fantasy


The first book in the Primordia modern day fantasy (or sci-fi, depending on how you look at it) series.

37538106._sy475_

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 58 minutes
Narrator: Sean Mangan

Ben Cartwright is a former Special Forces soldier who quit after a couple of tours. When his father died suddenly from a heart attack, he returns home to comfort his mom. There, he meets again his high school sweetheart Emma and his other old friends.

While going through his father’s stuff, Ben stumbles on letters between his great-grandfather and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It seems that the men were friends. Ben’s great-grandfather, also called Benjamin, was an explorer and an adventurer. He even died during one of his adventures: looking for a valley full of dinosaurs in Venezuela! He wrote about the search to Doyle who was inspired to write a book called the Lost World.

Ben and his friends decide to search for the hidden plateau. One of his friends is a tech millionaire so it’s easy for him to finance the trip. But first, they need to go to England to find Ben senior’s journal for the clues to find the hidden place.

The modern-day narration, in 2018, is interrupted from time to time by the short adventures of Ben senior in 1908 when he’s running from terrible danger among strange creatures. In addition to the two Bens, the book has several other POV characters, including their adversary who is determined to find the place first.

Our heroes are an usual group for an adventure book. Emma is a rock climbing instructor. She’s in excellent condition and no damsel in distress even though she’s the love interest. Andrea the actress wants to come, too, because she wants to become famous if they find the lost plateau. Dan is the bored millionaire who finances the trip. Steve comes because Andrea is coming. Later, a zoologist joins them. Even though they are in their thirties, luckily none of them have obligations that stop them from leaving in a couple of days’ notice.

This was a fast-paced adventure, once you get past the beginning. The second half of the book is a constant battle for survival against both humans and other enemies. I haven’t read Doyle’s the Lost World, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it first. It ends in a cliffhanger.

This a light adventure story and I quite enjoyed it.

A stand-alone satire of an adventure fantasy book. 30th-anniversary edition.

438353

Publisher: Mariner

Publication year: 2007
Format: print

Page count: 456 which includes two introductions, an explanation to Buttercup’s Baby, the short excerpt of Buttercup’s Baby, and Reading group discussion points.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Princess Bride movie so I decided to read the book, as well. It’s an odd book, as parodies tend to be. But I think most people know that already.

It shouldn’t work because of the structure, and according to GoodReads’ reviews, it didn’t work for a lot of people. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Goldman creates a construct of himself as the narrator of the book. He claims that Morgenstern wrote the actual books and he just cut off all the dull parts and made an abridgment. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the reader, Goldman makes his narrator present pretty much all the time. At the beginning of every chapter, he tells us what he has cut and why. Then the ”good parts” of the chapter start. Unfortunately, that constantly interrupts the reading and reminds us that we are, indeed, reading a book.

The second point is that the characters are caricatures or archetypes. Buttercup is beautiful, Westley is a daring lover, Fezzik is a dumb giant, Inigo’s life is centered on fencing and getting revenge on the six-fingered man who murdered his father, Humperdinck is ruthless. We get a little bit more of them in the book, such as Fezzik’s and Inigo’s childhood. But they’re not three-dimensional characters. They’re not supposed to be. Yet, they’re endearing and memorable to many.

Well, ok. Fezzik get a surprising amount of depth in the book. But not the others. In fact, it seemed to me that if Buttercup had been plain, Westley wouldn’t have loved her. That’s not a message you want to send to all teeange girls watching or reading. Or boys, either. And in the book, Westley slaps Buttercup. Just no.

So, I ended up enjoying the movie more than the book. The narrator’s interruptions got on my nerves in the latter half of the book. I didn’t really care for the fictionalized Goldman in the book. He seemed very bitter. Maybe he was supposed to be a humorous character, a parody of a successful screenwriter who can’t write a novel of his own, but for me he instead sucked away humor.

Buttercup’s Baby is a sort of continuation. It’s not a short story but rather just the first chapter of a book, which again was rather frustrating.

If you like the movie and especially if you’d like to know more about Fezzik and Inigo, I think you can like the book, too. Just skip the introductions.

A stand-alone urban fantasy book.

35018915

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

I’m a huge fan of Brust’s Vlad Taltos books so I guess I was expecting something similar. The Good Guys isn’t a Taltos book.

Donovan Longfellow, Marci, and Susan are a field team for the Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to keeping the existence of magic a secret from the regular people. They also train magic users and hire them for minimum wage. The trio considers themselves the good guys.

