I should have a stack of reviews to write when I come back - I have a modern day spy/terrorist story to report on, Shannon Hale's newest children's novel (pure luxury for me to read), an excellent sounding new novel from Walker Books called The Ghost's Child and a fun-sounding book called The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I should have a stack of reviews to write when I come back - I have a modern day spy/terrorist story to report on, Shannon Hale's newest children's novel (pure luxury for me to read), an excellent sounding new novel from Walker Books called The Ghost's Child and a fun-sounding book called The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I fell in love with comics when I was a child and devoured as many volumes of ‘Tintin’ and ‘Asterix’ as I could lay my hands on. But there was no manga available in translation then and it wasn’t till many years later – thanks to my eldest son Tom (also a keen devourer of comics) – that I discovered first anime, and then manga. I’d been hooked on classic Japanese films since seeing ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Kwaidan’ at uni, and, as a fantasy writer, had been toying with an idea for a novel set in the Heian era, so my first serious encounter, with CLAMP’s ‘Tokyo Babylon’, was a revelation. Only then did I realize that many mangaka (manga artists) were exploring the same fantasy themes that appealed to me; I felt an immediate kinship with their work!
The recent extraordinary growth of manga in translation in the US has undoubtedly been fuelled by the successful broadcasting of popular shounen anime TV series such as ‘Dragon Ball Z,’ ‘Naruto,’ and ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ So I thought I’d share a few favourite titles that may not be so widely known. All of them could best be described as fantasy shoujo, but just because their main target audience is teenage girls doesn’t mean that they won’t appeal to older readers (Stephanie Meyer, anyone?).
Black Sun, Silver Moon by Tomo Maeda, published by Go! Comi Volumes 1-6 16+
In the mountains of Eastern Europe stands a church on the edge of a village…but no worshippers attend the services. The priest, Shikimi Farkash, seems a mild-mannered, pleasant individual... although, unusually for one aged only twenty-eight, his hair is silver. When eighteen-year-old Taki arrives to act as Shiki’s housekeeper, he discovers the reason Shiki’s services are shunned by the villagers: he must help the priest destroy the ‘resurrected’, the newly-buried dead who, possessed by demons, rise from the graveyard to stalk the living. But that’s not quite all. “Taki,” Shiki tells him with his strange smile, “someday you will have to kill me.”
Something demonic has taken possession of Shiki and turned his hair and eyes silver, the colour associated with demons; soon the last vestiges of his humanity will disappear. He is resigned to his fate – but Taki stubbornly refuses to accept it. “If humans can be turned into demons,” he protests, “the opposite should be possible too. We’ll find a way together!”
Into this strange household comes an adorable silver-furred puppy, Agi, who attaches herself devotedly to Taki. Is she the lost puppy he once cherished as a boy? Not long after, a fiery young demon slayer, called Laszlo turns up, determined to destroy Shikimi. Laz insists that he’s a boy, but the protests ring a little hollowly in Taki’s ears, especially as Laz seems to take a liking to Shikimi, the very man she’s been sent to slay. Later still arrives a strange and sinister individual who calls himself Grey; he claims to have known Shikimi before his hair turned silver. Only now do the tragic and horrific facts of Shikimi’s past begin to be revealed. Shiki’s behaviour becomes more bizarre and unpredictable, yet Taki is all the more determined to save his master and reverse his slow, inexorable descent into demonhood.
Tomo Maeda has a delicate, ethereal style of drawing which suits her dark tale only too well. This is no violent gore-fest like ‘Hellsing’ – nor is it a passionate blood-sucking high-school romance, like ‘Vampire Knight’. Instead it builds its atmosphere of claustrophobia and horror slowly and quietly, so that when something genuinely appalling happens, it’s all the more distressing because reader has come to care about the people involved. It’s not all quiet gloom and despair, either; Maeda enlivens her narrative with touches of gentle humour, reminiscent of her charming Boys Love ghost story ‘Beyond my Touch’ (published by June OT 16+). Laz’s bickering with Taki and undead Agi’s cute yet mischievous background antics add a lightness that contrasts well with the darker shadows drawing closer around Shikimi’s unconventional little household. The seventh and final volume is due out in October.
