River of Blue Fire: A great story that’s just too long

River of Blue Fire by Tad Williams

River of Blue Fire (1998) is the second book in Tad WilliamsOVERLAND quartet. You absolutely must read the first book, City of Golden Shadow, first.

Our group of heroes (Renie, Xabbu, Orlando, Fredericks, Martine, Tb4, Kwan-Le) have entered Otherland and are searching for Paul Jonas at Mr. Sellar’s request. They hope to discover what the Grail Brotherhood is up to and why some kids (including Renie’s little brother Stephen, and online pals Orlando and Fredericks) are in comas. What is the Grail Brotherhood’s plans for these kids?

But soon the heroes are accidentally separated into two groups and they are struggling just to stay alive as they t... Read More

A Clash of Kings: No one will escape

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Renly Baratheon explains, “I have it in me to be a great king, strong yet generous, clever, just, diligent, loyal to my friends and terrible to my enemies, yet capable of forgiveness, patient…” Renly’s only problem, besides arrogance, is that he has no legal claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros — excepting the strength of his army. Luckily for Renly, Westeros’ leaders no longer seem to require any legitimacy beyond the power of their armies and the ruthlessness of their bannermen. Perhaps the laws of the realm were always a whitewash, but now even Sansa Stark has begun to realize that the laws of the state are twisted to strengthen the powerful rather than enforced to protect the powerless.

In a realm like this, it should come as no surprise that Renly is only one of many men to have raised an army, forged a crown, and claimed a throne. Renly’s older brother Stannis has declared... Read More

The Neutronium Alchemist: Like a soap opera

The Neutronium Alchemist by Peter F. Hamilton

Warning: Contains a few spoilers for the previous book, The Reality Dysfunction.

“Jesus, I can’t believe that’s all there is: life and purgatory. After tens of thousands of years, the universe finally reveals that we have souls, and then we have the glory snatched right back and replaced with terror. There has to be something more, there has to be. He wouldn’t do that to us.”

The Neutronium Alchemist is the second book in Peter F. Hamilton’s massive (and I mean massive) NIGHT’S DAWN science fiction trilogy. These books have been on my list for a while so I picked them up when Tantor Audio recently produced... Read More

Thunderbird: Ancient shores rediscovered

Thunderbird by Jack McDevitt

When we last left Jack McDevitt’s North Dakota in 1996’s Ancient Shores, the U.S. Government had failed miserably and embarrassingly to wrest control of an alien stargate from the Spirit Lake Sioux, rightful owners of the land on which the alien artifact was found. Thunderbird, a sequel to Ancient Shores, picks up several months after the showdown, which also saw fictional poet Walter Asquith shot dead.
The world of Grand Forks, North Dakota, with its brutal winters and routine working days, had been replaced by a cosmos that was suddenly accessible.
The story in McDevitt’s Ancient Shores orbits the discovery of seemingly alien artifacts — a futuristic sailboat buried deep within the plains of North Dakot... Read More

The Seven Songs: Missing the X factor

The Seven Songs by T.A. Barron

"Pursue the Seven Songs in Turn; the Parts Beget the Whole..."

The second book in T.A. Barron's MERLIN SAGA (preceded by The Lost Years and followed by The Raging Fires) continues young Merlin's journey toward the powerful wizard of legend. Having noticed that there was very little literature that dealt with Merlin in his formative years, Barron set about writing a "prequel" of sorts to Arthurian legend that explored what Merlin was like as a child. In the first book Merlin discovers the identity of his parents and travels to his homeland Fincayra, an island that exists between the mortal and spirit world.

Having found several treasures that have the power to restore life to Fincayra, Merlin begins his next adventure by travelling across the island with the Flowering Harp, b... Read More

Jovah’s Angel: Intelligent character-driven fantasy

Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn

Set about 150 years after Archangel, Jovah’s Angel returns to the world of the Samaria books to find a new set of problems besieging the land. Terribly destructive storms are wracking the land, and the angels, who for hundreds of years have been able to intercede with the god Jovah for protection, can no longer work their magic. When one particularly bad storm hurls the Archangel Delilah to the ground, breaking her wing and leaving her no longer capable of flight, the oracles are approached to name a new Archangel. The pronouncement they receive from Jovah is a shock to everyone: the reclusive scholar Alleluia should be the new Archangel.

I loved Archangel and was concerned about whether any sequel could possibly live up to the first book. Sharon Shinn very wisely sets the action significantly later, so while the events of the firs... Read More

The Queen of Attolia: Darker, more psychological

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Eugenides ends The Thief in triumph, but within the first chapter of this sequel, he is back in the prisons of the Queen of Attolia, where he loses his hand to the executioner’s axe, while the Queen looks on impassively. Forced to deal with the rest of his life as the Queen’s Thief of Eddis, with only one hand, he bitterly retreats to his rooms in seclusion, leaving Eddis without his skills just as the peninsula erupts in warfare, from both within and without.

With a title like The Queen of Attolia, you know that she is going to be a major character, and most of the book is spent in political maneuvering between the queens of Attolia and Eddis, but I was unprepared for the role that she takes on towards the end of this book. I found the backstory behind this development highly unbelievable. If you want to know why, highlight the fol... Read More

The Night World 2: Much better than Twilight

THE NIGHT WORLD: Volume 2 by L.J. Smith

"There Is Plenty of Darkness..."

The first omnibus edition of The Night World sets up the basic premise of the Night World, introducing several concepts and characters that pop up again in later books, and are quick, entertaining reads. But it's not until the fifth story (found in this collection) in the series that things really get moving, and Smith begins to draw on her established history of the Night World, bring back past characters, and begin to set the scene for more epic things to come.

Dark Angel is unfortunately the weakest book in the entire series, namely because it has little to do with the Night World at all. Gillian Lennox is walking home from school one day when she's overcome by hypothermia and succumbs to the cold. Yet on her way up the infamous "tunnel of light" she i... Read More

Heart of Ice: A dark intriguing fairytale

Heart of Ice by Louise Cooper

Louise Cooper's Dark Enchantment books are a series of reasonably short novels, all stand-alone stories, that cater well to the young teenage girl who likes a blend of romance, mystery, mild horror and fairytale. Though I don't fit into that age group anymore, the books in the Dark Enchantment series are nice, quick reads, perfect for cold wintry nights by the fire, just complex enough to hold my interest.

In Heart of Ice, young Jansie is heartbroken when her older sister Tavia marries Silvan, partly because her beloved sister will now be living miles away, and partly because Jansie herself is in love with the dashing, prince-like Silvan. But after the Winter Solstice, Jansie is invited to Silvan's huge and isolated house to keep h... Read More

Windrider: The magic continues

Windrider by Pamela Freeman

Windrider is the second of the Floramonde books, though unlike other books in series, they all can be read on their own or out of order, and indeed when it came to the first book The Willow Tree's Daughter, the chapters themselves could be read out of sequence thanks to the format which made the book appear more like a collection of short stories rather than a complete novel.

That trend in format does not continue into Windrider, as it must be read from cover to cover, but although I enjoyed the freedom of picking and choosing chapters in The Willow Tree's Daughter, the style and grace with which Pamela Freeman creates her magical world is so whimsical that it doesn't matter here. In The Willow Tree's Daughter, the reader learnt of the love between the High ... Read More