Tag Archives: mages

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?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Mongrel Mage Book 19 in The Saga of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

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The Saga of Recluce is a classic fantasy series often quoted for the masterly attention to detail to the worldbuilding and fine magical system – but the thought of ploughing through eighteen books is enough to make your knees buckle. You simply don’t have the time – or the stamina. What to do? Well, The Mongrel Mage not only will delight fans of this cracking series but also makes an excellent entry point into this world.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic – the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

Regular visitors to this site will know that I am a fan of Modesitt. At his best, his writing is amazing – see my review of Ghosts of Columbia. But I haven’t read all the Recluce novels and when I was reading them, back in the Dawn of Time, it was way before I was writing reviews. So I was interested to see this one on Netgalley and give it whirl. I’m so glad I did.

Modesitt is a master at crafting a solid world. While there is mayhem and chaos unleashed in abundance, we generally also spend a fair amount of time alongside his protagonist as he goes about his daily life. We learn what he wears, who he chats to and his impressions about them and above all – we learn what he eats. Modesitt always tells you in some detail about what his character is eating. It’s a neat trick. Because you immediately learn how wealthy the food provider is, how effective they are at food preparation and at what level technically and culturally they are operating at.

Though none of this would matter if I didn’t care about Beltur. However, I do. His careful, wary attitude speaks of early loss and pain – and the fact he doesn’t take anything for granted. It doesn’t help that he is something of a failure and despite his uncle’s painstaking training, his mastery of white magic is rather poor, leading his uncle’s official apprentice, Sydon, to look down on him and bully him when his uncle isn’t there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sortie into the countryside, when we learn a lot about the politics as the Prefect sends out Kaerylt with his two young charges to look into the matter of women fleeing from local towns and villages and making their way to Westwind. If you are looking for foot-to-the-floor constant action, then this isn’t the story for you. But it does mean that when the action suddenly roars in – it matters and is a shock. This pacing is particularly effective if said action comes out of apparently nowhere when treachery is involved – and my jaw dropped at a specific incident and I couldn’t then put the book down to save my life.

All in all, this is Modesitt doing what he does best – painstakingly constructing a world through the eyes of a sympathetic, slightly distanced protagonist and letting him loose in a politically complex world where a huge power struggle is going on. I loved it – it’s a worthy addition to the Saga of Recluce series and a very nifty introductory book for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy.
9/10

Sunday Post – 22nd October 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.

Life has been slowly getting back to normal after being laid low by flu. I resumed teaching my Creative Writing classes this week – it was lovely to see my students again. Though I didn’t make my Pilates and Fitstep classes on Wednesday because I was too wiped out – I’m still running out of energy far too quickly. On Friday, I was also teaching Tim and it was great to catch up on how the filming has been going of his comedy Robin Hood script. In the afternoon, we picked up the grandchildren, who will be staying until Tuesday evening as it is half term. Yesterday morning (Saturday) we took them shopping to spend their pocket money and in the afternoon, while J and Oscar stayed at home to play Bloodbowl together, I took Frances and Tim to the climbing walls at the Out of Bounds centre in Rustington. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves while Storm Brian raged outside with gale-force winds and torrential downpours. There was a magnificent double rainbow stretching across the River Arun as we drove back into Littlehampton.

This afternoon we’re going to have a family readathon – I wasn’t able to take part in the Dewey 24-hour occasion on Saturday, so thought it would be lovely to run a mini-version for all of us to have a go… Wish us luck!

This week I have read:

The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr
In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.
I was thrilled to discover this on the Netgalley boards and immediately requested it – I love his writing and this one didn’t disappoint. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

And that’s it… only one book. I’m currently a third of the way through a 700+ page beastie that is a dense demanding read – and I don’t want to rush it as it’s also a joy. Thank goodness it’s on the Kindle because if I was trying to hold up the physical version, I’d probably sprain something…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 15th October 2017

Review of Empire of the Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Bedford

Teaser Tuesday featuring Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Sage of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including Top Ten Character Names from Running Out of Space and how the author came up with them

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Austrel by Paul McAuley

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including my article ‘It’s All About the Words…’

Friday Face-off – Me and My Shadow featuring A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Review of Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell

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

Yellow https://richardankers.com/2017/10/21/yellow/ On Monday – apparently due to Ophelia causing a major disturbance – the UK was bathed in a sickly yellow light that caused the street lights to come on during the afternoon. This is Richard’s take on it…

Little Robin of Marlfield Lake https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/10/20/little-robin-of-marlfield-lake/ These lovely photos feature a cheeky little chap clearly not at his best – which makes him even more endearing…

…the most wonderful moment of my writing career… and it’s not what you may think… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/10/20/the-most-wonderful-moment-of-my-writing-career-and-its-not-what-you-may-think/ Seumas always writes great blog articles and this is another classic.

