The Face: Clever and satisfying

The Face by Jack Vance

Here’s another thoroughly delightful installment (book 4 of 5) of The Demon Princes. The plot is as usual: Kirth Gersen is hunting down one of the Demon Princes who destroyed his family and homeland when he was a boy. There’s no doubt that Gersen will kill Lens Larque; the question is how he’ll kill him and what adventures he’ll have on the way.

The Face distinguishes itself by introducing a couple of cultures which Vance uses to make fun of human behavior. Lens Larque is one of the Darsh of the planet Dar Sai. They’re a large ugly people with a disgusting cuisine, a fondness for flagellation, and some pretty entertaining mating habits. Their women have a short period of beauty during adolescence, but then become meaty, mustached, and mean. Thus, the men chase only the young women and the old... Read More

Taran Wanderer: Thought-provoking, timeless

Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

In many ways, this fourth book in Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain is the odd one out. It is the only story that does not pit our characters against the forces of supernatural evil (well, except in one small instance). It is the only installment in which Princess Elionwy is completely absent. It is the only story that has no clear destination in its quest narrative. Even the title is a little different, lacking the usual "The" before the noun.

Rather than pitting the forces of good against evil, Taran Wanderer is about the journey of self-discovery, making it a much steadier-paced, introspective book. Although some readers may feel that it's less exciting than the preceding books, discerning children will find many hidden rewards here. The core of this series has always b... Read More