2003.03


Sanctuary: A rather dull installment

Sanctuary by Mercedes Lackey

Sanctuary (2005) is the third book in Mercedes Lackey’s DRAGON JOUSTERS quartet. You need to read Joust and Alta first. There will be spoilers for those first two books in this review of the third.

Vetch has come a long way. When we first met him in Joust, he was the servant of a cruel master in his home country of Alta. One day he was picked up by a Tian Dragon Jouster named Ari and set to work as a dragon boy for his country’s enemy. Eventually he escaped with the dragon he secretly raised from an egg, flew back to his home country of Alta and, with the skills he learned f... Read More

Supreme Power: High Command by J. Michael Straczynski

Supreme Power (Vol. 3): High Command by J. Michael Straczynski

In this volume, the government ups its game against Hyperion, attempting to discredit him in the eyes of the public and attack him where they feel he is weak. They also seem not to have learned anything from the fiasco that has been their involvement in metahuman affairs up to this point, and still think they can play god with inhumanly powerful pawns. Not too bright, but I’m afraid the estimate may not be too off the mark for how governments would respond to the possibility of controlling the ‘easy’ power that superheroes (and villains) present.

All in all I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the lack of pay-off in this concluding volume of what I think is the first story arc of Supreme Power. So we have Hyperion coming to some important decisions about who he is and how he will relate to his adopted world at the same ti... Read More

River Secrets: Razo gets center stage

River Secrets by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale writes excellent children’s fantasy. River Secrets is the third book in her BAYERN series. It follows The Goose Girl and Enna Burning and focuses on one of readers’ (and the author’s) favorite characters from these books, Razo of the forest.

In the previous books, Razo’s friend Isi, who has wind magic, became queen of Bayern and his friend Enna, who has fire magic, helped Bayern win a battle with Tira. Now Bayern and Tira are swapping ambassadors and opening diplomatic relations. The people of Bayern are not popular in Tira because of what Enna, the fire mage, did to their army. Enna isn’t happy about her role in the battle, either, so she asks to go to Tira with the ambassador, hoping to redeem herself by doing something constructive instead of destructive with her magic.
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The Sweet Far Thing: A messy ending

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

The Sweet Far Thing is the final book in Libba Bray’s GEMMA DOYLE trilogy about four girls at a boarding school in Victorian England. Gemma has inherited a magic that allows her to cross over to the Realms, the fantasy world that’s the source of her magic. She and her friends Felicity, Pippa, and Ann have been trying to keep the magic safe from people who might use it to unleash horrors upon the real world, yet Gemma has promised to share the magic with the people who have helped her so far. In this book she must figure out how to do both of those things at the same time.

As The Sweet Far Thing begins, Gemma and Felicity are getting ready to finish school and enter genteel society where eventually they’ll be expected to take on the roles of wives and mothers. Ann will suffer a worse fate — she is to be the governess for a... Read More

RUNAWAYS, vol 3: The Good Die Young

RUNAWAYS: The Good Die Young by Brian K. Vaughan

Note: This review may contain spoilers of the previous volumes.

The Good Die Young, the third collection of Brian K. Vaughan’s Marvel’s RUNAWAYS, brings the original story arc to a successful, if sad, close. Our six young people, who have had to adjust to discovering they are the children of super-villains, come of age and make their own decisions, graduating to full hero status.

The book starts with Alex, the leader of the Runaways, announcing that he has fully translated the book they stole from their parents after they discovered the truth. From there, the reader gets a flashback to the parents: aliens, sorcerers,... Read More

MaddAddam: Concludes one of the smartest trilogies out there

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam
is the concluding volume of Margaret Atwood’s post human-apocalypse trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake and continued with Year of the Flood. I say “Post-human-apocalypse” rather than post-apocalyptic because more so than most novels in this sub-genre, I’d say Atwood makes it pretty clear that our apocalypse is not the world’s, that in fact, this little blue ball of water and rock will spin on quite nicely without us, as will whatever life inhabits it at the time. So sorry humanity, contrary to what you might think, once you’re gone, Earth isn’t going to curl up into the fetal position with a pint of ice cream and an old tee-shirt. It’s seeing other species.

