Archive for the ‘Fantasy Review’ Category

Happy Holidays!

Assuming you celebrate, I’d like to wish everyone a fun and safe holiday. If you don’t..well, happy weekend!

More reviews to come..


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Good OmensGood Omen’s: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, is a collaborative novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Started originally as a short story by Gaiman, Good Omens is a comedic take on an all-too-common and well known subject: Armageddon. While stories of the end of the world have been done a million times over, Good Omens takes it down a different and unique path; one involving an 11 year old Antichrist (who doesn’t know he’s the Antichrist); a witty and equally hilarious witch named Agnes Nutter, a demon and angel who team up to stop the end of the world; and of course, a whole lot more.

Firstly, I’m going to say that this book was hilarious! While most of the humour was quite dry and surely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (it wasn’t my friend’s), I found myself cracking up on numerous occasions. Not only was much of the dialogue flat-out clever, but the writing, the little notes at the bottom of the pages (even if they were a bit distracting), and the over-all feel was just fun. Page after page left me smiling, and by the end of each sitting, my face was sore! While there were definitely other aspects of this novel I really liked (which I’ll describe below), I feel that the humour aspect is what truly stood out.

So aside from the overload of all-around hilarity in Good Omens, I also enjoyed the story. Now because of the nature of this book and how it’s all put together, I’m going to give very little detail within this review – I’d hate to spoil anything! – but I will say that the story is off-the-wall crazy, and the final outcome, at least for me, was quite appeasing. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine it any other way, and as with much of this book, it left a huge smile on my face. My only real complaint was that at times things seemed to drag, particularly in the middle, and I was left a bit bored. There were also moments where the narrative got a bit “rambly”. Luckily however, none of this was much of a problem – and by the time the story really kicked in, all was forgiven.

As for the characters, I was (for the most part) impressed. From Adam, an 11 year old boy destined to bring about the end of the world; to his imaginative gang of friends known as “The Them”; to Aziraphale, an angel with an attitude; to Crowley, a demon with heart; and to Agnes Nutter, an all-knowing Witch who prophesied just about everything – Good Omens had a rather large array of diverse characters. Though each were unique and clearly had distinct personalities, I will note that there were an awful lot of them. Although I enjoyed almost every character to an extent, there were occasional moments of confusion concerning their identities. I also felt that some of the secondary characters never really developed properly, and because of this, lacked depth. It’s not to say they didn’t play a valid (and humorous) role – they did – but they just didn’t give ME enough to form much of a connection.

Overall, Good Omens was incredibly entertaining, and I’d recommend to just about everyone. Though there were a few slow areas — for me, it was all made up for by the excellent dialogue (especially between “The Them”, Gaiman/Pratchett really captured the child imagination perfectly!), the sharp writing, likeable characters, and the many laugh-out-loud moments. While the humour may be a bit different from the average comedic novel, I think that if given a chance, one may find it just as amusing as I did. At the same time, however, if you’re uneasy about making light of religion – this novel probably ISN’T for you. I could easily see where someone could get offended by the various themes within. Nevertheless, I personally was NOT offended, and overall, I simply adored Good Omens.

With that said, I highly suggest checking it out — especially (and obviously) if you’re a fan of Gaiman, Pratchet, or both!

(4 out of 5)

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Ship of Magic by Robin HobbThe Mad Ship by Robin Hobb begins where book one of the Liveship Trader’s trilogy, “Ship of Magic” left off. Althea Vestrit, daughter of the late captain Vestrit, continues on a personal journey to retake Vivacia, her stolen live-ship. Wintrow still resides aboard that ship, which is now over-taken by  pirates. Malta remains determined to find and save her father Kyle, whom was also was left aboard the Vivacia; Keffria is struggling to take control of the family; and as before, everything is essentially collapsing and crumbling around the once solid family. Though the hope that once existed for the Vestrit’s has been, for the most part, extinguished, the family unit still struggles to prevail and restore itself. This all, of course, leads to yet another lengthy series of drama, politics, live-ships, and yes, self discovery. This time, however, the fate of not only the Vestrit’s hang in the balance, but the whole of Bingtown itself.

