Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: _Fall of a Kingdom_ by Hilari Bell

Three young people from different social classes face trials and threats to their kingdom. Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell is the first book of the “Farsala” trilogy. The cultures depicted, the characters and plot weave together to provide an entertaining first book.

First, the author creates different cultures that makes the book entertaining. Farsala is a kingdom of tribal clans ruled by one house at a time. The deghans have a cultures based on horses and is Middle Eastern in flavor. Another culture is made up of desert nomads called the Sud. They have a strange magic that relies on talking with the spirits of things. Then there are the Hrum made up of a great empire that conquers other nations, constantly expanding. Ms. bell’s cultures have neat interactions that make the story more powerful.

Next, the characters help the story to be entertaining by being realistic. The three main characters are in their late teens and early twenties. Kavi is a peasant peddler who has suffered at the hands of the deghans. His resentment spurs in making difficult decisions that threaten his soul. Jaain is the illegitimate son of the deghan Merahb. His father has him as an aid and teaches him tactics. He must shoulder a difficult borer in the story. Soraya is the deghan’s daughter. She is tough, but arrogant and must learn to temper the arrogance to succeed in her endeavors. Ms. Bell imbues the characters with realistic traits of growth and keeps readers interested in their exploits.

Ultimately, the plot makes the book entertaining by telling an interesting story. The plot begins in the city of Setasafon where the deghan Merahb is trying to stop a political rival who demands the sacrifice of Soraya. Her father needs to stop the rival to retain command of the army. He knows the Hrum are planning to attack Farsala. Soraya goes along with her father’s plan to help him. She is hidden away in the mountains where she meets the Suud who teach her their magic. Kavi crosses paths with the commander ad is coerced into checking on Soraya periodically. He comes into trouble when captured by the Hrum. Jaain follows his father into the battle with the invaders which changes his life dramatically. Ms. Bell’s vivid descriptions bring the story to life with action.

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell is the first book of the Farsala trilogy. This young adult fantasy follows the story of three young people whose lives are in upheaval. Jaain, Soraya and Kavi must save Farsala from the invading Hrum. Interesting cultures, characters and plot keeps the book entertaining until the end. The adventures of these three characters continue in Rise of a Hero and concludes with Forging the Sword.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Review: _Karavans_ by Jennifer Roberson

The people of Sancorra flee their homeland in Karavans to be free of the conquering Hencari. Strange men of the Shoia mingle among the humans with their own agendas. A giant magical forest awakens, threatening humanity with its movement. These are a few of the enticing plot threads of Karavans by Jennifer Roberson. The book is an interesting beginning to a new Epic Fantasy series because of its characters, plot and themes.

To begin, the author creates fascinating characters to impel readers into the story. Rhuan is a guide for the karavan. He is a member of the Shoia, a mysterious people with the ability to revive after being killed. Many problems plague Rhuan like remaining secretive, being feared and being on an enigmatic personal journey. His cousin Brodhi is an opposite personality who must overcome arrogance and contempt for humans. Women characters are fascinating too. Ilona is a diviner who reads hands to tell people their futures. She struggles with her feeling for Rhuan and curiosity about his background. Audran is pregnant and has her family. She fights to protect her family from the uprooting of their lives. All of these characters are intriguing thanks to the creativeness of Ms. Roberson.

Next, the compelling plot keeps readers engaged in the story told in the book. Audran, her husband and children arrive at the settlement where karavans leave from to go to other nations, fleeing the cruel Hencari. They need to join the karavan so her unborn child can be born in a new land as diviners prophesied. The karavan master Jorda will not let them join unless his diviner Ilona says it is all right. Rhuan backs the family joining too. On the road, Davyn, Audran’s husband, plans to leave the karavan and take a shortcut to their destination. The guide Rhuan counsels against this plan, saying the route will take the family too close to the perilous deepwood. Alisanos is a large dark forest that looms over people’s lives. Humans trapped in Alisanos never return or come back changed. The forest is alive, periodically moving without warning. This is about to occur again, increasing the tension and suspense of the book. Ms. Roberson weaves a gripping plot that holds readers until the end.

Finally, the themes of the book keeps he interest level high for readers. One of the themes is journeys taken that bring on change. Rhuan is on a journey to acquire his fondest desire. Audran’s family and others journey to find peace. These journeys are threatened by the chaotic force of Alisanos. Another theme is relationships and how they are affected by chaos. Relationships are challenged by the ever changing situations of the characters. The author presents the themes subtly in her vivid descriptions of the plot

In the end, Karavans by Jennifer Roberson is a fascinating, suspenseful Epic Fantasy. Characters, plot and themes combine to create an impressive first book of a new series. Ms. Roberson’s new series is a departure from her previous books and will be interesting for readers. I recommend this book and look forward to reading the next ones in the series.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Review: _Something Magic This Way Comes_ edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Sarah A. Hoyt

Science explains the way the world works most of the time making it sound very mechanical in many aspects. Human civilization has grown to its present day modernness thanks to scientific advances. Still, people have imaginations. Many wish for a touch of magic in the world. Something Magic This Way Comes edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt is an anthology of stories where magic touches the world. The short stories range from creepy to humorous and readers will find many of them entertaining.

A woman finds her life turned into chaos in “Raining the Wild Hunt” by Katie Paulk. Megan is jogging on a forest trail when an injured elf appears out ot the air in front of her. The elf, Delorias, tells her the Wild Hunt pursues him. She was the previous victim of an abusive husband, but is now tough and resolves to help Delorias. This story of survival continues as Megan strives to escape from Athaniel the Hunt leader. Ms. Paulk provides a thrilling story with a strong woman character.

“The Case of the Allergic Leprechaun” by Alan L. Lickiss is a humorous story combined with a private detective story. The detective, Frank, has a short man walk into his office asking him to find out who he is. When the man sneezes, Frank’s secretary disappears. Frank must solve the mystery and deal with magic to rescue his secretary. Mr. Lickiss writes a funny story that leaves readers smiling.

In “Firebird and Shadow” by Darwin A. Garrison, Missy Watkins hides in an alley beside a dead body of a friend. She is a young girl with magic powers, alone and fearing the attack of shadow people who will drain her power. A man tries to kidnap Missy, buy is stopped by the powerful mage Ms. Gerard. The story contains a nice magic duel to save Missy from danger. Mr. Garrison creates an entertaining story through vivid descriptions and intriguing characters.

Walt Boyes’s “A Midsummer Nightmare” is the story of a group of people trying to stop a dangerous ritual from being carried out on the summer solstice. Harry Wilson is an insurance investigator. His Native American friend George calls him for a meeting. George tells Harry that someone is setting up a ritual that is disturbing the supernatural world. Events lead up to the appearances of a god and the Wild Hunt before things are settled. Mr. Boyes gives readers a nice story with some touches of humor.

The last story in the anthology, “Regency Sprite” by Dave Freer, is set in England during the Regency period. Told in the first person point of view of the main character, the story begins when a drunk Arthur stumbles home and finds a trapped fairy in the alley. He helps the fairy, but ends up in a struggle to stop an evil mage. Though the ending leaves readers wanting more, Mr. Freer contributes a clever story to entertain readers.

Something Magic This Way Comes edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt is an anthology of stories where magic touches our world in various ways. The stories range from serious to creepy to humorous with many of them entertaining reads and some thought provoking. Readers will find some enjoyable and memorable Urban Fantasy stories in this anthology.