3 out of 4
The Shadari lived peaceful lives between the desert and the sea until attacked and conquered by the Norlanders. The conquerors are called the Dead Ones by the Shadari as their pale skin and cold body temperatures cause them to be nocturnal. Forced to mine a special ore that is mixed with Norlander blood to create magical swords, the Shadari dream of freeing themselves. This novel follows various members of each group as both of their ways of life are threatened. The ruling Governor is ill and gives leadership to his second oldest, Frea, by passing his oldest son, Eofar. While the Shadari Daryan is forced to work as a slave in the palace that was once the sacred home of their religious leaders. Both men have important secrets that will change the delicate balance of their peoples. The Mongrel also has a secret and it’s release destroys Frea and Eofar’s family forever. Mixed in to all of this is the Shadari mysticism and the conflict of knowing bits and pieces of the future.
Not exactly sure what I think of this book. On one hand it is technically well written but on the other hand I never developed a connection with any of the characters. Other than Frea, who goes mad by the end, most of the characters are a bit wishy washy allowing events to carry them along without really stepping up and taking control. Daryan’s story line is supposed to show him growing into the role of a leader but he never quite makes the leap. The Mongrel is the most confusing character. She is a Norlander disfigured by contact with the sun, who should have been left to die but her mother attempted to raise her in secret. When discovered she is put out into the desert to die only to be found by the Nomas, a desert/seafaring clan. The Nomas accidently consecrate her to both their gods, one of the day and one of the night, creating a serious conflict within her that causes her to feel extreme pain at sunrise and sunset. This is also supposed to explain why she can see out of only one eye at night and the other during the day. It just becomes way to complicated. In the end I really didn’t care what happened to any of the characters and even the loss of major characters evoked no feeling.
4 out of 5
When I first picked up The Silvered I wasn’t sure what to expect. Werewolves have never been an interest for me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these are not your typical werewolves, instead they are more shape changers. Huff has created a world on the edge of the industrial revolution where magic and technology are struggling to find a way to co-exist. Aydori is a small country ruled by the Pack, a combination of Mage Pack and Hunt Pack. The Empire, ruled by a very insane Emperor, is attempting to dominate the world. The main plot concerns Mirian, a young mage and Tomas the Hunt Pack member who rescues her, and their attempts to free the Mage Pack and save their land. A strong undercurrent to the story is the Emperor’s attempt to control all of the Pack members in order to use them for world dominance by declaring them abominations with less rights than the lowest animal. It is difficult to read the book without making comparisons to various attempts throughout history to purge various groups of humans. The Emperor’s use of science in these endeavors is an obvious reminder of Hitler’s horrible experiments on the Jews during WW II. While the members of the Pack show the effects of this dehumanization it is Captain Reiter, a soldier in the Emperor’s army, who provides a counterpoint to the Emperor. Having spent his whole adult life following orders, he suddenly finds himself questioning the Emperor and his plans. Unable to get the image of a dead female Hunt Pack member wearing earrings he begins to doubt that these are truly abominations. The more time he spends with Mirian the more difficult it is for him rationalize his orders. An interesting side note is the treatment of men and women. While sex doesn’t determine ones possible abilities, men can be Mage Pack, women can be Hunt Pack, the Emperor doesn’t seem able to grasp this and focuses all of his efforts on finding male Hunt Pack and female Mage Pack.
Huff tells a good story about a difficult subject without becoming preachy. The characters are believable and all too human despite their various abilities. The magic system is different and fully realized. While the novel is not part of a series and the story begins and ends in one book, it is easy to see the possibility of future novels set in the same world. I would be very interested in something about the past, how the Pack came to be, which is hinted at but never completely described. This book is one that I definitely recommend.
3 out of 5
Marrowdell is a place like no other and Czerneda’s descriptions bring it to life in a way that makes the fantastical feel normal. Then the point of view switches and the reader realizes that house toads are not known anywhere else within this fantasy world. The villagers of Marrowdell take it all in stride now but that was not always the case. Jenn Nalynn, having been born and raised in Marrowdell unlike most of it’s inhabitants sees nothing strange about house toads providing the eggs for breakfast or oak trees that let you pass with a word. She dreams of leaving Marrowdell after her 19th birthday to see the world. Only everyone seems determined to keep her dreams from coming true. Then she makes a wish. Her imaginary friend becomes a man, sort of, a stranger with an even stranger horse comes to settle and Jenn begins to see that she and Marrowdell are not like the outside world. Then she learns that the fate of two worlds hangs on her actions.
