Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson has a sharply focused premise and an action-oriented narrative, but issues of pace and point of view lessen the short novel’s impact.
The Viking town of Stenvik is the crossroads of events. Heading toward them from the north is a massive army led by King Olav, who is determined to unify the Scandinavian people under the White Christ, even if he has to kill a lot of them in order to do so. Defending the Old Gods against this upstart religion is an All-Star team of Viking raiders, ostensibly led by their general, Skargrim, but really under the control of a mysterious woman named Skuld, who says she is one of the three weavers of fate. Olav wants Stenvik as his winter base, while Skuld and Skargrim seek to deny its strategic p... Read More
Bill CapossereOn FanLit’s staff since June 2007
BILL CAPOSSERE teaches writing and literature part-time at several local colleges and, thanks to his incredibly supportive wife, uses the rest of his time to write (and read of course). He just completed a Masters in Fine Arts at the Mt. Rainier Workshop under the direction of Judith Kitchen and Stan Rubin. His essays and short stories have appeared in various magazines, journals, and anthologies, been recognized in Best American Essays (in the “notable essay” section), and have also been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes.
Bill has been reading fantasy and science fiction ever since he was old enough to steal his father’s books the second the poor man put them down. His tastes run toward the epic, though he often wonders why when he is in the middle of rereading six books so as to better follow the about-to-be-published-two-years-late seventh book in a series of ten (would a “previously-on-Lost” sort of prelude really kill these guys?). But then he runs into something like Erikson’s MALAZAN series, which he loved so much he ordered them from England, and is reminded of what he enjoys so much about the genre (and about free shipping from Amazon in America — England — ouch!).
Bill lives in Rochester, New York with his wife and son whom he’s recently enjoyed introducing to dragons.
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters
I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.
The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; the... Read More
The Foundry’s Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
The Foundry’s Edge, by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, is a solid MG/YA entry that, I’d say, had more potential than was met. In failing to fully take advantage of its possibilities, it never falls so far as to be a “bad” read, but it also rarely inspires or enthralls, though it picks up in the latter quarter of the novel, both in terms of action and emotion.
The story is set at first in the city of Meridian, a technologically advanced (well past any other regions) city thanks to being the home of the Foundry, a corporation that has been spitting out all sort of marvelous inventions/gadgets. Meridian is threatened, though, by surrounding regions, who are both jealous and leery of Meridian’s technical and scientific prowess. Years ago war raged between the two groups, and since that time, the Foundry has been keeping Meridian’s enemies at bay by giving them more and... Read More
What is a Superhero? by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan (editors)
What is a Superhero?, a collection of 25 essays edited by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan, doesn’t aim to present “the” answer to this oft-asked question. Instead, it throws open to the door to an array of answers (some of which are directly contradictory) from people across a wide spectrum of fields: philosophers, psychologists, comic book creators, cultural critics, etc. If, as is almost always the case in any collection, the individual essays vary in quality of insight, depth, and style, taken as a whole, What is a Superhero? makes for an always enjoyable and sometimes insightful or thought-provoking read.
The book is divided into four broad sections: a definition of the superhero centering particularly on the three-legged stool of “mission, powers, and identity,” an examination of the role of “context, culture, and c... Read More
The King's Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
I first encountered Katherine Kurtz’s DERYNI series back in high school with Deryni Rising, the first of her more than dozen novels in the long-running series. The newest entry, The King’s Deryni, is the third in the CHILDE MORGAN sub-series, and it brings her original readers full circle, since it ends just a few years before Deryni Rising begins. As with any series of this length, the quality of each book, and the degree to which it engages/compels varies, and honestly, this sub-series is not as strong as several of the others. In fact, I had a lot of mixed feelings about The King’s Deryni, but despite the novel’s weaknesses, Kurtz’s smooth writing style and masterful conveyance of a medieval world of ritual remains a reliable constant.
Before I g... Read More
The Time Roads Beth Bernobich
Often times I want to tell an author, “You had me at structure.” Give me an atypical form — something eschewing the usual A to B to C linear plotline — and you’ve charmed me from the get-go. For instance, the linked short story form. I first fell in love with it a long, long time ago when I picked up Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven, and since that time the genre has given me a lot of reading joy: Dubliners, Read More
Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations edited by Sam Weller
Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, edited by Sam Weller, is actually several interviews, conducted over the last two years of Bradbury’s life, plus a handful of rough essays dictated by Bradbury to Weller, his long-time biographer. Despite this, the book is relatively slim, coming in at about 90 pages, with a lot of white space. This is not meant, though, to be an in-depth look at (or listen to) Bradbury; for that you’ll want to turn to other sources, including Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Read More
Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett
Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is David Barnett’s steampunk follow-up to Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, and continues that first book’s solidly entertaining plot, even as it shares a few of the same missteps. As this is a direct sequel, there will be spoilers for the first book, so readers beware.
