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Friday, February 27, 2009

“The Pilo Family Circus” by Will Elliott (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Order “The Pilo Family CircusHERE
Read Reviews via Blogcritics + HorrorScope

INTRODUCTION: I’m not really a fan of “pure” horror, but I was intrigued by the blurb to Will Elliott’sThe Pilo Family Circus” and decided to give it a try. From the book’s quite vivid first page, I was immediately hooked and knew that I had to read it. And indeed, “The Pilo Family Circus” turned out to be a wonderful novel, full of dark humor and grotesqueness. And while some horror elements are present in the novel, “The Pilo Family Circus” is really a mixture of genres and not that easy to categorize…

SETTING:The Pilo Family Circus” starts in Brisbane, Australia, but then moves into an imaginary space, somewhere outside of our reality, where the Circus of the title has its home and puts on shows to regular people called “tricks” who believe they are going to a regular circus performance. Once you are a member of the Circus, it’s for life, and since time inside the Circus grounds passes differently than on Earth, your life may be a really long one, if not a happy or enjoyable one.

The masters of the Circus are the diabolical and sadistic Kurt Pilo Jr., and his cowardly brother George who delights in mischief while trying to kill Kurt so he can lead the show himself. Always hovering in the background, the Pilo brothers possess the power to grant life, pain, death or passes to the “real world” over every one in the Circus.

In the Circus itself, there are bitter rivalries between various performers—most notably between the Acrobats and the Clowns, and the magician Mugambo and the seer Shalice—and the lengths to which one side or the other will go to score a point provides much of the novel’s black humor and tension.

Our main character in the book is Jamie, a young man working dead end jobs in Brisbane and living in a shared apartment with dubious friends, who gets recruited as the sixth clown JJ for the Pilo Circus. Of course, Jamie does not want this ‘honor’, but the leader of the clowns and his sidekicks (Gonko and the twins Doopy & Goshy) make Jamie an offer he literally cannot refuse after a thorough trashing of his apartment, almost blowing up his workplace, and other similar niceties.

FORMAT/INFO:The Pilo Family Circus” stands at 336 pages divided over four Parts and twenty-five titled chapters. Also includes an introduction by Katherine Dunn and an epilogue which hints at possible future books related to this one. The narration happens in the present-tense and is in the third-person via our main character Jamie/JJ, though other important characters have smaller POV parts.

Will Elliot's debut novel won the inaugural ABC Fiction Award and went on to be awarded two of Australia's most coveted genre accolades—the Ditmar and the Golden Aurealis. It was also short-listed for the 2007 International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel.

March 1, 2009 marks the North American Paperback publication of “The Pilo Family Circus” via new publisher,
Underland Press. The book was first published in Australia in 2006 (ABC Books) and published in limited edition (Hardcover + Slipcased Hardcover) by PS Publishing (See Inset) in August 2008.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: The novel starts with a literal bang when a strange clown suddenly materializes in front of Jamie's car on an otherwise normal night in Brisbane. After narrowly avoiding hitting the clown, Jamie dismisses the incident as a bizarre but otherwise unremarkable encounter. The next night though, the clowns show up again and shortly after, Jamie’s car mysteriously breaks down. Unfortunately, his troubles are just beginning.

From here, the pressure on Jamie slowly ratchets up and the novel’s tension increases with each incident generated by the seemingly supernatural powers of the clowns, as Jamie’s deadline to join the Circus draws closer.

Desperate and close to the edge, Jamie has no choice but to obey the clowns, and after making headlines in the newspapers and barely escaping arrest for his “performance”, the clowns declare themselves satisfied and Jamie becomes JJ, taking up his residence in the Pilo Circus clown tent.

Unwilling to give in and always looking for an out, Jamie discovers that the magic powder that is the performers’ wages gives them a lot of power, but at a price, and slowly the somewhat lost, naïve, and gentle Jamie is being replaced by the sadistic JJ—the way the true personalities of Gonko and the rest vanished years ago.

What will happen? Will Jamie escape or will JJ take over? That is one of the main questions of the novel, but there is also much more including the conflicts alluded above, the true nature of the Circus and the ‘big picture’ which is truly big.

A superb novel, Will Elliott’sThe Pilo Family Circus” is a page-turner that is impossible to put down and will at once horrify, entrance and amuse the reader. Highly recommended…
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philip José Farmer — In Memoriam by Fábio Fernandes

It´s with the deepest sadness that I learned that Philip José Farmer passed away in his sleep yesterday morning. He was 91 years old.

He leaves us a huge legacy. Since his first published science fiction story, “The Lovers”, won him the Hugo Award for “most promising new writer” in 1953 (the John W. Campbell Award didn´t exist then, having been created in 1973), and is widely recognized as the story that broke the taboo on sex in SF, featuring sexual relations between a human and an alien.

Farmer spawned worlds. In his Riverworld series, he managed to create a social experiment featuring resurrected people from all time periods of mankind to populate a world tailor-made for them by humans from the far future.

The first volume of the series, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go”, feature none other than Sir Richard Francis Burton, Alice Hargreaves (who inspired Lewis Carroll to create Alice in Wonderland), and Hermann Göering. (Other volumes will feature Mark Twain, Tom Mix, Mozart, and Jack London (even Jesus Christ will appear, but in a short apart from the novel series).

Even the most improbable scenarios were made believable in Farmer´s hands, as it was the case in Dayworld, where, due to overpopulation, human beings were forced by the government to live only one day per week, sleeping cryogenically the other six days. Of course, as this system is very far from perfect, there is a rebel who manages to override this system, managing to live the entire week, even if that means to lose himself in a plethora of different personalities, one-a-day.

Farmer also was sort of as a father to all fanfickers, since he practically invented the modern “pastiche” writing the biographies of Tarzan, Doc Savage and the other journal of Phileas Fogg—the explanation to reunite all the famous super-human characters was that their ancestors were all exposed to the strange radiation of a radioactive meteor in the city of Wold Newton, England, in 1795.

Some of these pulp characters would include Solomon Kane, Captain Blood, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, Allan Quatermain, Tarzan, Professor Challenger, Fu Manchu, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, The Shadow, Sam Spade, Doc Savage, The Spider, Nero Wolfe, Philip Marlowe, and James Bond, among many others.