Reading Goal Pressure http://chucklesbookcave.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/chuckles-chat-39-reading-goal-pressure.html?spref=tw This is well-written post is about an ongoing problem for many book bloggers.

Conflict of Interest https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/10/19/conflict-of-interest/ Family life is so rarely the honeyed version we see portrayed all too often in adverts – and Jean’s honest and thought-provoking article depicts a situation every working mother has had to confront at one time or another…

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.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th October, 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 Mongrel Mage – Book 19 The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

#epic fantasy #magic

The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world with world-building detail and an ingenious and disciplined magic system. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to his longest and bestselling fantasy series with volume nineteen, which marks the beginning of a new story arc.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

I’m really looking forward to this one as I’m a real fan of Modesitt’s writing. It is due to be released by Tor Books on the 31st October and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

ANNDDD…

 

As part of the blog tour for Running Out of Space, I have posted my Top Ten List of favourite science fiction books set in space at Mel’s Shelves.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright series by Blake Charlton

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I’ve loved this series – to the extent that after reading the third book in the series Spellbreaker, one of my favourite reads last year, I tracked down this second instalment for more Spellwright goodness.

Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. But when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death, Francesca finds herself in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. Ten years ago, Nico escaped Starhaven Academy, leaving behind his failed life, in which he was considered disabled and felt useless. Now, in Spellbound, he’s starting fresh, using his newfound gifts in the dark Chthonic languages to pursue the emerald that holds his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the chaos of his old life. His mentor suffers from an incurable curse, agents of the fabled Halcyon hunt him day and night, pieces of Francesca’s story don’t add up, and the prophesized War of Disjunction looms on the horizon.

This epic fantasy adventure is about magical systems and how those imbued with magic have to cope with the way it bends and warps their lives in unimaginable ways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series where the rules of magic are so pervasive and have so many unthinkable and frightening consequences. Charlton’s febrile mind has worked out a system where words and will create spells – but what if different spellcasters regard others from different systems with suspicion and fear? What if there is a constant tension between those systems that teeters on the brink of open warfare? And what if in the middle of this tense political landscape come several powerful entities that threaten to overturn the status quo?

Inevitably there is quite a lot of explanation and passages of description throughout the book, but this doesn’t stop Francesca pinging off the page. I love her character – and the scenes where she is fighting to save the life of an injured patient are both exciting and highly plausible, which isn’t surprising given that Charlton is a fellow of Cardiology at the University of California. Nico is a spellcaster whose power undoes and subverts the spells of those who try casting spells against him, as he is unable to accurately spell his spells, thus echoing the pain and confusion Charlton must have endured as a child struggling with severe dyslexia. I can relate all too clearly, watching my granddaughter’s battle with this miserable condition.

While I knew one or two of the shock outcomes near the end of the book, given I had already read the final book in this trilogy, it didn’t prevent me really enjoying the journey which had its own share of surprises. Francesca’s character is a revelation and the way we discover who she is and how she got here is masterly and highly original.

This world is so cleverly devised and smart, it deserves to be far better known and Spellbound, along with Spellwright and Spellbreaker, comes highly recommended.
10/10

Review of The Blood Curse – Book 3 of The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy by Emily Gee

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I recently read The Fire Prince – see my review here – and immediately found myself connecting with the storyline and vivid characters so that by the time I reached the end, I vowed to treat myself to getting hold of The Blood Curse in the New Year. But the very next time I went to the library, there was the book on the shelves…

thebloodcurseA curse is ravaging the Seven Kingdoms. Fugitive Osgaardan prince, Harkeld, is the one person who can destroy it. Guarded by Sentinel mages, pursued by Fithian assassins, he begins the final – and most dangerous – stage of his quest: entering the cursed kingdom of Sault, where drinking even one drop of water means madness and death. But the mages aren’t the only travellers heading east. Princess Brigitta, abducted by the Fithians, is also bound for Sault – unless she can escape. And in close pursuit is her loyal armsman, Karel. Young orphan, Jaumé, is also headed for Sault – where he will be forced to make decisions that will change the fate of the Seven Kingdoms forever.

