Flights of Fantasy

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Gates of Sleep – Mercedes Lackey

The Gates of Sleep - Mercedes LackeyCategory: Fantasy

This is one in a series of books by this author, which are her retellings of classic fairy tales. This one is based on the story of Sleeping Beauty. Each book is disconnected from the others, only the settings are similar, so it does not really matter which one you read first.

The world which these books are set is Victorian, but with the addition of Elemental Mages. These people have an affinity with a single element, fire, earth, air or water, and can use their element, and the spirits of that element, to perform magic.

Marina is the daughter of two Elemental Masters of Earth. She herself has an affinity with water, however she is but a baby and it is her christening night. This is the time when other masters gather to bestow gifts on the infant. Unlike normal christening gifts, these are of a magic nature. All is going well until Marina’s aunt appears uninvited and proceeds to throw a spanner in the works.

Growing up in the country in the care of her aunt and two uncles, not true relatives but friends of her parents, Marina does not know why her parents placed her in their keeping when she was a baby. She has regular letters from her mother and she adores the people who raised her and the bohemian artists life they lead. As she gets older, she receives elemental training. Life is good. Until one day her real aunt comes back into her life and changes it forever.

Anyone familiar with Sleeping Beauty will recognise the underlying story, but it has been rewritten beautifully. The main character is far stronger than the traditional fairytale ladies, while at the same time being everything else that she is supposed to be.

It takes a very good and brave author to tackle this kind of novel where the story is so well known and loved. Mercedes Lackey is one of the few authors I believe who is suited to the task and she has done a wonderful job.

Rating: 8/10

The series:
The Gates of Sleep
The Fire Rose
The Serpent’s Shadow
The Black Swan

The Fire Rose - Mercedes LackeyThe Serpent's Shadow - Mercedes LackeyThe Black Swan - Mercedes Lackey

Friday, January 28, 2005

Path of Honor – Diane Pharaoh Francis

Path of Honor - Diana Pharaoh FrancisCategory: Fantasy

This is the follow-up to Path of Fate. If you haven’t read it then don’t read this. Read my review of that one first.

Following the events in Path of Fate, Reisil has made her way to Koduteel to meet the other ahalad-kaaslane and get the training she needs. However instead of friendship and acceptance she finds suspicion and mistrust from both her fellow ahalad-kaaslane and the upper classes. Only the lower classes favour her.

The Iisand has become a recluse following the death of his wife in childbirth, another event for which Reisil is blamed. Reisil could have healed the Mesilasema however she was afraid of Reisil and refused to allow her near until it was too late to save her life, and only then to save the life of her child.

The friends she made during her travels in the first book have all left the city following the paths the Lady has set for them. However it is now looking as though the Lady has abandoned her people, a plague is spreading across the land, and Reisil is having trouble finding and then using the powers the Lady bestowed upon her. Especially the power to heal.

Another good book following on from the events in Path of Fate. In it we become reacquainted with friends and enemies from the first book and meet new ones. A new land and its people are introduced who seem to be loosely based on the Aztecs. An enemy only previously mentioned is now embodied.

There is however one really annoying thing about this book. Well it’s two annoying things that combine into one really annoying thing.

First: The book ends quite abruptly, not quite in the middle of the story but it feels like it at the time.
Second: The following text found on the page after the last page of the story
Reisil and Saljane return in Path of Blood… …coming from ROC in 2006.

2006! It’s barely 2005. You expect me to wait a whole year to find out what happens next. Aaaargh.

So fair warning for you all. If you hate having to wait like I do, don’t read this book until the next one has been published.

Rating: 8/10

The series:
1. Path of Fate
2. Path of Honor
3. Path of Blood (due 2006)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Path of Fate - Diana Pharaoh Francis

Path of Fate - Diana Pharaoh FrancisCategory: Fantasy

This is the author’s first book, and as long as she keeps writing like this I will keep buying.

This is a story about a young woman called Reisil. Reisil is an orphan, taken in and raised by the people of Kallas. Sent away to be trained as a healer she has now returned to Kallas to live and practice as a healer. All she desires is to make a home for herself and give something back to the people that cared for her as a child. Fate, however, has other plans.

In Reisil’s land there exist a group of people known as the ahalad-kaaslane. Paired with companion animals these people are the chosen of the Lady, the land’s deity. They are answerable to no one but the Lady. They come and go as they please on the Lady’s business wherever it takes them.

When Reisil is chosen by such a companion creature she refuses, however events force her into a reluctant partnership. Since she initially refused the bonding she now has to prove herself worthy.

This is a tale of many levels. There is the basic story of good vs. evil, but there is also a strong theme of questioning the traditional black and white attitude to these two roles. One persons good is another’s evil. Reisil has to overcome many physical and emotional obstacles and gradually comes to learn that although duty can be a burden it can also be very rewarding. There are many of the traditional themes of hopeless love, betrayal, the soft heart hidden behind the hard exterior, and the realisation that someone is not a bad person simply because we don’t like them.

This is definitely another one for my re-read collection.

Rating: 8/10

The series:

1. Path of Fate
2. Path of Honor
3. Path of Blood (due 2006)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Dragon Prince – Melanie Rawn

Dragon Prince - Melanie RawnCategory: Fantasy

This is the first book in the Dragon Prince Series and is one of my well-loved and somewhat tatty favourites. It has been a while since I last read it, so when I was opening boxes after my recent house move, and came across it, I decided I had to read it again.

I am a bit of a fan of dragons; I have been since I was little. I collect dragon figurines and I love reading books about them. This is a story that features dragons but it is not about them directly.

It is about a man, the heir to a prince of a desert realm in a feudal world. There are many such realms in this world each ruled by it’s prince, all ruled over by a High Prince who has his own realm as well. This is a world in which might is right and wars are fought over territory. A world in which dragons live and are hunted for sport.

The story follows the life of this man, Rohan, who dares to be different. He envisions a world with laws for all and the end to petty wars over land. So when his father dies and he becomes Prince in his own right he sets out to make his vision a reality.

His family, the woman who is to become his wife, and the leader of the Sunrunners, aid him in this. The Sunrunners are a group of people capable of manipulating sunlight and moonlight to perform feats of magic such as creating fire and seeing across distances.

The story follows his struggle to achieve his dreams, with some surprising revelations along the way. The realisation that sometimes to create civilisation you must first learn to be a barbarian and that peace and civilisation are tenuous things.

I love this book because I can lose myself in it. The story sweeps you along in the excitement and intrigue, the plotting, the hopes, dreams and fears of the characters. The characters themselves seem to leap of the page and become real. Sometimes they appear to be too noble, too perfect and then something will happen to make you realise that they are human after all.

This is fantasy on a grand scale full of drama, passion and romance. If you love all these things, you will love this book.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

P.S. I Love You – Cecelia Ahern

P.S. I Love You – Cecelia AhernCategory: General Fiction/Life

I will start out by saying that this is not my usual sort of book. I bought it in a three for two offer when I needed another book to make up my three. I am so glad I did.

This is a story about a couple that were made for each other – soul mates.

Holly and Gerry are childhood sweethearts, married and looking forward to the rest of their lives together. Sadly, this is not to be a long time as Gerry is diagnosed with a brain tumour and dies leaving Holly alone, devastated and, at 29, facing the rest of her life without him.

A couple of months after Gerry’s death Holly discovers that he has left her a packet of letters, one a month for the next 10 months. Each one designed to help Holly go on with her life, each one ending with the line ‘P.S. I Love You’

This is a story about learning to live with, and live after, loss. Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one will recognise some, or all, of the stages that Holly goes through in the course of this book. It deals with the process of learning to live again, of learning to deal with everyday life without that person in your life anymore, and it does it in a sensitive, poignant and funny way. It had me laughing and crying at the same time. It also made me think about how I would feel if I lost my partner and he has had a lot more hugs since I read it.

From looking at the cover and reading the back, and even this review, you would conclude that this is a ‘girly’ book, and in many ways, it is. However, I think there are many men out there who could learn a lot from it too, if they could find it in them to read it.

This is the first novel from Cecelia Ahern and I look forward to reading her next one. Additionally, according to the blurb inside, Warner Brothers are currently adapting it into a film. It may be worth looking out for if it is done well.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, January 06, 2005


I just noticed that I got my first two comments today and I'd like to thank you both for taking the time.

Someone else who found my site through Blog Explosion took the time to rate my site and gave me a rating of 4 (not particularly very good). The problem with this is that I have no feedback on why that person felt that my site wasn't that good.

I would like to encourage all my readers to comment. Either on the general content of the blog or on specific reviews. If you have read a book that I have reviewed and you would like to post your own opinion please do. All I ask is that you keep your comments to a reasoned level and refrain from the use of profanity. Any comments like that will be removed.

Good - "I have read this book and found it to be mind-numbingly dull. The characterizations lacked depth and the plot was bland."

Bad - "This book is a huge pile of &%$@!"

I would also be very happy for people to recommend books to me that they have read and loved. I am always on the lookout for new things. Please bear in mind that I do have a collection of about 1500 paperbacks and 300 hardbacks, mostly fantasy and science fiction so I may well have already read the book you suggest, but please don't let that stop you. I have considered trying to create a list of all the books I possess and then provide a link to that list but as you can imagine with a library the size of mine that would be quite a mammoth task.

I have munched my way through a rather large pile of books over the holidays and I will endeavour to get reviews of them up on the site in the next couple of weeks.