To begin, I have to say that this novel was a mixed bag for me – and in many ways (and for several reasons), was quite a disappointment. Although Mad Ship began with a bang and had quite a compelling and engaging start, I felt that it all quickly tapered off into an abyss of repetition. Upon approaching around the midway mark, things became bogged down and heavy. The characters kept saying the same things over and over – the writing became redundant – the natural flow and evolution of the story, for me, came to a halt. There were times when Hobb would go on and on about a particular topic, stretching out what could have been said in two paragraphs into a few chapters. Because of the overall slowness of the plot and story, there were several occasions where continuing felt more like a duty, rather than an enjoyment.

Another issue I had, was the imbalance of time given to each character. Through-out the novel, chapters would switch between characters and their situations, giving the reader a lot to take in. This was great – until suddenly a character and their story would simply vanish. By the time the character was mentioned again (many chapters later), my interest level had dropped. This really killed the experience. Another fault, was the disjointed story. For instance, while the conclusion was actually quite interesting and enjoyable, it lacked a connection with the rest of the novel. Looking back at the majority of Mad Ship, the reading experience was quite strange. About three quarters of it was this long, drawn out soap opera (complete with bitter, whiny characters), and yet suddenly, there was this intriguing fantasy piece pasted in at the end. It was all a bit odd, and for me, the flow of the novel felt broken.

Finally, at least in the complaint department, was the lack of description. Though I admit, I am a sucker for lush, flowery, poetic writings that paint surreal and vivid pictures, I don’t really think that’s the issue here. As a person whom’ is familiar with Hobb’s work (and enjoy most of what I’ve read), I didn’t come in expecting floods of archaic depictions. Instead, I expected the comfortable, Hobb-esque styled writing that I’ve grown to enjoy. Unfortunately however, the further I progressed into the novel, the stronger my disappointment grew with the actual writing itself. For whatever reason, it seemed as though Hobb had acquired a severe case of “tell rather than show” when writing Mad Ship, and instead of describing the events – and describing the situation and surroundings – actually painting the picture – it was all very simplistic and dull. Person A did this; person B did that; this happened; that happened. I’m not sure what was going on here, but the style was so dry that I actually felt like falling asleep. Where was the artistic element?

Though my experience with Mad Ship, wasn’t nearly as positive as expected, I can’t say that all was a amiss. While I certainly didn’t enjoy the characters as much as I did with the Farseer trilogy, there was still a great deal of unexpected development – especially from characters I never really cared for from the previous installment. For instance, there was Malta, who’s evolution was both realistic and intriguing. Hobb did an excellent job transitioning her from little girl to young woman, and by the end of Mad Ship, I began to feel a sort of sympathy for her – one that I could never quite obtain because of her childish, bratty attitude.  Reyn (Malta’s destined husband), was also a pleasant surprise, as he began to show a new, more relateable side. Lastly, but certainly not least, was Kennit. Though he had already grown on me by the end of “Ship of Magic,” the growing continued through-out this entire novel, and strangely, Captain Kennit has gradually evolved into one of my favorite characters of the series thus far. His complex and conflicting personality was a refreshing element that added a much needed realism (and humanity, though a darker form) to the novel.

With that said (and I hate to say it), Mad Ship for me, was an overall disappointment. While there were a handful of moments, especially toward the end, there was far too much filler, and the slow moving plot made reading this 800 + page novel more of a chore than anything. From the disjointed story, to the lack of description, to the over-all lack of progression — Mad Ship failed to ever really pull me in. Though I truly consider myself to be a fan of Hobb, and will forever adore her Farseer trilogy, I plan to take a break from her later works to read something a bit lighter of heart — for there’s only so much one can take in the realm of misery and politics (at least for me). When going into a fantasy novel, I expect certain things — and in this case, almost none of those things were met.

