The High Lord: Too much action crammed into too few pages

The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

Published in 2003, The High Lord is the action-packed third and final book of Trudi Canavan’s THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy. In The High Lord, Canavan brings us back to Sonea’s troubles and her “capture” by Akkarin, the High Lord of the Magician’s Guild. It’s hinted throughout book two, The Novice, that Akkarin might not be as evil and corrupted as his practice of black magic seems to suggest, but it’s in book three that we finally discover some of Akkarin’s motives and end goals. After hearing Akkarin’s life story, Sonea is convinced that her newfound mentor’s actions are justified and begs to assist him in his endeavors, even going as far as to learn black magic herself. Meanwhile, Canavan introduces several subplots into the series that make things vastly more interesting. While I enjoyed the multiple... Read More

The Oracle’s Queen: Brings the TAMIR TRIAD to a close

The Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling

The Oracle’s Queen is the final novel in Lynn Flewelling’s TAMIR TRIAD, an epic story about a queen who has been prophesied to rule the land of Skala. To prevent the emergence of this queen, the king, who usurped the throne by killing his own female family members, has killed all the noble women and girls who could possibly challenge him. He doesn’t know that his own sister’s daughter has been hidden by dark magic and a heinous murder.

In the first novel, The Bone Doll’s Twin, we watch this little girl grow up as a boy named Tobin. Tobin struggles with gender identity, the madness of his mother, the ghost of his murdered twin brother, the confusion and guilt of his father, and the need to deal with his uncle the king. It’s pretty compelling. In Hidden Warrior, the second novel, Tobin has learned that he’s really a girl. While this ... Read More

Fire Star & The Fire Eternal: Too much going on

Fire Star &  The Fire Eternal by Chris d' Lacey

Books three and four in Chris d’Lacey’s The Last Dragon Chronicles are The Fire Eternal and Fire Star respectively. I’ve reviewed the first two separately, but as these two share many of the same problems, I’ve decided to review them together.

The first book, The Fire Within, introduced the major characters and the basic premise of the Last Dragon, Gawain, who died ages ago but whose lost Fire Tear might still play a role in today’s world. Connected, somehow, to that dragon are young Lucy Pennykettle and her mother Liz, who makes clay dragons, some of which are animate and have special powers. Their tenant David Rain gets mixed in with the dragon mystery, but mostly he and the others ... Read More

Kushiel’s Avatar: Good place to bring Phèdre’s adventures to an end

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

Phèdre and Joscelin have had ten years of much needed rest... until the night that Phèdre dreams of her childhood friend Hyacinthe. He is still trapped on the island of the Master of the Straits and Phèdre has been studying ancient Habiru (Hebrew) texts to try to find a way to free him. If she can discover the lost name of God, she thinks she can use it to compel the angel Rahab to let Hyacinthe go.

Meanwhile (there’s always more than one major plot going on in the Kushiel books), Melisande’s son Imriel, third in line to the d’Angeline throne, is missing and Melisande, still in captivity, wants Phèdre to find him. These two quests, finding Imriel and the name of God, keep Phèdre busy during Kushiel’s Avatar. And, as usual, her plans involve travel to exotic places, mooning over Melisande, sad... Read More

Infernal Devices: You don’t know what you’re missing

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve

It has been sixteen years since the events of Predator’s Gold, and the Traction City of Anchorage has been peacefully settled on the Dead Continent for years, undisturbed by the war that rages throughout the rest of the world between the adherents of Municipal Darwinism and a terrorist faction of the Anti-Tractionist League.

Okay, if you haven't read the previous two books in THE HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES, then you probably didn't understand a word of that sentence. To recap, Philip Reeve has created one of the most vivid and exciting fantasy worlds in recent fiction, a post-apocalyptic world where massive itinerant cities roam the wastelands, preying on smaller cities and static communities. Those that want to put a stop to this dog-eat-dog world, as well as protect their homelands from the predator cities and "bring back the green," are k... Read More

Tale of the Thunderbolt: The story is still exciting and action-packed

Tale of the Thunderbolt by E.E. Knight

Tale of the Thunderbolt is the third installment in the VAMPIRE EARTH series. Each book has so far followed the story of David Valentine, post-apocalyptic warrior extraordinaire. In this third volume, Southern Command has sent David on a mission to bring back a secret weapon that lays hidden somewhere on the Haitian side of Hispaniola. David has been undercover for over a year in preparation for this mission, and has done things for the sake of humanity that he dares not speak of.

The David Valentine in Tale of the Thunderbolt is unfortunately a bit different from the one seen in previous novels. He seems more than slightly damaged from the things he’s been through in the past. I always enjoyed the fact that Valentine always did the right thing no matter what the consequences were. There was a cha... Read More

Daughter of Hounds: A beautiful amalgam

Daughter of Hounds by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Always on the lookout for a new author to sink my teeth into, I decide to read Caitlín R. Kiernan when I came across her novel Daughter Of Hounds. Upon further research, I discovered that this was merely the newest entry involving psychic Deacon Silvey. Knowing that, I decided to check out Ms. Kiernan’s previous works first, starting with her sophomore effort Threshold. After completing the book, I admit I was torn. On the one hand, Threshold offered a lot to like: flawed, yet interesting characters; a thought-provokingly surreal world to explore; and a promising new talent in Ms. Kiernan whose gifted prose definitely made the story shine. On the other hand, I felt that the book’s ending was too ambiguous for my tastes — even if that was the author’s intention — and left me feeling unsatisfied.

So, it w... Read More

The Shadow Roads: Decent but anticlimactic close to trilogy

The Shadow Roads by Sean Russell

The Shadow Roads brings The Swans' War to a somewhat satisfying close, but its many weaknesses lessen the impact it might have had. The strength is the backstory — the sense of myth surrounding the three children of Wyrr, Death walled away into his own world, stories of loss and transformation. When Sean Russell spends time in this area, whether in detail or just tangentially, it lends a sad sense of grandeur and depth to the work as a whole. Unfortunately, this strength is negated by too many weaknesses.

One is that the characters become more pallid as we come to the end of the story, rather than more intense as should be the case after having spent three books' worth of time with them. The Shadow Roads follows the by-now-familiar multi-stranded structure of most ... Read More

The Witch Queen: Weakest in the trilogy

The Witch Queen by Jan Siegel

The three-part story of Fernanda "Fern" Capel that began in Prospero's Children and continued in The Dragon Charmer comes to its conclusion in The Witch Queen. A young woman now, Fern has resigned herself to the presence of magic in her life and accepted (however reluctantly) that her Gift means that the life of a witch is the only one she can lead. In Prospero's Children Fern time-traveled back to the City of Atlantis, where she loved and lost a young man of that nation; and in The Dragon Charmer she became the unwilling student of the witch Morgus (known in life as Morgause, the sister of Morgan le Fay), eventually betraying and slaying her tutor in her desire to return to her ordinary life. But Morgus was not destroyed when Fern flung her into the River Styx, and now she has emerged st... Read More

The Hallowed Hunt: Fresh characters and plot

The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold

I think Lois McMaster Bujold has exactly the right idea with the Chalion series. Each book stands alone, but if you have read the first one (Curse of Chalion), you get all the background material you need to understand the geographical, political, and religious systems of her world. This means that later books (Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt) can have fresh new characters and plots, but we don't have to endure many info dumps. The magic system, meanwhile, gets more and more complex, as we learn more in each book. Perhaps best of all, the plot can wrap up at the end of each novel.

What I like best about Bujold is her wonderfully imaginative and complicated magic. I love how she lets the reader discover it a little at a time (... Read More