Thursday, December 28, 2006

Louise Cooper

Imagine breaking a forbidden rule and being responsible for the destruction of your people. Or, imagine living in a world where gods of order and chaos vie for supremacy. These and many other Fantasy worlds are the creations of British author Louise Cooper. Her works are filled with memorable characters, imaginative plots and complex themes. She is an author every lover of Fantasy should read. Whether part of a series or stand alone books, she leaves an impact on readers.

One of Ms. Cooper's longest series tells the story of Indigo. This character is a young woman, like Pandora, who sets demons loose in the world because of her curiosity. Her people and family are killed, and she is given immortality until she defeats all the demons she turned loose on the world. Indigo is helped by a sentient female wolf called Grimya. In each book, they travel to different parts of their world to fight one of the demons. Indigo grows with each new story. The eight books are: Nemesis, Inferno, Infanta, Nocturne, Troika, Avatar, Revenant and Aisling.

Ms. Cooper's other series books are part of her Chaos and Order world. The seven gods of Chaos and Order struggle for a delicate balance of control. The stories of the complex characters of Tarod, Cyllan, Yandros and many others unfold in two trilogies. The first consists of The Initiate, The Outcast and The Master which tell the stories of Tarod, Cyllan and Chaos restoring the balance to their world. The next trilogy is about the battle to stop a powerful Chaos demon's daughter from conquering the world. The books here are: The Deceiver, The Pretender and The Avenger. A prequel trilogy was not published in the United States except the first book called Star Ascendant.

She has written many stand alone books too. Mirage is a Dark Fantasy. It tells the complex story of the city Haven and the troubled characters locked in a final battle. Most of the other books are Young Adult Fantasies and not available in the United States. This is a shame since she is an excellent writer for any age.

Louise Cooper is a Fantasy writer of great imagination and story telling ability. She uses her interests in music, folklore, mythology and comparative religion to weave entertaining stories with difficult themes. Her books are worth seeking out and reading. More information about Louise Cooper's works can be found at

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Master of Mythic Fantasy, Robert Holdstock

Robert Holdstock is a British author of mythic fantasy. His works derive from myth and the archetypes of the unconscious. He delves the mythologies of many cultures to bring a mythic past alive in a modern day context. As a review stated: "Holdstock manages to bring back a mythic past so fresh it hasn't stopped bleeding." (Locus Magazine) ". . .both tough and subtle enough to vie with the horrors of our modern world." Mr. Holdstock has created memorable fantasies that leave a lasting impression on the readers.

In his books, he has combined elements of mythology, the occult and science to explore how the unconscious part of our minds influences human lives. He did this with the creation of his fantasy world of Ryhope Wood in the 1984 World Fantasy Award winning novel Mythago Wood.

Ryhope Wood is a small remnant of forest left over from the prehistoric past. The wood is smaller on the outside, but vast in the inside, going on forever. In this wood is where the mythagos come to life and exist. Mythagos are ancient memories and archetypes that take physical form. They are generated and manifest from the unconscious part of the human mind.

The first book defined the fantasy world of Ryhope Wood, but succeeding books deepened the exploration. Mythago Wood and Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn explore the problems of the Huxley brothers and how they are changed by the wood. Lavondyss tells the story of a young girl and her life time spent in the wood. She returns changed by her experience. In The Hollowing, we read the story of a young boy, his friends and an evil version of Gawain.

Another book, Unknown Regions, is not a Mythago book, but is different. This book is a dark ghost story about a boy with the power to bring back historical objects from the past. The family is disintegrating over the struggle to help the boy deal with his power. It is a tale of abuse and the desperation for love that a child needs.

Ancient Echoes is a book that explores how the conscious and unconscious part of the mind interact. The main character enters his own unconscious mind, where he experiences the archetypes of the collective unconscious in a border land between fantasy and reality. Part of his unconscious manifests in the real world as a threat to his daughter. Eerie overlays of the imagined world with the real one give a dark edge to this wonderful book.

Merlin's Wood is a slim novel dealing with the Arthurian story of Merlin and Nimue. The wood in this story is reminiscent of Ryhope with a haunted Broceliande of ghosts and visions that only the main characters can see. These manifestations affect the people's lives in complex, dark ways.

His most recent books are part of the series called the Merlin Codex. These books explore the mixing of Arthurian and Greek myth. Merlin is a forever young magic user that meets up with Jason and joins the Argonauts in the pursuit of the Golden Fleece. They meet again in the modern world to pursue the quest of finding Jason's lost sons. Several mythic themes are explored in the first two books of Celtika and The Iron Grail. The third book, The Broken Kings, will be published in 2007.

Robert Holdstock is an author to be read and savored. His complex, dark-edged mythic fantasies are not to be missed. Holdstock's works leaves a reader with resonances that last for a long time. I look forward to his next venture. So should you. His web site can be found at:

Friday, December 01, 2006

Review: _Magelord_ Trilogy by Thomas K. Martin

Imagine a world ruled by powerful mages. The Magelords were mages whose powers made them nearly gods. They ruled the world, enslaving other humans to their wills. Humanity survived them, but the terror they left behind lingers to the current day is this world causing persecution of anyone with magic talent. Can one man stop the terror to save his people? “MageLord” is a trilogy by Fantasy author Thomas K. Martin that tries to answer that question. The trilogy explores the themes of corrupting power and persecution. It is an exciting trilogy for readers.

Magelord: The Awakening is the first book in the trilogy. Bjorn lives in the Wastes with his father avoiding persecution and hatred of mages. He comes home one day to find men in front of his home. Prince Gavin of a nearby kingdom has asked Bjorn for help because he suspects his father’s advisor is a dreaded Magelord. Bjorn believes Valerian is not a MageLord, but a rogue mage. He travels with Gavin to the kingdom to see Valerian. His skepticism turns to fear on seeing the king’s advisor. Bjorn, Gavin and others must fight to save the kingdom while Valerian starts a clan war. This book contains plenty of action with battles, sieges and powerful magic. It is a gripping beginning to the trilogy that leads into the second book.

The second book, Magelord: A Time of Madness, tells the story of the mages trying to stop their persecution. Picking up a short time after the events in the first book, the action starts quickly. Gavin’s fear of new MageLords emerging form mages creates the Hunt. Any discovered mage is burned at the stake. First Knight Mathen leads the Hunt and is ruthless in destroying mages, even killing children. Ivanel, Gavin’s uncle, wants to set up an underground railroad to save fleeing mage families by getting them away from the persecution of the Hunt. He sends his young son Ian to set up the escape route and find Bjorn. The author continues to weave a gripping story for the middle book with plenty of action.

Magelord: The House of Bairn, the final book, finds Bjorn pursued on his trip to the far south. His people fear he has become a rogue and must try to kill him. He ends up tripping a spell that casts him into the past during the height of the MageLords and the Time of Madness. The MageLords used powerful magic and were arrogant, not caring about ordinary people. In order to fit into that time, Bjorn becomes an apprentice to the MageLord Rylur, working his way up the through the ranks. He wants to find a way to save his people in the future. The book is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

The “MageLord” Fantasy trilogy by Thomas K. Martin is an entertaining series for readers. Interesting plots and an abundance of action keeps readers hooked from the beginning. One flaw in the books is the lack of any dynamic women characters until the last book, but they mostly remain in the background. Still, the trilogy is an entertaining, fast read for Fantasy lovers.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review: _Harrowing the Dragon_ by Patricia McKillip

Patricia McKillip is a master Fantasy author of many books, some of them have won awards. She writes highly entertaining and thought provoking stories and books that are loved by many people. Her short stories have been collected recently in Harrowing the Dragon, a book with many appealing stories for readers.

The collection opens with “The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath.” People live on an island that is frozen in ice most of the year. They mine for gold in the mountain of the island, which is honeycombed with caves. Peka is a seventeen year old miner who returns to the island after a short time on the mainland. She meets Ryd Yarrow, another returned native of Hoarsbreath. He has become a Dragon Harrower and wants to save the island from a dragon. Ms. McKillip traces these young people’s lives with a vivid story about winter and change.

“The Fellowship of the Dragon” follows five women sent on a journey to save the queen’s harper. Anne is the leader who faces losses as her group travels in a land of magic to confront a dragon. She learns many things about life on her quest. The story is a compelling adventure told with vivid descriptions and interesting characters.

A story about a tower is represented in “Lady of the Skulls.” The tower stands in the middle of a barren, desert plain. It is tended by a lone woman who tends the tower and its treasure. Six knights come to try to get the treasure. Each one must try to find the most precious thing in the tower. If they choose wrong then they die. It is a poignant tale about loneliness and what truly matters in the world. Readers will find this story memorable.

