Archive for the ‘fantasy’ Category

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
– Introduction by Gardner Dozois
– “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie – A Red Country story
– “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
– “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
– “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
– “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
– “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
– “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
– “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
– “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
– “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson – A Cosmere story
– “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
– “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
– “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
– “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
– “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon – An Outlander story
– “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
– “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
– “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
– “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
– “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
– “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story

Published by Harper Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins

Reviewed by Steve

While Gardner Duzois and George R.R. Martin are better known for fantasy/science fiction anthologies and writing respectively, they have collaborated here as editors of a collection that purports to be about dangerous women. The range of fiction collected is very broad – historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, crime, and fantasy/science fiction. Most of the authors I had heard of, but there were one or two new faces and they didn’t disappoint.

I could discern no obvious pattern in the ordering of the stories, which may have been intentional. Historical fiction camped by science fantasy and crime fiction. Which meant I had to at least sample the style if I wanted to do a good job of reviewing. As well as the volume’s introduction, each author and story was introduced. A good idea as I doubt any but the most vociferous reader would know all of the authors and their genres.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories I felt didn’t jibe, primarily from the historical authors – when writing about medieval royalty, historical reality has to be contended with. That said, historical fiction, and Carrie Vaughn’s Raisa Stepanova could loosely be claimed as such, also produced a couple of winners in the above Vaughn piece and Diana Gabaldon’s Virgins. Jim Butcher’s Bombshells was an excellent piece of urban fantasy, and also gives hope to every Harry Dresdon fan alive (and maybe one or two of the dead, it is fantasy, you know). And while George R.R. Martin is frustrating all by not finishing the A Song of Fire and Ice saga, he is at least still alive and whets our appetite with the final tale in the volume, a prequel in that universe.

I enjoyed the anthology

Before they became the most famous Ranger in the land and the hard-working Ranger Commandant, Halt and Crowley were young friends determined to change the world.

The scheming Baron Morgarath is drawing other power-hungry knights and barons to his banner. King Oswald is wasting away and, if gossip can be believed, Prince Duncan is causing havoc in the north.

Halt and Crowley set out to find the prince, uncover the truth, and re-form the weakened Ranger Corps. Once-loyal Rangers are scattered across the country, and it will take determination, skill, and leadership if they’re to come together as one. Can the Rangers regain the trust of the Kingdom, or will the cunning Morgarath outwit them at every turn?

the-tournament-at-gorlan

Random House

supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Flanagan continues to mine his “Rangers” world; only now he’s digging into prequel territory.

The flaws in his world-building are still evident – coffee ought to be a rare luxury in any pseudo-medieval world unless the setting is very close to its point of origin (or there are improbable amounts of magic messing around with transport and economics).

I keep wishing he’d chuck out this background and start again doing a proper job of it, because he’s otherwise not a bad writer.

The Tournament at Gorlan fairly rollicks along, and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. The story is that the young Prince has be taken captive, and an imposter is stirring up trouble in his name, while the old King is being slowly poisoned in mind as well as body. Our rangers make it their business to get together and put things to rights.

Which they do, culminating in the events of the titular tournament (which I must admit felt more like a modern re-enactment than the real thing, but that’s Flanagan).

The reality is that the majority of his young readers will not even notice the mistakes that annoy me, and this is probably the best of his work that I’ve read so far. Which is as close to a recommendation that you’re going to get.

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the-severed-land

Puffin

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Fliss, an escaped slave, pulls Kirt, whom she thinks is a drummer boy, though the Wall. But he is not as she thinks, and Fliss is sent back through the Wall with Kirt by the Old One on a mission. They must rely on Fliss’s street smarts to survive the journey south deep into enemy territory to rescue Kirt’s sister Lorna and return with her to the Old One. This will not be easy as not only is Lorna hunchbacked and blind, but she is the prisoner of an enemy faction.

This is Gee’s first children’s book for almost ten years, but his skills haven’t faded. The story rattles along quickly with no unnecessary padding. The characters are believable, and the situation, an oligarchic plantation society bent on dominating an entire continent, is credible. Gee is not afraid to present the ugly fact of challenging such authority and failing: execution.

I enjoyed this book. The story was a page turner, it was neither too long, nor too short – the multifarious side plots in adult fiction had been omitted and the barebones of the story told. A good read.

 

the-sword-of-summer

I must confess that I haven’t actually read any of Riordan’s work before, although I had seen the movie adaptation of Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief. Which hadn’t really impressed me, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novel. But I soon discovered otherwise. What didn’t come through in the movie is the sheer exuberance of Riordan’s prose, and his truly wicked sense of humour. This book was fun!

