Flights of Fantasy

Friday, April 29, 2005

Alta – Mercedes Lackey

Alta – Mercedes LackeyCategory: Fantasy

This is the second book in the series, after Joust.

Vetch is nearly home. His desert travels are almost over. However he still thinks of himself as Vetch, the Altan serf not Kiron, dragonrider to Avatre. This is what he must learn to be as he arrives back in his homeland and makes his way to join the Altan Jousters.

There Kiron finds a welcome, a new home and willing champions of his new methods of raising and training dragons. As he creates a new dragon wing, composed of young riders who raise their dragons from the egg, he learns more about this city and land that is now his home. He learns about the Altan rulers, the priests and priestesses of the various gods and about the Mages who hold themselves superior to all Altans.

He also learns more about the reasons behind the continuing war between Alta and Tia.

Where Joust introduced us to this new world and the lives of the people within it, and set the scene for things to come. This book throws you to the literary lions. Full of new, appealing characters and many complex situations, it grabs you by the imagination and refuses to let go. Not even at the very end of the book as it leaves you begging for the next one.

Why do publishers insist on releasing books in hardback first?

Rating 9/10

The series:
Sanctuary (Hardback only)

Joust - Mercedes LackeySanctuary - Mercedes Lackey

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Joust – Mercedes Lackey

Joust – Mercedes LackeyCategory: Fantasy

Vetch is an Altan serf owned by a Tian master. His family once owned the farm he now lives on as a serf. When the Tian army came they took control of the farm and parcelled it out to their own people, along with Vetches family, as Tian law states that no one may own land who does not own a serf who was originally tied to that land. However there are no Tian laws governing the treatment of such serfs.

Vetch has a miserable existence until the day one of Tian’s dragonriders, known as Jousters, lands at the farm in search of sustenance. Seeing the master’s harsh treatment of Vetch he decides to appropriate the boy to become his new dragonboy.

Vetch finds himself thrust into a new life caring for the dragon of Tian’s most well known Jouster. He discovers that even an enemy can be human. He also learns how to raise and care for baby dragons and starts planning to turn the theory into practice to gain a dragon of his own.

Another wonderful story from one of my favourite authors (I’ve mentioned that once or twice haven’t I *grin*) A new world and new characters with all the passion, colour and life that you would expect from this writer.

There are many levels to this tale. There is the sweeping drama and adventure of a struggle against the odds. There is the story of a boy growing up surrounded by his enemies. There is the tale of a man, who fights for his country and yet has no real love for the life he leads. There is layer upon layer woven together so skilfully that you can lose yourself in the narrative without realising that you are also absorbing many lessons on life.

More please.

Rating 8/10

The series:
Sanctuary (Hardback only)

Alta - Mercedes LackeySanctuary - Mercedes Lackey

Monday, April 25, 2005

Green Rider – Kristen Britain

Green Rider – Kristen BritainCategory: Fantasy

Expelled from school for the offence of humiliating the son of one of the Dukes of the realm, in a fair fight, Karigan decides that she is going to put her case to her father in person, preferably before the school officials get the chance.

Running away: on the road she meets up with one of the king’s messengers, a Green Rider. Normally an unremarkable occurrence, this meeting is marked by the fact that the rider is dying, pierced by two black arrows in his back. Before he dies he persuades Karigan to complete his mission and ride to the King carrying the messages that must not fall into enemy hands.

Karigan is a naive, headstrong girl and a well-written character. Unlike so many (less believable) novice adventurers she is not ‘instantly competent’. She falls into one bad situation after another, through ignorance and inexperience, and each time she wins through it is in a believable way within the framework of her character and the world she inhabits.

Another thing I like about this book is that it doesn’t have quite the traditional ‘happily-ever-after’ ending that you might expect, but I won’t spoil it by putting any more detail here.

It definitely ends with unresolved issues and there is a second book to follow it, which I shall be looking out for next time I go book shopping.

Rating: 6/10

The series:
Green Rider
First Rider’s Call

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Outstretched Shadow – Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The Outstretched Shadow - Mercedes Lackey and James MalloryCategory: Fantasy

The Golden City of Armethalieh, City of Bells, jewel of the land, place of plenty, where Mages rule and the people want for nothing.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it.

Kellen is an apprentice mage, destined to become one of the elite ruling class in a society where mages control everything, magic runs everything, and women are considered to be little better than animals for breeding more mages.

Kellen is a teenager, bored, dissatisfied, and uninspired by his studies: a very dangerous combination indeed.

It is clear from the start that there is something not quite right about the perfection of Armethalieh, and it becomes very clear over the first part of the story just what that something is. By the time the inevitable confrontation occurs, you are just as ready to escape as Kellen, which makes the wild ride that follows even more thrilling as you ride the pages alongside him.

The characters are wonderfully well written. The disillusioned teenager, the arrogant controlling power-hungry ruler, the older more experienced tutor, the intelligent companion and the frighteningly cold, calculating and thoroughly evil enemy. Oh yes, you didn’t think you’d get away without meeting the enemy, did you?

A truly excellent collaborative novel between one of my favourite authors and another who looks fair to join her on that list.

Rating: 9/10

The Obsidian Trilogy
1. The Outstretched Shadow
2. To Light a Candle (only in HB at the moment)
3. [unknown title]

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan

Altered Carbon - Richard MorganCategory: Science Fiction

This is the first book I have read that has been recommended to me by one of you lovely people who read my reviews (thanks weenie )

This is high tech sci-fi meets gritty old detective story. On one side you have a future in which a persons memories and personality are stored in a chip in their spine, the contents of which can be downloaded from their body (sleeve) and stored on a computer. This consciousness can then live in a virtual world, or it can be re-sleeved in their own body or any other currently vacant body.

On the other side you have Takeshi Kovaks, a criminal turned special-ops turned criminal, currently serving an electronic jail term. His time in prison storage on Harlan’s World is cut short when he is extracted, transmitted to Earth and re-sleeved. There he finds himself forced into the employ of Mr Bancroft, a rich ‘Meth’, who wants Kovaks to investigate a murder, the murder of Mr Bancroft.

Restored into a clone sleeve from a backup copy of his consciousness, he now has no memory of the 24 hours prior to his death, but he is convinced that the police conclusion of suicide is wrong and that in reality someone murdered him, and he wants Kovaks to find the killer.

This story is well written and full of rich descriptions and characters, and the contract between the high and low tech and the rich and the poor lifestyles can be startling at times, and yet are ultimately what make to book such a fascinating read.

I would warn potential readers that it does contain some quite graphic scenes of violence, so if that sort of thing bothers you then avoid it, otherwise read it, it’s worth it.

Rating 6/10

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lord of the Isles - David Drake

Lord of the Isles - David DrakeCategory: Fantasy

In a world where magic is tidal, with centuries between high tides, the power is reaching a peak once more. The last time this occurred, the conclusion of a battle and the results of magical repercussions saw the land of Yole sink beneath the seas, never to be seen again.

Now refugees from that time are appearing again, ready to continue the fight.

Tenoctris is one such refugee, literally washed ashore at Barca's Hamlet. With her arrival several of the hamlet's inhabitants find themselves caught up in danger and adventure, and dicsover that they are far more than mere peasant stock.

This is a reasonably well written story with good characters, but it's nothing new. It has all the usual elements of a fantasy novel (maybe a few too many) but there's no hook, no sparkle, nothing to make it stand out from all the others.

It was an entertaining read and I will read the rest of the series eventually, I'm just not in any hurry to do so.

Rating 5/10

The series
1. Lord of the Isles
2. Queen of Demons
3. Servant of the Dragon
4. Mistress of the Catacombs
5. Goddess of the Ice Realm
6. Master of the Cauldron

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold

Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster BujoldCategory: Fantasy

While events in this book take place after those in Curse of Chalion, it does not follow on as such, so this book can be read without having read that one first.

This book follows the fortunes of the Dowager Royina Ista, the mother of Iselle who is now the ruler of Chalion.

With the death of her own mother, she finds herself in very real danger, that of being 'loved' back into insanity by those around her who believe her still mad, and who only wish to care for her and prevent her from hurting herself.

Ista however, is no longer mad and is starting to feel smothered by the constant care. She plans her escape in the form of a religious pilgrimage ostensibly to ask the gods to bless her daughter's marriage with a son. Although the pilgrimage is merely a device to effect her escape, Ista finds herself once more caught up in the machinations of the gods and an unwilling recipient of their gifts.

This is another great book from this author. It manages to maintain the continuity of the world without dragging out the stories of previous characters beyond their satisfactory conclusions.

The world of Chalion's gods is explored again but in far more detail than before and it makes for a fascinating read. Again the characters are full of life and energy, and they pull you along through the story like a child leading you to the sweetie counter.

I can't wait for the next one!

Rating 7/10

The series:
Curse of Chalion
Paladin of Souls

Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold