Category Archives: Fantasy

The characters are make believe. There may be magic. They often begin with “Once upon a time” and end with “they lived happily ever after.” Good usually versus evil.

Spinners

Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen 1999

Another retelling, this of the Rumpelstiltskin fable.  I liked it fine.  The storyline ebbed and flowed, picking up different pieces well.  The characters’ feelings towards spinning, the baby were telling and fascinating for the reader.  It is skillful how the authors set up a lot of sympathy for the crippled spinner character but hold his wrongdoings and appearance in the story and end with his defeat.  One wonders whether to forgive his theft and presumption for the grain of pure heart he holds.

I wonder, which fairy tale is most often pondered and retold?  This and Beauty and the Beast are ones I’ve seen quite often, is there a special draw that these stories hold for an author?  Maybe a current that ties them together is the undefined identity and intentions of the villain characters, Rumpelstiltskin and the Beast.  Some authors choose to emphasize their villainy and others tell of the misrepresented soul forsaken in the sweep of history.

Personally, I think authors should feel free to take more leeway with these tales, to branch out from the hard and fast story line and make leaps of assumptions that lead to new truths.

Beauty

Robin McKinley 1978

(This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.) Kind of nice.  This book reminded me a lot of Spindle’s End.  Please pardon me, but for whatever reason, some of McKinley’s books do not agree with me.  Mainly I feel that the core story of Beauty and the Beast was neglected and most of the emphasis is on the back story, which I suppose is understandable and likely what she was going for.  But personally I get more enjoyment out of my shady perception of the tale and the Disney depiction.

First off there was a severe separation between the life with the sisters at home and the (short) life with the Beast in the castle.  The transition’s drama and emotional upheavals didn’t seem real.  The magic, integral to the story, was left murky where it could’ve been explained, and there were weird bits like one finds at the end of Spindle’s End.  Because after all magic has to make sense a little bit.

Secondly, none of the details of the fantasy world really struck me.  I felt like McKinley much more focused on the blacksmith shop and the garden by the little country house than the lawns and gardens of the castle.  But that’s not altogether true; Beauty’s room was a nice enough place that saw some setting development.  Importantly, though, I was severely unaware of what the Beast was supposed to look like and struggled to visualize him the whole time, even after he transformed.  His past self, the character in the painting, was well-played though.  And I think the character with the best development is the horse.

Overall, there are points where this book shines and others where I was left grasping.  But in the end it did not leave me with a strikingly different interpretation or probing look at the tale that I always knew.  So, sorry Ms. McKinley, but I’d say stick with the real greats, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.

The Three Apples (Arabian Nights, 1001 Nights)

An annotated index of the Arabian Nights tales (very good), Full-text: dasburo.com/Sacred-texts.com, translated by Sir Richard Burton 1850

I love the Arabian Nights tales!  Reading Guys Lit Wire last night & their list of favorite short stories I was prompted to read The Three Apples:

The story begins with governors going to the streets to ask how their officials are doing.  They meet a man, very poor with no fish to bring home to his family, and bring him back to the river with the promise to buy anything he catches.  He goes home happily with coins in exchange for the large chest that they pulled out of the river.  Inside, in a basket of palm fronds and wrapped in a hanging, is the corpse of a fair lady.  The Caliph charges Jafar to find the murderer or die in his place. 

After three days Jafar is up on the scaffold to be hanged when two men approach and insist that they murdered the lady.  The young man tells that his wife had been sick for many days and desired an apple, he loved her dearly so he searched and had to travel many days, but he brought her back three apples.  Later he saw a slave in the marketplace tossing an apple, and the slave said that he dined with the lady and she gave him the apple.  In a rage the man returned home and killed his wife, cutting her to pieces and putting her in the chest.  When he returned home his son was weeping by her bed, and he told how he had taken one of the apples to play outside when a slave had walked by and beaten him up for his apple.