‘This dream draws blood…’
In the dream world, everyone appears on the outside how they are on the inside, which can make it almost impossible to guess who they are back in the real world. All Mashiro’s fears and insecurities are soon laid bare; his dilemma as to who he really is: a boy – or a girl – is revealed to the other students taking part in the dream class. So who is the knight in the suit of black armour who mercilessly attacks Mashiro? Or the cruel-hearted child in the gothloli dress? What about the paper giraffe? Or the girl without a face? The only one Mashiro recognizes is Kureha, his classmate, a pretty girl who hates men after surviving an appalling sexual assault when she was little.
Torn in his affections between the vulnerable Kureha (who loves him because he is not like the other boys) and Sou, an aloof, arrogant boy who has slept his way through most of the girls in the class, Mashiro must try to decide what gender he/she truly wants to be. “How can I love someone when I don’t even know my own gender?”
The high school setting has become a manga cliché, yet subtle little touches (what does the black moon mean?) make ‘After School Nightmare’ fresh, painful, and involving. The colour artwork on the jacket and at the beginning of some volumes is especially beautiful, reinforcing the dreamlike atmosphere of the narrative.
Setona Mizushiro has spun an addictive, disturbing tale which constantly challenges the reader’s expectations. It is genuinely moving at times – and brutally harsh at others, a true metaphor for the pains and joys of adolescence and the slow discovery of self. She provides no easy answers – and the superb final volumes (9 and 10 are still to be published in English translation later this year) bring extraordinary and unexpected revelations.
‘Voice or Noise’ by Yamimaru Enjin Blu OT 16+ Vols 1-2 ongoing
If the idea of same-sex relationships makes you queasy, then avoid this next title – although its depiction of the painful acknowledgment of first love is poignantly and realistically portrayed. ‘Voice or Noise’ is all about communication and miscommunication.
Shinichiro’s dog Flappy has begun to misbehave; but a routine trip to the vet’s results in an unexpected referral. For respected young college professor Narusawa has a rare gift; he can communicate with animals. Yet Narusawa-san is no jolly Doctor Dolittle figure; he may be gifted in his chosen profession, but he is not good with people, as his ability to hear what the creatures around him are saying has made him feel alienated and ‘different’. So when Shinichiro tracks him down at his college and blurts out in front of his students, “Professor, you can talk to animals!” of course he denies that he can help. It’s his black cat, Acht, who provides an unexpected bridge between young Shinichiro and the aloof and prickly Narusawa. For Shinichiro can understand every word that Acht says to him. Does he possess the same gift as Narusawa? Will Narusawa understand him and help him develop his skills?
For a cat-owner like myself, Acht is a delight: fickle, preening, constantly interfering in the relationships of the humans around him, yet hiding a sadness beneath his confident exterior. And Yamimaru Enjin’s drawings of Acht are just adorable! But just as adorable is the depiction of the growing understanding between young Shinichiro and the remote Narusawa, an understanding that begins to develop into something deeper. Yet when Shinichiro realizes that Narusawa has been using crows to keep watch over him, he can’t handle the situation any more.
A WORD OF WARNING…
Yet beware. If you venture into the addictive world of manga and find yourself irretrievably hooked, there are untold perils that await you (apart from the hole in your wallet). A genre that uses the cliffhanger ending to keep its readers desperate for more is dependent on the mangakas reaching their deadlines in time. For almost all manga is published first in weekly or monthly magazines, before the successful series are collected and republished in tankoubon (volumes). And sometimes…no, alas, far too often…those deadlines are missed. The artists are only human, after all! Or, worse still, manga magazines fold and series go on hiatus with tantalizing plotlines left unresolved, characters frozen in limbo, and frustrated readers wondering what might have happened next if only… But those words ‘ongoing’ may mean that there will be a long wait for the next volume to appear.
It would be a shame to conclude without some recommendations for some new series due to be published over the next few months, so here are a few hot tips for fantasy-themed manga that I’ll be looking out for:
‘Silver Diamond’ by Shiho Sugiura published by Tokyopop (Volume 1 already available). Don’t be deceived by Sugiura’s delicate – yet delicious – drawings; her story of a lost prince coming to earth from a dying world has touches of wicked humour, as well as a cast of seriously handsome bishounen (beautiful young men).
A boy with a magical artefact that give him unimaginable powers may not be the most original of fantasy subjects – but the author and artist of ’07 – GHOST’ have put an intriguing spin on the tale of young Teito Kline and the terrifying Seven Ghosts. Convincing characterization, breathtaking action sequences, and dazzlingly different artwork make this a very impressive debut; one to watch!