He would win the Hugo again in 1968 for the novella “Riders of the Purple Wage”, and in 1972 for his first Riverworld novel, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go”. He would become a Grand Master in 2000, receiving also the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2001 and the Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2003. There are still one novel (The Evil in Pemberley House, co-authored with Win Scott Eckert) and one short story collection (The Other in the Mirror) forthcoming in 2009.

It was a long, fruitful life, and I am proud to have been his reader. Books like “The Lovers” and The Riverworld series touched me deeply as I was growing up. Later, his books on Tarzan and Doc Savage inspired me to write some of my first stories, fanfictions, and then the World of Tiers series and novels like “Two Hawks from Earth” and “Dayworld” spurred my imagination even further.

Our deepest condolences—from Robert Thompson, me and all the reviewers of Fantasy Book Critic—to his wife Bette, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Go in peace, master...
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

“Amberville” by Tim Davys (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Amberville Website
Order “AmbervilleHERE
Watch the Book Trailer

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tim Davys is a pseudonym for a Swedish writer. “Amberville” is his or her first novel and is the first book in the Mollisan Town Quartet.

PLOT SUMMARY: Eric Bear has it all: a successful career, a beautiful wife, a blissful home. He knows he's been lucky—a while back, his life revolved around drugs, gambling, a gang of stuffed-animal thugs, and notorious crime boss Nicholas Dove.

But the past isn't as far away as Eric had hoped and one day he is enlisted for one final job—to get Nicholas Dove off of the Death List. If Eric fails, his beloved wife, Emma Rabbit, will be torn apart, limb by limb.

The problem is, nobody knows if the Death List really exists. So Eric gathers together his team from the old days and embarks on a search where he learns that nothing in his world is as it seems...

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 343 pages divided over twenty-seven chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is mostly in the third-person via Eric Bear and his old gang including Tom Tom Crow, Sam Gazelle and Snake Marek. There are several chapters though that feature first-person narratives including Teddy Bear, someone described as ‘Twilight’, Hyena Bataille, Emma Rabbit and other minor characters. “Amberville” is self-contained but is the first book in the Mollisan Town Quartet.

February 24, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Amberville” via
Harper and was translated by Paul Norlen. “Amberville” was first published in Sweden in 2007 by Albert Bonniers Förlag. I believe a UK edition will be published in August 2009 via Random House UK.

ANALYSIS: Tim Davys’Amberville” is a difficult book to review. For starters, the novel was nothing like what I thought it would be. Based on the cover description and what few author blurbs I had read, I was expecting something in the vein of Charlie Huston or maybe Chuck Palahniuk. I was completely wrong. So my advice to anyone who decides to venture into the world of “Amberville”: keep an open mind

Secondly, I have no clue how one would go about classifying “Amberville”. At the core of the book is a mystery—several actually—that drive the narrative until the very end. But at the same time there’s also drama, of both a personal and familial nature; a sprinkle of crime noir; and a surprising amount of thought-provoking philosophy on good vs. evil and existentialism:

Evil is impossible without goodness. Evil seeks balance, it seeks a symmetry. Evil is social, because it only exists in an opposing relationship. Goodness is self-sufficient. It needs no one, nothing. I can be good on my own. But to manifest evil requires a counterpart.”

And then there’s the fantasy element—the fact that there are no people in “Amberville”. Instead the world, which in almost every way resembles our current one, is populated by stuffed animals. Stuffed animals who go to work, get married, love, cheat, become addicted to drugs, steal, hate, and so forth. In other words, these stuffed animals are just like humans except for two things: the way they are brought into the world and the way they leave.

Basically, stuffed animals are manufactured and are delivered to their parents—who by the way might be a Rhinoceros and a Boxer raising a Bear—by Deliverymen via a Cub List. Cubs are the same size then as they are when adults, the main difference being that Cubs can’t do anything yet like thinking, talking, etc. That’s where the parents come in. On the flipside is a Death List. If a stuffed animal’s name appears on the Death List, then they can expect to be taken away by a red pickup and never seen from again. Of course, the Death List is just a myth . . . or is it?

Because of the stuffed animals, there’s automatically something unique about “Amberville”, but don’t get the wrong idea—the stuffed animals are much more than a flashy gimmick. On the contrary, the author imbues Mollisan Town and its inhabitants with so much depth and realism—including the architecture and personality of the city and its four districts (Amberville’s bourgeois prosperity; Tourquai’s hectic urban life; Lanceheim, a city within a city; Yok, the problem area), a society that revolves around the Cub/Death List, et cetera—that you’ll start to believe that such a world actually exists somewhere…

The third reason that “Amberville” is difficult to review is because of the writing. On the one hand, it’s quite obvious that Tim Davys is an adept writer—at least as far as I can tell given that the U.S. version of “Amberville” is a translation—highlighted by a rich imagination, superb characterization, smooth prose and incredible flexibility which is evident by drastically different character voices and the way he easily handles various writing styles (first/third-person narratives, etc.). For example:

Noah Camel:can’t understand it can’t understand it can’t understand how someone can want to cause such pain such pain such pain and tears don’t help because I’m freezing ‘cause it’s cold it’s always cold cold but I’m not freezing down to the marrow and stuffing and this cold hurts so bad it hurts so bad

Eric Bear:The first time he saw her she was standing in front of a window that looked out over the sea. In her smile was a challenge he couldn’t resist. She was dressed in white. It was as though the image of Emma Rabbit was composed by an advertising agency. It was though he’d discovered her. It is said that love conquers all. It does.”

Emma Rabbit:The old lady who’s staring at the guppy can’t possibly be under sixty-five, and what does she think? That she looks like she did in her fifties? It’s tragic. When I turn fifty I hope I’ve aged with dignity. I’ll keep my head high, dress like a lady, and try not to cling to my youth as though I wasn’t finished with it. As if youth wasn’t already lived and completely, thoroughly explored. I’m not a stuffed animal who looks back. What has been, has been, and will never come back. I can’t understand those who go over and over all their old injustices, bitter about things that have happened, things that you can’t do anything about anyway.”

