Friday, December 27, 2013

Guest Post: My Favorite Fantasy Books by Rachel Flesher

Debbie invited me to be a guest on Fantasy Worlds blog to talk about my favorite fantasy books and novels. Debbie and I belong to the same writing group named The Modern Day Bards.

I am an amateur writer working on one of many projects. Fantasy has always been a favored genre of mine; however, it is not the only genre that I enjoy reading.

My love for fantasy stemmed back to having my head stuck in the clouds. I remember certain animations and cartoons that resonated with my active imagination. “The Last Unicorn” – which by the way I read the book by Peter Beagle – and “She-ra” that have heavy fantasy elements.

My first foray with fantasy novels started my sophomore year of high school. I was a voracious reader but my family did not have a lot of money, so the bulk of the books I read came from books donated from family and friends.

 A kid on my afternoon bus loaned me Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s _THE DARK SWORD_. I liked it so much that I bought the book from the boy because I did not want to be part from it. Then in my 20’s I met a person and her mother.

These two people opened up the fantasy world in full force. Thanks to them I found authors that I never would have found on my own, such authors who have been a great influence on my writing.

These are not in any particular order and some are entire series than just one lone book. 

_PHANTOM_ by Susan Kay

This book I found by chance at a flea market for a dollar.  At the time, I had two friends (who sadly went their own ways) who loved Phantom of the Opera. Curious about the story they both loved I bought the book.
The entire book is written in first-person perspective, which I felt added substance to the tale. Now I have never read Gaston Leroux’s _THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA_, so I am uncertain if he goes into depth of the Phantom’s history or backstory.

Susan Kay delves deep from the moment of Erik’s birth and journey’s through the hardship of his childhood in a carnival freak show, to his teen years until we reach where the play and books take place.
The book really gave me a better insight on the Phantom’s person. Why he was the way he is, how the meanness of people’s cruelty warped him. And yes, I admit that it placed me firmly on Team Phantom/Erik. The ending is quite sad but the entire book is poignant.

After I finished, and on a book high, I asked each of my two friends if they had read the book.  The one had while the other had not. She had wanted to borrow my copy and I was loath to part with it. Fortunately I found another copy which I bought for her.

  • VALDEMAR series by Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR world is my all time favorite out of all the fantasy books that I have read over the years. I was introduced to the books by a mother and daughter team.

The latter recommended I read HERALDS OF VALDEMAR trilogy first.  Yet I had a hard time finding the three books, so she and her mother sent me that trilogy and THE LAST HERALD MAGE trilogy.

These two were always sending me fantasy books to read and try out. I still had that voracious appetite for books. I decided to try THE LAST HERALD MAGE first. I was addicted hook, line and sinker. Those two books started my crusade to own every book in the series.

Do not let the thirty-one books and seven anthologies dissuade you. Mercedes Lackey infused such creativity and magic in these books. It is hard to find one aspect of it that I like. Given the chance I wish I could live there.
Mercedes Lackey wrote them out of order, in different time-lines, that does nothing against the world and its occupants. And she does not keep with just the Heralds and their mystical horse-looking Companions, she explored the bordering country Karse and the Shin’a’in and Tayledras.

The author did not stop there… she created music to go along with the books.  The songs mentioned in the books you can honestly hear if you buy the cds.

3.) CHEYSULI and DEL AND TIGER series by Jennifer Roberson

Jennifer Roberson was yet another author introduced to me by the mother and daughter team.  They both highly suggested I find the Cheysuli and Del and Tiger series to read.
When I searched for the books I was fortunate to find the former in omnibus form but I always kept an eye out for any of the Del and Tiger books. Both series are vastly different from each other but rich and magical in their own right.

The Cheysuli deals with shapechangers.  Fear of the Cheysuli to cause them to be nearly eradicated and erased from the world; however, a prophecy remained that a Cheysui with ties to all the groups will one day unite them.

Each book deals with a generation inching closer to the prophecy. Each hero and heroine have their own situations to face and deal with. The seventh book, in  my estimation is the most heart wrenching. I cried at the end.

When I commented to the author on how much I enjoyed this series and her Del and Tiger books, she told me that she planned on venturing back to those two worlds. I was excited to learn that curious on how she plans that with the Cheysuli.

Only recently have a finished with the Del and Tiger books. Del and Tiger come from completely two different worlds. Both are great with swords with their own unique style.  They become the most unlikeliest companions and go on adventures.

Each book we learn a little more into either Del’s character or Tiger’s. The last remaining most of the mysterious past of Tiger’s is sort of revealed. 

  • BLOOD/BLACK JEWELS by Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop’s BLACK JEWELS trilogy was the first books the mother and daughter team ever loaned me.  The latter had been teasing me and talking about the books.  When I was internet-less, they sent the books down to occupy the time.

The series touches on some dark and heavy subject matters so they are not for everyone or the faint of hearted. The world is quite unlike anything I ever read before. The magic structure hinges around stones and have an hierarchy.

Only the Blood can wear these jewels and not all Blood do wear jewels. It’s all so complicated yet fascinating.  They are tested twice in their lifetime to the Darkness to decide what color stones they wear. Once with they are younger which is called their Birthright Jewel. Then they make the offering to the Darkness when they are older and they can only move up three stone ranks.

White, yellow, tiger eye, summer-sky, purple dusk are the lighter jewels with Opal being the dividing line between light and dark. Green, Sapphire, Red, Gray, Ebon-gray, and Black. Black being the strongest.

Then there is the hierarchy of the Blood. With the males a “warlord” is a male with a jewel rank equal in status with a witch. A Prince is a male with a jewel equal in status to a female’s priestess or healer. Warlord prince is a male with a jewel that is slightly lower in status to a females Queen. Warlord Princes are aggressive and only a Queen can control them.

With the females, a witch is a female who wears jewels but not part of the other levels of hierarchy. Healer is a witch who can heal wounds and illnesses. They are equal in status to a priestess and prince. A priestess is a witch who takes care of altars. They oversee marriages. Black Widow is a witch who has the ability to heal the mind and trained in poisons. Queens are witches who rule the blood often seen as a land’s center or heart.
In the scope of things, the Blood females are in power with the men serving them. Some of their structure rotates around sex. A good introduction to the world, a presequel to test is _THE INVISIBLE RING_. These characters play an important role in the later books of the Blood series.

The series is a host of memorable characters: Saetan, Daemon known as the Sadist- This is a very sexual men that most witches want… but with an ironic twist that many would not believe- Lucivar and Surreal.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jennifer Roberson

Enter worlds of Fantasy filled with shapechangers and sword dancers. These are the creations of Fantasy author Jennifer Roberson. She is a talented story teller, filling her novels with memorable characters, adventure, romance and many other qualities that bring readers to explore her wonderful Fantasy worlds.

Ms. Roberson started out with her eight book series about the Cheysuli. They are a race of shapechangers. Each one has an animal companion, lir, that allows the Cheysuli warrior to change into that animal's shape. In this series there are two opposing magical races (Cheysuli and Ilhini) and several warring kingdoms. A prophecy promises a child of all these different groups will unite them all one day. Each book covers the story of a new generation moving closer to the fullfillment of the prophecy. All of the books have plots full of action, adventure and interesting cultures. The eight book are:

_The Shapechangers_

_The Song of Homana_

_Legacy of the Sword_

_Track of the White Wolf_

_A Pride of Princes_

_Daughter of the Lion_

_Flight of the Raven_

_A Tapestry of Lions_

Recently it was announced that the author will write some new Cheysuli novels soon.

Another of Roberson's series revolves around the characters of Tiger and Del. They are both sword masters, Del of the northern style and Tiger of the southern style. Both move through adventures, fighting against evil magic and developing a romance. The characters are well-developed, enjoyable and believable. _Sword-Dancer_, _Sword -Singer_, _Sword-Maker_, _Sword-Breaker_ and _Sword-Born_ are the books that make up this series. After many years, Ms. Roberson has written a new Tiger and Del book called _Sword Bound_.

She has written other books as well. _Lady of the Forest_ is a historical novel about  Robin Hood and Maid Marian. This book is full of rich details and adds a wonderful tale to the legend. She collaborated with authors Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliot on the Fantasy novel _The Golden Key_ too. 

Another series is “Karavans” about the living forest Alisanos and the lives the forest affects. The forest moves and changes its boundaries whenever it wants, swallowing up land and people. Once trapped, people can’t leave the forest ever again because it changes them. In the series, the books follows several characters in their struggles like Audran and her children who are trapped, seeking a way to regain her family. Rhuan, son of one of the forest gods, tries to help her while on his journey. Many other characters play a role in an ever changing world. The books are interesting, gripping adventures. _Karavans_, _Deepwood_ and _The Wild Road_ are the books in the series so far.

Jennifer Roberson has written many books in the Fantasy genre. Most of the books take place in her two created worlds but she writes historicals, collaborations and Fantasy short stories as well. She writes entertaining books with memorable characters, interesting settings and lots of adventure. Try any one of her works. Readers won't be disappointed.

Coming soon to the blog and interview with Jennifer Roberson.

Monday, December 23, 2013


I'm sorry for not keeping up with the blog this month. Had a sudden family emergency. My elderly mother had a slight heart attack and had to be hospitalized for a while. She is home and okay now. I plan to get back on the blog soon. Thank you for your understanding.
Best wishes,
PS. Happy Holidays to everyone! May the gifts of fantasy and wonder be yours!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

William Hope Hodgson

A short lived life left a trace of brilliance in the Fantasy genre. William Hope Hodgson only wrote four books and a number of short stories in his writing career, but left some memorable works. He is a classic Fantasy author from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. His works are mostly Dark Fantasy and supernatural fiction of ghosts and monsters. Part of his inspiration came from early in his life.

As a boy, Hodgson was fascinated by the sea. He ran away from home once to serve on a ship and later became a sailor on merchant ships. During his career, he would photograph the ocean’s different moods. Later, he realized that he hated the sea and after a few different jobs turned to writing around 1904. He would always consider the sea as a terrible horror and it showed in his writing. Throughout his career, he wrote four books, two which are Dark Fantasy.

_The House on the Borderland_ was published in 1908. It is about a house on the coast of Galway. This house stands on the edge of a great pit from which pig-like creatures threatens the protagonist. From there, he travels into the distant future and watches the destruction of our solar system. The book is full of evocative images of darkness and cosmic horror.

His other book of Dark Fantasy was _The Night Land_. Published in 1912, it takes place on a dying world where the land is always night. The characters move across this dark landscape fighting monsters in a quest for redemption. This book is considered by some to be Hodgson’s most creative work. It has powerful themes and interesting ideas for the time it was written.

For his other two novels, Hodgson drew from his experiences of the sea. Both books have elements of the supernatural in them. _The Boats of “Glen Carrig”_ is a tale of survivors at sea encountering creatures in a strange place of seaweed. _The Ghost Pirates_ is about a ship that is super imposed on by a ghostly ship.

William Hope Hodgson left a small body of work with his four novels and numerous short stories. He created works with incredible images, different ideas and powerful themes. Using his life experiences of the sea, he brought to life stories that will be remembered by those who read his works. Tragically he died in battle at the age of forty while serving in World War I. Who knows what other imaginative works he might have contributed to the Fantasy genre? It is a loss for us readers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: "Hunter" Books by Michelle West

_Hunter's Oath_ and _Hunter's Death_ are a Fantasy duology written by Michelle West. They are actually one complete book split into two. Both tell the epic story of two young men in a complex Fantasy world of gods, magic, intrigue and adventure. Strong themes, characters and setting give these books a memorable quality for readers.

Stephen is discovered living on the streets of the King's city of Breodanir. The Hunter Lord Soredon takes him to Elseth to become Huntbrother to his son Gilliam. _Hunter's Oath_ goes on to tell the story of these young men, their bonded friendship and growing involvement in a greater battle against the evil god Allasakar and his demons. This involves complications with other characters in a complex setting.

Michelle West has created a world where the gods affect the lives of their people. Breodanir is run on the concept of Hunter Lords and Huntbrothers. The Hunter Lords are sworn to their god to take part in a Sacred Hunt once a year and be subjected to being hunted by their god, facing the Hunter's Death. Huntbrothers take an oath to protect their Hunter, be their friend and help them for life. Other gods take a hand in the world by having half-human children with mortals.

In _Hunter's Death_, the setting shifts to Averalaan, the capital city of an empire. It is ruled by twin kings and possesses rules of formality. Here Stephen and Gilliam move through an ever increasing battle against the demons. They are on a deadline before they must return home or forsake their lands forever.  Many characters are involved in their struggle.

The main characters are helped or prodded by many realistic characters. Evayne is s time-traveling seer and mage that interferes in the other character's lives to complete her goal. Jewel Markess is the tough leader of a street gang who discovers secrets and discovers the meaning of loyalty. Kallandres is an assassin turned bard, tormented by the betrayal of his brothers. Readers will find these and many others to admire and sympathize with in the books.

The underlying themes of these books are their greatest strength. West created a powerful work with her themes of friendship, loyalty, honor and sworn oaths. These are helped by interesting cultures and religions. The author has some thoughtful things to say about religion and promises.

