty of action until the end.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews is an excellent second book of a series. An interesting setting, intense characters and fast paced plot makes the book a gritty, entertaining read for fans of Urban Fantasy. Kate Daniels is a tough woman character with vulnerability that makes her likable. Readers will enjoy this book along with the first one, Magic Bites. Hopefully there will be a third or more books in the series in the future. Can’t wait.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: _Blood and Iron_ by Elizabeth Bear

Creatures from Faery steal children from our world, some fairy half breeds, to replenish their numbers. A group of human mages known as the Prometheans fight against Faery to keep them from overcoming our world and stop the child stealing. Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear tells the story of this struggle in the first book of the “Promethean Age” series. Interesting characters, a suspenseful plot and compelling themes makes the book an entertaining read.

First, the author starts out with interesting characters for the book. Elaine Andraste also known as Seeker is a half human half fairy woman with internal conflicts about herself. She struggles with guilt and pain from her human emotions, not knowing which side of her heritage to choose. Matthew Magus is a human mage and member of the Prometheans, a group pledged to protect the world from Faery. He is idealistic, but suffers over his brother’s difficulties. Keith is a werewolf in love with Elaine and reluctant in his role as heir to the pack leadership. Coupled with the amoral creatures of Faery like Whiskey the kelpie, the characters keep the book entertaining with their conflicts.

Next, the darkly suspenseful plot keeps the book entertaining for readers. Ms. Bear writes a tight story that keeps action moving throughout the book. It begins with Seeker looking for a half fairy girl. She encounters the powerful kelpie Whiskey and manages to bind him. Once she returns to the Otherworld, she is ordered by the Queen to find the Merlin, a human who is magic, to help in the fight against the human mages. The Prometheans plan a war to cut off Faery from the human world forever. Added to this is the tithe Faery must pay to Hell and is trying to get out of paying. Bloody battles ensue with vivid descriptions by the author for a great story.

Lastly, the book is an entertaining read due to the compelling themes explored by the author. One theme explored is the struggle people have between their good and dark sides because of their souls. Elaine must struggle throughout the book to choose which half of her heritage to follow. She finds having a soul painful when dealing with hard decisions. The themes of heroism and fate are explored with the build up to the battles. Keith the werewolf fights with being the chosen dragon prince leader of the Faery armies. Ms. Bear also weaves in themes from Arthurian legends to make the story stronger. All these themes keep readers hooked until the end.

Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear is an excellent beginning to the “Promethean Age” series. The book is an entertaining read because of its interesting characters, suspenseful plot and compelling themes. Readers will enjoy the dark story of the battle between the Prometheans and Faery, which leads to a satisfying ending. The second book in the series is called Whiskey and Water.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Review: _A Dark Sacrifice_ by Madeline Howard

Some middle books of trilogies suffer from little movement of the story forward. These books sometimes put readers off from boredom. A Dark Sacrifice by Madeline Howard is the second book of the “Rune on Unmaking” trilogy. This book does not suffer from middle book stagnation. The story moves forward through setting, characters and plot.

First, the well developed setting moves the story forward. The world of the novel contains large islands with different cultures. These different islands are connected by ships sailing the vast oceans full of dangerous creatures. Different cultures developed on the islands due to the distances between islands. The setting of this world has a rich past of fallen empires and insidious magics. There are frightening creatures and strange magical systems. Ms. Howard weaves all these elements into a powerful setting that remains vivid throughout the book.

Next, the characters with their problems move the story forward as they try to solve problems. Sinderian is a powerful healing mage with doubts about her strength. She constantly struggles with herself to not be helpless or arrogant. Ruan, who travels with Sinderian, must deal with his heritage from two disparate cultures. He dislikes his mother’s people, distrusting them because they do not accept him with his half blood heritage. Winloki is a young princess destined to fulfill a prophecy. She is torn by her ignorance of the past and the kindness of her captors. Even the empress, Ouriana, has problems with an old enemy who opposes her and she is an unwitting dupe of the forces using her. Ms. Howard develops interesting, three-dimensional characters that keep the story moving forward.

