Melusine by Sarah Monette
Melusine has some definite issues as a first novel. It's setting doesn't feel quite fully fleshed out — even if one gives the author the benefit of the doubt and believes things are left unanswered for plot purposes and are “to be revealed later.” If that's the case, the reader could have done with a bit more revelation early on, especially with regard to the politics which drive so much of the characters' motivations. Without that background, their actions run the risk of seeming arbitrary just for the sake of plot. Some of the side plots/characters get dropped or resolved a bit too abruptly, as do some of the major actions, again even given consideration for the sequel. And the language moves too often between imagined-word-speak and modern slang.
That said, there is much to be enjoyed in Melusine and the book rewards the ... Read More
Sarah MonetteSarah Monette is an American novelist and short story author writing mostly in the genres of fantasy and horror. She was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2004 she earned a PhD in English literature, specializing in Renaissance Drama and writing her dissertation on ghosts in English Renaissance revenge tragedy. She double-majored in Classics and Literature (a cross-departmental program between French, English, and Comparative Literature) in college. Learn more about Dr. Sarah Monette and read the first four chapters of her novels at her website. You can read about the use of the penname Katherine Addison on Sarah Monette’s blog.
The Doctrine of Labyrinths — (2005-2009) Publisher: Mélusine-a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption. It is here that wizard Felix Harrowgate and cat-burglar Mildmay the Fox will find their destinies intertwined in a world of sensuality and savagery.
Melusine by Sarah Monette
Melusine by Sarah Monette
My first reaction to Melusine was to be confused and impressed all at once. I was confused because I had no idea what was being said, and I was impressed because... well, because I had no idea what was being said. Yes, that makes no sense. Allow me to explain.
Even not being sure what was being said, I was pulled in immediately by Sarah Monette's use of language. It's utterly brilliant. Some might fine Mildmay's way of speaking occasionally too modern, but it didn't bother me at all. It was consistent, smart, and well at contrast with Felix's voice. Most importantly though, it fit. A lot of authors think that they can use a character's class, or nationality, or a number of other things, but what really makes language work is if you believe it. I believed, very quickly, that Mildmay would say the things he said, based on his character, so for me it all... Read More
The Virtu by Sarah Monette
Wizard Felix Harrowgate is back and much less crazy than he was during 90% of Sarah Monette's Melusine. So is thief Mildmay the Fox, who's a bit less mobile, crippled by a curse that caught up to him in the previous book. Their goal: To travel back across the world, return to Melusine (the city) and restore the magical crystal called the Virtu.
If the plot sounds a little thin...well, that might be because it is. It's padded with events, ones not necessarily pointless exactly, but not entirely relevant, either. Some of it is really interesting, including a trip into a creepy underground maze and the introduction of a new character, Mehitabel Parr, who muscles her way in on the trip to Melusine.
I suppose that's the whole thing. The Virtu offers much of the same; the same things I loved about Melusine and the same things that bothered me are present here. I believe it's the strength of Mone... Read More
Iskryne world — (2007-2013) Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. Publisher: A Companion to Wolves is the story of a young nobleman, Isolfr, who is chosen to become a wolfcarl — a warrior who is bonded to a fighting wolf. Isolfr is deeply drawn to the wolves, and though as his father’s heir he can refuse the call, he chooses to go. The people of this wintry land depend on the wolfcarls to protect them from the threat of trolls and wyverns, though the supernatural creatures have not come in force for many years. Men are growing too confident. The wolfhealls are small, and the lords give them less respect than in former years. But the winter of Isolfr’s bonding, the trolls come down from the north in far greater numbers than before, and the holding’s complaisance gives way to terror in the dark. Isolfr, now bonded to a queen wolf, Viradechtis,must learn where his honor lies, and discover the lengths to which he will to go when it, and love for his wolf, drive him.
A Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear
When I first started A Companion to Wolves I thought it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill fantasy. I mean you had humans who bonded telepathically with wolves, trolls and wyverns for enemies, and Norse culture/mythology as a major influence in the naming of characters, places, and things, the northern setting, and the religion (Othinn, Ragnarok, Freya, etc.).