Readers will get a memorable experience in these books. There is enough action, magic and adventure to hook a reader into a thrill ride hard to forget. Characters, settings and complex themes combine to give these books a depth found in few books today. Readers won't be disappointed. Michele West is a writer not to be missed.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Song of Ice and Fire

“Winter is coming!” states the motto of the Stark family which rouses the imaginations of readers. There are many series of epic fantasy books written by excellent authors that bring readers imaginative epic stories of fantastic worlds. Author George R.R. Martin has created such a series with his “Song of Ice and Fire” books, giving readers the grand, gritty story of Westeros, its feuding families and people. These fantasy novels are detailed, full of many interesting memorable characters and follow epic themes with a twist.

George R.R. Martin has been a part of the Fantasy genre since the 1970s. He has won several awards for his short fiction including the World Fantasy Award. Part of his career he spent in Hollywood writing for different TV series, especially “Beauty and the Beast.” His writing spans short stories to several novels including some Science Fiction. Recently, he has placed his footing solidly in Epic Fantasy with the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Mr. Martin is a talented writer, creating realistic characters and a complex world against a backdrop of war and intrigue.

_A Game of Thrones_ is the first book of the series that sets off the struggle of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The story begins by focusing on the struggle between two prominent families, Stark and Lannister, as they vie to control or protect the Iron Throne. Eddard Stark is the head of his family. They are pulled into the political conflicts with the Lannisters when King Robert asks him to be his adviser. This puts Stark’s wife and children into danger. The Lannisters covet the Iron Throne for power, which throws the seven kingdoms in civil war. In addition, the story becomes more complicated with an exiled princess from overseas, a harsh climate facing a long winter of years duration and a supernatural threat from the north. Chapters alternate from the various characters’ viewpoints in this huge, complex book that sets everything in motion.

The second book is _A Clash of Kings_. In this book, the story deepens further. Politics grow violent with four claimants to the throne. There are battles and threats from the north. Mr. Martin keeps the vivid story going by keeping his characters realistic and motivated by shades of gray. Some of his characters die like in a real war. The book sustains a compelling pace because of the author’s ability to keep it free of cliches.

In the third book,  _A Storm of Swords_, the story continues with more battles and intricate proceedings. There are four claimants left fighting for the Iron Throne. Robb Stark as King of the North continues to press for his revenge on the Lannisters while trying to rescue his captive sisters. Daenerys continues her rise across the ocean. War tears the land apart as the supernatural threat from the north increases. Surprise twists change the path of the story to where readers never suspected. It ends with a cliffhanger to keep you desperate for the next installment. This book improves on the other two unlike other books in  series by other writers.

_ Feast for Crows_ the next book brings a pause in the war. Many claimants for throne are dead or defeated. Cersei rules as regent for her youngest son. The Stark children are scattered everywhere still wanting vengeance. Daenerys continues to grow in power as she learns to rule a diverse group of people and train her dragons, though she is mostly offstage in this book. This novel follows other characters and leads to a cliffhanger ending. (This book and the next were originally one book but split in half.)

The most recent book in the series published was _A Dance with Dragons_. This book goes back to tell the events of what happened to the main characters of Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion and others, describing their trials. Jon continues to deal with his being part of the Night Watch. Daenerys conquers new realms and still struggles with learning to rule as a future queen. Tyrion finds himself in exile, dealing with dangerous new circumstances for him. Mr. Martin leaves readers wanting more.

George R.R. Martin is a strong Fantasy author that tells complex stories, creates vivid, memorable characters and a powerful world. He uses historical research and a love of writing to bring the “Song of Ice and Fire” series to life. Projected for a total of six books, readers will have to wait for the next one with desperate anticipation. Coupled together with the excellent TV series, waiting for the next book is lessened a little. Until then, spend sometime with the books and TV series. For further information about Mr. Martin, check out his home page at:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: _Magic Rises_ by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniel’s faces another harrowing situation in her life as she faced dangerous enemies while trying to protect her loved ones. _Magic Rises_ is the latest addition to this urban fantasy series written by Ilona Andrews, a husband and wife writing team. Each book in the series presents a new aspect of the world changed by magic and how the characters are affected by the changes. This book is an entertaining read due to the setting, plot and characters.

The setting of the book gives the story an edge. In this book, the characters must travel to Europe in an area near the Black Sea. Magic has changed this region drastically, leaving a dangerous landscape of vast forests, desolate mountains and wild terrain. There is a feudal atmosphere with a castle as the main focal point. The setting provides a dark, scary tone for the plot to play out.

Next, the plot weaves in the new setting for a change of pace. The children of shapeshifters face the danger of going insane when they first change as teenagers. These children need a special drug to survive or must be killed without it. The drug is made and controlled by Packs in Europe. Kate, Curran and a group of shapeshifters travel to Europe on a job in order to get a supply of the drug to save some of the Pack children. They are supposed to protect a pregnant shapeshifter until she gives birth to her twins in order to settle a territorial dispute. Kate discovers that her father’s second in command is there, which increases the danger for her mate and friends. All these plots culminate into a final battle for survival. The action of the plot helps the characters to grow.

Growth in characters the book and series exciting. Kate, the main character, goes through several crises that make her stronger and resolve emotional issues. By facing a dangerous foe and settling a romance problem, she changes a little to be a better person. Curran, the Pack leader, changes by growing to understand his relationship with Kate better. Most of the secondary character grow too since they face death and survival. The author creates likable human characters for readers to continue wanting to read the series.

_Magic Rises_ by Ilona Andrews is an exciting, suspenseful addition the the Kate Daniel’s series. The author’s use of setting, plot and characters blend together to provide readers with a suspenseful action story. this book has growth in characters, which keeps readers coming back to the series. These entertaining books leave a reader wanting more.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: _Bedlam’s Bard_ by Mercedes Lackey & Ellen Guon

You are a musician standing on a quiet hillside near Los Angles and begin to play your flute. As you play, the music becomes wild and something strange happens. Later you discover an elf in your apartment. This is how _Bedlam’s Bard_ by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon begins. It is a Contemporary Fantasy about elves and magic in our urban world. Readers will find the book entertaining because of its plot, characters and setting.

The plot keeps the readers’s attention with its fast-paced action. The first part is called “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.” A musician discovers that elves exist in Los Angeles. He is drawn into a battle between a renegade elf and the o    ther elves. The renegade wants to destroy the magic nexus and his people. One of the elven knights befriends the musician, asking him for help because he is a Bard. Along with a woman friend, the Bard helps the elves in their struggle. In part two, “Summoned to Tourney,” the trio must stop a shadow creature from destroying the Bay area.

