This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

29 April, 2012

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (IV)

   Let's start with a cover that was revealed over at Fantasy Faction earlier this week.


   From Jo Fletcher books, we have this rather minimalist cover for Tom Pollock's The City's Son. I like it, despite being minimalistic it manages to convey a lot. We have the creatures in the text, and the London skyline at the bottom that together says to me we are in for Urban Fantasy set in London. I like that this doesn't look like every other Urban Fantasy cover out there, it's a cover I think will stand out.

   Moving on to a trilogy being re-issued by Roc.




   I like the style of these covers very much, they are elegant, and uncluttered. Perhaps not very original for Fantasy, but it works very well in my opinion. Having read the first two of these books in Norwegian, and really enjoyed them, I'm looking forward to them becoming available again, and I will be getting them. Release dates are: Lord Valentine's Castle - May 2012, Majipoor Chronicles - September 2012, and Valentine Pontifex - January 2013.


   Then we have the Angry Robot Books cover for Adam Christopher's Seven Wonders (,out in September), with art by Will Staehle. Very nice design, it looks absolutely gorgeous - nothing more to say about it really.

27 April, 2012

REVIEW: THE KING OF THE CRAGS

Dragon illustration: Dominic Harman
Cover design: Sidonie Beresford-Browne
 
THE KING OF THE CRAGS
MEMORY OF FLAMES BOOK TWO
BY
STEPHEN DEAS
 
ISBN: 978-0-575-08379-0
Pages: 366
Publisher: Gollancz
First published: 15 April 2010
This edition published: 10 February 2011

On the cover:
*SPOILER WARNING*
If you haven't read book one, The Adamantine Palace, this will contain spoilers.
(The review will be spoiler free, so you can still read that.)

Prince Jehal has plotted and murdered his way to power. Speaker Hyram is dead. Queen Shezira faces trial for treason. Jehal is married to her daughter, Lystra, and has the new speaker, Zafir for his lover. He has everything he ever dreamed of. And is learning that dreams can become nightmares...
 
On the edge of the World Spine the fires of rebellion are burning. A fire fueled by an ancient prophecy. The Red Riders are coming. And the flames that will come on the wings of dragons are flames that could engulf the world.
 
For
 
Out of the sun there shall come a white dragon, and with the white dragon a red rider. Thieves and liars shall quiver and weep, for the rider's name shall be Justice, and the dragon shall be vengeance.

   This book picks up where The Adamantine Palace left off, and throws you right into the action. And there's quite a bit of action in this book, but it is nicely balanced with the courtly intrigue that we came to know in the first book.
   There is a lot going on with the royal intrigue in this novel. What we saw in the first book escalates nicely, and you really feel that the events are starting to build to something momentous.  Deas also manages to make it near impossible to predict what is happening. There are some twists to the plot here that are not as much telegraphed as they are a telegraph-pole coming out of nowhere and hitting you in the face.

   Deas is very good at pulling off the unexpected turn. This makes reading a joy, as the discovery of what is going to happen makes it for a novel that becomes a fast read. Of course this is mostly because you will be driven by the suspense to read "just one more chapter".
   There's more than enough happening here to make a much thicker Fantasy novel, but Deas doesn't waste his time. We don't get the padding that some Fantasy authors do, Deas concentrates on getting the plot moving. And the reader gets a whirlwind of a ride that doesn't leave much room for rest, something that is in my opinion a very good thing.

   Dragons are again a very central part of what is happening. We get more information on how they function here, and the gradual revelations of how dragons function in Deas's world is very interesting to read.
   The dragons do not at all feel like the cardboard-cutouts they can sometimes be in Fantasy. They are an integral part of the world, and they have a history of their own. Linking this history to the rest of the story is done in a way that makes them feel like a natural part of the plot. And there is more than enough originality in that part of the story to make for a very interesting addition to the lore of dragons in Fantasy.

   Deas has managed to write a great second book. There is plenty of action here, and the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns. While the novel does do some building up to the next book, that is hardly noticeable when you read, you are far to busy taking in what is happening at the moment.
   This is a great continuation of The Adamantine Palace, and at the same time it gives you an urge to know what is going to happen next. As a second novel in an Epic Fantasy series, this is certainly one of the best I have read.
   The Memory of Flames has just gotten even better with its second installment.


