Tag Archives: magic curse

Friday Faceoff – Man is a knot into which relationships are tied…

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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 and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a knot or knots, so I’ve selected Daughter of the Forest – Book 1 of the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier.

 

This cover, produced by Tom Doherty Associates in February 2002, has a lovely Celtic feel about it – and the reason why I’ve selected it, is for the Celtic knot detail on the F. I really like this cover, as the cover content and overall feel aligns well with the beautifully told story. The only thing that spoils it is that ugly red text box running along the bottom.

 

This Portuguese edition was produced by Bertrand Editora 2002 has a similarly lyrical feel. The artwork is lovely and I particularly like the moody colour palatte of greens and blues, while the Celtic knotwork and the swan motif top and bottom is delightful. My only grumble about this one is the bright orange font, which is jarring. Despite that, this is the one I like best – although this week there aren’t any I dislike.

 

Published in 2001 by HarperCollins, this cover features a forest exactly as I’d envisaged the one within the book – dark and full of gnarled tree roots and tangled vegetation. It’s nice to have the brothers on the river bank, too. While I appreciate why we have the scene with the swans flying above the knotwork, I do think it gives the cover a rather odd appearance.

 

This HarperCollins edition, published in October 2015, is clearly going for a more modern feel with the plain black cover featuring the swan. It is certainly eye-catching, but if I didn’t know this wonderful book is the first in an awesome series, I don’t think I would pick it off the shelves.

 

This German edition, produced by Knaur in April 2011, is also lovely. The golden suffused light as the backdrop works really well and I like the fact that Sorcha is in the background, with the swans in the foreground swimming towards her. The only thing that isn’t quite right is her reflection. Which is your favourite?

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Review of KINDLE Ebook The Heir to the North – Book 1 of the Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

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This is a book I picked up by a fellow Grimbold author a long time ago which has spent far too long stuck in my TBR pile – and this week I rediscovered it. So I dusted off the virtual fluff and got stuck in. I’m so glad it did!

“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North.

Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries. As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle. The North will rise again.

There are so many classic elements to this story – a lost civilisation that has fallen into ruin… evidence of arcane knowledge now gone… some grumpy powerful magic-users… a lantern-jawed warrior with a shiny family tree… If you are an epic fantasy fan these tropes are as cosily familiar as a cup of hot chocolate at bedtime. And then Poore adds his own spin on this epic storyline. Think of the absolute opposite of George R.R. Martin’s approach. There is a single protagonist – and no… it isn’t the shiny warrior – it is the daughter of a drunk storyteller who is constantly on the road.

Somehow – and this is a masterclass on the intelligent use of a protagonist – through this worm’s eye view, we are shown the bones of a lost culture and the way the current world works as young Cassia is given the chance to make her own way as a storyteller. I’ll be honest – epic fantasy isn’t always my go-to genre. I’m rather allergic to a horde of unpleasant main characters scrambling for power or survival, depending on the politics. I’m not a fan of pages of explanation about the world, either. Poore nicely side-steps these pet peeves of mine and unpeels a wonderful, vibrant world, alongside an engrossing storyline that held me throughout as I really cared about young Cassia.

She is a delightful protagonist – wary and neglected after an abusive childhood, she gradually begins to see there are opportunities for her other than just trying to stay out of trouble and survive. And when threats or dangers loom, she is reasonably good at reacting. All of this is written into her story without her coming off as a Mary Sue.

So as the book progressed – much faster than I generally take reading an epic fantasy as the pages pretty much turned themselves with this one – I was gearing up, waiting for the nasty warlock to unleash his world-ending magical mayhem. And Poore changes it all. While I had already figured out some of the reveals, I didn’t see that final twist coming – that came as a real shock. I’m so very glad that I had bought the next book in this series, The High King’s Vengeance, during the last Fantasycon – which I shall be tucking into just as soon as I can. Because I really, really need to know what happens next.
10/10

Sunday Post – 27th August 2017

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

The news with my sister continues to be good. By some miracle she has managed to avoid any eye injury as last week the eye clinic gave her the thumbs up. Now we just have to get the allclear with the heart clinic… The bruising continues to fade and she continues to recover. Thank you everyone who wished her well and/or prayed for her – you clearly made a difference!

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I was busy grannying as the children returned from their trip to Disneyland Paris, full of enthusiasm and excitement about their wonderful holiday. As ever, they were a joy – I just wish the weather had been less uncertain. Typically, from the moment they returned home, it brightened up! Thursday I spent lazing around after having painfully pulled a muscle in my shoulder – I was also quite tired so gave myself permission to read and sleep throughout the morning, though I did get up later to do some writing and answer emails.

On Friday, my sister and I went shopping for wool – I have to knit a Dr Who scarf for Tim’s film and rehearsals will be resuming at the start of September, which is closing at the speed of an oncoming train. I went online and found a really good knitting pattern produced by the BBC for Tom Baker’s first Dr Who scarf. However, as well as wool, we got a bit sidetracked and I found myself returning home from an ad hoc shopping spree with a couple of storage jars, two sets of lovely towels and a very nice jacket. We only went out for some balls of wool and a row counter! We’ve agreed that we need to ration our shopping habit as we are clearly a bad influence on each other. Though it was huge fun.