Realistic, likable characters add to the entertainment level of the book. Eric starts out as a hard drinking, drug taking talented musician with problems. He grows throughout the story as he learns to use his magic and finds love. Beth is a strong, clever woman that helps Eric through his growth. The third member is the elf knight Korendil. All the characters are sympathetic and add a strong touch of likability to the book.

Lastly, the settings of Los Angeles and San Francisco give a strong element to the book. The elves settled in these areas with their magic groves. Later, humans built the cities around them. Elven magic contributes to the creativity of the entertainment industry according to the book’s premise. With the backgrounds of familiar places, Renaissance Fairs and urban living, the added touch of magic gives our world a mysterious nuance of imagination.

Mercedes Lackey’s collaboration with Ellen Guon, _Bedlam’s Bard_, about elves and magic in California is an entertaining Fantasy book. The authors provided a good plot, likable characters and familiar setting to make a very enjoyable book. Readers will discover a fun book with a lot of action, love and adventure.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: _Charmed Destinies_

A new technique writers are using to create entertaining stories is by crossing genres. Authors mix the standard tropes of two or more genres to tell new stories. For example, an author might write a book combining elements of a Western and Horror. There are many possible combinations for authors to try. Three authors mix Fantasy and Romance in _Charmed Destinies_ for a line of Romantic Fantasy books published by Luna Books (

“Counting Crows” is by Fantasy author Mercedes Lackey, known for her books about Valdemar. This story is set in a medieval style kingdom. Gwynn travels with her maid Robin to her new home and a husband she has not met. Once there, everything turns out bad for her. The castle is a mess and her new husband is a violent brute. She undergoes months of harsh treatment even though she can do magic. Ms. Lackey writes a strong tale of romance with sympathetic characters and a realistic setting.

Rachel Lee is the author of the second long story in the book. “   ·Drusilla’s Dream” begins in our world. Drusilla wants to be a painter and works on a data entry job on the graveyard shift. She finds the job boring, entering the data automatically while daydreaming the hours away. Miles is the main computer tech on duty. He works on a private file while monitoring the computer systems. During her latest fantasy daydream of a princess in a magic kingdom, Drusilla finds her dream going out of control. She does not understand what is happening. The story takes place in two worlds, the real one and dream one of Drusilla. Though it has a predictable ending, the story is humorous and very entertaining.

Known mostly for writing science fiction, author Catherine Asaro contributes the final story of the book with “Moonglow.” It begins with a robbery that kills Jarid’s parents and leaves him unable to speak, hear or see. Years later, he is discovered by Iris, an apprentice shape mage. She is a young woman unsure of her powers. After Jarid is brought ho   Áme to be crowned king despite his problems, Iris finds out she is to be married to him. This sets the conflict of a difficult romance while trying to save the kingdom of Aronsdale from invaders. Ms. Asaro creates likable characters for an entertaining magical system. Shape mages focus their powers through geometric shapes from simple ones to the highest being a sphere. Their rankings follow the colors of a rainbow. “Moonglow” is a good fit to this book.

Many authors from different genres are mixing elements of different genres in order to create new stories to entertain readers. Romance Fantasy is a new one of these cross genres. _Charmed Destinies_ is an entertaining book containing three Romance Fantasies written by Mercedes Lackey, Rachel Lee and Catherine Asaro. This book is part of the Luna imprint a part of Harlequien books.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Book Review: _Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit_ by Mercedes Lackey

Many fantasy authors write a novel about King Arthur tackling some aspect of the story and providing new ways of seeing the story for readers. Mercedes Lackey does this with her Arthurian fantasy book _Gwenhwyfar: the White Spirit_. Ms. Lackey shows readers the King Arthur story through the eyes of one memorable woman character. The book is a vivid story told through the setting, plot and main character.

The setting of the book is Britain after the Romans have left. Saxons have invaded the land which creates battles between the natives and invaders. There are several different kingdoms ruled by their own royal families all under the High King Arthur. Magic is part of the fabric of life with women’s magic under the ladies of the cauldron well and men’s magic under the druids. People are wary and frightened of the creatures of Annwynn (fairy), knowing they can’t be trusted. Ms. Lackey brings the setting to life with realistic descriptions of this magical ancient Britain.

Next, the author uses the story of King Arthur to drive the plot of the book. Ms. Lackey uses some information she came across in doing research for this book to add a new twist to the Aurhurian story. The plot revolves around the women in the king’s life as the main character Gwenhwyfar is drawn into the story. Magic, war and betrayal add to the adventure and action that keeps readers hooked into the story until the end.

Finally, following the character of Gwenhwyfar through her life as she grows makes the book memorable. Broken into three parts, princess, warrior and queen, readers watch Gwenhwyfar as she grows into a strong woman warrior with a formidable sense of duty and honor. She plays a major role in the King Arthur legend that offers a twist with a new perspective on the events of the story. Ms. Lackey’s deft touch on characterization makes Gwenhwyfar realistic and memorable.

_Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit_  by Mercedes Lackey is an excellent addition to Arthurian fantasy. The author takes an interesting piece of information from her reserach to tell the remarkable story of a woman in Celtlic Arthurian Britain through the setting, plot and main character. Readers will enjoy this vivid, entertaining story of Gwenhwyfar and the role she plays in the legend of King Arthur.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: _The World Tree_ by Sarah Isidore

Charlemagne was a powerful Christian king of long ago. His reign spawned many legends and myths of heroes. Fantasy author Sarah Isidore uses the time of this Frankish king with the conflict between Christianity and paganism to conclude her “Daughters of Bast” trilogy. _The World Tree_ blends Celtic and Egyptian mythology to bring this Historical Fantasy trilogy to an entertaining, satisfying end. The book’s realistic characters, intriguing plot and vivid setting brings it to life with action that is hard to put down.

Realistic characters are important in books to keep a reader interested. The characters of this book act in realistic ways for their times. Sirona changes and grows throughout the novel. She begins as a healer, denying to use her magical powers even at the request of the goddess Bast. Pressure from hostile Christians and her own people make her change into a warrior with a conscience. Bathilde is a widow and noble woman trying to protect her land from an encroaching Lord. She possesses magic of her own, which drives her to some ruthless acts. Mau is a cat, protector and advisor to Sirona. He states his opinions clearly without and sugar coating. The author brings these characters to life through subtle changes as the plot advances to the end.

The plot is intriguing, keeping a reader hooked. A clash between paganism and Christianity plays in the background to the story of Sirona’s growth. Sirona refuses to kill Bathilde’s unborn baby. Her refusal plunges her into a series of attempts on her life. She struggles to maintain her life of being a healer and uninvolved, but events do not allow it. The hatred of a Christian noble adds more fuel to the flame with his ambition to steal other people’s lands. Magic appears in this ancient world, manifested by gods of Egypt, Norse and Celtic mythology. The manipulation of these deities deepens the plot and adds wonder to the story to keep you reading.