In “The Stranger,” Syl sees a strange man play music on her way home one evening. He weaves the colors in the sunset sky into beautiful things. Over the next few days, strange cloud creatures burn villagers’ homes. The stranger claims he can eliminate the creatures for a price. Syl tries to capture the colors she witnesses in her weaving and persuade the stranger into forgoing his price because the island is poor. Ms. McKillip brings the story to a haunting conclusion through wonderful descriptions.

Fairy tales are points of inspiration for authors. “The Lion and the Lark” is a reworked vivid fairy tale. Lark is the youngest daughter of a family who can sing beautifully. She greets her father after he returns from a trip and discovers that she must go to a living stone lion in the forest. There she meets an enchanted man who only takes human form at night. The story follows Lark and Perrin through several adventures in a poignant, memorable story.

These are just a few of the maining thoughtful, entertaining stories in the book. Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip is an excellent collection of short stories that evokes vivid images and magic for readers. It is a good book for readers to experience this author’s talented and deeply magical creations.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Book Review: _Moonlight and Vines_ by Charles de Lint

Fantasy author Charles de Lint has written many engrossing books over the years. He is the master of Urban Fantasy with great stories set in the modern day world. Moonlight and Vines is a collection of short stories set in the magical fictional city of Newford. There are many engaging stories with sympathetic characters and captivating plots.

“The Big Sky” is the story of a man who has died. John arrives at his home one evening to find a girl sitting in his living room. She is his guide to the afterlife. He refuses to go with Dakota, not believing he is dead that leaves him to wander earthbound looking for help. This is a nice story about hope and helping others find their way, whether in life or death.

Arthurian fantasy is represented by the story “Passing.” Lucy Grey is a reporter. While researching a story she meets a troubled young woman needing help. Nina asks Lucy to get her away from her husband. She wants the sword hanging on the wall in their apartment as the only thing from her marriage. Lucy is driven by confusion and love in deciding what to do. Mr. de Lint writes a magical tale about love and sacrifice for others.

Newford is a city full of many different magical beings. Jenny has an encounter with the Greek fates in “Shining Nowhere but in the Dark.” She is nice to one of them and is visited by two of them at night, one fate claiming an interest in Jenny because she does not dream. Seeking help form various people, she must try to reconcile with her past. The author provides a poignant tale with a satisfying ending.

“Seven for a Secret” explores how magic can appear in anyone’s life, even among the homeless. William has many friends. One is the mysterious woman called Malicorne. People tell their stories to her and feel better. Jake,one of William’s friends, believes she is some kind of vampire and refuses to tell his story to her. They are all helped by Staley, a musician who plays a blue spirit fiddle. The story delivers a memorable climax for readers.

Magic can touch people, changing their lives in many ways. Mona publishes a comic. She is depressed from personal problems. On the way home one night, she gives some money to a man. He ends up staying with her until he can repay the favor. “My Life as a Bird” is a story with humor and magic touching realistic characters.

Charles de Lint writes wonderful stories of Urban Fantasy with a strong sense of wonder and sympathetic characters. His collection of Newford stories in Moonlight and Vines has many entertaining stories for readers to enjoy. Mr. de Lint continues to be a powerful contributor to the Fantasy genre.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Book Review: _Moon Called_ by Patricia Briggs

What if magic and supernatural creatures existed in our world? Probably the world would be more fascinating at times. The subgenre of Urban Fantasy uses these elements for interesting stories. Fantasy author Patricia Briggs brings werewolves, shape changers, fae and others into the modern world for an entertaining read in Moon Called. The book comes together for a fast paced read because of its setting, characters and plot.

First, the book is entertaining due to its setting. Ms. Briggs creates a realistic modern day world with plausible supernatural creatures. The different magical creatures live among humans, but hide their identities and true natures. This world consists of werewolves, vampires, fae creatures and others. The book’s story focuses mainly on werewolves with the author making a culture for them. They have a pack structure like wolves. The packs are spread out all over the U.S. led by dominant alpha males. Keeping newly changed people under control is part of their responsibility. All of these details add up to make the story gripping and characters come to life.

Next, the interesting characters makes the book entertaining by drawing readers into the story. Mercy Thompson is the main character. She is a mechanic with the talent of being a skin walker, which allows her to change into a coyote. Her past is colorful since she was raised by werewolves. Mercy tends to be a loner but gets drawn into problems when she meets a runaway boy who has been changed into a werewolf. This brings her into werewolf business and brings her into conflict with old family troubles. Other characters bring Mercy’s personality to life and enhance the story. Adam is the leader of the pack in Mercy’s town. He is attracted to her while dealing with personal problems. Samuel is a rival werewolf from her past who provides a love triangle that stays unresolved. Ms. Briggs establishes characters with strong personalities that readers will like.

Lastly, the plot is suspenseful, providing a hard to put down book. Action starts right from the beginning of the story. Shortly after the runaway shows up at Mercy’s shop, he is attacked by a group of mysterious people. While saving the boy, she kills a werewolf and gets caught up in a mystery of who is trying to kill werewolves. She must deal with vampires, witches and fae creatures in order to solve the mystery, which is done with plenty of action. The author writes tights plots, keeping the action coming and the story gripping.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs is the first book in the “Mercy Thompson” Urban Fantasy series. The book is an exciting fast read due to setting, interesting characters and a suspenseful plot. The series will continue with the second book due out in 2007. Most readers will anxiously wait for the new book.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Tower's Last Stand part 3 by James D. Hahn

The Dark Tower’s Last Stand
(Stephen King and Epic Fantasy)


James D. Hahn

Part three of a three part series

We have begun to see elements of epic fantasy showing up in many different genres around the literary world. This series will take a look specifically at the elements of EF within the confines of Stephen King’s writing and his use of epic fantasy within his work.

We have looked at Randall Flagg and Roland the Gunslinger. Now let us take a look at the object of their quest, the reason and purpose that drove them on. As with Frodo and the One Ring, there is in all epic fantasy an object of the quest, something or someone, which needs to be destroyed, protected, or confronted. It is this object, no matter what form it may take, that speaks to the very nature of the quest, the reason and the why.

When, as writers, we are set upon with the idea of a story, one of the first matters we must deal with is the object of the quest, the reason, i.e. the motive which will drive and define the characters and cause them to do what they do. Only by fully understanding the object can we better understand the internal forces of our characters.

The object of these quests can take on a huge variety of forms and reasons that the quest must be attempted. The hero is sent because he has lost something or he must gain something. They are sent in the hope that the hero will die in the attempt, whatever the reason behind the need for the quest, the one thing that always stands out in the motive, the reason and the why of the quest, i.e. the object of the quest.

In The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, we see that the talisman itself represents hundreds if not thousands of variations, one of them being a dark tower. Its changing nature shows clearly that as a part of the tower, it is perhaps the center to the strength of the tower or in the very least a key to access the tower. Here the object is the saving aspect of the quest, here also perhaps, is the object that by its removal from its place at the hub of existence causes, in some form, the greater quest which is Roland and Company. Please note: We do not even need to look at the chronological order if as stated in the DT series that the Tower is indeed beyond time.

The central aspect of both the DT series and the Talisman is this that the very nature of the world contains objects which can either heal or harm, and that these same objects must either be protected or destroyed, thus the very nature and reason for the quest. Roland saw the need for the quest while he gazed into one of the thirteen Wizard’s Rainbow, and saw the Dark Tower (it is these strange stones, some which allowed the gazer to see into the future, which were created by Maerlyn, who we now know is Randall Flagg.) If we carry this idea out to the elements of epic fantasy and with a broad canvas paint our story, we find that objects and motives are interchangeable to some large degree within the nature of Epic Fantasy.

The Tower becomes increasingly important as we examine how Stephen King went beyond simply mixing some genres together. We see the tower as pivotal in his greater work as the central point in which the struggle between Purpose and the Random, i.e. Good and Evil, turn. We see that beyond the clearly defined aspects of what is acceptable within the confines of a genre, we see that underlying scope which is part of storytelling, the struggle of good vs. evil, the rise of the warrior or the hero to meet the challenges that are laid before him due to the use or misuse of an object or even the motives behind that usage. While in no way can this statement be used in every situation, it is fundamental to the usage of the elements of the epic fantasy genre. It is from epic fantasy that many other genres either arise or borrow from. For example, “Star Wars” has sometimes been called a Western Soap Opera in space, but at its very heart is the telling of a story which is broad in scope with a clearly defined cast of heroes and villains, and an object to either control, use, or destroy, i.e. the Death Star. The journey of young Skywalker from an inexperienced boy to a learned warrior, i.e. Jedi Knight, is one of which the audience can relate and understand as being a journey of the heart as well as the mind.

