Archive for the ‘fantasy’ Category

A SHIVERING OF WORLDS

Deep in the chalk, something is stirring. Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots – an old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, a blurring of edges.

Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land, her land.

There will be a reckoning . . .

The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchett

Doubleday

Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I found this too on the withdrawn shelf, much to my surprise. Shepherd’s Crown is, of course, the last book of the Discworld, completed just before Terry was to meet Death himself. Death does play a part in this book, both on a literal and philosophical level. It is the fifth book about Tiffany Aching, and a book in which Death comes – as he must to us all – and yet life goes on.

The book is complete, though not perhaps as finished as Terry would have liked. His writing technique, of writing scenes, joining them up and then re-writing and re-writing, has given us a complete work, but not as fully polished as it might have been. According to Neil Gaiman, one important scene in particular involving Granny, You the cat, and Death remained unfinished and was therefore omitted. But it is what it is, a deeper and more serious book than most of Terry’s work, a book about hope and new beginnings. And, yes, it is both funny and sad….

Advertisements

Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.

Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Church is no ordinary school. But Mia is no ordinary student.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.

Nevernight

Jay Kristoff

HarperVoyager

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve Litten

Mia Corvere, daughter of a patrician in the city of Godsgrave, has her privileged life and family ripped from her when her father is executed for treason. She escapes her own death to be raised by a man connected to the Red Church, a school for assassins. Mia learns and is finally apprenticed to the Red Church, though surviving the journey to its gates was more of a challenge than she expected. All the while, Mia seeks revenge on the triumvirate responsible for her situation.

Thus unfolds an interesting and well told story, which owes more than a little to Baroque Italian city-state politics. Godsgrave has the feeling of Venice, with a bit of Florentine infighting thrown in. The world beyond Godsgrave, apart from the Red Church School, is almost entirely sketched. But this isn’t a problem as almost all the action takes place in three locations. The characters are generally believable, but most are a little two dimensional.

This is a complex story that either needed more than 400 pages to tell, or less padding of the main plot. Part of the problem is that there are about three separate plots going on, Mia’s revenge, a love story, graduation from the Red Church and a betrayal. Unfortunately, none was told well, though each was told adequately.

The setting was good, and the minimal magic enhanced the story. As did the politics of Godsgrave. I also enjoyed Kristoff’s footnotes, whereby he explains a story point a la Pratchett. A nice touch and often humorous. Nevernight is a good read but not a great read, though I do recommend it for those who like fantasy without demi-humans or much magic.

#15 in the multiple best-selling Ring of Fire Series.

It’s springtime in the Eternal City, 1635. But it’s no Roman holiday for uptimer Frank Stone and his pregnant downtime wife, Giovanna. They’re in the clutches of would be Pope Cardinal Borgia, with the real Pope—Urban VIII—on the run with the renegade embassy of uptime Ambassador Sharon Nichols and her swashbuckling downtime husband, Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz. Up to their necks in papal assassins, power politics, murder, and mayhem, the uptimers and their spouses need help and they need it quickly.

Special rescue teams—including Harry Lefferts and his infamous Wrecking Crew—converge on Rome to extract Frank and Gia. And an uptime airplane is on its way to spirit the Pope to safety before Borgia’s assassins can find him. It seems that everything is going to work out just fine in sunny Italy.

Until, that is, everything goes wrong. Now, whether they are prisoners in Rome or renegades protecting a pope on the run, it’s up to the rough and ready can do attitude of Grantville natives to once again escape the clutches of aristocratic skullduggery and ring in freedom for a war torn land.

1635: The Papal Stakes

Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon

Baen

Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

It’s always a nice feeling when you find something you really want to read on the library withdrawn shelf, and most anything published by Baen – certainly any of the 1632 series – comes into that category for me. 1635: The Papal Stakes is the third in the “Rome” or “Southern European” thread, following 1634: The Galileo Affair and 1635: The Cannon Law.

Those were complicated times without the introduction of a townful of modern Americans into the middle of what is now Germany. Some of those complications are far from obvious, like what should the Catholic Pope in 1635 do about decisions that the Catholic Church made much further up-time? Such as Vatican II? As a result, quite a few pages of this book are given over to theological debate… in between serious amounts of action involving protecting the Pope, hot-air balloons, and getting imprisoned persons out of the clutches of Cardinal Borgia…

It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this is a fine instalment in an alternate history series that I’m enjoying immensely.

Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

Brothers of The Knife

Dan Rabarts

Omnium Gatherum Media

Supplied by author

Purchase here

Reviewed by Eileen Mueller

What could a mere cook, the youngest in a family of powerful warlocks, expect when the hornung emperor invites an elvish prince to dinner?

Not to be framed for the prince’s murder! But that’s exactly what happens to Akmenos, who was in the kitchen, minding his own business, preparing delectable dishes for the emperor’s exalted party, when the murderer struck.

Now, Akmenos must flee from enemies far more powerful than he ever imagined. Luckily, he’s armed with salt and pepper grinders, and handy kitchen utensils, stowed in his apron pockets. After all, you never know when you’ll need a good dinner on the run. It’s a shame Akmenos barely has a chance to rustle up a decent meal on his dangerous, but slapstick, journey.