My biggest problem with this book is it is just too long at 840 pages. The plot never really picks up the pace and once you finally reach the climax you’re more grateful that the end is near than excited by the outcome. It is difficult to point out an one place or part that could have been cut and yet there is the definite feeling that something needs tightening up. Jenn is almost too naive and it becomes difficult to believe that so many secrets have been kept from her. Various side plots only serve to show just how non-observant she really is. Then there is the magic. While there are various forms of magic within the story the most important is that of Jenn. Supposedly she will come into her own on her birthday but it gets confusing when she is able to wish her invisible dragon friend into human form and then suddenly is able to control everything with her moods. It is difficult to fathom why she suddenly can do magic weeks before her birthday when she couldn’t do it before. Then there is the crisis. First it’s Jenn can’t leave or both she and Marrowdell will not survive. This turns out to be false, a lie to keep her where she needs to be on the Great Turn. Second the reader is made to feel that if she doesn’t accomplish her task the worlds will end, but they won’t only the magic will.
On the plus side Czerneda has created an amazing world. Both Marrowdell and the Verge are well thought out and nicely described. Her ability to make the strange way of life that is Marrowdell seem perfectly normal adds to the magical feel of the story. I just wish the story had received more of the focus.
4 out of 5
Blood of the Emperor is the final book in The Annuals of Drakis series. Having some victories under their belts the Army of the Prophecy wants more but it’s leaders are divided. Drakis just wants a peace where he can finally live his life on his terms. Jugar, Ethis, Soen, Belag and Lyric have their own agenda’s and alliances and these are what truly drives the plot line. In the end nothing is what it seems yet it all leads to a satisfying conclusion. Drakis starts out as the usual fantasy hero, someone seemingly normal who, through various events, is forced to either rise above or discover some hidden skill and become a leader. Hickman twists this usual scenario around making Drakis nothing more than a name being pulled in several different directions. The reader keeps waiting for that aha moment when Drakis steps forward and takes real control but the aha moment is not related to him and takes him as much by surprise as it does the reader. My only complaint would be I wish there had been more about Soen and his activities in Tjarlas rather than hearing it second hand. It is refreshing to read a complete story in just three novels and I look forward to more from Hickman.
4 out of 5
The Daemon Prism is the final installment in Carol Berg’s Collegia Magica series. This novel gives the reader a deeper account of the Mage Dante’s life, thoughts and abilities. As the concluding novel the story line pulls in all of major characters and adds several more. Starting two years after the end of the last novel, Dante has been teaching Anne how to control her magic while Portier has head to parts unknown to learn more of the Veil between the living and the dead. Dante gets pulled into a series of events that lead to answers about what has happened to the souls of the dead since the end of the Blood Wars and the creation of Ixtador, and even further into just how humans received the gift of magic. It is very interesting to watch how the original events were twisted into beliefs held centuries later. One small thread that has run throughout all of the novels is the difference between Dante’s magic and that of the Collegia. This becomes a much bigger theme by the end of this novel. The conclusion is satisfying if a little awkward feeling. My only complaint is that again the cover is misleading and doesn’t represent the image the book gives us of Dante. All in all I definitely recommend this series.
3 out of 5
Shadowplay is the second in the Shadowmarch series and continues the stories of the Eddon family, the Xis Autarch, the Qar, and everyone connected with them. The series is starting to feel like a puzzle missing the edge pieces. The reader knows each plot line is connected but can’t see the whole picture. Briony and Barrack are separated for the first time in their young lives and face experiences much beyond those of normal prince and princess. Qinnitan has escaped the Autarch and is trying to build a life, be it a lowly one, in a foreign land. King Olin builds friendships among his captors. Chertz the Funderling is dragged into events much to big for him. The Autarch begins to reveal his plans and finally attacks the great city of Hierosol. More is shared about the Qar including what the mysterious mirror is and why they want Shadowmarch so badly. Unfortunately there were sections that seemed to drag or be dragged out, Barrick’s time beyond the Shadowline being one. It just felt as though it took too long to get to the climax of his time being kept as a prisoner. Briony’s time with the acting troupe also seem to be padded. I wasn’t quite sure what the point was of her becoming an actor when being a stagehand worked just as well for getting her from point A to point B safely. Too much time was spent on things like her learning her lines and while the banter between the actors was fun it was played up excessively. Mr. Williams is a master of description and the world he has created is vivid. He intertwines the themes of life and death throughout the book giving it a feeling of grayness, of sadness that is amazing. I am looking forward to seeing how he manages to pull all of these plot lines together in the next two book.