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: