Sarah Webb (guest)

SARAH WEBB, a guest contributor, is Ruth's sister. They grew up together in a house where books were as important as food and shelter. Sarah reads almost any fantasy and dabbles mostly in the space opera end of the science fiction universe with an occasional break to catch up on the mystery scene. Someday, she will have a house with enough bookshelves to house her collection correctly.

The Dark Griffin: Felt like a very long prologue

The Dark Griffin by K.J. Taylor

K.J. Taylor’s The Dark Griffin is billed as “the first book in an edgy new trilogy,” but felt like reading a very long prologue. Unfortunately for the reader, the gist of the story is told in the couple of paragraphs on the back cover, taking away any suspense. I hate when the back cover gives too much away. We go into the story knowing Arren is going to end up in the arena and that he will end up partnered with the wild, man-eating griffin he captured. This entire first book is given over to telling us all the horrible things that happen to the main character to turn him into the heartless person he has to become for the rest of the trilogy. So, at the end of The Dark Griffin, the reader is left with the feeling that now, finally, we can get on with the story.

The overall pacing is slow. There is too much stage setting and not enough storyte... Read More

The Land of Burning Sands: Another well-crafted story

The Land of Burning Sands by Rachel Neumeier

The Land of Burning Sands is another well-crafted story from gifted author Rachel Neumeier. Instead of carrying on with the characters from the first book, we interact very little with the griffins and Kes in The Land of Burning Sands. They are a presence, but mostly as a menace overshadowing the developing story. I for one appreciated Neumeier introducing her readers to new characters. So many trilogies stick with the same main characters throughout, and it can get old in a hurry. In addition to new characters, The Land of Burning Sands changes settings as well. Here we get to find out more about Casmantium.

Gereint Enseichen sat on a narrow pallet in the lowest cellar of the Anteirden townhouse, waiting.

Gereint is a geas-bonded slave who is trying to escape the bond. This first sentence pulle... Read More

Carousel Tides: A nice ride

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee

My sister refers to this type of book as “Grandma died/disappeared and left you the family home and a whopping big mess in the basement/attic/surrounding landscape to clear up.” Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee is that kind of story, with a big helping of “you can run from your responsibilities in life, but you can’t hide.”

Carousel Tides is contemporary fantasy. I can’t call it “urban” since it takes place in a small town in coastal Maine, and I’m not sure “rural fantasy” is an acknowledged sub-genre. It’s a town where Trenvay creatures — selkies, Black Dogs, and other creatures of land and sea — exist. Some of the townspeople know about them while most people just live their normal lives without being aware of the supernatural. Reading Carousel Tides reminded me of Fantasy Life Read More

Fire: Five enjoyable stories by McKinley & Dickinson

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson

Let me start by saying I’ve never been much for short stories. It’s not that they can’t be well done, and I admit that it takes a huge talent to do them well, but I usually find myself frustrated and wanting more. Probably because I am used to reading full-length novels. That being said, I enjoyed reading Fire. There are five stories, two by Robin McKinley and three by Peter Dickinson. I’m a huge fan of McKinley, but this is the first time I’ve read anything by Dickinson.

Because they are short stories, it is hard to share much about them without giving away the wonder of reading them. In order then:

“Phoenix” — I liked th... Read More

Lord of the Changing Winds: A good solid fantasy

Lord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier

Lord of the Changing Winds is a very well done, straightforward fantasy novel. While there isn’t anything earth-shatteringly new here, neither is there a sense of “same old story.”

Rachel Neumeier takes an interesting direction with Kes, one of her main characters. Kes is a 15-year-old orphan girl, raised by her sister in a small, quiet village. She has healing abilities and doesn’t quite fit in. So far, all the clichéd standards. Kes, however, is not a cliché. Once Kes meets the griffins and is taken by the griffin mage who awakens the magic within her, she changes. She becomes more and more distant from her human emotions. Kes isn’t your typical teen heroine and I for one was happy that this wasn’t just another “youth bonding with a magical creature” book. The other main characters are Bertaud, advisor to King Iaor of Feier... Read More

Mageworlds: One of the best!

MAGEWORLDS: The Price of the Stars, Starpilot’s Grave, By Honor Betray’d by Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald

Mageworlds is one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read. It’s categorized as Space Opera since there are spaceships and multiple planets involved, but trust me, this falls on the fantasy end of the spectrum. If you’ve never tried Space Opera, this is a wonderful place to get your feet wet. If you like Space Opera, jump on in! If you like great characters, intriguing plots and a fast-paced, action packed adventure, you’ll love this series.

I love the Mageworlds characters. They’re all well-drawn — even the minor characters who wander on and off stage. Both the men and women are strong and capable of acknowledging... Read More

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow: Not too deep

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is an ultimately frustrating retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” a Norse fairytale about a girl (who is never referred to by name) and an enchanted white bear. It just happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales. Jessica Day George stays very true to the original story, while judiciously adding details to fill out the sparseness of the tale. She gives us a reason that the girl in the story has no name, some background on the bear and how he became enchanted, explains who the hags are, and gives personalities to the four Winds.

In Ms. George’s telling there are a few twists that don’t occur in the version that I am familiar with. For example, the bear is the latest in a long line of enchanted man-bears trying to win their freedom from the curse of the Troll Queen. The girl, who is referred to... Read More

Heart of Veridon: Would make a great movie!

Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers

When my daughter was young and starting to read, she told me she didn’t like chapter books because “the words put pictures in my head.” Likewise, Tim Akers put pictures in my head.
Once in a great while, you get a book that visually plays out on the big screen in your head as you’re reading the words on the page.

Veridon is a city on the banks of a large river that feeds into a massive waterfall, in a continent that sounds like unexplored Africa. I’m sure everyone’s picture of Veridon will be just a little bit different because there are no long descriptive passages — just little bits and pieces: “she had a pretty chin and lips, but the smile she dressed them in didn’t make it to her eyes.” Or, “From the outside, the Church looked like a cancer of architecture.” People are described by a single feature or manne... Read More

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