Anne Logston


Last in the Shadow series. It’s a very fitting ending, really, but I’d like to read more about her some day. Well, I’ll just have to see how the other books hold up to these ones.

This time the pace is noticeable slower than in the previous books and the atmosphere is also somewhat more sombre. Of course, Shadow and her friends have quite a difficult foe this time, too: a plague. In the best fantasy tradition, they go on a quest to find a mythical cure for the disease. Of course, the quest only takes a few days and clearly wetter than is the norm.

The book start slower than the previous ones but (at least to me) it’s okay because we get to see some fine character interaction and elvan, er, traditions. 😉 Donya is looking for a husband to rule the city with her and the elves get to be shocked about the human arranged marriage thing. This makes sense, of course. If you live for hundreds of years, marriage to a person you don’t even like would seem truly fate worse than death. Shadow herself is over 500 years old and Aspen is around 1200.

I really liked Mist and I can only hope that he get to make appearances in the further books. There was some interesting contrasts between what different characters thought be honourable. At first I thought that Farryn was being more than a little dense but it seems that it’s likely that his village didn’t have trading or merchants at all. So, in a culture where there is no need to produce extra items, thieves are literally taking food out of somebody else’s mouth and possibly leaving a good hunter or farmer to die. No wonder he was so cranky to Shadow!

I’m far from convinced that thieves actually work for their money, no matter how much Shadow tried to explain it to Mist. I was a bit surprised that Mist didn’t have counterexamples of someone stealing his catch and leaving him hungry.

I’m still going to miss Shadow and likely I’ll read the series again sometime.

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This is the last of her books and luckily this one has again a heroine I really like.

Peri is the daughter of Kayli, the High Lady of Agrond. She was fostered among the horse clans and has grown to be a good warrior and an excellent rider. She has also arranged a marriage with one of the leaders of the clans. Her fiancée is her best friend and in high enough position that it pleases her parents. He’s also gay and willing to give Peri the freedom she wants. All in all, things are looking good for her.

All this changed, though, when Peri had sex for the first time and realized that she has a minor talent for water and healing magic. Her mother promptly arranged for her to the Heir of Bregond where her aunt rules without a strong Heir. Per is very bitter about it but can’t go against her family. Therefore, her dainty cousin with ill health is going to marry Peri’s former fiancée. Peri is escorting her and her uncle to Bregond where she’s going to become the Heir.

This changes quickly, too. Peri is scouting ahead and happens upon a group of Sarkonds who have a prisoner. Sarkonds are the enemies of both Agronds and Bregonds so naturally Peri assumes that the small raid party has captured either an Agrond or a Bregond and saves him. Unfortunately for her, he turns out to be another Sarkond and a religious heretic to boot. But by the time she discovers this, they have already fled to Sarkond and they must try to get along at least as long as they a fleeing the dreaded Bone Hunters.

Peri and the Sarkond mage have to face a lot of difficulties and the least of them aren’t their own fears and suspicions and cultural differences. Magic is taught differently in the three countries, too. While Bregond and Agrond mages are trained in the magic they have natural affinity for, Sarkondish mages are separated by sex: female mages use life magic and males destructive magic. By the same token, women are forbidden to become soldiers. As a female warrior, Peri is in constant danger and must even disguise herself as a man.

Waterdance is quite a bit quicker paces than Logston’s previous novels. We also get to see the consequences of the war from Firewalk. While Peri is learning to use her new magical skills, she’s formidable warrior and fully competent in that area.

Exile’s main character is quite different from Logston’s previous MCs: she’s quick to anger, a bit stuck up about her lineage, likes solitude (and therefore not people), is quite innocent about the way of the world, and she doesn’t lie. Despite it all Logston manages to make her an enjoyable character.

Neve is the daughter of the Guardian of the Crystal Keep. The Guardian is the “god” of his or her Keep and Neve has had almost the same level of power her whole life. Because she was conceived, born, and raised in the Keep, she is very much attuned to the magic of the Keep, the Nexus. She expects that she’s going to be the Guardian of the Keep after her father. But the Guardian can never leave the Keep unless he or she gives up the power and the Keep forever. So her parents have decided that she needs to see the world outside that she would be giving and so they send her to a journey in the world. Her Father gives her a piece of the Nexus because she has no training as a mage and can’t protect herself very well. Her Mother gives her a starting mage’s grimoire and talks about how she can become a monster if she isn’t careful.

Neve leaves quickly. She makes beginners’ mistakes because she has never had to camp or tend to a real horse but she adapts and learns quickly. She finds a caravan and finds out that she likes solitude more than being around other humans. She gets to a nearby town and pays for a ride on a boat to further down river. Unfortunately, her manners, gear, and jewels she uses as money attracts the wrong kind of attention. She’s rescued by a sailor Ash who has monkey-like feet and slit-pupiled eyes. Ash is a (former) thief but a decent fellow even though he’s not a saint. In exchange for some jewels he agrees to escort Neve to civilization after they have been stranded from the last boat.

This book has a lot of journeying but it’s to get them where Neve has to go and not for the usual fantasy clichés. The characters are likable but not perfect. Sometimes they are downright mercenary. Neve learns a lot about herself during the journey. She does have some inner magic when she uses the Nexus diamond, however she’s never learned to use it and it seems to get out of her control. She has to wonder if she is a monster after all.

The book explores also the growing feelings between Neve and Ash although, once again, it’s not an ordinary love story. It seems that Logston explores romance in all of her later books.

This is another stand-alone novel in world of Shadow books. I rather liked the protagonist even though I disliked the central conflict.

Kayli is one of the daughters of the High Lord Elaasar who is the leader of the wandering horse clans. Even though Kayli has been given the training and the upbringing of the noble birth, at the start of the book she is in the final stages of studying to become a mage and possibly a priestess in the Order of the Inner Flame. All of her ambitions and expectations are for a life of a firemage. However, the High Lord is given a chance to make peace with their longtime enemy, Agrond, and the way to seal the alliance is of course a marriage. Even though Elaasar and his wife have eight daughters the only one of them who is old enough and not married or a priestess already is Kayli. She feels that it’s her duty towards her country and family to comply and so she leaves behind everything she knows and goes to swamp land to marry a man she has never even seen.

However, the High Priestess of her order, Brisi, assures her that she has studied so long that it would be dangerous for her if she didn’t continue her studies and have an Initiation to become a full mage. She gives Kayli a grimoire so that Kayli can continue her studies. Kayli is then a little bit comforted but she still has to leave behind the familiar culture of the horse clans and move to unknown culture in the middle of people who still think of her as an enemy.

Her husband-to-be sends his brother and retinue of guards to escort her to Agrond. The brother, Terralt, and Kayli don’t get along at all but they have to because they will be family quite soon. On the way Kayli shows everyone that she’s a capable woman, an excellent rider and not a spoiled princess. However, she’s fasting in preparation for her Initiation and this makes her a bit weak.

On the road the caravan is attacked and Kayli and Terralt must flee in the middle of a storm but they make it to Agrond’s capital and Kayli and Randon are married quickly. Then Kayli tries to fit into Agrond’s culture and tackle foreign politics among mostly hostile people.

Most of the book centers on politics and fitting into a foreign culture. There are also themes of self-discovery and duty much like in Guardian’s Key. Kayli is a strong, adult main character even though she isn’t always in total control of her powers or surroundings but that’s understandable in a foreign culture. However, the two cultures are mostly superficially different and more similar than alike so she doesn’t have many difficulties outside feelings of loneliness and isolation. There are no battle scenes; just people in the grips of brutal politics.

When I realized that the book was about an arranged marriage, I was very close to putting it down. Indeed, if this hadn’t been Logston’s book I would have. Aside from the fact that I just don’t like arranged marriages as plots (she’s a hostage. Have the decency to call her that and stay out of her private life!) these plots tend to always be the same. No matter what kind of ogre the bride thinks she’s marrying, he will, without a fail, turn out to be young, decent, honest, understanding, sympathetic, a good ruler, and have exactly the same morals as the bride no matter how different their cultures are supposed to be. Not to mention handsome yet single and without so much as a mistress or a beloved concubine and/or bastards. Without a fail the arranged couple will fall in love in short order. Predictability is always a turn-off for me. Also, in fantasy there is the possibility to make the whole thing more… you know, fantastic. Why not have the man go to the princess? Why not have the man or woman be just one of the spouses or the primary spouse or part of a group marriage? Why not have far more different customs between the cultures? Or maybe the ruling families could adopt each other kids? Or they become blood-brothers or bonded to wolves or dragons? Sigh.

Logston’s royal couple isn’t an exception. However, she still manages to keep things interesting enough that I finished the book. I liked Kayli even though her problems where a bit too easy to solve. Also, the fire magic is very well done. It’s not too convenient but it’s not useless, either. Fire magic is also linked to sexuality. The Initiation that make a person a full mage is also the mage’s first sexual experience and that’s why the partner should be chosen carefully. However, this is all written very tastefully and there are no explicit scenes in the book.

Oh, and in my mind at least duty goes both ways. When your family is ready to sell you for a bit of security, it’s time to realize that they just value themselves more than you.

The main character, a young woman called Dara, has come to the mysterious Crystal Keep to get her heart’s desire; to win the man she loves. She meets the Guardian of the Keep who tells her that he can trade to her her heart’s desire but only for something of equal value. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know that so she doesn’t have anything to trade to the Guardian. And what could she give him for it, anyway? The Guardian tells her that inside the keep is the Oracle who can answer every question. However, the Oracle is hard to find inside the magically infinite Keep.

Shortly we find out that Dara was born into a family with a long line of mages. Alas, she herself doesn’t have any magical abilities and people suspect that she’s cursed. Her mage parents live comfortably enough to have their own servants. Dara runs away to the High Lord and Lady’s castle to be a serving maid and to be her own person instead of just someone she could have been. There she meets their son, the Heir Cavin, and they fall in love. Dara’s family line isn’t high enough to grant her the right to marry him and there’s also a chance that her curse will pass on to the kids. Cav and Dara have searched for an answer for some time and Cav’s parents are leaning on him to get married to a high-born girl. Finally, in desperation Dara travels to the Crystal Keep.

Now, despite the fact that the back story is pretty much a romance, there isn’t much romance happening in the story itself. Dara comes to the Keep and searches for the Oracle from the infinite and wondrous rooms of the Keep. She finds some friends and makes some enemies on the way but mostly she learns about herself.

Some of the things and events were pretty obvious to me even before they happened but that didn’t really bother me. Logston’s style here is very much a fairy tale-like. There’s more ethereal quality to her writing than before. However, I’m not really happy with the ending even though it doesn’t come as a surprise. Considering the fairy tale quality of the story, it is appropriate, though.

I suspect that this happens in the same world as the Shadow stories. My main evidence is the gold Sun and silver Moon which are used as currency and the characters attitudes towards dragons. I can’t remember any other setting where people would eat dragon meat. Indeed, I think that in quite a few settings it’s poisonous to people. We see very little of elves but what is said here could be the opinions of people who had just had very little contact with the elves.

It’s an entertaining book but not as good as the Shadow books.

7/10

In the second Shadow book our lovable elvan trickster heroine in accused of stealing a ruby from the temple that she had a run-in with in the first book. Oddly enough, Shadow didn’t take it. She has somewhat settled down in her half-way respectable life and is, justifiably, irritated that she’s being blamed. Shadow has worked out that the only one who could have done it and profited from it is the powerful and old mage who enchanted to gem in the first place. So, after the priests beat Shadow senseless, her best friend goes out to confront the mage and save her friend. Naturally, Shadow tries to protect her friend and also hits the road, too.

Since our lovable rouge is more a lover than a fighter, so she recruits a tough ally; namely the deadly assassin Blade from the previous book. The powerful mage is the reason the Blade’s life is pretty miserable so she’s ready to get revenge. The strange duo hits the road.

This book is really a buddy book and a road trip book, and so it’s while the writing style is the same as in the previous book, Shadow Hunt is thematically very different. The book focuses on the way that the paranoid Blade starts to slowly trust Shadow and form a friendship with her. Or does she? There’s also a shorter subplot about the difficulties Shadow’s friend lady Donya and her guard encounter.

 

The interesting thing, to me at least, is that Logston manages to make this all exciting. To me buddy movies have always been, well, boring. The outcome is always sure and the people, places, and plots are never as cute or clever as the producers seem to think they are. I’m sorry, if this offends someone but Thelma and Louise is the only buddy movie I’ve managed to watch without dozing off. But Logston manages to pull it off. Of course, the whole “talking about one of my favourite things (elven culture)” helped as did as did deadly marches. (Maybe the book format is better for me, too. Lots of books have the buddy format, after all. Then again I didn’t even notice the whole buddies on the road -thing until I started to write this.)

Err, anyway, great characters and a good book. The tone is more introspective than in the previous book.

9/10

This is the story of Jaellyn or Jael as she is called (much to my annoyance: one of my long time In Nomine players had an angel character named Jael…). She’s the daughter of Shadow’s best friend Donya and a probable Heir to the large trade city of Allanmere. She’s 21 but still clumsy, not attracted to anyone, and doesn’t know what she’d like to do with her life. This is, indeed, the most YA feeling book from Logston. However, even though there are some YA themes, such as bristling to her parents about being treated as a kid, being courted for the first time, and finding truths about her heritage and friends, Logstons throws the expected solutions on its ear, again.  

 

Basically, the book is a mystery set completely in the city of Allanmere. There’s a new cult in town of Baaros, the god of merchantile wealth. Baaros’s high priest Ankaras is preaching against elves and some humans start to be hostile towards elves, especially against merchant elves. Then elven bodies start to show up…

 

This book felt slower than the Shadow books. It might be about the same, pacing-wise, as Greendaughter, but since I wasn’t really interested in the sort of growing up-things that Jael faced, it might have just felt slower to me. The characterization is excellent though, as always.

 

Most of the characters from the Shadow series show up, but strictly as supporting cast. I have to respect that because it seems to me that Shadow is the sort of character who could easily take over a book even from the supporting cast.

 

This is also a family fantasy book which is very rare in fantasy. Jael is shown at her home surrounded by her parents, brother, sister, and friends instead of immediately either running away or being made an orphan. This is also not as much a stand-alone as the previous books. While the most immediate problems are dealt with, there is one larger, er, problem that’s going to be the centre of the next book.

 

The book in enjoyable enough but I’m really looking forward to the next one, where hopefully there won’t be as much growing up themes. But I have to really respect Logston’s ability to write different themes.

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