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Dec. 24th, 2010 @ 04:18 am Review: Lyonesse 1: 'Suldrun's Garden' by Jack Vance
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Paradise Lost, Lisa Gerrard
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day:The Lilac Wood

I am spectacularly backed up on two months worth of reviews of all kinds due to an assortment of reasons. I WILL be caught up before New Year's, but I really wanted to get to this one while it is fresh in my mind. I started the book not long after coming back from Columbus. I walk/read for one night and it just couldn't hold my interest. Far too much politics and not terribly appealing characters to start with. I ended up returning to Patricia McKillip whose 'Od Magic' I read before going to Columbus. I read all of the rest (Seven) of her books that were available on eBook one after another. (I wish her other eight or so books were available!) I knew it would be hard to read anyone else after reading McKillip's delightful, lyrical style for so long. I think I just returned to 'Suldrun's Garden' because it was easier to start something I was already familiar with. Also the last of McKillip's books I read was rather political, so it seemed a little easier to take.

At first it was just something to get me through my walks. I don't have a strong desire to go into detail on the political machinations of the horrible and UTTERLY unlikeable King Casmir. His firstborn was an unwanted daughter who was ignored while she was growing up; especially after a son was born. :P Later on when she became 'marriageable' a handsome, but heartless lord named Faude Carfilhiot came along and the king attempted to force Suldrun to marry him. She refused and ran away, but not far enough and was imprisoned in her garden indefinitely. Being of a solitary nature this was a relief to Suldrun. After awhile a young man washed up on the beach by her garden. This was Aillas a prince from Troicinet- a kingdom at war with Lyonesse. Aillas was pushed overboard by a conniving cousin. Suldrun nursed Aillas back to health and they fell in love. They forced a sly and utterly reprehensible priest to marry them, but he betrayed them and Aillas was thrown into a pit. Suldrun was pregnant and managed to get word of her condition to her only friend Ehirme and they arranged to send the baby to Ehirme's parents. Only the priest found out about the pregnancy and ratted. Very Bad Things happen that could have been avoided by killing the priest.

Suldrun's baby was later stolen by fairies. The baby boy Dhrun grew up VERY quickly in the fairy shee and in a little over a year at the shee he was already about nine in human years. They turned him out because humans cannot stay in fairy forever. The fairies blessed him and gave him gifts, except one who spitefully caused Dhrun to acquire seven years of bad luck by tricking him into looking back at the shee when he left.

Dhrun had many adventures along his way. He defeated an ogre who enslaved (and ate and raped) children. He freed the kids and developed a friendship with an orphaned daughter of a Duke named Glyneth. The two travelled together through more adventures and harmful misadventures until they met up with the mysterious Dr. Fidelius, who was really the magician Shimrod in disguise. Shimrod is the scion of the most powerful archmage Murgen. Shimrod was hunting two men who tortured and murdered a dear friend of his and stole his magical goods. Despite their troubles, the three form a truly beautiful and sweet friendship. Of course good things cannot last forever and the children are kidnapped by the worst of the murderers of Shimrod's friend.

Meanwhile Aillas escaped from the pit and has many spectacular adventures of his own trying to find his son.

Objectively it was something of a mixed bag. Its greatest drawback being the over excess of politics. There were plenty of times that I started zoning out when various unmemorable lords and kings started snarking and spying on each other. Boring! I felt bad for Suldrun, though I wished she’d show a little more ingenuity. There is certainly a misogynistic overtone. Unfortunately it is probably very suitable for the fictionalized Dark Ages when this book takes place and also is to be expected from an author born in 1916. The mages and the two kids bring most of the interest, although Aillas’ adventures are remarkable and his methods of escaping danger are frequently ingenious. My favorite parts of the book involved Dhrun, Glyneth and Shimrod. I could have read about them forever. They’re a little bit like Nathan Rahl from Sword of Truth in that I’ll gladly slog through stuff I don’t care about or even like to read about them. I found myself the most caught up in a book and emotionally involved with characters since 'Wizard Squared' because of those three. Shimrod and Glyneth in particular. I might not have even read the second book without them. The tedium of the politics and distastefulness of many of the other characters would have driven me away.

After the many books of Patricia McKillip where often no characters would die in a given novel, some of the deaths and brutality in this book were a little hard to take. (Although mild enough by modern Epic Fantasy standards.) The torment of Shimrod’s friend hit me particularly hard. Of course the harshest happenings all fell on one of my post Ed concert walks within a couple of chapters. None of which I saw coming. :P I could have done without that. I like reading happy things on Ed concert nights!