This week I have read:
The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
How do you find someone? How, if you have never seen him, never heard him described, did not know where he lived? How, if he wished not to be found? And how, most especially, if he were the most powerful wizard in the world? The steerswoman Rowan has discovered that the fall of the Guidestar and the massacre of Outskirter tribes were caused by one man: the secret master-wizard, Slado. But until now, no steerswoman had known of his existence, nor knew that the wizards answered to any single authority. Now, Rowan must find him. She comes to the seaside town of Alemeth, where centuries of records might help her find clues for her search. Then, an unexpected encounter with a lost friend: Janus, a steersman who had resigned his membership in the Steerswomen, giving no explanation. Now Rowan has hope for help in her search — but Janus has changed. The bright intellect is shrouded in a dark, shattered spirit…
This wonderful series just keeps on delivering. I thought I was on one kind of adventure – and turned around twice to find it was something completely different. I love it when that happens! Utterly engrossing, this third book in the series is a joy.

 

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
When Andrew Hope’s magician grandfather dies, he leaves his house and field-of-care to his grandson who spent much of his childhood at the house. Into this mix comes young Aidan Cain, who turns up from the orphanage asking for safety. Who he is and why he’s there is unclear, but a strong connection between the two becomes apparent.
I spotted this one in the library – and it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it off the shelves. Once more this wonderful writer has woven a fantasy tale that drew me in with her magical mix of mayhem, humour, darkness and magic… I didn’t want to put this YA offering down until I reached the last page.

 

Death Shall Come – Book 4 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb … Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy. When a bloodstained body is discovered beside the empty sarcophagus, Ishmael is dismissive of the theory that the mummy’s curse is to blame. Instead he sets out to uncover the human killer responsible. But how can Ishmael explain the strange, shuffling footsteps that creep along the corridors? Who is playing games with them … and why?
This is the class country house murder – right down to the Egyptian curse surrounding some unique ancient artefacts. However, this isn’t set back in the 1920s when these affairs were all the rage – Green has set this one here and now with a paranormal twist and lots of gritty action. Great fun!

 

Spirit Witch – Book 3 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper
Barely recovered from her brush with necromancy, Ivy is flung once more into a world of intrigue, adventure and potential death and disaster. It’s not her fault – it just so turns out that she’s now the only person in the entire world who can communicate with the dead. And they’re a chatty bunch with a list of demands. When the ghosts offer information about a witch-hating mass murderer in return for Ivy’s help, she has no choice but to get involved. She might be getting herself into more trouble than she realises though – and that’s even before she’s dragged to Sunday dinner so she can meet Winter’s family…
Another wonderful offering that helped to continue this year’s marvellous string of thoroughly enjoyable reads – there has never been a better time to be a book-lover! This is the latest and supposedly last in this hilarious urban fantasy series – but I’m hoping that Helen Harper will listen to the pleas from her fans to consider at least one more helping of Ivy, Rafe and Brutus, the talking cat. Pretty please with sprinkles on the top!

 

The Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse series by Steven Poore
“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North. Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries. As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.
The North will rise again.
I got hold of this book by fellow Grimbold author, Steven Poore, with the firm intention of reading it – and somehow it got trapped in a holding pattern on my TBR pile. Until I decided I wanted some epic fantasy in my life… I’m so glad I did! I really loved this one.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th August

Review of Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice – Book 4 of The Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

Teaser Tuesday featuring Death Shall Come – Book 4 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Review of One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts

Friday Face-off – If I be waspish, best beware my sting… featuring Lord of the Flies by William Golding

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Spirit Witch – Book 3 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

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

Lola’s Ramblings: Birthday Party Book Tag http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-ramblings-birthday-party-book-tag/ This was great fun and particularly appropriate as it happened to turn up on Lola’s blog near her birthday… Happy Birthday, Lola😊

Brief Memories of Brian Aldiss http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2741 Fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna has written a lovely tribute to Brian Aldiss, who I had the honour to meet at my very first Fantasycon back in 2011. I grew up reading his amazing worlds and to have the chance to talk to him was magical. While it was only a passing conversation, I can echo Juliet’s comments on just what a generous man he was. He will be missed…

Good venues for microfiction http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/08/24/good-venues-microfiction/ Once again, Steph has provided a really useful article for those of us who write short shorts…

Finding and Losing Time https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/finding-and-loosing-time/ I loved this one. It sums up the dilemma of parenthood – and I happen to think Anne has made the right choice…

#WhenDreamsComeTrue with author Alice Castle @ DDsDiary https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/whendreamscometrue-with-author-alice-castle-ddsdiary/ I really enjoy reading how various authors come to write and publish their books, so wanted to share my love for this series.

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.

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 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