‘Gestalt’ by Yun Kouga to be published by Viz in 2009. This should be a treat for all Yun Kouga fangirls like me; this fantasy series dates from 1995-2001 but has never been published in an English translation as far as I’m aware before. It acts as an interesting bridge between ‘Earthian’, Kouga-sensei’s breakthrough series about angels which began in the late 80’s and her ongoing dark fantasy ‘Loveless’. One thing is certain: the artwork will be gorgeous.
A quick glossary for readers not familiar with the main categories within manga:
Shounen – manga aimed (mostly) at boys, with a strong action content e.g. ‘Dragon Ball Z,’ ‘Naruto,’ ‘Bleach’
Shoujo – manga aimed (mostly) at girls, with greater development of characters and relationships, often through dialogue e.g. ‘Fruits Basket,’ ‘Fushigi Yugi,’ ‘Cardcaptor Sakura.’
Seinen – manga aimed at an older male readership, with more complicated plot lines and adult material e.g. ‘Monster,’ ‘Berserk,’
Josei – manga aimed at an older female readership, dealing with more mature issues e.g. ‘Nana,’ ‘Walkin’ Butterfly,’ ‘Nodame Cantabile’
Within these four broad categories can be found many different genres ranging from sports and cooking manga through science fiction, thrillers, Boys Love, samurai, mecha, etc. etc. A recent hit in Japan is the wine-themed series ‘Kami No Shizuku’ (‘The Drops of God’) which has actually increased demand for the wines featured in the manga.
Go read – and enjoy! There’s something to suit every taste in the wide world of manga. (As long as you don’t mind reading from right to left…a skill soon acquired by the ardent manga-fan.)
"The major breakthrough came when I bought my first word processor, an Amstrad 9512. For years I'd struggled with my faithful old typewriter; the wpc freed me from having to correct all my typos and the endless frustrating trips to the photocopying shop.
A reviewer's life is rock 'n roll, all the way!
These are dark times and in such times, horror’s disease spreads tendrils into even the purest hearts. If you’re reading this, you’re probably infected already.
Watch for symptoms.
When your very eyes drip pus and venom, don’t call the doctor: a shotgun is the only medicine.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Director Guillermo del Toro has announced plans to write a trilogy of vampire novels with crime author Chuck Hogan.
The 43-year-old, best known for making Pans Labyrinth, Hellboy and The Devil's Backbone, said the trilogy would advance in "unexpected ways".
The first book, The Strain, will be released next summer.
Earlier this month it was reported that del Toro had signed a four-picture deal with film studio Universal.
Trade magazine Variety said the deal would tie him up for the next decade.
There are plans to remake Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.
Del Toro has also been lined up to direct two films based on The Hobbit and other works by JRR Tolkien.
However, the Mimic director has a very clear idea of how the books will read.
"Each book contains unique and surprising revelations about the history, physiology and lore of the vampiric race, tracing its roots all the way back to its Old Testament origins."
Hogan's novels include The Blood Artists, The Killing Moon and Prince of Thieves, which is being adapted into a feature film, starring and directed by Ben Affleck.
LARPERS and Cosplay peeps, he is clearly making this one just for you!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We are delighted to announce that preparations are underway to present the inaugural ‘David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy’ for the best Fantasy novel of the year (2008). The Award has the official support of Stella Gemmell, and has been instigated by friends and professional colleagues to celebrate David’s life and literary legacy.
Nominations are currently being sought from Editors of every major genre Fantasy list for full-length novels, in the English language, first published in 2008. The nominated novels must be deemed Fantasy in the spirit of David Gemmell’s own work. All nominated work will be added to the ‘Longlist’ – which will then be voted upon by the reading public on the Award website.
Voting will not be closing until March 2009, which will ensure readers a chance to read, and vote upon, all the nominees. The top 5 novels will go forward to the Shortlist phase, with the winner decided by a panel of Fantasy experts (to be announced on the website).
For any further information, please check the website for frequent updates: http://gemmellaward.com/
Please help spread the word of this amazing award - David Gemmell wrote epic stories with larger than life characters. His death was a loss to the fantasy community and to thousands of his fans and friends.
The award is going to shake up the industry. Spread the word, visit the site and sign up to become a member and support the award. Stan Nichols and Deborah worked so hard to get this done - they are absolutely amazing and our thanks goes out to David's wife, Stella, who took it upon herself to finish his final novel, to critical acclaim. Stella's agreed to this award, in the memory of her legendary husband. This is our way to honour him. He might be gone, but he definitely will not be forgotten.