The writing style is spare, but elegant enough that it wasn’t jarring and coarse feeling. Unlike several others I tried to start seemed after reading so many of McKillip’s books. It swings between humor and deadly seriousness in a reasonably sucessful way. Many of the best things are left to the imagination, which is fine. There is a place for both the intimate, living-in-the-character’s-head story and the spare, outside observer tale. I have no trouble filling in the good parts. There IS too much detail on the political intrigues, though!

**** Stars.

I’m about halfway through the second book, ‘The Green Pearl.’ Unfortunately the politics do not abate; so far they are even worse. Shimrod had a couple of chapters, but he was doing something colossally stupid that he KNEW was colossally stupid! I hope and expect to see a return to form for him later. Glyneth is under enchantment by what appears to be an evil pedophile type of low-level mage, but I'll need to wait several chapters through even more politics to find out what happens! Arrgh!

There will be many more reviews to come soon!
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Chrys studying cubes
Oct. 24th, 2010 @ 03:38 am Review: 'Od Magic', by Patricia McKillip.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: The Black Opal, Lisa Gerrard
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day: Mabon 2010

Another book I was drawn to ages ago. (My instincts have been remarkably good with the books I've been reading lately.) I was attracted to it, initially, for its 'hero'. Brenden Vetch is seemingly a lost soul. His parents died when a fever hit their town and he could not cure them with his prodigious talents in herbcraft. Although he was later able to save his brother and many of his neighbors. The heavy pain and sorrow he bears drives his brother and girlfriend to leave him to find happiness again. Brenden is not ready to leave his ghosts and his land and drifts out into the wild. He learns the land, feels plants, tastes them, tests them, experiments with them, occasionally he even becomes them. He grows wilder and more withdrawn, drifting far away from the human world. He travels to the distant Skysgard Mountain, where ancient, wild magic sits brooding in absolute silence in the shape of standing stones that are alive and watchful. Brenden is drawn to them but they will not speak to him yet. He turns toward his home and meets a remarkable giantess named Od. She is covered with injured animals that she collects and nurses back to health. They nest in her hair, crawl in her pockets, perch on her head and curl around her ankles. She tells Brenden that she has a school that needs a new gardener and that he should take the job. Feeling new purpose at her offer, he agrees to go.

Brenden was told by Od to enter the school by the door under the cobbler's shoe. When he does he is discovered by one of the school's teachers, Yar Arwood, who was the last student to enter the school by Od's special door. Yar entered the door after having just saved the town from a marauding dragon. That was nineteen years ago and Od and her cobbler shop have not been seen since. There is clearly something special about Brenden.

Meanwhile, in the city's Twilight Quarter, a place that sleeps by day and comes alive by night, a travelling magician comes to town named Tyramin. He is not a real wizard, just a master of illusions and showmanship. (Or is he?) His coming sets the Twilight Quarter afire with excitement and the king becomes edgy worrying that the magician might be practicing illegal magic. In this realm the only magic allowed is that which is taught at the school and all teachings are strictly regulated. All power belongs to the king.

The king's daughter Sulys sneaks down to the Twilight Quarter to see Tyramin, but is caught by a Quarter Warden. She practices small, illeagal magic of her own with her great-grandmother. Later she discovers that her father has arranged to marry her off to one of his wizards, a nasty little prig named Valoren.

Yar visits his girlfriend Ceta who is writing a book on Od's life. He decides to keep what he sensed of Brenden's power secret. He is becoming stifled and restless teaching only the tame magics that the king wants the students taught.

The Quarter Warden Arneth is sent by his father to spy on the magician Tyramin. He does not meet Tyramin, but finds his beautiful daughter, Mistral, who tells him to come back later. Mistral has secrets of her own that must be kept.

That is a sadly plain overview of this fantastical cast of characters. I cannot do the story justice without telling it all as it was told in the book, so I will not try. This was a truly beautiful tale with exquisite prose. There is a distance in the storytelling that gives it a folk legend or fairytale feel. There were times I longed for the intimacy of the more traditional novel because I felt as if I wanted to know Brenden better than the prose would allow. Brenden remains distant and frightened of the designs of those in the world around him. We see his feelings and actions, but not so much his character, if that makes sense.

There are many threads in this relatively short tale. In the end no one is really more important than any other. There are no real 'heroes' or 'villains', no matter how it might appear at the beginning. Only people thinking that they are doing what is best based on their training and experience. At the end all of them learn what has been missing from their lives and what is most important. There are some truly compelling stories in this book that are only hinted at in the text. I would dearly love to read a full tale of Od's life, in particular. I'd also love to know how Brenden turns out... even Valoren. But alas for stand-alones and uncertain futures. Or perhaps it is better this way as the reader can make up their own mind as to what happens next and what happened before.