26 April, 2012

REVIEW: JACK OF KINROWAN

Book design: Victoria Kuskowski

JACK OF KINROWAN
BY
CHARLES DE LINT

ISBN: 0-312-86959-2
Pages: 412
Publisher: Orb
First Published: Jack the Giant Killer - 1 November 1987, Drink down the Moon - 1 June 1990
This edition published: 2 July 1999

On the cover:

Jack, the Giant Killer
 
A faceless gang of bikers on Wild Hunt through the streets of present-day Ottawa hurtles young Jacky Rowan across the threshold into the perilous land of Faerie. There, to her dismay, she is hailed as the Jack of Kinrowan, a once-and-future trickster hero whose lot is to save the Elven Courts from unimaginable evil.
Drink Down the Moon

Once the realm of Faerie drew its power from the Moon herself. But now a ghastly creature has stolen that power and enslaved the Fair Folk--and Jacky Rowan herself. Only Johnny Faw, a handsome fiddler unaware of his magical gifts, has the power to set them free.

   This is an edition collecting two novels, I'll review each of them underneath.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER

   This story is written very much in the tradition of Fairy Tales, and it bases its world on the Faerie worlds of Celtic legends.
   The hidden world, one that co-exists with our own, is in this case located in Ottawa, Canada. Maybe not the first, or tenth for that matter, location for a Contemporary Fantasy you'll think of. But the real world setting is not really relevant to this story. It could have been any urban area that is over a certain size. (As could most of the London/New York/Chicago/etc set Urban Fantasy novels with the same premise.)
   Here the hidden world is the one of Faerie (, not to be confused with faeries) , a very good setting for a Fantasy tale. De Lint doesn't actually do that much worldbuilding as such, we only get glimpses into the world of Faerie. But I didn't feel that this detracted from the novel, an Epic Fantasy style description, with or without a map, would have served no purpose here. And I think it would only have detracted from the story.

   The story kicks off without any build-up, we are thrown into events just as the main character Jacky Rowan is. We make the journey along with her, and it is a great journey.
   There is plenty of action and suspense along the way, and there's enough suspense to make this a very compelling read. When the story ends we get a resolution that fits in very nicely with previous events, and it feels like this is the destination we were heading for all the time.

   The characters are also very well done. Especially Jacky and her friend, Kate Hazel. Both are fully realised and realistic young women, and their actions and development throughout the story feel very much natural.

DRINK DOWN THE MOON

   This story continues and expands on the tale of Jacky Rowan. But it also introduces us to new characters, most importantly Johnny Faw and Jenni Pook. 
   The story here is split into to strands, Johnny Faw's is arguably the main one, but Jacky Rowan's is equally important. De Lint makes these two parallel stories compliment each other to great effect. They both add layers to the overall story, and they drive each other along for the reader, making this a very fast paced narrative at times.

   Adding several new characters could have made the story a bit cluttered, but de Lint completely avoids making it feel as if there is too much going on. The link between the two storylines is established early on.
   The addition of new players in the Farie world of Ottawa also makes for a seamless way of expending our knowledge of how it works. We get to see parts of the Faerie world that are completely new to us, and this makes for some very interesting revelations.
   Both Johnny and Jenni are interesting to get to know, but it is Johnny who gives us a better understanding of how alien the hidden world is to our own in the early stages of the story. This is very well done by de Lint, and adds an extra layer of believability to the Fairy Tale based narrative.

   The story is pretty much packed with action and suspense when it gets going. There are some very tense passages here. And that there is a relatively large number of characters adds an extra layer of suspense for the reader, as it is impossible to know who will play the central role in the resolution of the story.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

   There is no doubt that de Lint is a great writer, and I am pretty annoyed with myself for not reading any of his books before now despite hearing good things about him since the '90s.
   I found de Lint's writing style to be very compelling. He doesn't overwrite, but manages to tell what is needed in relatively few pages. He's also very good at creating tension, and there is a pace to his stories that are at times break-neck. De Lint has found his way into my must-buy author list with these two stories.

   This is a great Urban Fantasy book, and it shows the roots of that genre off to great effect. Anyone who has any interest in where Urban Fantasy came from should without a doubt get hold of it at the earliest opportunity.
   It is also a great Fairy Tale, based around Celtic myth and legends. And I think it will be a great read for anyone interested in that storytelling tradition.
   Basically this is a book that should be in any fan of Fantasy's collection.

25 April, 2012

REVIEW: BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH

Cover art: Dominic Harman
Cover design: Carr Design Studio

BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH
POSEIDON'S CHILDREN BOOK ONE
BY
ALASTAIR REYNOLDS

ISBN: 978-0-575-08827-6
Pages: 502
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 19 January 2012

On the Cover:

Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya want no part of their family and its wealth. The Akinyas have ridden Africa's economic boom into orbit and beyond. Wherever mankind has gone in the Solar system the Akinyas have profited.

But Geoffrey and Sunday have rejected it all. Geoffrey conducts research into elephant cognition in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, Sunday makes her way as an artist beyond the reach of The Mechanism on the far side of the moon.

But when their grandmother dies she leaves behind a secret that throws Geoffrey and Sunday into a desperate race against their family. A race run beneath the unblinking eye of The Mechanism.

   After a rather slow and earthbound beginning, that is still very interesting, this novel really kicks into gear. Reynolds takes us on a tour of an Earth that is almost alien in its differences from the present day, and we get to see several locations in our solar system through the eyes of the main characters.
   The world of the 22nd Century presented here is very well realised, and it comes to vivid life through the story and the many glimpses we get of it in small asides throughout the novel. Reynolds manages to avoid doing his worldbuilding as infodumping, we either experience how things have changed or we get snippets of information that never feels forced into the story.

   I really enjoyed visiting the future that Reynolds has created, but it also caused the only real problem I had with the novel. This may to a great extent be caused by my own interest in History, but I didn't quite feel that the world of the 22nd century had evolved from our own. At times I had trouble seeing how our present could have turned into this future without a further explanation, and that was never forthcoming.
   However that didn't hamper my enjoyment of the exploratory journey of our solar system. I just felt that this was the little bit lacking in making this a perfect Science Fiction Adventure.

   I don't use the phrase Science Fiction Adventure without cause here. The novel is structured around a search, or a quest if you will, to find something that is hidden. A quest that takes us through most of the colonised solar system, and gives us plenty of suspense.
   Reynolds is very good at giving the reader answers while still keeping the greater mystery hidden. The answers to the big mystery comes slowly, but waiting for them is not in any way boring or annoying. Instead the structure of the novel makes for a suspense-filled journey with a rewarding destination.

   Our companions on this journey are an interesting cast of characters, especially the two main ones; Geoffrey and Sunday. They come off as fully formed human beings that come off as very realistic, Sunday to some degrees annoyingly so for me. These aren't flawless heroes that effortlessly conquer every obstacle in their way, but ordinary people who have been thrown into what is for them a difficult situation.
   The two main characters evolve quite a bit through the novel, but they don't have to carry the book on their own. They are joined by a cast of supporting characters that are sometimes more interesting in their own right than the main ones. Watching the different characters' agendas  evolve as the story progresses is a very interesting experience.

   All in all this is a great Science Fiction story. As I have already said, it is an Adventure story, and if you like the structure of Conspiracy Thrillers, you should try this on.
   As Science Fiction this belongs in the Space Opera "corner" in my opinion. The science here doesn't feel "hard", and it doesn't distract from the action and suspense. But there is neither a feel of the "magical science" that can haunt Space Opera, it feels plausible within the setting it exists in. I think all fans of Science Fiction will find this novel an enjoying read. I know I look forward to the next novel in the Poseidon's Children trilogy.

  

21 April, 2012

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (III)

Here are some covers that have been revealed in the past two weeks. It's not all I have seen, but ones that have caught my eye.


   This is the Orbit (US) cover of the new Joe Abercrombie book, it's out in hardcover in November. I think the cover is OK, but the font is pretty big and obscures much of it. You can read more about this cover in a post by Lauren Panepinto here.
   NOTE: The UK edition will be out from Gollancz towards the end of September.



   This i an omnibus edition of Maurice Broaddus' trilogy, coming in September in the US and October in the rest of the world from Angry Robot Books. The cover is by Joey HiFi, and like the rest of the covers I have seen by him this is a really good one.



