The Novice: Too little action to be anything but a bridge novel

The Novice by Trudi Canavan

The sequel to The Magicians’ Guild, Trudi Canavan’s The Novice is book two in her THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy. After being mentored by the kindly Lord Rothen for a number of weeks, Sonea meets the rest of her class at the Guild as the term officially begins. Although she attempts to be friendly with them, all of her class eventually turns against her for being a lower class slum girl rather than members of the nobility like them. In particular, a novice named Regin seems to despise her utterly, for no apparent reason, as he bullies her in a variety of ways, going as far as framing her for a theft she didn’t commit. Interestingly, Lord Dannyl begins to play a larger role in the story as he is sent abroad by Administrated Lorlen to investigate Akkarin’s pas... Read More

Animal Man: Origin of the Species and Deus Ex Machina

Animal Man, Volume 2: Origin of the Species & Animal Man, Volume 3: Deus Ex Machina by Grant Morrison (writer) & Chas Truog (artist) issues 10-26

These two volumes of Animal ManOrigin of the Species and Deus Ex Machina — complete the collection of Grant Morrison's run on this once-minor DC character. This 26-issue run marks Morrison's entry into American comics. The Scottish Morrison, along with Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, is one of the three writers from the UK who helped change American comics for the better in the 1980s and 1990s. Moore preceded them in his work on Swamp Thing and is probably the reason Karen Berger from DC was sent to find more talen... Read More

The Arctic Incident: It’s got the requisite number of fart jokes

The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer

The first installment in the ARTEMIS FOWL series ended with a dire note from a fairy psychologist, explaining that Fowl would go on to become “the People’s most feared enemy” over the course of “decades.” However, already foreseeing the sequel (if conspicuously not planning for the legion of follow-up novels past that point in which Artemis is about as villainous and feared as Minnie Mouse), author Eoin Colfer also slipped in a little tease about a certain occasion in which all the favorite protagonists and antagonists from book one were forced to work together. A year and a month later, what should appear but just such a story in the form of Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident?

Having used fairy magic to cure Mrs. Fowl at the end of book one, Artemis is plotting to rescue parent number two, who he insists is alive somewhere after his boat went down halfway around t... Read More

Hidden Warrior: Continues to entertain

Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling

Hidden Warrior is the second installment in Lynn Flewelling’s TAMIR TRIAD about Tobin, the rightful heir to the throne of Skala who is being magically hidden as a girl until it’s time for her to challenge the king. As this book begins, Tobin has just discovered the horrifying truth about himself, but he must still stay hidden until it’s time for the big reveal. He’s now living at the castle as a Companion to the prince. He’s nervous about the future because he genuinely likes his cousin, the presumed heir, and he is treated well by his uncle, though he occasionally sees glimpses of the king’s unpredictable bad temper and sees how he mistreats the wizards and others who speak against him or mention the prophecy about a hidden queen.

As Tobin nears puberty, he still thinks of himself as a boy, but his gender identity confusion begins to increase. He is noticeably smaller than th... Read More

The Phoenix Exultant: Disappointing sequel

The Phoenix Exultant by John C. Wright

I was really disappointed with The Phoenix Exultant, the second novel in John C. Wright’s THE GOLDEN AGE series, especially considering how much I had enjoyed its predecessor, The Golden Age. In many ways The Phoenix Exultant just did not feel like a true continuation of the first book.

One of the major stumbling blocks for me was that I just couldn't believe the way Wright handled the voices he used for the characters in this volume. Considering his mannered and baroque set up in the previous volume I found the dialogue to be way too colloquial (and 20th century colloquial at that). Maybe Wright was trying to show Phaeton “stepping down” a level, both socially due to his exile and intellectually due to his loss of certain artificial brain upgrades, but it really grated on me. Atkins and Daphn... Read More

Icefire: Older, darker, more complicated

Icefire by Chris d'Lacey

Icefire is Chris d’Lacey’s second book in the Last Dragon Chronicles, following up on The Fire Within and continuing the story of David, the Pennykettles (Liz and Lucy), and the clay dragons that are much more than they appear. The Fire Within seems a wholly different construct from the succeeding novels — simpler, lighter in tone, feeling a bit younger in terms of target audience. Icefire begins the shift toward older, darker, more complicated storytelling.

Dragons play a much larger role in Icefire, as one might expect, and we start to get a sense of the clay dragons as distinct personalities. They still seem to lean a bit young to me in terms of readership, though one in particular faces s... Read More

Lionclaw: Robin Hood for youngsters

Lionclaw by Nancy Springer

The Rowan Hood series consists of five books that pertain to the four members of a young outlaw gang. Each of the first four books centers on one of these characters, with the fifth book focusing on all five. These are brave, spunky Rowan, the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood; Lionel, an overgrown cowardly minstrel; Rook the wild boy; and Ettarde, a runaway princess. Also with them is Tykell, a wolf-dog hybrid that can catch arrows out of the air. Lionclaw, the second book in the series, tells Lionel's story.

