The Rules of Magic: The prequel to an old favourite

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

It's been over twenty years since Practical Magic was first published, and now we can finally snuggle up and enjoy another book about the Owens family. The Rules of Magic (2017) centres on the aunts of the first novel: Frances and Jet Owens, who are born and raised in 1950s New York City, along with their brother Vincent.

Like all Owens women, they are strikingly beautiful and surrounded by mystery. Jet can read minds, Frances can call birds to her hand, and even Vincent is blessed with an irresistible charm. But their parents are determined that their children should grow up as normal as possible, and it's not until they reach adolescence that they begin to realize the truth of their heritage.

And if one thing is certain, it's that a witch who denies her identity is doomed to misery. So while Frances buries her feelings for her ... Read More

The Stone Canal: The ideas fly fast and furious

The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod

The Stone Canal, second in Ken MacLeod’s Fall Revolution series, is a difficult book to write a review of. The reason is the story’s structure: the book is broken in half, chapters alternating to tell the first and second halves separately, with the ending joining the two together at the middle into a single whole. The details at the end of one half reveal important information about the beginning of the other, and vice versa. It’s quite easy to wander into spoiler territory while writing a summary. (Be warned, the majority of reviews I have read spoiled large portions and some of the major surprises in the novel.) It’s best to start with MacLeod’s introduction and leave the rest to instinct and hope.

In classic sci-fi style, the opening page of The ... Read More

Catch the Lightning: Romantic space opera

Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro

If we’re talking about publication order, Catch the Lightning is the second book in Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series. It stands between Primary Inversion and that book’s direct sequel, The Radiant Seas. If you’re coming from reading Primary Inversion, I suggest you skip this one for now and read The Radiant Seas first... Actually, it’s not a bad idea to skip this one altogether...

Catch the Lightning is about a gorgeous teenager named Tina who lives in an alternate Los Angeles where the Mayan civilization didn’t die out yet. All of Tina’s family members are dead and she works as a waitress in an impoverished crime-ridden community. She wishes she could go to college, but she doesn’t have any money. W... Read More

Kirinya: I didn’t get what I wanted out of it

Kirinya by Ian McDonald

After recently enjoying Ian McDonald’s Evolution’s Shore, the first book in his CHAGA series, I was eager to proceed with book two, Kirinya. I wanted to know where McDonald was going with the fascinating ideas he presented in that first novel. What is the goal of the Chaga, the alien evolution machine that has landed on Earth in the form of a ground-covering jungle that changes the landscape and its human inhabitants as it slowly progresses across equatorial regions? What is in the BDO (Big Dumb Object) that came from Saturn and hovers in Earth’s orbit? How will our world’s societies and cultures be affected by these otherworldly intrusions?

As Kirinya begins we learn that Gaby, the famous feisty Irish journalist, has had Shepherd’s baby. Because their daughter Serena was affected by the Chaga, Gaby and ... Read More

Witchblade Volume 2: Awakenings

Witchblade Volume 2: Awakenings (Issues 86-92) Writer: Ron Marz. Artists: Mike Choi, Keu Cha, and Chris Bachalo

I had to go ahead and immediately write a follow-up review to my first column on Ron Marz's WITCHBLADE because I think he really hits his stride in this second collection. Basically, just like I think you need to stick with SANDMAN for the first two to three volumes before you give up on it, I think reading the first two volumes of Marz's run is essential to even begin to know whether his take on the series might be of interest to you.*

In my first review of WITCHBLADE, issues #80-85, I argued from a feminist perspective that I believed Marz was attempting to take a comic that looks like a men's pin-up magazine and use his writing subversively to contradict that misogynist imagery. I also argued that the origin story of the Witchblade itse... Read More

Royal Assassin: Excellent second book

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

FitzChivalry Farseer, who barely survived an assassination attempt by his uncle, Prince Regal, has returned to Buckkeep where the King, his grandfather, lies dying. His other uncle, Prince Verity, is exhausting himself by trying to keep the kingdom together in the face of increasing attacks by the Red Ship Raiders. The Raiders continue to capture and, through some unknown process, “Forge” citizens of the Six Duchies. When these Forged citizens, who are now more like animals than people, are released, they start moving toward Buck Keep. What are they doing? Do they have some sort of programmed mission? What is the goal?

When Prince Verity leaves the castle to look for the ancient (perhaps mythical) Elderlings, life becomes even more difficult for Fitz. He has the horrible job of tracking and killing the Forged Ones; he must avoid Prince Regal’s attempts to kill him; he suspects that King Shrewd is... Read More

Century of the Soldier: An excellent conclusion

Century of the Soldier by Paul Kearney

Century of the Soldieris the omnibus edition of The Iron Wars (1999), The Second Empire (2000) and Ships from the West (2002), and is the concluding volume of Paul Kearney’s re-issued The Monarchies of God. It is as compelling and readable as Hawkwood and the Kings, and while it does not enjoy five-star status with its predecessor, it is an excellent conclusion, and I stand by my statement in my previous review: any person who loves good epic fantasy must read these books.

In many ways, Century of the Soldier is a very different book from Hawkwood and the Kings. The first two thirds continue where Hawkwood left off, dealing with th... Read More

Enchanter: It’s beige

Enchanter by Sara Douglass

Enchanter is book two of the Axis Trilogy of The Wayfarer Redemption saga and follows the same path as many middle novels in trilogies: lots of events occur, but the main focus is getting all the main players into place for the big wrap-up in book three. In Enchanter, Axis is trying to bring the Prophecy to fruition — seeking to unite the Acharites with the Avar and the Icarii against opposition from his half-brother Borneheld and, ultimately, Gorgrael. We learn more about the mysterious ninth Talon and finally discover Azhure's heritage.

I've awarded Enchanter three stars because, despite its many faults, I felt compelled to constantly read just one more chapter. Sara Douglass whi... Read More

Lirael: A rich, mysterious fantasy world

Lirael by Garth Nix

Lirael is the sequel to Garth Nix's best selling book Sabriel, and the second of his Old Kingdom trilogy. Set fourteen years after the events of Sabriel, this book surrounds the actions of two main characters. Prince Sameth is the capable, but rather inexperienced son of Touchstone and Sabriel, overshadowed by his elder sister and disheartened by the fact that he is the next Abhorsen — the necromancer chosen to put to rest undead legions with the help of seven magical bells. Lirael is an orphan of the Clayr: clairvoyant allies of the Royal Family who live in a vast glacial community. Unlike all of her brethren, Lirael does not possess the Sight, and so spends her days as librarian, sometimes going for months on end without speaking to another human being.
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The Subtle Knife: An amazing piece of literature

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife is the second in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with The Golden Compass and ending with The Amber Spyglass. It is an amazing piece of literature; often more suited for adult readers than for the children/young adults that it's geared toward, and with a message that — though controversial — is immensely thought provoking and worth pondering. Strangely enough, this second book is actually my favourite installment in the series; odd since middle books are often those that flounder.

At the end of The Golden Compass, Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon walked into the Northern Lights, across the bridge Lord Asriel had made and into another world. Readers might be disconcerted th... Read More