Brothers of the Knife is a whirlwind romp through a dark fantastical landscape, with airships, magic plinths and portals that deliver Akmenos to unknown territories and bizarre dimensions. Pursued by heinous enemies in the guise of friends and befriended by unlikely allies, Akmenos (and the reader) must always be on the lookout for trouble—oh, and dwarves, witches, minotaur, hyena-people, robots, elves and murderous high-caste hornung warlocks!

Yes, there are plenty of surprises, laughs and adventures in book one of what promises to be a very entertaining series. And the genre? A mash-up of fantasy, steampunk, grim dark, humour, sword and sorcery—you name it, this book has it, so I guess it’s in a unique genre of its own.

Eileen Mueller is a multi-award-winning author of heart-pounding fantasy novels that will keep you turning the page. Dive into her worlds, full of magic, love, adventure and dragons! Eileen lives in New Zealand, in a cave, with four dragonets and a shape shifter, writing for young adults, children and everyone who loves adventure.
Visit her website for Eileen’s FREE books, new releases or to become a Rider of Fire.

When the human creatures appeared, they ravaged the forests and hunted many birds to extinction. The flightless Striggs had only one option:

They went down, down under the ground . . . And it’s there, as you may have heard it whispered, that they still remain. Far below, in a place of stone and darkness . . .

Over thousands of years, they colonised a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, but even underground the Striggs are not safe: chemicals now pollute their water and a deadly sickness threatens the flock.

Even worse: an inquisitive young Strigg called Ellee Meddo discovers a human boy, trapped deep in a well. Humans are to be feared and saving him could mean travelling to the surface, a place of untold peril. What will Ellee decide to do?

A Place of Stone and Darkness

Chris Mousdale

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

It is argued that there are only 7 story archetypes: Rags to Riches, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth, The Quest and Overcoming the Monster, so it is difficult to imagine there are an infinite number of ways to tell the same story. It is true. Some stories are too familiar, pale imitations to ones we have already read. Then there are stories that we think we know, and yet we do not.

A Place of Stone and Darkness follows the unexpected meeting of a young Strigg called Ellee Meddo and a Toppa called Blue. Deep below the earth’s surface they must overcome everything they have been taught about Monsters in order to save each other and everything they hold dear.

Mousdale’s first foray into Young Adult Literature could be read as a list of humanity’s crimes against nature, where our arrogance as taken us to the brink of extinction. It could also be read as the conflict within each one of us to honour our community without losing our own identity. But perhaps the best way to read it is that everything can change in a heartbeat if you are brave and kind, and even when you are afraid you do not give up hope. Mousdale’s original imagining of creatures below the earth, in a time we hope never happens, is embellished with his whimsical vocabulary and engaging imagery. A great read for those who like their adventure to quicken their pulse with each turned page.

An all-new collection of short stories from the world of Magnus Chase!

How well do you know the nine Norse realms? Do you get all those heims mixed up?

Well, this collection of rollicking short stories – each set in a different world and told by a different character from the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series – will help straighten you out.

And even if it doesn’t, you’ll enjoy reading about how Alex saves Amir’s pants, Samirah plucks a giant’s harp, Mallory teaches a dragon how to throw down insults, and much more.

Just watch out for Thor, who is running through the whole thing and raising quite a stink . . .

Magnus Chase: 9 From the Nine Worlds

Rick Riordan

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

I get the feeling that Rick Riordan had these spare chapters that didn’t make the cut….But they are entertaining and have plenty of trademark snark.

Niflheim, Muspelheim, Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, Helheim. Are you ready for mad shopping skillz, dragon insulting and seven other adventures from our favourite characters from the Magnus Chase series? Be nice to think that Hearthstone, Blitzen, Samirah, Alex, Jack, T.J., Mallory and Halfborn could stave off Ragnarok until Magnus gets back from holiday but maybe not…

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone . . .

Inspired by the original Hogwart’s textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and featuring a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition for any film lover or reader’s bookshelf.

Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

J. K. Rowling

Little & Brown

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

This is not a novelisation of the movie, nor does it bear much relation to Rowling’s earlier work by that name (which was an in-universe work; essentially a bestiary for the wizarding world). No, it is what it says on the cover, the screenplay for the movie. Which made the eternal question of whether to read the book or view the movie first even more difficult. So, I came up with the bright idea of waiting for the DVD and them attempting to read the screenplay and watch the movie simultaneously. And no, that just does not work. But I did discover one thing – this screenplay really is the movie, line for line, direction by direction. It’s all here, except the special effects, and those really must be left to the imagination. Or memory, because I really would recommend watching the movie first in this case.

I found the book to be an interesting supplement to the movie. It added to it in unexpected ways – giving names to many characters that I missed in passing, and adding lots of small details. There is a helpful glossary of film terms at the back and I suspect that, given how rarely the screenplay of a popular movie is published in book form, film and media studies teachers will find the book quite useful. It’s quite a short read, and I have to admit that it did will take a while to get used to the format. It’s certainly a physically attractive book, with a nice 1920’s style about it, including clever drawings that hide creatures in scrollwork.  It’s not a novel… but if you enjoyed the movie, I think you will probably appreciate the screenplay, but if you didn’t like it, then this is not the book for you.