Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
When I first picked Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy off the shelf back in March, I kind of figured it wasn’t going to go well. I’m not exactly the biggest vampire fan in the world. Imagine my surprise when five months later I find myself reading the start of the spinoff series, Bloodlines. VAMPIRE ACADEMYwas full of action and romance and was a blast to read, which meant Bloodlines had a lot to live up to.
In Bloodlines, we see the return of a number of VAMPIRE ACADEMY characters and the introduction of quite a few new characters as well. The setting is a human school, where Moroi royalty Jill is being sent to protect her from the machinations of the Moroi at court. A lot of things could go wrong with these circumstances; some things do, some don’t.
Beth Johnson SonderbyRETIRED REVIEWER August 2007 — December 2010 BETH JOHNSON discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Magical creatures have always fascinated her, but they’re not required for a place on her favorites shelf: Stories full of intriguing twists and turns have a special place in her heart, especially when they include equally fascinating characters, adventure, and action. She likes romance, but too-sappy love stories will quickly find themselves on her ‘to sell’ list. As a firm believer in things new and different, she greatly appreciates books by authors who don’t think that archaic words and worlds are necessary for good fantasy.
Beth writes more genres than she reads and is generally good at biting off more than she can chew, be it writing or reading that she’s involved in. She promises to never write a long, drawn out series of long, drawn out books, and requests that friends, family members, and associates smack her silly should she so much as consider it. Friends, family members, and associates have graciously agreed.
Beth currently lives in Sweden with her husband, but is definitely not writing (or reading) in Swedish yet. When she isn’t working on novels, research, or reviews, she writes short stories at her own site, The Airplane Experiment.
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Enchanted Ivy by Sara Beth Durst
One problem I often have with contemporary fantasy is its tendency to ignore the magic of the world around us in its longing for something Other. Enchanted Ivy avoids this problem by striking a nice balance. There’s certainly a great deal of otherworldly magic, as evidenced by the dragons and faeries and talking gargoyles and cute were-tiger boys. Yet I got a real sense that all this magic was inspired by the feelings the campus of Princeton genuinely evoked in Durst. I can actually picture the author looking at the great old buildings and the gargoyles and imagining they could come to life at any second. Otherworldly magic inspired by a place that is, to the author, already magical. So to speak.
Although Enchanted Ivy’s cast of characters don’t entirely jump off the page, they’re still strongly written and easy to like (o... Read More
The Witches' Kitchen by Allen Williams
I wanted to like The Witches’ Kitchen by Allen Williams. And I think, had I been in its target age group, I probably would have. There’s no denying that Williams has a vivid imagination. The world of the Kitchen is populated with strange and delightfully odd creatures like Natterjack, a one-eyed Rastafarian imp (at least, if his description and illustration are anything to go by). These myriad mad beasties remind me strongly of dark Jim Henson films like Labyrinth. They’re certainly interesting, and would undoubtedly have captivated my younger self. Williams’ art truly shines, though that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with it. It’s spectacular and a high point of The Witches’ Kitchen.
Unfortunately, what can delight my inner child is not necessarily enough to silence my outer adult. Though the id... Read More
Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
I’ve been having some difficulty reviewing Diana Rowland’s Mark of the Demon. Not because I didn’t like it; on the contrary, I thought it was fantastic. The problem is, every time I start to think about it, my brain goes on a tirade. Mark of the Demon leaves me frustrated with the urban fantasy genre as a whole, because it is everything UF can be. And inevitably, when I try to think about what I love about Mark of the Demon, it makes me think of all the tropes in UF that I can’t stand.
So here, I’m just going to get it off my chest here and now. These are the primary things (outside of vampires and werewolves, but I’m not alone in that one) that drive me away from urban fantasy as a whole:
Angry protagonists who rant and rave, running down everyone in their path like some kind of (in... Read More
THE DRAGONCROWN WAR CYCLE by Michael A. Stackpole
I enjoyed The Dark Glory War, the prequel to The Dragoncrown War Cycle trilogy, a fair amount. That being said, the story took a steady downhill slide from there.
It is pure fanboy fantasy, and at its very worse. These heroes have all the personality of mud. The men are all “humble” and act completely shocked to find themselves in the roles of heroes. And the women are downright offensive. These strong, proud, independent women, who turn into docile, eager-to-please slaves when their men look at them. They fall in love with the male protagonists, even though they hardly know them, and the males have few qualities worth falling in love with as it is.
The “heroes” of the books are always going on in the vein of “We're heroes, because...” as though they're trying to reassure the reader that ... Read More
Dragon Jousters by Mercedes Lackey
The first book in this quartet (Joust) was decent enough to make me move onto the second. It definitely had its flaws (Vetch is angry, hungry, and worth less than a slave... got it the first thousand times, thanks) but it had its intriguing moments.
Then Alta. The flaws from the first book which were bearable start getting worse.
Lackeyever wrote, except even more lackluster. What makes it a problem, though, is that he's supported by mostly equally lackluster characters. The eight boys from his "wing" are basically stereotypes... shy, lazy, handsome, humorous (dopey, grumpy, sleepy, sneezy, doc...). They're tolerable, though. It's Aket-ten, the female protagonist, who is really irritating. She's one of those tough know-it-all characters who occasionally gets weepy, but that's ALL she is. She's front and center... Read More
The White Road by Lynn Flewelling
After a long departure from the much loved Nightrunner series, Lynn Flewelling returned to Seregil and Alec’s adventures in 2008 with the release of Shadows Return. Now the adventure begun in Shadows Return continues in The White Road:
“Having escaped death and slavery in Plenimar, Alec and Seregil want nothing more than to go back to their nightrunning life in Rhíminee. Instead they find themselves saddled with Sebrahn, a strange, alchemically created creature — the prophesied “child of no woman.” Its moon-white skin and frightening powers make Sebrahn a danger to all whom Alec and Seregil come into contact with, leaving them no choice but to learn more about Sebrahn’s true nature.