Lastly, a focused plot moves the second book forward to an exciting climax. The book begins with Sinderian and Ruan trying to find Winloki. They travel to a fortress under siege by dark forces. Finding out that Camhoinhann, Ouriana’s high priest, has taken Winloki captive, they pursue the captors joined by Prince Kivik and Skerry. Meanwhile, Winloki travels with her captors and discovers herself sympathizing with them. Sinderian travels with her companions carrying a dark secret plan to save Winloki. These plot threads weave together for a good story. Ms. Howard writes with vivid images and a tight plot that leads to an thrilling climax and cliffhanger.

A Dark Sacrifice by Madeline Howard is an stimulating middle book in the trilogy. Setting, characters and plot blend together smoothly to advance the story of the “Rune of Unmaking” trilogy. The book does not suffer from middle book stagnation. A nice cliffhanger leaves readers eagerly waiting for the next book in the series.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Janny Wurts

Have you ever seen a painting with the artist’s signature and then later discovered that the artist writes fiction too? A person’s mind becomes surprised about those who can do these amazing things. Many artists have multiple talents in the different areas of art. Janny Wurts is such a talent. She does both Fantasy art and writes books. Her books span many worlds of Epic Fantasy with descriptive writing and compelling characters. She graces the covers of some of her books with her marvelous paintings. Ms. Wurts is an imaginative contributor to the Fantasy genre.

Sorcerer’s Legacy is one of her first books. This is the story of a widowed woman from our world drawn into a fantasy one by a wizard. There she is to be the prince’s consort to keep everything in peace. Unfortunately, the wizard dies, leaving her with trying to maneuver through court intrigues and keep herself safe.

One of her first series is the Cycle of Fire trilogy consisting of Stormwarden, Keeper of the Keys and Shadowfane. This Epic Fantasy trilogy tells the story of Taen and Jaric as they struggle to learn their powers in order to save the world from an alien race they consider demons. Science fiction elements blend with fantasy to make this an entertaining story. Ms. Wurts uses her knowledge and descriptive writing to bring this story to life. The sailing scenes are very vivid.

Another of her series is a collaboration with Fantasy author Raymond Feist. It is set in his world of the Riftwar. Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, and Mistress of the Empire chronicles the story of a reluctant woman chosen to lead an empire by her dying brother. Each book shows the growth of the character as she counters court intrigues and becomes a powerful empress. These authors work together very well to bring a fascinating story to readers and entertain them.

The Master of Whitestorm is a stand alone Epic Fantasy novel. Korendir is the main character of this book. An escaped galley slave, he goes on several different quests in search of treasure. His ultimate goal is to build a fortress at Whitestorm to hide a dark secret. This book has a plot full of action along with an interesting character created by the author’s detailed imagination.

In recent years, Ms. Wurts has been writing books in her Wars of Light and Shadow series. With this series, she explores the theme that war is not the only solution to problems. She does this through her characters of two half brothers; one is a bard and mage while the other is a leader. The story of these two half brothers is traced thourgh several books filled with vivid images and imaginative descriptions. The books in this series are:

Curse of the Mistwraith
Ships of Merior
Warhosts of Vastmark
Fugitive Prince
Grand Conspiracy
Peril’s Gate
Traitor’s Knot
Stormed Fortress

Janny Wurts is a multi-talented Fantasy artist and author. Her books range through several vivid worlds of Epic Fantasy. Some of her art work graces the covers of her books too. She is an imaginative writer with descriptive prose, intriguiing characters and interesting themes. Readers can see more of her art work and learn more about her at her web site: http://www.paravia.com/

Friday, March 07, 2008

Review: _Mists of Avalon_ by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The story of King Arthur and his knights has fascinated people for centuries. An ancient unknown Celtic chieftain laid the ground work for a story that is ingrained in Great Britain’s and other cultures. Modern day authors have retold the legend in various ways, adding new perspectives tot eh story. Many years ago, Marion Zimmer Bradley gave the story a new twist by telling the story from the point of view of the women characters in the story. Up to this point, the women had been mostly peripheral to the story and portrayed as evil or adulteresses. Mists of Avalon is a powerful Arthurian Fantasy through its in depth exploration of the roles of women, the clash of religions and a multiple point of view plot.