The thing about Writing Movies is: if you are a movie-fan, of any genre, or if you are interested in movies in any way, shape or form, or if you would one day like to be a successful screenwriter, then this is the book for you. It really helps you analyse movies that you've enjoyed and helps you concentrate on so many more things going on at the same time on the screen, that you as a layman might not notice the first time around. Another thing about Writing Movies: if you are a writer, across any genre, of novels or short stories, this is also the book for you.
I can see you thinking: yah, yah, Liz has eventually lost the plot. But I promise you, I haven't. I have probably learned more from Writing Movies about tightening up scenes and character exposition, than I have from some of the other How To writing books out there. It also shines this spotlight on your own work which leads you to examine your own writing in a very critical way and you realise there is a lot you can pare off and trim, something Mr. Stephen King is very clinical about in his "On Writing".
It makes you think, when looking at the screenplays they hold up as examples, or when you examine your own favourite flicks, that no matter how long the movie is, that the stories are told in scenes that are strong and vivid along with tight dialogue -not an ounce of fat to be had, no matter how languorous the shots are over the landscape - cue John Woo's Brokeback Mountain.
The Gotham Writers workshop can be found online here. Writing Movies has been published by A&C Black here in the UK and can be bought directly from their website or from any online retailer or any good bookshop.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Ramsey Campbell's THE GRIN OF THE DARK won the Best Novel award at this year's 2008 British Fantasy Awards. Which is pretty darn cool, especially as he is a client to the lovely John Jerrold.
Eoin Colfer, author of the fabulous Artemis Fowl books, has been signed up to write a further volume in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.
Comics Exhibition at Harrods: (article swiped from The British Fantasy Society's page!)
Curated by Rich Johnston, writer of Lying in the Gutters, the Harrods "Comic Timing" Exhibition will run until 31 October 2008. It is located on the Lower Ground Floor and is directly down the stairs from Door Five, by the Knightsbridge Tube exit.
The exhibition includes original artwork from comics and comic strips as diverse as: Watchmen, Judge Dredd, The Bash Street Kids, Dennis the Menace (1950s) Korky the Kat (1930s), Oor Wullie (1940s), Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, From Hell, Tamara Drewe, Petra Etcetera, Commando, Finbar Saunders and His Double Entendres, Tank Girl, Tale of One Bad Rat, Mauretania, Captain Britain, Phonogram, Breakfast After Noon, Slaine, Robusters, Summer Of Love, Four Feet From A Rat, Rhapsody Of Love, All Star Superman, The Filth (as seen on the right), Hellblazer, Nellyphant, Face Ache, Jackie, Commando, Gentleman Jim, Look-In, Cherubs, Judge Death, Jack Staff, Books Of Magic, Superfly, Goddess, Wired World, and Charley’s War.
Pieces have been loaned by the likes of Rufus Dayglo (a comics art dealer who began his career diving in skips outside publishers who often just threw the original art work away, and now represents many British artists), the DC Thomson Archive, the London Cartoon Museum and many private collectors. Most of the work on display has never been seen by the public in its original form.
David Lloyd, artist of V For Vendetta, will be on the Harrods stage on September 29 to present a look at the life of the book to date: its beginning, its long drawn out publication, from the pages of Warrior to those of the DC mini-series, up to its eventual adaptation by the Wachowski Brothers as the Natalie Portman-powered movie.
The exhibition was organised by Harrods Head of Creative, James Chittenden.
Pop over to SciFi Concept to view volume 2 of the excellent ezine, available in various formats.
The new Tor website is awesome, if you've not visited in the past, do so! This is the link.
Whilst over at Transworld Publishers' Blog, Between the Lines, there's an article on the launch of Nation, Terry Pratchett's new book.
The new Writing Magazine (October issue) has an interesting article with Neil "The God" Gaiman in it. And from that, an email I got from Chris over at The Book Swede saying the following, about Neil's visit to the UK, specifically about his signing at Blackwells in London, which Chris in turn culled from Neil's website: and to suggest that it might not be entirely inappropriate if people wanted to come in costume, given the date and all. And that if enough people do turn up in costume, I suspect that I could talk Bloomsbury or Blackwells into making some kind of prize for the best one, as long as I didn't have to decide which it was. (But make sure that any costume is comfortable enough to sit for a couple of hours in, and won't stray into your neighbour's seat or jab them with sharp bits.)
