Category Archives: magic

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

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I loved Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series – you can check out my review of Hounded. So when I heard that he had embarked on an epic fantasy, I was intrigued.

In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . . From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

What do you do if you wish to portray your epic world through the eyes of eleven protagonists? Well… there is always the George R.R. Martin option, I suppose. But Hearne has gone for a different approach – he has a bard with a magical ability to take the shape and persona of the characters, who then tells their slice of the adventure to a city of refugees caught up in the war. It’s a nifty device to sidestep the problem of trying to get the reader to keep track of exactly who is doing what to whom – especially as at the start of each performance, the bard tells the audience who will be introducing the character who will be taking the stage.

Does Hearne succeed? I’ll be honest – A Plague of Giants took some time to grow on me. Himself immediately was drawn into the world and kept imploring me to keep going, not that I was tempted to DNF it – the writing is too good, for starters. But I was about 20% into the story before the world seeped into my bones and I was reaching for my Kindle with eagerness. Once I was familiar with the cast of characters and the narrative had taken root, I was won over. Because of the structure, this epic fantasy is completely character-driven and I’m a real sucker for character-driven plots.

As we drew closer to the climax, I was holding my breath because we already knew that the giants had very little wriggle-room – they couldn’t return to their homeland due to the volcanic eruption devastating their island. And because a significant number of the giants also wielded fire as their kenning (read magical talent) they were lethal. I also have to warn you that not all the eleven protagonists survive to the end of the story – I was shocked to discover who doesn’t make it and the manner of their death. Inevitably, the story is somewhat fragmented, given it is told piecemeal by a variety of characters – some of them not human. But I grew to really enjoy this world and the diversity of species who are caught up in the conflict caused by the giants’ invasion.

The ending was suitably dramatic and despite the book being 600+ pages, when I got to the end I was genuinely sorry this instalment of the tale was over. While I’m aware that there has been a mixed reception to this one, if you enjoy well-written epic fantasy that gives an insight into the political machinations as well as plenty of action, both military and magical, then go looking for this one. While I can’t guarantee you’ll love it – if it does tick your box, you’ll really, really thank me.
9/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Himself was thrilled when he realised that another slice of Penric goodness was coming our way – quite right too as this series has not only been consistently excellent, it also is very good value, given that each novella is modestly priced. So would this next slice of the adventure measure up to the very high standard already set?

In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news…

And the answer is yes – this book is a joy to read and difficult to put down. However, I do feel quite strongly that although each book is designed to be read as a standalone, in order to gain the maximum enjoyment from this particular adventure, you at least need to read Mira’s Last Dance. As this narrative continues from the ending of that story, there are too many allusions to previous storylines – and besides, why not double the reading pleasure?

One of the delights of this series is charting the growth in Penric’s confidence and maturity since his first fateful encounter with the demon he has named Desdemona. Initially, he had a lot of adjusting to do, given that he wasn’t Temple-trained and his hosting of Desdemona was a complete accident. We don’t get so many tussles between them and neither does Desdemona bait him so much – instead, a strong bond is evident and interestingly, at one stage, it is Desdemona who is panicked and overcome in this adventure, with Penric providing the necessary reassurance to get them out of yet another tricky situation.

In amongst all the tension and excitement, we are also treated to Bujold’s hallmark humour, which is every bit as quirky as her characters. While the stakes are undoubtedly high, I found myself sniggering once Penric manages to successfully get into the prison complex, when someone wholly unexpected pops up… Their indignant exchange was a nice bit of light relief in amongst all the tension and danger.

I found this one almost physically painful to put down and when I finally finished it with a sigh – it was part happiness at having had such an enjoyable read, along with the inevitable pang of regret that it was all over. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, this book – and the series – is recommended for anyone who enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan books or loves reading well-written fantasy with appealing characters and plenty of adventure.
9/10

Sunday Post – 19th November 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record… yes – you’ve guessed it – it was another busy week… Oscar’s party last Sunday evening was delightful – it was lovely watching him discuss all his Lego projects and watch him open his presents and card.

I was teaching Monday and Tuesday – both Creative Writing courses for the Spring term at Northbrook are now full and the Summer term for my Monday course is also full with a waiting list. On Wednesday, as J was also off work, we had lunch at The Arun View with my sister – it was lovely to see her fit enough to go out and about again. On Thursday evening I popped over to do a rehearsal session with a couple of the actors in Tim’s film for a crucial, rather emotional film and then onwards to Writing Group. Though none of us had any writing… Still, it was lovely to catch up with everyone and talk through our various projects, though I’m now wondering why the idiot wearing my body thought it a good idea to bring out Dying for Space this side of Christmas.

On Friday I was teaching again – and then I spent the evening at my sister’s putting the world to rights as she cooked us a delicious meal. On Saturday we were back together again as we went up to The George at Burpham and had a lovely meal with Mum and Dad to celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary – 45 years – what an achievement! Afterwards, I drove over to Lancing to pick up the grandchildren. Oscar is returning home this evening, but as Frances has an INSET day, she will be returning home on Monday evening.

Today, Frances and I have been in the middle of Bognor, filming the final scenes for Tim’s film which we have now finally finished. It’s been great fun, but the sense of relief that the filming phase is now over is huge… I cannot get over the weather today after the cold, rainy Saturday we endured – as with every single filming day we have done, it has been bright and sunny all day.

This week I have read:

A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . . From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.
I really enjoyed this one, once I got used to the unusual structure, where the bard relives the experiences of all eleven protagonists – it’s a nifty way to handle a large cast and mostly worked. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

The Hidden Face – Book 1 of the Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn
A face without a face – an unmasking that leaves the mask. Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?
Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.
This intriguing epic fantasy is full of ancient riddles designed to ensure that the powerful secrets surrounding the rite of the Unmasking stays safely away from those who would abuse the power. That’s the theory, anyway. This time around there are a whole bunch of people who will stop at nothing to get hold of those secrets – and only two people who have the correct training to be able to unlock the elaborate codes and puzzles surrounding them…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th November, 2017

Review of Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

Teaser Tuesday featuring A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Friday Face-off – Snap! – featuring The Dark Mirror – Book 1 of the Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Worlds to Visit – https://navigatingworldsblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/worlds-to-visit/ 
This entertaining blog considers various science fiction and fantasy world Mr N would love to vacation at… Has he included your favourites?

Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. LeGuin –  https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/writing-nameless-things-an-interview-with-ursula-k-le-guin/  What a wonderful opportunity to hear the thoughts of one of the legends in the genre…

10 of the Best Poems About Hair – https://interestingliterature.com/2017/11/15/10-of-the-best-poems-about-hair/ And at least one of these isn’t talking about the hair you’d think…

5 New Science Books to Look Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/5-new-science-books-to-watch-out-for/ Another useful list of books from this award-winning library site

Book Nerds Don’t Get Old… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/book-nerds-dont-get-old/  And I couldn’t agree more with this nifty quote featuring a stack of books😊

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – Snap!

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a mirror image or reflection, so I’ve chosen The Dark Mirror – Book 1 of The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier.

 

This cover, produced by Tor Books in June 2006, is my least favourite. While the hint of a reflection and the gnarled tree behind the seated girl does give a sense of the otherworldly tone that pervades this outstanding historical fantasy series, it doesn’t do it justice. I also think the lettering is clunky and unsuited to the genre and content.

 

This edition was produced by Tor books in March 2006 and is far more appropriate. The lone tree, reflected in the water in a wild landscape beautifully evokes the mood of the book and would immediately have me wanting to pick it up. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in 2007 by Bertrand Editora, this Portuguese edition has also manages to capture the magical sense of the book, though I’m not quite sure what that fraying piece of lace at the top is all about… But those brooding trees reflected in the lake are very effective.

 

This Australian edition, published in November 2007 by Pan Australia, is also effective and haunting. I particularly like the title font, which fits the period without being too fussy or taking away from that stunning landscape – this is a very close second for me. Which is your favourite?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 15th November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

#children #fantasy adventure #magic

What would you do if your sister turned into a skunk? How about a mouse? Or a frog? Would you want to be a snake? Have you ever wished to swim like an actual fish? Wouldn’t you worry that a snapping turtle might take a bite out of you?
In The River Keepers, two sisters must rise to meet an unexpected challenge. It’s a story infused with the magic and drama outside their backdoor — perhaps yours, too.

This one sounds entertaining. I’m always a sucker for shapeshifting tales – and isn’t that cover gorgeous? By the look of it, Stewart is an experienced author with a number of books to his name, so I’m looking forward to tucking into this one, which is due to be published on 1st December by The Publishing House.

Teaser Tuesday – 14th November, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearn

72% The bard ends his completely miserable audience by saying he’ll stay at the Raelech embassy and then tosses out a wish for me to “be well,” which is more alarming than the news of my army’s destruction. People are beginning to notice. To question my health. My sanity! My fitness to rule.

BLURB: In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . .

From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

This epic fantasy has an interesting structure – we learn about the unfolding drama as a volcanic eruption triggers a major and unwelcome migration of a people through a magically enhanced bard. He recites the story of what happens, complete with the resulting political fallout to a bulging city of refugees, taking on the persona of the various key characters through his magical gift, or ‘kenning’. I’m enjoying it – though having to really concentrate to keep track of the eleven protagonists that keep popping up. Himself has raved about this one, so I’m looking forward to a climactic ending…

Sunday Post – 12th November 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Another busy week – last Sunday was amazing as we completed filming all the major scenes, including the finale and once again, the weather was unbelievably kind with bright sunshine, though it was very cold. Monday and Tuesday were teaching days – though a number of students were off, smitten by tummy bugs and colds. On Wednesday, I attended Pilates and Fitstep again, although I still have a way to go before I regain the fitness I attained in the summer. On Thursday, Mhairi came over and provided a sympathetic listening year as I had a bit of a meltdown over the fact that I was STILL going through the line edit on Dying for Space after working on it for hours and hours… In the evening, I attended West Sussex Writers as Phil Williams was giving a talk on marketing for indie authors – it was an excellent evening with lots of valuable information. It was heartening to see such a great turnout.