While I would have liked a closer 'perspective', this was a strikingly beautiful and memorable book.

***** Stars.
About this Entry
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Oct. 21st, 2010 @ 04:51 am Reviews: 'Children of Amarid' and 'The Outlanders' by David B. Coe.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Follow the Heron, Cathie Ryan
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day: Punkie Night 2010

The home stretch!

'The Children of Amarid' by David B Coe.

Another book that caught my interest ages ago that I'm just getting to now. At the beginning it was as standard an epic fantasy as one could think of. A young man discovers he has magic and goes of with a mysterious mentor to follow his destiny. It has been long enough since I read that formula that it seemed pleasantly familiar rather than trite. And Jaryd's (the aforementioned destiny-seeking young man.) mentor and uncle Baden appealed to me immediately. He reminded me of a cross between Terry Brooks' Allanon and John Ross who remain two of my favorites. The adventures they have are pretty standard, too. The love interest, the evil mage in the order, the ghosts of past mages, silly politics, etc. The magic is interesting enough. Mages bind avian familiars from which they seem to derive their power and carry crystal-topped staffs whose colors represent their magic.

The most unique part of the story are the enemies. While the people of Tobyn-ser have a medieval way of life, the people from Lon-Ser, the land across a narrow strait, have technology seemingly well in advance of our own. They are divided into three megalopolises and are running out of the very natural resources Tobyn-ser has in abundance. Their weapons would make short work of the primitive villages of Tobyn-ser. Only the Order of Amarid stands between the bomb and gun toting outlanders and the villagers armed with farm tools and daggers.

But the outlanders are prepared for that and one of their overlords sends a band on break-laws (paid mercenaries) to destabilize the people of Tobyn-ser's faith in the Order of Amarid. They commit murder and mischief pretending to be mages and wielding guns shaped like the mages' staffs and carrying robotic versions of their avian familiars.

The order does not know who is behind the attacks. Baden believes the unsettled spirit of Theron, the disgraced once best friend of the Order's founder Amarid, might be responsible for the attacks or would know who was. A delegation leaves to meet with the spirit, but the traitor to the order goes with them and things end catastrophically. Jaryd and Alayna do get to speak with Theron's spirit, though. He is not behind the attacks, but he tells them about the outlanders.

The outlanders attacks grow increasingly worse and entire towns are destroyed. The traitor blames the heroes for the attacks, but the return of the presumed dead Jaryd and Alayna set things straight and the traitor is unmasked. Plans are made to destroy the band of outlanders that are destroying the towns of Tobyn-ser.

The battle leaves one outlander survivor and he is put in prison as the wiser members of the Order believe they need to extract as much knowledge from him as possible in order to learn the ways of their enemies. The idiots all want him executed on the spot. Wisdom prevails for now.

While the book didn't do anything terribly new, it was a highly engaging, well-paced and interesting story that made a good set up for the next in the series.

**** Stars.

'The Outlanders'

I am glad this book was the second in the series. The political idiocy expressed by half the order would have driven me away before I had a reason to care. As it was I slogged through the politics, muttering about the short-sighted, childish stupidity of half the order, as well as the weak-willed ineffectualness of the other half. I almost longed for Richard Rahl (From Goodkind's Sword of Truth) to come along and give them one of his patented Speeches, because SOMEONE certainly needed to!

Finally one of those who fought the outlanders, Orris, gets tired of all the Order's hoo ha and takes matters into his own hands. He takes the surviving outlander and travels to Lon-ser to speak with their sovereigns about the attacks. He brings the outlander as proof of his accusations.

Lon-ser's chief megalopolis Bragor-Nal is a filthy, depraved warren of corruption. The Nal Lords plot against and assassinate each other at every opportunity, with the winner taking over the loser's domain. One of the Nal-Lords, Melyor, kills her greatest rival in a plot to be sent with a second group of mercenaries to Tobyn-ser. However she is a Gildriite- a descendent of mages that were exiled from Tobyn-ser hundreds of years ago. While Lon-ser does not have the bird magic, Gildriites still have magic in the form of prophetic dreams. Melyor has a dream of the coming of Orris to the city and perceives him as a threat to her ambitions of being sent to Tobyn-ser.

In the mountains far from the city, one of the Bearers of the staffs of the original mages receives a dream of an attempt to assassinate Orris. Gwilym knows that Orris will die if he does not travel to the city to save him.

The outlander prisoner has gone insane from his imprisonment, and gives Orris the slip as soon as they enter the city. Orris wanders alone in the deadly streets of Bragor Nal.