There were a few things that didn’t sit well with me – the convoluted logic it took to get a Muslim girl to become a Valkyrie for example (just because Muslim heroines are fashionable doesn’t mean that every story has to have one). And I think that the choice of Boston as the centre of Yggdrasil and the connection to the other worlds was yet another case of “everything must happen in America even if it doesn’t make much sense”. Personally, I would have found Iceland a bit more interesting. Or even Norsewood.

But Riordan is good enough that this reader can ignore such matters and enjoy the story. It does begin in Boston where Magnus encounters a bridge, a sword, and a fire giant. And dies. And the story continues in Hotel Valhalla. Much of the humour devolves from the collision between Norse myth and the modern world, and it worked for me. Much better than other takes on modernising Norse myth that I’ve encountered, and Riordan’s version is much truer to the actual mythology than, for example, the Marvel version.

The main criticism others have made is that Magnus is too much like Percy and Jason. I didn’t have that issue, because I hadn’t read the other books. However, I would suggest that if Riordan is to silence his critics, he might be advised to try something totally different after finishing this series – something that doesn’t involve mythology, and has a markedly dissimilar lead character. Maybe a science fiction series with a female protagonist. As for me, I got a lot of enjoyment from this book, and I’m sure many teens would enjoy it too.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

The Copper Gauntlet

The second novel of the Magisterium reminded me, for some reason, of the second-to-last Harry Potter movie. Maybe it was the whole running-away-from-magic-school bit. It’s meant to be Call’s second year at the Magisterium. He runs away from home, because he thinks his father is planning to do something terrible. Then he runs away from the Magisterium to find his father – whom he now believes has stolen an artefact called the Copper Gauntlet, rumoured to do horrible things to chaos mages.

Call continues on his self-absorbed path… Why do these teen heroes have to be so irritating? Perhaps his only redeeming feature is his concentration on his how-not-to-be-an-evil-overlord list. In fact, we spend a great deal of story time inside his head, and perhaps not enough inside the other main characters, so they feel somewhat undeveloped. As for the plot, there are plenty of twists and turns, some of them a bit contrived – such as questing for a magic copper gauntlet, in Call’s copper year? There’s plenty of action too, some of it quite spectacular. I was impressed by the

But it somehow didn’t quite work for me, and I find myself struggling to remember what happened when, and why. This series is polarising people; some love it, some hate it… Me, I’m somewhere in between.

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

the Amber- ountain

I am really rather grateful that Stephen Minchin decided to publish this short novel before calling it a day for Steam Press. It is the sequel to The Glass Projector, which ended on a definite cliff-hanger, and to be frank, I really wanted to find out what happened next. And I was not disappointed. The story took off from where it had left, with little preamble (which does mean that you will need to have read The Glass Projector first), and rocketed on to a most satisfying climax.

As I explained when reviewing The Glass Projector, this is a fantasy steampunk adventure for young people, set against a background of war, and with an innovative twist to the nature of magic. I must say that I enjoyed the over-the-top writing style which perfectly matched the subject. The characters are fun and fascinating, they get to be suitably heroic, the young heroine saves the day, and the villain gets his just desserts. Yes, it’s all very melodramatic, but that’s not a flaw.

Sometimes it’s good to read something that’s simply fun and engaging. Part way through I realised that I was engrossed, and had to tear myself away with difficulty. This is a great read for young and old – and I challenge you to spot the kiwi!

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui

 

WARP 3

I enjoyed Colfer’s Artemis Fowl stories (Yes, I know they’re fairy stories, they’re written for kids, and you know perfectly well that I don’t care, because they’re that good), so I thought I might try this. Unfortunately it’s the third book of a trilogy – which rather threw me in the deep end of the wormhole, but Colfer was clever enough to include a brief “Need to Know” introduction, which explains the background. And a bizarre background it is. WARP stands for Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme, which is what you think it is… and not. Because Professor Charles Smart figured out how to mess with quantum physics to create wormholes into the past – and when the FBI found out about it they decided to use it to stash important witnesses back in history. But Professor Smart didn’t really understand what he was doing, nor does anyone else, and now he’s gone missing… And then there’s the unpredictable weird stuff that keeps happening to people who pass through the wormhole. You can see the potential for trouble. And then, Colfer throws in a couple of clever kids to save the world from a psychotic Victorian villain, who has been let loose to cause havoc across history.

As you might imagine, this book is a whole lot of fun. Colfer has a seriously warped sense of humour, and a talent for action. The youthful lead characters here are well-crafted (and more sympathetic than Artemis Fowl ever was). The villain is an absolute nutter, no bones about it. As for how it all works out in the end… very clever, Mr Colfer.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui