Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 2.5

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The Complete Book of Swords: There’s much better stuff to read

The First Swords (The Complete Book of Swords) by Fred Saberhagen

The First Swords is an omnibus edition containing the first three volumes of Fred Saberhagen’s BOOK OF SWORDS series. This volume earns a generous 2-1/2 stars, mostly because of the very good premise with the Swords and the setup in the first few chapters of Book One (in which the writing is markedly better than in later chapters — deadline rush?). In essence, the god Vulcan forges 12 magical swords, each with distinctive powers,


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Twilight: 98% brain candy

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

It begins with the cover, the perfect red apple — forbidden fruit! — offered to the reader by perfect, pale hands. (Note the epigraph from Genesis: “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it… “) It continues, and continues, with the blossoming relationship between the narrator, Bella Swan, and the physically perfect and mysterious Edward Cullen — who, as the back cover states, is a vampire.

The popularity of this book, and the upcoming movie release, have probably broadcast the basic plot: Bella,


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The Way of Shadows: Still in the rough draft stage

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

In the back-alley slums of Cenaria, a guild rat named Azoth hopes to survive by becoming the apprentice of Durzo Blint, who is the best of the wetboys — the most elite of assassins. To do this he must unquestioningly follow Durzo’s every command, accept that life — anyone’s life — is worthless, and forget everyone he knew in his old life. He must become Kylar Stern: gentleman by day, stone-cold killer by night. Though Azoth doesn’t know it, as Kylar he is destined for much bigger things.


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Magic Study: When dangling, watch your participles

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

A brief overview of the plot of Magic Study is this: Yelena, the poison taster turned magician whom we met in Poison Study, leaves Ixia for Sitia, the country of her birth, to enter magical training and meet her long-lost family. Along the way, there are family tensions, new friends and enemies among the students and teachers at Yelena’s school, and sinister forces that may claim Yelena’s life, or that of one of her friends, if Yelena can’t thwart them.


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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,


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The Blood King: Characters are over-the-top

The Blood King by Gail Z. Martin

The Blood King is the second book in The Chronicles of the Necromancer.

Gail Z. Martin has a decent writing voice, but the book as a whole really left me wanting. Perhaps it was the combination of good characters who were too good and bad characters who were too bad that I just didn’t quite feel comfortable with.

The first book, The Summoner, took us through the overthrow of the Kingdom of Margolan by the eldest son who is evil and selfish and cruel and lecherous and impatient… see where I am going with this? 


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Bitten: Elena is a brat

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is a very competent writer and her command of the urban fantasy genre is also really good. She knows how to manage dialogue and keep pace with both action and character development. So, Bitten, the first book of the Women of the Otherworld series, should be a great book, right?

Ok, I despised Bitten because the main character, Elena Michaels, is such a ridiculous brat that I simply couldn’t stand her. Armstrong has created such a completely unbelievable character that I was happy when the book was over and the totally predictable ending brought my suffering to a close. 


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Acacia: Challenges us with an uncomfortable warp of the familiar

Acacia by David Anthony Durham

David Anthony Durham‘s Acacia has some of elements of epic fantasy we’ve all seen before: a large empire, a resentful race, a king’s children scattered and forced to grow into previously hidden strengths, a near-ritualized style of sword fighting, political intrigue, large battle scenes, and a few others. But anyone thinking to write off Acacia as simply another cookie-cutter fantasy would be missing a highly rewarding read — for Durham gives us these familiar set-ups only to repeatedly yank them out from under our feet.


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The Book of Earth: I’m indifferent

The Book of Earth by Marjorie B. Kellogg

Erde, the daughter of a German noble, is suddenly and terribly thrust into a world of magic and fear when she is accused of a crime she did not commit. After fleeing her father’s wrath and the insane ravings of a power-hungry priest, Erde heads into the mountains to be joined by a small, clumsy, surprisingly un-fantastic dragon named Earth.

Earth knows that he is called to a higher purpose, he just does not know exactly what. Content to put as much distance between her father and herself as possible,


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Gloriana, or The Unfulfill’d Queen: Reader Unfulfill’d

Gloriana, or The Unfulfill’d Queen: Being a Romance by Michael Moorcock

Gloriana (1979) is Moorcock’s homage to Mervyn Peake (author of the Gormenghast saga), and fittingly, is a lush tale of intrigue told in thoroughly British prose. At times brilliant (especially in the descriptions of the seasonal festivities), often captivating and humorous, often sluggish and overly subtle, ultimately unfulfilling, it’s a book I recommend borrowing from the library before buying. Not everyone will enjoy such decadence.

Speaking of decadence,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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