Sunday, January 23, 2011

_A Cavern of Black Ice_ by J.V. Jones

I apologize for the lateness of this entry. Friday sneaked up and passed me before I realized it. Sorry. On to the entry.

A Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones is the first book of a new fantasy trilogy called "Sword of Shadows." The author's writing is impressive about a fantasy world with dark edges and deep themes. The book is full of interesting characters, a good plot and different magic system.

Characters in the book are well-developed with powerful conflicts. Raif Severance belongs to a clan of people in the North. He is horrified by a terrible event his clan commits, leaving him an outcast from clan and family. Asharia (Ash) is a foundling orphan frightened by physical changes of her body and the motives of her foster father. She struggles to be free of him and her awakening power. The villains in this book have motivations for their evil and are not cardboard characters.

The realistic characters help a good plot move along quickly. It starts out in the far North with the men of the Blackhail Clan on a hunt. Raif Severance and his brother are off fooling around. When they return to the camp, they find their father and everyone else dead. On returning to the clan hold, they discover another member survived the attack. Raif doesn't trust or like this clan member. Things move from there. Ashe's story is told separately until she teams up with Raif and his uncle.

Ms. Jones has created an intriguing magic system for this book. Magic has a price to the user, often embarassing and weakening. People can fight against the magic if they know what is happening to them. Ash is the inheritor of the even stranger magic of being a Reach. Another group of people, the Sul, have their own magic that I hope will be explored in the next book.

A Cavern of Black Ice is not to be missed. Many plot ends are left open to intrigue the reader waiting for the next book. Hopefully the author will explore some other cultures like the Sul in the forthcoming books. If you like serious fantasy with a dark edge, read this book. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Review: _Quatrain_ by Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn is an author who has written may books. She writes fantasy and some science fiction, mixing the genres is some of her stories. She has created interesting worlds with memorable characters. Her book Quatrain contains four long stories set in four of her popular worlds.

“Flight” occurs in her world where angels interact with humans. Women are attracted to the angels and want to have one as a lover. Salome, the main character, is an ex-angel seeker. She lives quietly on a farm with her niece determined to keep her away from angels because she doesn’t want her niece’s life to be ruined. Part of Salome’s attitude is driven by betrayal of angels she once knew and loved. The story comes to a satisfying ending due to the interesting characters.

In “Blood,” Kerk is a gulden (golden skin color) man who moves to the city. He wishes to find his mother and sister after seventeen years of separation. The gulden culture possesses a strong oppression of women and their rights. Jalci, an indigo (blue skin color) woman, strikes up a friendship with him while helping him with his search. Such relationships are not heard of between the two cultures. The story has an interesting conflict of characters that leads to a satisfying conclusion.

Next, “Gold” is set in the world of Castle Auburn. Princess Zara is sent away to Alora for safety since the kingdom is under attack from a rival army. Alora is a forest kingdom of a magical race that lives on the fruits provided by nature. The Alorans have a pleasurable magical affect on humans when they touch them. Few humans want to leave the kingdom once they experience this affect. Zara must struggle against the lure of Alora and her desire to return to her family. This is an entertaining story about love and responsibility.

Finally, “Flame’ is the story of the fire mystic Senneth. Mystics are feared by the members of the normal population because of their magic. Senneth, who is a loner, makes some new friends in a village. Someone is starting fires in the town and she is blamed. Senneth must fight the suspicious citizens while she tries to find the real culprit. This is a nice story with memorable characters and an intriguing world.

Overall, the book is very entertaining. Each of the stories in the book revolves around the themes of love, independence and determination among other things. The characters in the stories are realistic and memorable along with the imaginative settings. Ms. Shinn provides more thought provoking stories to her various worlds. This book would be a good introduction to the author’s works for readers who have never read her books.