fantasy

Review: Archangel by Sharon Shinn (Samaria series #1)

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Archangel by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the first of a series of books set in the same world. Each one has a standalone romance, yet the larger arc, spanning the series, is more of a quest that takes centuries and many heroes to complete. The setting is intriguing, and I’m already hooked.

A distant planet that had been colonised five hundred years ago by a group of men and women, who claim that their God, Jovah, saved them from their own violent world and brought them to Samaria to start anew. Centuries later, Jovah still keeps careful account of how they live their lives, and guids and punishes them to keep the harmonic balance of their world intact. And it’s this close, divine supervision that keeps the many tribes, classes, and races populating Samaria from plunging into war and violence as their ancestors in a far away planet had. (more…)

Anna Dressed in Blood (review)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love Cas with his determination to get to the bottom of things and his insecurity about his own worth without his athame and the secret warmth he feels at having made friends when he never allowed himself to make any before and most of all for his protectiveness towards Anna. I love his charm brewing, patient mother, I love trips-over-his-own-foot Thomas and I love curious and meddling Carmel. I even liked the mean boys from school because they were so well placed. The parents weren’t MIA in this book even though it’s about a seventeen year old boy who goes all around the world killing ghosts.
There were places towards the end of the book where I felt like I was the only one aware that Anna was a ghost and not another human being, whereas the rest of the ‘circle’ was oddly blasé about it. That’s possibly something that was peculiar to their situation. They had bigger, badder things to worry about than one bloody ghost.
I had read in some reviews that the book is creepy. It didn’t read creepy to me. There was plenty of gore, but if you read a lot of urban fantasy novels or crime fiction I suppose you get inured to it.
The book wasn’t scary. It was…fast-paced, interesting, gripping, (sweet) and what seemed to be the perfect series starter.
I can’t wait for book two!!

ratings — 8/10

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Radiance (by Grace Draven): Falling in love slowly

Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)Radiance by Grace Draven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brishen is a Kai prince of no significance to the line of succession and Ildiko is a Gauri noblewoman of little importance in her uncle’s court. They are both beautiful among their own kind but to each other they are ugly and repulsive. The Gauri are humans who live under the sunlight, the Kai are an elder race who thrive at night. Their new alliance is tentative and full of distrust and the marriage of these two otherwise insignificant pawns is a show of good faith between the races. When Brishen and Ildiko first meet they find each other unattractive but interesting. They begin with honesty and over weeks and months this builds to friendship. Eventually neither Brishen nor Ildiko can remember why they found the other disgusting. They fall deeply in love and form an unbreakable bond that no one in either kingdom expected.

I love all marriage of convenience stories where the pair discover the worth of the other and fall in love quietly, through every day gestures and conversations. It’s a difficult trope to build into a narrative without slowing down the pace too much, but thankfully, once in a while, authors like Draven manage to execute it perfectly.

I’ve always held that we fall in love with people, not faces. If there’s something worth falling in love with, you find it after you stop looking at the facade. (Of course I also extend this theory to gender/sexuality, but that’s another discussion). And both Brishan and Ildiko, affectionate and honest individuals with great capacity for love, tread this path together and find all they wanted in a partner in each other. It’s a great read.

I tend to extend the bechdel test to all pieces of fiction I come across. This books passes easily. There are several named female characters, one of whom has several exchanges with Ildiko about something other than a man. So that’s great. But I got the feeling that Draven created Anhuset simply to provide one other strong female in the narrative. I couldn’t really parse out whether Anhuset was the only warrior female among the Kai or if her calling was a normal one for women of her kingdom. I choose to believe the latter.

I had one complaint though. Ildiko tells Brishen that she’s not a maiden, that she’s had a lover before. As befits a well written male character, Brishen doesn’t care but he teases her about her carnal knowledge. To this Ildiko explains that her lover had been a clumsy young man and she didn’t much care for the experience. So she never took another lover.

This. This felt like a cop-out. So the author goes as far as to make her heroine a sexually experienced woman, giving the hero the best reaction to this news – which is indifference and maybe some curiosity – and then promptly diminishes the value of said experience by making Brishen the only lover to have brought her to orgasm. Oh come on. Seriously, now. COME ON. We’re surely beyond this kind of tokenism.