Like the prior two novels, and you really should read those before reading MaddAddam, the third book goes back and forth in time. One track shows us what the w... Read More

Engaging the Enemy: Go Vatta!

Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon

“I do not intend survival. I intend victory.”

Engaging the Enemy is the third book in Elizabeth Moon’s VATTA’S WAR saga. Young captain Kylara Vatta, her beautiful cousin Stella Vatta, and their elderly Aunt Grace continue their quest for revenge on the people who destroyed the Vatta shipping empire and most of the Vatta family. They are just beginning to realize the extent of the vast conspiracy which brought the Vattas down — it involves space pirates, a disgruntled renegade cousin, a traitorous ship captain, and the government of their home planet, Slotter Key.

While Ky and Stella are out in space dodging assassination attempts and looking for allies, they have to deal with mercenaries, ship captains from different cultures, and more than one planet’s ridiculous system of government. Finally Moon begins to show us the cultural distinctions between th... Read More

The Evil Elves: Beautifully illustrated, great on audio

The Evil Elves by Bruce Coville

Moongobble has successfully (sort of) completed two of his three tasks to prove that he deserves to be a magician. His third task is to retrieve a jewel called The Queen’s Belly Button, which has the power to turn its owner evil, from the elves who stole it. The elves, who used to be peaceful creatures, have been badly influenced by the Belly Button and they do not want to give it back.

Edward et al. once again set out with Moongobble to help him get the jewel. It’s obvious by now that Moongobble always needs help because every time he attempts a magic spell, he is still turning things into cheese. Will Moongobble, Edward, and the rest of the gang be able to resist the temptation of the Queen’s Belly Button?

Again, there’s some repetitiveness as the reader is re-oriented to Bruce Coville’s world, and the same pattern is followed exactly, but this is... Read More

Theseus: Another fascinating retelling of an ancient myth

Theseus by Geraldine McCaughrean

Out of all the heroes in the Greek mythology canon, Theseus always struck me as the most pitiable. Though he started out promisingly enough, a string of bad decisions and unlucky circumstances left him the most broken of all the heroes in Greek mythology. In her retelling of his story, Geraldine McCaughrean pinpoints the reason for all this misery, Theseus's fatal pride, and maps the trail of ruined lives and broken hearts that Theseus leaves behind him before his sins finally catch up with him.

King Aegeus of Athens is desperate for a son, but is joyful when the sorceress Medea tells him that the next woman he holds in his arms will grant him a child. Aegeus hurries home to his wife, stopping only to visit his friend King Pittheus. But when Pittheus's daughter Aethra accidentally falls into his lap, Aegeus recalls the prophetic words, and hides his sandals and sword under a huge r... Read More

Zero History: A well-crafted conclusion to the Bigend trilogy

Zero History by William Gibson

It is getting more difficult to classify William Gibson as an SFF writer. Although Gibson’s earliest work stands alongside the best of science fiction and cyberpunk, and The Difference Engine, which he co-wrote with Bruce Sterling, is a well-respected steampunk novel, Gibson’s Bigend trilogy has left cyberpunk, outer space, and human cloning behind.

Instead, Zero History is about jeans.

Gabriel Hounds clothing is unlike any clothing now made by mainstream fashion companies. The fabric is of the highest quality, and it is especially well made. What’s more, the design is iconic, yet timeless. These clothes aren’t the height of “fashion.” They’re real.

They’re also impossible to find. What an unusual marketing strategy. Marketing guru and CEO of Blue Ant, Hubertus Bigend charges former lead... Read More

Nightingale’s Lament: Just serious enough

Nightingale’s Lament by Simon R. Green

The Nightside stories are so hard boiled that it’s hard to put in perspective, but I’m going to try anyway: If you took Dashiell Hammett’s corpse, rolled it in batter, then deep fried it till black, you would have a pretty good approximation of what Simon R. Green is going for.