On the other hand, there were a couple of idiosyncrasies that detracted from the reading experience. One was the author’s tendency to merge multiple point-of-views into a single narrative. This was most apparent when the novel focused on Eric Bear and his friends—Tom Tom Crow, Sam Gazelle and Snake Marek. The other peculiarity was the story itself which at times is difficult to follow because the main narrative is so frequently interrupted by flashbacks, philosophical musings, large amounts of background information, and seemingly unrelated tangents. Fortunately, the story is quite gripping driven by compelling mysteries, and everything ties neatly together and makes sense at the end…

In the end, Tim Davy’sAmberville” is unusual, possesses idiosyncrasies that take some getting used to, and is hard to classify and review . . . but that’s all part of its unique charm. Because “Amberville” is like no other book you’ve ever read before and the experience it offers is a refreshingly different one, thought-provoking, surprisingly insightful, and ultimately enriching. I loved it…
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winners of the T.A. Pratt/Marla Mason and Mark Henry/Amanda Feral Giveaways!!! Plus Misc. News...

Congratulations to David Congdon (New York) and Krista Jackson (California) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of T.A. Pratt’s Marla Mason novels including copies of “Blood Engines”, “Poison Sleep”, “Dead Reign”, and the new book “Spell Games”, all thanks to Bantam Spectra!!! “Spell Games”, the fourth Marla Mason urban fantasy novel, officially comes out today! For more information, please visit the Official Marla Mason Website.

Congratulations also to David Tyckoski (Michigan) and Jennifer Allen (Michigan) who were both randomly selected to win SIGNED COPIES of
Mark Henry’sHappy Hour of the Damned” and “Road Trip of the Living Dead” thanks to Kensington Books and the author himself!!! “Road Trip of the Living Dead”, the second Amanda Feral novel, officially comes out today! For more information, please visit the Official Mark Henry Website.

In news, just a few tidbits:

To start with,
Cemetery Dance recently announced two new titles by Ronald Kelly, marking his triumphant return to the top of the horror genre. First is “Hell Hollow”, his first original novel in thirteen years:

The rural town of Harmony, Tennessee possessed a disturbing secret—a secret so ancient that most of its residents were completely unaware of it. Even the last survivors of a vigilante raid long ago have filed the tragic events of that autumn night away, totally unaware of the evil that remains, dormant, but forever patient, among the tall pines and thick-leaved kudzu of a place known only as Hell Hollow.

There it would have remained, unrevealed, if not for a handful of unknowing participants. Four kids, bored for excitement during one of the hottest summers on record. A killer on the run, dodging his latest atrocity. And a rape victim on a deadly mission—scarred in both body and mind. All have a hand in bringing forth an unspeakable evil from the dark woods of Hell Hollow...

Hell Hollow” will be available in Two Signed Limited Editions and can be ordered
HERE. Cover by Alex McVey.

Up next is “Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Tales”, a 424-page collection representing the best of Kelly's short fiction written during the past twenty years. “Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Tales”, which is available in Two Signed Limited Editions, is currently shipping now and can be ordered
HERE. Cover by Alex McVey.


Specializing in Southern Horror,
Ronald Kelly sets his dark rural tales in his home state and other southern locations. His novels include Hindsight, Pitfall, Something Out There, Moon of the Werewolf, Father’s Little Helper, The Possession, Fear, and Blood Kin. His audio-collection Dark Dixie: Tales of Southern Horror was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1991 and he has had numerous short stories in major anthologies, such as Cold Blood, Shock Rock, Hot Blood, Borderlands, The Earth Strikes Back, and Dark At Heart.

Reel Energy Entertainment and the Vampire Film Series and Festival (aka Vampire Fest) is proud to announce that Bridget Morrow, author of two unique contributions to the vampire lexicon, the novels, “Master” and “Alex”, will be one of the guests of Vampire Fest 2009.

Her first novel, “Master”, is the story of Lila, a young slave in the American South who is released from one type of bondage only to find another in the hands of her vampire lover, Alex. “Master” was published in 2004 and won the Los Angeles Black Book Expos Award for Fiction. Her second novel, “Alex”, is the prequel of “Master” and tells the story of Alexandre Venasillo, a nobleman in 15th century Spain, who ultimately becomes the vampire, Alex.

Bridget left her native St. Louis to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. While working in television, theater and film, she also received her bachelors in English Literature and became a Registered Nurse. The written word always fascinated her and she became a writer. Look for her upcoming horror novella, “The Better Year”, which will be released through
Bad Moon Books in April 2009. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

Moving on,
Orbit Books has released a cool new widget (see above) in support of Kevin J. Anderson’s upcoming novel “The Edge of the World”, which will be released this June. The widget includes a book synopsis, sample chapters, a video with the author, and information on a companion music CD.

Tor UK news, there is a new Podcast HERE with fantasy author Adrian Tchaikovsky in support of his new Shadows of the Apt novel, “Dragonfly Falling” (Reviewed HERE). Also, in support of the April 3, 2009 UK publication of Neal Asher’sShadow of the Scorpion”, which is an origin story of Agent Ian Cormac, Tor UK has released an extract HERE.

In really cool news, Brazilian wrtier
Fábio Fernandes, a regular contributor to Fantasy Book Critic, has sold his first short story to a U.S. online magazine called Everyday Weirdness. The story is called “The Boulton-Watt-Frankenstein Company” and can be read HERE. Be sure to check it out and congrats Fábio!!!

Giles Kristian informed me about a recently released teaser trailer HERE in support of his new book “Raven: Blood Eye”, which will be published on Thursday, February 26th (Bantam UK).
Monday, February 23, 2009

“The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume III” edited by George Mann (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Order HERE (US) + HERE (UK-March 2, 2009)

I like reading original sff anthologies, whether themed or not, and now is a great time for them with such titles being published like the Solaris SF/F line, Pyr’s Fast Forward books, Night Shade’s Eclipse volumes, and the indie Hadley Rille Ruins novels as well as numerous themed “standalone” books.

I’ve read the first two Solaris SF anthologies and liked them both, with the second volume being even better than the first, though volume one contained the story “Last Contact” by
Stephen Baxter which is as good and representative of why short fiction should be read in itself as any story out there.

On receiving an ARC of the third Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, I immediately put down everything I was reading at the time and rushed to finish the book. In short, the anthology is excellent, containing seven superb stories, three very good ones bordering on excellent, and five good ones that moved along nicely.

Placement of the stories in the book is done very well, offering balance and enough variation to keep the pages turning. If there is one thing I regretted though, it’s that some of the stories finished too quickly...

I’ll be reviewing each story individually, in they order they appear in the book:

1)Rescue Mission” by
Jack Skillingstead **** 1/2

A pilot of a drop ship lands on a strange planet populated by sentient trees; he needs to recover his humanity with the help of his co-pilot to escape... I liked the style and setting, but a little bit more background would have made this story perfect.

2)The Fixation” by
Alastair Reynolds ****

The story of two Iranian/Persian girls in parallel universes linked by a strange artifact... As usual, Reynold’s story is very dependable and features a great ending, but is a bit too short & predictable, and lacks the sense of wonder of his best stories or the depth of his longer novellas which deal with a similar topic.

3)Artifacts” by
Stephen Baxter *****

On par and thematically similar to “Last Contact”. Hard sf about the Multiverse, mind-boggling but humane at the same time. Highlight of the collection for pure hard sf by a master of such.

4)Necroflux Day” by
John Meaney *****

Returns to Tristopolis in the “Bone Song” days, but from the perspective of a young mixed-blood student, his archivist widowed father, and his Thanatos priest/teacher. All about the price of progress in Tristopolis. After I loved the Nulapeiron Trilogy, I was so-so on “Bone Song”, but this story made me want to return to that universe and read “Dark Blood”, the second novel set in Tristopolis. Highlight of the collection for world-building.

5)Providence” by
Paul Di Filippo *****

On a post-apocalyptic Earth, sentient machines rule, but their civilization is declining. Huge motorized Reddy K. leaves his comfy East Village, Manahttan pad and his hobot girlfriend for a dangerous wilderness trip to Providence, RI where local ruler Big Tube unearthed an huge cache of spiral and has some for sale—spiral being an immensely addictive robot fix although I will let you discover what spiral is by reading the story. Smart and funny though not quite a parody. Highlight of the anthology for humor.

6)Carnival Night” by
Warren Hammond ***

Not a fan of the KOP novels, though this one moved along nicely for me. Set on Koba, it's about the murder of a rich do-gooder tourist investigated by a disgraced policeman. The heroes of KOP make an appearance too. Good atmosphere, predictable mystery.

7) The Assistant” by
Ian Whates ***

Assistant janitor is more than meets the eye... This one had an interesting premise but did not quite work for me.

8) "Glitch" by
Scott Edelman **** 1/2

Prim S-Tr resists the attempts of her bonded partner X-ta to have “animal-like” human intimacy. Then things go out of control... Interesting, funny and dark at the same time. The style was a bit flat but otherwise very good.

9)One of Our Bastards is Missing” by
Paul Cornell ***** +

Out of all of the stories in a superb anthology, this was my favorite. Major Hamilton of the British Empire, keeper of the balance in this future steampunk with miracles setting, seethes as he watches Crown Princess Liz, his one time ladylove, getting married to a Swedish prince. But the naughty Kaiser has plans of his own for the wedding, so it's up to the Major to save the day. Just a superb adventure, I would love a novel in this setting. The story “Catherine Drewe” from
Pyr's Fast Forward 2—which is freely available online—is the first story with Hamilton and there he thwarts the Bear (Russian Empire) in nefarious doings on Mars. Highlight of the anthology for panache and just pure fun.

10)Woodpunk” by
Adam Roberts ***

Mutated sentient forest asks for its rights from humanity; woodpunk indeed. The only minor disappointment of the anthology since I love
Adam Roberts’ work, but this one just did not click with me. Moved along nicely though and was well written, so not a complete waste.

11)Mynia's Astral Angels” by
Jennifer Pelland *****

In a corporate-dominated matriarchal universe, the Astral Angels—modified sexless human-based sentient beings with no rights as a species because they cannot reproduce and once used to terraform planets—are now passe since robots are cheaper and more efficient these days. Bt a daughter of the clan-matriarch falls in love with them and needs to find a way to save them from corporate “cost-cutting”. Semi-parody, but features absolutely stunning prose. This was the first story I ever read by Ms. Pelland and was so impressed by it that I immediately ordered her short story collection “Unwelcome Bodies”. Highlight of the anthology for style.

12)The Best Monkey” by
Daniel Abraham *****

Another superb story, this time about a mysterious corporation called Fifth Layer which dominates current tech with extraordinary inventions that are unorthodox and inelegant, but work. There is talk of the Roswell theory, namely that Fifth Layer is a front for secretive aliens, so older investigative reporter Jimmy is put on the case since a senior executive of Fifth Layer was his girlfriend thirty years ago. Highlight of the anthology for idea-based sf.

13)Long Stay” by
Ian Watson ***

Car “estates” and illicit parties in near-future England... Well written, but the subject matter left me cold.

14)A Soul Stitched to Iron” by
Tim Akers *****

In a fantasy-like story set in the city of Veridon, a young dispossessed nobleman affiliated with organized crime has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a former friend whose actions made the Council crack down on the underground. Marked by superb world-building and very good action, I am truly looking forward to Mr. Akers’ novel “Heart of Veridon” set for release August 2009. Highlight of the anthology for storytelling.

15)iThink, Therefore I Am” by
Ken MacLeod ***

Future gadget iThink and human will. Short and somewhat funny, but not up to the rest of the anthology or to the author’s other pieces like “Wolf 351” in the New Space Opera anthology.
Sunday, February 22, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: World-Famous Fantasy Authors & Artists Contribute to Anthology Benefit to Help Musician S.J. Tucker!

Thanks to Shira Lipkin, I was informed of a wonderful benefit anthology to help pay the medical bills for independent musical artist S.J. Tucker who fell ill in December. For more information, please read the Official Press Release below:

World-famous fantasy authors and artists have joined together to produce a limited-edition benefit anthology entitled “Ravens in the Library”. This exclusive book—featuring Newbery Award-winner
Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Sandman), Spiderwick Chronicles creator Holly Black, vampire noir author Laurell K. Hamilton and many other contributors—is being released this March to help independent music artist S.J. Tucker, a popular figure in the postmodern urban fantasy scene.

Tucker—who, like her idol Ani DiFranco, favors a self-produced career—was struck with a serious and expensive combination of medical problems in December, 2008. Like an estimated third of Americans today, Tucker could not afford health care coverage, and found herself facing tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Fortunately, Tucker has friends and fans in high places. Called together by GAMA Award-winning author
Phil Brucato (Mage: The Ascension)—an instructor at the Art Institute of Seattle—over two dozen writers and artists contributed their work to help defray those expenses. The resulting book, “Ravens in the Library”, was titled after one of Tucker’s songs.