Donovan is told about a new murder possibly done with magic because it was done in bright daylight in a restaurant and nobody saw a thing. When the trio gets to the site, Marci finds out that very powerful magic has been used to murder the victim. A time-stopping spell from an artifact. Donovan and the team must find out who the killer is and where do they get their magical artifacts. However, when the team realizes that the killer is after quite bad men, they start to wonder if they are, indeed, the good guys.

This was an entertaining read. The characters are quite distinct but for some reason, I just didn’t connect with any of them. Donovan has some FBI training so he’s very good at police work. He’s also black. Marci is a new sorceress but unlike the other two, she has a personal life. Susan is an experienced sorceress and quite formidable with both her magical talents and physical skills. I wanted to like them more.

However, I don’t think the format of the book was best for audio. The story has many, many POV characters. One of them is in the first person and the rest in the third person. The scenes are quick and the POV character changes often. It was a bit difficult to follow in the audiobook for me.

The world was interesting and I feel there could be more stories in it. Brust plays around with quite a few tropes. For example, Donovan knows that torture isn’t an effective way to get reliable information, so the team simply talks with people, even those who try to kill them. Also, Susan is the team’s muscle.

A Penric and Desdemona fantasy novella.

Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook

Publisher: Spectrum Literary Agency

Pagecount at GoodReads: 102

This is the ninth Pen and Des story in publication order but the third one in the internal chronology.

Ten years had gone by since Pen had contracted Des, a bodyless demon which lives inside Pen. Pen is used to her and she to him. They tease each other but clearly know their bounders.

Pen is in Lodi, a Venice-like city with canals and boats. It’s the Eve of Bastard’s Day and people are starting to celebrate it with heavy drinking and other debaucheries. Pen has plans to spend it translating one of Des’ previous host’s papers. Instead, he’s summoned to the archdivine’s presence and sent to a hospice where an apparent madman has been brought in. The doctor there wants Pen to see that the man isn’t really possessed. But when Pen arrives at the hospice, he confirms the doctor’s fear: the young man is possessed by an insane demon. And then the possessed man manages to run away.

Pen and Desdemona search for him in vain. Only a Saint of the Bastard can draw out a demon from a human or animal. Fortunately, there is one Saint in the city. Perhaps they can even help find the unfortunate man.

If you’ve read the previous Pen and Des novellas, this is quite similar in mood to the others. It’s warm-hearted and charming rather than a thriller with a world at stake. Most of the story takes place with Pen and Des looking at the possessed man. However, there isn’t a much substance to the story, just entertainment.

While Penric is the only third-person POV character, the Saint rather steals the show and I hope we’ll see them again. I also thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Pen and Des, as usual. Also, Des’ terror at meeting and working with a Saint, who devours demons, was understandable and entertaining, too.

This was an entertaining, quick read, exactly the mood I want to read right now. It seems that there are three Pen and Des novellas I haven’t read yet!

Wendy and Richard Pini have a Kickstarter project to fund ElfQuest the Audio movie!

“This campaign is funding a cinematic ‘audio movie’ experience with an anticipated cast of more than 40 voice actors, original sound design, and a lush orchestral score.

The audio movie covers the first five issues of ElfQuest and is adapted not only from the comics, but directly from long creative sessions with Wendy Pini that add new details, answer old questions, and expand the world of Abode for the audio format.”

I’ve listened only one audio movie made for a comic before. While I wasn’t impressed with that one, I’m sure the Pinis will make this one a wonderful experience.

The bigger pledges have wonderful ElfQuest miniature sets! I so wish I could afford them.

The project is already funded. 12 more days to go.

The first book in a planned YA fantasy series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2015

Publisher: Creativity Hacker Press

Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 203

Merrick is an apprentice to his da, the smith. However, he’s not a good smith’s apprentice. He thinks too slowly and his skills aren’t advancing. He sleeps in the smithy and when a blue-glowing ghost appears in the smithy, Merrick thinks of only defending his da’s place. When the ghost limps outside, Merrick follows. The ghost lures him to the area where wealthier people live. There, Merrick meets two other young men whom the ghost has also brought to this place. They find a buried box and three strange items from inside. Before they find out what they are, they must run away from the Watchstanders. They don’t know what is going on, but they agree to meet the next night, to find out.

