Friday, October 30, 2009

Andre Norton

I wanted to share this article that appeared at a few years ago. This wonderful author died after this article appeared.

No article can do justice to an author like Andre Norton. She is a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement winner and Nebula Grand Master as well as prolific author of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Her career has spanned close to fifty years. In that time she has given readers many contributions to the Fantasy genre for young adults and adults. Her works revolve around young people, animals and accomplishing a goal. Ms. Norton’s books have characters that undergo changes to become stronger. Her themes involve the decent treatment of animals,

Andre Norton is best known for her “Witchworld” series. Witchworld came out in 1963 and exploded into many books. Ms. Norton continued to write in this world to please her fans. The first book introduced a Fantasy world of conflict and witches. A man from our world, Simon Tregarth, travels to this world where he meets Jaelithe. In this world women have the magic and the men are warriors. Together these characters must fight to save their world. Furth ˝er books explore different aspects of this world.

Mirror of Destiny is a Fantasy about a conflict between the human world and Fairy world. A woman, Twilla, wins the king’s lottery and must get married. She must enter an enchanted forest with a warrior and his blind son. The addition of a magical mirror spurs this Fantasy into a remarkable conclusion.

In recent years, Ms. Norton has done many collaborations with other authors. Her talents combine with these writers to produce interesting works of adventure, likable characters, magic and strong themes. Some of the books are:

With Mercedes Lackey, she has written two books in the “Halfblood” series. Elvenbane and Elvenblood tells the story of a war between dragons and elves. In this world humans are slaves, but one rises to help the dragons against the elves.

Ms. Norton teamed with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Julian May for Black Tri ïllium. The books tells the story of three sisters and their quest to save their world. Each writer tells the story of one of the sisters.

Her most recent collaboration is with Sasha Miller. To the King, a Daughter is the first book of a new trilogy. It’s the story of Queen Ysa who fears a rival will take her power.

Andre Norton is a prominent author of the Fantasy genre. Her long career has contributed many entertaining and thoughtful books to the genre for both adults and children. She created one of the most popular Fantasy worlds in her “Witchworld” series. Whether for children or adults, all of her works have interesting characters, strong themes and memorable stories. This article can’t do justice to this prolific wise lady of Fantasy. Seek out her books and travel through her wonderful Fantasy worlds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

“Age of Misrule” Trilogy by Mark Chadbourn

Two strangers witness a horrible murder under a bridge, leaving their concept of reality totally upside down. The world is changing rapidly. Supernatural beings and creatures from Celtic mythology return to the modern world. Society is collapsing under the onslaught. This is the story told in the “Age of Misrule” trilogy by Mark Chadbourn. This series follows five people as they try to save humanity from destruction by the supernatural in these suspenseful Dark Fantasy books, which are set in present day Great Britain.

World’s End begins the trilogy with Church and Ruth witnessing a murder under a bridge. Their search to discover what they saw makes them realize strange events are happening all over Britain and are increasing. On a trip out of town, they are attacked by monsters. A man called Tom saves them from the monsters and a dragon on the main highway. Tom tells them they and three other people have the Pendragon Spirit within them are the champions of the world. Ruth and Church must seek out the other people and four legendary items to foil the evil Fomori plans. All this occurs while they are pursued by the Wild Hunt in a relentless desperation to stop the destruction of their world. This book is gripping and suspenseful to the end.

Mr. Chadbourn does not allow things to slow down in the second book, Darkest Hour. The Fomori plan to bring their god Balor back from the dead. His return would bring around the end of the world for humanity, plunging it into chaos and darkness. Church and his companions struggle to find a way to stop Balor’s return. In addition, they are hunted by a mysterious creature who kidnaps Ruth and cuts her finger off, leaving it behind as a warning. This middle book continues the story of the five people meant to save the world at a break neck pace until the end.

In the final book, Always Forever, the suspense builds toward a final chance to save humanity. The Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon are scattered. Church and Ruth go on a journey into the Otherworld so Church can try to clear the Fomori taint from his blood. This is the only way to get the four sacred objects back to stop the final destruction. Twists and rapid action keep this final book suspenseful until the last confrontation with the god of evil.

