November 2012

Today I’m excited to join the blog tour for Wing, the fifth book in Tara Maya’s fantasy series Unfinished Song which is set in a fantastical Neolithic Age. You can buy Wing and all Maya’s other books via Amazon and other book retailers. Tara Maya blog‘s has lots of information about writing in general in addition to her book info.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook
Page count: 198 in pdf
Publisher: Misque Press

The Unfinished Song series has been full of surprising twists and the latest book continues in the pattern. Maya isn’t afraid to do nasty things to her characters, even killing them. The book starts immediately after the shocking ending of the previous book, Root.

Most of the point-of-view characters are the same as in the previous book. Dindi is the main character of the series but the other POV characters were introduced in Root or Sacrifice.

The young maiden Dindi has just been kidnapped by one of the Deathsworn, Umbral. Umbral is determined to kill her because she has a connection to the high faeries, the Aelfae, and Umbral is convinced that Dindi can help the Aelfae return to the world. The Deathsworn have killed almost all of the Aelfae and want to now finish their job. However, Dindi is a resourceful girl. When Umbral tries to kill her almost immediately, Dindi manages to trigger a vision which delays Umbral and makes him think that Dindi would be useful to him. So, Umbral suggests a bargain: as long as Dindi will see visions, Umbral doesn’t kill her.

Unfortunately, Umbral thinks that Dindi’s visions are about the current day and about the White Lady, Vessia, who is one of the few remaining Aelfae. While Dindi’s visions are about Vessia, they are twenty years in the past. Dindi is trying to be as vague as possible about her visions, so that Umbral doesn’t realize it. Also, Umbral has confessed that he has killed Dindi’s beloved Kavio. Because Umbral has one of the six objects of power, he looks like Kavio to Dindi. Dindi is looking for a way to avenge her beloved but the way Umbral looks like Kavio is unsettling to her.

Umbral is a devotee of the Black Lady, Death. He has done terrible things in the past but doesn’t remember anything from the time before he became a Deathsworn. The Deathsworn, the servant of the dead, separate the dead and the dying, and most of the time they kill people who are too badly wounded or diseased to live. However, Umbral has also attacked, tortured, and killed healthy people which Deathsworn shouldn’t do. He leads the Deathsworn group with intimidation, violence, and fear.

However, Umbral is becoming increasingly attracted to Dindi. He kills people either with weapons or by absorbing the magical Chromas, the life force, of his victim. Sometimes when he has absorbed someone, the victim’s memories still linger with him. Umbral’s immediate goal is to kill the White Lady because he’s convinced that the faeries will kill humans if they aren’t killed first. He seems relieved when he has an excuse to keep Dindi alive. They must track the White Lady and work together while traveling through wilderness.

Vessia, the White Lady, has been kidnapped by her husband’s brother and niece. They loath Vessia and are trying to use her as a leverage against her politically powerful (human) husband. However, even though Vessia has lost her immortality, she’s far from helpless.

Finnadro the Wolf Hunter is the Henchman of the Green Lady, Vessia’s sister faery. He loves his mistress unreservedly and has even rejected human lovers in favor of her. He’s a great hunter and warrior. In the past, Umbral tortured him and left him for dead. Now, he has an excuse to hunt Umbral and maybe save both Dindi and Vessia.

In the previous book Dindi and her traveling group of dancers were staying in a village called Green Woods. The village was attacked by a group of Raptor Riders and the warriors of the Orange Canyon tribe. The fight was brutal and many died on both sides. The Green Woods warriors want revenge and send a group to the Orange Canyon lands. Among the Green Woods warriors are a few of Dindi’s friends.

Tamio and Hadi are both young warriors and Dindi’s friends. However, while Tamio is expecting the next battle and the glory he will get from killing other warriors, Hadi knows that he’s a lousy warrior (and a hunter) and he’s dreading the fight, thinking that he will be killed. Also, Hadi wants to protect his sister who was married just before the fight – and widowed during it. One of the shape shifters rescued Hadi during the fight and now Hadi owes a liftdebt to him. However, the shape shifter has his eye on Hadi’ sister and takes her as a servant in Hadi’s place. Hadi isn’t happy about it but can’t change it.