Time and time again, throughout many of the ancient tomes which have been past down to us from our ancestors, it is the quest and various objects which become part of our everyday life and define to some degree how we see ourselves. Stephen King understands very well the use of objects and their shared importance to the story. King does not use an ancient knight upon a white horse as his central figure, but uses something that most Americans know and understand, an object from a period in time which has become romanticized by Hollywood and the retelling of those legends. King created the Gunslinger straight out of Americana and told it with enough strength that we easily believed, which of course is one of King’s gifts. His use of the Gunslinger as the wounded reluctant hero is a telling example of how an object can become something more to the reader then even the author can foresee. Roland is a strange mix of the ancient and the modern, a symbol of a time long past when the rest of the world has moved on. He is an arcane example of the importance of symbols in a quick, disposable world. King appears to knows this and this is his warning to us all. If we forget our past, we are doomed to repeat it. Roland begins all over again with a slight variation but his path back to the tower is one of self discovery and destiny. It is a fate that calls all of us to look deep within ourselves and see what Dark Towers await us. The object of the quest is often times, the object of what we desire most. The quest is our lives played out upon the journey to that object.

Thank you,

James D. Hahn
Seattle WA, 8-27-06

Friday, September 22, 2006

Review: _The Seven Towers_ by Patricia Wrede

A creature rises in the desert moving north toward the seven kingdoms, devouring all magic and life in its path. This is the main conflict driving The Seven Towers by Patricia Wrede. This is a fast paced book with plenty of action due to its setting, characters and plot, which makes it entertaining.

Setting gives the book a reality for the characters to resolve conflicts in. The setting of the consists of seven kingdoms made up of different cultures. Each kingdom has its own ruler and culture. Some have magic and accept its use, while others mistrust magic and its users. The kingdoms do not trust one another, which leads to court intrigue. In the south live the Hoven Thaler, a group of desert nomads that the kingdoms dislike. The author provides a realistic setting to tell her story.

The characters help to make the book entertaining. Several characters play a role in the story. Eltiron is an unsure prince dealing with a moody father and unlikable king’s advisor. Jermain is the former king’s advisor fleeing assassins and trying to understand how life went wrong for him. The enigmatic sorceress, Amberglass, frustrates people with her apparent meaningless talk, but hides a powerful side. Carachel the wizard king wants to destroy the devouring creature; his methods can be construed as evil by others. These and other characters intertwine in a plot with many things happening. Ms. Wrede creates entertaining characters without a lot of description, but through dialogue and action.

A plot with a lot of action keeps the book moving at a fast pace for a lot of entertainment. The book begins with Jermain trying to survive an attempt on his life by border guards. He is saved by Amberglass and spends several days at her tower. In the kingdom of Sevairn, prince Eltiron is told about his arranged marriage to Crystalorn. He does not trust his father’s advisor who is plotting against the throne. The other kingdoms prepare for battle against an invasion from the south while Carachel readies to destroy the Matholych, the life and magic consuming creature. Saving the kingdoms hinges on seven ancient towers of magic left by a dead wizard. Plot threads are deftly woven by Ms. Wrede for a fast paced, adventurous read.

The Seven Towers by Patricia Wrede is an entertaining Fantasy novel. It is a relatively short and a stand alone book. Setting, characters and plot come together in a fast paced story full of action and adventure mixed with some humor. readers looking for a quick read will appreciate Ms. Wrede’s enjoyable book.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Tower's Last Stand part 2 by James D. Hahn

The Dark Tower’s Last Stand
(Stephen King and Epic Fantasy)


James D. Hahn

Part two of a three part series

We have begun to see elements of epic fantasy showing up in many different genres around the literary world. This series will take a look specifically at the elements of EF within the confines of Stephen Kings’ writing and his use of epic fantasy within his work.

Roland is the last of the Gunslingers, the last hope not only for his world but for the whole of the multiverse which is tied to his quest for the Tower. Roland in the beginning was the hero, an anti-hero, or the villain of this work. Stephen King, himself has said that in the beginning that he was not sure which role Roland would play in the story. In the very first story about this unique character, he did wipe out an entire town and let his companion (Jake) fall to his second death. Not really the actions of the knight in shining armor, not typical action for the hero of the story.

Yet this was one of the main points within the Dark Tower stories that makes it
unique in the use of elements from Epic Fantasy. Within the confines of the Lord of the Rings, Frodo was a unique hero, an unlikely selection to rise up and face the greatest evil in the land. Frodo was just an everyday man, a commoner who was thrust upon the center stage in Middle Earth’s great struggle to finally escape the evil known as Sauron. None, save perhaps Gandalf, suspected the great inner strength within the race of the hobbits.

In time, Roland himself would show his great inner strength and come to love and care for his new companions even though he would once again have to make hard choices over the course of the DT series.

Roland begins as the last gunslinger, but creates companions who in time become gunslingers themselves and if he should fall in the course of his quest for the Dark Tower, they would press on to complete that quest.

Roland is a hero and an anti-hero. These labels make him much more of a
character that we can reach, understand, and either love or hate; it is what makes him one of the most vivid characters in the multitude of persons that Stephen King has created in his career.

The Gunslinger starts out with a single passage, perhaps one of the most interesting lines that King has ever written (spoiler alert); it is right and just that he use almost the same line to bring the epic to a close. The journey continues, the quest goes on, the horizon that we once thought we knew and understood, simply gave way to yet another vista, another distant horizon.

It is the object of the quest which forces Roland to go on that it is at the very center of his being, and he is forced by ‘Ka, fate, in other words. Much like Frodo and the ring he bears, the object must be destroyed or protected. This is the object of the quest and the reason that the story is being told. The hero must have a reason to rise up and to take a stand. This is one of the basic elements of epic fantasy. King does that very well in this story. He understands that nothing, friendship, loss, pain, suffering, nothing must stand in the way of the quest and Roland is a perfect example of all of this. He is not the perfect hero, he is flawed, much like Randall Flagg, it is these inherent flaws that makes us, the Constant Reader, come to understand him, relate to him, cheer for him, or dislike him as the central player in the Epic Fantasy. This is at the very heart of the story.

Roland is a perfect character because he is flawed. His manner is hardened by the past but there is always a glint of hope in him and the three that are drawn into his quest, come to understand the hardened person of the Gunslinger. They see the great love and passion that lies so deep within the cold steel shell of Roland; they understand that he does what he does not because he wants to but because he needs to. He must continue on the course that has been laid out before him because there is no other choice. If he does not, if they do not, then all will come to an end.

This brings us to the cause of the quest. For Roland and company, they understand that all things are tied to the Dark Tower and it must not fall. For Frodo and company, the ring must be destroyed or all will fall under the power of darkness. The choice is simple; it is the doing which is hard. The quest is the saga and the journey is what defines and redefines the characters, time and again.

Epic Fantasy is often thought of as a simple telling of a grand story. Epic Fantasy is really the telling of the human condition on a cosmic scale, even if the central character is not quite human. King’s ability of taking a simple scene and creating either the wonderful or horrific is due much to his understanding of the human condition and his natural storytelling ability. He does not try to work in the genre of epic fantasy, he works in the art of story telling and uses whatever devise that will tell his tale.

Roland begins and ends the saga alone, following a man in black across a barren wasteland in pursuit of a distant goal. The quest goes on. Frodo and Bilbo set sail across the Western Sea on another quest, seeking a place to rest at the end of their quests and wandering. There is a certain quality when the elements of epic fantasy are used. They bring out the noble and profane, the good and the bad, the sacrifice and the selfishness, all the parts of our human heart that we know but rarely speak about. They are close to who we believe we are as a person and as a people, and King understands this very well. Throughout the 90’s, King wrote about very human monsters. These themes, can in some degree, be found throughout most of his writings. King understands that we are both good and evil, that we all have the potential of being monsters or beings of mercy. King relates the human condition and the cosmic struggle with great ease because they are very close to one another. King and many who write in the genre of epic fantasy know that we are all on a journey of some kind, to some place other then here.

The journey for the reader ends with the last chapters of the saga but always there is that next horizon, that next dawning age will bring its own peace, its own war, its own quest. We journeyed with Frodo to the Crack of Doom; we walked with the Gunslinger on his way to the Dark Tower. We journey to work, school, home, and in our dreams. We are nomads of the heart and all have our Dark Tower, our Ring, our something which drives us onward.

Roland’s Dark Tower is about a flawed, wounded man seeking something that
will make him whole in a world that has moved on, a world not caring about those that it left behind. Roland makes his way in this strange shell of a world and because of that journey he has scars and wounds that might never heal. Roland is a pillar of strength at times and is also afraid to simply love because he knows the great price it is to love. Yet, without love or at least the hope of love, Roland knows that he could well become like Randall Flagg. Roland knows that like the quest for the Dark Tower, love is a journey of the heart and there are no easy choices in the matters of the heart.

