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 – Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi – release date, 1st July, 2020
#fantasy series #YA
BLURB:Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.
Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.
Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.
On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.
Someone strongly recommended this one to me, to extent that I’ve got it on pre-order. Though having the memory of a concussed jellyfish, I cannot recall who it was… if you remember our conversation – do please feel free to mention it in the Comments and I’ll namecheck you! I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one and hope I will enjoy it. Have you got this one on your TBR?
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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting FLYING. I’ve selected Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
This offering, produced by HMH Books for Young Readers in November 2002, is clearly not featuring flying – it’s underground and depicting a band of rather desperate men facing down some really cross-looking dragons… I love the font and the artwork – it’s full of detail and while of its time, it is delightful.
Published in September 1992 by Scholastic, I love this cover. The artwork is again, absolutely fabulous with so much delightful detail, from the costume of the princess and the pattern on the underside of the carpet, to the landscape below… This is one of my favourites – despite the presence of that nasty strip of textbox running across the top.
This edition is the updated version of the first cover, published in September 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers. This is a very strong contender, as those wormlike dragons are absolutely terrifying and I also love the details on the font and the treatment given to the author font.
This edition, published in October 1991 by Harcourt, Brace and World, is another cover featuring the flying carpet. I love the bright colours, the rippling carpet and the clear font. What I don’t like is that odd metallic frame sectioning the cover up and yet adding nothing to the design. It looks odd and is visually distracting. I’m not sure if it is supposed to represent the magical barriers raised by the wizards – but as far as I’m concerned, it simply doesn’t work.
This Thai edition is extraordinary. I love the way that elements of the story are all represented – with the protagonists toiling up the mountain in search of the lost dragon, which is trapped in a bubble. There is one of the manipulative wizards looming up the left-hand side of the cover, with an even darker, mightier draconic creature towering over everyone in the background. Here are the elements of high Fantasy portrayed in a single cover, through the lens of another culture. I love it and this one is also my favourite – because I simply cannot choose between this one and the classical European fantasy cover. They are both wonderful in completely different ways and for different reasons. Which one is your favourite?
BLURB: The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…
And yes – I have seriously tweaked the blurb – because the original spoils that gripping opening chapter that hauled me right into the middle of this story. I was delighted to discover that this book is set in the same world as the Swords and Fire series, as I really loved the clever and original magic system. I also appreciated the tense, political tightrope Ryx is attempting to walk in trying to negotiate a peace between two great political powers, as I thoroughly enjoy that dynamic and Caruso writes it well.
She is a sympathetic protagonist whose life is blighted by not being able to touch anyone, due to her twisted magic draining the life out of any living thing. Her sense of loneliness is poignantly portrayed, without holding up the pace, which is harder to achieve than Caruso makes it look. Her desperate desire to succeed with the peace negotiations is effectively portrayed, for as Warden of the castle, she is supposed to be custodian for all who live within its precincts – a difficult task for someone who cannot even reach out and stroke the palace cat. Her development throughout the story is enjoyable to chart, as is her delight when she realises she has friends, even as her life hangs in the balance.
For my money though, there are a couple of intriguing characters who I desperately want to see more of – Whisper is an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle and The Lady of the Owls, Ryx’s powerful immortal grandmother, one of the feared With Lords. We only see her a handful of times throughout the story, but her presence looms over the narrative. It’s nicely done, as is the mounting tension, punctuated by a couple of dramatic action scenes, all the more shocking for their suddenness, after the build-up.
Caruso deftly brings this story to a satisfying conclusion, but there are huge questions left waving in the wind, so the wait for the next book feels far too long. Highly recommended for fans of well-constructed magical worlds with high stakes and twisting plots. Though my advice would be that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of the Swords and Fire series, do get hold of it first as there is a lot in here you will better appreciate if you know the backstory. While I obtained an arc of The Obsidian Tower from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with SILHOUETTES. I’ve selected Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones – see my review. I am linking this post to Wyrd and Wonder 2020.
This offering was produced by HarperCollins Children’s Books in August 2013 – though as far as I’m concerned, this is NOT a children’s book as it has a scene including rape and sexual exploitation, even though it isn’t at all graphic and in places is very funny. Back to the cover – this is the one that came to mind when I thought of silhouettes and I think it is an enjoyable effort, although probably just a tad too cluttered to be truly effective. With such a genre mash-up, it’s often difficult to encompass the mood and themes, but I think this cover succeeds in giving a sense of the book.
Published in April 2001 by HarperTeen, this cover features Kit the Griffin and Derk enacting one of their more dramatic battle scenes. It’s a lovely and accomplished cover, full of action – but my quibble is that I’m not sure you get a true sense of what is really going on. The book is a satire, using fantastical tropes to highlight what is happening to some of the most beautiful parts of our planet and there isn’t a hint of that in this cover.
