Yarrow: Very early de Lint

Yarrow by Charles de Lint

I’d been meaning to read Yarrow (1986) for years. I loved Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream, in which he tells the story of a painter touched by the Otherworld. And I’m a writer (or at least a wannabe one), not a visual artist, so I figured, “if I liked his artist book so much, how much more am I going to love his writer book?” Unfortunately, the answer is “not as much.” Yarrow is very early de Lint, and not my favorite book of his that I’ve read.

Yarrow is set in Ottawa and loosely follows Moonheart; the plots are standalone, but Tamson Hou... Read More

Yorath the Wolf: A good follow-up to A Princess of the Chameln

Yorath the Wolf by Cherry Wilder

Warning: May contain spoilers for A Princess of the Chameln

One of the mysteries laid out in Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of Chameln is the identity and whereabouts of Aidris’s cousin, the child of Elvedegran, her mother’s sister and the queen of Mel’Nir. The common understanding is that, because of a monstrous birth defect, the child and the mother both died. However, late in A Princess of Chameln, Aidris receives news that confirms her mother’s deathbed prophecy: Elvedegran’s child lives.

Yorath, the titular character of Yorath the Wolf (1984), the second in the RULERS OF HYLOR serie... Read More

The Gold Coast: More interesting than exciting

The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson

Jim McPherson is unsatisfied with the future. Unable to find steady, well-paid work, Jim mostly spends his time partying and casually hooking up with random women. Jim’s family is of small comfort to him since he spends most family dinners enduring his father’s many complaints about how Jim does nothing useful. Jim does not know it, but his father, a defense contractor, is also deeply frustrated in his career, even if it does provide what appears to be a successful lifestyle to outsiders. Jim only begins to feel as though he is doing something of value when he starts protesting against militarism.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast explores a dystopian future in which the American Dream has been reduced to consumerism and militarism. The Gold Coast Read More

Damiano’s Lute: Failed to engage me

Damiano’s Lute by R.A. MacAvoy

Damiano’s Lute is the second book in R.A. MacAvoy’s DAMIANO trilogy, which takes place in Renaissance Italy. In the first book, Damiano, we met a young man named Damiano Delstrego who was feeling befuddled because he was both a witch and a Christian. He had left his village with his lute and his talking dog. He had several encounters with the archangel Rafael, who acts as a sort of patron to Damiano and taught him to play the lute. Satan also seems particularly interested in Damiano’s life. At the end of the first book, Damiano has renounced his magic and his talking dog has died, leaving the young man bereft and lonely.

In Damiano’s Lute, Damiano is roaming the French countryside with a young man named Gaspare ... Read More

Homunculus: Try this zany story on audio

Homunculus by James P. Blaylock

"Does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads to you?"

Langdon St. Ives is a man of science and a member of the Royal Society. With the help of his dependable and discreet manservant, St. Ives prefers to spend his time secretly building a spaceship in his countryside silo. But currently he’s in London to help his friend Jack Owlesby recover a wooden box containing the huge emerald Jack’s father left him for an inheritance. Things get confusing when it’s discovered that there are several of these boxes that all look the same and all contain something somebody wants. Soon St. Ives, Jack, and a host of other friends and enemies become embroiled in a madcap adventure featuring a toymaker and his lovely daughter, a captain with a smokable peg leg, the scientists of the Royal Society, an evil millionaire, a dirigible steered by a skeleton, a tiny little man in a jar who... Read More

The Wandering Fire: Conventional high fantasy

The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay

It’s been 1½ years since I read The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay’s first novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry. I mentioned in the review for that book that I’m an adoring fan of Kay’s later stand-alone novels but that I found The Summer Tree derivative and heavy. I would have happily skipped its sequel, The Wandering Fire, but I had already purchased it at Audible, so I thought I’d give it a chance to win me over. Simon Vance, the narrator, is one of my favorites and his bad Canadian accents were toned down this time, which made him pleasant to listen to, as usual.

In this installment, the five college students are back home in Toronto after Kim whisked them out of Fionavar when she heard Jennifer being tortured after being raped by the dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. Jennifer became pr... Read More

Count Zero: Neuromancer’s been busy

Count Zero by William Gibson

They plot with men, my other selves, and men imagine they are gods.

Several years have passed since Molly and Case freed the AI who calls himself Neuromancer. Neuromancer’s been busy and now his plots have widened to involve several people whom we meet in Count Zero:

Turner is a recently reconstructed mercenary who’s been hired by the Hosaka Corporation to extract Christopher Mitchell and his daughter Angie from Mitchell’s job at Maas Biolabs. Mitchell is the creator of the world’s first biochip, and he’s secretly agreed to move to Hosaka. Extracting an indentured research scientist is a deadly game, but Turner is one of the best.

Bobby “Count Zero” Newmark, who wants to be a console cowboy, has just pulled a Wilson (that means he majorly screwed up) on his first attempt at running an unknown icebr... Read More

Shadows Linger: Hard boiled fantasy

Shadows Linger by Glen Cook

“Hard science fiction” focuses on the science of the story, often at the cost of character and plot. “Hard-boiled fiction” often features a cynical, jaded protagonist steadily battling against the forces of evil, but making little overall progress. The Black Company books are often categorized as military or dark fantasy, but perhaps “hard fantasy” would be more accurate, as Glen Cook combines the hard-boiled voice with classic fantasy tropes that we might expect to see in a board game.

The setting could not be any more “sword and sorcery” if it tried. There are ancient emperors of evil struggling to return from the dead. Meanwhile, Croaker and his company are an elite mercenary unit constantly battling for… well, not for good. If anything, they are fighting for an evil sorceress. Humanity is little more ... Read More

Keeper of the Keys: I’m expecting an exciting finale

Keeper of the Keys by Janny Wurts

In this second episode of THE CYCLE OF FIRE, Ivainson Jaric witnesses some crucial history: how his father the Firelord and Anskiere the Stormwarden, both Vaere-trained sorcerers, bound the demons at Elrinfaer; how his father went mad and betrayed Anskiere; and how, though the demons were eventually bound, the land was destroyed in the process. Jaric also receives forewarnings, in the form of visions, of what the future will hold if he does not master his powers to help Taen and Anskiere subdue the rising demonkind who have now recruited Emien, Taen’s brother, as one of their leaders.

Keeper of the Keys is a "middle book," so much of the plot involves Jaric’s gradually increasing realization and conviction that he can no longer deny the world the talents he was given as Firelord’s heir, even though he risks the madness that his father suffered. Thou... Read More

Lavondyss: Will stay in my mind forever

Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock

The wood sucks at the mind, it sucks out the dreams.

Many times I don't like sequels because there's nothing new to learn. Authors tend to give us all of their world-building in the first novel, so I'm often bored by a sequel. But Lavondyss blew my mind. It is, I have no doubt, one of the best fantasy novels ever written.

In Mythago Wood, Harry Keeton entered the forest with Steven and he's been there for years. We got the sense back then that Harry had some secret personal purpose for going in — it wasn't just to help Steven. His sister Tallis remembers him leaving when she was four years old. Her parents are distressed and assume he's dead. When Tallis hears what she believes is a communication from Harry and starts interacting with the wood, her parents think she's gone batty. But Tallis is dete... Read More