Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 1997.01


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The Broken Crown: A slow, sprawling fantasy epic

The Broken Crown by Michelle West

I listened to 19 hours (60%) of the new audio version of Michelle West’s The Broken Crown before giving up. The Broken Crown (1997) is the first novel in West’s SUN SWORD series which contains six books that add up to a whopping 4,803 pages. After getting through 458 of these pages and feeling absolutely nothing, I was dreading the remaining 4,345. I decided to quit.

Many readers love long,


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Faces Under Water: A beautiful but dated template of a story

Faces Under Water by Tanith Lee

I found the first book of Tanith Lee’s THE SECRET BOOKS OF VENUS series, Faces Under Water, in a used bookstore recently. To call Lee a prolific writer is to understate things somewhat. I had never heard of this series, set in an alternate Venice and based on the four elements. They were published by Overlook Press in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century.

Faces Under Water is short but dense,


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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: We love it

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I’m pretty sure every person in the western world knows who Harry Potter is and knows the basic story line. Harry Potter was The Boy Who Lived. Both his parents were killed by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the evil Lord Voldemort, but he survived the attack, somehow causing Voldemort to disappear. Now Harry is eleven, and off to his first year at Hogwarts wizarding school. But it seems like Voldemort is making a resurgence. Is Harry safe, even under the watchful eye of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore?


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The Awakening: Lacks anything special

Magelord: The Awakening by Thomas K. Martin

It is interesting to read older fantasy novels and see how the genre has grown and evolved. Thomas K. Martin published Magelord: The Awakening in 1997, and it feels dated.

Bjorn Rolfsson is a young hedge-wizard. In a time when people who can use magic are hunted down and burned alive, he and his father are part of a hidden, secretive group, called a Circle, who teach each other to use magic. I felt like I was reading about early Christians under the Roman Empire,


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Island in the Sea of Time: A fun time-travel survival story

Island in the Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling

After a strange electrical storm, the residents of Nantucket discover that their entire island and its surrounding waters have been sent back to 1300 B.C. Now this society, which is mostly based on a tourist economy, must figure out how to establish a new identity in prehistory. This includes clearing and farming land, building ships, finding new sources of fuel, salt, and other necessities, and most difficult of all, developing a constitution and befriending native trading partners.

Fortunately, Nantucket has some citizens with valuable knowledge and skills who find themselves naturally rising to leadership positions: a brave and competent Baptist police chief,


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In the Garden of Iden: Historical science fiction romance

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker

Rescued from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, feisty little Mendoza is enrolled in a special school and becomes a cyborg agent of The Company, a group of immortal merchants and scientists who travel backwards in time in order to make money for The Company and to benefit mankind in various ways.

Mendoza is educated and trained as a botanist and, for her first mission, she’s sent back to 16th century Europe to document and study samples from the famous Garden of Iden in England.


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The Physiognomy: Sometimes brilliant, always bizarre

The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford

Physiognomist Cley has been sent by Master Drachton Below, the evil genius who constructed the Well-Built City, to the faraway mining district of Anamasobia to investigate the theft of a fruit that’s rumored to have grown in the Earthly Paradise and to have supernatural powers. Upon arriving, the skeptical and arrogant physiognomist finds a whole town of morons whose physical features clearly indicate that they are all backward and generally pathetic. Except for Arla, whose beautiful features suggest that she is intelligent and competent, and who seems to understand the science of physiognomy (even though that’s impossible because she’s a woman).


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Children of Amarid: Enjoyable and unpretentious

Children of Amarid by David B. Coe

The fantasy debut of historian David B. Coe is a highly readable adventure with a freshness and appeal that too many modern fantasies lack. I found the tale enjoyable, unpretentious, avoiding obvious Tolkienisms, with characterization superior to most of what is being sold and touted these days as the best of the best. Yet it has what you could term some routine first-novel flaws. Its pace is too languid, its narrative not always well focused. And it’s loaded with predictable “surprises”


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Sandry’s Book: Pure enjoyment for all ages

Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce

THE CIRCLE OF MAGIC series by Tamora Pierce consists of four books, but the action and characters are so intertwined that it makes sense for me to review them as a series. These are some of my favorite YA stories, and ones that make me cry every time I read them.

THE CIRCLE OF MAGIC tells the story of four young people — Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar — who are brought to the Winding Circle Temple by Niklaren Goldeye,


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The Harlequin’s Dance: I gave it 67 pages

The Harlequin’s Dance by Tom Arden

I got 67 pages (eight chapters) into Tom Arden‘s The Harlequin’s Dance (1997), and even those 67 pages were a struggle.

In fact, I started and stopped the book a few times before finally giving up. I’m a little disappointed, because it seems like there’s potential  here. Characterization is thorough, there are some promising villains, and some subtle humor — all things that I appreciate.

And Tom Arden is a fine enough writer,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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