Once Upon a Time VII

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook
Page count: 229 in .pdf
Publisher: Tyche Books Ltd.

Loch and Kail are soldiers of the Imperium but they’ve been caught and are in the Republic’s maximum security prison. The prisoners work on the underside of the floating city of Heaven’s Spire where they have to keep the magical lapiscaela in working order. The place is almost impossible to escape from except by falling into you death. However, Loch and Kail have a plan and Loch has to get away from the prison because she has bigger things to do. The pair escape but of course they become the most wanted villains in the Republic and the prison warden, Orris, becomes their implacable enemy. Justiciar Pyvic is sent after them, too.

While Loch has been in prison, a high-ranking Imperial officer has taken her family’s property and Loch wants them back. In order to do so, she has to break into the most heavily guarded areas of Heaven’s Spire. They are guarded by magic as well as people.

The Place Job is a heist story with an engaging cast. Loch herself is a very moral soldier; she repeats ”Fight the enemy, not their people” and expects others to follow that saying, too. She’s confident and very intelligent and at least one step ahead of her enemies. Oh, and she’s a black woman. Kail is her most trusted friend who will go through fire for her. He’s also more a rogue than a fighter and his favorite tactic is to insult the enemy’s mother until the enemy looses their cool and attacks him. Together Kail and Loch gather a group of people to help them. Loch knows some of them already.

Ululenia is a shapeshifting nature spirit. She’s in it for the money because with the money she can buy land away from greedy humans. She’s very attracted to virgins and her natural form is a unicorn. She’s not really a combatant and instead uses mind control.

Icy Fist is an acrobat and a martial arts expert. He’s sworn an oath not to hurt living beings. He’s an Imperial by birth and is very courteous towards the local, Republic’s, people. He usually works with Tern who is an expert lockpicker and tinker. She’s also an actor and skilled in con jobs.

Loch is looking for an old and reliable magic user she knows. Unfortunately, he has died so instead Loch has to settle for Hessler who has just been thrown out of the university. Then he was accused of cheating at cards and promptly thrown into jail. A young and naive man tried to defend Hessler and ended up in chains next to him. Hessler doesn’t want to leave the boy so Loch agrees to take in Dairy as well. That’s the boy’s nickname. Hessler’s expertise are illusions and magical objects.

Last but possible the most interesting person in the group is Desidora, a death priestess who has an interesting history. She’s working on magic defenses along with Hessler. She also has a talking, ancient warhammer Ghylspwr which can do a lot of damage. Ghylspwer talks in a made-up language.

On the other side of the legal fence is the hard-working ex-solder Pyvic who is doing is best to get the prisoners so that he can get on with the important work. However, politics gets into his way. The former warden Orris is assigned to Pyvic because Orris needs a chance to clear his name. Unfortunately for Pyvic, Orris doesn’t know anything at all about catching criminals. Of course, the story has also a mystery villain who is behind it all and has lots of political power.

All of these people have personalities and they all have their moment to shine, so the book doesn’t feel too crowded.

I was a bit surprised by how much I liked this book. I love Ocean’s eleven and the TV series Hustle but I haven’t read many heist stories so I was a bit skeptical about how well it could work. This one worked really well and I enjoyed it throughly. In fact, I wouldn’t mind reading more about Loch and her friends. (The other heist story I remember reading was Sanderson’s Mistborn which I also loved. Hmm. Any recommendations of other heist books?)

The world is a bit different from usual fantasy worlds. For one thing, the Republic is really a republic with people voted into office. It requires some way to tell people about what’s happening and here they use a puppet show! I loved that! The Republic has a two-party system, the Skilled and the Learned, who are constantly at odds with each other. The magic system isn’t really explained but I didn’t mind that. It felt more like technology than magic, to me.

The narration doesn’t tone down the danger but it’s not really gory or gritty (thankfully). In fact, the book has a lot of humor.

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 1991
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Gildart Jackson
Running Time: 9 hrs and 38 minutes

I’m a fan of Rusch’s SF books but this is the first fantasy I’ve read from her. It’s also her first published book.