It was a real stroke of luck to encounter this book when the story was still singing inside my head, so I immediately opened it up and sank back into the world with a sigh of pleasure. Gee is very good at delivering the multiple storylines experienced by her group of protagonists without any jarring sudden switches or sense of dislocation – which is a lot harder than she makes it look. Each character has developed and changed throughout the trilogy and I have enjoyed watching each one travel on an arc – those that haven’t been killed off, that it… Gee hasn’t quite got the ruthlessness of George R.R. Martin, but throughout the series, I’ve been a tad winded at times after a skirmish that has offed yet another poor soul I expected would play a major role in the rest of the book. So I have genuinely been reading the fight scenes holding my breath in case another strong likeable character met an untimely end.

The worldbuilding is solid and well depicted without holding up any of the narrative pace and I have also appreciated having a ringside seat with the antagonists, especially Bennick, who spends time and attention looking after Jaumé. It is part of the strength of her writing that Gee doesn’t tell us that law and order is breaking down, but shows us that Jaumé’s only option is to stick with the Fithian assassins, even when he realises what they intend to do, because there is nowhere else a small orphan boy can go.

So, after three books, does Gee bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, tying up all the loose ends? Oh, for sure. In addition to the anticipated closure of the main storyline, there are a couple of other major plots that need tidying up and she ensures they are also sorted out. All in all, a real treat over the Christmas holidays – but whatever you do, don’t start with this book, instead track down The Sentinel Mage – see my review here. It would be a crying shame not to appreciate this excellent series from the beginning.
9/10

Review of The Fire Prince – Book 2 of The Cursed Kingdoms trilogy by Emily Gee

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I read the first book The Sentinel Mage and reviewed it here – would the second book prove to be as entertaining?

thefireprinceThe Seven Kingdoms are in the grip of an ancient and terrible blood curse. Thousands have died; thousands more yet will. Only one man can end the curse: the fugitive Osgaardan prince and reluctant mage, Harkeld. The road to salvation is long and arduous. Harkeld has outrun his father’s soldiers, but he can’t hope to outrun the assassins – the notorious, deadly Fithians – clamouring for the bounty on his head. Even the Sentinel mages who guide and guard him are no match for Fithian steel. Faced with the ever-present threat of death, Harkeld must learn to use his fire magic, or die. Meanwhile, in Osgaard’s gold-tiled palace, Harkeld’s sister Princess Brigitta is living on borrowed time, hostage to their brother’s ambition. And far to the east, young orphan Jaimé journeys with a band of mysterious, dangerous fighters, heading north for a purpose he does not yet understand.

I enjoyed the first book and liked this one even more. The characters and world had stayed with me sufficiently that despite having read The Sentinel Mage back in May, I immediately found myself back in the world. This time around, the story hit the ground running and we were right back in the middle of the action with Harkeld still dodging and ducking while being looked after by a group of mages. While he still loathes and despises everything they stand for, after a catastrophic attack, he finds he has to learn how to control his formidable skills. I still want to shake him till his teeth rattle, but this time around he isn’t quite so annoying.

Princess Brigitta’s story is every bit as gripping as she struggles to cope after being married off in the first book as major changes are afoot in the palace – and not necessarily for the good… While poor little orphaned Jaimé is tagging along with a group of armed men, who allow him to do chores in return for food and shelter – they even train him to use a knife.

The story whips along at an increasing lick and held me so that I stayed up reading way later than I should. Be warned, though, there is no real resolution to the story arc, so I need to get hold of the third book in the series, The Blood Curse to find out how everyone fares. Which is one of my New Year’s resolutions. Without holding up the pace, Gee has evoked a vivid world where a terrible curse is destabilising the populace as it pollutes the water supply. Besides, I find I’m warming to the spoilt prince – in fact it is a refreshing change to have a flawed protagonist I’d like to slap at times for his selfish thoughtlessness.
9/10

Review of Rex Regis – Book 8 of The Imager Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

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I was delighted when I came across this addition to an excellent long-running series by one of my favourite authors. At his best, I think Modesitt Jr. writes daily life in a fantastic world like no one else – see my review of Antiagon Fire here.