Gwilym arrives in time to save Orris from Melyor's assassination attempt. Melyor herself has another dream of she and Orris fighting side by side. She decides to embrace her Gildriite heritage, throws aside her ambitions and casts her lot with Orris. (It is more believable in the book than it sounds here.)

The trio manages to get free of the city and escape to one of the other megalopolises. A Matriarchy named Oerella-Nal. This city is much cleaner and assassinations are not nearly so tolerated there. They meet with the Shivohn, the realm's sovereign. I really liked Shivohn. She seemed tough, shrewd, queenly, but still with a touch of humanity. She says there is little she can do to help them, although Orris' offers of potential trade relations with her realm definitely pique her interest. Things change when the trio is attacked by Bragor-Nal assassins sent by Melyor's overlord.

The final showdown between Melyor, Orris and the overlord is pretty intense, but I found the end a bit of a let down. And of course the Order politics have gone from silly to downright moronic as the Short-Sighted Idiot party splits from the Ineffectual Wishy-Washy party. I wished there had been more of Baden in this book. He was one of the few with any strength, which of course means the Idiot Party consider him a traitor and the Wishy-Washies cannot come up with a strong defense. *sigh*

There are some really great, intense moments here. I liked the highly unusual and very well done juxtaposition of a futuristic dystopian thriller with a medievalesque epic fantasy-something I have never seen before. There is a third book in the series but it appears to be out of print and is unavailable in eBook format. Drat. I have ordered a copy from a used book seller on Amazon.

**** Stars.

I am finally all caught up! I'm reading Patricia McKillip's 'Od Magic' right now. It is good, if a bit meandering so far.
About this Entry
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Oct. 20th, 2010 @ 05:23 am Review: 'The Sorcerer's House', by Gene Wolfe
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: First of May, Bee Gees
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day: The Wild Swans at Coole (My order finally arrived!)

'The Sorcerer's House' is a curious book. It was written in the form of letters to and from the protagonist, Bax, and assorted others giving the voyeuristic feel one might have cleaning out an old house and coming upon a stack of letters in the back of a drawer.

It begins with the recently released from prison Bax writing about how, being homeless, he became a squatter in a derelict house only to find himself its owner. Somehow Bax's name is listed as the beneficiary of the mysterious Mr. Black's estate and, after meeting with a friendly and relieved real estate lady, it is his.

Bax's adventures are just beginning. We read his letters as he details his experiences with the house's oddities. From foxes that turn into sexy geishas, twin brothers- one good, one bad- that come and go from the house, evil werewolves, wish-granting devices, mysterious footmen, evil dwarves, a lonely widowed real estate agent and a window that leads into another world. Later on, Bax learns that he is the beneficiary of another will that grants him the deed to a valuable piece of waterfront property worth millions. Clearly something either supernatural or fictional is going on.

Exactly what that is is quite a revelation. There are several ways to look at the events in this book as read through Bax's letters, and in the end I am not sure which the ‘right’ one is. I have mighty suspicions as to the accuracy of the reported events at the end of the book relating to Bax's brother, but as to Bax's letters themselves, I am not so sure.

I loved the feel of this book; the uniqueness of the letters and the wonderfully distinct 'voice' each of the letters' writers has. While there were certainly no characters to fall in love with here, the mystery the book presents lingers long after tapping the 'home' button in Kindle. (Doesn't quite have the same ring as 'closing the covers', does it?) I am not generally fond of contemporary fantasy, but this book caught my eye with the cover and my attention with the format. I am glad it did.

**** 1/2 Stars.

Only two more to go!
About this Entry
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Oct. 17th, 2010 @ 05:21 am Reviews: Gordon Lightfoot, Spamalot, Secretariat & Legend of the Guardians.
Current Mood: productiveproductive
Current Music: The Dungeon Master's Lair, Zork Grand Inquisitor Soundtrack
Scent of the Day: Nantucket Briar again.

I went to Concord today for the Concord Arts Market only to find out that it was cancelled due to the wind. I went to a few stores on Main Street instead. One was 'Lotions and Potions' where I tried on a bunch of perfumes. One or a combination of them turned out to be awesome and I got half a dozen compliments... only I have no idea which one it was that was great on me or if it was the five or so together!

Also, 'The Hobbit' finally has been greenlit! FINALLY!! :D Yay!

More reviews! I'll tackle the easy ones tonight and leave the remaining books for tomorrow.

10/3/10: Gordon Lightfoot

This was the fourth time I have seen Gordon Lightfoot. It was, as always, a great concert and Gordon seemed to be quite happy and talkative, telling stories and making jokes. I was very happy to hear some of my favorites, including 'Restless' which is perfect for this time of year. He has an incredibly grueling tour schedule for a 71 year old! (For anyone, actually.) He was on tour pretty much all year. I wish I could remember the number of shows he said he's done this year.