Alaric is the King’s eldest son and heir. Even though he’s still very young, ten, he’s already trying to know how to do his future job properly. At the start of the book, he’s gone to see a mysterious Enos who can see his future. The Enos prophesies that Alaric will wise and feared but that he will be threatened with death.

Alaric is constantly asking his father about the ways to rule. However, his questions annoy the King and alarm the high nobles. Alaric wants to go the nearby big city Anda and Lord Boton promises to take him there. However, it’s Lord Ewehl who shows up to escort the young prince to the city. The Lord gives the boy some money and sends him off to explore Anda on his own. Unfortunately, Alaric is soon beaten and robbed. To his shock he finds out that Lord Ewehl hasn’t waited for him and nobody believes that he’s actually the prince.

Seymour is a son of a famous magician. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his father’s talents and so he wasn’t properly trained. He lives on the lands of lord Dakin who has a dark reputation for hunting his enemies with dogs and Seymour is one of the few who has escaped such a hunt alive. When he hears that another man is being hunted, he helps the man. The man turns out to be Byron, a bard. Byron is rumored to have killed a lady and that’s why he’s in trouble. He’s, of course, innocent. He needs a powerful protector and to get that he heads to the King’s court. But getting to the King isn’t easy and lord Dakin is still after them.

The world has a few unique features even though the social system is a common feudal system. The Enos seem to be some sort of earth spirits but in physical bodies. They are attuned to the land and can sense if the land is in turmoil or “wants blood”. The Enos make prophesies and are forbidden to help humans.

Magic is real and magicians are accepted as another profession. Herbal healers help people and powerful wizards are in the Lords’ employ. Byron ends up leading a bardic troupe so we get to know more about them.

Alaric is an idealistic ten year old but he feels older to me. However, he has to quickly learn to live in his new life. Luckily, he makes friends who will prevent him from dying of hunger on the streets. He learns harsh lessons.

Seymour is in his mid-thirties and he’s lost his idealism long ago. He’s bitter at his father and unsure about his own abilities. He develops a quick attachment to Byron and the two travel together. Byron has ideas about how to get into the King’s palace and how to leave their pursuers behind.

The book has many other point-of-view character. Some of them are seen only briefly and some of them are the story’s bad guys. One of them is a starving street urchin.

I enjoyed the book but I don’t think it’s quite as good as Rusch’s later books. Still, it’s nice to read a stand-alone fantasy for a change.

Illustrated by Jacqueline East

A retelling of six Irish folktales about the Little People.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 64
Publisher: Gill & Macmillan

This is a charming little book for kids. Each page has illustrations which match the story on that page. The book has six stories where people encounter Leprechauns in various ways. In a couple of them, greedy humans are trying to get the Leprechaun’s gold but there are other classic tales, too. The stories are pretty short.

The stories: The Crock of Gold, Niamh, The Sidhe, The Fairy Lios, The Magic Cloak, and The New House.

To me the illustrations look similar to children’s book illustrations and they fit the stories well.

Once Upon a Time VII is here! Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the challenge:

Thursday, March 21st begins the seventh annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Friday, June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

There are several options to choose from and I’m going to participate in

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

Reading pool:
It’s high time for me to finish a couple of fantasy series I’ve enjoyed a lot so “Burn the Night” by Jocelynn Drake and “Con and Conjure” and “All Spell Breaks Loose” by Lisa Shearin are on the list.

A wolf at the Door by K. A. Steward is the third in the series.
Blue Magic by Dellamonica is the second in the series.

I’m probably going to also begin at least one more series:
The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines

Of course, I have lots and lots of other fantasy books to read.

1, Yvonne Carroll: Leprechaun Tales
2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The White Mists of Power
3, Patrick Weeks: The Palace Job
4, Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure
5, Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose
6, Rachel Caine: Working Stiff
7, Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme
8, Jocelynn Drake: Burn the Night
9, Aliette de Bodard: Servant of the Underworld
10, N. K. Jemisin: The Killing Moon

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