Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: _Out of Avalon_ edited by Jennifer Roberson

Avalon. This name invokes thoughts of King Arthur, Merlin and everything associated with the Arthurian legend. It was the mystical island where King Arthur went to and waits for his return to the world. Out of Avalon edited by Jennifer Roberson is a new Fantasy anthology with stories revolving around the Arthurian legend. The stories vary, covering new ideas and twists in the legend. Many of them are entertaining and memorable.

“The Mooncalfe” by David Farland tells the story of Merlin’s daughter. Conceived the same night as Arthur, she lives a lonely life with her mother in a forest. She spends the earlier part of her life trying to appease her mother’s prayers to be human. This story has a sympathetic character and good ending. The author creates a strong sense of magic and place with his prose.

Few Arthurian stories deal with the death of King Arthur. “Grievous Wounds” by Laura Resnick begins with King Arthur dying from his wounds after the battle of Camlann. He is full of regrets and self pity. While he waits for death, he travels to other times and examines his life. The story has a powerful theme about facing death. Characters are realistic and interesting. It is a worthwhile story to read.

“The Secret Leaves” by Tricia Sullivan is the story of  Nina and Myrddin. Nina is a young girl who gets lost in the woods. Myrddin saves her and she stays with him. He tries to teach her magic while she fights her growing love for him. It is a vivid story of quiet magic and love with an unusual ending.

One story is told from a different point of view in the King Arthur legend. “Black Dogs” by Lorelei Shannon is told by King Arthur’s faithful dog Cabal. He tells about a curse placed on Arthur during a hunt. Cabal and Arthur must solve the mystery of a demon black dog haunting a village. This story is poignant and enjoyable to read.

Judith Tarr contributes a story with “Finding the Grail.” Melisende is a bored lady of Queen Guenivere. She thinks women should be able to quest for the Grail too. Along with a male companion, she sets out on a quest for the Holy Grail. They undergo tests to find the object. Ms. Tarr provides an entertaining story with an unusual ending. The story is very descriptive and realistic.

"Avalonia" by Kristen Britain is about the spirit an   ûd sense of wonder the Arthurian legend engenders in us. Anne Wilder is a biologist with little belief in anything fantastical. While visiting Glastonbury Tor, she is drawn into a world of wonder where she meets a goddess and must make a choice. The author creates a wonderful story of magic and delight fading from the world. Her character is very realistic and likable. It is a very nice story.

There are many other entertaining stories in Out of Avalon. Jennifer Roberson did a good job in her story choices. Few of the stories are disappointing. Whether you like Arthurian stories or other Fantasy, readers will find this anthology interesting. Check it out.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book Review: _Oceans of Magic_ Anthology

The oceans of the world are the last frontier for humanity besides space. They hold a mystique in our psyches and a promise for the future. Oceans are the theme of the Fantasy anthology Oceans of Magic edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin  H. Greenberg. Divided into three sections, it has different Fantasy stories centered on the ocean. The first section has Historical Fantasies about our world’s oceans during different eras. Next is a section of stories taking place in oceans of Fantasy worlds while the last section deals with sea gods. Many of the stories are interesting and entertaining. So, let’s go explore the mysterious oceans of Fantasy.

“Oh, Glorious Sight” by Tanya Huff takes place on a voyage of Italian explorer John Cabot. It is the poignant story of an abused, orphan boy. Cabot saves him and takes him on the voyage. The boy idolizes Cabot. Befriended by the crew,  he develops a magical talent to control the wind and Aurora Borealis. Cabot considers his powers from the devil and this leads to surprising end. This a sad story with good characters and a bittersweet ending.

World War II is the backdrop for “Tribute” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A sailor aboard a battleship is the censor. He reads all the mail of the other crew members, deleting parts for security reasons. While reading the mail, he discovers that the crew are seeing a ghost ship. The captain of this ship demands tribute. A decision must be made by the main character to save the ship. This story has realistic characters and an interesting theme.

An interesting story of a navy in another world can be found in “Midshipwizard” by James M. Ward. Hal is a young naval officer wizard on his first ship. In this world there are dragonships, large sea dragons with shells on their backs where the crew lives and fights. On his first experience, Hal saves the dragon’s heart from a saboteur with powerful magic. He endures further training and problems throughout the story. This is a wonderful story with a sense of humor and very different navy.

The longest story in the book has a lot of action and adventure. “The Colossus of Mahrass” by Mel Odom is a magical tale of pirates. Pirate captain Jaelik Tarlsson is being haunted by a ghost. She wants him to help her destroy a magical device of her dead Elven father. He is reluctant to put the lives of his crew in jeopardy, but she convinces him otherwise. An exciting story of magic, trips through dungeons, and sea battles ensues with interesting characters and a touch of humor.

Readers get a different sea tale in the story “Catch of the Day” by Jeff Grubb. The world has succumbed to a strange deluge that fills the sky with clouds. Humans have taken to sailing the cloud sea in magical ships. Captain Meridian is leery of her new passenger and next voyage. August Gold is a scholar who wants to prove dragons exist. They venture into a part of the cloud sea held by a hostile force. This tale is very entertaining with its unusual setting and ending.

“Walk Upon the Waters” by Paul Kupperberg is a story about the last days of Atlantis. The sea gods are angry. They wish to destroy Atlantis for turning to science and forgetting the gods. Thalis is the last wizard who protects Atlantis and must battle with the gods. On his journey to a final battle, Thalis     remembers his life and lost love Kahna. He refuses to surrender to futility. This is a poignant story of enduring love and sacrifice. Thalis is a sympathetic character readers will feel sorry for in his sorrow.

The ocean provides inspiration for writers to create magical, entertaining stories. Oceans of Magic is a Fantasy anthology with many good stories to keep a reader interested for hours. Finding a story to like won’t be hard to  discover. Pick up a copy of the book and embark on a voyage to Fantasy oceans of adventure.