The quest for anything is about the journey, which is a symbol for the journey
which all of us are on, this thing called life. The object of the quest is where the heart of the hero and the villain conflict and wars arise. It is the conflicts, which arises and calls all of us to pick a side and to take a stand, even if it is our final stand.

James D. Hahn
Seattle WA 8-2-06

Friday, August 25, 2006

David Gemmell

Fantasy author David Gemmell died in his home last month after heart surgery. He was an excellent writer. I love his books. This week I’m sharing the revised article about him that I wrote.

"I would always rather live in the reality. But like most romantics I believe in the values the legends teach. Love, courage, redemption and forgiveness are values to be cherished." (David Gemmell, 1998) David Gemmell is a popular Fantasy author that imbues these themes in all of his books. He writes Historical and Epic Fantasy filled with interesting characters, a lot of action, vivid settings and adventure. His memorable Fantasy worlds range from the magical past of Alexander the Great to the world of the Drenai. Readers will find his books very entertaining and find the embodiment of the values he believes Fantasy can teach.

The Drenai world is Mr. Gemmell’s most popular series. These books tell the story of the Drenai, a culture of people that have become decadent, but still have some noble warriors to defend it. Legend (see previous review of this book) began the story of Druss, an expert warrior with the axe. It tells the story of a fortress defended by small numbers against an overwhelming force. Druss is one of Mr. Gemmell’s most popular characters. The next book in the Drenai Saga is The King Beyond the Gate. It introduces the character of Tenaka Kahn, a young man scorned for being half Drenai and half Nadir. He must struggle with the prejudice to gain the respect of some Drenai heroes in order to save the land from a mad emperor. These are just two of the books in a long series. All the books are packed with action and adventure. (Please check out the list of books at the end of this article for more in the series.)

Another series by Mr. Gemmell are the Sipstrassi tales. They are actually two related series. The Stones of Power series is comprised of The Ghost King and The Last Sword of Power. It is set in Britain during the Dark Ages. The books are a sort of Arthurian tale about immortals who wield the power of the Sipstrassi stones, fragments of a meteor from Atlantis. These immortals wage a war against the powers of darkness. Jon Shannow is the main character of the Jerusalem Man sequence set in a post apocalyptic future. He searches for legendary Jerusalem in a ravaged world as a servant of the secret Sipstrassi masters to get rid of evil. This series consists of Wolf in Shadow, The Last Guardian, and Blood Stone. These are entertaining books done in Mr. Gemmell’s highly effective action style.

One of Mr. Gemmell’s stand alone books is The Knights of Dark Renown. This is the story of a group of knights that disappeared through a magic gate. Manannan is the one left behind because he feared to go through the gate with them. In the years since the others left, the kingdom has begun to fall apart. A dark magic stalks the land. The troubled Manannan must conquer his fears and go through the gate to find his fellow knights. Mr. Gemmell writes a richly detailed book with a dark edge.

Taking place in ancient Greece before the birth of Alexander, Lion of Macedon portrays the story of the half Spartan boy Parmenion. The seeress Tamis helps Parmenion to grow up to be Greece’s greatest mercenary soldier. He eventually finds service with Phillip of Macedon. Parmenion must battle the Dark God to save Alexander’s soul. Dark Prince continues the story of Parmenion as he combats with a spirit of chaos within Alexander to maintain peace in Greece. He is helped by the seeress Derae in this battle. Ancient Greece is brought to life by Mr. Gemmell with vivid scenes of battle and strange magics.

Mr. Gemmell’s other series published in the United States are the tales of the Rigante. The Rigante are a people that live in a rich, verdant, mountainous country. They defend their lands fiercely. The Sword in the Storm is the first book of the series. This is the story of the young warrior Connavar. He is gifted with a sword from the magical Seidh to save his people from an invading army. Other books in this series cover other stories of the Rigante people at various points in their history.

His most recent book is Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow, book one of a new trilogy. Aeneas is a warrior that allies with Troy. He is also known as the Golden One and Helikaon, feared by many. He meets the former priestess Andromache and has an enemy in the Greek warrior Argurios. Mr. Gemmell brings the stories of these three minor players in the Trojan War to life in an exciting new book. The author weaves Greek and Roman mythology into the beginning of an interesting new Historical Fantasy.

David Gemmell is a talented Fantasy author who provides entertaining books of action and adventure. He is a prolific author, giving readers new entertaining books on a regular basis. His beliefs in heroic values come through in his unique characters like Druss, Waylander and Jon Shannow. Mr. Gemmell has many other books not discussed in this article, but more information can be found at about the author and his books. Try any one of his books and you will be drawn into a world of adventure. Regrettably his passing will leave a big hole in the genre.

Other Drenai Saga books:


Quest for Lost Heroes

In the Realm of the Wolf

The Legend of Deathwalker

Winter Warriors

Druss the Legend

Hero in the Shadows

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Book Review: _Legend_ by David Gemmell

A strong old man dressed in black with axe in hand stands on the battlements fighting a horde of invaders. This is one of the exciting scenes to be found in the entertaining Adventure Fantasy Legend by David Gemmell. If you are looking for a story full of action, heroes and a little romance, this book has it all. It has a compelling plot, heroic characters and a realistic setting.[legend.gif]

Mr. Gemmell is a deft creator of compelling plots. The book moves through the story with plenty of action. Dros Delnoch is a fortress guarding the Drenai empire from the Nadir tribes. It is undermanned and those who must defend the fortress face a hopeless battle. No one expects to survive the futile battle. Into this plot enters characters that must fight this battle. Some are legends, some are inexperienced and many are hopeless. This premise allows for a suspenseful build up to a stunning battle, the stuff good Epic Fantasies possess.

The characters become more realistic and heroic with the growing plot. Druss is an old, but legendary warrior. He is the Legend of the book’s title that inspires others to greater feats of bravery. Rek is a young, disillusioned warrior with no interest in fighting lost causes. He meets Virae, the earl’s daughter, and finds new courage in love. The Thirty are an interesting group of priests as spiritual warriors. Other characters add to the story. Mr. Gemmell brings his many characters to life through dialogue and action.

Lastly, plot and characters need a setting to play the story out. The formidable fortress of Dros Delnoch stands across a mountain pass, blocking the invading Nadir. It has six walls that form the battle lines. Each time a wall is lost, the remaining defenders fall back to the next wall to fight to the last man. The author’s descriptions of battle in this setting give it a realistic feel. Readers will find themselves running to the next wall along with the characters.

Legend by David Gemmell is a very entertaining Fantasy book. The compelling plot, heroic characters and realistic setting keeps the book moving at a fast pace. Readers will find this book hard to put down. Those who like a lot of action and heroic deeds will find a lot of things to like in this book. Mr. Gemmell is an excellent writer of Adventure Fantasy. You might want to seek out his other books too if you like this one. I know I will.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Review: _Storm Front_ by Jim Butcher

Looking for an entertaining book with magic, action and mystery for the summer? Storm Front by Jim Butcher fulfills these requirements completely. This is an Urban Fantasy set in Chicago and is the first book of the “Harry Dresden” series. The book is entertaining through a mixture of cross genre elements, characters and plot.

Mr. Butcher mixes elements from different genres to create an entertaining story. First, the books has elements of urban fantasy. The story takes place in modern day Chicago where magic exists along with creatures like fairies and vampires from the beyond. Next, the author sues elements from mystery novels with private detectives. This mixture works well and makes a good story with a wry sense of humor. The author demonstrates this with his characters.

Harry Dresden is a private investigator and wizard who practices openly in the city. He lives with a doom over his head due to mistrust by his fellow wizards. Honest and practical, Harry works as a consultant for the police, trading cynical dialogue with a woman cop named Murphy. She is the head of a department that deals with supernatural crimes. Harry has other friends and enemies throughout the book. Told in the first person point of view of Harry, Mr. Butcher brings his characters to life for the reader.

Finally, the plot is a tight mystery that keeps readers hooked until the end. Harry Dresden is called in by the police for help on a gruesome double murder. He must find out if the crime was done by magic. Also, he gets a client asking him to find her missing husband. Both of these cases bring Harry into danger by dealing with organized crime bosses, dangerous vampires and other obstacles in order to solve his cases and get money to pay his bills. The author moves the story at a fast pace with good descriptions of magic in our world

Storm Front by Jim Butcher is a fun book for a summer read. It has mystery, action and magic. The mixing of genres, wry characters and a fast paced plot make the book entertaining for an Urban Fantasy set in Chicago. The first book of a series is great entertainment. One of the cable tv channels is going to make a series from these books. That should be fun too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Missing Fantasy Author Treasure: Teresa Edgerton

Teresa Edgerton is a missing treasure of the Fantasy genre. She is an author of wonderful talent, able to bring her created worlds alive with vivid descriptions, sympathetic characters and tight, adventurous plots. She has written nine books and a number of short stories. Her works range from Celtic Fantasy to urban creations of an early industrial age. All of her books are worthwhile reading.

Ms. Edgerton began her career with the "Green Lion" trilogy. In 1989, Child of Saturn started started her Celtic Fantasy about knights and sorceresses trying to protect their kingdom from destruction. Ceilyn is a knight bound by his honor, struggling to maintain his knightly ideals while being a shape shifter. Teleri is a young, inexperienced sorceress who must grow in her talent. Together with other characters, they search the kingdom to find and return an important item to the King. Ms. Edgerton weaves Celtic elements into this powerful trilogy. The Moon in Hiding and The Work of the Sun completes this trilogy.

In the next trilogy, the author returns to her world again to tell the story of another woman sorceress. Gwenlliant, a young bride, must battle against a group of dangerous women sorceresses bent on destroying her husband's kingdom. In addition, she must overcome her personal troubles of being an outsider to her husband's people. Gwenlliant's interesting story is told in The Castle of the Silver Wheel, The Grail and the Ring and The Moon and the Thorn.

The author created an intriguing world for the "Goblin" duology. These books take place in a world during an Industrial revolution. In this world, dwarves are the merchant class while the goblins and gnomes have different guilds. Goblin Moon and The Gnome's Engine are full of adventure, intrigue and fun. They are a creative touch to a different time period than the standard Medieval era.

The Queen's Necklace takes place in a world that was once ruled by goblins. Humans rebelled and took back their freedom. They still use the magical things of the goblins with dire consequences. Also, the Maglore, remember they they once ruled over everything and desire power back. This is a complex book with a dark edge full of adventure, intrigue and romance.

Recently, Ms. Edgerton has reappeared under the pen name Madeline Howard. She has begun the new “Rune of Unmaking” trilogy with The Hidden Stars. The book takes place in a world where an evil empress takes control. She has twelve priests that ride to kingdoms, destroying them. Prophecy tells of a person that will be born to save the world from the empress. It is an interesting beginning of a new series.

Ms. Edgerton is a talented Fantasy author of books with good plots and vivid Fantasy worlds. She is a missing treasure of the genre with most of her books out of print. They are worth finding and reading.

Teresa Edgerton's home pages are at: and

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Dark Tower's Last Stand

This is a guest article by a friend.

The Dark Tower’s Last Stand
(Stephen King and Epic Fantasy)


James D. Hahn

Part one of a three part series

We have begun to see elements of epic fantasy showing up in
many different genres around the literary world. This series will take
a look specifically at the elements of Epic Fantasy within the confines of Stephen King’s writing and his use of epic fantasy within his work.

“ am coming to understand that Roland’s world actually contains all the
others of my making.” Stephen King (The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass)

Some simply know him as the King of Horror, a household name in the genre of the dark and terrifying. Yet, Stephen King has become much more then that, he is now being compared to the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and other legends of great literature and rightfully so. He is one of the greatest writers of this generation and only time will tell his full impact upon the field of classic literature. Now, with the final book of the Dark Tower Series completed, we, the Constant Reader, can look back over the scope of his work, and begin to see the completion of a universe unlike anything else imaged in the scope of ancient or modern writers. His stories have held us spellbound and captivated for thousands of pages. Year in and year out, he has topped the best sellers list like no other writer has ever done before. It would be enough to simply say that he is a great writer, but there is something more here then simply the telling of a great story. We have now seen the storyteller become the legend.

The Dark Tower series is in and of itself a classic story; it is a blending of old western, sci-fi, epic fantasy, romance, action-adventure, and perhaps another half dozen genres mixed together and placed carefully on a broad canvas. It has something for everyone and if the story is to be believed, it is about everyone and everything. It is in the most simplest of terms, a tale about good and evil and those caught in that struggle. It is perhaps his greatest work, it is at the very least one of his finest works.

We do not yet know the full impact that Stephen King will have upon publishing and storytelling in general; he has proven to be very unique in the world of the written word. Only time will tell his full tale.

It is the epic scope and techniques of Stephen King’s works such as the Dark Tower series that I would wish to examine in this series of articles. I believe that by looking at the arching storylines of his novels as a whole we might gain some understanding of how the work of Epic Fantasy can be made more accessible to both the casual reader and the serious fan of the genre.

By setting his horror in the everyday and allowing the normal to become the supernormal, the reader is brought along with the characters of the story as the events, however bizarre unfold. This allows the reader to greatly identify with the characters and to make that all important emotional attachment to the character as a person.

While this is not always possible in the setting of most epic fantasies there are still common components which can allow for this emotional connection. The making of a meal, the longing for a loved one far away, the simple act of saving another person’s life can cause the reader to identify with the motives and see the character as a hero or heroine more easily. The smallest tasks preformed by the characters can have greater meaning later on in the story, like a ripple in a still pond.

I would at first like to examine just one of the main characters found in many of Stephen King’s novels. I would want to take this time to see how a well developed character can take on a life of his own and at times, even haunt the author. Of course I am speaking of none other then, The Walking Dude, himself, Randall Flagg. Now if you were to jump online and do a search of the Walking Dude, you will find a great wealth of information. I know because I did just that and found a long entry about him on, ( and several other sites talking about his role within the battle between good and evil. He is a powerful player on the chess board of the Dark Tower series and throughout the other novels tied to this series. In all his various guises, his various names, his cold-hearted nature, he is a character we love to hate; we love to read about, we would love to see him destroyed, well? at least after one more story, another book. All things must come to some kind of end. But, Flagg as a character had staying power, a presence about him that could not be denied by anyone even his creator, Stephen King. Flagg became a symbol for many of King’s fans, they began to see him in places where he was not, and this was a major part of the mystique that formed around Flagg as a character. Even though he was the incarnation of evil, he was fatally flawed and most Constant Readers of Stephen King could at some level sense that flaw about this remarkable character. It is because we could see that flaw within him, we could identify with him, it is like the car wreck on the freeway, you don’t want to look into the horror of the crash but something within us wants us to look. The struggle between the duality of our nature, the purpose and the random, i.e. the good and the evil, is within all of us. Flagg became that symbol of the darkness within all of us, the Constant Readers, it is why Flagg was our favorite villain, why we hated him but loved to read about him and began to see him everywhere.

The rise and long life of Flagg until his strange death at the hands of Mordred Deschain, Roland’s own bastard son, shows the staying power of a well developed character in the hands of a writer who allows that character to tell his own tale within the confines of the larger story. There were many fans who felt that Flagg needed a better final ending. A showdown between Rowland and Flagg would seem fitting. But Stephen
King went another way, taught us all a brief lesson in how the world does not play fair, even with Flagg. This flawed character; he lied and cast illusions, then lost his tongue and then his eyes in that final bloody scene. Perhaps this was a fitting end to his reign of terror; perhaps there was a purpose to that horrific scene. Either way, King wrote what he saw and the quest for the tower ended for Randall but continued on for our hero, Rowland. Randall Flagg is a perfect example of how a character can take on a life and almost a will of their own and become something more then what was originally foreseen for them. Within Epic Fantasy we must learn to give time to each character to find their voice, find their way, to say what they need to say. We do not know the full telling of the story of the Dark Tower, there are still gaps that Stephen King, may or may not, fill us in on. It is rumored that there may be a forthcoming third Talisman book, but this
may not happen. It has been suggested that it was the story of the Talisman which set the events within the Dark Tower in motion. When
young Jack Sawyer takes the Talisman in order to save his mother’s life,
he may have allowed the Crimson King’s plan to destroy the tower to
manifest; even perhaps the vile Crimson King caused the cancer in the first place since he does enjoy causing chaos in various degrees. If this proposed theory, which is found in the book, _The Stephen King Universe*_ is true, it explains much, but still, King leaves the reader with questions to ponder and perhaps that is the best. That we alone work out the finer points of our understanding of this great struggle between good and evil, or as Stephen King would say, between the Purpose and the Random. Is that not the real reason behind such heroic works, to cause the listener, the reader, to ponder the deeper things of this world, this life, what is beyond? I do believe it is.

James D. Hahn
June 22, 2006
Seattle WA

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Review: _Stoneskin's Revenge_ by Tom Deitz

When a murderous creature from another world follows some people back to ours, it is up to Calvin McIntosh to confront the creature and save his friends from it. This is the beginning of Stoneskin’s Revenge by Tom Deitz. The book’s realistic setting, likable characters and fast paced plot makes the book an entertaining read.

The author sets the story in a small town of rural Georgia. Readers see the aspects of small town life up against a supernatural creature. There are woods, rivers and tree plantations with many local animals and plants. Mr. Deitz’s realistic setting grounds the reader in the present that creates a backdrop for the frightening monster. There is a strong sense of place established by the author’s vivid descriptions, which heightens the characters’ experiences.

Characters in the book are likable and have various problems. Calvin McIntosh is the main character. He is a young Cherokee with magical talents. His magic makes him feel responsible for the events happening in the book and he must overcome guilt to save people with his growing new skills. Don Scott is a young boy dealing with loss from the monster. Robyn and her brother Brock adds another set of troubled young people with strong personalities. Spearfinger is the sinister liver eating creature from Native American mythology, which has some interesting quirks of her own. These characters come together in an interesting plot.

Finally, the fast paced plot keeps readers’ attention throughout the book. Calvin camps in the woods near a small town to get his thoughts straight from a previous adventure. He is unaware that Spearfinger followed him to Georgia. She begins killing victims for their livers and frames Calvin for the murders. Trying to stay clear of the police, he meets the runaways and Don in the woods. Once he discovers the truth, Calvin must save the world from Spearfinger’s hunger. Mr. Deitz keeps the plot tight and flowing for a fast pace of suspenseful adventure.

Stoneskin’s Revenge by Tom Deitz is an entertaining Contemporary Fantasy novel. It is a nice addition to an ongoing series due to its realistic setting, likable characters and a fast paced plot. Mr. Deitz mixes modern day Georgia with magical elements to provide interesting stories with effective senses of wonder. Coupled with plenty of adventure and action, his books are fast reads for the summer.

Review: _Queen of Demons_ by David Drake

Readers look for something different in the large subgenre of Epic Fantasy. There are many books to choose from in an array of authors. David Drake is an author with military expertise that he uses in many of his books to make them more realistic. His current Fantasy series is “Lord of the Isles.” Queen of Demons is the second book in the series. The book is an entertaining, adventurous read due to its setting, characters and plot.

Mr. Drake sets his series in a world made up of many different islands, large and small. The islands are ruled by separate rulers and have different cultures on them. In the past, the islands were united by one ruler but it sundered after a magic cataclysm a thousand years before the present. Using elements of Sumerian mythology, the author provides an interesting world in political and magical conflict. There are vivid descriptions of the setting that brings the world to life. Mr. Drake’s setting gives the characters a place in this world they need to find their way through during their difficulties.

The book revolves around four main characters. They are from the sheep herding island of Haft. Garric has the job of becoming the next King of the Isles thrust on him by an ancestor king who resides in his mind. He is unsure of himself and feels unqualified for the job. Cashel is Garric’s best friend, a large man with a strong magic talent. He does not believe in his abilities. Cashel’s sister, Ilna, has the powerful magic of weaving and seeing patterns. She struggles under a powerful feeling of guilt over things she has done. Sharina is Garric’s sister who endeavors to find herself. These four young people have magical help and advice from the ancient sorceress Tenoctris. Other peripheral characters help them, hinder them and advance the story.

In the end, the plot holds reader’s attention through a long book. Garric and some of his companions leave for the island where the current king lives while Ilna stays behind to make restitution for past crimes. They are unaware of the queen’s schemes against them. Eventually, they are split up the the different sup-plots, some traveling in different worlds. They must rejoin reach other in their quest to save the world from the queen and a beastly god. Mr. Drake keeps the story going with descriptions of interesting magics and strange worlds.

Queen of Demons by David Drake is an entertaining book of the “Lord of the Isles” series. Setting, characters and plot weave together for an interesting Epic Fantasy with adventure and intrigue. Mr. Drake creates a detailed story that keeps readers hooked until the end.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tom Deitz

A part of rural Georgia has mysterious golden tracks leading to other worlds, propelling young people into fantastic battles with magical beings. In the near future, humans and Selkies fight shapeshifting whales out to destroy humanity. Tom Deitz is the Fantasy author of some of these scenarios. He writes Epic and Urban Fantasy set in the South where magic impinges on reality. Other books are about the near future. His books are full of adventure with strong plots, realistic characters and powerful themes.

Windmaster's Bane is the first book in the series introducing David Sullivan and his friends. David lives in a rural section of Georgia with his family. He discovers he possesses Second Sight. One night, David and his younger brother see the Sidhe riding along the track near their home. This starts the first encounter with the magical creatures of Fairy. Subsequent books mix Native American fantastic elements with Celtic to create further adventures for David and his companions. The rest of the books in the series are: Fireshaper's Doom, Darkthunder's Way, Sunshaker's War, Stoneskin's Revenge, Ghostcountry's Wrath, Dreamseeker's Road, Landslayer's Law, and Warstalker's Track.

Deitz's next series is the "Soulsmith" trilogy. This series tells the story of a group of people with strange powers. Set in the South again, the "Soulsmith" series is told in the books: Soulsmith, Dreambuilder and Wordwright.

The next two books are Science Fantasy. They take place in a near future Earth. Selkies and other magic creatures ally with humans to fight against shapeshifting whales. The whales want to destroy humanity because of the destruction of the environment by man. Above the Lower Sky and Demons in the Green are the two books in this series.

The Gryphon King is a stand alone novel. It is about some students at a college. They raise Satan during a mummers play. The students must fight to get rid of Satan. This is one of his interesting Urban Fantasy novels.

His newest work is Bloodwinter. This is an Epic Fantasy and the start of a new series. In this book, two kingdoms fight for survival in a vicious winter. Characters in the book discover a gem with supernatural powers that drinks blood. They are drawn on a quest that may start a war between the two kingdoms. The book ends in a cliffhanger with lots of loose ends for the next book. This is a different subgenre for Deitz, but one he fulfills nicely.

Tom Deitz is a Fantasy author with a great imagination. He creates detailed books with a realistic edge and strong sense of wonder. His realistic characters, interesting plots and contemporary settings combine into thought provoking explorations of Fantasy worlds. Readers will enjoy their journeys through Deitz's books.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Review: _Redeeming the Lost_ by Elizabeth Kerner

Dragons are a staple of the Fantasy genre. These creatures appear as voracious monsters or intelligent beings of good and evil, depending on their portrayals in books. Fantasy author Elizabeth Kerner writes an interesting series about the relationships between humans and dragons. Redeeming the Lost is the third book of a trilogy concluding the story of Lanen Kaelar and the dragon king Akor. The book’s characters, magic system and plot makes it an exciting book of adventure for readers.

Books need characters that are likable for readers to care about. Lanen Kaelar is a young woman pregnant with twins. She undergoes several trials that help her grow throughout the book in love and reconciliation. Akor is a dragon now called Varien in his human form who struggles with learning to be a human and trying to help his people as a bridge between dragons and humans. Deeply in love with his wife, he must overcome doubts for success. The dragons are interesting characters too. Shrikrar is the eldest of dragons. Large and dangerous looking, his is a kind creature capable of love as well as fierceness.

Next, the magical system plays a significant role in keeping the book exciting. Mages in this world are healers with magic only for healing. Those who want greater power become demon masters, corrupting the healing magic. They rely on demons to provide service and power. Dragons are the natural enemies of demons with the ability to destroy them. Magic and nature is held by a goddess who manifests once in a while at extreme moments. Ms. Kerner creates an interesting magic system that moves along the plot.

The strongest part of the book is the plot due to its tightly woven action. Ms. Kerner uses multiple character viewpoints to give the plot events more immediacy. In the beginning, Lanen is a prisoner of the demon master Berys. Her father Marik plans to give his daughter Lanen’s soul to demons in repayment for a past transaction. Pregnant, Lanen despairs of escaping but must rely on her husband, friends and dragons for help. Later, all the characters must fight the Demon Lord summoned by Berys to destroy all dragons. Events come rapidly, keeping the reader involved in the action until the satisfying ending.

Redeeming the Lost by Elizabeth Kerner is a forceful conclusion of a Fantasy trilogy. The author creates an exciting book of adventure through its characters, magical system and plot. She brings a fantasy world to life with the interactions between humans and dragons. Her themes give the story a poignant touch to an entertaining book that readers will enjoy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Review: _Lady of the Trillium_ by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Several years ago three prominent Fantasy authors collaborated on a novel.Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Julian May wrote Black Trillium.It was the story of triplet princesses saving their world from a dangeroussorcerer. Later, each author wrote stand alone books in the same world tellingthe further stories of their characters. Lady of the Trillium by MarionZimmer Bradley is the story of Haramis the Archimage and her apprentice.Interesting characters, a descriptive setting and a fast moving plot makethe book an entertaining read.