I look forward to seeing him again next year. :)

***** Stars.

10/6/10 Spamalot

I really looked forward to this one. It was a big show for the Capitol Center and was nearly a full house even with two nights. I got this one at the member presentation and was front row center.

The show was awesome! Great sets and costumes with all the sharp British wit and good fun you'd expect from Monty Python. The actor who played King Arthur was previously in The Man of LaMancha. He was awesome in that and equally good in this (Although Man of LaMancha remains my favorite musical.) I loved Lancelot's rescue of the 'damsel' in distress, Harold (or something like that.) and the YMCA dance with the drag queens. And of course the Knights that say Ni and the shrubbery quest. Just a lot of fun all around. My only disappointment was that they didn't have a program for sale.

***** Stars.

10/13/10 Secretariat

We were supposed to go to see Legend of the Guardians with my niece in Hooksett, but the restaurant took too long and it got too late. Since we didn't have anything else major to do, and I still wanted to see Legend of the Guardians in IMAX, we went to the shabby, run down and ill-named 'Regal Cinemas' theater in Concord. where half the seats have no cushion left, the screens are scratched and the films discolored. I figured it was good enough for this kind of movie and it was. There were few people and no troublemakers.

It was a fun, feel-good kind of movie about the great racehorse. While it didn't do anything extraordinary it was well paced and kept my interest.

*** 1/2 Stars.

10/14/10

The Legend of the Guardians

And the next day I went to the Hooksett IMAX and saw Legend of the Guardians at last. I am glad I waited as the IMAX screen and 3D really did look wonderful. The story is a very typical fantasy adventure, only with owls rather than humans. I have not read the books so I cannot judge them, but I would have liked the owls' society to have been a little more... owlish, I suppose. It all seemed just like humans in owl suits. It was beautiful, though. The 3D was very well done, unlike Alice in Wonderland where it felt tacked on.

A standard, but engaging, light little fantasy adventure movie with just enough depth to make it interesting and very pretty visuals.

*** 1/2 Stars.
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Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Oct. 16th, 2010 @ 04:51 am Reviews: 'Once Upon A..." series by Dennis McKiernan.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Full Moon, Mary Black
Tags: ,
Perfume of the Day: Nantucket Briar (I forgot to BPAL.)

Onward!

Sometimes it is pretty easy to go from one book to another, but 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' was no ordinary book and I had some trouble with the transition. Eventually I picked up 'Once Upon a Winter's Night' because it was easy to start and offered me a good chance to read one of the World Fantasy Convention Guests of Honor. In a bid to get as many WFC authors read as possible, I turned to some of the books I bought ages ago and got them on my iPod for walk/reading. 'Winter's Night' was one of them.

I ended up reading all five of the books in this series- 'Once Upon a Winter's Night', 'Once Upon a Summer's Day', 'Once Upon an Autumn Eve', 'Once Upon a Spring Morn' and 'Once Upon A Dreadful Time'- One right after the other. It may not have been a wonderful idea to do that. I think their (Somewhat over) similarities to each other would have been less repetitive and more cozily familiar had they been spread out.

These books are all based on various fairy tales. (Some more obscure, some less) The first, 'Once Upon a Winter's Night' had the most interesting plot. A girl named Camille from a very large and poor family is chosen by a fairy prince to be his bride. She travels to him on the back of an enormous bear. When she arrives at the prince's manor in the Summerwood- a place of eternal summer- she finds Prince Alain to be a 'charming' and appealing man, but he must wear a mask in her presence and she if forbidden to see his face. Of course she does end up seeing his face when he is sleeping and a curse whisks him away. She finds help in the forest from a Lynx rider and asks the Lady of the Mere for help. The Lady gives Camille a staff and a sparrow, along with a cryptic hint on how to find her prince.

Camille follows the Lady's advice through many lands and meets some of the various and remarkable denizens of Faery- good and evil. She meets beautiful elves, nasty goblins, kindly giants and even the Fates themselves on her quest to find her beloved prince before he is forced to marry a troll. There are ships, sea monsters, strange cities, seers, handsome elves, dragons, evil witches, trolls and fairies of all kinds. There is even Camille's highly dysfunctional family and a lot more besides. There is certainly a lot of story packed in this little book!

There is just enough peril, excitement and adventure to make it interesting and fun to read. The men are cute and there is some pleasant, but not overbearing romance. I read this one both walking and on the deck on warm nights. It was perfect for both.