Finally, the vivid setting brings the story to life. Ms. Isidore writes descriptively in plain prose. The descriptions of Saxony, with its forests, manors and monasteries, come to life as if they exist today. Descriptions of the supernatural elements like the great World Tree and Chaos serpent give a sense of wonder to the story. Having a clear setting in a book allows a reader to get drawn in and enjoy the story without confusion. This book fulfills the requirement with its setting.

_The World Tree_ by Sarah Isidore is a satisfying conclusion to the “Daughters of Bast” trilogy. Realistic characters, an intriguing plot and vivid setting provides this Celtic Egyptian Historical Fantasy with enough action for an entertaining read. Ms. Isidore tells the stories of three remarkable women in three different harsh but interesting historical time periods. Readers will enjoy this concluding book. Seek out the other two books too.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Review: _The Shrine of Light_ by Sarah Isidore

History holds a fascination for us. It connects us to our roots. The distant past is cloaked in mystery, which has been fertile ground for stories. Fantasy authors mix history with fantasy elements to produce the subgenre of Historical Fantasy. These novels can be entertaining. Sarah Isidore gives readers an entertaining read with _The Shrine of Light_, the second book of "The Daughters of Bast" trilogy. Ms. Isidore provides an exciting story with a different setting, memorable characters and stimulating plot.

The book’s setting gives it a touch of reality. The story takes place around 481 CE in Eire (Ireland) and Gaul (France). With the Roman Empire in decline, whole groups of people are on the move to new lands. This creates conflicts between the different groups and cultures. Christianity is on the rise, adding more stress for the pagan religions trying to survive. The author describes this ancient time in detail, bringing the time to life with vivid descriptions of the people, land and the clashes. She also adds different magic to the story, which makes the setting more mysterious.

Next, Ms. Isidore inhabits her vivid setting with memorable characters. Damona is a woman with a life full of tragedy. Her life is traced throughout the book as she must overcome anger and grief to save her land. She is helped by an enigmatic black cat that serves her goddess. Along the way, she meets Rionach, the queen of her kingdom and a Christian as well as Chlodweg the ambitious king of the Franks and his pregnant wife. These characters and two Egyptian goddesses play important roles in Damona’s life. All of these characters fit their time with the powerful descriptions by the author that brings them to life.

Finally, the setting and characters combine with an interesting plot     for entertaining results. Damona is the priestess of the shrine dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bast in Eire. The lord of her kingdom comes for a prophecy. When it is not to his liking, he massacres Damona’s family, setting into motion a cycle of revenge and redemption. Damona pledges herself to Sekhmet, Egyptian goddess of destruction, to exact her revenge on the king. She brings a curse on her people and must travel to Gaul in  order to find the wands to break the curse. The plot has struggles between the goddesses, Christianity versus paganism, and the Franks against the Alemmani. There is a lot of action driven by this plot to keep a reader entranced to the end.

Historical Fantasies are very entertaining to read. Authors blend history and fantasy to create intriguing works that appeal to our interest in the past. _The Shrine of Light_ by Sarah Isidore is such an entertaining read. Its different setting, memorable characters and interesting plot gives the reader a lot of action and suspense. Ms. Isidore blends Celtic and Egyptian mythology to provide her novels with a unique story. This second book of "The Daughters of Bast" is a good addition to the genre. Read this book if you get a chance.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ilona Andrews

Urban fantasy is wide open to many authors adding their visions of the fantastic existing in our world. New books join the ranks of urban fantasy every month. These books reflect different aspects of how the supernatural affects people, and changes lives as well as the world. Different authors provide a variety of interesting ideas on the topic. One of these authors, Ilona Andrews, a husband and wife writing team, have added some interesting, gritty stories to urban fantasy for readers to enjoy.

The first series consists of the “Kate Daniels” books. This is set in Atlanta, Georgia where magic rises and subsides like a tide on an unpredictable basis. The world switches back and forth between technology and magic, which devastates modern buildings and life. Fantastic creatures and beings populate this changed world. There is the Pack, a group of shapeshifters banded together for survival. The Pack vies with the People, a group of necromancers that navigate vampires. Other people and beings inhabit the city too. Ordinary humans need help and protection from all of these creatures, so various groups of humans exist in order to provide this protection.

Kate Daniels is the main character of these books. She is a strong woman who works as a mercenary and private detective, protecting people from vicious magical creatures and solving mysteries. In addition, Kate has a secret about her past that no one can find out about or she would be killed along with her loved ones. Each book tells the story of a new aspect of her life as she grows and changes with each new encounter with a magical mystery to solve.

The books in the series so far are:

_Magic Bites_
_Magic Burns_
_Magic Strikes_
_Magic Bleeds_
_Magic Slays_
_Magic Rising_ (forthcoming in Aug. 2013)

A new book, _Gunmetal Magic_, tells the story of Kate’s detective partner Andrea. She is a member of the Pack, a were hyena, who struggles with a desire for acceptence by others. An accomplished warrior, Andrea fights a personal battle with accepting herself. During this struggle she fights dangerous creatures threatening the people of Atlanta and the Pack.

The other series by this author is called the “Edge.” This is a border between two worlds, ours called the Broken and the Weird where magic and magical beings live. Each book focuses on a different set of characters that live in the Edge and must solve a problem or conflict. _On the Edge_ tells the story of Rose Drayton who must team up with Weird aristocrat Declan Camarine to save the Edge from magic hungry monsters. The second book, _Bayou Moon_, finds Cerise Mar caught in a war between two Weird nations. In _Fate’s Edge_, the characters must keep a dangerous magical object out of the wrong hands. Finally, _Steel’s Edge_ brings the series to a close with swordsman Richard helping healer Charlotte stop a slavery ring.

Ilona Andrews is a memorable writing team of urban fantasy novels. Their stories are filled with interesting three dimensional characters that grow and suspenseful plots of gritty adventure. Each new book they write adds to the growing urban fantasy category. For more information on the books, visit the authors’ web site at:

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Touchstones of Fantasy

When reading fantasy, different readers get something from the books. Many books give a brief pleasure but soon are forgotten. Other books turn into classics read by many different people like Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Most books leave behind what I call touchstones.*

Touchstones are sentences or paragraphs that leave a lasting resonance for the reader. They touch something in us or say something to us that we want to remember. They influence our lives in subtle ways. Touchstones can consist of dialogue or any part of a book which evokes a vivid image in the reader’s thoughts and can be different for every reader.

In this article I’ll share some of the touchstones that mean something to me. Garnered from many years of readin, I haveve picked some of the ones that appealed the most to me and I hope will say something to you. Please be aware that these are only based on my personal choices.