In book one, Gideon is proclaimed the Hero of the Empire for his part in saving London and Queen Victoria from an attack using a magical/technological marvel shaped like a dragon (it also flies and belches fire). His companions included:
Maria, a mechanical girl with a human brain
Bent, a cynical journalist with a love for alcohol and spiced sausage
Rowena Fanshawe, the “Belle of the Airways” airship pilot
Cockayn... Read More
Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
I gave Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron a pretty fair shot I’d say—200 of its 370 pages, but eventually I just had to give it up. And I wasn’t alone in that, as my wife and 13-yr-old son gave up far, far quicker. As usual with books I didn’t care for, and especially for books I didn’t finish (a rarity for me), this will be a relatively short review, as I don’t like to belabor the point.
The problems began immediately, with the introduction of the main character (Promi), a sassy and spunky orphan street thief with a heart of gold who is good with a knife (though not good enough to avoid trouble with a corrupt and brutal priest), that ends up in a chase scene where Promi gets to toss off barbs at the chasing guards while performing acrobatic feats of derring do. Now, I’ve always been one to let... Read More
Charlemagne & the Paladins by Julia Cresswell
Charlemagne & the Paladins is another in the generally excellent MYTHS AND LEGENDS series from Osprey Publishing, this one written by Julia Cresswell and illustrated by Miguel Coimbra. Charlemagne & the Paladins displays the usual strengths of the series: a nicely condensed version of the story, informative sidebars, an easy to read style, and a good collection of complementary artwork.
The introduction begins by describing the wide geographic and cultural reach of stories about Charlemagne and his paladins, gives a bit of historical detail about the real-life emperor and his heirs, describes the process of “mythistory,” “where fact and fiction feed into each other,” and finally explains how most of the text will be made up of the French tales.
More detail on both t... Read More
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg, has a nicely original premise and a unique heroic quest, but the overall impact is marred by a trite romance, a somewhat flat main character, and a sense that it all goes on a bit long.
In this world, magic users “bond” to a particular material — rubber, metal, plastic — and work with that material (and only that material) the rest of their lives. Ceony Twill has just graduated from magic college (thanks to an anonymous sponsor) and been assigned, much to her dismay, to become a “Folder” — one who specializes in paper magic. Apprenticed to full magician Emery Thane, she is just starting to learn that maybe paper magic isn’t as dull/bad as she feared, when Thane is suddenly attacked and left for dead, his heart stolen from him by an Excisioner — a blood magician. Ceony finds herself having to journey thr... Read More
The Scarlet Tides by David Hair
The Scarlet Tides is David Hair’s second book in THE MOONTIDE QUARTET series, picking up pretty closely after book one, Mage’s Blood, which I gave a 3.5 to last year. The Scarlet Tides has many of the same strengths as Mage’s Blood, and fewer of the problem (though still a few), which is why I’m giving it four stars. As a quick recap, I’m going to paste in a condensed and slightly updated copy of my setting/character summaries from that first review. Warning: the summary will include a few spoilers from book one.
The setting and premise is given to us in an early exposition by two of the characters:
When Kore made this land, he made two great continents [Yuros and Anitopia], separated by vast ocea... Read More
Darknesses by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Note: We're rebooting this review, which was originally published in 2008, to include information about the just-released audio version.
First off, though this does stand as in independent story in what is called THE COREAN CHRONICLES, it will make a lot more sense to you and you'll be a lot more invested in the characters if you read the first book ahead of time. Darknesses returns to the same main character, Alucius, who remains as in the first a reluctant soldier caught up in battles and politics he'd rather not wage, preferring to set down his sword and his strange Talent and return home to be a herder with his new wife. This book roams further afield than the first book as Alucius is sent to various locales (helps to periodically check the map to keep all his travels and the stratagems behind them straigh... Read More
Willful Child by Steven Erikson
Let’s start with what needs to be said when reviewing a book like Steven Erikson’s Willful Child, a full-bore parody/homage to Star Trek: The Original Series. One, humor is wholly subjective. I, for instance, have never understood the allure of Adam Sandler. My wife, meanwhile, has never understood why I find Airplane funny (I could go on and on with that list, but one will suffice). So one person’s rib-splitting, laugh-out-loud bit will be another person’s “meh.” Second, humor is tough. As the line goes, “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” So, that being said, what about the book?
As mentioned, Willful Child takes on the classic Trek series and makes no, ahem, “Bones” about it. After a quick little prologue, this is the opening of Chapter One: “Space. It’s fucking big. These are the voyages of th... Read More
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Since Bill and I both read Michel Faber’s newest novel, The Book of Strange New Things, at the same time, we’ve decided to share this review.
The Book of Strange New Things is a marvelous exploration of human faith and faithfulness in the most trying of circumstances. It follows Peter, a British evangelical minister, as he undertakes a missionary venture on Oasis, a recently colonized planet. Behind him he leaves his wife and partner in faith, Beatrice, to continue their ministry on Earth. However, life on Earth gets increasingly difficult and dangerous after Peter leaves, and his relationship with Bea — continued solely via e-mail — begins to fracture as their experiences of God diverge.
One of the major strengths of The Book of Strange New Things is its portrayal of the relationship... Read More