**** Stars.

'Once Upon a Winter's Night'

This book follows Alain's brother, Borel, the prince of the Winterwood. He dreams of a maiden trapped in a castle turret surrounded by daggers. He awakens believing she is real and sets out to find her. Borel is the sexiest of the men in this series, and it was fun just to look at him for so long. (Tall with long silver hair and piercing blue eyes... what's not to love? ;)) Unfortunately his adventures are not quite as interesting or various as Camille's and the middle was a little too slow. Still, a pleasant and breezy little book that was fun to read.

*** 1/2 Stars.

'Once Upon an Autumn Eve'

This book follows Alain and Borel's sister Liaze, Princess of the Autumnwood. Liaze is bathing in a pond on her estate when a knight crashes into her clearing trailing goblins who are attacking him. Naked Liaze shoots the goblins with her bow and goes to the knight. When the knight mends they fall in love. (Obviously.) Later on her knight Luc is stolen away from their bedchamber and Liaze is told by one of the Fates that she must go find him alone.

By now the plots were getting more than a little repetitive, and Liaze was less interesting than Camille or Borel... at least until she rides on the Wild Hunt with Lord Fear. That part was pretty intense! It was a decent little book. Perhaps I would have appreciated it more had I read it at a different time.

A little more than *** Stars.

'Once Upon a Spring Morn.'

Celeste, the youngest sister of Alain, Borel and Liaze was sitting in a tree in her realm, when some bandits employed by one of the four witch sisters that have appeared throughout these books come to capture her. A knight comes out of the woods and does battle with them. The knight is injured and she takes him off to her manor. They fall in love. (Shocking, I know.) The knight Roel has a bit more personality than Luc, and has a slightly different problem. Roel is from the mortal world and his sister was stolen away by a changeling lord. Both his elder brothers disappeared when they went to search for her so now he is on his way to try to find them. Celeste insists on going with him and the two face battles, foes, a Sphinx and even a few legendary heroes on their quest. Their adventures were more interesting than the previous two books with somewhat stronger characterization.

A shade under **** Stars (I need a ten star rating system.)

'Once Upon a Dreadful Time'

The last book in this series ties up the story of the four witch sisters who have plagued the princes and princesses of the Forests of the Seasons. The last surviving sister is determined to do what her sisters could not and bring back their master, the evil wizard Orbane who has been thrown into prison in the void. The witch Hradian poses as Liaze to get the key to the castle away from its keeper Luc. The witch then goes to free her master. (They are both sex crazed loonies. Yikes.) And they come back to exact their revenge on the princes, princesses and the king and queen for their role in killing the witches and imprisoning Orbane. He throws most of them into the same castle that had previously held him imprisoned.

Left outside are Luc, Roel, Michelle (Borel's wife.), Roel's siblings and a half-Elven prince. They receive advice and warnings from the Fates, telling them that Orbane intends to pollute the river of time. Each goes to their appointed task while Orbane and Hradian rape and pillage their way around faery, gathering evil creatures in their train. Michelle learns the language of Borel's wolf pack and she and the knights go to war while the Elven prince goes to warn his father. Everyone ends up on the shore of the river of time for a showdown with Orbane, Hradian and their army.

It was a little slow in places. There were times when previously intelligent characters seemed to become uncommonly dense and I could have done without some of the Hradian and Orbane chapters. In the end, though, it was a reasonably satisfying end to the series.

*** 1/3 Stars.

The thing I liked best about the series was McKiernan's style. There was always this sense of sitting around the fire listening to a bard tell his tales. It was perfect for these 'restored' fairy tales.

As a series: **** Stars.

ETA: I can't believe I forgot to mention this. Another thing I found gratifying was the personal habits of the characters. Women have to deal with their 'courses', Camille carries soap and chew sticks to help clean her teeth, and all the characters actually BATHE at every reasonable opportunity! I give the whole series ***** Stars for that!

Tomorrow I will continue with some of the following: 'The Sorcerer's House' by Gene Wolfe, Gordon Lightfoot, Spamalot, 'The Children of Amarind' By David B Coe, Secretariat and/or Legend of the Guardians!
About this Entry
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Oct. 15th, 2010 @ 05:07 am Reviews: Something Wicked This Way Comes and Road to the Scottish Highlands.
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: Handle With Care, The Traveling Wilburys
BPAL of the Day: Victorian Garden

So. Far. Behind. Argh! I don't know exactly how this happened but I have about fifteen reviews to write! =0

Starting... sometime in early September.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury.

This was my first audiobook that I listened to while walking. Ray Bradbury's books are unfortunately not available in eBook format. (At least not in the Kindle store.)