The first touchstone is from Burning Water by Mercedes Lackey:

"There ain't no such thing as 'one true way', and the way you find is only good for you, not anybody else, because your interpretation of what you see and feel and understand as the truth is never going to be the same as anyone else's.
"The only answers worth having are the ones you find for yourself.
"Leave the world better than you found it.
"If it isn't true, going to do some good, or spread a little love around, don't say it, do it or think it.
"There are only three things worth living for; love in all its manifestations, freedom and the chance to keep humanity going a little while longer. They're the same things worth dying for. And if you aren't willing to die for the things worth living for, you might as well turn in your membership in the human race."

This touchstone has become sort of a philosophy about life for me. It says what I feel about religious tolerance and how one can live a happy life without doing much damage to others.

"Whose world was it, in God's eyes? Could man in his vanity and pride ride roughshod through space and time forever, forcing his will on all other living creatures, giving them life or death according to his sufferance? Must there not sometime be a day of reckoning also for man-when he must make an accounting for his custodianship of his brothers, who likewise breathed his air and trod his soil and knew sorrow, joy, and love?" This touchstone is from Merlin's Ring by H. Warner Munn, a fantasy book that tells the tale of Merlin's godson through an alternate history earth. As an animal lover this touchstone speaks to me about how we treat animals and our world.

Also from the same book mentioned in the last paragraph comes the following touchstone:

"This tale is not the end, for no story ever really comes to any definite end. There is only a pause in a life-a change, a blending, a transmutation into something new, which in itself is impermanent. It continues changing toward a development known only to God." Life is ever changing. People have trouble dealing with change. For me, this touchstone says that good things come from change.

"Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ-call him what you will," I said. "What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die." comes from The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It is another touchstone that talks to me of religious tolerance and fighting for the good of the world.

“Please don’t tell me that was God’s will. It’s a damned dangerous business to assume you know the mind of God, however much what happens seems to agree with your own view of the world.” from Glenda Larke's  “Aware” series of books.

These are some of the touchstones I've been happy to share with you. I hope that I didn't offend anyone. Please let me know some of your favorite touchstones from fantasy books. Until next time.

*The term Touchstones is an idea that originally appeared in the defunct magazine Fantasy Review.

Friday, May 24, 2013

_Strategies of Fantasy_ by Brian Attebery

People that study the Fantasy genre can’t agree on a definition of what Fantasy is. Occasionally a nonfiction book comes out from a scholar that tries to explain Fantasy and give it a legitimacy as literature. These books can be interesting to the Fantasy reader in gaining a better insight into the purposes of the genre and intentions of the authors. Strategies of Fantasy by Brian Attebery is such a book. It traces the literary importance of Fantasy as an important, viable literature.

Brian Attebery is a scholar who studies and writes about the Fantasy genre. He presents his ideas about the genre in clear, straight forward words. His expertise spans several books and he is part of the conference for t¯he International conference on the Fantastic in the Arts every year. Several aspects of Fantasy are explained in this book: a definition of Fantasy, its relationship to literature, and the contributions of women to the genre.

Defining Fantasy literature with a set meaning has been debated for a long time. Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a Fantasy work. In his book, Brian Attebery provides a viable and sensible one. He believes that Fantasy is a fuzzy set that revolves around core books and expands out to books on the fringe. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is an example of a core book. People’s conception of High Fantasy springs from this book. He thinks other core books are at the center of several sub-genres with a few books that defy definitions. Once Mr. Attebery established this definition, he moves on to explain the relationship of Fantasy to literature.

The author uses several literary theories to compare Fantasy books against. Through an exhaustive use of examples, he demonstrates that Fantasy is a part of literature. Readers gain insights into the importance of the genre and how it fulfills its purpose by story and character. He covers several books that are classics in the genre like John Crowley’s Little, Big. Mr. Attebery thinks the power of story and characters give Fantasy a legitimacy for consideration.

Lastly, the contributions of women authors to Fantasy have increased the genre’s strength. Mr. Attebery thinks women have helped the genre by addng their unique points of view. He tells how women authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, Patricia McKillip, Andre Norton and many others have created female heroines of strength and intelligence to the genre. They have brought us the women’s coming-of-age story to our attention. Women add different stories than the standard male hero.

Strategies of Fantasy by Brian Attebery is a fascinating book about the Fantasy genre. He develops many interesting ideas like a definition of Fantasy, the genre’s relationship to literature and the contributions of women authors in the book. Readers will get valuable insights about Fantasy from reading this book. If you come across this book, be sure to read it.

Book Review: _Owlknight_ by Mercedes Lackey

How does a reader of Fantasy feel when the last book of a series comes out? Satisfied? Relieved? Joyous? These are the feelings readers will get with Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey, the final book of a trilogy set in the Fantasy world of Valdemar. The book is an entertaining conclusion because of its likable characters, adventurous plot and strong themes.

The likable characters continue to mature in the final book. Darian undergoes various ceremonies to take his place as the respected leader of his Vale. He is troubled by memories of his missing parents and weird dreams. This drives him to find closure before taking his place as a leader. Keisha is confused by her love for Darian and fears rejection by him. She must work through this problem with the help of her friends. Both of them are assisted by various friends like the Hawkbrothers and Kelvren the griffin. All of the characters come together by Ms. Lackey’s strong talent to write believable characters that are lifelike.

An adventurous plot keeps the reader hooked on the book. Darian keeps having strange dreams and visits from totemic spirits while doing ceremonies for his leadership. He is driven to find any trace of his parents many years after their disappearance. The discovery of a vital clue sends him along with a group of allies on a long journey to find a northern tribe that might have information about Darian’s parents. Along the way they encounter many dangerous problems like large predators and vicious raiders. Plots are important to books so they make sense. Ms. Lackey puts her plot threads together seamlessly for a story that flows well from beginning to end.

Lastly, strong themes in a book leaves readers with something to think about when finished with the book. This book has memorab ple strong themes. Most people have a need for closure before moving on with their lives, which is the main theme of this book. Darian needs to know what happened to his parents before assuming the role of leader in his community. Another theme is love and how it gives strength to people in adversity. Keisha finds this through the support she gets from Darian, her sister and her friends. The author includes these themes in her book in a subtle way that helps keep the reader engrossed in the story.

Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey is the final book of a trilogy. The likable characters, adventurous plot and strong themes provide this book an entertaining end to another story set in the fantasy world of Valdemar. Readers will find a satisfying conclusion for the time invested in reading the book. Mercedes Lackey adds another good book to her large series of Valdemar.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: _Owlsight_ by Mercedes Lackey

Middle books of trilogies sometimes end up being slow or do not advance the story further. It becomes difficult for authors to keep the momentum going. This is not true of this book. Owlsight by Mercedes Lackey is the second book of a trilogy continuing the story of Darian. It is a part of Ms. Lackey’s Valdemar series. The author keeps the second book entertaining by growth in the characters, an interesting plot and a realistic setting.