Of course I should have known better. While I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading any Elizabeth Bear, I have read and enjoyed Ms. Monette's The Doctrine of Labyrinth books, which are known for being of a different breed. One of the most intriguing aspects about her series is the way she explores relationships and sexuality, both of which are carried over into A Companion to Wolves. Basically, t... Read More
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette
I've been seeing Sarah Monette's name for a while but, for the most part, this collection of short stories was a blind purchase. The Bone Key deals with the exploits of Kyle Murchison Booth which are homages to M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft. Now I'm not familiar with the former but I can attest that Monette captures the mood of the latter with this book. Even the protagonist himself is similar to Lovecraft's "heroes" although Monette improves upon the concept and provides us at the very least with an interesting character instead of simply delivering a verbose narrator who can't hold a decent conversation.
There are ten stories in The Bone Key and each features an element of weirdness or horror. Unlike Lovecraft, Monette is readable even to the casual rea... Read More
Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer
I was never a big fan of pirates (ninjas, on the other hand...) but nonetheless, the very word evokes adventure and the high seas. Fast Ships, Black Sails doesn't really stray far from that expectation and delivers eighteen stories marked with action, treachery, and a sense of wonder.
A good chunk of the stories revolve around traditional concepts of a pirate, with only a few exceptions, such as "Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, which takes place in space. The rest take place on stormy waters with sea-worthy vessels manned by rascally crews. Surprisingly, many of the stories ar... Read More
Somewhere Beneath Those Waves — (2011) Publisher: The first non-themed collection of critically acclaimed author Sarah Monette”s best short fiction. To paraphrase Hugo-award winner Elizabeth Bear’s introduction: “Monette’s prose is lapidary, her ideas are fantastical and chilling. She has studied the craft of fantastic fiction from the pens of masters and mistresses of the genre. She is a poet of the awkward and the uncertain, exalter of the outcast, the outre, and the downright weird. There is nothing else quite like Sarah Monette’s fiction.”
Apex Magazine is a monthly e-magazine that publishes two short stories, one reprint story, a nonfiction piece and an interview in each issue, together with the occasional poem. In the three issues I read, the reprint fiction tended to outshine the original fiction -- which doesn’t mean the original fiction was bad, just that it couldn’t quite live up to the standard set by the well-chosen older stories. The interviews are thoughtful and generally go well beyond the usual topics, either to discuss the author’s work in considerable detail or to go into areas not normally explored in most interviews. The nonfiction is variable in topic but uniformly strong work. A subscription to Apex Magazine seems to be worth the $19.95 per year asking price, though the most recent issue suggests some caution.
In the December 2011 issue (No. 31), the editor-in-chief, Lynne M. Thomas, explains in her notes (a column... Read More
Apex Magazine is an online magazine I’ve reviewed once before, stating some reservations about the change in editorial command. I’m happy to report that the summer’s issues indicate that the magazine is as strong as ever. The June, July and August issues contain something to satisfy nearly every fantasy reader.
The August issue opens with the stunning “Waiting for Beauty” by Marie Brennan. This twist on the classic fairy tale “The Beauty and the Beast” will stop your breath. The devotion of the Beast to his Beauty is transcendent and sad.
Kat Howard’s “Murdered Sleep” is equally extraordinary, though in a completely different way. Kora has long heard rumors of an impossibly wonderful party, full of masks and decadence. One day she receives an invitation: “Heavy, black stock, printed in silver-gilt... Read More
Issue 44 of Apex Magazine leads off with “Trixie and the Pandas of Dread” by Eugie Foster. It would take a hard heart to resist a story that starts like this: “Trixie got out of her cherry-red godmobile and waved away the flitting cherubim waiting to bear her to her sedan chair.” In the world Foster has created, one can become a god when the Karma Committee appears at her door bearing prizes akin to the Publishers Clearinghouse bonanza. Trixie uses her power to get rid of the jerks who write sexist, homophobic or racial comments on public internet forums. Can we all agree that we really need a goddess like this? But the work is growing less satisfactory lately; Trixie is having a mid-goddess crisis. The story is about how she gets past it, and it is as satisfying as it is funny.
Lettie Prell’s “The Performance Artist” asks serious questions about what constitutes life in a world where people can do... Read More