While the conqueror of Bovaria awaits emissaries to hear if the last country in the continent with agree to terms,rexregis other weighty matters occupy Bhayar, his sister, Velora and her husband Quaeryt – not the least of which is the fulfilment of Quaeryt’s dream to create the world’s first imager academy: where the magical abilities of these powerful casters may be honed, managed, and put to the service of the common good. But before that dream may be realised, the spectre of high treason threatens to unravel all that Quaeryt has achieved, catapulting him toward a fateful confrontation with Bhayar’s most military.

However, my firm advice would be if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the rest of the series, whatever you do, don’t start with Rex Regis, but go back and start at the beginning with the first book, Imager which I’ve reviewed here. That said, I have to say, I was conscious of floundering for a few pages before I snapped back into the world and Himself reported that he felt similarly adrift. There are only a handful of authors who I trust sufficiently to shrug my shoulders and put up with it, knowing it would soon sort itself out – but Modesitt is one of them. And my instincts paid off. Once I picked up the threads of the story and recalled who had done what to whom, I was right back in this richly depicted world, very much caring for Quaeryt and Velora. Because Modesitt writes happily married couples without lapsing into sentimentality or having them jump into bed every five minutes to prove their love is the real deal – which is refreshing in a genre where long-term coupledom doesn’t tend to feature all that often, anyway.

However, if you’re looking for a foot-to-the-floor adrenaline fuelled roller-coaster, then this isn’t it. What Modesitt offers is a steady accumulation of daily routines with the background sense of wrongness gradually building up until the crisis washes across our protagonists. And because I have got to know their foibles and what they like best for breakfast, it matters to me what happens to them and whether they walk away unscathed or not. Particularly as in the past, they haven’t…

So, does this book measure up to the rest of the series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed? Oh yes. I love the character progression, wherein Quaeryt is a whole lot less hot-tempered and impetuous than he used to be. However his maturity and confidence has been bought at a terrible price. Which is another aspect I really enjoy about these characters – as they emerge from a series of life-changing adventures, they are different. Once more, a cracking addition to an excellent adventure.
9/10

Review of The Sentinel Mage – Book 1 of The Cursed Kingdoms series by Emily Gee

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I had enjoyed Gee’s romantic fantasy offering Thief With No Shadow – see my review here – so was delighted to pick up this book at Fantasycon last year. Would I also like The Sentinel Mage?

thesentinelmageIn a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage’s blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty on his head and assassins at his heels. Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.

This is an enjoyable set up, but also cosily familiar. Something nasty is emerging after being let loose so long ago that everyone who knew how to handle it has long gone… And magic-wielders are both feared and hunted down in most of the cursed kingdoms. So when one of their elite units, including Innis, are sent out to scoop up Harkeld, they have to keep their shape-shifting and magical activities to a minimum. That said, I’m not going to reject a read on the grounds that it isn’t original – I’m far more interested in whether it is well-written, engrossing and enjoyable.

I was surprised to find Harkeld rather a priggish pain. Despite spending a lot of time up close and personal with the band of mages, other than his bodyguard, he refuses to let down his guard. He is determined to find them repellent – even after their courage in saving his life several times. It’s a brave decision to continue to make one of the main protagonists so unappealing. However his sister, Brigitta, is far more engaging and her storyline was the one that drew me in the most. From being the victimised, helpless princess used as a pawn in her father’s power ploys, she transforms into a far more nuanced, intriguing character who makes some interesting choices.

As regards the main storyline – the journey to the first anchor stone to try and break the curse – the narrative is smoothly delivered and Gee handles the fight scenes well, providing plenty of tension and drama. I was sufficiently caught up in the story to power through it to discover what happened next. Any grizzles? Gee is evidently a capable and experienced author – but I do feel she could trust her readers a tad more. There is a lot of repetition. Harkeld spends a lot of time gritting his teeth over having to travel with these nasty old mages… Brigitta’s armsman is either being mocked and taunted by the other guards, or eating his heart out over her… Innis is regularly worrying whether she’s spending too long in one shape… As Gee writes very short chapters, and the viewpoint scenes change regularly, having each character revisit these concerns quite so frequently starts to grate a little, as well as slow up the overall pace, which otherwise is pleasingly snappy in a genre with often takes more time than it should.

What she doesn’t do, is spend pages and pages in a lot of complicated exposition about the ancient history going back several generations – a genre convention I’m delighted to see the back of… Will I get hold of The Fire Prince? Probably. If you enjoy a relatively straightforward medieval fantasy read told by an author who knows how to tell the story at a reasonable clip and handles action scenes well, then give this a go.
7/10