   A new Culture novel by Ian M. Banks, coming in October from Orbit. I really like Banks' Culture novels, and am excited that there is a new one coming this year. With luck, and maybe a time-turner, I will be caught up with the series when this one comes out. The cover looks pretty good, suitably futuristic.



   This cover by Ana Juan is for the second Fairyland novel by Catherynne M. Valente. It looks great, and will fit in perfectly with the cover for the first book on my shelf. The style of both these covers are really great, and as I have the first one I can attest that these look even better in real life than they do as a photo.



   From Night Shade Books we have the cover for The Book of Cthulhu II, edited by Ross E. Lockhart. The Cthulhu silhouette in the background is just awesome. Really shows off the best side of Cthulhu, at least the one you can see without going crazy in the process.

20 April, 2012

REVIEW: STARDUST

Cover design: gray318

STARDUST
BY
NEIL GAIMAN

ISBN: 978-0-7553-2282-4
Pages: 194 (+ extras)
Publisher: Headline Review
First published: 1 February 1999
This edition published: 19 September 2005

On the cover:

In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is as cold and distant as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky one evening. For the price of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town's ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...

   This is a story that is in some ways Epic Fantasy, it is at its core a quest story. But it is structured very much like a Fairy Tale. And as many Fairy Tales do, it has a tendency to be very economically written. At one point you get a twenty page chapter describing a journey that could easily have been expanded to a two hundred page sequence in Epic Fantasy.
   This economy in the telling of the story is by no means a flaw, it makes for a lean story that still is satisfyingly rich on the necessary details.

   What the story is really about is coming of age, at the beginning of the story Tristran, our hero, is a typical teenager. But through the events of the story, he ends up as a much more mature person when it is finished. In that respect I have no problem with classifying this as Young Adult, although I am not sure it was written as such.
   The journey we follow Tristran on is all about discovering new things. We are quickly led from our world in to a much more fantastic one, populated by the creatures of Fairy Tale and Legend. The glimpses we get of this world are intriguing and very well written. Gaiman manages to show the setting without resorting to "descriptionitis" (...well, it is a word now if it wasn't before). You get a good feeling of how the world beyond the wall functions, and who its inhabitants is.

   We do not only follow Tristran in this novel, there are four different viewpoints that gradually come together. This may seem as many for such a short novel, but it works very well. They are connected and they give the reader an opportunity to see more of what's going on, and thus get a greater understanding of the significance of the events described.
    The characters are all interesting, and the different viewpoints works very well in showing off the different agendas they have. They also give us a chance of getting more details of the world the story is set in.

   This is not the most complex novel out there by a far margin, but it doesn't try to be either. What it is, is a beautiful Fairy Tale that takes you on an interesting and satisfying journey.
   It is a great book for anyone who likes Fairy Tales, and although it is in some ways a Young Adult novel, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to lovers of Fantasy of any age. This is a quick read that gives you much more than its page count suggests.

NOTE: I don't usually give any space to the extra material in my reviews, but I have to do so here. Included is a short prologue called Wall, which Gaiman mentions in his afterword as a story he may one day tell. It's inclusion makes me urge you to get this exact edition of the book if you plan to buy it.

19 April, 2012

REVIEW: CHANGES

Cover illustration: Chris McGrath
Cover design: Peter Cotton

CHANGES
THE DRESDEN FILES BOOK 12
BY
JIM BUTCHER

ISBN: 978-1-84149-714-3
Pages: 540
Publisher: Orbit
Originally published: 8 April 2010
This edition published: 3 March 2011

On the cover:

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in.


But even a career of narrow escapes and supernatural shenanigans hasn’t prepared Harry for this. A vampire with a grudge has kidnapped his daughter - a daughter he never knew he had. Furthermore, this vampire plans to use her blood in a violent ritual sacrifice - designed to kill Harry, his ex-partner Susan and their child.


As allies are perilously thin on the ground, Harry must find a new source of strength. In the past, there had always been a line he wouldn’t cross, and he’s never given in to the full fury of his own untapped dark powers. But then, only his own life was at stake.