With the help of trusted friends and Seregil’s... Read More
Shalador’s Lady by Anne Bishop
Remember how, during my review (above) of The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop I said that if you haven’t read any of the series before now, you should just skip the review? Well, allow me to reiterate that sentiment for Shalador’s Lady. Because trust me, you will have no clue what’s going on here. THE BLACK JEWELS SERIES can usually be summed up much like anime: it’s complicated.
In The Shadow Queen we met Cassidy, a plain-faced Rose-Jeweled Queen who had recently lost her court to a younger, prettier model. We also met Theran Grayhaven, a Warlord Prince of Dena Nehele and descendant of Jared and Lia from The Invisible Ring. Desperate for help in rebuilding his territory, which was left shattered in the wake of the witch storm and the landen rebellio... Read More
Shadow Mirror by Richie Tankersley Cusick
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love a good ghost story. I don’t love it when a book isn’t clearly marked as a sequel. However, that is the fault of neither Shadow Mirror nor Richie Tankersley Cusick, so I’ll let it slide. Just know you’ll want to read Walk of the Spirits first, if you’re interested in Shadow Mirror.
Miranda Barnes has the ability to hear and see the dead. Lately she’s been seeing the ghostly reflection of a woman whenever she looks in a mirror. These visions worsen after a visit to Belle Chandelle, a nearby plantation house that her aunt and mother are renovating into a bed and breakfast. With the help of her friends — including sexy and mysterious Etienne — she works to solve the mystery behind the haunting of Belle Chandelle.
The Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop
I loved Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy so much. But it took me a long time to pick up The Pillars of the World, because it just didn't sound terribly appealing.
And it wasn't appealing in the least. The one character I did like was portrayed as a cold, possessive jerk by the end of the book. The mysterious Lucien is shunted aside for the "sweet" Neall who has about as much depth as a puddle. And Ari, as a heroine, is a joke. There was nothing to like about her at all. The Fae storyline was tragically typical. They're arrogant and uncaring, so now their world is disappearing. Can't we have some Fae that aren't high and mighty? The only thing truly interesting about them was their positions which coincided with gods of ancient Greek and Roman myth, and their ability to turn into an animal represent... Read More
Silksinger by Laini Taylor
When last we left the intrepid — and tiny — heroes of Blackbringer, Magpie, Talon, and company were leaving on a task set to Magpie by the Magruwen (the Djinn King). Their mission: To find the last five of the Djinn who created the world.
In Silksinger we meet Whisper Silksinger, the last remaining member of a clan of faeries who weave flying carpets (because they’re all “scamperers,” meaning their wings are too small to carry them). She, too, has a mission. Her clan has long been the protectors of the Djinn known as the Azazel. As the last Silksinger, she must bring the Azazel (only an ember smoldering away in a teakettle) to his throne, where he will, she hopes, awaken. It’s a burden Whisper carries alone, as she doesn’t believe she can share her secret with anyone else.
Along the way she meets Hirik, a young mercenary wit... Read More
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
Since Firebird is one of Mercedes Lackey’s somewhat older works, I thought I’d enjoy it. It certainly sounded promising.
And indeed, Firebird starts off with a lot of potential. Though the main character, Ilya, is yet another underappreciated, super-clever youth whose family is mean to him, etc. etc., he’s a bit of a, well, womanizer. He likes him some womenfolk, and it’s kind of charming in a rather “That’s not very like Mercedes Lackey” kind of way. I liked Ilya, and the book, with its charming premise, starts out well.
But… by page 90-something, it still hadn’t stopped starting. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the book to get on with it. By the time I put the book down, Ilya still had not been “cast out” as the blurb promises. In fact, he’s still ba... Read More
Airs Beneath the Moon by Toby Bishop
Ever encounter one of those books that you really wished you'd enjoyed more than you had? For me, Toby Bishop's Airs Beneath the Moon was one of those books.
There's something truly solid here, a pretty good foundation with some strong writing structurally speaking, with the exception of the fact that Ms. Bishop seems to think that a comma can always replace the word 'and'. It can't.
There's also some fun support characters, like Hester Golden, who's a good friend of young Lark, the heroine. And Phillipa Winter, a Horsemistress who the book spends a great deal of time on, is solid and likeable, if a bit Professor McGonagall-ish. I liked Lark's brothers, too, though I didn't see much of them.
The problem is the fact that th... Read More
Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
Sometimes, when you're rummaging around in the heap that the fantasy shelves can at times be, you find a gem. It's a small, unassuming little thing, but all the more precious for being so unexpected. Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm is such a gem.
I'm not sure which came first, this or her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but one obviously spawned the other. This means that Dark Lord of Derkholm is a satirical, delightfully irreverent little novel. Yet while it spears the genre with great skill and humor, it contains depths the likes of which many so-called serious fantasy novels never achieve.
The characters range from endearing and fun to annoying and fun, and though there are those to love and those to hate, there weren't any I disliked be... Read More
House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
Had I realized that House of Many Ways was another sequel to Howl's Moving Castle it would've ended up in my hands even quicker than it did. Nevertheless, it found its way there happily enough, allowing me another visit into my favorite of Diana Wynne Jones' wonderful worlds.
House of Many Ways features Charmain Baker, an overly sheltered girl strong-armed by her aunt into taking care of her Great-Uncle William's cottage — which just so happens to bend space and time, leading to any number of places, the royal palace included. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a quest to find the mysterious Elfgift and to stop a devious, murderous creature called a Lubbock. Fortunately (?) for Charmain, she has help: a magician's apprentice, a woeful dog that just might be magical, and the fa... Read More