The roles of women are an important aspect of the novel that makes it powerful for readers. Most versions of the Arthurian legend are about the men in the story with the women being peripheral to the story. This novel gives readers the story from the point of view of the women. In the legend, Morgan La Fey is portrayed as an evil sorceress bent on destroying Arthur. Morgaine is the main character whose life is followed through the novel. She is Arthur's half sister, raised as a priestess of Avalon and possessing magical powers. She is driven by her religion to do the will of the Goddess while torn by her feelings as a woman. Her education gives her greater freedom and independence then other women of her time. Gwenhwyfar is the daughter of a lesser king. She fears the outdoors, struggles to be pious and tries to remain out of the spotlight. Though she is the High Queen, Gwenhwyfar is limited by her duty to her husband and her religion. She is a contrasting character to Morgaine. Viviane is a third woman character with a different role. As the high priestess of Avalon, she is a woman of great power that manipulates people’s lives to serve the Goddess. The author keeps the story powerful by following the shifting roles of these women and their choices.

Next, the clash of religions in the novel makes the story powerful. It is the time in Britain after the Romans left. The old religions such as the worship of the Goddess are waning while Christianity is on the rise. This creates a struggle for dominance between the two religions. Viviane and Morgaine try to keep worship of the goddess as the primary religion. They make Arthur promise to make the religion prominent in exchange for being made high king. Gwenhwyfar is a devout Christian. She has a strong influence over Arthur because of his love for her. Her strong dislike for the pagan religion drives her to establish Christianity as the main one of the land. this battle for dominance drives an interesting theme that Ms. Bradley keeps powerful with tension.

Lastly, the book remains powerful by its multiple point of view plot. Ms. Bradley tells the King Arthur story through the eyes of the women. Igraine, Morgaine’s and Arthur’s mother, begins the story by arguing with her sister Viviane about not being a pawn of Avalon. She is in love with Uther and not happy with her marriage to Duke Gorlois. After Arthur’s birth, the point of view shifts to Morgaine as readers follow her through her training as a priestess and dealing with changes in Britain. Later in the book, readers get Gwenhwyfar’s point of view added to tell her part in the story. Ms. Bradley fills the plot with suspense, exciting scenes and compelling descriptions through these women characters.

Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is an enduring classic novel of Arthurian fantasy. The book’s in depth exploration of the roles of women, the clash of religions and a multiple viewpoint plot makes the novel a powerful read. Ms. Bradley created a spectacular retelling of the story of KIng Arthur that changed the subgenre for goo. This book has been on Bestseller lists for many years. It is an important book for readers of Fantasy to read. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wizards in Fantasy

A man waves his hand and a bolt of lightning crashes into a monster. Brandishing a staff, a woman speaks a spell that crumbles a stone wall into dust. Man or woman, wizards are a primary element of Fantasy. They play important roles in many novels. Merlin is perhaps one of the most familiar wizards in Fantasy, appearing in many Fantasy novels (see previous article Merlin in Fantasy). There are many other wizards that can match or rival Merlin in power and popularity. They appear in a wide range of Fantasy books.

One wizard who is well known in Fantasy after Merlin is Gandalf. He appears in Lord of the Rings and the The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gandalf is liked by the Hobbits, but can be an imposing figure. Considered a powerful wizard, he doesn’t use much magic openly except in his battle with the Balrog. Mr. Tolkien created a realistic character with wisdom and personal flaws. His portrayal of Gandalf became an inspiration to be emulated by many other Fantasy authors over the years.