MAGIC - IT CAN GET A GUY KILLED

   Before we start I'll just have to admit this is the first Dresden Files book I've read. I don't usually start in the middle of a series, and this is one of the few times I've done that. The reason I did it this time was that I won this book from Stefan Fergus over at Civilian Reader. (Thank you, Stefan!)
   So when you read this review, keep in mind that I have not read any other novel in The Dresden Files series.

   Reading this book was a very strange experience. It's book twelve in a series, but I didn't really feel I missed out on anything by jumping in that late. At first I liked how previous events were explained, so I got a good idea of what has happened before, but as the novel progressed I started to find the constant detailing of past events rather unnecessary and quite frankly boring. I can't imaging how tedious I would have found it had I read the previous books. But I imagine I'd be pretty pissed off at all the repetition.
   I'd go so far as to say that this reads like a first book in a series that starts in the middle of the main character's story. I was baffled by it to be frank, and it made reading the book a tedious task at times.

   This sort of infodumping is prevalent throughout the book. Butcher seems to have made it his mission to hammer into the reader who everyone is, and their place in the magical society that is the setting for the novel.
   There were a couple of instances where for no logical reason little or no information was given. Considering how the rest of the book was structured I found this very jarring.  And there are a couple of times were the events happening in the books are glossed over too, which felt even stranger. It was like the infodumping took precedence over the story.

   The story itself is not very original. There is an abundance of Fantasy cliches, and some of the characters introduced seem to be brought in from history/mythology for no good reason other than that it was easier than thinking up something original.
   Butcher is however pretty good at writing action. When events are moving along at a fast pace, the narrative flows much better. But even here the flow is hampered by Butcher having Harry Dresden's thought function as narration. This goes on the whole book, but it is especially noticeable in the action scenes.
   The plot is also strangely bland. The characters seems to have an incredible talent for being dense, right up until the moment when they are about to be killed by it. Then they inexplicable act like people in total control of themselves and exhibit great amounts of quick thinking.
   When the book ends you also feel a bit cheated as to how easy it was. And it isn't hard to see how events could have been totally different if the characters were allowed to display the level of competence they exhibit in the final battle earlier in the book.
   
   I think Harry Dresden is at surface level a very interesting character, but I really wish there was some more depth to him. He feels a bit like a cardboard cut-out of a wizard, one who functions more like a Deus ex machina than a real protagonist.
   The rest of the characters are mostly the same way. They don't really seem to have any personality and agenda outside of what they need to be to make the plot hang together. (Which it barely does.)

   When I started this book I was hoping I'd like it, I enjoy reading long series and getting to know the characters really well. Unfortunately what this book did more than anything else was annoy me, and I really can't understand how this series has become so popular based on what I read in this novel.
   The story was popcorn-fiction, there was no real depth to it. It may have worked as part of an ongoing TV-series, but as a novel it fails to engage. There's some good ideas in there, but they never get a chance to be more than that. The novel felt almost unfinished, like there was details to be added to flesh out the story.

   This is not really a novel I can recommend. I can however not speak for the rest of the series, only what I have read, but if this is at all representative I'd steer clear. There are so many Urban Fantasy books out there that are so much better than this, and I urge you to seek them out rather than read this.
   I must say though, that I can see how this would work very well as light entertainment for some people. And if you are just after reading something that doesn't require you to engage much, this could work for you. 

18 April, 2012

REVIEW: THE ADAMANTINE PALACE

Dragon illustration: Dominic Harman
Cover design: Sidonie Beresford-Browne

THE ADAMANTINE PALACE
MEMORY OF FLAMES BOOK ONE
BY
STEPHEN DEAS

ISBN: 978-0-575-08374-5
Pages: 369
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 19 March 2009

On the cover:

There will be flames

The power of the Realms depends on its dragons. Jealously guarded, nurtured by their handlers, ridden by the aristocracy, they are bred for hunting and war. But only the alchemists and the mysterious liquid they administer to the dragons stand between the Realms and disaster; for without the liquid, the dragons would be returned to their natural fury: Unbiddable, terrifying, awesomely strong, able to destroy an entire army, to burn a kingdom to ashes.

Prince Jehal is thinking of other things. Of power over all the Kings and Queens of the Realms; and he is prepared to charm, lie, betray, plot and murder to get it. Nor is he alone in his ambition. Queen Shezira has her daughters and she means to use them as she herself was used, to gain the ultimate prize, marrying them off to secure her influence and power.