The son of a very disappointed father, Lionel is as tall as a giant and with "feet the size of pony heads." However, despite his size, he has a timid, courtly disposition and would much rather spent his time playing his harp. His gifts as a musician have been known to draw the aelfe from the forests, but s... Read More

Choice of the Cat: All out of bubble gum

Choice of the Cat by E.E. Knight

David Valentine returns home for a break in Choice of the Cat, but his rest is short-lived, as he quickly becomes the victim of military bureaucracy and is given a special assignment: he is to partner with a special agent who goes by the code name Smoke. Smoke, a small, attractive female killer with mild psychotic tendencies, is a specialized soldier called a Cat. While we learned a little about Cats in Way of the Wolf, we get to see what it’s like to be one in Choice of the Cat. Valentine (now code-named Ghost) and Smoke are assigned to gather intel on a group of Nazi-like super soldiers who are under Kurian control. These “Twisted Cross” soldiers are capable of organized destruction and have been to known to wipe out entire fortified cities overnight. This may sound a little silly, but if you’ve read the first book, you know ... Read More

All Night Awake: Not as good as Ill Met

All Night Awake by Sarah A. Hoyt

I wasn't expecting a sequel to Ill Met by Moonlight. That novel was complete and satisfactory in itself, so the appearance of a sequel came as a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, I didn't like All Night Awake quite as much as Ill Met by Moonlight, for several reasons. First, the metaphysics were more confusing than in the first book. Second, the constant use of Shakespearean quotes gets a little heavy-handed from time to time. Third, this book doesn't stand on its own as well as Ill Met by Moonlight; it would make no sense without the first volume and too obviously sets up the third.

That said, All Night Awake is worth reading if you enjoyed Ill Met by Moonlight and want to catch up with the characters. Quicksilver, the gender-ben... Read More

Predator’s Gold: The action keeps rolling

Predator's Gold by Philip Reeve

We Will Unleash a Storm that will Scour the Earth.

It had been a while since I'd read Philip Reeve's first installment in the Hungry City quartet, and so my memories of the events that happened in Mortal Engines were a little hazy. However, nothing could make me forget the imaginative post-apocalyptic world that Reeve had created, in which massive Traction-Cities trundled across the wastelands according to the laws of Municipal Darwinism; eating any smaller city that crossed their paths. There was a massive death-toll by the end of the book, in which many of the principal characters had been killed (to the point of desensitisation), but our protagonists Tom and Hester managed to ride off into the sunset in the battered old airship "Jenny Haniver."
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Shriek: An Afterword

Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer

Shriek: An Afterword is Jeff VanderMeer's second novel set in his AMBERGRIS cosmology. There are a lot of elements with regards to the book that I want to talk about, so please bear with me.

The first is that this is a sequel, yet it's not. I won't talk about City of Saints and Madmen here, but suffice it to say, Shriek: An Afterword builds on the material presented in that novel. However, it's not necessary to have read the previous book to appreciate this novel. For the uninitiated, it's merely enough to know that the historical artifacts mentioned in the book exist somewhere. Fans of Jeff VanderMeer, on the other hand, will be dazzled by the fact that the author actually wrote a text like "The Hoegbottom Guide to the Early History of Ambergris," the equivalent of Read More

The Dragon Charmer: Love it or hate it

The Dragon Charmer by Jan Siegel

There is no middle ground when it comes to Jan Siegel's novels: you either love them or hate them. Considering I love them, you might want to take this review with a pinch of salt as you may take my advice to read it and find that it is simply not to your taste. In any case, borrow before you buy and hopefully you'll enjoy these books as much as I do. They are beautifully written, with intriguing ideas and careful plotting, and (in my humble opinion) are among the best books that the fantasy genre has to offer. In a world of Tolkien rip-offs, it is a rare thing to find a fantasy novel that transcends the clichés into something fresh and new, yet resonant with older traditions and mythologies.

In the previous novel Prospero's Children, Fern Capel came into her inheritan... Read More

Paladin of Souls: Another wonderful book in the Chalion series

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Paladin of Souls takes place just after the events of The Curse of Chalion and focuses on Ista, one of the minor middle-aged female characters from that book. Paladin of Souls can stand alone, but you'll get a lot more out of it if you read The Curse of Chalion first.

Bujold's world of Chalion is believable and complex, the magic is deep, fascinating, and just plain scary. Bujold is particularly good at developing multi-faceted characters who have beautiful relationships with each other. Ista is an intelligent widow with a tragic past who wants to change her circumstances and make the world better for herself and others. She's utterly charming and she's surrounded by a group of equally charming secondary characters. Together they go on a pilgrimage just so Ista can get away from her life for a while. They get... Read More

Merry Meet: Ritual begins at five, with potluck after

Merry Meet by Isobel Bird

Being the second book in the fifteen-book series The Circle of Three, this further introduces to us the concept of Wicca and the three teenage girls that decide to explore it. Kate, Cooper and Annie are three very different girls that met over a spell that went awry, and as a consequence discovered a subculture of Wiccan practices at work in their town of Beecher Falls. Like the previous book, So Mote It Be, the story is predominantly told through the point-of-view of Kate, a popular girl who is trying to juggle her ditzy friends with her newfound interest in Wicca and her friendships with Annie and Cooper.

In Merry Meet we are introduced to two major reoccurring characters, Sasha (a young runaway who also becomes interested in Wicca) and Tyler (a male-Wicca that catches Kate's eye) and th... Read More

Kushiel’s Chosen: A painful but beautiful story

Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey returns to the lush and decadent world of Terre d'Ange in Kushiel's Chosen, sequel to the strange but beautiful Kushiel's Dart, and produces a sequel that unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its predecessor.

Our masochistic heroine, Phèdre, leaves behind her comfortable new life as a country countess when she begins to suspect that all is not well in Terre d'Ange. She believes that Melisande Shahrizai, from her hiding place in La Serenissima (Venice), still plots against Queen Ysandre — with the help of at least one D'Angeline noble. But who is her co-conspirator, and what are they planning? Phèdre returns to the courtesan’s trade in the hopes of finding clues. She doesn't learn much, though, and in the process drives away her bodyguard-lover, Joscelin. Phèdre decides there is only one thing to do: travel to La Ser... Read More