This German edition, published by Knaur in April 2018, is another dramatic offering, though I also get a sense of the humour on the expression of that magnificent dragon. I also love the overall design – and while not usually a huge fan of borders, the way this one evolves out of the flames engulfing the castle against the night sky is eye-catching and effective. It is so nearly my favourite…
This edition, published in 2000 by Millennium is another beautiful cover – and unusual in that the five-star treatment has been given to the author name, rather than the title. The glowing backlighting sings out – although the actual lettering rather fades into the textured background – I’m guessing the print version of this cover looked stunning. However in thumbnail it isn’t quite so successful – though that doesn’t stop the artwork being fabulous.
This Japanese edition, published by 東京創元社 in 2002 is glorious. It has taken the book and nested the author’s amazing fantastical animals within a Japanese setting, which works perfectly. So the design is beautiful as well as giving a sense of the parody and satire of the book. This is my favourite cover. Which one do you prefer?
BLURB: When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now… Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I am a real fan of a premise that throws up unintended consequences. Given the first book finished in quite an unexpected place, I didn’t leave it too long before diving into this one – and once more Brennan quickly threw in a couple of curved balls I didn’t see coming. I love it when that happens… Interestingly, Mirei, who was the focus of the first book is slightly pushed to one side as the consequences of what happened to her ripples through the layers of the magical community and the group of assassins, both of whom have been directly affected. As you can imagine, when a number of powerful people within both these groups become a tad fed up, the consequences are dire.
Due to the fast paced, twisting nature of the plot and the fact that I am allergic to spoilers, I can’t really comment in any detail about the events that unfold. However, Brennan manages to provide a solid, believable world without resorting to pages of description, which is important in such a tightly constructed, pacey read. Desperate to find out what would happen next, I burned through this one, staying up far later than I should to discover what happens next. While her Memoirs of Lady Trent series is very well known, this duology is far less so – and it deserves to be far more widely read. Highly recommended for fans of Marie Brennan and page-turning fantasy adventures with twisty plots. 9/10
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. I’m linking this week’s fantasy offering with Wyrd and Wonder 2020.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley – release date, 4th August, 2020
#fantasy #family relationships #magic #magical pet
BLURB: MAGIC. MURDER. MAYHEM. But keep it in the family.
Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company.
But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into dark intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy, and family drama mix with murder, sex and secrets, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future…
It was the cover that did it for me this time around – and the strapline. I’m a sucker for quirky magical stories, particularly when you add family relationships and tensions into the mix. It also looks as if it doesn’t take itself too desperately seriously and I’m yearning for some fun in my escapism at the moment. So what with one thing and another, I’m really looking forward to this one. Has anyone else helped themselves to this NG arc?
The aim of this one is to select five of your all-time favourite books and sum each one up in five words as part of this year’s Wyrd and Wonder challenges. I read this fun challenge on one of my fellow blogger’s site (sorry – I made a note of who it was, then lost it…) and decided that I really, really wanted to have a bash at it. Then Himself also wanted a go and so I’ve added his choices, too.
Among Others by Jo Walton Battle-scarred schoolgirl seeking solace. See review…
How to Train Your Dragon – Book 1 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell Naughty dragon trains small Viking. See review…
Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky Heroic quest – or is it? See review…
Small Gods – Book 13 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett Pratchett does religion. Profound silliness.
The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin Mother’s mission – rescue her daughter. See review…
Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein The first, greatest epic fantasy
The Curse of Chalion – Book 1 of the World of the Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold Tattered hero dies three times.
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett Vimes’ timeloop saves his family.
Furies of Calderon – Book 1 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher Powerless hero surviving powerful world.
Dead Heat – Book 4 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs Ancient werewolf visits old friend.
I read the first book in this delightful series, Nice Dragons Finish Last – see my review longer ago than I care to think, fully intending to pick up the rest of them. But somehow Life and other books got in the way. But I’m back here now – and delighted to see the whole series is available on KU. I am linking this review with Wyrd and Wonder 2020.
BLURB: After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.
This is a real delight. I love the partnership and unfolding romance developing between Julius and Marci – not that they have too much time to dwell on their feelings for one another. Julius belongs to one of the most ambitious Dragon clans on the planet. When one of his higher ranked siblings decides that he is somehow crucial to the crisis Estella is creating, he finds a steady stream of his brothers and sisters dropping in to complicate matters further.
One of the complicating matters is his mortal partner and mage, Marci, has not just got a nifty set of spells at her disposal, her otherworldly familiar, a ghost cat creatively named Ghost is more than he seems. In fact, this is one of the delights of this enjoyable series, Aaron is very good at delivering a cracking plot where you think one thing is happening, when it actually transpires that there was something else going on all the time. I do love it when authors successfully pull off this technique – and Aaron is a whizz at it.
Julius is an interesting protagonist. In a genre where power and talent are always highly prized and opens doors for our plucky heroes and heroines – all Julius has to offer is… niceness. Dragons are not nice. They are greedy, ambitious, ruthless, cunning and devoted to gaining more power at the expense of their competitors, who quickly transform into their enemies. It takes strong writing to make such a weak protagonist prevail against the might of far more powerful peers – and allow us to continue finding him interesting. Fortunately, Marci isn’t quite so nice, although her edges appear to be almost cosy in comparison to your average dragon.