First, the books’s interesting charactersdraws readers into the story. Mikayla is a younger daughter of a large royalfamily. She is mostly ignored and forgotten by her family with only her friendFiolon as a companion. Interested in technology, she has an insatiable penchantfor getting into trouble. Haramis is the two hundred year old Archimage ofRuwenda, needing to choose her successor. She is stubborn and strong wiled,but wants Mikayla to learn magic to be prepared before she takes over herduties. The two women clash on many levels that gives the story conflict.Other characters help these women grow throughout the story. Fiolon is Mikayla’sfriend and conscience. The harp Uzun is the long time advisor and friendof Haramis. Ms. Bradley creates sympathetic characters that readers can likeand follow through the story.

Next, the descriptive setting of thebook brings the book to life. Ruwenda is a land of swamps and snowy mountains.There are diverse creatures such as giant intelligent lammergier birds andthe different intelligent beings that inhabit the marshes. The magic of theland is tied into one person. An archimage senses how the land of Ruwendafairs in order to act to protect it. Ms. Bradley’s writing style presentsthe setting in a vivid clear prose.

Finally it is the fast movingplot keeps the book entertaining for readers. Haramis is frightened by adream to choose her successor for the new Archimage. She picks Mikayla andtakes her unwilling to her tower in the snowy mountains of the north. Mikayladoes not not want to be a mage. Their relationship becomes one of a testof wills. As the years pass, Mikayla experiences several events that changeher while Haramis has problems. When a crisis looms, both women must makechoices in order to save Ruwenda. The author is an expert in melding severalplot threads into an exciting whole.

Lady of the Trillium byMarion Zimmer Bradley is an entertaining book about the coming-of-age ofa young mage. The interesting characters, descriptive setting and a fastmoving plot keeps readers hooked into the book until the end. Ms. Bradleyadded an interesting story to the loosely connected Trillium series begun by three masters of the Fantasy genre.

Monday, April 10, 2006

_Crossroads_ edited by Mercedes Lackey

Crossroads are places of change where decisions are made that can change courses of people’s lives. Mercedes Lackey presents many stories of change in the anthology she edited called Crossroads & Other Tales of Valdemar. This is the third anthology set in Lackey’s world of Valdemar with its Heralds and Companions. Various authors explore different parts of Valdemar with entertaining stories that readers will enjoy.

The anthology opens with “Transmutation” by Larry Dixon. This is the story of people trying to save a gryphon. With a revolt causing war in Valdemar, Kelvren the gryphon is wounded. Housed with a fatally wounded soldier, Kelvren uses all his magic to save the human, which leaves him dying. A young boy and various other characters try to save his life by restoring his magic. Mr. Dixon creates an entertaining story with strong characters and an engaging plot.

“Death in Keenspur House” by Richard Lee Byers is a mystery fantasy. Selden is called to the house of Lord Baltes Keenspur to solve a murder. A guard is killed prior to a wedding and Selden tries to solve who did the crime. The house mage Tregan states that magic was not involved. Selden treads a fine line in a city filled with feuding factions that would end with the marriage of rival houses. The author weaves together an intriguing story of magic and action that readers can enjoy.

Fiona Patton explores the story of the last survivors of a hunter clan. “The Blue Coat” tells the story of Treyill. He is a shaman and must learn to accept his powers to save his brother, cousin and people form bandits. Treyill must interpret his shamanic dreams though he fears his power. This is an interesting story story brought to life by a talented author.

“Finding Elvida” by Mickey Zucker Reichert is a Herald story. IT begins with young Elvida and her two friends attacked by a small army of attackers. Elvida is left alone to defend a fallen Herald and her own Companion. She does not know what her powers are to save her friends and must struggle against great odds. Ms. Reichert provides readers with an appealing story of adventure.

Ms. Lackey gives fans a new Tarma and Kethry story with “Landscape of the Imagination.” The companions must leave a boring kingdom full of laws to help a woman in need in the wilderness. In the dangerous forest, they come across the sorceress Nanca. She hires them for help with a contest she has against a rival colleague. Readers will like the new story of these popular characters of Valdemar.

Crossroads & Other Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey is a new anthology set in her world of Valdemar. Many authors contribute stories about different parts of Lackey’s world. The stories are entertaining with interesting characters and plots. Readers will find many stories to enjoy in this anthology.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Dark Fantasy

There are many subgenres within the Fantasy genre. Dark Fantasy is a small, but growing one. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy defines Dark Fantasy as a story that incorporates a sense of horror but is clearly fantasy(1). This definition does not include the supernatural or magic, but should. A book should have a fantasy element to come under this category. Dark Fantasy is growing because readers like stories with a dark edge or that scare them. Many authors have written good books that fall under this subgenre.

Some of Mercedes Lackey's titles come under this category. Her books about the romance writer and magic user Diana Tregarde and her partner, a vampire named Andre LeBrel have provided interesting tales. Children of the Night tells about how these characters meet and fight a psychic vampire. In Burning Water, Diana Tregarde combats a manifestation of Aztec magic. Jinx High takes place in a high school, combating a vicious teenage witch. Unfortunately for readers, there will not be any more of these books.

The fantasy novel, A Cavern of Black Ice, by J.V. Jones can be in this sub-genre as well as Epic Fantasy. This book is full of dark images and magic. The main character can kill by making heart shots with complete accuracy. There are brutal assassins and vile, evil characters. A Fortress of Grey Ice is the second book of the trilogy with more of the dark story unfolding.

Resurrection Man by Sean Stewart is a Dark Fantasy with its tale of spiders, dissections, open graves and such. It takes place in an alternate reality where angels and demons wage war in our time. There are many scenes on the edge of gruesome horror. It is a novel not to be missed.

British author Tanith Lee writes many books in this sub-genre. The Secret Books of Paradys are set in a huge city like Paris but full of demons and other nasty creatures. The Blood Opera is about a woman who undergoes torture in a hidden mansion in this tale of vampires. Many of Ms. Lee's short stories are very dark and scary.

Christopher Golden is an author of several books in this subgenre. One of his frightening books is Wildwood Road. One Halloween eve, Michael is driving home from a party and nearly hits a little girl. She draws him to a house filled with mystery. In the weeks that follow, Michael's life is turned upside down with terror from the supernatural. This is one of the many suspenseful books from this author of dark stories.

The books discussed above are just a few of the many available in this subgenre. In this modern day of cynicism there are a lot of authors who are infusing their works with frightening images and darkness. Readers feeling a need for something different, can check out Dark Fantasy for a touch of horror and fright.


(1) Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant

Friday, March 10, 2006

Review: _The Myth Hunters_ by Christopher Golden

A man sits in the parlor of his home reading a book while a blizzard rages outside. He looks up to see a face of ice in the window. Glass shatters and the man finds himself pulled into a fight between rival supernatural creatures. The Myth Hunters by Christopher Golden is a Dark Fantasy tale with elements of myth mixed in it. An imaginative setting, gripping plot and memorable characters makes the book an exciting read.

The author creates an imaginative setting for the book. Maine, London and a Scottish island village are the prominent parts of the modern world where strange events occur. Mr. Golden juxtaposes this with his world of the Veil. That world is where all the magical beings retreated behind a magical barrier so they cannot mix with our world. Consisting of two kingdoms, the Veil world is inhabited by gods, mythical creatures, demons, humans, etc. A strong sense of reality is fostered by the author’s vivid descriptions.

Next, the author provides a gripping plot that creates a suspenseful book of adventure. On the eve of his wedding, Oliver Bascombe is having misgivings about his marriage when he meets Jack Frost. While helping the wounded ice man, they are attacked by the Falconer, a myth hunter from the Veil world. Frost takes Oliver across the Veil with him to save their lives. Oliver now finds himself in a world of magic where he is considered an intruder, subject to execution. He also finds out that Frost belongs to the Borderkind, beings able to cross the Veil border at will. Someone has set hunters on the Borderkind to eliminate all of them This plot is kept at a fast pace my Mr. Golden with tense action and dark elements.

Finally, the memorable characters in the book keeps it exciting. Oliver Bascombe wanted to be an actor but became a lawyer due to his overbearing father. His only comfort is his sister Collette. He finds himself in dangerous situations as he deals with the world of the Veil and trying to save his sister’s life. These events change him, causing Oliver to grow. The myth characters are memorable too. Kitsune the fox woman teaches Oliver wisdom and courage. Jack Frost inspires friendship by his loyalty to help Oliver despite wanting to stop the murders of his fellow Borderkind. The Sandman is a creepy, dark character who victimizes children in a horrible way. Mr. Golden creates strong characters with flaws that leaves them in readers’ memories after the book is finished.

The Myth Hunters by Christopher Golden is an entertaining Dark Fantasy. Suspense builds in the book through its imaginative setting, gripping plot and memorable characters, making the book an exciting read. First book of a trilogy, it will be followed by The Borderkind. Readers will be anxious for the continuation of the story. Hope we do not have long to wait.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Review: _Spirits in the Wires_ by Charles de Lint

Spirits, pushed out of the real world, take up residence in cyberspace. This creates havoc for people. Spirits in the Wiresby Charles de Lint is an Urban Fantasy novel set in the fictional city ofNewford where magic exists in the modern world. Mr. de Lint creates an entertainingbook with a fantastical reality through his setting, characters and plot.

