Helliconia Summer: The big ideas punch deep

Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss

The shape of Brian Aldiss’s SF Masterwork HELLICONIA could be said to be parabolic. If Helliconia Spring is the slow, curving entry point, then Helliconia Summer, the middle volume, is the zenith story-wise. Or at least that’s the feel two-thirds of the way through the series. As Aldiss is trying to paint a historical and evolutionary picture of humanity’s existence on a distant planet, Helliconia Summer’s narrative does not pick up where the first volume left off, and instead focuses on a point in the society’s development loosely equivalent to the Baroque Era many centuries in the future from Helliconia Spring. Were the lives of the kings and queens the only focal points, some would say that the book is... Read More

Magician: Master: Fascinating world and characters hampered by lazy plot

Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist

Magician: Master is the second book in Raymond E. Feist’s widely acclaimed RIFTWAR saga. In Magician: Master, we follow the life of Pug four years after he is captured by the Tsurani and enslaved in the Empire of Kelewan. Pug’s homeland, Midkemia, and his new home, the Empire, remain locked in a deadly war that is gradually weakening both worlds. Though Midkemia’s elves and dwarves and still fighting valiantly, the conflict is slowly tilting in the favor of the Tsurani, especially since Kelewan’s black robed sorcerers joined the fray. Meanwhile, the Midkemian king has passed away and the throne is left to Prince Lyan, who feels honor bound not to accept the crown. What’s more interesting is Tomas’s love story with the elf queen Aglaranna, which is hindered by his internal conflict with the Dragon Lord. All in all... Read More

The Drawing of the Three: A Posse of New Yorkers

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

There is a lot to be said in praise of Stephen King, but one of his most admirable talents is his ability to vest his heroes with such unlikely and frustrating vulnerabilities. King certainly wastes no time castrating the recently victorious Roland Deschain in The Drawing of the Three, the second of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.

We barely have time to blink at the mountains and the ocean before we find Roland, the last gunslinger in Mid-World, under attack from “lobstrosities.” Though he survives, Roland loses an index and middle finger to these sea monsters, a significant loss for our pistol-bearing hero. The wounds fester as Roland doggedly continues his journey, and he eventually finds three doors that carry him to New York.

On the other side of these t... Read More

The Hero and the Crown: This award-winning YA has aged well

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Aerin cannot remember a time when she did not know the story. The tale of how her mother, a witchwoman from the north, had ensorcelled her father, the king, and bewitched him into marrying her so that she could bear a son to inherit the kingdom. When Aerin was born, her mother turned her face to the wall, and died of grief. Rejected by many of the royal court for her suspect lineage, and feared by the average person for the same reason, Aerin struggles to find her place in the court, and to fulfill the destiny she can feel guiding her.

A beautifully written, lyrical fairy tale, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley is a prequel to The Blue Sword, and tells the history of one of the progenitors of Harimad-Sol, the heroine of that tale. Aerin, a mistrusted princess, wants to find some meaning to her life, and sets out to ... Read More

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher: Great for younger readers

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

For kids who are too young for the complex Harry Potter series, and yet interested in fantasy stories, then Bruce Coville's Magic Shop books might be the thing to hook them up with. Each book is based on a basic premise: a young child with the usual kid problems (home trouble, bullies, crushes, angry teachers, etc) stumble across Mr Elives' Magic Shop, and leave with an unusual purchase that creates more trouble for them, but ultimately teaches them important lessons.

In this case, Jeremy Thatcher escapes two bullies, the resentful nature of his art teacher and the unwanted affections of Mary Lou by ducking into the Magic Shop, where Mr Elives gruffly allows him to take home a strange glistening sphere with a sheet of mysterious instructi... Read More

A Gathering of Gargoyles: A Lost Masterpiece

A Gathering of Gargoyles by Meredith Ann Pierce

A Gathering of Gargoyles is the second of Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy, beginning with The Dark Angel and culminating in The Pearl of the Soul of the World, which together create one of the most beautifully crafted and presented stories that I have ever come across. As told in The Darkangel, the story is of Aerial, a simple slave in a wealthy household whose mistress Eoduin was captured by one of the dreaded winged vampyres, who drink the blood and steals the souls of women. Aerial followed her mistress, becoming a servant in the Irrylath's house, and to her horror, eventually being chosen to be his last bride. But with the help of the dwarf-like duarough Talb and a magical drought, she restored the dark... Read More