Nightingale’s Lament is the third book in the Nightside series, and follows the same pattern as the previous books do: basically, another case file for John Tayler. This time he’s been tasked to discover the cause of the mysterious suicides surrounding a young singer’s performances. Through the course of the mystery he once again uses his reputation to help him solve the case. And, as usual, Simon R. Green throws some ... Read More

Master of Dragons: Half-baked

Master of Dragons by Margaret Weis

Master of Dragons, the final book in Margaret Weis's Dragonvarld trilogy was a tasty but sloppy finale — like a cheesecake that didn't quite set.

This last book wraps things up, as we knew it would, and everything is finally well in the world, as we knew it would be. There are some fine moments (Draconas showing tenderness to a female dragon, Ven finds a family, Marcus falls in love) and even some hilarious ones (Draconas darning socks, Evelina's ironic fate). Characterization, especially of the bad guys, continues to be a high point, and the writing is nothing brilliant, but certainly pleasant enough.

But this otherwise entertaining novel suffers from internal inconsistencies:

On page 38, Draconas is said to wear "the guise of a human male in his ... Read More

Scepters: Not bad on its own but been down this road too often

Scepters by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Scepters, the third book of The Corean Chronicles, isn't a bad book in its own right. If it could be read on its own (one really needs to have read the two previous books to follow this one), it would have been a decent if not great or even really good read. But coming as it does after the first two, my largest reaction was: haven't we seen all this before?

By now the pattern of plot and character has become pretty rote. Alucius, the main character of all three, is reluctantly forced to once again take up arms to protect his ability to remain a herder and have a normal life. Once again, he protests that he has no desire to leave his home, that he only does "what needs to be done", that he wishes no further honors, awards, etc. Once again, he is placed in "impossible" situations (made impossible due to overwhelmi... Read More

Goddess of Light: Go read Goddess of Spring instead

Goddess of Light by P.C. Cast

Workaholic interior designer Pamela is on a business trip to Las Vegas. Reeling from an abusive marriage, she's hoping her heart isn't entirely dead yet. She accidentally weaves her desire for romance into a spell binding the goddess Artemis to her aid, and Artemis sends her brother Apollo to woo Pamela.

Apollo and Pamela fall in love, of course. I didn't think their relationship was developed as well as Lina and Hades' relationship in Goddess of Spring. It seemed more like Apollo and Pamela fell into bed a couple of times and then declared themselves soul mates. Besides, I can't see Apollo as a romantic hero. There is one point where Pamela muses about how Apollo isn't going to stifle her as her husband did. Hello? Burning Coronis to a crisp for cheating on him? Chasing Daphne till she had no choice but to turn into a tree? Punishing Cassandra for not wanting to sleep with h... Read More

Drowned Wednesday: Nix brings fresh new ideas to the fantasy genre

Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix

By now the formula to the Keys to the Kingdom series is in place — taking place over a week-long period (with each book chronicling a day) young Arthur Penhaligon travels into the mystical realm of "the House" in order to find seven pieces of a torn Will. This Will was destroyed by the personified Days of the Week (or the 'Morrow Days'), each of whom embody one of the seven deadly sins. Arthur has already defeated Mister Monday's sloth and Grim Tuesday's greed, and now comes up against Drowned Wednesday's terrible gluttony. By doing this, Arthur hopes to bring order once more to the House, in accordance with the instructions left by the Architect (the world's Creator) in the Will she left behind.

There's a lot more to it than that, so I strongly suggest reading Mister Monday and Grim Tuesday Read More

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods: Continues in the series’ strong fashion

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins

The third book in the Gregor series picks up shortly after the last one ends and quickly tosses the reader into familiar territory. Once again, Gregor takes up a task underground in order to save a family member. In the first book it was his father, in book two his sister Boots, and now it's his mother, who in accompanying him down to the underground contracted a seemingly fatal disease that threatens to wipe out the warmbloods.

As foretold by a prophecy (another familiar element from the other books), Gregor joins a group made up of rats, crawlers, humans, and bats who have put aside (somewhat) their hatred for each other to seek the cure to this plague that strikes them all. The quest will take them deep into a dangerous forest, the only place where the plant that supposedly holds the cure grows.
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