Another wizard with an interesting life story is Ged of the Earthsea books. He starts out as a powerful, arrogant youth who learns responsibility for his powers. The creation of Ursula K LeGuin, Ged’s life is told through four books. From youth to Archmage to a journey beyond death, Ged’s story demonstrates the magic life brings with its changes. Ged is an unforgettable wizard. His story is told in A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

Not all wizards are men. Fantasy author Maggie Furey’s Aurian is a woman to be reckoned with carefully. Aurian is the daughter of two powerful magicians. She undergoes training in a society where ordinary people are considered little more than servants. Her story is told in four books: Aurian, Harp of Winds, Sword of Flame, and Dhiammara. Aurian’s life is one of struggle, love, sadness and loss. She is an interesting character of a powerful woman with a vulnerable side.

Some wizards are very young in age and the author traces their story through their training in school or as an apprentice. Harry Potter is the latest young wizard who has become popular in books and movies. J.K. Rowling’s contributions to wizards of Fantasy are:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Young Harry is an orphan who grows up in an abusive family but discovers his parents were really wizards. He goes to the magic school to learn to be a wizard and has many adventures. This is an excellent series for all ages that traces a young man growing up in an enchanting world.

Another interesting woman wizard is Lythande of the Blue Star. The wizards of her order must keep themselves ready for the final battle between good and chaos. While waiting, they must keep one secret about themselves. If another wizard discovers their secret, they lose their powers and can be killed. Lythande must keep her secret as she helps people on her travels. Her stories can be found in the book Lythande.

Harry Potter is not the only young wizard in training. Fantasy author Diane Duane writes a series of books about young people in training to be wizards. Young Nita and Kit from our world find a doorway into a world where they learn magic and have adventures. They face real world issues of adolescents in each book. The series consists of six books:

So You Want To Be a Wizard
Deep Wizardry
High Wizardry
A Wizard Abroad
A Wizard's Dilemma
A Wizard Alone

Wizards are an essential part of Fantasy books. Whether man or woman, young or old, good or evil, they bring interesting touches to the stories they appear in. Merlin, Ged and now Harry Potter are all part of our collective memories. Wizards wield magic in various ways, but admired most for their wisdom and advice. They will always play important roles in the Fantasy genre.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Review: _Sword and Sorceress XXII_ edited by Elisabeth Waters

The late author Marion Zimmer Bradley created an anthology Fantasy series that had stories of women magic users and warriors by new and established authors. Now, there is a new addition to the series thanks to the publisher Norilana books. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXII edited by Elisabeth Waters contains new entertaining stories of extraordinary women. Many of the stories will catch readers’ interests.

The anthology opens with “Edra’s Arrow” by Esther M. Friesner. Edra is a hunter for her tribe. There is no game to be found and her people are starving. Her sister claims it is Edra’s fault for defying the gods by being a hunter, which is a man’s job. Edra must find the true cause of the trouble to save her people. Ms. Friesner provides a serious story with good characters.

“Pearl of Fire” by Deborah J. Ross tells the story of Rayzel and her harsh dilemma. She receives the Pearl of Fire, usually handed down in her family to men, by mistake. Invulnerable to weapons, she must spend a lonely life in war, fighting many battles. Rayzel must find a way to free herself from such a life. Ms. Ross gives readers a thought provoking story about war and overcoming hardship.

Fantasy author Dave Smeds presents a different story with “Bearing Shadows.” Aerise is a pregnant women living in a community that makes it’s living by wine making. One afternoon people notice her abdomen is glowing with light. This indicates that a Shadow Man, mysterious people that live like ghosts, fathered her baby. She is exiled by her people for life. Aerise goes on a long journey to get her life back. The author explores a difficult issue through interesting situations in the story.

In “Child of the Father” by Alan Morland, Larion must help his lover Anya save her little cousin. The little girl is taken by a corrupt priesthood that rapes young girls. Led by a vicious high priest, the religion controls the country ruthlessly. Larion and his companions try to free the people from the priest with magic and cunning. Ms. Morland delivers a good story of vivid images with a neat twist to the ending.

