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Vera Nazarian

Vera Nazarian(1966- )
Vera Nazarian emigrated to the US from the USSR during the Cold War. She writes other speculative fiction, also. Learn more at her website.

Dreams of the Compass Rose: Unique format

Dreams of the Compass Rose by Vera Nazarian

Vera Nazarianemploys a fairly traditional and even romantic method of narration, but what makes Dreams of the Compass Rose unique is its format. It's reminiscent of mosaic novels or even the high fantasy equivalent of Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth as each chapter stands well on its own and explores a facet of the various characters. I like the Tales of the Dying Earth comparison, as a minor character in the previous story might take center stage in the next.

The narrative isn't chronological and with all the character-leaping, Dreams of the Compass Rose isn't the most accessible of texts — at least at the beginnin... Read More

Lords of Rainbow: Epic fantasy with no baggage

Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nararian

A decade ago, I was a big fan of secondary-world fantasies: big sprawling epic plots, an entirely different but familiar setting, and larger than life characters. Had I read Lords of Rainbow back then, I would have immediately fallen in love with it. As I am now, however, there's a lot less unabashed praise for that particular sub-genre and I've become more critical.

What's obviously commendable with Vera Nazarian is that her cosmology isn't a random hodgepodge of ideas but rather a cohesion of a single, united vision. As can be gleaned from the title, the rainbow — or rather the colors of the rainbow — plays a consistent role all throughout the novel. Right from the very start, one gets a sense that the narrative has its own unique culture as Nazarian uses alien terms and expressions, references unfamiliar pantheons, and uses fancifu... Read More

The Duke in His Castle: Slow build-up, big pay-off

The Duke in His Castle

The novella The Duke in His Castle starts out like a conventional fairy tale but it soon spirals into a plotty story with unexpected twists. Admittedly, the book didn't hook me at first, especially with its rude protagonist (not quite the initial sympathetic hero but some readers will grow fond of him) and the bare-bones setting (everything takes places in a castle) but Vera Nazarian turns things around as the enigma surrounding our main character slowly unfolds.

There are two key figures in the story and both have distinctive, unique personalities that definitely set them apart from the norm. Nazarian's talent is in her language: on one hand, her dialog is direct and blunt while her narrative is verbose and detailed. I wouldn't say Nazarian's writing is mesmerizing or lyrical, but it definitely goes beyond being simply functional. It harkens more to a traditional writing style infu... Read More

Mansfield Park and Mummies: Tricked into reading Jane Austen

Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian

I had always heard great things about Vera Nazarian’s books, both from friends and publications, but I never quite got around to reading any of her work until recently when I picked up her short story collection Salt of the Air, published by Prime Books. The introduction was by Gene Wolfe, a man I have an enormous amount of respect for as a writer. After reading the wonderful things that Gene had to say about her, I knew I was in for a treat, and I was not wrong. The sublime opening story “Rossia Moya,” about an old woman returning to the Russia she emigrated from when she was younger to see it for the last time before it closes to the outside world, is the perfect introduction. Following it are other great short stories: a cautionary tale in the form of beauty and the ... Read More

More by Vera Nazarian

The Cobweb Bride — (2013) Publisher: Many are called… She alone can save the world and become Death’s bride. COBWEB BRIDE (Cobweb Bride Trilogy, Book One) is a history-flavored fantasy novel with romantic elements of the Persephone myth, about Death’s ultimatum to the world. What if you killed someone and then fell in love with them? In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an imaginary “pocket” of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride. Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops. There is no relief for the mortally wounded and the terminally ill… Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness… Her skin is cold as snow… Her eyes, frozen… Her gaze, fiercely alive… While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of the undead wage an endless war… A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father… Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court…. Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living… Look closer — through the cobweb filaments of her hair and along each strand shine stars… And one small village girl, Percy–an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter — is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs. As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death’s own mysterious holding in the deepest forests of the North… And everyone is trying to stop her.

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass — (2005) Publisher: Locus Recommended Reading List, 2005. Rich Horton’ Virtual Best of the Year 2005. Many billion years in the future, the sun is a huge bloated golden Day God that fills the sky, and the earth is a barren desert. The last remaining water has pooled at the bottom of the Pacific Basin in a thick toxic sludge-lake called the Oceanus by the sterile post-humans that inhabit its salt-encrusted shores. Liaei is different from the others. She is a fertile female created out of ancient homo sapiens DNA from the dwindling genetic stores, and has been manufactured by the horticulturists in a genetics lab. Liaei has been brought to life for one mysterious purpose — she is to become the Queen of the Hourglass. Growing up in Basin City, fostered by the quasi-female modern human Amhama — the same technician who put her cells together — Liaei knows she does not belong. She is lively and vibrant and has a savage full head of hair and eyebrows unlike the smooth doll-like humans around her. She is also curious and inquisitive, asking more questions than even the harmonium in all its complexity can answer — harmonium technology powers everything, can regurgitate histories of civilizations, process liquid toxic waste, conjure music out of the air, run the agricultural hothouses, and fly hovercars, and yet its origins too have been lost in the murk of the ages and it cannot satisfy the restless mind of Liaei. What does it mean to be the Queen of the Hourglass? Why do love and emotions seem to mean other things to her than to others? And what is that meandering ribbon of light up on the distant Basin Walls, a mysterious bit of ancient technology called The River That Flows Through the Air? Can water flow uphill? Soon, when she reaches ancient sexual maturity and undergoes the proper training, the Queen of the Hourglass will embark on a journey to meet her consort the Clock King, and there will be even more questions. But now, the harmonium-based machines are failing, and suddenly humanity is running out of time.