If anyone of you are fans of Cornelia Funke, the trailer for the movie that's been made out of Inkheart, is now online. You can find it here. There is also a fantastic article by Cornelia Funke in this month's Waterstones magazine about incorporating myth and legend into storytelling. A must read for aspiring and existing authors out there.
And then, if you've been a fan of Xena or Hercules tv shows, or of Terry Goodkind's Wizards First Rule, do I have news for you! The new series based on Terry's work is due for release shortly. This is the official website with a raft of trailers and posters. It looks good and has been shot on location in NZ. The show is to be called: Legend of the Seeker....
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Jack Howard is about to discover a secret. Perhaps the greatest secret ever kept What if one of the Ancient World's greatest libraries was buried in volcanic ash and then re-discovered two thousand years later? What if what was found there was a document that could shatter the very foundations of the Western World? What if you were the one who discovered this secret? And were then forced to confront terrifying enemies determined to destroy you to ensure it goes no further? This is the story of one last Gospel, left behind in the age of the New Testament, in the greatest days of the Roman Empire, and of its extraordinary secret, one that has lain concealed for years. Follow Jack Howard as he discovers the secret and must prevent others from doing the same...
This is one of the toughest books I’ve read in a long time. David Gibbins pulls no punches when it comes to the depth of his research in any of his books, but The Last Gospel is something else entirely: part quest novel, part treasure hunt, part mystery adventure with strong elements of conspiracy theory to keep almost everyone happy, it is a full time learning curve which leads to an all out interesting book that keeps you reading to the very last page.
His characters have already been established in his previous novels: Atlantis and Crusader Gold and when you meet them in The Last Gospel there is an easy camaraderie between Jack and Costas that is quite real and it doesn’t feel forced. Also, each novel is standalone, so you can immediately pick up on the various characters without much hassle.
I mentioned earlier that it is one of the toughest books I’ve read in a long time, purely because of the subject matter – you are expected to do a lot of catching up on the various bits of history they follow up on, from: from St Paul to emperor Claudius to Herod to the Nazarene himself, thrown in general information about Rome as an empire, Pliny the Elder and Younger and the excavations done at both Pompeii and Herculaneum to present. A lot of history is covered, a lot of exposition, but it serves to set the tone of the book. It is an intelligent adventure story that is saved from being tedious by a plot that is tightly written and enjoyable characters. Costas is the perfect foil to Jack’s brainy comments and I found myself making my own notes to read up on Claudius, Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The author, himself a marine archaeologist, draws on a lot of his own experiences, so the scenes of discovery is made to seem very real. My only gripe for this book is that the relationship with the mysterious Elizabeth is not delved into, nor her relationship with the mystery people who are involved in keeping the finds at Herculaneum secret. I would assume that the next book will no doubt deal with Elizabeth’s legacy to Jack – it will make for interesting reading.
This is an intelligent archaeological adventure thriller written by an author who clearly enjoys throwing his two heroes into the midst of a quest and then sits back to find the best way to get them out it again, by any means possible.
The Last Gospel is very much a long lazy weekend read, either by the sea or on the couch, now that the evenings are drawing near. It is a meaty and satisfying read and ticks the right boxes for this genre, especially if you are a history nut and you enjoy picking up new information to research. I really look forward to Mr. Gibbins’ next book – as the previous three have not disappointed, he will no doubt be going from strength to strength.
Find out more about David Gibbins, author and archaeologist here . The Last Gospel is published by Headline and is available at all good bookstores and online.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
After squeeling at poor Ms. Murphy like a stuck pig and monopolising her time to have her sign my three books in The Walker Papers series and the new Negotiator Trilogy books as well as TWO copies of The Queen's Bastard, I settled down and chatted with Trisha from Murder One who really is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.
She then in turn introduced me to Cassandra Claire who was strolling about the shop with two friends. Yep, you guessed it, more squeeling and hugging and professing undying love to poor Cassie. She handled it with great aplomb.
I also met Sarah Rees Brennan who has something lovely and tasty coming up from the wonderful peeps at Simon and Schuster UK in 2009. It is called “The Demon’s Lexicon” and it looks AMAZING! This is the link to her hugely professional site.
They eventually tore themselves away from my clinging hands and went off to have dinner. After more chatting and looking through Sian from FP’s autograph book and being suitably impressed by the coolness of the various authors and guests (Glen Fabry rocks) who wrote her little notes, we packed up our goods and I hauled all my books upstairs to pay and spotted lovely Lexi (aka Skarrah on LJ) . More squeeling and hugging and introductions all around. We decamped to Murder One for Catie to sign the stock Trisha had (go buy ‘em!) and made general nuisances of ourselves around the shop.
Five of us trundled off to dinner (clanwilliam from LJ, her lovely lad ghm, Catie, Lexi and I) and had an absolute whale of a time. Then, because it was a school night, there were hugs all around and we waved goodbye – Lexi and I trundled off to Charing Cross where I made sure she got on the RIGHT train and I subsequently got on the WRONG train due to platform alterations which I was not paying any attention to.
I got off at Hither Green, found a lovely chap from the local taxi company to drive me home, clutching my bag o’loot to me, trying not to yawn my head off. Thanks so much to Cassie, Sarah, Clanwilliam, GHM, Catie and Lexi for a fabulous night. I have resolved to do as many Cons as I can next year, to work on my geek-quotient. And because I also want to have war-stories to tell like Clanwillian and Catie!
Anyone up for Irish MeCon next year?
So this has NOTHING to do with book reviews but can I just say: Aragorn the Divine (specifically in The Two Towers) on a full HD TV being played through HD DVD = both Mark and Liz going: hmmm HD Aragorn....and then going quiet for a few moments, just you know, taking the time to appreciate the complete hawtness and masculinity.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The gods of Olympus are alive in the 21st Century. They still fall in love with mortals and have children who might become great heroes, but most of these children meet horrible fates at the hands of monsters by the age of twelve. Only a few learn the truth of their identity and make it to Half Blood Hill, a Long Island summer camp dedicated to training young demigods. Such is the revelation that launches young Percy Jackson on a quest to help his real father, Poseidon, avert a war among the gods. With the help of Grover the satyr and Annabeth the daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction - Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, they face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop them. Most of all, Percy must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.
I relished reading this and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I knew some of the story, from having picked the books up previously in various shops and reading about them online and I was therefore absolutely thrilled when Puffin Books decided to send me the first three in the series to read.
Rick Riordan writes with supreme ease from the first person perspective as Percy. Percy is your average kid who tries to make it through the normal school day without getting into trouble, but it’s hard to do when your teachers try and do you serious damage. He manages to survive an attack by his maths teacher but something weird is going on...no one else seems to recall her ever teaching at his school! Things get a bit weird from there onwards.
I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s style of writing. It is humorous and witty and quite tongue in cheek. Percy never becomes a chore to read and his friends, Annabeth and Grover have been established for future books. I’ve not read any of the other covers of the series as yet, so I’m going in blind, but I hope they make a come-back, purely because there is a lot of good stories to tell.
I enjoyed the light touch the author had when it came to explaining who the deities were and why they were alive and well and occupying the Empire State Buidling’s topmost floor. It is a well researched book giving you an interesting ride through classical mythology along the way, without it impacting on the pace of the book. My favorite does have to be Mr. D, who runs the Half Blood Hill training school. Dumbledore can move over – Mr. D rocks. Literally.
It is interesting to watch Percy struggle to accept his status as a demi-god and to see how he deals with the quest they decide to send him on. I found it interesting to see how he coped with the various stages of the quest, some of it truly hilarious, and found his solutions to some of the problems that came his way as very clever – almost A-Team / MacGuyver clever.
The writing is tight and clear and as I mentioned earlier, I am hoping that Percy’s friends make a come-back because every hero needs sidekicks who mirror them in order to show their strengths and impart wisdom. I particularly appreciated the end of the novel, where Percy turns a tricky situation over to someone else, leaving them to decide the “out”. Naturally the repercussion is something he will no doubt have to answer for later on, but I thought it was a deft way to show the Percy’s growth as hero.
A fun read, littered with enough mythological creatures to satisfy Angela Carter herself.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For centuries now, they have remained within the fastnesses of the Harukush Mountains. They have become little more than a rumour.
In the vast world beyond, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf have been united within the bounds of the Asurian Empire, a continent-spanning colossus. The Empire rules the known world, and is invincible. The Great King of Asuria can call up whole nations to the battlefield. His word is law across the face of the earth.
But now the Great King’s brother means to take the throne by force, and in order to do so he has sought out the legend. He hires ten thousand mercenary warriors of the Macht, and leads them into the heart of the Empire.
When we meet Rictus, he’s made peace with the fact that he’s about to die. What he doesn’t realise is that fate has other plans for him, plans that will see his youth burned away in the forge-heat of battle.
I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going at first; having the hero spitting blood and making peace with his gods isn’t how I expected things to start. The setup is the snowball tipped over the edge of the mountain though. It builds on itself and becomes a thundering behemoth that bullies you into staying up late at night with the promise of ‘one more page’.
Paul paints a wonderfully gritty, solid feel to the legion of the Macht. The Kuf are rendered both exotic and mundane, alien and human.. but it’s what happens when these worlds collide that gives the second half of the book that extra va-va-voom that keeps you turning the page long after you should have turned the lights off. The battles bring the filth, fear and brutality of war to vivid life; the desolation of the aftermath lingers long after the swords are sheathed.
I'm pretty fussy when it comes to action; Liz can attest to the number of books I've binned after losing interest in a character's fate; I'm happy to say that Ten Thousand was never in danger of sharing their ignominious fate.
If you’re looking for intelligent action, look no further. Give those nice people your money and take Ten Thousand home with you.
(I'm still pretty depressed about Jason though. Poor bugger.)
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I was absolutely delighted when this dropped through the letterbox.
I packed it in my bag for lazy day out we had planned, expecting to be able to read it at my leisure. However, things didn’t quite go as planned and on the drive home we found ourselves stuck in the gigantic parking lot known as the M25. Sick of the drivel on the radio and the CD’s in the player, I asked Liz to dig out the Black Ship and read me a page or two.
After only a little pleading, she agreed and so it was that the newest Tales of Terror were told to me as they should be. I can’t remember the last time anyone read to me; I can happily say that the Tales are perfectly suited for this kind of storytelling. If you like your kids clinging to you at night I’d recommend reading these as bedtime stories!
Not surprisingly, given the title, this volume of Tales has a nautical theme. We meet the sickly siblings Ethan and Cathy as they wait for their father to return one storm lashed night. In the deep of the night they answer a knock on the door, and we meet the enigmatic Mr Thackeray, a sailor seeking shelter from the storm that rages beyond the Old Inn. To repay their kindness and pass the time, he kindly offers to tell them stories from the high seas, terrifying tales which couldn’t possibly be true..
Chris has a talent for tension. It lurks in every sentence, a gently nagging feeling that something isn’t right.. it takes hold early, and becomes increasingly insistent until the dreadful truth of things spills out. The tales are laced with mischievous menace,told with relish and beg to be read out loud by firelight. On Halloween.
‘The Boy in the Boat’ was a particular treat, the promise of something dark and dreadful woven through every sentence, staying with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It creeped Liz out completely.
Dave Roberts’ scratchy illustrations suit the tone of the book perfectly, flavouring the pages with a sense of childish mischief and lurking horror.
All in, it's a wonderful book and a welcome addition to my hoard. I can only hope there’s more to come- it would be a crying shame if there isn’t.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Under the harsh regime of an ambitious master, Eon is training to become a Dragoneye – a powerful Lord able to command wind and water to protect the land. But Eon also harbours a desperate secret – he is in fact Eona, a young woman living a dangerous masquerade that, if discovered, will mean certain death.Brought to the attention of the Emperor himself and summoned to the opulent court, Eon is thrust into the heart of a lethal struggle for the Imperial throne.
There are times when you pick up a book and you are hesitant as the concept described on the back seems a bit overwhelming and you can’t help but think that maybe the author’s not going to be successful in pulling off this epic story.
Then you start reading it and you are completely and utterly at a loss for words and all you want to do is squeal. Because it is just that amazingly good.
As I mentioned elsewhere I am a huge fan of the kung fu genre. I am also a dedicated fan of Lian Hearn and was therefore really pleased to see that Two Pearls of Wisdom is recommended for fans of Lian’s work.
The Two Pearls of Wisdom follows Eon as a young trainee in a quest to become a Dragoneye, someone who can work closely with the Ascending Dragon in order to help command wind and water to protect the land.
Eon has a secret – she is in fact a girl. And it could mean her death and the death of her master if she is found out. She is also a cripple, her hip had been damaged years ago in an accident, yet Eon manages to overcome this disability by hard work, doing her best not to let it rule her life.
I don’t want to ruin the story, by dropping plot spoilers, so I’ll do the same as above where it says she comes to the attention of the Emperor and the young Heir.