Characters, old and new, continue to grow throughout Owlsight. A few years have passed when Darian returns to his village a little older. He is expected to be a bridge between two different cultures. This character undergoes further maturing as he faces new problems and meets new friends. A new character is introduced in Keisha. She is a young woman with the gift of healing who must self-train herself to be a Healer. Keisha is unsure of herself as she grows throughout the story. Changes in their lives helps with the growing and increase in depth along with the influence from nonhuman characters like the hertasi and dyheli. The characters’ growth comes from the plot.

An interesting plot keeps the book from getting dull. Darian returns to his home town after living and training for years with the Hawkbrothers. He helps his friends set up the new vale in the forest. While this is happening, Keisha struggles to learn how to use her burgeoning healing talent. everyone is brought together when a new threat appears. Another group of barbarians are moving closer to the town and an outnumbered diverse group must work together to stop the new incursion. Ms. Lackey weaves these plot threads together for an entertaining read.

Finally, a realistic setting gives the characters a place to live out the events of the plot. Ms. Lackey provides vivid descriptions of the setting that brings it to life. The Vale is an interesting community of humans, nonhumans and magic. Dwellings and buildings fit together in an environmentally regulated place of living. This place mixes in with a rural village, lord’s keep and forest, creating conflict and a need to be watchful for survival. Such a detailed setting gives the readers a realistic touch that draws them into the story.

Owlsight by Mercedes Lackey is an entertaining middle book of a trilogy. The growth of characters, interesting plot and realistic setting blend to create an absorbing book for readers. Ms. Lackey’s writing style brings another tale of Valdemar to readers by appealing to the reader’s emotions and sense of adventure. This is a good book to read.

Mini-Book Review:  Magic’s Song: Tales of the Harper Mage by Laura Underwood

This book is a collection of short stories about the harper mage Anwyn Baldomyre and his talking harp Glynnanis.

Anwyn Baldomyre is born with a magic talent. To release the magic within him, he must make some kind of sacrifice. He refuses to do this, preferring to wander the world as a harper. His magical harp, Glynnanis, contains the soul of the last unicorn in it. Together, they roam their world, getting into various problems. Each story tells of a predicament Anwyn gets into and must use his magic songs to escape. Ms. Underwood creates vivid images and interesting problems for each story.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: _Perchance To Dream_ edited by Denise Little

“To sleep perchance to dream,” wrote William Shakespeare. Dreams are a part of our world each night. They fascinate us and can be nonsensical, entertaining or profound. Perchance To Dream edited by Denise Little is a themed anthology with stories about dreams. They range from pleasant diversions to sad tales. There are many stories that readers will like.

The anthology opens with “1-900-NODREAM” by Diane Duane. Jim is haunted in his dreams by the ghosts of murder victims. He spends his time trying to help the ghosts but the dreams are destroying his mind with the constant reliving of the crimes. In desperation, he calls a phone number that claims they can help with dreams. A Ms. Cumaya helps him through the rest of the story. This story is very entertaining with likable characters. It has an interesting theme of how dreams can affect people’s lives.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a creative author of Contemporary Fantas   y. She writes stories that are memorable. “Night Stuff” is a strong ghost story about a mother and daughter that met a tragic end. They can only talk while inhabiting other people’s dreams. Through dreams can they find the doorway to redemption and freedom. Readers will enjoy this poignant tale.

“Needle and Dream” by classic Fantasy author Andre Norton takes place in one of her worlds. When people in the village dream, they must tell the Keeper who records it. Dreams are rare in this world and some prophetic. Krista wakes up from a dream about a threat to her village. The Keeper determines that she needs to finish her quilt. What follows is a wonderful story of courage and dreams fulfilled.

Historical Fantasy is represented by Nancy Springer’s clever story “Dreamfisher.” A young girl is driven from her people for naming things. She comes to a mountain lake where she meets Herodotus the a   ncient historian. He helps her to discover herself and the beauty of dreams. Ms. Springer gives readers a descriptive story of what life is like without dreams.

The theme of dreams takes a different turn in “A Butterfly Dreaming” by Susan Sizemore. Maggie is a surgeon from our world or dreaming trapped in the body of a woman in a Fantasy world by magic. She can’t go home and faces a perilous existence in the other world. The priests burn anyone they discover is from another dreaming. Ms. Sizemore weaves a clever plot with good characters that ends in a surprise.

Perchance to Dream is an entertaining anthology on the theme of dreams. Readers will find stories with interesting plots and likable characters. Dreams are an important part of our lives. We can’t live without them. Read some the the stories in this anthology, then go dream your own.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Apologies for March

I apologize for the lack of posts in March. Life caught up with me as well as some work commitments. I work at a high school and the students had a research paper and essay they needed help with so my personal writing fell by the wayside. I plan to be back on track in April. Until then, may the gifts of fantasy and wonder be yours.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

"Merlin Codex" Trilogy by Robert Holdstock

A ship sits at the bottom of a north European lake in winter screaming. Merlin hears the screaming and travels to the frigid winter place to raise the ship. This is how the mythic fantasy trilogy by Robert Holdstock called the “Merlin Codex” begins. The series is a fascinating blend of Greek, Celtic and Arthurian mythology with interesting characters and a gritty, memorable plot. Mr. Holdstock provides another intriguing addition to the mythic fantasy sub-genre.

Celtika is the first book introducing readers to an ancient Europe of Celtic tribes before the rise of Rome. Merlin is a traveller on a long path in life. He has magic and has lived a long time. In his travels, he has met important people like Jason from the golden fleece Greek myth. After many years, Merlin travels to a northern European lake where he raises the ship Argo from the depths and revives Jason. Merlin begins a quest with Jason to find Jason’s missing sons. The quest involves travel with interesting characters through strange lands on the living ship Argo. Merlin meets Urtha from Alba, which sets up the next book. The mystery of Jason’s oldest son is resolved by book’s end. Readers will have a satisfying experience and be eager for the next book in the trilogy.

The second book, The Iron Grail, begins with Merlin emerging from hiding on Alba. He encounters the Fates who tell him four people are looking for him. Merlin moves through this story encountering the prophesied people while helping Urtha restore his kingdom and helping Jason find his second son. More details of the story are told in a gritty dark presentation of a Britain with an active supernatural influence. Mr. Holdstock furthers the story of Merlin in the second book and his dealings with Jason, Medea and the ship Argo as Merlin grows on his long journey.

