Posts Categorized: Review

The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

Publisher: Doubleday Children - Pages: 416 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

I’m going to say some stuff about Young Adult fiction. Some of it’s going to be really wrong, but I’ll hedge by saying it’s my interpretation. Let’s try not to crucify me for it.

For me, what makes a book Young Adult isn’t the age of its protagonist, simplicity of story, or basic themes. Instead, it requires some didactic aspect. For example, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker isn’t just a fucked-up coming of age story, but a teaching tool for conceptualizing climate change, as well as refining mores for peer group interactions. I would argue the weakest part of the novel is its plot and protagonist, both of which feel cookie-cutter. What makes it successful for young readers is what it imparts. Thusly, I would argue, until I’m blue in the face, that Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga or David Edding’s Belgariad are not Young Adult. I would prefer to call them fiction for all ages. In other words, they tell a story that’s easy to understand for young readers, but does absolutely nothing to recommend it as something that ought to be targeted to them. I make this distinction because Amy McCulloch’s The Oathbreakers Shadow is a Young Adult novel, and a fine one at that. Read More »

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 336 - Buy: Book/eBook
SHATTERED PILLARS by Elizabeth Bear, Art by Donato Giancola

“I am the Ruined Queen. Nothing of Erem can harm me. And we must drill, my soldiers. You must practice for war.”

Range of Ghosts (REVIEW), the first volume of Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy trilogy, The Eternal Sky, was something of a revelation. At once it it managed to be full of life, of individuality, yet still reminiscent of the Fantasy genre’s adventurous roots in the ’80s and ’90s with Brooks, Feist and Eddings, and beyond that to the Sword & Sorcery of Leiber and Howard. Bear’s fictional world, deeply inspired by the steppes of Mongolia, the jungles of south-east Asia and the majestic Himalayans, was as heartbreakingly beautiful as it was fun and thoughtful. In 2013, there’s little else I ask for from a Fantasy novel than that it remains inclusive and progressive. When a novel has these qualities, and also manages to echo those early touchstone novels without feeling derivative, it’s like literary heaven. I had never read a novel by Bear before, and so was sheltered from preconceptions and expectations going into Range of Ghosts. Shattered Pillars, now, has the misfortune of being judged as the sequel to a book that I consider a beacon of hope for the future of epic fantasy. I once wrote about the dangers of reader expectation, yet I begin few novels with so high a level of expectation as I did when I opened Shattered Pillars. Read More »

Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series: Part One

Welcome, all, to the first part of the joint review and reread of Katharine Kerr’s classic fantasy novel, Daggerspell. In the introductory post to this series, Kate Elliott described Kerr’s Deverry Cycle as “a criminally under-rated and overlooked epic fantasy sequence [with] a keen sense of history, well drawn characters, and a complex plot.” So, how better to explore the complexities of a fantasy series than picking it apart, piece-by-piece? If you’re interested in learning more about Kate, me or this project, please take some time to read ‘Introducing: The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Kate Elliott’, where we discuss our experience with Kerr’s work (None for me! Lots for Kate!), and our expectations for this reread/review series.

Structurally, we’ll break down the ‘what happens,’ then we’ve both written some initial impressions, and then follow-up with a response to each other’s thoughts. This allows the initial impressions, and our polar past experiences with the series, to remain independent, and then mingle as we discover how we’ve both reacted to the covered sections.

If you’re ready to get to the good stuff, continue on, just know, there are:

Spoilers Galore!

Read More »

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books - Pages: 304 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince is the best book I’ve ever read.

I don’t say that lightly. It’s not an exaggeration. I’ve read it twice in the space of two months, first in March, and now in May, and in all the time between those dates, I never stopped thinking about it.

The first time, it took my breath away. I didn’t want to review it then: some experiences are so pure, so perfect, that you can’t bear to sully them with analysis – not right away, at least. I had to savour it for a while; I had to let it sit. But even so, I always knew I’d come back to it. Not just because it’s beautiful, and not just because it’s brilliant, but because I’d be betraying myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to convince other people to read it. There need to be more books like this (there can’t be another book like this), and by now, I can almost hear you thinking, she’s overhyped it, nothing can live up to this sort of press and now I’ll be disappointed – but hear me out. Listen: I can’t guarantee The Summer Prince will touch you the way it did me. I’d be lying if I tried to promise anything of the sort. But every new book is a gambit, wagering your taste against a cover’s tricks, a blurb’s allure, the measure of praise or condemnation with which you’ve heard it hawked. I can’t promise that you’ll fall in love, like I did.

Nonetheless. If you’re going to risk your money and heart on only one new book this year, make it this one. Read More »

Daggerspell by Kathrine Kerr
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series

Welcome to the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Aidan Moher (your humble editor/blogger) and Kate Elliott (author of lots and lots of cool novels)! We thought it would be fun to bring two different perspectives (someone who’s read the series, someone who hasn’t), and explore Daggerspell together, comparing notes and reflecting on a series and world that are held dearly by many readers. We’re also hoping that, if you’re not familiar with Kerr, you might discover a new favourite author.

Daggerspell is the first volume in Katharine Kerr‘s Deverry Cycle, which Kate describes as her, “favorite post-Tolkien epic fantasy series.” Big words. She also says, “I believe Deverry could exist somewhere. After reading the books, I feel as if I have been there. I still think about events and dramatic moments in this series frequently, rather as I do memories from my actual life. That’s how much the narrative worked its way into my mind and heart.” Read More »