On hearing this tale the Caliph is again furious and charges Jafar to find the slave or die in his place.  Again after three days Jafar has written his will and is saying goodbye to his family when he discovers an apple in his daughter’s pocket.  It is the same apple, and he discovers that the slave is one of his own.  He brings the slave to the Caliph but saves him by offering an even more impressive story than the one of the three apples that the king just witnessed in exchange for the slave’s life, the story of Nur Al-Din Ali and his son Badr Al-Din Hasan.

Son of the Shadows

Juliet Marillier

Very good.  A great fantasy read.

{LitLiv Summary: Sorcha and Iubdan, protagonists of Daughter of the Forest, have built up a lovely life and brought stability and prosperity to Sevenwaters.  Their three children, Sean (a born leader learning from his father and uncle Liam), Niamh (very much a Briton, fiery and willful), and Liadan (unforeseen, a healer, and inwardly strong) grow and experience the events of this novel.  Ripples of problems begin when Niamh falls in love with a man she should not, the adults keep a lie which starts to erode the family, and Liadan’s suitor is consumed by the pursuit of her.  Liadan is the protagonist and must navigate the dangerous times while everyone attempts to influence her decisions.  She realizes her important role in the prophecy (that a child of Sevenwaters with the mark of the raven will gain back the three sacred islands from the Britons), but she is not sure of the great danger that is awakening.  As events unfold she manages to stay true to herself and follow her own heart, Fair Folk and prophecy be damned.}

I really liked the character of Liadan and learning about her world and her brother and sister.  She grew as a character, and she matched very well with Bran, even though their relationship frustrated me at first: they wouldn’t admit that they loved each other.  Bran as a character was also very cool, with his raven persona and complicated past and emotions.  The climatic conflict that stemmed from Eamonn was unexpected.  At first I didn’t quite like the idea of Liadan having a baby everywhere with her, it was definitely different, but Marillier made it work well for the story.  The historical aspect of mercenaries and maneuverings of the feudal system in ancient Ireland/Britain is very interesting and makes a great premise for Son of the Shadows.

+ Her website has the cover images of the book from different countries and a map of the places in the book.

Reviewer, Writer A.S. Byatt

A famous reviewer has interesting things to say about fairy tales:

One of the pleasures of the tales is the brilliant mosaic they offer of isolated things and materials. Loaves of bread, magic swords, frying pans, spindles, necklaces, shoes. And these things have brilliant colours – the Swiss scholar Max Lüthi has remarked that they also have a restricted range – red, black, white, gold and silver. Materials shine – a glass mountain, golden coins spouting from the good daughter’s lips. Materials contaminate – a bad daughter has slimy toads springing from her lips. Pitch defiles. Blood wells up and betrays crimes. Birds glitter and shimmer and sing significant songs. The animal world is a close extension of the human world – bears help (or devour), foxes and deer are helpers or punishers, fish speak from lakes and birds help in the sorting of seeds or peck out the eyes of the wicked. It is a mosaic world capable of endless retelling in varied ways.”

The Guardian, Monday 12 October 2009

I hope to read more of her work, maybe one of her books.

Troy

Adele Geras

{Summary found on Wikipedia.com} :  The plot focuses on several women of Troy, ranging from powerful rich maidens to the servant girls who live in the town. The women all suffer in emotional ways with the decade long war at the center of their pain. Orphan sisters Xanthe and Marpessa live in Priam’s palace as maids and surrogate daughters to Andromache and Helen, respectively.  Andromache is Hector’s wife and mother to Astynax, whom Xanthe cares for like her own child. Marpessa sees the gods but keeps to herself because she knows that people will label her “disturbed” like Hector’s sister Cassandra.

The story picks up steam when Eros hits Xanthe with a silver-blue arrow, while she is working in the Blood room (where the fallen soldiers are taken to be nursed back to health). Xanthe falls in love with Alastor, who then impregnates Marpessa, a triangle brought about because Aphrodite longs for any entertainment other than the war. Polyxena, a friend of the two sisters, is hopelessly in love with Iason, who loves Xanthe.

Geras fills in the holes between each of the subplots with gossip from the servants of Priam’s palace. They serve as the Greek chorus and converse among themselves with how lazy Helen is or how estranged from her family Andromache is. Eventually the story winds down with the inevitable wooden horse and the sacking of Troy.

