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justice, warlords and magic: good stuff June 6, 2008

Posted by taryn in Uncategorized.
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Kate Elliot, Spirit Gate, Crossroads Book 1, Orbit. Published 2007.

I have not read any Kate Elliot before and picked this book up on impulse, seeing that great cover, a great teaser page and the Orbit tagline.

People that ride eagles and serve justice? Very very cool. ‘The Guardians’ a mysterious and magical race? Cool. A fanatical, evil and magical army, hiding from justice? Also very cool. Strong and diverse female characters? Nice one.

This is high up on my list for a must-read. Elliot races through the plot and leaves you wanting more. She introduces a whole new world and set of characters part way into the book. I was a bit annoyed at first with the sudden scene change, but it quickly drew me in with its characters and Chinese/Warlordian parallels.

For hundreds of years the Guardians ruled the Hundred, but these unearthly beings have faded from human sight and no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, patrolling from the skies, still represent the Guardians’ power. But there is a corruption in the land that not even they can control, and fanatics are devastating villages, towns, and cities, slaughtering all who oppose them. Outlanders Anji and Mai are fleeing their homeland with a company of dedicated warriors. On reaching the Hundred, they form an alliance with Reeve Joss, and determine to stand against the devouring horde. But, as region after region slips into chaos, a young woman sworn to the Goddess may be all that keeps them from annihilation

Now, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Shadow Gate to arrive.

Check out her blog, some interesting musings, enough to get lost in for an hour or so?

(The UK cover, above, is so much better than the US/Aus cover, below).

 

A rough and insane Cleopatra June 6, 2008

Posted by taryn in fantasy.
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Cover of Empress

Empress (Godspeaker Trilogy Book 1) Karen Miller, Published April 2008.

Karen Miller is a great storyteller. If you liked her previous series Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, you’ll enjoy this new series. Fast-paced and easy to get into, I sped through Empress and am keenly awaiting the next book: The Riven Kingdom.

Empress is the first in line to a new trilogy outing by Miller, Godspeaker. Mijak is turning into a desert, some of its provinces are failing, some are still green and fertile. Its citizens are fanatical about their Gods and making war. Mijak is a ruthless place run by Warlords and priests who divine the Gods will through entrails, blood, sacrifice and scorpions.

In the barren wastes, Hekat is sold into slavery but from the start knows that she is precious and destined for something great. Empress tells her merciless rise to power.

Mijak has a great ancient Egyptian feel, you can almost imagine Hekat as a power hungry and insane Cleopatra. Add to this a bit of puzzling magic and magical items (never fully explained), great “knife-dancing” and the battle, sacrifice and other violent scenes are gory and detailed. The plot holds no quarter, just when you think things can’t get any worse they do.

Check out the contentious reviews over at Amazon, over the book and Hekat in particular. Granted Hekat is not the most heroic or virtuous of characters but she cannot be ignored – I hated her for most of the book. Nevertheless she stands alone in her own right and I found her quite refreshing (plus there are lots of other nice characters to identify with).

Read an extract and decide for yourself.

I also found this interesting cover over at fantastic fiction, I think the UK cover is much better visually and the cheesy tagline doesn’t do much for the cover (Her name is Hekat and she will be slave to no man).

Empress - Alt cover

disappointing, but hobb nonetheless March 16, 2008

Posted by taryn in fantasy.
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I bought this book, mostly to see the end of the trilogy. I love Robin Hobb, the Farseers and tRenegade’s Magic by Robin Hobbhe Liveship traders trilogy are two of my favourite fantasy series of all time.

*Aside – The cover art of this series and all of Hobb’s books are fantastic.*

This series has been essentially about a clash of cultures – the western style Gernians vs the American Indian style Specks. The Gernians are pushing trade routes and “civilisation” into the forests, unknowingly killing the Speck’s ancestor trees. The Specks’ magic takes hold of Gernian Nevare, and drives him to betray his people.

If you have read any of the other books in this series, it continues along the same track, Nevare/Soldier Son is thrust along a course he doesn’t want, he hates himself and for most of the book is a hostage in his own body.

The forest scenes and descriptions are lovely, very visual and inspiring, they make me want to get ‘back to nature’. They definitely bring that spark and serenity of the forest to life.

