Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Author: Rob Rhodes


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Kull, Exile of Atlantis: Foundational reading for the sword & sorcery fan

Kull: Exile of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard

* If you’re not — or not looking to become — a reader of sword-and-sorcery or fantasy tales, then you can probably skip the rest of this review and move on… unless you might acquire a taste for stories of a philosophical barbarian-king, whose axe or sword slays on-comers as easily as you might mosquitoes… *

OK, now that they’re gone: this intriguing compilation probably merits 3-1/2 stars, but I’ll give one of the genre’s cornerstones the benefit of the doubt. Be warned,


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The Thief’s Gamble: Unpolished potential

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,


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The DragonLance Chronicles: Who can forget?

THE DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, a classic work of high fantasy, marks the beginning of a remarkable 6-book tale (the Chronicles Trilogy, followed by the even more magnificent Legends Trilogy), which greatly increased the interest in the Dungeons & Dragons game throughout the 1980’s. It certainly does contain more than a few stock fantasy elements (e.g. dragons, elves, dwarves, an unlikely group of friends somehow being chosen to stop the conquest of Evil…). However, the straightforward, simple way in which the tale is told and,


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The Black Company: Fantastical, anti-heroic fog of war

The Black Company by Glen Cook

The Black Company is an ancient mercenary brotherhood, its members as hard-bitten as skilled. As their ongoing commission in the city of Beryl disintegrates, they escape through the “trap-door” (in its fullest sense) of new employment by a mysterious northern sorcerer; and they soon find themselves the elite unit in the army of the Lady — a legendary figure who, in the eyes of the opposing Rebels, is the embodiment of evil.

The first of Glen Cook’s Black Company novels,


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The Skewed Throne: Gritty low fantasy debut

The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier

Varis is “gutterscum,” a girl — as much animal as girl — who survives as a sneak-thief in the horrid slum of Amenkor known as “The Dredge.” But even in the slum, rumors are spreading about The Mistress, who governs the city from the mystical Skewed Throne — rumors of insanity after a tidal wave of mysterious white fire sweeps through the land. After Varis stabs a criminal in self-defense, she comes to the attention of one of the Mistress’s guardsmen-assassins and begins to help him in tracking his “marks.” 


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The Mirror of Her Dreams: Different, but disappointing

The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Mirror of Her Dreams is a low fantasy that chronicles the “translation” of the beautiful but insipid Terisa Morgan into the besieged realm of Mordant by way of “Imagery,” sorcery that brings things out of mirrors. In this case, a clumsy apprentice, Gerarden, enters a mirror in Mordant in hope of finding the “champion” that the mirror depicts. Instead, he finds himself in Teresa’s sterile New York penthouse and, thinking that she may instead be Mordant’s savior, persuades her to return with him.


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Cry Wolf: More than just huffing and puffing

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna Latham may be a rare Omega werewolf (as opposed to an Alpha/pack leader), but it hasn’t done her a bit of good. Abused and degraded by her Chicago pack, she’s at once freed and claimed by Charles, a strapping son of the Marrok (the North American werewolf lord) with rare abilities of his own. Anna returns with Charles to the Montana wilderness, both eager and hesitant to begin her life anew; but even the Marrok’s home territory isn’t exempt from the prowling of a rogue werewolf — and an even older and more sinister evil…


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The Born Queen: End of a strong second-tier fantasy series

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes

The Born Queen is the concluding (and how often do we get to say that when reviewing a fantasy novel?) book in Greg Keyes’ four-book series, Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. And it does actually conclude the series without any sort of sly wink-wink, nod-nod to a new series rising like the undead from the killed-off plot. For that alone, he should be given lots of credit, along with actually finishing a series in a decent amount of time and space.


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New Spring: The Wheel starts to (creeaak) turn …

New Spring by Robert Jordan

With New Spring, Robert Jordan offers himself up to two major criticisms up front. One is for releasing a prequel when you haven’t finished the first series yet and the other is for trying to grab a quick book by just padding out an already published first story. With regard to the first, I think it’s pretty silly to complain about an author’s choice of subject — perhaps he became inspired with something in terms of the back story and is excited to write it,


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Gloriana, or The Unfulfill’d Queen: Reader Unfulfill’d

Gloriana, or The Unfulfill’d Queen: Being a Romance by Michael Moorcock

Gloriana (1979) is Moorcock’s homage to Mervyn Peake (author of the Gormenghast saga), and fittingly, is a lush tale of intrigue told in thoroughly British prose. At times brilliant (especially in the descriptions of the seasonal festivities), often captivating and humorous, often sluggish and overly subtle, ultimately unfulfilling, it’s a book I recommend borrowing from the library before buying. Not everyone will enjoy such decadence.

Speaking of decadence,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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