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Dragon Prince: Now on audio!

Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn

Melanie Rawn’s DRAGON PRINCE trilogy is finally being produced in audio format by Tantor Audio. The series begins with Dragon Prince (1985) and follows the inhabitants of a continent divided into several princedoms and ruled by a nasty and ruthless High Prince who has 17 bratty daughters but no male heir.

At the beginning of Dragon Prince, the prince of the desert region of the continent is killed while dragon-hunting and is succeeded by his son Rohan. Rohan’s youth and bookish nature do not inspire much confidence from his subjects and the High Prince and other princes assume they can take advantage of him. (There are some women in the family, including Rohan’s strong and competent older sister, who probably would have made excellent ruler... Read More

The Dragonbone Chair: Tad Williams is a great story-teller

Note: This review has been updated after a re-read, but we're keeping the old comments on the post.

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW, & THORN was one of the first epic fantasy trilogies I ever read and, two and a half decades ago, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s one of the two series I recommend to new fantasy readers who ask me where to start (the other is Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga). For years I’ve been wanting to re-read MEMORY, SORROW, & THORN but I’ve been waiting patiently for it to be released in audio format, even going so far as to pester the audio publishers about it, as well as Tad Williams’ wife, Deborah Beale, who does a lot of his publicity. Finally, this year Penguin Random House Audio released audio version... Read More

The Sandman (Vol. 1): Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman (Vol. 1): Preludes and Nocturnes (Issues 1-8): Neil Gaiman (author), Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III (artists), Todd Klein (letterer), Karen Berger (editor)

[This essay is the second in an ongoing series on THE SANDMAN: This lengthy essay-review is for those who want a more thorough introduction than is offered in our shorter overview of the entire series. I recommend reading that one first, particularly since it contains no spoilers and it gives a good sense of what THE SANDMAN is for those who don't know what it's about. When I can, I avoid giving spoilers, but I can't avoid them altogether since I'm going over every story arc in the series. My main goal is to increase the enjoyment of those who want to tackle this masterpiece by calling attention to significant recurring themes, giving information about some of the allusions, and providing any other relevant information that I've picked up reading literary crit... Read More

The Last Coin: Read this if you love Fawlty Towers

The Last Coin by James P. Blaylock

Andrew and Rose Vanbergen have recently purchased a California inn which they are fixing up and getting ready for guests. They live in the inn along with aging Aunt Naomi, her numerous cats, and her companion, Mrs. Gummage. The Vanbergens have only one real guest so far — the mysterious Pepto-drinking Mr. Pennyman.

Andrew has grand plans for the inn. Unfortunately, he’s also a bit of a slacker and he’s always managing to find excuses for doing anything but the actual work that needs to get done. While his good-natured and industrious wife is cleaning or sewing linens, he’s daydreaming about a gourmet kitchen and purchasing luxury items that aren’t really necessary. (He fancies himself an epicure).

Andrew also tends to have crazy ideas that sometimes border on delusional. Sometimes he acts on these. He knows he’s being silly and that it upsets his wife, so he’s in the habit of bei... Read More

Welcome to The Dreaming: An Introduction to THE SANDMAN

THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN might just be my favorite work of art. To me, it's better than any painting, any album, any symphony, any movie, any poem, any play, and possibly, just possibly, any novel, which to me, as an English Professor, is the greatest art form of them all. I might even like THE SANDMAN better than Pride and Prejudice just for the sheer scope of the thing. If I had to go to that hypothetical island I'm often asked about, I think I'd take the 76-issue SANDMAN instead of Pride and Prejudice. If you've never read THE SANDMAN in its entirety, as far as I'm concerned, you've missed out on one of the greatest pleasures in life.