Vera Nazarian fantasy book reviews: Dreams of the Compass Rose, Lords of Rainbow, Salt of the Air, The Duke in His CastleSalt of the Air — (2006) Publisher: You are familiar with the salt of the earth. But did you know there is an even finer, more delicate essence? Take wisdom and imagination, responsibility and beauty, and mix them together in arcane proportions to form a rich and peculiar brine. The resulting water of life is an emotional muddy liquid, filled with existential sediment swirling in the light of secret reality and reflecting prismatic colors of hope and wonder. If allowed to evaporate — escape, flee, ascend into the ether and join the music of the spheres — what remains is the quintessence; a precious concentrate that is elusive and volatile, neither fully solid nor so illusory as to be devoid of pithy substance. It is the Salt of the Air. In this debut collection from the critically acclaimed author of Dreams of the Compass Rose and Lords of Rainbow, the sixteen stories are distillations of myth and philosophy, eroticism and ascetic purity. Dipping into an ancient multi-ethnic well, they are the stuff of fantasy-of maidens and deities and senior retirees, of kings and artists and con artists, of warriors and librarians, of beings without a name and things very fey indeed…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMayhem at Grant-Williams High — (2006) Publisher: Think your high school experience was Hell? Vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghouls…and moron idiot students. Welcome to Grant-Williams High.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights — (2009) Publisher: Spinsterhood or Mummification! Ancient Egypt infiltrates Regency England in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic monster parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel. Our gentle yet indomitable heroine Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh! Meanwhile, the indubitably handsome and kind hero Edmund attempts Exorcisms… Miss Crawford vamps out… Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf… The Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts… There can be no doubt that Mansfield Park has become a battleground for the forces of Ancient Evil and Regency True Love! Gentle Reader — this Delightful Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsNorthanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons — (2010) Publisher: Dragons in the skies of Regency England! Gothic horrors collide with high satire in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic supernatural parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel. Young and naive Catherine Morland is constantly surrounded by angels only she alone can see. Leaving her country home for the first time, to embark on a grand adventure that begins in fashionable Bath, our romantic heroine must not only decrypt the mystery of the Udolpho Code but win her true love Henry Tilney. Meanwhile she is beset by all the Gothic horrors known to Impressionable Young Ladies — odious demons, Regency balls, elusive ghosts, pleasure excursions, temperature-changing nephilim, secret clues, ogre suitors, and a terrifying ancient Dragon who has very likely hidden a secret treasure hoard somewhere in the depths of Northanger Abbey. Gentle Reader — this Delightful Illustrated Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAfter the Sundial — (2010) Publisher: After the Sundial by Vera Nazarian is the author’s first short fiction collection that focuses specifically on science fiction works, and can be viewed as a companion volume to her earlier collection, Salt of the Air which focused on fable, myth, and fantasy. Bound by the common theme of time and temporal exploration, the ten selections here range widely from traditional speculative fiction to the surreal literary to poetry to bawdy adventure humor to space opera and far future speculation. Includes an introduction by the author, two previously unpublished works and a full-length critically acclaimed novella The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Young Woman in a House of Old — (2011) Publisher: The young girl lived in a big stone house with ivy-covered walls and with old men and women who were all her kin. When she was a very tiny little girl, she remembered adult faces looking down at her as she lay in her crib, warm wrinkle-framed eyes of tired aunts and grandmothers and cousins and second cousins and great-aunts and uncles-twice-removed and great-great-grandfathers, and even creatures so old and wrinkled and small that she mistook them for dolls until they moved and she saw instead that they were ancient kindly goblins and gnomes with white cobwebs for hair and eyebrows…. So begins a mysterious short story of a peculiar little girl growing up in a very strange house filled with antiquity and dark wonder. Hold on to your heart.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThree Names of the Hidden God — (2012) Publisher: What occult mysteries tie together a magical disappearing lake, a courageous young birdcatcher, a hidden god, and the savage politics of an ancient kingdom? Discover the wonders and wisdom of the Compass Rose… in this new fantasy short story by two-time Nebula Award nominated author Vera Nazarian, set in the same mythic universe as her critically acclaimed novel Dreams of the Compass Rose.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Witch Who Made Adjustments — (2012) Publisher: “The Witch Who Made Adjustments” is a humorous and deeply heartwarming fantasy novelette of a witch who may not be as “terrible” as she seems — a witch who came into a turn-of-the-century town, just a few days before Halloween, and changed the lives of the entire populace, and especially young Tommy, a hardworking boy, and his impoverished family.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret — (2012) Publisher: When the moon is full over Regency England, all the gentlemen are subject to its curse. Mr. Darcy, however, harbors a Dreadful Secret… Shape-shifting demons mingle with Australian wildlife, polite society, and high satire, in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic supernatural parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel. The powerful, mysterious, handsome, and odious Mr. Darcy announces that Miss Elizabeth Bennet is not good enough to tempt him. The young lady determines to find out his one secret weakness — all the while surviving unwanted proposals, Regency balls, foolish sisters, seductive wolves, matchmaking mothers, malodorous skunks, general lunacy, and the demonic onslaught of the entire wild animal kingdom! What awaits her is something unexpected. And only moon, matrimony, and true love can overcome pride and prejudice! Gentle Reader — this Delightful Illustrated Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.