On Friday, we had an important meeting regarding Tim’s progress and it was wonderful to see him talk so articulately about his hopes for his future in front of people who he doesn’t know very well. When I got back home, I got stuck into the manuscript and also worked through Saturday, so I should be able to have review copies available by the beginning of the coming week – phew!

Today is my father-in-law’s birthday and Oscar’s birthday tea. Bless him, he has kept our present unopened even though his birthday was earlier this week, so that we can watch him unwrap it.

This week I have read:

The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa by T.O. Munro
Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle

But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

This entertaining epic fantasy story is about three strong characters – one has been seriously maimed when engulfed by sorcerous fire; one is on the run from a powerful secret organisation and the Medusa’s daughter, only part human, begins to learn what she is capable of. I will be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 5th November, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Friday Face-off – Zip it, lock it and throw away the key – featuring Keeper of the Keys by Janny Wurts

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of novella Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

The Chickpeeps – How to Go Vegan with Erik Marcus https://www.thechickpeeps.com/
This is a new podcast to assist people wishing to go vegan, or begin making changes in their diet towards veganism. I’m declaring an interest – my son is involved in this project and I’m so very proud…

How Well Do You Know SFF?
https://www.playbuzz.com/orbitbooks10/how-well-do-you-know-sff?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=Orbit+Books&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=OrbitQuiz%252COrbitBooks Test your knowledge on this admittedly very small and limited quiz

Tammy’s Top Twelve 2018 YA Sci Fi Books #RRSciFiMonth http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2017/11/07/tammys-top-twelve-2018-ya-sci-fi-books-rrscifimonth/ This is an excellent article with Tammy’s top 12 picks for the coming year – given that it’s #SciFi Month, this is a great opportunity to compile your Christmas list

The Plot Thickens: How To Improve Young Children’s Critical Thinking Skills During Storytime https://freespiritpublishingblog.com/2017/11/07/the-plot-thickens-how-to-improve-young-childrens-critical-thinking-skills-during-storytime/ Reading to children can be so much more than reciting the words on the page…

…an Author’s lament… where Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and modern pirate’s differ…
https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/11/07/an-authors-lament-where-johnny-depps-jack-sparrow-and-modern-pirates-differ/ This is an article about the kind of pirates that don’t sail around the seas sporting a skull and crossbones, wonderful hats or a surprisingly sexy shamble…

And as this is Remembrance Sunday, I wanted to add one of the poems I grew up with – one that my grandmother used to read to me while telling me about all the soldiers who died so we could be free. The wrenching pity is that young men are still falling miles away from their homes. Lest we forget…

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – Zip it, lock it and throw away the key

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is keys, so I’ve chosen Keeper of the Keys – Book 2 of The Cycle of Fire series by Janny Wurts.

 

This cover, produced by Grafton in 1990 is really eye-catching with the limited colour palette of blues. The glowing key illuminating the face from below gives an otherworld, ethereal cast to the character and while I don’t much like chatter on the front cover – at least the endorsement isn’t too intrusive. This is my favourite.

 

This edition was produced by Ace in August 1988 and is far more dramatic. The protagonist is clearly in a desperate situation. I really like the unfolding drama with the sinister figure looming over the hapless lad. My problem with this cover is that the beautifully painted eagle somehow gets lost amongst the large golden lettering. Why on earth didn’t they choose another colour for the title font?

 

Published in October 1995 by HarperPrism, this is another beautiful detailed, action-packed cover. This time, the protagonist (he does get about, doesn’t he?) is hanging off the hull of a boat, moodily clutching the key around his neck as he gazes out across the seascape. I also thoroughly enjoy this one – but the eerily lit face just edges it. Which one is your favourite?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 8th November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle

#mystery #fantasy adventure #historical #Victorian #witchcraft #magic

The paranormal answer to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Jesperson and Lane are turning the Victorian era upside down in this bewitching series from John W. Campbell Award winner Lisa Tuttle.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft.

I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one – it sounds great fun. I don’t know the author so am also pleased to be adding another candidate to this year’s Discovery Challenge, where I undertake to read at least 30 books by female authors previously unknown by me. This book is due to be released on 28th November by Hydra Publishing. What are you looking forward to reading?

Teaser Tuesday – 6th November, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Medusa’s Daughter by T.O. Munro
p. 558 “She were seen,” Flambard wailed. “I saw her. Old Mrs Gribbins saw her.”
“No you baint, not you, not Mrs Gribbins. You may have seen someone as looked like Persapha, but you baint seen her, not while she were here settling wee Josie. She’m a real treasure with the bairn, a natural.” Cora embellished the lie with an untruth so scandalous it left Persapha gasping. “So lessen you want to tell Colour Sergeant Stennal that you’m been calling his wife a liar in her own kitchen and afore his own daughter then I’d be seeing meself out sharpish and going out looking for that real murderer.”

BLURB: Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle.

But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

This epic fantasy adventure follows the fortunes of Persapha, whose origins mean that she finds dealing with humans something of a struggle. The characters are intriguing and the plot enjoyable, though the storytelling has a rather old-fashioned feel about it.