My goal, then, is to get you to read this great work, or, if you've read it before, to remind you to read it again. In ... Read More

Desolation Road: A science fiction fable

Desolation Road by Ian McDonald

I was reminded, while reading Desolation Road, of two authors in particular: John Crowley and Gene Wolfe. This is not to say that I think Ian McDonald was in any way aping them or merely writing some kind of amalgamated pastiche, but there were elements to his tale that made both author’s names spring to mind. I think the first one was Wolfe, largely because of the way in which McDonald made the magical seem almost commonplace (or was it that the commonplace was made to seem magical?) in a way that reminded me of the inversions of the various aspects of the world in both Wolfe’s NEW SUN and LONG SUN series, not to mention the presence of time-travelling Green Men, technological angels and various other oddities. It is almost as though Read More

Neverness: Crazy-awesome ideas

Neverness by David Zindell

Nevernessis a really enjoyable “big idea” science fiction novel that takes place millennia in our future on the planet Icefall, also called Neverness. It's kind of Frank Herbert’s Dune meets Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur with high-level mathematics, posthumanism, and trippy metaphysics thrown in.

The story follows the life of Mallory Ringess, a trainee enrolled at "the Academy," which was founded by a pseudo-monastic order of truth-seekers called “the Order of Mystic Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame,” hoping to become a pilot. Now in this day and age a pilot combines the aspects of a theoretical mathematician with those of a questing knight. Using advanced mathematics, the pilots are able to navigate within the manifold, a k... Read More

Castle Perilous: Never capitalizes on all of its potential

Castle Perilous by John DeChancie

Castle Perilous is a giant castle with 144,000 rooms that are portals to other worlds. These portals are constantly shifting in and out of other dimensions and occasionally they temporarily open up somewhere on Earth. At those times people may stumble into the castle and not be able to get back out. They become one of the permanent “guests” who have great food, luxurious accommodations, and servants to wait on them. Best of all, they get to explore some of the stable portals leading to exotic places. When Gene, Linda, and Snowclaw each stumble into Castle Perilous, it’s under siege by the jilted lover of the castle’s owner.

Here’s a novel that’s got some fun and whimsical ideas but never really capitalizes on all of its creative potential. I love the premise and the story is amusing, but it lacks passion and depth. The characters are shallow, we spend little time exploring the other wo... Read More

The Sandman: Surreal, often beautiful, sometimes twisted

THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman

THE SANDMAN series was originally released in comic form, later in trade paperback collections (above), and most lately in larger omnibus editions (the first one is shown here). It’s thus rather difficult (and time-consuming) to review the individual volumes, and so I’m going to review the series as a whole, noting as I do so that some volumes were better than others.

Despite some slight ups and downs, I overall found THE SANDMAN a remarkable work, well worthy of the praise it has received over the years. Neil Gaiman has rarely been better. A point I should make directly, though, is that this is in no way an easy-going fantasy read. Viewed as a whole, it’s probably one of the top five graphic novels ever written, and acts like it. Graphic novels are a rather different beast than pure prose, or have become so lately. At higher levels, they t... Read More

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter: Paks lives and breaths on the page

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

Brilliance Audio has recently been putting together some fine productions of many classic fantasy novels that deserve to be heard and I, as a reader, couldn’t be happier. I don’t have much free time these days, and most of my reading is now done by audio, so I was thrilled to find that I could finally listen to The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. The first novel, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, has just been released, and the rest are following quickly.  (By the way, if audiobooks are out of your budget, ask your public library to order them — my library has ordered several that I’ve requested with their online form.)

I enjoyed this story about Paksenarrion (Paks) who, to avoid... Read More

Sorcery and Cecelia (The Enchanted Chocolate Pot)

Sorcery and Cecelia (The Enchanted Chocolate Pot) by Patricia C. Wrede

To best understand Sorcery and Cecelia one has to first flick to the back of the book in order to read the authors' afterword in which they explain the format and history of their story. After hearing of a game called "The Letter Game," Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer decided to have a go — each took on the persona of two young women in a more magically flavoured 1800's, and wrote to each other concerning their activities. Patricia Wrede plays the role of Cecelia Rushton, living in the country and somewhat envious of her cousin Kate Talgarth (Caroline Stevermer) who is being presented to Society in London. And so the correspondence began, each woman drawing on the magical angle of their created world as well as a 'Jane Austen' flavour, so tell each other of the gradually more... Read More