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.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Book Review: _The Winter Queen_ by Devin Cary

In our present day, we have little free time for reading a book. Many Fantasy books are over four hundred pages long. So, finding something short and quick to read is difficult. The Winter Queen by Devin Cary fits such time constraints. It is a shorter book, making for a fast read and it is very entertaining. The book's plot, characters and magical system adds to the intrigue, action and adventure.

The king has died naming his wife Elissa as regent to the kingdom until their son comes of age. Elissa faces a hard challenge because women are believed to be unfit to rule. She must meet the struggle with every resource at her hand. No one knows that she possesses magic. It's that talent and her intelligence she must learn to use in order to protect her son. Elissa does have the help of Geoffrey, the lord marshal and her husband's best friend. Sometimes that isn't enough. There are court intrigues going on as well as a threat from a rival kingdom. The author handles the story deftly with a swift moving plot and lots of action.

Characters add a sympathetic touch to this book. Elissa grows from a desperate, frightened woman to a strong, sword wielding queen. The lord marshal Geoffrey is a loyal friend who stands by her despite her mistakes. He has a growing love for Elissa, but has a sickly wife that he loves too. The villains include the king's cousin Randall and an ambitious church leader that try to find ways to discredit Elissa. The characters provide the plot good people to move along at a brisk pace.

Mr. Cary's magical system gives the book some intriguing complications. Elissa lives in a kingdom that abhors magic. The magic of her people seems to be some kind of psychic abilities though it doesn't play a big role until near the end. Among her people, the women have the magic and the men are the teachers. Elissa discovers a different talent involving shadow turning. Unfortunately, though it helps her, this magic has a price.

Plot, characters and magic combine to make The Winter Queen by Devin Cary an exciting fast read. The book can be read quickly and doesn't have a lot of complicated things going on like longer Epic Fantasies. This book leaves a few loose ends, which promises a possible sequel. I look forward to the further adventures of Elissa, Geoffrey and her son. Readers will too.