All sell-sword Kemir is thining of is money. Of freedom from the un-ending arrogance of the dragon riders. And maybe a little cold revenge against the warlords who both need him and despise him.

And now a dragon has gone missing...

   Dragons: In many ways they are a cliche of Fantasy, the ultimate symbol that says "Here be Fantasy". And as a mythological beast they are a part of the collective consciousness of human history. So basically the question with a book like this is; does it add anything to dragon lore, or is it just a rehash of old tropes?
   Fortunately what Deas does with dragons in his book feels really fresh. They are a source of power, a weapon for the aristocratic elite, their main means of controlling their territories. And they also function as a deterrent, a weapon of mass destruction you don't want your enemies to unleash on you in retaliation.

   But this story isn't just about dragons, it is also about the intricacies and intrigue of politics, and here lies the mayor plot points. Deas manages to create a very interesting set of characters in the royalty of his world, characters that are complex and intriguing. They are all well developed and believable, you will recognize their type, but they will sometimes surprise you. At times this makes for a wild ride of a plot, with lots of twists and unexpected events, something that is evident as early as the prologue.

   There isn't really all that much action as such in the book, but the story itself is pretty fast-paced and it has a plot that makes it very easy to read "just one more chapter" for far longer than you originally intended too.
   One of the strengths of the book is how the different threads work together. There are different sub-plots that compliments each other and add to the whole.

   The worldbuilding is very well done. Deas has created a world that feels real, and also has a distinct feeling of having developed - especially on the geopolitical scale. There is very little infodumping, and you learn about the world without it being intrusive into the story.
   There is as I mentioned above quite a bit of information on dragons, and how they function in this world. The dragon lore is really interesting and adds greatly to the realistic feel of the novel, and you get a feeling that what you learn will have repercussions in the story later. I found this to be one of the best, if not the actual best,  descriptions of dragons I have ever read, and just that justifies giving this a try.

   This is a great first novel, it will satisfy fans of Epic Fantasy with its realistic setting and intricate story. And there is so much here for anyone who has an interest in dragons to love. It is the first volume in a series that I think any fan of Epic Fantasy will enjoy. This is a fast-paced story with lots of action and intrigue that is hard to put down, and Deas's writing will have you reading into the small hours.
   A word of warning: If you like this book by page 50, be sure that you have the next volumes at hand. You will want to continue reading after you finish this book.

17 April, 2012

REVIEW: WOLF'S BROTHER

Cover art: Jackie Morris
Cover design: HarperCollinsPublishers

WOLF'S BROTHER
BY
MEGAN LINDHOLM

ISBN: 978-0-00-742543-3
Pages: 266
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Originally published: 1988
This edition published: 28 April 2011

On the cover:

 Kerlew stared at the immense stone that jutted up from the tundra. Power radiated from it like heat from a fire. It attracted the boy and filled him with fear. There was a brush of sound, of dark moving shadows and then the sudden flash of a glistening eye. He pressed his palms back against the stone’s rough surface and faced the night creatures that surrounded him.

Every day, Kerlew's magic grows, reaching out to his guide, the Wolf. But the magic also calls to Carp, the evil old shaman, who is pursuing Kerlew and his mother, Tillu, across the frozen waste. Meanwhile, someone - or something - is committing terrible atrocities in the village that Tillu now calls home. With fear and suspicion at fever pitch, a strange old man appears, with an offer of help...

   NOTE: This is the second half of a split book, the first half, The Reindeer People, is reviewed here.

   As with The Reindeer People this is not very action packed, but there is actually a lot more happening in this book. In fact it is almost jarring when there comes a relatively fast paced sequence after getting used to the slow pace of the story.
   But this second half of the story is in many ways about wrapping up what started in The Reindeer people, and this means that everything is given more urgency. It also means that things feel a little bit rushed at times.

   The characters development is done very nicely, they seem to find their roles and accept them here. This goes especially for Kerlew, who has a special journey of his own. And it is his journey that is perhaps the most interesting, and also the most Fantasy-like. However I don't think it is fair to call what is actually part of shamanistic religion Fantasy as such.
   There is also a bit of a romantic plot going one, one that has been building since The Reindeer people. And I think many who read this will be satisfied with the conclusion to that part of the plot.

