Friday, June 29, 2007

Review: The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Review: _The Borderkind_ by Christopher Golden

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 01, 2007

Review: Dragonmaster Trilogy by Chris Bunch

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

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

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

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

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