All in all, I found this series disappointing. (As do the majority of Amazon reviewers). It is depressing with hardly a glimmer of light. Well written with great characters, magic and awesome forests, but the main character just doesn’t inspire and brings the whole series down.

I have to agree with Eyeris, the ending is a big fat ‘what the? THAT was all the magic wanted!’. It is so convenient, all wrapped up withn a few pages, the ruthless magic that had all but destroyed Nevare’s life wanted something so small. Sigh.

Anyway, it has made me go back to the Farseer trilogy. I love it. Soldier Son just doesn’t compare.

Renegade’s Magic (Soldier’s Son Book 3), Voyager, Jul 2007.

a quality sf novel February 11, 2008

Posted by taryn in sci fi.
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Iain M Banks Matter“In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one – maybe two – people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.”

Matter is a slow burn (plot-wise). It’s set in his familiar Culture universe, but manages to mix in medieval fantasy with the sci fi that Banks does so well. The extract publicised by Orbit is actually the whole first chapter, so will give you an idea of the pace. It takes a fair amount of back story/ scene setting before the plot really gets moving. For detail hounds like me though, it’s not really a problem and the subsequent race to the finish gets your blood moving.

Prepare yourself for some lengthly discussions of ‘Shellworlds’. I had to re-read one section a few times where Banks is describing the Sursamen Shellworld. But the artificial planet/Shellworld is fascinating and deserving of much scene setting. Worlds within a world, built by some mysterious and extinct race.

The Ship names are as hilarious as ever, my favourite being Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill. The scenes in the Culture are full of Culture gadgets, environments, Culture versions of holosuites, glanding and AI.

The feudalism of the Eighth [level] on Sursamen is a refreshing counter to the Culture ‘verse. The Sarl are a blood thirsty war race, determined to conquer nearby levels/worlds. They use gunpowder, flying beasts, horses, swords, chariots and pistols.

The dialogue, in usual Banks style, is fabulous. The Sarl are, unsurprisingly, old English in style, while The Oct, a species who are supposed to mentor The Sarl and believe they are descended from the original creators of Shellworlds, speak in a lyrical, philoshophical extreme Yoda style. Confusing, bizarre and completely alien.

I liked Steven Poole’s review in this weekend’s Guardian – cheeky and critical. I didn’t notice the links to Lord of the Rings, 2001 or Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I do agree that the ending leaves a bit to be desired and seems unbalanced compared to the first few acts.

However, Matter is well worth reading and persevering with, this is satisfyingly good sf.

Iain M Banks, Matter, Orbit, Jan 2008

Jennifer Fallon – The Demon Child Trilogy February 7, 2008

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy, good covers.
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Medalon by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is another one of those authors, who I’ve heard of but yet to sample. Over Christmas I got seriously stuck in to her first trilogy:- Medalon, Treason’s Keep and Harshini. If you’re looking for some quality medieval magical fantasy then this is it! And don’t just trust me, Medalon was nominated for the Aurealis Award.

Medalon is a world where four countries live very different lives. Medalon is ruled by the Sisters of the Blade, female atheists who abhor religious ‘pagans’. They have spent years purging their country of paganism and a race called the Harshini. To the north there is Karien, a country of religious fanatics. To the south and south west smaller pagan fiefdoms. The gods are at war and so are their followers. There is a prophecy of a Demon Child who will be half Harshini and who will kill a God.

Treason’s Keep by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is a great writer and storyteller, her characters have depth and irrationalities – they change their minds and they create animated and sparring relationships with each other. There is magic and atheism in her world, gods who behave like stubborn children, politics and strong female characters. The books kept me awake and I just had to get to the end.

Book 2 suprises with some fantastic new characters and subplots. Book 3 is a satisfying conclusion and keeps the tension running high.

Looking forward to diving into a few more Fallon books. Luckily for me she has got a few more books up her sleeve. Hooray!

Harshini by Jennifer Fallon
Her blog is great reading as well, check it out. I particularly enjoyed these entries: Must Love Dogs and ‘The great debate of our time’. She also tips for aspiring writers, movie reviews, author’s notes and all sorts of extras about the world she created.

Will definitely be reading more Fallon

These covers are the best and I think for the latest UK edition.