Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review: _Forests of the Heart_ by Charles de Lint

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 13, 2008

Review: _The Outstretched Shadow_ by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

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

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

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

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

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