I have been reading a lot lately with the walk/reading, and while the books I've read have been enjoyable, this is the one that stays with me. It is a rich, powerful and lyrical book. Bradbury's prose is unique and takes a little getting used to, but it pulls you in with its deceptively simple truths and unnerving observations of human nature. Mr. Dark is an enormously charismatic and sinister villain. When he is on the page you can't take your eyes off him. The carnival is shadowy and tantalizing. One feels the same mixture of anxiety and curiosity Jim and Will feel. The 'gifts' provided by the carnival are irresistibly tempting, even knowing their poison. The moral is simple and yet profound. It will remain in the memory long after it is finished.

I don't think I will ever look at a calliope, a train or a clock reading 3:00AM in the same way again.

***** Stars.

9/15/10: The Road to the Scottish Highlands.

It has been so long since this concert that I've probably forgotten half of it. It was a kind of a premiere and advertisement for the Highland Games that were held that weekend. There were bagpipes, singers, comedians and dancers. It reminded me a lot of the Dublin Musical Cabaret back in March, except this show was Scottish rather than Irish.

It was a fun evening's entertainment.

**** Stars.

Next up is a five book review I don't have time for right now, so I'll need to get more of this done tomorrow.
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Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Sep. 6th, 2010 @ 04:09 am Reviews: 'The Prodigal Mage' and 'The Reluctant Mage' by Karen Miller.
Current Mood: coldcold
Current Music: The Village Lanterne, Blackmore's Night
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day: Ü

'The Prodigal Mage' begins ten years after the events in 'Awakened Mage'. Everything has been going pretty well for the last ten years when suddenly Asher feels something wrong in the earth. These feelings keep getting worse. Dathne and his two kids Rafel and Deenie feel the wrongness, too. Rafel is an immensely powerful ten-year-old mage with a knack for getting in trouble. His parents do their best to keep him from learning his magic, which he heartily resents. Deenie is a shy, quiet, mousey little girl who cries a lot. Her gift is 'feeling things.' She can feel her family's emotions, she feels the earth's pain, etc.

Ten years earlier, Asher and his best friend King Gar fought and seemingly defeated the evil sorcerer Morg, but Morg proves to be very hard to kill. Eventually Asher pours his power into Lur's magical weather map that controls the weather of Lur. He hopes to clean it of Morg's foul magic that is creeping in again and poisoning their country. He succeeds in quieting the pains in the earth... for awhile.

Rest of the 'Prodigal' review beyond this cut. Some spoilers.Collapse )

That overview pretty much covers the action in this rather long book. In between there is an incredible amount of moaning, hand-wringing, sickliness, arguing, fighting, saying nothing can be done, hand-wringing some more, more sickliness, arguing much more- repeat. The arguing reaches absurd levels. The moaning and despairing 'Nothing can be done! Nothing can be done!' attitude of the heroes of the first duology kills them as characters, which is far worse than having them killed outright. Asher's wife Dathne is worthless in this book. Where is Jervale's Heir who was made of iron? The woman willing to throw the man she loved to Morg in order to protect Lur? I can't believe having kids turns a woman like her into a limp dishrag... and/or a clinging barnacle. Watching Deenie and Dathne together was like watching Bella Swann with bad PMS. It almost felt like one of those not so great kids' books/movies where the adults are turned into helpless idiots while the kids 'get things done.'

Had I loved those characters as much as I do the Rogue Agent characters, I'd have been beside myself. The book's one redeeming quality is that, for some reason, it was compulsively readable. I think the hope that things would become more like they were in the last duology kept me reading. Or a hope that something would HAPPEN. Or that they'd quit the pointless moaning and arguing and DO SOMETHING!

After I was done with 'The Prodigal Mage' I was rather less than half interested in reading the second book in the duology. Fortunately I had it already downloaded from Amazon and I needed something I could start right away to walk with. I planned to skim it just to find out what happens at the end. It doesn't start off with much more promise. Deenie and Dathne are caring for Asher in his coma-like state. Deenie senses Morg's blight in him and knows it is why he cannot wake. Later on she senses terrible anguish in the earth and knows a severe earthquake is coming. She arranges to have Asher taken from their tower home, but Dathne frets about bringing clothes for Asher and they are late getting out. Dathne falls down the stairs and dies with a broken neck.

With her mother dead, her brother missing and her father in blighted unconsciousness, Deenie is now forced to grow up and make some hard decisions. She decides to put her father in hospice and brave the blighted waters that her father, brother and the Doranen mages could do nothing about in order to find her brother. She has dreamt of him calling her and knows what has happened to him. Deenie is a born sailor and the agony the blight causes her will even help her know when the waterspouts and whirlpools will be starting up and how dangerous they are. Her best friend Charis insists on going with her, and the two girls steal a skiff and ride off to try to sail between the land and the blighted reef to the world beyond.