Self-published by Brucato and his partner Sandra Buskirk (to whom Brucato was introduced by Tucker), the collection has been produced entirely by grass-roots “new media” methods. Through a combination of Internet marketing, social networking sites, virtual technology commerce and print-on-demand techniques, the book was put together in roughly six weeks, and has pre-sold nearly a thousand copies to date. It will not be distributed through stores, and can be ordered online, for a limited time only, through

In addition to New York Times bestsellers like Gaiman, Black and Hamilton, contributors to “Ravens in the Library” include American Library Association Award-winner
Charles de Lint (The Mystery of Grace, The Blue Girl), pop-cultural folklore professor Ari Berk (Runes of Elfland), The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series editor Terri Windling, Hot Topic fairy artist Amy Brown, Storm Constantine (Wraeththu Chronicles), the James Tiptree, Jr. Award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente (The Orphan’s Tales), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), and the aforementioned Shira Lipkin.

The anthology features 28 illustrated stories; some are reprinted, others are new. “Ravens in the Library” also boasts original covers by author/artist
James A. Owen (Here, There be Dragons). Each contributor donated his or her work free of charge. In several cases, this was because those people had been in similar situations themselves.

As of 2007, an estimated 46,000,000 Americans under the age of 65 lacked medical coverage. That number has grown to unknown proportions. Over 10% of American children, under current estimates, are not covered, and nearly 40% of the uninsured population resides in households that earn $50,000 a year or more. Despite the “fantastic” solution to Tucker’s problem, this issue remains a significant concern in the United States. “Ravens in the Library” is an imaginative approach to the problem of health care in America. Few people, however, share
S.J. Tucker’s popularity, and so this book is only a small step toward a larger solution.


Born to an artistic Arkansas family, singer/songwriter
S.J. Tucker took inspiration from Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, and Ani DiFranco when she began performing in 1997. She formed her first band, Skinny White Chick, in 1999; after playing a series of festivals in 2002 and releasing her first album, Haphazard, Tucker decided to become a full-time musician in 2004. That same year, she met fire spinner Kevin Wiley. The two hit it off immediately and formed the performance troupe Fire and Strings, which performed at Burning Man in 2005. A year later, Tucker co-founded the West Coast band/musical collective Tricky Pixie with Betsy Tinney and Alexander James Adams. In 2007, she released “Blessings” and “Solace and Sorrow”, the latter a companion album to Catherynne M. Valente’s novel “The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice”. For more information, please visit the musician’s Official Website and Official Myspace.
Saturday, February 21, 2009

“Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer” by Laini Taylor (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Official Laini Taylor Website
Order “Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer

Fairies are often seen as helpful creatures, but are never really looked at as the main character in a storyline. Which makes coming across a book that solely focuses on faeries a rare find. Laini Taylor, in her YA novel “Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer”, brings to life a whole new world of faeries who are on the brink of destruction by an evil force...

Magpie is an adventurous fairy who has spent most of her young life in pursuit of finding the devils that the humans have unleashed on the world, and sealing them up before they can cause any problems. While on her journey, Magpie comes across an evil so powerful that it will take more then she is capable of to capture and protect the world. If Magpie doesn't succeed then darkness may soon take over.

While trying to save the world, Magpie runs into a whole series of mysteries, including finding out what happened to the ancient warrior queen Bellatrix who disappeared centuries ago, and discovering where the dragons went, if they even existed. Along with the mysteries there are also plenty of adventures that Magpie encounters: awaking an ancient djinni that must help save the world, having vampire-like creatures sent after her to distract her from her goal, and even having close encounters with the humans known as “mannies”.

Because there are so few books out there that use faeries as a main character, there are many directions that a writer can take. In Taylor’s case, she dives head first into this world making it a treat for young and old readers alike. While readers might believe that the main plot—a great evil set to destroy the world with only a born champion capable of preventing the destruction from happening—is a story that is often overused and can be found in any assortment of YA books currently available, there are however, plenty of interesting subplots that make this book appealing even for the veteran fantasy reader. At times though, the plot does get boring or starts to lag, and cutting the page count down from its 440 pages probably would have aided the novel.

Storyline isn't the only element that will bring in readers: the characterization of the faeries is also unique and intriguing with just the right mix of different types of faeries. There are the traditional faeries that can talk with the earth and use its properties for good, and the warrior-like faeries that carry daggers and are trained to attack anything that might harm their land. A diverse cast of characters also adds to the many faeries that the readers come across, including the band of crows that follows Magpie around, an evil rat, and the legendary Djinni, all characters who bring a little bit to the storyline.

While the story and the use of faeries as a main character are some of Taylor’s strengths, there is one major weakness. There are a lot of instances where it feels as though readers are jumping into an already established story where the author knows what’s going on, but we don’t, and very little information is given to keep us in the loop.

Along with this, there’s also the lack of convincing development between characters. For example, Talon, a wingless fairy prince, falls in love with Magpie, but since there is so little interaction throughout the book between these two characters, it felt like this subplot was just randomly thrown into the novel.

Overall, as much as I wanted to love the story of warrior faeries battling evil devils, I found Laini Taylor’sFaeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer” a hard book to get into. Nevertheless, I understand this is Taylor's debut and the novel wasn’t a complete letdown, especially since it offers a fresh look at faeries. So I hope “Blackbringer” will open the door for other authors to take a fresh approach at faeries, and with the second Faeries of Dreamdark book on the horizon, I also hope to see Laini Taylor’s writing grow and improve...
Friday, February 20, 2009

“Blood and Ice” by Robert Masello (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Robert Masello Website
Order “Blood and Ice
HERE (US) + HERE (UK-March 5, 2009)
Read An Excerpt
Read Reviews via Green Man Review

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, a television writer (Charmed, Early Edition), and the author of many books, most recently the USA Today bestselling “Vigil” and “Bestiary”. His articles and essays have appeared often in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, People, and Parade, and his nonfiction book, Robert’s Rules of Writing, has become a staple in many college classrooms. He is also a longstanding member of the Writers Guild of America.

ABOUT BLOOD AND ICE: In this haunting and suspenseful thriller, Robert Masello delivers an adventure that spans continents and centuries—a spellbinding story that ranges from Victorian England to a remote antarctic research station, where an ancient glacier yields a shocking prize it has held captive for nearly two hundred years...

Journalist Michael Wilde—his world recently shattered by tragedy—hopes that a monthlong assignment to the South Pole will give him a new lease on life. Here, in the most inhospitable place on earth, he is simply looking to find solace . . . until, on a routine dive into the polar sea, he unexpectedly finds something else entirely: a young man and woman, bound with chains and sealed forever in a block of ice. Beside them a chest filled with a strange, and sinister, cargo.

Now, in a bleak but breathtaking world of shimmering icebergs, deep blue crevasses, and never-ending sun, Wilde must unravel the mystery of this doomed couple. Were they the innocent victims of fear and superstition—or were they something far darker? His search will lead from the barracks and battlefields of the Crimean War to the unexplored depths of the Antarctic Ocean, from the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade to an age-old curse that survives to this day.

As the ice around the murdered lovers begins to melt, Wilde will have to grapple with a miracle—or a nightmare—in the making. For what is dead, it turns out, may not be gone. And here, at the very end of the known world, there’s nowhere to hide and no place left for the living to run...

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 512 pages divided over fifty-five time/dated chapters and four Parts, each featuring a passage from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’sThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Narration is in the third-person via three main characters—photojournalist Michael Wilde, Lieutenant Sinclair Copley and Eleanor Ames—and also includes a few secondary players. “Blood and Ice” is self-contained, but there is definitely scope for a sequel if the author so chooses.

February 24, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Blood and Ice” via
Bantam Spectra. The UK edition (see inset), will be published on March 5, 2009 by Harvill Secker.

ANALYSIS: A mix of historical fiction, techno-thriller and horror—think Dan Simmons’ The Terror meets Michael Crichton meets Jasper Kent’s TwelveRobert Masello’sBlood and Ice” is a gripping page-turner that grabbed me from the very beginning...

At the beginning, readers are transported back to December 28, 1856 onboard the HM Sloop Coventry “in the Southern Ocean”, where we are introduced to Sinclair and his ‘wife’ Eleanor who, along with a chest full of mysterious bottles, are suddenly the target of a savage attack spurred by superstition. From here, “Blood and Ice” alternates between two different storylines. One is set in present day and follows photojournalist Michael Wilde on a job to Antarctica where he makes the discovery of a lifetime—two perfectly preserved human bodies from another era! This storyline, with its technological jargon, interesting real-life science and pulse-pounding thrills—including riding out a storm on an icebreaker and reliving the tragic moment when Michael’s wife fell into a coma—should appeal to fans of adventure novels and techno-thrillers everywhere.

The other storyline takes place in 1854 and concentrates on Lieutenant Sinclair Copley of the 17th Lancers and nurse Eleanor Ames; how they met, their different lifestyles, their courtship, and the events that led up to December 28, 1856. Full of historical detail like Florence Nightingale, the gentlewomen facility on Harley Street, Pall Mall, the Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade, this part of the book will fascinate anyone who is a history buff.

It’s in parts three and four that the two storylines converge and the novel starts introducing some fantastical elements including a sprinkle of horror and science fiction. It’s hard to discuss this part of the book without giving anything away, especially since it makes up over half of the novel, but suffice it to say that Robert gives fresh life to a couple of classic SF/horror tropes, including a scientific spin on a concept that every reader will be familiar with…

Apart from the interesting hybridization of genres, what makes “Blood and Ice” such a gripping read is the excellent writing. Prose is skillful and accessible (reminded me of a cross between James Rollins and Jasper Kent); the dialogue is believable; the pacing is superb; and the author’s storytelling—particularly his ability to juggle two such disparate storylines while building suspense—is topnotch. Characterization is also impressive, specifically how easy it is to care for them, especially Eleanor, but their narrative voices do sound a lot alike. Fortunately, their distinctive personalities—Michael’s journalistic mindset, Darryl’s scientific geekiness, Eleanor’s 19th century sensibilities, Sinclair’s aristocratic nature, etc.—more than make up for this tiny deficiency.

Other minor issues include the book being just a tad too long, a few predictable moments that are telegraphed too obviously by the author, a somewhat anticlimactic ending, and a couple of highly convenient plot devices like the discovery of a new species of fish that offers the solution to one of the novel’s greatest questions.

Overall though, Robert Masello’sBlood and Ice” is a splendidly conceived and executed novel that I just couldn’t put down. As entertaining as it is suspenseful, “Blood and Ice” is a superb reading experience that wonderfully bridges the gap between literary and speculative fiction…
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Mark J. Ferrari


Well . . . I promised Robert I’d have this to him by the end of January—and in accord with my signature punctuality when it comes to correspondence of all kinds—here I am . . . showing up in mid-February after the barn has burned and all the horses have fled. Ah, Robert . . . the patience of Joby, you have.

2008 was a crazier and crazier year, culminating in a so-far even crazier 2009, and I had shockingly little time to read (or eat or sleep . . . which may have had something to do with living in a rental room overlooking the back yard of Delta Chi Fraternity in Seattle’s U District, but that’s all history now too, and another story anyhow). There were a few books, however, enticing and imminently readable enough to find me last year—and this—in spite of everything. At the top of that sadly brief list were three books:

1)The Graveyard Book” by
Neil Gaiman. I found this one of the most lyrical things I’ve ever read, amazingly credible, frequently moving, and ultimately uplifting. No mean feat for a book about a toddler raised to young adulthood by dead people in a graveyard after the ‘senseless’ mass murder of his family. This book made me want to try harder at making my own life more lyrical, credible, and uplifting. Thanks Mr. Gaiman! I needed that!

2)Territory” by
Emma Bull. I don’t like Westerns as a rule—but I loved this one! The writing is beautiful, and these were frontier cowboys and china-men, and plucky ‘schoolmarm’ types I not only believed, but cared about, tangled up in a kind of frontier magic I found all the more delightfully mysterious and credible for the ways in which Ms. Bull left the ‘mechanics’ of that magic often vividly but never fully illuminated. As with “The Graveyard Book”, I found the way her story ended very satisfying. It ‘wound up’ very decisively, yet left so many ‘other threads’ hanging that the tale just kept going on in my head when I had read the last page and closed the cover. That’s the kind of read I like.