The “Age of Misrule” trilogy by Mark Chadbourn is a fast paced Urban Dark Fantasy full of action and suspense. The story of how the world changes when the Celtic gods return creates an entertaining, thought provoking read. Mr. Chadbourn uses powerful themes and realistic characters that keeps readers immersed in the trilogy until the end.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Celtic Fantasy

Hounds bay in the night, getting closer. Horns answer the calls of the hounds. You splash through a mud puddle and scramble up a bank of thorny brush. When you reach the top, you collapse from fatigue. Pain flashes throughout your body. Your lungs burn from lack of enough air. You cannot run no more. Soon you feel the vibrations of pounding hooves approaching. The Wild Hunt is closing in for the kill.

The ancient Celts hold a fascination for us. Very little is known about their true culture and history. We are left with fragments of their mythology and stories, but what is available tantalizes and inspires new ideas. Many Fantasy novels and stories possess elements of Celtic mythology. Writers mine the scant material to create new books or stories of stunning, gritty beauty, powerful themes, mystery and magic. Some of the elements of Celtic Fantasy are pagan religions, the Sidhe, matriarchal societies, druids, tragic endings, the Wild Hunt and many others. Several authors have contributed works to the Fantasy subgenre of Celtic Fantasy.

The Welsh Mabinogion is used by many writers for ideas. It consists of four main stories and several other tales linked to it. In 1970, Evangaline Walton wrote The Isle of the Mighty, a vivid retelling of the fourth branch of the Mabinogion. She followed the success of this book with retellings of the other three branches in The Song of Rhiannon, The Children of Llyr and Prince of Annwn. Other authors used it too. The success of these books encouraged other writers to use Celtic materials.

Lloyd Alexander took elements from the Mabinogion to create his world of Prydain for his young adult series of books. The series tells the coming of age stories of the characters Taran and Eilonwy as they fight against the Horned King to save Prydain. These books can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. They are: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King.

Parts of the Mabinogion appear in the some of the works of Alan Garner mixing with some Arthurian elements too. The Owl Service retells the story of Llew Law Gyffes and Bloedudd in a modern day Wales. A version of the Wild Hunt appears in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath.

Guy Gavriel Kay used elements of Celtic myth in his trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry. The three books (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road) weave Welsh myth and Arthurian characters into an Epic Fantasy of memorable proportions. Even the Wild Hunt appears as a force of chaos. (For more information on this author see my previous article.)

Some writers take Celtic elements and create their own Fantasy worlds. Katherine Kerr does this with her Deverry books. Her characters go through several reincarnations to resolve their burdens. She includes elves, dwarves and dragons in her complex world of magic and honor. The first novels in the series are Daggerspell, Darkspell, The Bristling Wood and The Dragon Revenant.

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison moved her Celts into space for her Science Fantasies of the “Keltiad”. In her series, the Celts fled Earth to found a new empire in space. They encounter humans again and begin a new alliance. Her books are full of Celtic and Arthurian elements. The first book in the series is called The Copper Crown.

Other sources for writers have been Scottish and Irish myths and folklore. Deborah Turner Harris wrote a trilogy of a fantasy Scotland that never existed. In Caledon of the Mists, The Queen of Ashes and The City of Exile she weaves the dark tale of a Scotland trying to free itself from an oppressive England. Ireland is the home of a race of elven beings from another world.

Morgan Llywelyn uses Irish myths to tell some of her tales of Celtic Fantasy. Her books have a strong overlay of the supernatural in ancient Ireland. The Elementals is a collection of four stories of the founding of Ireland after the Flood. In The Horse Goddess, she takes readers to the beginning of Celtic history with its strong heroes and heroines. Later books tell of the mythic Irish heroes Finn MacCool and Cuchulain.

Have writers exhuasted the depths of available Celtic material for ideas? Certainly not. New writers like Kate Forsyth and Sarah Isidore are bringing us new books with Celtic elements. As William Butler Yeats said, "none can measure of how great importance it may be to coming times, for every new fountain of legends is a new intoxication for the imagination of the world. It comes at a time when the imagination of the world is as ready, as it was at the coming of the tales of Arthur and the Grail, for a new intoxication." (from "Celtic Myth and English-Language Fantasy Literature: Possible New Directions" by C.W. Sullivan III, Journal of the Fantastic, Winter 1998) As long as there are new visions coming from writers, there will be Celtic Fantasy.

Other Celtic Fantasy Books:

The Witches of Eilannen by Kate Forsyth

The Pool of Two Moons "

The Daughters of Bast by Sarah Isidore

A Time of Omens by Katherine Kerr

A Time of War by "

“The Age of Misrule” trilogy by Mark Chadbourn (see next article in two weeks)