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Archive for the Category » fantasy «

Audiobook Review: Nine Princes In Amber, By Roger Zelazny

I know that Nine Princes In Amber is considered one of the great fantasy classics, but my reaction: Meh.

First off, I loved Alessandro Juliani’s skillful narration of this book, but I had a hard time caring about Corwin, the book’s narrator.

Written in a style frequently reminiscent of hard-boiled detective novels, awkwardly combined with the occasional bit of pseudo-Elizabethan dialog, this very short book follows the adventures of a man who wakes up, amnesiac, in a private hospital, and makes a daring escape, followed by the eventual revelation of his true identity as a royal price of Amber, a kingdom located in a alternate universe.

Once he discovers who he is (and that he’s part of a large brood of seemingly-immortal, mostly-amoral siblings), he reveals himself to be mostly self-centered, ambitious, and ruthless, with occasional flashes of decency and compassion (though not enough to make him a very sympathetic character). His goal–to prevail against his other brothers, and seize the throne of his late father.

To do this, he forms and breaks alliances with various of his other brothers and sisters, and recruits a huge army of gullible aliens (who believe him a god) to use as cannon-fodder. In a sparsely-described campaign (and how did Corwin manage his supply lines for his 250,000 soldiers as they conducted a perilous march through hostile dimensions?) he manages to gets every last one of his followers killed in an ill-advised and poorly-planned assault upon Amber, and his own life is subsequently placed in grave peril.

While these events were exciting, the book failed to spark my interest in listening to subsequent volumes because I simply didn’t care whether Corwin became king, or one of his other brothers. They all seemed equally arrogant and awful to me, a bunch of entitled, privileged scions who considered all those not of royal blood to be mere pawns in their game of thrones.

Book Review: The Lies Of Locke Lamora

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this fantasy novel, and what a fun story it was!

The Lies of Locke Lamora is set in a world littered with the mysterious buildings and artifacts of an alien civilization, master con-man Lock Lamora and his band of sworn brothers set out to swindle the nobility, Robin Hood-style, in a setting that mingles Renaissance Italy and Dickensian London.

An orphan sold to a notorious thief-master, and trained as a pickpocket and petty thief, Locke is a born troublemaker, a restless genius with a knack for biting off more than he can chew, and leaving chaos and unintended destruction in his wake. Along with Jean Tannen, warrior and intellectual, a young thief nicknamed ‘Bug,’ and a set of larcenous twin brothers, Carlo and Galdo, Locke is later adopted by a priest determined to train a select group of thieves to prey upon the city’s upper classes, and ultimately to break the power of the city’s Capo, the master of all the criminal gangs.

Unfortunately for Locke and his gang, a new and mysterious criminal figure, nicknamed The Gray King, is also determined to take over the city’s criminal underworld…and the Gray King has a frightening and powerful sorcerer at his bidding. What follows catapults Locke into a complex scheme of revenge and bloody conflict as he finds himself cast into the role of the city’s unwilling savior.

Loved the high-spirited plot and the sharp dialogue, enhanced by a wonderful performance from narrator Michael Page, who gives each character a distinctive voice and characterization. I’ve already downloaded the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and am looking forward the publication of the third book in the series in October 2013.

Book Review: Magic’s Poison By Gillian Bradshaw

I’m a big fan of Gillian Bradshaw’s historical novels (her Island of Ghosts: A Novel of Roman Britain  is one of my all-time favorite books), so when I saw that she had a fantasy series available, self-published in Kindle format, I was intrigued.

I just finished reading the first volume, Magic’s Poison, and enjoyed it very much.

Bradshaw has created a fascinating world, a strong (but, refreshingly, not superhuman) and sympathetic heroine, and a wonderful conflict centering around the semi-reptilian Ophidians and their legacy of magic-enhancing venom. The story itself moves along at a fairly fast pace, with lots of escalating jeopardies as the sorceress Marin’s initial peril uncovers a bigger and more dangerous plot.

If there was a weak element, it was that I didn’t feel the romance between Marin and the Duke was very well-developed. I could understand why she was attracted to him, and he to her, but I felt that the actual development of a relationship between them was short-changed in the course of the novel. For a while, I actually thought that the duke’s secretary was going to be her romantic interest–the development of their friendship and mutual respect after their initial rough introduction worked well.

However, that was just a minor quibble in an otherwise well-written and engaging novel. I’m looking forward to reading the other volumes in this series.

Buy Magic’s Poison from Amazon!

One Of My Favorite Fantasy Novels…

A discussion over coffee with some friends today reminded of one of my all-time favorite novels, Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey.

Kushiel’s Dart is the first book in a triple trilogy set in this world, and they are all complex, interesting, entertaining stories, but the first novel remains my favorite.

Here’s the review I wrote for Audible.com some time ago…

This richly-textured fantasy novel is set in an alternate-history pagan Europe where the Picts still rule Alba (Britain), the Celts rule France (called Terre D’Ange in this book), and Christianity is but a minor offshoot of Judaism. Kushiel’s Dart is the story of the coming-of-age of the courtesan Phedre no Delauny, who bears the mark of the fallen angel Kushiel, he who rules over the darker arts of love–submission, dominance, and the infliction of pain as an erotic pastime.

Indentured to the enigmatic nobleman Anafiel no Delauny and trained in the arts of both love and espionage, Phedre is at first merely a pawn in his intrigues among the nobility. But she is highly intelligent and strong-willed, and soon comes to realize that Delauny’s aims are worthy. Then disaster strikes.

Captured and sold into slavery by one of Delauny’s enemies, Phedre and her sworn bodyguard Joscelin uncover a traitorous plot to betray Terre D’Ange to barbarous Skaldic invaders who are being unified by the charismatic warleader Waldemar Selig. Now, Phedre and Joscelin must find a way to escape their captivity and warn the newly-crowned Queen of Terre D’Ange of the coming invasion.

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