3)A Shadow in Summer” by
Daniel Abraham. Beautifully written, full not only of characters I believed completely and cared about, but of a world and its cultures that were at once fully comprehensible and yet authentically otherworldly. Beautiful devices like the ‘hand and posture’ language constantly used by his characters in tandem with verbal communication made all exchanges both richer and more enjoyably ‘foreign’ for me. My ‘current penance’ has not allowed me time to read the second and third books in this quartet yet, but I am certainly looking forward to it as soon as there is again some rest for the wicked in these parts.


As for what I am hoping to read in 2009—besides the rest of Abraham’s quartet, I hope to get back to
George R.R. Martin’s continuing Song of Ice and Fire series. And of course, I await the next Harry Potter book . . . there IS another Harry Potter book coming—isn’t there? Surely you jest...


As for Robert’s inquiry about what’s next from me, I am working merrily away on a new novel. Rumors you may have heard last year about a fantasy trilogy turned out to be as unfounded as those of my death. That project has been postponed indefinitely. The novel I am working on now is a single volume, stand alone urban fantasy not related in any way to “The Book of Joby”. Its working title is “Twice,” and it’s the absolutely secular story of a man who may or may not have been beaten to death by a troll in an alleyway on the evening of his 50th birthday—and is granted an unwitting, and somewhat poorly conceived ‘dying wish.’ It’s going well, proving a lot of fun to write, and I hope to have it finished by Summer’s end at latest, when I will, of course, take it straight to
Tor. What happens after that—and when—is in the hands of wiser heads than mine. If you’re coming to Norewescon, however, I’ll be reading from it there, in case you’re curious.

Here’s to a 2009 full of more reading, more writing, more great novels to choose from, and more punctual correspondence from yours truly.

Sincerely, (within reason),

Mark Ferrari


For seventeen years, Mark Ferrari made his living doing freelance illustration for such clients as Lucasfilm and Lucas Arts Games, Industrial Light & Magic, Electronic Arts, Chaosium Games, Amaze Entertainment, Tor, Ace, New American Library, The Science Fiction Book Club, and many others. “The Book of Joby” is his first novel. 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

“The Accord” by Keith Brooke (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Order “The AccordHERE (US) + HERE (UK-March 2, 2009)

INTRODUCTION: After reading the well-received “Genetopia”, which was the first time I encountered Mr. Brooke's writing at length, I started following the author’s sff output and really enjoyed his lyrical novella “The Accord” that was published in the first Solaris Book of New Science Fiction edited by George Mann. Now, with The Accord, Keith Brooke has expanded on that novella as well as two other related short fiction pieces—“Sweats” published in the anthology We Think, Therefore We Are edited by Pete Crowther, and “The Man Who Built Haven” published in Postcripts—delivering a full-length novel that is a story of love, obsession and redemption that spans time, space and multiple iterations of personas...

SETTING:The Accord” is a very powerful novel and that is reflected in its setting which manages to smoothly transition from a near-future Earth wrecked by climate change, millions of refugees and political instability; to the man-made digital Haven of ‘The Accord’ and finally to a space opera setting of diverse human civilizations across the Universe; all with a twist. The novella of the same title takes place in this last part of the novel and is slightly modified to fit with the rest of the book, while the other two stories take place in the Earth-based parts.

The Accord” is the story of three characters:

Elector Jack Burnham, one of the crumbling Earth’s powerful elite, is a relatively benign and progressive English politician and a supporter of Haven, a digital reality where the “harvested” dead can live forever if The Accord achieves “consensus”. Not everyone shares his views though and Jack has to walk a fine line between neo-Nazi elector Nesbitt of the “drown all refugees at sea and shoot the survivors if they the reach English soil” ideology, and the devout elector al-Naqawi for which the Accord is an abomination. During all of this, Jack begins to suspect that his wife of many years is having an affair. Still deeply infatuated with Priscilla, Jack is willing to use any means necessary to destroy her presumed lover and win her back...

Priscilla Burnham, electee and powerful hostess and politician in her own right, is the direct liaison to the Accord team, and particularly to the “man who is building Haven”, genius Noah Barakh. Priscilla respects her husband and while the years have eroded her passion for him, she has been faithful to him until a strange attraction to Noah develops...

Noah Barakh, the genius behind Haven, has his hands full bargaining with politicians for money and the Chinese mafia for resources, while shepherding the team that builds the Accord based on his ideas including main coder Dr. Warrener, chief of operations Zhang Xialoing, math genius Huey Kashvili, and hacker Chuckboy Lee. And then there’s Priscilla Burnham...

FORMAT/INFO:The Accord” stands at 448 pages divided into three parts, based on the Accord's development stage, from the pre-Consensus version 0, to the Earth-bound version 1, and ending with the Universe version 2. Each part is subdivided into numbered chapters. The narration takes place in the present of the novel, though neither synchronicity nor the notion of an individual are straightforward concepts here. Noah Barakh, in his various iterations, is mostly a first-person narrator, alternating with third-person viewpoints; Jack is both a third person POV and later, in slightly changed circumstances for his persona, a first-person narrator; while Priscilla is always a third-person POV. The narration shifts abruptly between various POVs and modes of narration, but the novel is so well-written that you do not really notice it once you get into the flow. The ending brings together the main threads of the novel together and is perfect.

February 24, 2009/March 2, 2009 marks the North American/UK Mass Market publication of “The Accord” via
Solaris Books. Cover designed by Darius Hinks.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS:The Accord” is first and foremost a superbly written novel, featuring beautiful prose that instantly hooked me from the powerful opening page and kept the pages turning. For an example, here’s the opening paragraph of the novel:

Last night I dreamed. The same old dream. The same old dream, and different every single time. You…laughing, fooling around. To see you so liberated,so you, is a blessing in itself. I hardly need more, although…I always need more. You take my hand, lead me down to the river. Long sleek cruisers line up like toys along the far shore. A rank of needle towers, each sixty storeys high, scrapes the sky beyond them.”

The book is also a rare combination of thought-provoking ideas including hard sf if we accept strong-AI theories that consciousness is purely material and a state that can be transcribed into other objects, not just flesh and blood brains occupying functional bodies. Lastly, “The Accord” is a lyrical novel of love, loss, revenge, exploration and adventure...

While Earth is going down the drain with climate-induced problems including millions of refugees with no place to go, deadly acts of terrorism, and politicians pressing for laws that would allow the military to kill refugees, Noah is building a digital afterlife. The project is viewed by many as a last-ditch effort to save humanity and the idea of “harvesters” that record the state of consciousness of willing people for download into the Accord is mostly popular, though of course the devout are strongly opposed to what they regard as blasphemy.