Geras shines as a storyteller and multi-subplot manager. She carefully scripts each plot to tell the inner feelings of the Trojan woman. The reader knows how the story ends (the rape and pillage of Troy) but what keeps them reading is the interest in the characters’ dreams and ultimate futures.

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Faerie Wars

by Herbie Brennan

Very good.  Poor Henry, but he handled the circumstances very well.  So did Pyrgus, I was impressed.

{From faeriewars.com: What’s Henry to do when his parent’s marriage starts to fall apart? What can he do except get on with his summer job of cleaning out Mr Fogarty’s shed. But there’s something in that shed that will turn Henry’s whole life inside out and take him into a whole different level of reality

What’s Pyrgus to do when the animals he loves come under threat? What can he do except rescue those he canand fall foul of those who threaten the entire Faerie Realm? Soon there’s only one thing for it and that’s to leave the realm completely

When Henry and Pyrgus get together, an entire world hangs in the balance and those they love face nightmare dangers.

Faerie Wars is an extraordinary, pageturning read full of tension, adventure and the kind of detail that ensures you‘ll be holding your breath as the story unfolds.}

Healer’s Keep

by Victoria Hanley

A big thank you to Reading Rocks for this book!!  You guys rock :)  Click to see an interview they did with the author, Victoria Hanley.

This book is excellent!  I haven’t read a fantasy this good for a long time.  Why, I believe that if parts of it were longer with more description and emotional depth it could brush the title of epic.  I would definitely recommend this book.

{From Victoria Hanley’s website: Two new students arrive at the Keep. One is Dorjan, a mysterious young man and heir to the family of Dreamwens-people who can walk in dreams. The other is the Princess Saravelda, daughter of King Landen and Queen Torina. Both Dorjan and Saravelda are hiding secrets of the past, but they must trust each other before they can act to overcome the darkness threatening the Healer’s Keep.

Across the ocean in Sliviia a talented slave girl named Maeve is running from Lord Morlen, a man who inspires terror in all who meet him.  Maeve learns that she, too, is part of the Dreamwen line.  She meets Jasper, a freeman of Sliviia who has survived on his wits and courage, who must decide how much he will risk for love.  The destiny of these four people are intertwined.  Together they confront the powers that prey upon their world. }
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Cirque du Freak

by Darren Shan

Part of the “Vampire Blood Trilogy”, which comprises the first three of the 12 book saga.  This is a very quick read but I found it very creepy and violent yet juvenile.

On the good side, the description of the freak show was intense and well constructed.  Good writing through most of the book even though it’s in a jejune light.  I would not recommend it.

{From Wikipedia.com: “Darren Shan was fascinated by spiders from an early age. His best friend, Steve “Leopard” Leonard grew up reading horror comics and stories of the Wolfman and vampires.

One day, their friend comes across a flyer advertising the “Cirque Du Freak.”  Darren and Steve are mesmerized by the fantastic and disturbing show, especially by the act of the mysterious Mr. Crepsley and his giant spider Madam Octa. After the show, Steve declares that he knows that Crepsley is a vampire, and Darren sets his sight on Madam Octa, planning to steal her and use his knowledge of Crepsley’s true nature to his advantage as a sort of blackmail.

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Deep Secret

by Diana Wynne Jones

Good book.  It gets very involving and although it brushes over some details the ones we have are magnificent.  Jones has created a universe where we see multiple planets, where dynasties crumble, and where very strange things happen at Science Conventions.

{From the publisher, Torr: Rupert Venables is a Magid. It’s a Magid’s job to oversee what goes on in the vast Multiverse. Actually, Rupert is really only a junior Magid. But he’s got a king-sized problem. Rupert’s territory includes Earth and the Empire of Korfyros. When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement. But there are hundreds of candidates. How is he supposed to choose? And interviewing each one could take forever. Unless. What if he could round them all up in one place? Simple!}

I would recommend this to everyone, even though it’s probably more likable to 16+ (because of pacing, not language or mature topics, in fact it was marketed towards adults), British-lovers and fantasy/sci-fi enthusiasts.  The next book in the series is called The Merlin Conspiracy.

