Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: _Blood and Iron_ by Elizabeth Bear

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 04, 2008

Review: _A Dark Sacrifice_ by Madeline Howard

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

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

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

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

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