It is speculated that when enough “souls” of dead people are downloaded into it, the Accord will take on a hard reality called The Consensus, and start functioning as a “true, objective” world governed by its protocols as fundamental “laws of nature”. It is a speculation that is proven true sooner than people expected...

Thrown into the Accord because of Jack’s jealously, both Priscilla and Noah’s personas coalesce unexpectedly when Consensus hits with their budding love affair on Earth not making it into Priscilla’s unique Consensus iteration, while Noah remembers everything since she was as powerful an obsession for him as she was for Jack.

Content to be friends for now, Priscilla starts “collecting” lost children who are even more bewildered by the change than the adults coming into the Accord. Noah meanwhile, still has unfinished business in “meatspace” as Earth is now known. So riding “sweats”, he continues bargaining with the Shanghai gangs for resources to grow the Accord, and pushes the many Huey iterations/multiple beings to solve the fundamental problem of transferring the Accord into the fabric of the Universe.

When Jack becomes the first elector to reside in the Accord, courtesy of an assassin's bullet, Priscilla and Noah's lives are again in danger. Of course, if you die in the Accord you are re-birthed with most of your memories intact, though you become a slightly different iteration...

While the “eternal” struggle between Priscilla, Noah and Jack powers a lot of the intrigue and action in the novel, the Accord itself slowly emerges as a major character and its inevitable development once it removes the shackles of its dependency on Earth's infrastructure, moves the novel into space opera territory, elevating the book to a truly major sf work that should be considered for all eligible awards in 2009.

In the end, Keith Brooke’sThe Accord” is highly, highly recommended. And while I am reluctant to make predictions about how my 2009 rankings will shake out at the end of the year, I strongly believe “The Accord” will be one of the best science fiction novels I read all year...
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“The Magician's Apprentice” by Trudi Canavan (Reviewed by David Craddock)

Official Trudi Canavan Website
Order “The Magician’s Apprentice
Read An Extract HERE

Before the events of 9/11, Americans had grown pompous and superficial in their freedom. Thousands died of starvation and perpetual war overseas while our populace obsessed over fashion trends, maxed out every available credit card, and sulked when our friends' electronic gizmos were more sophisticated than our own.

Like Americans, the inhabitants of the fictional country Kyralia had grown complacent in their freedom. In exchange for protection, homes, and governance, the citizens of every city and village paid a tithe to their ruling magician. This mutual agreement allowed the magicians to sit in their mansions and read books, ponder the meaning of life, and have delectable dinners with their friends.

Shortly following the outset of Trudi Canavan'sThe Magician's Apprentice”, the prequel to The Black Magician Trilogy, a Kyralian village is invaded by Sachaka, a country who granted Kyralia their independence some years ago. The eradication of one small village precedes a string of tragedies and triumphs that demonstrate the fittingly tragic truth that tragedy is often required to make a people evaluate the relevancy of their lives.

Readers first observe Kyralia through the eyes of Tessia, the daughter of a healer whose gift of magic binds her to Lord Dakon, the compassionate magician in charge of her village. Tessia's partner apprentice is Jayan, a spoiled young man from an affluent family who resents having to share Lord Dakon's tutelage with what he perceives to be a simple peasant girl.

It is by observing Jayan and Tessia's rapport that readers are able to compare and contrast the differences between peasants and magicians. Like her father, Tessia's passion is healing; she learns magic because all magic users must learn to control their gift lest it spiral out of control, but more because she hopes to learn how to harness magic toward healing.

Tessia's obsession with healing initially confuses Jayan. Why, he wonders, would a person given the opportunity to wield magic waste time on such a non-magical pursuit? After Tessia retorts to one of Jayan's many snide comments, Jayan reconsiders the woman he believed to be fortunate due to the magic in her blood, yet ultimately simple because of her role in class structure.

A burgeoning respect for Tessia eventually sees Jayan assist in her healing endeavors. Although their attempts at saving lives often end in defeat, they force Jayan to evaluate the class hierarchy into which he was born. Before the invasion, he would have graduated his apprenticeship and become a higher magician. Such ascension meant a life of luxury, and a responsibility that would have been meaningless.

Now, in the aftermath of the invasion and the impending war against Sachaka, the responsibility of becoming a higher magician would be heavy indeed—but is he really ready for something that, mere days ago, represented nothing more than deferential servants, exquisite food, and a shallow governorship of a community?

Kyralian magicians as a whole learn more about themselves and their responsibilities to Kyralia. Before the Kyralians' first confrontation with the Sachakans, Lord Dakon ponders the Sachakan law permitting Sachakan magicians to kill their slaves for power if their magical reserves begin to run low. The king of Kyralia has a law forbidding such cruelty, yet upon realizing he could very well face death in the coming battle, Dakon wonders: if necessary, would he usurp the life of another human as callously as the Sachakans do their slaves?

Chronicling the realistic maturation of characters hung up on class hierarchical strictures is a talent for which Canavan is particularly known, and one that is evidenced throughout most of “The Magician's Apprentice”. Also considered trademark Canavan is the novel's smooth and eloquent prose, which alters ever so slightly depending on the current character's perspective. It is a tactic proficiently employed to further immerse readers in each character's struggle.

Despite a snappy style and interesting characters, “The Magician's Apprentice's” pace is not up to par with Canavan's earlier work. Each story line starts off well-paced and exciting, only to lag horribly at the book's midpoint. Each chapter focuses on one or two parties and grants a smidgeon more insight into their lives, yet the snail's pace, a stark contrast from the exhilarating introduction, will often leave readers convinced that not much progress was made.

After approximately 400 pages of fascinating though sluggish progression, the book's final 100 induce whiplash by alternating between quick recaps of large blocks of time before the reader is thrust back into the present. The end result is a web of tangled story threads with quickie resolutions that are unsatisfying, seemingly born out of thin air, or both.

Many rabid fans of the
ABC drama Lost praise the show for its interesting characters and their mysterious pasts, yet many viewers cannot help feeling unfulfilled when each episode makes no discernable progress despite being quite entertaining. “The Magician's Apprentice” is similarly disappointing. Although the characters and their struggles are poignant, the irresolute pace and groundless conclusions for each character weigh down what could have been an outstanding addition to an otherwise excellent Canavan library.


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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