The antagonist in the story, Lord Ido, is wonderfully portrayed as a scheming, charming man, prone to fits of incredible rage. The first glimpse of him had me thinking: Eon stands no chance. I am looking forward to see how he develops in the next book as there was a definite twist at the end of The Two Pearls of Wisdom which took me by surprise, insofar as his character went.
The story is littered with beautiful imagery and it is easy to imagine the setting and the courtly way of life.
Eon’s character is finely drawn, throwing in a bit of Mulan (the deception), to the magic and mystery of the heroines from great films like CTHD, Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The author, Alison Goodman, takes her time to establish Eon in our mindseye. She uses vivid settings and interaction with other minor characters to show off Eon’s abilities, her fears and insecurities.
If you think you might be put off by a massive cast of characters, allow me to allay your fears. Here we deal with a small handful of characters, all very well drawn, set on a path to either help or hinder Eon.
The Two Pearls of Wisdom is a fantastic read with an engaging main character, a strongly imagined setting which draws on elements of martial arts, feng shui and political intrigue that has you tearing through the book at a very rapid pace. The second book, the conclusion to The Two Pearls of Wisdom should be published in the near future. Watch this space!
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Jack Fletcher is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan – his beloved father and the crew lie slaughtered by ninja pirates.
The clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in this cool, urban 21st century faery tale. Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries. Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world, and would blind her if they knew of her Sight. Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries. Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer. Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention. But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King and has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost! Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working any more, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.
I have heard some genuinely good things about Melissa Marr's writing (thanks Karen!) and was therefore very chuffed to find a copy of Wicked Lovely at my local Waterstones on Oxford Street.
And in a testament to how engaging I found the book, I read it in one evening.
The story is as old as time itself...a faerie lord desires a human girl, he declares his desire and that girl stands no chance, at all. A bit unfair, I always thought. What chance does this poor girl stand? She doesn't even put up a token resistance. What a farce.
Marr takes that opinion too and has Aislinn be the one to stand firmly against Keenan. She finds him beautiful yes, scary and annoying, but she fights and does not give in. She refuses to be swayed, to fall under his spell. She clings to the teachings her Gran taught her and she clings to Seth, a boy who is as remarkable as a human can be, when contrasted against the glory of Keenan, the Summer King.
An interesting counter-point to Keenan's belief that Aislinn is "the one" we have Donia, the Winter Girl, whom Keenan thought many years ago to "the one" too. I found Donia's story to be heartbreaking. Still in love with Keenan, after so many years, but being unable to be with him, she has to watch him go through years and years of young girls, whom he tempts into taking the test, to be "the one". None of them chooses to take the test...instead they become part of a group of young female fae called The Summer Girls. Donia is trapped as the Winter Girl until someone can be convinced to take up the challenge to become the Summer Queen and succeed.
Keenan's mother, the Winter Queen, has effectively bound Keenan's powers until he finds a girl to stand by his side as the Summer Queen. Winters are becoming colder and summers are becoming shorter. Without a Summer Queen, the Summer King's powers are curtailed and can be hugely detrimental to the world at large.
It is a deftly written book. Aislinn's character is a well developed and initially I thought she was going to be a flash in the pan, blindly following Keenan but once she showed some backbone I cheered her on. Seth remains remarkable as her best friend and later, as something more. He does sound delicious, I have to admit. Keenan could so very easily have become a one dimensional character - obsessing about Aislinn, but we are introduced to his inner turmoil by the small interludes he has with his mother - who is, in plain words, a bitch. He is fighting for his own existence and that of his court, and importantly, in a roundabout way, for the continued existence of humanity. His mother has managed to browbeat him so much that he sulks, like a petulant child, until Aislinn stands by him, voluntarily to ward off the Winter Queen.
I punched the air in glee, going "yes!" when I read that section. But all is still not well. Aislinn has definite ideas about being her role in all of this. She is a clever negotiator. Keenan is taken aback and we find Donia's heart breaking as she watches it all from the sidelines.
I really enjoyed reading Wicked Lovely much more than I thought I would. It ranks, to me, up there with Holly Black's Tithe in the YA Urban Fantasy genre. It's written with a new slant, an unwilling Queen who remains unwilling but does what she has to do because it is the right thing to do in the end. It shows true friendship, it highlights the loneliness of someone in a role of responsibility and how hard it is to break out a role which others have created for you, so that you can be your own person.
Melissa Marr has quite a following and you can find her site here - if you follow the links to her livejournal site, do check out some of the youtube videos fans have made of the book. Excellent work!
But a great light casts a great shadow.