   All in all this was one of those stories where the journey as a whole was much more interesting to me than its parts. Lindholm has written a story, in two parts, that is both interesting and in many ways exotic. If you like a story that takes its time, and is very centered on the characters inner journey this is two books I urge you to pick up.
   I would also like to say that it is interesting to see both the differences and likenesses of Lindholm's and Hobb's writing styles. This isn't a bad place for Hobb fans to get a taste of the former.


REVIEW: THE REINDEER PEOPLE

Cover art: Jackie Morris
Cover design: HarperCollinsPublishers

THE REINDEER PEOPLE
BY
MEGAN LINDHOLM

ISBN: 978-0-00-742544-0
Pages: 348
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Originally published: 1988
This edition published: 28 April 2011


On the cover:

Living on the outskirts of the tribe Tillu was happy spending her time tending her strange, slow dreamy child Kerlew and communing with the spirits to heal the sick and bring blessing on new births.

However Carp, the Shaman, an ugly wizened old man whose magic smelled foul to Tillu desired both mother and child. Tillu knew Carp’s magic would steal her son and her soul. So begins the Harrowing and desperate pursuit across the winter-ravaged lands, as Tillu's flight leads them into an uncertain, and deadly, new future.

   This isn't an action-packed book, the pace is slow and what happens in the story takes a long time to arrive anywhere. But that isn't a negative in this case, that is just how the story is structured.
   I'm pretty much OK with books that take their time, but I did have a problem with how you could see important plotpoints coming a long way in this book. The narrative uses a long time to come to things that are obvious to the reader and this removes much of the suspense in the story. Normally this would put me off the story, but here that is not the case. I found the story both compelling and interesting.

   There are two elements that makes this story a good one, the characters and the setting. The characters are all interesting, and as an ensemble they work very well together. That being said, they are pretty standard. It doesn't take long before you get a grip on their place in the story and where it is going to take them. But as with the slow pace I mentioned above, it works. You get sympathy for them and they are interesting to follow on their journey.

   The setting is what I liked best about the story. I don't know if Lindholm has used the Sami of northern Scandinavia, and north-east Russia, as a template for the setting but I strongly suspect she did. Lindholm is very good with this setting, and especially the nature of it. As someone who has grown up in Norway I am sensitive to descriptions of winter that doesn't ring true. That is no problem with Lindholm's writing here, she makes the winter come to life very well.

   It may seem from what I've written above that I didn't like this book very much, but I did. The individual elements may not work very well isolated, but they come together top make an interesting and well written story.
   I also have to say that this is not Fantasy, it is Historical Fiction. And comparisons to Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series are a bit unavoidable. In that respect this compares favourably, and I would urge any fan of Auel or Pre-History in general to pick it up.

NOTE: This is a split novel, I have reviewed book two, Wolf's Brother here.

REVIEWS: Wolf's Brother  The Inheritance

04 April, 2012

NORWEGIAN A GAME OF THRONES BOOK COVERS

   Norway isn't exactly the prime location for translated SFF. Apart from the mega sellers not much has actually been translated since the internet became common about ten years ago and everyone started ordering the books in English online.

   So it was not until last year that we got the first translation of George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, done by the new publisher Vendetta Forlag ("Forlag" being the Norwegian word for Publisher/Press).
   As is usual in Norway, A Game of Thrones was split in two for the translation. And a competition was held to find the covers for the two books. Below you can see the two winners, but I urge you to look at the Is og Ild (Ice and Fire) blog, here, there you can see the third place entry, a rather nice illustration of Jon Snow (, and get the covers in much higher resolution if you click on their images).

I VARGENS TID
(Translates as: In the Age of the Wolf)
Cover art: Janne Magnussen

KAMPEN OM JERNTRONEN
(Translates as: The Battle for the Iron Throne)
Cover art: Even B√łthun

   (These are the covers for the Hardcover editions, the Paperbacks have gotten photo covers from the TV series. You can see them here and here.)
   I really like the Norwegian covers. When we last had translations of some of the big SFF series in the 1990s they decided to use the US covers, and I think what Vendetta has done here is great. 
   What do you think of the two Norwegian A Game of Thrones covers?