In The Broken Kings, the final book of the series, Merlin must solve the problem of why the Ghostlands are expanding into Urtha’s kingdom. This book focuses on Merlin’s character while Jason fades mostly into the background. The ship Argo still plays a role in helping Merlin with the problem. A journey to Crete and other strange places occurs in their travels a Merlin helps Urtha save his kingdom and children, setting the sage for the future King Arthur. The book brings the series to a fulfilling close.

The “Merlin Codex” trilogy by Robert Holdstock is a fascinating mythic fantasy. Mr. Holdstock’s use of Arthurian, Celtic and Greek mythology mixed together brings a transformed ancient world to life. Following his character Merlin through this world and his trials provides readers with a dark, compelling adventure that resonates on many levels. Readers will find a thought provoking, entertaining journey through the series.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: _Legends II_ edited by Robert Silverberg

A few years ago author Robert Silverberg edited the popular anthology Legends. The book contained longer stories set in Fantasy worlds by authors such as Anne McCaffrey, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan and several others. Now Robert Silverberg is back with the second book Legends II featuring new stories set in more popular Fantasy worlds. Authors from the previous book return with new stories along with new authors and their contributions. Like any book with a variety of stories, they range in interest. There is something entertaining for every reader.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern is a world mixing dragons and computers. The books come under the sub-genre of Science Fantasy. “ Beyond Between“ is a follow up story to her book Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern. This story tells what happens to two queen riders separated from their dragons and the mysterious dimension of Between. The holder Thalion  is haunted by a strange ghost after Moreta vanished into Between during a plague. Moreta finds herself trapped in a weird area of this dimension, but helped by a dragonrider from the past. She keeps returning to the last place she left from to leave a message. Readers will find this a satisfying, bittersweet conclusion to a tragic story.

Neil Gaiman contributes a new American Gods story to the book with “ Monarch of the Glen.” His character Shadow from the book returns in this story. Shadow is traveling through Scotland when he meets a man in a pub who hires him as a bouncer at a party for a weekend. A strange dream of Vikings on a ship made of fingernails begins to plague him. The party he will work at is held in a strange country house. He discovers a group of paranoid party goers at the house where he is forced into a fight with a huge man. Help comes from some fantastic characters. Mr. Gaiman provides a dark entertaining story for the anthology.

A new story of survival set in one of the Fantasy worlds of Robin Hobb’s appears in “Homecoming.” The story is told by a noble woman called Lady Carrillion. She and her family are exiled along with others to make a home in a new unexplored land. It is a harsh land of marshy ground and jungle. Abandoned without supplies, they must find a place to settle. Carrillion tells the story in a series of journal entries. Readers learn how she slowly gains leadership through her knowledge. When they discover an ancient, buried underground city, survival becomes even more perilous. Ms. Hobbs makes the story suspenseful with vivid, tight descriptions of the action and setting.

George R.R. Martin’s world of Westeros is represented by the story “Sworn Sword,” a sequel to the story from the first anthology. Duncan (Dunk) and Egg return, working for a destitute lord. It is a time of drought and the neighboring land owner dams up a stream belonging to Dunk’s lord. They are hopelessly outnumbered. Duncan decides to try talking with the other land owner because of this fact. He goes with the squire Egg to the castle of the lady who is rumored to be a vicious murderer. From this visit, the story moves on to a good conclusion. The author provides an interesting plot and characters, adding a good story to his fantasy world.

“Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card is set in his Alvin Maker world. This is an alternate history fantasy world of early America, but people have magic talents called knacks. Alvin is traveling down the Mississippi River on the steamboat called the Yazoo Queen. His young apprentice Arthur Stuart travels with him. There are slaves from the kingdom of Mexica on board. Arthur hates slavery because his mother died in getting him to freedom. Alvin must keep Arthur out of trouble while trying to stay out of a plot to invade Mexica. He meets Jim Bowie during the trip. Mr. Card creates a fascinating alternate history full of memorable characters. The story leaves readers with a satisfying end.

Legends II edited by Robert Silverberg has many entertaining stories for readers. There are stories from popular authors that explore other aspects of their Fantasy worlds. In addition to the stories reviewed in this article, the book contains stories from Terry Brooks, Elizabeth Haydon, Robert Silverberg, Diana Galbadon and Raymond Feist. The book provides readers new stories in their favorite worlds as well as places for new readers to the genre to sample without reading the book series many of the stories take place in. This is a strong anthology worth reading.    

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: _The Wood Wife_ by Terri Windling

Some people believe deserts are lifeless stretches of sand. That is untrue. Deserts vary in their habitats all over the world. The desert country of southern Arizona is unique. It is a vibrant desert full of many one of a kind species like the giant saguaro cactus. Fantasy author Terri Windling writes a powerful Mythic Fantasy book set in this extraordinary desert with The Wood Wife. The book is a timeless, memorable story that hooks readers with its setting, characters and plot.

Setting can be a powerful element of a book. Terri Windling sets the story in the Rincon mountains near Tucson, Arizona. This provides the book a strong sense of place. Her vivid descriptions of the desert increase the sense of wonder when the magical creatures appear. Coyotes, stags, cacti and other things are imbued with magic. The setting seems alien enough to a separate fantasy world existing   ¥ within the modern world. Setting brings mystery and change into the lives of the characters.

Ms. Windling creates realistic, believable characters that readers can follow with interest. Maggie Black is a writer and lapsed poet. She has an annoying ex-husband and moves around to many different places, running away from life. Finding a place and her poetry is her major conflict. Johnny Foxxe is a young man she meets. He is a native of Tucson with a strange family background. Dora is the young wife of a painter. She loves her husband, but becomes troubled by his erratic behavior all of these people encounter the magical beings like the wood mage, wind mage and shape shifters that bring changes to the lives of the characters. The author brings all of these interesting characters to life with intriguing backgrounds.

Finally, Ms. Windling weaves a suspenseful plot with depth. Maggie Black inherits a house in a canyon near Tucson from th   µe poet Davis Cooper. Murdered. he leaves all of his papers to Maggie who plans to write a biography of Cooper’s life. In the canyon, she meets the tenants of the other cabins such as Fox and Dora. Maggie’s investigation of Cooper’s life draws her into the strange world of magical creatures. The creatures are powerful and capricious beings. Various encounters with them bring danger to people and sometimes ruin. Maggie must try to unravel the past to save people’s lives. The plot moves at a fast pace and is thought provoking.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling is a powerful book that is part Urban Fantasy, but mostly a Mythic Fantasy. Setting, characters and plot come together to create a deeply affecting book. It is a memorable journey through the desert Southwest brought to life by vivid descriptions. Ms. Windling's story demonstrates that magic can touch the real world in our imaginations. I recommend ths book highly to readers.