Thursday, July 09, 2015

Memory Lane: "The Light Fantastic" by Terry Pratchett

Continuing my return journey through the Discworld, I find Terry Pratchett getting more in his groove with “The Light Fantastic” ($9.99, Harper).

Rincewind and Twoflower continue the wild journey that began in “The Colour of Magic” as the world begins to go crazy. A huge giant start has appeared in the night sky, and it’s getting closer as Great A’Tuin swims through space toward it. Cults pop up, magic falls out of favor, and many people think it’s the end of the disc.

Meanwhile, an ambitious wizard at Unseen University has set his sights on moving up in the world. To do that, he needs the lost spell from the Octavo, the most powerful magical book on the disc. That spell just happens to be lodged in Rincewind’s head, and the easiest way to get it is to kill him.

On revisiting the “Colour of Magic” after 20 years or so, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, but I found it to be maybe a bit weaker than I remembered. It was kind of a wandering piece, with a few subplots that didn’t really seem to go anywhere. “The Light Fantastic,” though, seemed to me to be where Pratchett really starts hitting his stride. It’s a bit tighter and maybe a little funnier.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Review: "The Gospel of Loki" by Joanne Harris

I enjoyed Joanne Harris’ first Norse mythology-themed young adult novel “Runemarks” a number of years ago, so, for the title alone, I couldn’t resist her latest “The Gospel of Loki” ($25.99, Saga Press).

The approach has become pretty common in recent years – take a classic tale and turn it around from the villain’s viewpoint. For this book, Harris turns some familiar tales from Norse mythology on their head, as we get the view through the eyes of the trickster god Loki.

From the very beginning of his relationship with Odin, Loki is an outcast in Asgard. He’s not a true god, and the others make sure he knows it. They are, however, eager to use his talents when he can help them. His perception of his treatment causes resentment that will eventually put the worlds on the path to Ragnarok.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" by Patrick Rothfuss


Patrick Rothfuss warns us in the prologue to “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” ($18.95, DAW) that fans of the Kingkiller Chronicles may want to skip this novella. If they do, though, they’re missing out.

True, this slim volume doesn’t really move Rothfuss’ story along, and it certainly gave people waiting impatiently on the third book something to gripe about. But it does have a certain charm and shows a slightly different side of the writer.

The story, more a novel-length vignette if such a thing can exist, follows Auri as she goes about her day-to-day life in the Underthing below the university, preparing for a visitor. The book follows her for several days as she gets things in order, and while she does have adventures, they’re certainly not of the kind that Kvothe is involved in above the ground. Though, as we see early on when she dives for treasures, they can be just as dangerous.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Review: "The Witch Hunter" by Virginia Boecker


In her debut novel, “The Witch Hunter” ($18, Little, Brown), Virginia Boecker takes us to an alternate version of 16th Century England where magic is very real and practicing it can be hazardous to your health.

Elizabeth Grey is coming of age in a violent occupation. She’s been trained since she was a child for one purpose – to bring witches to justice – and she’s been very good at it. Until recently, that is, when other issues have been occupying her mind.

The tables turn on Elizabeth when she is caught with some forbidden herbs and accused of witchcraft herself. She’s imprisoned and scheduled for execution, but Nicholas Perevil, the country’s most notorious and most wanted wizard, rescues her. He offers her life in return for her help in breaking a curse that’s been placed on him.

She begins her journey as a reluctant savior for a man she’s been taught to hate, but the path she travels will turn the world that she’s known for most of her life upside down.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Memory Lane: "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett a few weeks ago, I decided that it might be time to revisit some of those early Discworld novels that I haven't read in years. I was tempted to begin my journey with "Sourcery," which was my first Pratchett novel, but after much debate, I decided to start at the beginning with "The Colour of Magic" ($9.99, Harper Collins).

This first volume does a delightful job of introducing the reader to the zany and colorful world of the Disc through the eyes of the inept failed wizard Rincewind and the world's first tourist, Twoflower.

Rincewind, who is much more comfortable running away from trouble than toward it, at first tries to avoid the flamboyant tourist from a strange land and his, umm, interesting luggage. That becomes impossible when Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the, ahem, "grand" city of Ankh-Morpork charges the wizard with protecting the tourist. As fans of Pratchett know already, no one refuses Vetinari -- at least no one who survives more than a few more sentences.

That sets Rincewind on a path that will take him to the very edge of the disc and beyond, and also serves to introduce readers to a wide swath of the world that we all came to know and love.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Review: "The Desert Spear" by Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett takes the reader by surprise a little in “The Desert Spear” ($7.99, Del Rey), the second book of his Demon Cycle.

In “The Warded Man,” we get a villainous picture of Ahmann Jardir that’s largely from the point of view of lead character Arlen Bales. In the follow-up, Jardir takes the spotlight for the majority of the first half of the book, and we’re left with a very different picture of the man who would be The Deliverer.

The early portion of the book takes us through Jardir’s young life, the beginnings of his friendship with the khaffit Abban, and the things that shaped the man who wields the Spear of Kaji. While there are still disturbing things about the man, we leave his tale with a much more sympathetic view of him and his motivations.

In the present-day storyline, Jardir has taken the role of Shar’Dama Ka, the Krasian version of The Deliverer. He has uncovered the secrets of Anoch Sun, first discovered by Arlen Bales, and has crossed the desert to bring the Daylight War to the greenlanders of Thesa, who he views as weak. He plans to subjugate and occupy their lands, while conscripting the able-bodied to join his fight against the night demons.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: "Shadow, Shadow" by V.B. Marlowe

There’s probably never been a better time, or perhaps, a worse time for indie and self-published authors. On the one hand, it’s now easier than ever to see your story in print and promote it. On the other, that same ease has created a glut of books, most of them pretty bad, that may make people less likely to pick up an indie or self-published title.

I’m guilty myself of often dismissing books that don’t come from a big publisher because of past experience. Every now and then, though, something catches my eye and draws me in.

I’m not sure exactly what it was about V.B. Marlowe’s “Shadow, Shadow” ($11.99, All Night Reads) that drew my attention – probably a combination of the title, the cover and the description – but I’m glad it did.

Marlowe introduces us to the small town of Shadow Pines and four teenagers who, at first, seem very different – Harley, the misfit punk girl; Teaghan, the quiet mousy type; Brock, the most popular boy in school; and Gianna, the activist. All, though, share a birthday and receive a mysterious gift from the new novelty shop in town.