Generally, I don’t really care for books with multiple POV characters because most of the time it’s hard to distinguish the young white male warriors from each other and sometimes they aren’t needed to advance the plot. However, in this series all of the POV characters have been so different from each other that I have no problem distinguishing them from each other, even when they travel in the same group. Also, they all have their own problems which don’t necessarily directly tie into the main plot. Even Tamio has an interesting, and appropriate, subplot. I could barely stand him in Sacrifice where he was first introduced.

Most of the book is written in third person but each seven chapters start with a short section in first person. They all give great insight to the character because they all describe a significant event in that person’s history. For example, Finnadro’s first person section is his memory of how he won himself the Shining name of Wolf Hunter and we also get to know a little about his family and tribe. We also get insight into Dindi (in fact she gets insight into her own feelings) but her narration is for the present and not from past.

I’m just wondering a little about the ending. Dindi developed very handy new abilities earlier in the book. Why didn’t she use them at the end where they would have been very, very useful? I suspect it’s because they are new and she couldn’t rely on them but she could have even thought about them or tried to use them.

Each book in the series so far has expanded the world and this book is no exception. We get to know more about the Raptor Riders. They are humans who have enslaved magic users who can change their shape into various raptors. However, the riders have their secrets, too. In Root we found out that some of the Green Woods people are born as shapeshifters, wolves. Most of them are banished into the wilderness and are called wildlings. Finnadro knows them and can even ask them for help. Apparently, it’s also his job to make sure that they don’t bother the tribesmen. Now, we see that some of the shapeshifters can shift into different forms but they seem to be even more shunned than the wolves. We also get to hear a couple of the old legends which I found fascinating. We also get to see a few scenes from the war between humans and the Aelfae. In Dindi’s visions about Vessia we get to see how a human and a fae try to build a life together and it isn’t easy. And Dindi and Umbral encounter a new human clan during their travels.

Wing is another great continuation with twists and turns. It’s ends with a great cliffhanger!

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten books to take to a deserted island.

I would take both books I’ve already read and want to reread and books I haven’t read yet.

1, The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust
2, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
3, Sherlock Holmes, the complete illustrated short stories by Doyle
4, The Great Book of Amber by Zelazny

Books I haven’t read yet. They’re all big chunksters.
5, War and Peace by Tolstoy
6, The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts
7, Earl Aubec by Michael Moorcock
8, Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
9, The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers

Also one book on how to survive on the island.

The newest Toby Daye book! The sixth book in the series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 12 hrs and 26 minutes

A year has passed since the tragic events at the end of the previous book, One Salt Sea. October Day, Toby, is trying to recover and not think about Tybalt. But she feels like she isn’t in control of her life anymore and she’s taking more and more unnecessary risks. Her former fetch (a death omen), May, her would-be lover Tybalt, and her squire Quentin are all worried.

Then a fellow knight, Etienne, asks for her help with finding his half-blooded daughter who has been kidnapped. Etienne had had a brief relationship with a folklore teacher years ago and didn’t even know that he had a child until the child’s mother, Bridget, call him in panic, accusing him of kidnapping Chelsea. Toby and the gang are shocked by Etienne’s revelation because he has always been a very by-the-book faerie and very unlikely get involved with a mortal, but circumstances were exceptional. It turns out that Chelsea is already sixteen and she has her father’s teleporting abilities. Most likely, some faerie has kidnapper her for their own nefarious schemes. To muddle things more, Chelsea’s mother Bridget knows something about the faeries and doesn’t trust any of them, especially Etienne and the suspicions fairies he has sent. However, Bridget doesn’t really have any other choice but to help Toby and Quentin.

Chelsea doesn’t know anything about Faerie but she has been secretly experimenting with her powers. She hasn’t said anything to her mother who has always said that they need to keep her powers a secret.