“Skin and Bones” by Heather Rose Jones takes place in world where clans of shapeshifters that use skins to change exist. Asholi is a skin singer working for a governor of a city. Her employer asks her to seek out a clan of her people to offer them employment. She finds a troubling group of people with a secret. Events escalate when her love interest is kidnapped. Ms. Jones creates a great story of a strange race that has an interesting culture.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXII edited by Elisabeth Waters is another good anthology in a long series. It is a welcome addition for readers. Many of the stories are entertaining, ranging from adventurous to thought provoking. The publisher Norilana Books can be commended for continuing this series for readers who love it. Hopefully they will publish more.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Review: _Iron Kissed_ by Patricia Briggs

Urban Fantasy is a rapidly growing subgenre in Fantasy. Stories about magic and supernatural creatures living in our world make for exciting reads. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs is the third book in her Mercy Thompson series about shape changer living in Washington state. The author keeps the latest book in the series interesting through the characters and plot.

Characters continue to grow in this book, which keeps readers interested. Mercy Thompson is a mechanic who can change into a coyote. She was raised by werewolves and has two of them or love interests. Mercy discovers new strength in this book as she tries to help save an old friend. Adam, the werewolf pack leader, endures courting Mercy with a strained patience. He must keep his dominant nature in control in order to not drive Mercy away from him. Other characters add intriguing touches to the story. Mrs. Briggs provides more facets to her characters that lets them change and draws readers further into the story.

Next, the plot moves at a brisk pace, attracting readers in by being interesting. The story begins with Mercy being asked by her old boss Zee to look into the murders of some Fae on the reservation. Mercy’s sense of smell as a coyote might lead to some clues about the killer. Before she knows it, Zee is arrested for the murder of a human. The other Fae do not like Mercy knowing their secrets and are willing to sacrifice her friend to keep them. She is unwilling to desert her friend, which leads to attacks on her. Mercy gets help from the werewolves as she strives to solve the crimes. Again, Ms. Briggs deftly weaves an action plot together that keeps readers hooked.

The third Mercy Thompson novel, Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs, is an exciting addition to the series. Characters and plot makes the abiding story of Mercy interesting. There are some resolutions in this book. Overall, the book is an entertaining read that ends in a satisfying conclusion. This book leaves readers wanting more and waiting anxiously for the next book in the series.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Review: _Fate Fantastic_ edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt

Many people all over the world believe in fate and how to get around it. Is it ordained? Can fate e cheated? No one knows the answers to those question. Several authors try to answer questions of fate in the anthology Fate Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt. Stories range from serious to humorous while exploring the subject of fate, but readers will find the stories entertaining.

“But World Enough” By Sarah A. Hoyt is the story of Hannibal of Carthage. As a young boy, the goddess Tanit gives him a prophecy that he will found a great empire. He spends his lifetime fighting Rome but discovers his rue fate at the end. The story is an interesting Historical Fantasy. Ms. Hoyt provides a vivid tale of the past for the anthology.

Humor is a strong component of Esther M. Friesner’s “The Bones of Mammoth Malone.” Set in the last Ice Ae of humanity, the story presents a sardonic account of a bone reader. Mammoth Malone must solve a problem of the lemming clan princess Randi Vixen. The story is told like private eye stories with snappy dialogue and humorous situations. Ms. Friesner presents an amusing story with a good character.

In “A Tapestry of Souls” by Paul Crilley, Crispin, a young village boy, follows a messenger of he Goddess out of love. He watches her die and undertakes a journey o return the body to the Goddess. His choice brings changes to his life and he world. The author’s touching descriptions brings the story to life for readers.

Arthurian Fantasy is represented y the humorous story “Camelot’s Greatest Hits” by Laura Resnick. Merlin tells the story of Arthur who is a musician. The legend becomes part of the career of a famous performer with wry remarks by Merlin. Ms. Resnick delivers a sound, amusing story of fate.

Fate is a subject that fascinates most people, brining difficult questions that are unanswerable. Fate Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt is an entertaining anthology that explores the theme of fate. There are several stories which range from humorous to serious. Readers will find something to enjoy in most of the stories.