The Artemis Fowl Files

Eoin Colfer

First ‘extras’ or fan-targeted companion book I’ve read, and I felt like it was a nice read, offering a degree of satisfaction, and furthermore I think it’s good to have a format like this where the author can release short stories or snippets that they really like but do not fit into one of their novels.  This allows some just-for-fun stories with the characters you already love, and more great writing from the author you already love.

The short story about the blue diamond that Artemis enlists Mulch Diggums’ help to obtain is just as intriguing and witty as the rest of the series, but touching, and I loved the ending.  The short story about Holly Short joining the LEPrecon is also good to learn more about the feisty heroine.

Wicked Lovely

Wicked Lovely cover, UK version

Melissa Marr

Aislinn is a junior  in Huntsdale, south of Pittsburgh.  She is friends with Seth, an independent guy who lives in a train car made of steel.  That fact is important because they, the fey, don’t like iron or steel.  Aislinn is extremely rare in that she can see the faeries that are so used to being invisible to mortals.  Problems arise when the Summer King, Keenan, inadvertently picks Aislinn to be the next Summer Queen, a choice that cannot be escaped and equals immortality or living death.  The story unravels and Aislinn learns the depth of her love, the futility of cowardice, and that she has the power to make better options for herself.

I really like Seth.  He is almost an Edward Cullen type–perfect lover, always loyal.  He now has the sight, but the issue of his immortality remains.  Perhaps it will be answered in the next two books, Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity.  I’m glad Donia didn’t die either.  I liked her and felt really bad about her circumstances.

Worthwhile read.

Just Ella

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Pretty good, but not my favorite.  Enjoyable, but not satisfying.

A good plot summary and character write-ups from Wikipedia:  “This story is a retelling of Cinderella with a feminist twist and is a different version of happily ever after.”

Haddix has a lot of good ideas and topics in the story, like her new conjectures about the myth, Ella’s time in the dungeon, and statements about happiness:  “Happiness was like beauty–in the eye of the beholder.”  I also liked how Ella had a can-do attitude and did not limit herself in her options.  When she was still at her stepmother’s house she planned to run away and become a tutor, a smart solution.

But I found some parts of the book underdeveloped, such as the relationships between the characters, the conflicts in and outside of the castle, and the day-to-day actions of life for Ella.  It didn’t seem like a true portrayal of castle life.  Maybe I’m being too harsh, it is after all a fairy tale and thus the details are up to interpretation. Continue reading

The Book of Mordred

The Book of Mordred by Vivian Vande Velde

The Book of Mordred by Vivian Vande Velde

by Vivian Vande Velde

Before this novel the most I’d heard about King Arthur and the knights of the round table came from the 1998 movie Merlin (directed by Steve Barron and starring Sam Neill), the Whoopi Goldberg movie A Knight in Camelot, and our readings in English class, including “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

This was an interesting book and gives even more insight into the life of people and mythology from these times.  The writing style and voice is not quite to my liking, but I enjoyed the book more when I got to the part narrated by Keira. (This book is divided into three parts, each narrated by a different woman [Alayna, Nimue, and Keira] who was important in Mordred’s life.  They take us on separate adventures.)

The part with Nimue is very interesting. I did not imagine a blonde-haired witch with the habit of second-guessing herself for Merlin’s wife, and I didn’t like how Nimue got between Alayna and Mordred. I was really routing for that couple.

As the inside cover summary warns, this is a different interpretation than the usual Arthur legends.  It is a focus on the villain, Mordred, not so much a villain in this version, and actually a part of the knights of the round table.  I liked this alternative look at the dashing rogue, but I was looking for a little more depth in his reasoning and the factors that contributed to tipping points in his thinking and actions.

But things are definitely different.  From HomeschoolBuzz.com: “Lancelot is not a hero, and Mordred is simply a misunderstood, strong, charismatic, and likeable old fellow.”  And new characters are introduced.  You probably didn’t recognize the names Alayna and Keira, they’re new, and so is an evil wizard named Halbert.

(Details about the ending are hidden below, stop here to avoid plot spoilers!)

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Abhorsen

Abhorsen cover

by Garth Nix

A very good ending to the trilogy, this book was heavy and sad and yet emerged triumphantly and hopefully at the end.

I fell in love with the Disreputable Dog.  She was such a great soul and a great character.  Not knowing her past and her mysterious actions almost made me wonder if she was on the bad side, but thankfully for our heroes she was not.  She was an angel.

One thing; why didn’t Sam and Lirael realize that Sabriel and Touchstone were still alive because Sabriel’s flutes were still working when they crossed the wall?  Oh well.

The Ninth was strong
and fought with might,
But lone Orannis
was put out of the light,
Broken in two
and buried under hill,
Forever to lie there,
wishing us ill.
So says the song. But Orannis, the Destroyer, is no longer buried under hill. It has been freed from its subterranean prison and now seeks to escape the silver hemispheres, the final barrier to the unleashing of its terrible powers.
Only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. For the Destroyer is the enemy of all Life, and it must be stopped, though Lirael does not know how.
To make matters worse, Sam’s best friend, Nick, is helping the Destroyer, as are the necromancer Hedge and the Greater Dead Chlorr, and there has been no word from the Abhorsen Sabriel or King Touchstone.
Everything depends upon Lirael. A heavy, perhaps even impossible burden for a young woman who just days ago was merely a Second Assistant Librarian. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the rather mixed help of her companions, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer.
Before it is too late. . .

{From http://www.abhorsentrilogy.com:

Orannis, the Destroyer, is no longer buried under hill. It has been freed from its subterranean prison and now seeks to escape the silver hemispheres, the final barrier to the unleashing of its terrible powers.

Only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. For the Destroyer is the enemy of all Life, and it must be stopped, though Lirael does not know how.

To make matters worse, Sam’s best friend, Nick, is unwittingly helping the Destroyer, as are the necromancer Hedge and the Greater Dead Chlorr, and there has been no word from the Abhorsen Sabriel or King Touchstone.

Everything depends upon Lirael. A heavy, perhaps even impossible burden for a young woman who just days ago was merely a Second Assistant Librarian. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the rather mixed help of her companions, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer.}

The Glass Word

by Kai Meyer

Completing the trilogy of the Dark Reflections series, The Glass Word reveals all the mysteries readers wondered about.  My biggest concern was: How could that entire world be enslaved?  Except for Venice the alternate view of our Earth seemed almost devoid of life, and at first even the Venetians weren’t too worried.  Now in The Glass Word we meet people from Czechoslovakia, the sea, and Egypt and hear of others elsewhere when Summer is freed.

I particularly liked the concept of Summer and Winter trying to find each other.  And the fact that Junipa was okay in the end and did not give in to the Light.  Her and Merle’s travels through the mirrors will certainly be interesting.  I hope Vermithrax, the great obsidian lion, finds his people.  I enjoyed his character, so strong, almost nothing could hurt him, and he was a guiding strength. 

It was nice to have defined the exact parameters of the epic battle between the Light and good forces.  Finally the story makes sense!  I still don’t get the relationship between Lord Light, Lalapeya, and Merle.

One thing though, that I’m sure readers everywhere scratched their heads about: why did Serafin have to die?  Was it too inconvenient to have him around anymore?  Is a happy ending too cliché?

Anyway a very interesting book.  A mixed bag of ideas that give one pause.

Freaks: Alive on the Inside

Annette Curtis Klause

An intriguing tale of circus life with some ancient Egyptian mystique as a sub plot, I very much enjoyed this narrative.  The protagonist, Abel Dandy, starts out at an idyllic resort type circus where he lives with his parents.  There he wonders if he has anything to contribute to the show, because he isn’t “different” like everybody else.  Then he heads out on his own and meets the shocking realization that not only are “freaks” ostracized, but that he is also shunned for being in contact with them!

Though he tried to evade it, responsibility finds him as he trips along a path to a mysterious secret and helps right wrongs along the way.  Full of vibrant characters, this book not only makes you smile but makes you think.

Watch out for the word “caution.”  It is used about 4 times in a different (more dated) way than usual, instead meaning “an amusing or surprising person” (Oxford American Dictionary).  Good to know.

Singer to the Sea God

by Vivien Alcock

Excellent book.  I read it a while ago, but from my memory of it I loved the pacing and excitement and ideas.  As an ardent mythical-story lover, this is gold.

“It is said that if one stares at the head of Medusa, he or she will turn to stone, but Cleo, not believing the legend, does just that and is instantly turned into a statue! Now her brother Phaidon and uncle are on a grand adventure that takes them through ancient Greece as they attempt to turn Cleo back into a mortal. Will Phaidon’s song to the sea god have the power to bring Cleo back to life?” ~ InternetBookList

Oh dear, no picture to be found.  I may have to scan in my copy and upload it.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox

by Eoin Colfer

Wow.  I loved it!  Colfer is almost certainly my favorite author of all time.  (Philip Pullman is a close second, James Herriot and J.K. Rowling vie for third!)

The danger and excitement aren’t over for Artemis and Holly.  Surprisingly this book sees them re-entering the time stream to go eight years in the past.  Here Colfer explores some interesting aspects of the ‘time paradox’ from which the sixth book gets its name.

Both Artemis and Holly have to contend with aspects of their past; Artemis gets a good look at his younger self and Holly is reminded of her mother’s death.  Plus they meet up with an old nemesis that I had an inkling readers would be seeing more of.  And still more of, because something goes wrong in the future too…

One of my favorite parts about book six is how great a person Artemis is turning into.  He is forced to be honest, he admits a betrayal, he concedes his physical ineptitude and insignificance in the universe, he has feelings, and this is the first time that he does something for someone else for no profit whatsoever.  Very nice.

One of my favorite scenes is where Holly gets to talk to Julius Root through hologram.  It was wonderful for her to get that second chance and to hear from Root how much pride and hope he felt for both Holly and Commander Trouble Kelp.  I’m glad Holly forgave Artemis.

“Arty”s little twin brothers are adorable.  They will be very interesting in future books.  The ending was awesome.

One part I still don’t get, when Holly and Artemis go back in time and Butler is behind them and thus easily subdues them, why did it happen that way?  Was Artemis’ memory wrong on that part?  Was it something the younger Artemis remembered?  Maybe I’ll find it on a fan site or an author interview or something.

In reading around I’ve seen the opinion that this book is different from the earlier books in the series.  I agree, it feels a little different.  I don’t know which is my favorite.

But thank you Colfer for another wonderful book!

Release: Brisingr, Sept 20

So, the third book in the Inheritance series came out this weekend.  I don’t know if there was a book event or not, sadly I was busy working. :(  But here’s an excerpt on msn.com for your reading pleasure:

Excerpt: Fantasy novel ‘Brisingr’

Cover of Brisingr

Cover of Brisingr

The Battle of the Labyrinth


The Battle of the Labyrinth
by Rick Riordan

Awesome! More rip-roaring fun from author Rick Riordan in this 4th book of the series. Here’s an author who really shines in the gradual culmination of a larger plot; his individual books shine on their own yet move smoothly toward the final goal. I love all the mythological facts and quirks he includes in the story, plus the trip through America’s greatest places.

lol, found this snippet of conversation on Book Dweeb’s blog:
___________________________
kawzmikgirl Says:
Apr 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Is this series REALLY worth my time? LOL No, but really. Is it good?

Team Edward!
———

Book Dweeb Says:
Apr 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm

You HAVE to check out this series if:

a. you like mythology at all
b. you like funny things
c. you are breathing

So, yeah, it is REALLY worth your time.