Settingcan be a powerful role in a book that evokes a strong sense of wonder. Theauthor creates it in this book with his city of Newford, the borderlandsand cyberspace. Newford has appeared in previous books and is familiar toto previous readers, but new people will find the city familiar
becauseof the author’s descriptions. Vivid descriptions also bring the cyberspaceworld and border lands to life, making them seem like they really exist.Characters become affected by the setting.

This book has an ensemblecast of characters that provide different perspectives on the events of thebook and make the story interesting. It starts out with Saskia meeting Christiana.she struggles to figure out her identity because of a lack of memories. Christianais a cast off shadow of Christy, Saskia’s boyfriend. She has grown sincebeing cast off and continues to be a free spirited element of the book. Hollyowns a bookstore, sharing it with her magical brownie partner Dick who becomesdrawn into danger due to her friendships with others. Magical characterslike the tinker Bojo and Robert gives the book a strong flavor of magic.Mr. de Lint makes his characters realistic through dialogue and reactionsof his characters.

In the end, it is the plot that keeps readers hooked.The book reviewer Aaron wants revenge on the people that do not like him.He gets a computer expert to sabotage the web site called the Wordwood, visitedby many people. Unaware that the site is inhabited by a spirit, Aaron setsoff the
disappearance of several people as the spirit strikes back fromthe attack. Christy, his shadow Chrisitana and others must venture into theborder lands to rescue their loved ones and confront the spirit. Mr. de Lintwrites a tight plot that makes the book hard for readers to put the bookdown for any length of time.

Spirits in the Wires by Charlesde Lint is a superb, entertaining book of urban fantasy. A powerful senseof a fantastical reality is brought about in the book through its setting,characters and plot. Mr. de Lint is a master of mythical urban fantasy. Thislatest book, set in the fictional
city of Newford adds another engaging story to Charles de Lint’s impressive list of books.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Review: _Alphabet of Thorn_ by Patricia McKillip

Words have power. A book written in the shape of thorns endangers a large kingdom at a time of changes. This is the premise of Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip. The book is a powerful novel by a master of the Fantasy genre with its descriptive setting, intriguing characters and tight plot.

Ms. McKillip provides a descriptive setting that makes the book powerful. Readers learn of the kingdom of Raine, which is made up of twelve smaller kingdoms or crowns. The first crown has its huge castle on a cliff on the edge of the sea. Towers overlook the sea while a huge library extends into the depths of the cliff below the castle where the transcribers live. A large plain stretches from the castle to the forest. In the forest is hidden the Floating City of mages. Magic makes the city hide or float above the forest depending on events that occur. This vivid place is brought to life to help influence the characters.

Next, there is an air of mystery around the characters that makes them intriguing. Nepenthe is an orphan who works as a translator of books for the library. She is gifted with the ability to translate ancient languages, but knows nothing about her past, so she is lonely. Tessara is the young queen. She does not want to rule and always hides from responsibility. Bourne is a young mage unsure of his true abilities or loyalties. The three young people face events that help them to grow. Their growth keeps readers excited as to how they will turn out.

Finally, the tight plot helps make the book powerful by keeping the readers’ attention. Ms. McKillip weaves three separate stories into a strong whole. Bourne delivers a book to Nepenthe for translation; a book written in an alphabet of thorns. She begins the translation and becomes obsessed by it. The book tells the story of the ancient conqueror Axis and his sorcerer Kane. While she works on the book, the newly crowned young queen Tessara struggles with her new responsibility. She avoids duties while making new discoveries about herself. Bourne’s uncle plots to overthrow the queen, leaving Bourne feeling confused. Every plot thread comes together in a surprising conclusion.

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip is a powerful contribution to the Fantasy genre. A descriptive setting, intriguing characters and tight plot blend together into a strong book that is memorable. Ms. McKillip writes books that stay with readers for years. Each new book she writes adds to her memorable collection of works. This one increases her status as a masterful writer of Fantasy.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Review: _Knife of Dreams_ by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time has been a popular series compared by some to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Eleven books have followed the stories of many interesting characters through several events leading to a final battle between good and evil. Now, the penultimate book Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan is out. Fans of the series have eagerly awaited for this volume, which is on the New York Times Bestsellers list. This latest entry in the series is an entertaining read due to its complex characters, detailed setting and dynamic plot.

The complex characters makes the book entertaining by drawing readers into the lives of characters, wanting to see what happens to them. Characters continue to change and grow since the beginning of the series. Rand al’Thor was not prominent in this book. All though the main character, his appearance was limited, but he suffered some changes. Egwene demonstrates her cleverness and strength as a prisoner of the White Tower. A main focus was on the character of Matt Cauthon. He struggles with protecting lives of people while courting the woman he loves. Other characters are changed by events as the author adds more complexity to his characters. They make the book entertaining while moving through an interesting setting.

The setting is interesting due to the author’s detailed, vivid descriptions. There is a well developed history the world with different cultures. Events from the past are linked to the present in a world following a pattern of ages. Readers learn how the throne of Andor is decided by a game among houses. The culture of the invading Seanchan empire is demonstrated through various characters. The overall setting contributes to a dynamic plot.

Finally, the book’s dynamic plot hooks readers and keeps the story entertaining. Switching through different plot lines and viewpoints, readers follow character that are spread out in different part of the land. Change is in the air as the final battle approaches. Rand tries to get a truce with the Seanchan in order to prepare for the battle. His friends Matt and Perrin are in far places dealing with the women in their lives. Perrin strives to rescue his wife from captivity while Matt tries to protect Tuon from assassins. The women in Rand’s life go through trials too. Elayne struggles to win the throne of her nation. Various servants of the Dark work their plots everywhere. Mr. Jordan keeps the plot movie with action and startling events.

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan is an entertaining edition to the series with its dynamic plot, complex characters and detailed setting. Fans of the series should be satisfied that this book moves the story forward in several plot threads; a slow pace was the main complaint of the last book. This book is a good entry to set up what is coming. Hopefully readers will not have to wait too long for the last book.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Review: _Prospero's Children_ by Jan Siegel

Legends of ancient times continue to fascinate people in the modern world. The legend of Atlantis is one of the most popular ones to longer. Whether a city or continent, Atlantis supposedly had an advanced civilization until it was destroyed. Scientists still argue its existence today. Some Fantasy authors incorporate the legend into their books to spark readers’ sense of wonder. Prospero’s Children by Jan Siegel is the first book of a trilogy about the influence of Atlantis. The books’ setting, characters and plot creates a memorable read for readers.

The author uses vivid descriptions of the setting that stays in the reader’s memory. In the beginning, readers are introduced to an old house in the countryside of Yorkshire. It once belonged to an old sea captain and is furnished with his keepsakes from around the world. The three storey old house creates a strong atmosphere of otherness. Atlantis is described as a beautiful city built inside an old volcano. Golden buildings and mansions on terraces are part of a grand city. Setting plays an important role in shaping the characters.

Realistic characters provide readers with people to identify with in the book. Fernanda Capel is the main character. She is sixteen and independent, but unaware of her magical gift. Her inner strength helps her to guide her brother Will and father through difficult times. Alison Redmond becomes her nemesis in the form of a dangerous witch. Fern gets help from an old Wizard called Ragginbone and his wolf companion Lougarry. Later in the book she meets Rafarl, a noble young man of Atlantis. The author makes these characters real with colorful descriptions of their lives.

A strong plot keeps the reader entertained and the book in their thoughts. This book has such a plot. When Fern and her family stay the first night in the house, she hears a strange snuggling outside of her bedroom door. a shadow saves her by preventing entry into her room. She meets Ragginbone who tells Fern of her danger. The threat comes from her father’s girlfriend Alison Redmond. Fern fights the witch, but faces a greater challenge in Atlantis. Ms. Siegel keeps the plot moving at a fast pace with tight plot threads along a straight path.

Prospero’s Children by Jan Siegel is an excellent first book of a Fantasy trilogy. The setting, characters and plot makes the book a memorable, entertaining read. Ms. Siegel creates an action packed beginning based on the legend of Atlantis and its intriguing magic. On finishing this book, readers will eagerly want to seek out the next two books. The author also writes under the name of Amanda Hemingway.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Welcome to Fantasy Worlds


This is the new home of Fantasy Worlds. My biweekly articles on Fantasy used to appear at Suite101. They will now appear here. I'll be posting new articles every other Friday, beginning Friday, January 13, 2006. I hope everyone will enjoy this new site as a blog. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for articles. Thank you.

Debbie Ledesma