Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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Seekers of the Chalice: Great premise, bad execution

Seekers of the Chalice by Brian  Cullen

Seekers of the Chalice is the story of a small group of heroes who set out to recover the Chalice of Fire, a symbol of peace for Ulster, after it is stolen from the Red Branch by a traitor.

The premise behind the book, which is an attempt to do a high fantasy retelling of the traditional Celtic myth Táin Bó Cúailnge, is great. However, the execution falters. The characters are flat, the dialogue stilted, and the plot is an endless series of near identical battles against every imaginable dark creature.


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Except the Queen: DNF for now

Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

In Except the Queen, two faerie sisters, Serana and Meteora, accidentally learn a scandalous secret about the faerie queen and let it slip. For their transgression, the two women are separated and banished to mortal Earth to live among humans. They are completely adrift in this new world, and if that weren’t bad enough, their new human bodies are old and overweight.

I think Except the Queen is meant — at least in part — as an exploration of aging.


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Firebird: 90 pages in and it’s still starting

Firebird by Mercedes Lackey

Since Firebird is one of Mercedes Lackey’s somewhat older works, I thought I’d enjoy it. It certainly sounded promising.

And indeed, Firebird starts off with a lot of potential. Though the main character, Ilya, is yet another underappreciated, super-clever youth whose family is mean to him, etc. etc., he’s a bit of a, well, womanizer. He likes him some womenfolk, and it’s kind of charming in a rather “That’s not very like Mercedes Lackey” kind of way.


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Orcs: These orcs are pretty tame

Orcs by Stan Nicholls

The Wolverines are an elite Orc fighting unit bound to the service of an evil witch-queen. War rages between religious factions — those who follow the one god who places humans above the elder races (orcs, dwarves, trolls, etc.) and those, such as the Wolverines, who worship the old god. On a mission to secure a mysterious relic, the Wolverines discover a slim hope of salvation for all the elder races, but they must turn renegade to achieve it.

The shadowed brute on the cover of Orcs caught my eye,


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The Mirror Prince: Couldn’t see the forest for all the Trees

The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan

As a result of losing a civil war in the Elven Kingdom, the Guardian Prince has been exiled to the human lands and stripped of his memories, with only a small band of Riders to protect him. Now, as the exile is coming to a close, the Hunt has appeared, set upon destroying him before he can return to reclaim his place. The Guardian Prince has to regain his memories to save himself and the Elven Kingdoms, but how?

I was excited when I opened The Mirror Prince.


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Rogue Angel: Destiny

Rogue Angel: Destiny by Alex Archer

I have a soft spot for archaeological/historical mysteries and thrillers. The subgenre is extremely glutted with dreck, though, as a result of the huge popularity of The Da Vinci Code. I’m not much of a Da Vinci Code fan, but I’ve liked some of the novels that followed in its wake, so I’m often willing to give this type of book a chance even though I’m seldom satisfied. I ordered Destiny in the hopes that it would be one of the good ones.


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The Singer’s Crown: This book has nothing

The Singer’s Crown by Elaine Isaak

When I picked up The Singer’s Crown and read the back of it, I thought it sounded pretty generic, but an instinct told me that I should pick it up and give it a try. I don’t know, perhaps I’m desperate for another Carol Berg or Lynn Flewelling. I’m not exactly sure what tree I was barking up here, because Elaine Isaak’s work made this review less of a “Did Not Finish” and more of a “Barely Began”.


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The Eyes of a King: Would you like some gloom with that?

The Eyes of a King by Catherine Banner

“All those years, I thought I was unhappy. I don’t think anymore that I was,” Leo reflects early in The Eyes of a King, looking back on his teenage self.

Now, after 250 pages of military dictatorship, abusive teachers, missing parents, Leo being sick, Leo’s little brother being sick, kids getting drafted into the army, and heavy-handed foreshadowing of a tragic event that happens around the 225-page mark, and Leo brooding about all of these things? If this is Leo North when he’s happy,


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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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New Blood: Did Not Finish

New Blood by Gail Dayton

The blood sorcerers have been exterminated; The last one was killed almost two centuries ago. Her magical servant has spent the intervening years looking for a successor, and finally finds her — a young woman wounded by the world around her — and now has the unlucky task of trying to convince her to take up the forbidden power. As they struggle to make sense of the crumbling world around them, they are forced to draw closer together, and they may find the most magical thing of all: love.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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