03 April, 2012

REVIEW: THE DARK HALF

Cover design by keenan

THE DARK HALF
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-0-340-95261-0
Pages: 460
Originally published: November 1989
This edition published: 1 November 2007

On the cover:

Creating George Stark was easy. Getting rid of him won`t be . . .

The sparrows are flying again. The idea - unbidden, inexplicable - haunts the edge of Thad Beaumont`s mind.

Thad should be happy. For years now it is his secret persona `George Stark`, author of super-violent pulp thrillers, who has paid the family bills. But now, Thad is writing seriously again under his own name, and his menacing pseudonym has been buried forever.

And yet . . . the sparrows are flying again, and something is terribly wrong in Thad Beaumont`s world. 

   This is a very writer centred story, in fact the whole premise of the book has to do with a writer and his alter ego. That is however not all it is about, there is a sub-story that also adds to the whole of the novel.
   It does not take long for this novel to get going, within a few chapters the central mystery is established. Not that there really is very much of a mystery, it is pretty transparent what is happening from the beginning. This doesn't actually detract from the book. What is central here is how, and why, things are happening. And the journey King takes us on to find that out is full of both suspense and mystery.

   There is some gore here, and it is done in King's usual style - nothing is spared. But this isn't really where the horror comes from, that is much more psychological.
   Even though it was clear to me pretty early on what was going on the psychological horror got really intense at points, and King manages to leave enough open for interpretation and guessing that he holds the reader in his grip. It is not until the end that we really become certain as to where the main characters will end up.

   The characters are very well done. There are few of them in a central role, and we really get to know how they function. Especially Thad Beaumont is very well drawn, and we really get inside his head in more ways than one.
   With a situation as far outside the normal as the one we are told about here, it is always interesting to look at the characters' reaction. And here King manages to make them seem both plausible and natural. The skepticism of one of the supporting characters is especially good, and does a lot to help the feeling of realism in the story.

   For a King novel this is pretty short, but there is still room for King to give us the closeness to the cast that is his strength. It's maybe not Kings best work, but it is sill a great novel. I found it a quick read, and one that took me on a very good journey. I'd recommend Horror fans pick it up, and I think it will be an interesting read for anyone who are themselves interested in writing.

Reviews: The Shining  IT  Bag of Bones  11.22.63  Four Past Midnight  Just After Sunset

Links: Stephen King  Hodder & Stoughton

01 April, 2012

REVIEWING STEPHEN KING

Some of my Stephen King books.


REVIEWING STEPHEN KING

   If you have been reading this blog for a while you may have noticed that I from time to time review books by Stephen King. There's been six reviews of King's books on this blog so far. But I have no intention of stopping there.
   I have been reading King for about fifteen years, I started with a Norwegian translation of Carrie. And so far I have read 40 of his books, including four (, five if you count Blaze,) of his Bachmann novels and all his collections. This should give you an idea that I am a fan of Stephen King's books, and I still really enjoy reading them. To be frank I have a little trouble understanding those that grow tired of reading his books.

   Even before I started this blog I was planning to read everything King has written, and I do still have that plan. But shortly before starting this blog I also decided it would be a neat idea to review all of Stephen King's books. And that is something that I still propose to do. 
   This is not a project that I will try to fasttrack, so it will probably take me a few years. I do however have some King books read lately that I haven't reviewed so I am confident that I will be able to review at least one King book a month in the future.
   I also said, maybe a bit hastily, on Twitter that I was going to read all of King's Dark Tower books in April. I haven't read more than the first three, and those only in Norwegian translation. Actually I don't even own any of the English editions yet, but I plan to buy them in the coming week, so if they are not suddenly unavailable they will be read before I buy the new Dark Tower book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, in the beginning of May. (There's no bookshop selling English books where I live, so I go to Oslo about once a month to buy books. I love browsing in bookstores.) I will probably be reviewing these in April too, so there's going to be quite a lot of King books reviewed here in the next two months.

   There you have it, it's now out in the open. I am planning to review every book Stephen King has ever written on this blog. So, what do you think of my plans? Any comment on my review project, and Stephen King's books in general are welcome.