The Thief's Gamble by Juliet McKenna
The Thief's Gamble is a difficult book to review. The difficulty arises primarily from the same thing that my lukewarm 3-star rating does: the uneven, jam-packed narrative and the periodic confusion that it caused. The narrative is really three-fold: (1) the main story, as seen through the eyes of Livak, a tough, lucky female thief who stumbles into a quest for artifacts that may somehow be linked to a lost race and new kind of magic; (2) near-simultaneous events occurring elsewhere, told from a third-person viewpoint but focusing on an irritating, pompous minor wizard, Casuel; and (3) excerpts from treatises in the fantasy world that are supposed to provide key information to understanding things that will soon happen. The problem, in a nutshell, was that there were just too many things — a pantheon/religious system that is only explained piecemeal; systems of magic ex... Read More
Juliet McKenna(1965- )
Juliet McKenna studied Classics at Oxford. She now lives and writes in West Oxfordshire, England. You can read excerpts and Juliet McKenna’s comments about her novels at her website.
Tale of Einarinn — (1999-2012) Publisher: Livak is a part-time thief and full-time gambler, long accustomed to living by her wits and and narrowly avoiding serious trouble. When she attempts to sell a stolen antique to a passing merchant, she finds herself pulled into a new and dangerous world of political intrigue in which the stakes are higher than anyone involved can imagine. For the antique she has acquired dates from a particular period in the history of Einarinn about which little is known, but much has been speculated. When the truth begins to emerge, Livak decides to take the greatest gamble of her life.
The Thief's Gamble by Juliet McKenna
Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution — (2009) Publisher: The country of Lescar was carved out of the collapsing Tormalin Empire by ambitious men who all felt entitled to seize power for themselves. Now six rival dukedoms are ruled by their descendants, who all lay claim to the crown of high king. Dukes pursue their ambitions through strategic alliances and strength of arms while their duchesses plot marriages and discreet pacts. As long as the battles stay inside Lescari borders, neighbouring powers are content to buy up whatever the dukedoms can produce and sell their rulers whatever they can afford by way of luxuries or necessities. Amoral opportunists come from far and wide to seek their fortunes in the mercenary bands who ride the successive tides of warfare. All the while the ordinary people struggle to raise their crops and families amid the turns and chances of uncaring uncertainty. Many leave, preferring to live abroad as exiles, poorer but safer. Those who can afford to send whatever coin they can spare back to family and friends still labouring to pay the dues and levies that the dukes demand. Now a mismatched band of exiles and rebels are agreed that the time has come for change. Can a small group, however determined, put an end to generations of intractable misery? Perhaps. After all, a few stones falling in the right place can set a landslide in motion. But who can predict what the consequences will be, when all the dust has settled?
Irons in the Fire by Juliet E. McKenna
Contemporary wisdom holds that a fantasy novel should include the following non-exclusive elements and that they, or at least tantalizing glimpses of them, should be apparent from the beginning:
distinctive characters whom the reader can like, relate to,or watch with concerned or morbid fascination
a fascinating world
a conflict, crisis, or unrealized desire that meaningfullyimpacts said characters and world
Ideally, a brisk (or at least smooth) pace and clean, crisp prose combine with these elements to create a lucid, vivid, captivating dream that, as is commonly stated, "sucks the reader in."
Unfortunately, I found the latest tale of Juliet McKenna's signature world of Einarinn, Irons in the Fire, lacking in each of these elements, and in light of this and the number o... Read More
The Solaris Book of New Fantasy by George Mann (ed.)
I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to short fiction. Because of my lack of experience in this area, I hope that you will bear with me as I try to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, even if I don’t always succeed. The plan is to first look at each short story individually providing synopses and commentary, followed by my evaluation of the compilation as a whole. So, let’s look at the stories:
1) “Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast” by Mark Chadbourn. On Christmas Eve in the year 1598 in a world where England is at war against the Faerie, England’s greatest spy Will Swyfte is on a mission of the greatest import — he has until dawn to prevent the Faerie Queen from crossing over to the other side. If he doesn’t, then the Unseelie Court w... Read More
The Aldabreshin Compass — (2003-2006) Publisher: Their coming had not been written in the stars, and no augury had foretold the terror they would bring. The first sign was the golden lights of the beacons, a clear message from every southern isle that a calamity had befallen them. Daish Kheda, warlord, reader of portents, giver of laws, healer and protector of all his many-islanded realm encompasses, must act quickly and decisively to avert disaster. But the people of the Aldabreshin Archipelago not only fear magic, they’ve abjured it. So what defense can Kheda offer against the threat of a dark magic that threatens to overrun every island of his domain? A new tale from the writer who has already gathered many fans with the five volumes of her Tales of Einarinn, Southern Fire is an engrossing epic of magic, intrigue, culture, and politics, in a fantasy setting as colorful as the south seas, as bracing as the ocean wind, and as alluring as the hint of spices in the air of an exotic port.
The Hardrumal Crisis — (2011-2012) Publisher: The Archmage rules the island of wizards. From here he enforces the Edicts of the Council of Wizardry. Foremost is the ban on magecraft in warfare. But there is a rumour of rogue wizardry in Lescar’s recent civil war. There’s the rise of Artifice, its adepts not subject to the Archmage’s edicts. Now the Emperor of Tormalin is offering them his protection. There are corsairs raiding the Caladhrian Coast, enslaving villagers and devastating trade. Barons and merchants beg for magical aid. But all help has been refused. This is no comfort to Lady Zurenne whose husband has been murdered by corsairs. Now a man she doesn’t even know stands as guardian over her and her daughters. Corrain, former captain and now slave, knows that man is a rogue wizard, selling his skills to the corsairs. If Corrain can escape, he’ll see justice done. Unless Jilseth, magewoman and Archmage’s confidante, can catch the renegade first, before the full extent of his villainy is revealed. If that happens, at a time when wizardry faces so many other challenges, the scandal could have dire consequences indeed!