The rest of the 'Reluctant' review... a bit spoiler-y, beyond the cut.Collapse )

This book had all the action the first one was missing. It was an incredibly fast and exciting read. I even stayed up until after 9AM to finish it! That hasn't happened since Prisoner of Azkaban back in 2001. It was not a ground-breaking book by any means. The characters are good, but not terribly unusual. (Arlin is very reminiscent of Draco Malfoy. He's older, smarter and has more courage, but they are very similar in many ways. He is also the character that interested me most.) If you've read enough fantasy, you've probably seen this kind of story before. But it WAS good, fun, exciting and compelling. That is all it needed to be.

After finishing 'The Reluctant Mage' is seemed clear that the trouble with 'The Prodigal Mage' is that it's too much filler and 'tying up loose ends.' Unfortunately those 'loose ends' ended up being the characters from the previous duology. Rafel couldn't leave to 'seek his destiny' until Asher was out of the way, Charis couldn't leave while her father lived and Deenie couldn't go on her rescue mission until her mother was gone. It just seemed awkward and it severely lessened those heroes of the last books.

'The Prodigal Mage': ** 1/2 Stars.
'The Reluctant Mage': **** Stars.
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Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange
Aug. 30th, 2010 @ 02:48 am Review: Reba McEntire
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
Current Music: Laurelei, Lisa Gerrard
Tags: ,
BPAL of the Day: Still Parsifal.

We actually got tickets for this more because my mother wanted to go, but when she couldn't find any extr tickets so we could take my niece, I ended up going alone. I'm not a big fan, but I'll se almost any concert, so I figured 'why not?'

Reba was very good. It was a highly polished, professional show with a really good mix of songs and tempos. (Tim McGraw should take lessons from Reba in how to create a good setlist.) I can take or leave most of the songs... not because they aren't good, just because I can't really relate to them in a artistic, personal or fictional way. Even so, I could really appreciate how talented Reba is and how good the show was.

It was an enjoyable evening. We didn't have many concerts this year at Meadowbrook so I'm glad I got to go. I also got a leather hat for my adventurer costume at the hat booth.

**** Stars.
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Dal's lantern
Aug. 30th, 2010 @ 02:35 am Reviews: Ed Gerhard Weekend!
Current Mood: contentcontent
Current Music: Shallow Brown, Ed Gerhard
BPAL of the Day: Parsifal

A nice kind of weekend to have!

8/28: Wakefield Opera House. Sanbornville, NH

We got a little later start than I wanted, but it shouldn't have been a problem to make it there... Until we got stuck waiting for an accident to be cleared from a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Ha. We had less trouble getting to Pawling, NY. It worked out in the end and I got front row center, but it WAS aggravating at the time.

What can I say that I haven't said about Ed's concerts? The sound was excellent, as it always is when they use their own equipment and do their own sound set up. There was an odd, faint sound like a zipper being pulled up and down, but it didn't last long. It was a very rich and beautiful show with a nicely varied setlist. Ed seemed relaxed and happy. A wonderful experience, as always. :)

8/29: The West End Studio Theatre, Portsmouth, NH

We were very worried about making it to this show on time. Portsmouth Ed concerts are popular and this venue is tiny. There was also a big air show at Pease that would be due to get out just when we were trying to get in. We left at @ 4 and had no troubles at all. In fact we arrived at @ 5:20 even with a McDonald's stop- over two hours early. We read in the parking lot until 6:30. I was in first and got my front row center seat.

This is the venue of the Great Power Outage Adventure of 2009. (Something I'm renowned for in Ed's fanbase.) Ed was in very fine form last year with the lights off and he was equally so this year with them on. It's been awhile since I've seen him so chatty- even with many stories I hadn't heard before. In some weird, synergistic energy... thing I'd think 'Oh wouldn't it be nice if he played-' Only to have him play it a minute later. Songs he doesn't play all the time, too. The first time I didn't think anything of it, but the third was downright odd! The lights may not have gone out, but one of the lenses on one of the spotlights crashed a few inches from someone on the right of the stage. I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a mischievous spirit in the theatre. The sound was excellent with no oddities.

Afterwards I gave Ed and Kelli a little flashlight that charges by pumping it in remembrance of the 'Lights out' concert. It went over well. :)

It was rather sad to see it come down to the last few songs. This is the last Ed concert I have until December... a little over three months away. I don't want December to be any closer, but I really wish I had another Ed concert closer!
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Ed Gerhard