And now we wait for the sequel. =)

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Reading *Host* again

imagesSo I read Stephanie Meyer’s Host a few years ago. After I finished it I couldn’t understand why more people hadn’t read it or even heard about it. My exposure to science fiction has been mostly through Star Trek (Original, Academy and Voyager) and Asimov. So perhaps that’s the reason I’m not offended by a science fiction novel that isn’t gritty and technical and that doesn’t talk about black holes or particle accelerators. See, I love fantasy fiction too. I thrive on the fantastic new worlds authors of this genre build and explore. I love how they people these worlds and walk a fine edge between making this other world familiar as well as different enough to intrigue us. These worlds would be unimaginable without magic or at least a heavy suspension of disbelief. But the best of these stories are always character driven – where the people living in those worlds show the effects of the politics and warfare and culture through their interactions and through the many stories that stand on their shoulders.

To my mind, Host fulfilled the two things I want out of my fantasy fiction – great characters and a world building that unfolds and shows its effects through the actions of those characters. I don’t care that it was done under the aegis of science fiction.

I could sit down and tear the book up with criticisms. It’s flawed, of course it is. The whole story hovered between wanting to be serious and dark and wanting to be accessible to eleven year olds. But I got what I wanted out of this book and so I’ll save the hypocrisy.

I’m rereading it before the movie comes out. I hope the movie doesn’t mess with what appealed to me the most about the story – Wanda and Mel’s friendship. But just in case, I’m refreshing it in my head so that if the movie does disappoint, I’ll block it out of my mind with the original story in my head. =)

Original short fiction – The Story of Khirm

I recently edited (with considerable help from friends) my short fantasy fiction about a kingdom choosing its first monarch. I hope you like it!~~

This is how it all began. When first the need for a king arose, they called the bravest and the cleverest of the land to a war of wit and strength to win the crown. We know that in the end Khirm ascended the throne, but which of these courageous men was he?

Compulsory Reading for Aspiring Authors of Epic Fantasy!!

I have been working on an idea for almost half a year now. It started with a single character and now she has grown to have a host of companions, almost everyone of whom has a back story and a destiny to fulfil. They have complex relationships amongst them and these relationships change as time passes and loyalties shift.

So far so good. I seem to be treading the frustrating, hair-tearing path of many successful authors before me. I might even see a book out of it some day.

But somewhere deep inside me is this utter conviction that no matter how well the story turns, no matter that I untangle all the annoying discrepancies and conflicts and no matter that I finally do think up a climax awesome enough to justify all the build up – this story will never ever be what I’m attempting to make it. Epic.

Maybe I don’t have the smarts for it. I suspect though that I simply don’t have the experience. This story might work out, might not, but with my current level of knowledge and understanding of the world it’ll never resonate with the hearts and minds of readers a thousand miles away from me. I need it to resonate. I need it to raise goosebumps.

And for that I need to write books like these —

The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

  

The Kingkiller Chronicles (Day One and Two) by Patrick Rothfuss

 

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

   

(Click the images to conjure goodreads pages)

These books are what Epic is all about. Everyone of them clever, though even clever has a hard time catching up with Megan Turner’s Queen’s Thief, and everyone of them staying with you for not just days but years. These stories make an impression, leave you with the feeling that the author sees the world a little clearer than we do and that gosh! aren’t they just brilliant? Yes they are. And damn I wish I was too.

The Goddess Test (A my-head-aches Review)

The Goddess Test (Goddess Test, #1)The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Yuck.

I mean, look at that pretty cover, read the awesome sounding concept (despite there existing in the market too many Hades and Persephone stories already) and then think to yourself in the first chapter that this book is different -it actually explores the mother daughter relationship that is such a huge part of the greek story. And then meet the hero.
Up till then we were fine. Fine. But after that the apparently strong and self sufficient heroine turns into a whimpering damsel in distress and the gods that are supposed to be scary and intimidating turn out to have the social structure of high school seniors. Literally.

I hate what this book did to my hopes for it.

SO. Yuck. And that’s all.

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