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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Sarah Ash


When I’m writing I tend not to read any other novels, partly because I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced by what I’m reading, but mostly because I’m so immersed in the world of the story in progress that I just haven’t the will or interest to enter into another created world, no matter how imaginatively it’s been crafted.

However . . . there are exceptions every year and one was
Mélanie Fazi’s collection of short stories of the fantastic: “Serpentine” from Bragelonne. Mélanie Fazi is a subtle and dark storyteller and weaves her tales with seductive skill. I particularly recommend the title story, set in a tattoo parlour which uses rather special inks…

Another collection of short stories, this time translated from the Japanese by
Anthony H. Chambers for Columbia University Press, is “Tales of Moonlight and Rain” by Ueda Akinari, an exquisite collection dating from 1776, filled with exquisite imagery and scholarly footnotes—I love footnotes, especially when they’re so intriguing and illuminating as these.

I read aloud plenty of children’s books in my role as children’s librarian, some with more pleasure than others and a series that has given me—and the children—great enjoyment is the Mr Gum series by
Andy Stanton. Andy won the first Roald Dahl Award this year with his latest instalment, “Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear,” and it’s wonderfully crazy, hilarious, and inventive, in the best British tradition of humorous writing. “The truth is a lemon meringue!”

And now the manga. I read a lot of manga, some to review, some just for my own enjoyment. So I thought I’d end with some fantasy in manga form. First I have to mention a title that’s hot off the press from
Go! Comi: “07-Ghost” by Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara. I’ve been waiting a while for the first volume of this to be translated and I’m pleased to report that I’ve not been disappointed—far from it. “07-Ghost” is the story of orphan Teito Klein who is a promising cadet at the elite Barsburg Military Academy until the day he discovers a terrible secret about his past. Fleeing the Academy, he finds refuge at the Barsburg Church where three priests take him under their wing. But the officers of the Imperial Army are after Teito and they set in motion a plan which will use the most cruel and unexpected ways to regain control of him. But who are the sinister Seven Ghosts of the Barsburg Church—and what links do they have with Teito’s forgotten past? I really like the fresh approach that Amemiya and Ichihara bring to this exciting shonen/shojo fantasy adventure. They have created believable, sympathetic characters and a fascinatingly dark mythology. Ichihara’s artwork is distinctive and powerful, with some breath-taking action sequences. And this is only the first volume; it gets even better (yes, I confess that I’ve read on ahead.)

Nanae Chrono is best known for her ShinsengumiPeacemaker” manga series and—as I’m one of its fans—I’ve been looking forward to her vampire series “Vassalord”.
Tokyopop has brought out the first two volumes this year, and it’s been well worth the wait. Johnny Rayflo is a wealthy playboy vampire. Charles J. Chrishunds is a cyborg priest vampire hunter. It seems at the beginning as if Charley is out to arrest Johnny . . . but matters are far more complex, as is their relationship. But something is definitely amiss in the world and it may have something to do with the vampires’ desirable powers of longevity. Charley and Johnny will have to work together to uncover the corruption at the heart of the church before it destroys them. Chrono-sensei is a tease and has a wicked sense of humour; her drawings are gorgeous and detailed. I hope, as the tension increases, that we won’t have to wait too long for Volume 3.


Sarah Ash is a British author of several fantasy novels including The Tears of Artamon trilogy. Her new novel, “Flight into Darkness” (Published January 27, 2009 by
Bantam Spectra), concludes the Alchymist’s Legacy which began with “Tracing the Shadow”. Sarah also runs the library in a local primary school. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index



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