Oh, and…Team Jacob!
_____________________________

That was back in May when the book came out. I think it’s so funny how the Twilight series unites readers everywhere…
I love Book Dweeb’s blog, his/her critiques are informative yet succinct, telling me what I want to know. For instance, the next book I check out will be “Dragon Slippers” by Jessica Day George, a recent post. :)

Summary of Battle of the Labyrinth: “Even Camp Half-Blood isn’t safe, as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop them, Percy and his friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth — a sprawling underground world with surprises and danger at every turn. Along the way Percy will confront powerful enemies, find out the truth about the lost god Pan, and face the Titan lord Kronos’s most terrible secret. The final war begins . . . with the Battle of the Labyrinth.”

Crispin: At the Edge of the World


Crispin: At the Edge of the World
by Avi

Oh my goodness. Could this book be any more unfortunate? So depressing! How did the decision get made to kill off Bear, Crispin’s one link to reality on earth? And this book felt like one giant segue; they talk about going to the ‘edge of the world’ and then in the very last few paragraphs, “Well, I guess we’re going to the edge of the world.” Like that wasn’t already determined… can we get to some substance to match the title already?

What this book does have are good glimpses of life in the olden days of England. That part was very interesting, talking about the different regions, how people move around, the conflicts with France.

Maybe the last book will wrap everything up and actually make sense.

The Outlaws of Sherwood

Robin McKinley

A good read. I took this novel with me on my trip to France this summer and loved being able to draw it out of my purse for a few minutes while riding the metro and trains etc. Some books are just not conducive to such sporatic perusing, but this one was still very good.

I don’t know if I like Robin’s worrywart persona but I love the descriptions of the forest, the practicalities of living in it, and their smart solutions.  The character of Cecil and her falling in love with Little John reminds me of the quirky relationship between Sleeping Beauty and the blacksmith in Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End.

Here’s a great analysis by Allen W. Wright on a Robin Hood site full of information about the legend:
http://www.boldoutlaw.com/robspot/0902.html

A spot of character description:

“Fortunately, McKinley’s Marian is one of many modern attempts to restore some strength and vitality to the character.  Yes, Marian can easily outshoot Robin (in this book — who can’t?) But again, she’s far more than merely a good huntswoman.  Much of the spirit, the emotional heart, of Robin’s legend (within the book) comes from Marian.  In terms of personality, McKinley’s Marian is as strong as she’s ever been — making great personal sacrifices for the sake of the outlaws and their reputation.”

Sabriel


Sabriel, 1995 • Lirael, 2001

Garth Nix

Wow, quite a series.  Even though it is in large part about death, that should not hold anyone back from these solid stories and great pieces of fantasy literature.  I love this style so much better than Garth Nix’s other series, Keys of the Kingdom.

One day I sat down at the library with his Across the Wall – a collection of short stories that he has jotted down over the years. It was a neat read, almost like meeting the author in person. The ‘interactive narrative’ was a blast, I was cracking up the whole way and it brought me back to Paris with scenes of the Seine and Three Musketeer-ness. One of my favorite stories was the one about the gardner and the king who kept taking his roses. Interesting how such a powerful feeling can be produced in such a short passage.

Wikipedia: This book deals with the loss of family (Sabriel’s and Touchstone’s) and coming to terms with oneself and one’s responsibilities. Abhorsen’s final words to Sabriel, “Everyone and everything has a time to die,” refer to the idea of sacrifice. Another theme is that of destiny. Both the Book of the Dead and Sabriel’s almanac contain the lines: Does the Walker choose the Path, or the Path the Walker?

The book departs from the conventional form of fantasy in its resolution not to allude to the stereotypes of the genre. Death is not considered a bad thing as such, and loss is shown to be something that builds character. It also lacks a normal fantasy’s sheer cast list, of which there are typically hundreds of incidental characters and many hero-helpers.

Can’t wait to read the next one!

I love the positive reactions I see that this series gets from readers across the blogosphere: Eilidh, Anastasia, Ms. Moon, Royal Reviewers.

Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander and Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Suzanne Collins

Worth reading. It is for a little bit younger audience but I still enjoyed it very much. The author describes it as her New York version of Alice in Wonderland. She has created a fascinating world full of danger but also hope.