All of the familiar cast returns and I love them. May has been officially designated Toby’s twin sister, and she and Quentin live together with Toby in a rather large house which is owned by Toby’s liege lord, Sylvester. Tybalt, the suave King of Cats, has problems of his own; his underlings aren’t happy that he has become close to a changeling and some are taking matters into their own hands. Also, his heir and Toby’s friend Raj has disappeared. Tybalt has a big presence in the book and I really enjoyed that. We also get to visit the technologically inclined faeries of Tamed Lighting who were introduced in the second book. And of course Toby needs help from the sea witch Luidaeg with tracking down Chelsea.

The brief scene with Luidaeg gives some surprising insights into her personality and life, and are among my favorite scenes from the book. Indeed, many of the characters get further development. We get to see how Quentin has learned under Toby’s tutelage and May gets to stand up to Toby.

My favorite parts of the previous books have been the characters, the expanding world, and the dialog. They are all great in this book, too. The characters feel like old friends to me and many of them are friends who have survive horrible things together. That shows in their interactions. We also get to visit a couple of new places and learn more about Tybalt’s background.

The story starts with a familiar premise: Toby looking for a lost child and getting help from the sea witch. Fortunately, beyond that there’s little repetition of the previous books.

My only complaint is that Toby gets hurt a lot, although mostly physically this time. I’m very happy with the ending. This is a great continuation of the series although it’s not as an emotionally gut wrenching as the previous book.

Booking Through Thursday

My apologies for the lack of a question last week–blame Hurricane Sandy and the 5-day power outage that kept me from getting online.

But it leads to today’s question:

1. How do storms affect your reading? Do you go for comfort reading?

2. How do you deal with power outages? Do you read by candlelight? Flashlights? Use a self-lit e-reader or tablet? Skip reading altogether for the duration and instead play games with the family?

1, They don’t.

2, Power outages are pretty rare here and usually last less than an hour so I don’t have any routine. I live on the outskirts of one of the largest cities in Finland.

However, during Christmas last year, I was visiting my parents and we had a power outage which lasted about a day. I played games with my brother and talked with my parents. When they went to sleep (I’m a night owl), I took a couple of candles and read in the sauna, the warmest place in the house. By midday, the power had returned.

A stand alone SF book. Part of the Alliance Space omnibus.

Publication year: 1982
Page count: 214 in the omnibus
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

Sandor Kreja is the owner and the sole crew of the small merchant space ship Le Cygne. Unfortunately, his family was killed in an attack by one of the Mazian fleet warships. Since then, he has lived in fear and isolation. However, he needs other crew members to run the ship safely. He tries to hire people whom he judges to be harmless: people who won’t cut his throat in the middle of the night or sell him out to pirates. Because the Mazian fleet are technically military, Sandro has forged papers with a different name for himself and his ship. He is also afraid that the forgery will someday be found out but he loves his ship and he can’t give it up.

Then one day he sees a gorgeous woman in a bar and has one night with her. His lonely life has driven him almost crazy and he decided to follow her ship to Pell which is at the intersection of Union and Alliance space. Sandor also thinks that Pell might have better contracts for him. She’s Allison Reilly and she’s part of one of the biggest merchant ships and families around. Sandor knows that he doesn’t have a chance with her but he jumps after her ship anyway. And become something of a celebrity. In the end, Reilly’s ship offers him a contract which looks way too good to be true.

The book starts in a way that at first fools the reader to think that it could be a romance. But it’s not. Sandor (Ed Stevens is his assumed name) has lived his paranoia too long and Allison is level headed enough to know that she can’t trust a stranger. It might develop later into a romance, though, but not in this book.

Even though Sandor and Allison are both space merchants, they come from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Sandor is alone and paranoid and on the edge of legality because of his situation. Allison was born to the ship Dublin Again which has over 1,800 crew, most of them her kind. She works with her cousins and can rely on them to watch her back every time. Her biggest problem is that because of the rejuvenation treatment which allows people to live longer and in far better physical and mental health, her career is unlikely to advance. Ever. But she’s ambitious and willing to take risks. It’s also very hard for her to really understand Sandor’s life and past.

The setting seem to be sometime after the events in Downbelow Station. Union and Alliance have made a tentative peace and Union merchanters are now allowed to trade in Alliance space. The merchanters don’t seem to like either government. Sandor and Allison are Union merchants but they both seem to fear their government. Sandor is terrified that if his forged papers are noticed, he will be brainwashed into a happy citizen.

Allison reminded me of the Chanur traders: Dublin Again is a family ship and her closest crew are her cousins. However, while this book is a fun roller coaster ride, I didn’t click with the characters as well as did with the crew of Pride of Chanur.

Publication year: 1993
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2008
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 328
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

The Ankh-Morpok City Guard, Night Watch, is again in trouble. The Patrician has told them to get new recruits from the City’s minorities. So now they have three new, and eager, Lance-Constables: Cuddy (a male dwarf), Detritus (a male troll), and Angua (a human woman and a werewolf, but apparently her being a woman is the minority part). Cuddy and Detritus bicker constantly and we find out some interesting things about troll brains. Carrot, Nobby, and Colon are trying their best to train the newbies while Captain Vimes is about to be married and then he will retire from the Guard. He’s absolutely miserable about it.

Meanwhile Edward d’Eath has read long and hard of the City’s history and found out something interesting. He’s a royalist and he would very much want to return the royal heir to Ankh-Morpok’s throne. He’s found a candidate for that, too: Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson. Sadly for him, Edward doesn’t manage to convince his fellow nobles about it so he starts to plot.

An explosion at the Assassin’s Guild draws Vimes’ attention but the Guild leader, Dr. Cruces, denies that anything has really happened. Then the Guard find a dead dwarf with a hole in his chest in the river and the Patrician himself makes it clear to Vimes that the dwarf’s death and the robbery from the Assassin’s Guild should not be investigated. Of course, Vimes does exactly the opposite, just as Lord Vetinari knew he would.

The new recruits are really the stars of the book along with Carrot. Detritus and Cuddy start as pretty much enemies but end up bonding because of the job. Carrot is apparently instantly attracted to Angua, and she to him, and he tries to court her in his own way. Of course, Angua hasn’t told Carrot that she’s a werewolf and she’s really insecure about it. Unfortunately, while this romance is a bit different than a usual fantasy romance, it really wasn’t my favorite about the book.

Also, Gaspode the talking dog steals pretty much every scene he’s in. Also, we get introduced to the rather vicious homeless dogs on the city’s streets. To me, Gaspode feels like a rogue with a heart of gold.

As usual, Pratchett has strong themes in the book: racism (or rather specieism since Discworld has different species) and the way that power corrupts. Near the start there’s a hilarious, or chilling, depending, scene where Vimes talks to several of the city’s nobles. One of them manages to talk about the dwarfs as both too hard working and lazy bums who have both too small heads to think at all and are simultaneously fiendishly clever. I also always feel sorry for the poor clowns whenever they are mentioned.

“Cuddy had only been a guard for a few days, but already he had absorbed one important and basic fact: it is almost impossible for anyone to be in a street without breaking the law.”

“Young Edward thinks that there is no lake of blood too big to wade through to put a rightful king on a throne, no deed too base in defence of a crown. A romantic, in fact.”

Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

“It was the smell – the smell of metal baking under the summer sun – that alerted Lena to the terrible fact that her getaway had been a failure.”

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, a Ministry of Peculiar occurences novel

The Janus Affair is a humorous steampunk novel set in Victorian London. Poor Lena isn’t one of the main characters so she’s likely to meet with a fate that will start a Ministry investigation. Or rather an unofficial investigation because the main characters, Mr. Books and Miss Braun, are Ministry Archivists and not full agents. Who or what is Lena running from? That’s the mystery.

« Previous Page