The pages turned by themselves and I found myself facing the final page far too quickly. This is a classy, well executed urban fantasy full of my favourite creatures magnificently portrayed. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. Highly recommended for fans of quality urban fantasy. 9/10
We are both huge fans of this accomplished, game-changing author, whose Miles Vorkosigan series took a physically disabled character in the far future and redefined what could be done with space opera – see my review of Cryoburn. We have been delighted all over again by her talent in this delightful series of fantasy novellas, set in her World of the Five Gods series, and have followed Penric’s adventures – see my reviews of Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, Penric’s Mission, Mira’s Last Dance, Penric’s Fox, The Prisoner of Limnos, and The Orphans of Raspay. You’ll notice that my ratings are consistently high and quite right, too. So we were thrilled to hear Bujold was bringing out a new book during lockdown that was guaranteed to sweep us away from the current misery surrounding us, and into another world… Or is it? I have linked this review to the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 event.
BLURB: When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle. In the grueling days that follow, Pen will find that even his magic is not enough to meet the challenges without help from dedicated new colleagues—and the god of mischance.
Yes… it’s all about a mysterious plague! Apparently Bujold was working on this late last year and into the early part of the new year. I was a bit concerned that it would be too close to home – but I decided to make a start on it and if I found the storyline was all about social distancing and quarantining, I could always DNF it and wait until this crisis passed. In the event, I was immediately pulled into the story by dear old Penric, whom I LOVE and didn’t stop reading until I was finished.
I would suggest that if for some reason, you have encountered this offering without having read any of the other books, do at least take the time to get hold of Penric’s Demon. The original adventure sets up the lovely premise running through this series, and while I’d suggest you then work your way through the rest of the novellas on the grounds that it seems a real shame not to read such a cracking series in the right order, you certainly won’t flounder too much. Bujold is far too accomplished a writer for that to happen – and the manner in which she has nailed the novella form proves it. The pages simply turned themselves…
I had been initially concerned that the final scenes of this book would prove unsatisfactory, as like everyone else these days, I know far too much about what a tricky business it is to come out of an epidemic. But I hadn’t taken into account that Bujold knows her way around medical matters sufficiently well to bring the whole crisis to a satisfactory conclusion, including a couple of really nice touches along the way. As ever, a cracking read from one of our most talented SFF authors alive today. Highly recommended for anyone with a pulse, who enjoys an engrossing story that won’t take up a huge slice of life to get through it. 10/10
I had just surfaced from reading a fairly intense apocalyptic story, so wanted something light and amusing, but with sufficient story and adventure to engross me – would this fit the bill? I’m linking this to Wyrd and Wonder 2020, celebrating all things fantastical.
BLURB: For Sandra, daughter of illusionists, Adam and Ophelia, life’s never been run of the mill! But when Adam’s wandering eye lights on yet another conquest, it proves a chorus girl too far, and Sandra’s caught in the reverberations of her parents acrimonious parting. Coerced into restoring her depressed Mother to the bosom of a family Sandra never knew existed, she’s sucked into a situation that even for her is unnerving. From being without a single relative, she suddenly acquires several she’d rather do without, and learns a few home truths she’d prefer not to know.
That is the first section of a really long and chatty blurb – so my advice would be to skip it, as it reveals far too much that this accomplished author tells you in her own time, within the story. And that would be a real shame, because this is a little gem. I thoroughly enjoyed the first-person viewpoint of Sandra, whose odd upbringing has equipped her with superb organising skills, a hatred of muddle and a real sense of entitlement. That last one isn’t a bad thing – she has been brought up with two showbiz parents, both with egos the size of a planet, so she had two ways to go, either be cowed into permanent submission, or come back with an ego of her own. Which still is a whole lot more attractive than either of her parents, whom I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The fact that she talks about them with exasperated affection says a lot for her inherent niceness, I think.
I very much appreciated the humorous thread running through this one – Sandra makes an amusing narrator, with her enjoyable descriptions. I also liked the fact that when it got dangerous and a whole lot darker – which it does – she neither becomes Supergirl, or collapses in a whimpering heap. In fact, she copes with discovering exactly what her family is and what they can do impressively well, and I appreciated that Messik took pains to set up a premise where it didn’t take a quarter of the book before Sandra accepted the weirdness that was unfolding around her.
And weird it certainly is… Sandra’s family is eccentric to the extent that she decides that marketing some of that oddness to build up the fortunes of the family hotel seems like the way to go. But it also draws down some seriously unwelcome interest and alongside the farcical humour, something a lot darker emerges. It’s very well done – never too much, but there were some genuinely creepy moments. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, taking some familiar tropes and putting a pleasingly original spin on them. The ebook arc copy of Witch Dust was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book. 9/10