This felt like a boys’ adventure novel with three teen boys who suddenly find themselves in the middle of very important and dangerous events. The adults around them are clueless at best, a threat at worst.

Merrick is the main POV character. The two other boys, Tam and Kern, are quite different from him. Tam is an orphan, living on the streets. He’s an excellent thief, curious and quick-witted. He’s also quick to insult others. Kern grew up on a family ship. But it sank, leaving Kern the only survivor. He’s now a baker’s apprentice but resents it. Aboard the ship, he was taught to fight.

The city of Deneigh is described well. It used to be a mighty fortress city, but has since fallen to disrepair. People are moving out of it. At least some of the Watchstanders are corrupt and take up the job so that they can shake people down for money. The second POV character is a young Watch officer who is also the son of the Reeve, the appointed governor of the city. The officer enjoys tormenting people.

This book is a quick and light read. The ending ties up plot threads but it’s clearly meant to lead to a series.

A stand-alone fantasy book set in a post-apocalyptic world.

Publication year: 1996
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 23 minutes
Narrator: Kyle McCarley

Most of the world is a desert called the Waste. The biggest remaining city is Charisat: a great place if you’re rich and local but not so good if you’re poor, a foreigner, or non-human. Khat is all three: he a krisman, a species which the Ancients created to survive the desert. However, many humans think that the krismen don’t have souls and so they shun the krismen. But not all humans do that. Khat’s business partner in their relic hunting business is a human Sagai. He’s also a foreigner so they banded together for mutual survival but they’re now loyal friends.

A wealthy man hires Khat to find a Remnant, a place left behind by the Ancients when they vanished. Khat is paranoid but he, Sagai, and Sagai’s family need to eat, so Khat takes the job. Of course, it turned to be quite different than he expected.

The other POV character is Elen, a young female Warder, a very high-ranking police officer of sorts. The Warders have magical powers and they’re recruited from the highest level patricians, so they don’t have many dealings among any lower-class people. Elen has quite a few preconceptions about them. It’s a shock to her to realize that her ideas aren’t always true. But she’s also quick to learn. She’s the only female Warder and so she sometimes attracts unwanted attention. She’s a trained fighter, too.

Khat has a dark past that haunts him. It’s very hard for him to trust anyone. In fact, the only people he trusts are Sagai, his family, and his widowed landlady and her kids. Khat defends them fiercely. He distrusts all high-class people and expects nothing but prejudice from humans and is rarely disappointed. But he’s also very good at his job, which a relic hunter. In this world, ancient relics are one of the biggest merchandise. Khat is very good at identifying if items are actual relics or fakes and he knows whom to sell them. He’s also very good at negotiation.

The city is a dystopia. Foreigners and non-citizens are subjected to harsh and draconic rules. On the other hand, scholars are respected. This is a fascinating city and world, and Welles takes her time to introduce them.

I mostly enjoyed the book. Relic hunting is a fascinating business. I also enjoyed the characters. Even though both Elen and Khat started as stereotypical people, they didn’t stay that way. I also really enjoyed Sagai and his family and the landlady’s family. Even though Khat isn’t related to them, they’re very much a tight family unit.

The plot takes a while to get going but it was worth it, for me at least.

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication year: 1992
Format: print

Page count: 308

Maggiar is a small and rural kingdom. Lately, it’s in trouble and king Stani’s old (and only) wizard Karoly insists that he must seek advice from his witch-sister. Nobody knew he has a sister or that she lives over the mountain where nobody ever goes. Except that Stani’s mother came from a country over the mountain. Trolls and goblins haunt the forests.

Stani agrees to send Karoly with the escort of guards, the master huntsman, and Stani’s two eldest sons. Bogdan is the heir, a brash and proud young man. Tamas is the middle son, quiet and studious. The youngest Yuri is just fourteen and over his protests, he needs to stay. Tamas doesn’t want to take his foundling dog, so he makes Yuri promise to look after him.

The journey up the mountain is hard. The weather is constantly against the small group and Karoly behaves oddly, speaking rarely and then in riddles. When they near Karoly’s sister’s tower, they are ambushed.

Meanwhile, Tamas’ dog runs away and Yuri decides to follow him. Yuri thinks that the dog is following Tamaes, so Yuri takes his pony and little provisions and follows the group.

Russian mythology has clearly influenced this story. The goblins and trolls aren’t what you’ll find in a European-inspired fantasy. Also, while the story has a lot of magic, it’s not clear-cut spell casting. It’s dreams and not being able to do or think what you want to. Willing things to happen and other people’s will is against you. It wasn’t really clear in the book, either.

Tamas and Yuri are the two main POV characters. Both are very young and trying to understand what’s happening around them. Tamas is trying to figure out who he can trust and that’s not easy. But he thinks things through rather than brashly leaping to conclusions. Yuri knows how to take care of himself in the woods, even though this is the first time he’s done it alone. He’s scared but determined to find the dog and later to find his brothers. For his age, he’s very brave. The third POV character is the master huntsman Nikolai, an experienced woodsman who is trying his best to protect the foolish people under his care. The other characters are quite distinctive, even the dead ones.

Most of the book has a claustrophobic, fearful atmosphere. The rambling, repetitive style adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s not very clear in places.

I liked the characters and the world, but the writing style didn’t really work for me.

Wyrd & Wonder’s 2021 prompt today is ”A backlist title you love or would love to read”.

This was very hard because most of my TBR is backlist and so are, of course, the books I’ve read.

But I chose Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs because I enjoyed it and the whole Divine Cities trilogy a lot.

Bulikov and Saypur: two cities which inhabitants hate each other with passion but which are linked by the past, present, and mostly likely by the future as well.

The story isn’t set in a typical fantasy landscape of horses and chosen ones, but in a more modern city where cars and firearms are typical, at least for the wealthier people, and photography is the new hot thing. Yet, some magic still works, too.

Shara Thivani from Saypur arrives to Bulikov to find out who has murdered her dear and respected friend Dr. Efrem Pangyui. Pangyui was a historian passionately interested in the Continent and especially in the gods. Shara suspects at first that the locals have killed him but the further she digs the more she finds unexpected clues. She’s a trusted operative (meaning: spy) for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which deals with Continental matters, especially with the remnants the gods have left behind: items, even creatures which shouldn’t exist. She is also something of a historian, like Pangyui but she has to be loyal to Saypur and not to truth or facts. Yet, it seems that even the minister of Foreign Affairs, who is Shara’s aunt, doesn’t trust her anymore.

Shara is a great character and so is her “secretary” the Northern barbarian Sigrud. He’s a one-eyed giant of few words but very decisive action. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Bulikov governor Turyin Mulaghesh, who was a colonel before she was sent to exile in Bulikov where she has to enforce policies she doesn’t care for. And Mulaghesh is a main character in the next book, the City of Blades.

Collects The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman issues 1-6.

Writer: Liam Sharpe

Artist: Liam Sharpe

Bruce and Diana must find out who killed King Elthe of the Formors.

Diana is taking a deserved vacation with Steve Trevor. They’re in bed when the old Celtic god Lord Cernunnos appears through a magical portal. He wants Diana to negotiate peace between two warring factions of old gods: the demonic-looking Fomorians and the more human-seeming De Dannan. They have hidden away from humans in Tir Na Nog for hundreds of years. But they’ve become restless and the home has become a prison for them. They are old enemies and now they’ve started fighting again. Cernunnos is the only one who can leave Tir Na Nog. Diana agrees to help.

Meanwhile, something strange is going on in the Irish Quarter of Gotham City. The people there seem lethargic and haunted. Batman of course investigates and strange dreams or spirits haunt him, too.

The third plot thread is around an old homeless Irish man who has lost everything pursuing old Irish legends.

When Cernunnos takes Diana to Tir Na Nog, they find out that king Elatha is dead, murdered. Elatha is the king of the Fomors although he looks like a human. Both his people and the De Dannan loved and respected him. Elatha’s right-hand man captain Furf blames the boy who found the king. However, Diana manages to stop the lynching of the boy and calls for a proper investigation. Only Batman can find out the culprit.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed it a lot. The art is gorgeous with lots of little details and full-page panels.

The story has a narrator who constantly refers to bad things happening in the future, but we don’t find out who that is until the end. Sharpe draws from the Irish myths and it really shows here. On the other hand, the new characters leave Bruce and Diana in their shadow, which clearly displeased many readers. The story also starts slowly with Cernunnos explaining the history of the two factions to Diana. Also, the ending was very open, begging for continuation.

The two warring factions are quick to take offense and use any excuse to fight. Diana must continually play peace-maker between them which was nice. Bruce insists that magic is just science they don’t know yet, which is very much in character for him.

Next Page »