Though Mad Ship for me was clear a disappointment, I can’t and won’t say that it should be avoided, especially if one has already connected with the characters. Besides, my opinion is just that, and in the grand scheme of things, we all know what they say about opinions! So, with that said, if you’ve read the first installment and enjoyed it — then by all means, continue on. The characters are still here; the idea is still in place; the live-ships and serpents are aplenty. But if you’re looking for the same heart, soul, and intrigue that graced the pages of “Ship of Magic,” then there’s a fair chance that you won’t find it here — at least to the same extent. Instead, you may find the same bleak, gray, slow moving world I discovered when delving into this tome sized novel. Overall, this experience wasn’t a positive one. I was expecting so much more, and Mad Ship simply failed to deliver.

(2 out of 5)

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As you know, I normally write fantasy *book* reviews — but since I’ve been so busy and consumed with other things, I haven’t had the time to do much reading.  Regardless of the fact that I have had very little free time, there’s one thing that I never go a day without, and that’s listening to music.

Though I already have a rather large collection of CD’s and music, much like my book collection, I’m continually looking to add to it. One great website I’ve found that’s excellent for discovering new and generally unknown artists is last.fm; and every once in awhile because of it, I run into something truly inspiring/compelling.

Luckily, this happened to me a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon the work of “Helen Trevillion,” a solo artist from the UK.

Helen Trevillion, as described by herself, is a creatress of sorts. She’s a singer, songwriter, composer, producer, poet, and artist. What’s truly amazing about her and her work, is that she does it entirely on her own in the comfort of her own bedroom.  She writes the lyrics, the music, plays the piano, violin, uses synthesizer, etc — and as an end result, creates a refreshingly unique style of music. After really having the chance to listen to her work — in particular her “Inside Myself / Once Upon a Time,” album, I was completely intrigued..and slightly in love (haha!).

Inside Myself / Once Upon a Time, in my view, is a remarkable collection of songs that were clearly driven and created by a person with a lot of passion. Inside myself, being the first CD in the double disc album, takes the listener on an enchanting journey through the soul of Helen herself. A journey laced with emotion, magic, and beauty. In this album, Trevillion mixes her emotional and expressive vocals with orchestral music (Violin, Piano), electronic elements (synthesizers, beats), and creative  story-telling lyrics. Upon the first listen of Inside Myself, I immediately formed a connection with many of the songs. The tracks “My Winter,” “Over the Waterfalls,” “Will You,” and “Letters to You” caught my attention right from the start. Another notable and interesting piece is “The Mermaid Part I: The Storm” which is an epic instrumental track that could have easily fit into a fantasy film like “Lord of the Rings.”

Along with Inside Myself, there is also the second disc, “Once Upon a Time.” The Once Upon a Time EP consists of four songs based on four fairytale protagonists. The tracks are as follows: Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, The Goose Girl, and Cinderella. Just as before, Helen uses her emotional vocals, pleasant music, and excellent song-writing skills to create another album of inspiring and enchanting songs. Each are uniquely crafted, and her take on each character and their situation is both refreshing story-wise and musically. My favorite track would have to be “Cinderalla,” as her vocal and lyrical delivery is simply drenched with emotion and longing. Although this is a track based on a fairytale character, Helen clearly draws up her own emotions and puts them into the song; it shines through, creating an inspiring and some-what heart breaking rendition. All in all, this is a very solid album.

With that said, Helen Trevillion’s Inside Myself / Once Upon a Time is a lovely collection of unique songs. From classical, to electronic, to folk, and to even jazz and Gothic elements, Helen creates and infuses an eclectic (yet at the same time fluid) form of beautiful music which is often described by her fans as “fae-pop.”  Although I’ve only discovered her about a month ago, I can say that without a doubt this is an album that will stay with me. After listening to the songs on her website, I was truly inspired, and simply had to purchase her album which you can buy from the link below.

If interested, I’d highly recommend checking her out. As stated, her albums can be listened to on her website for free. On another note, if you’re a fan of Emilie Autumn’s “Enchant,” chances are you’d really enjoy this as well.

Website: http://faefly-records.co.uk

CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/helentrevillion

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Hey everyone.

I just wanted to let you all know that I’m still alive.  I haven’t been very active lately — I’ve been really busy.. but that’ll change soon enough.

I’m also currently in the process of reading “Mad Ship” (book #2 of the Liveship Traders Trilogy) by Robin Hobb. So far..it’s a bit sluggish..which is part of the reason I’m lacking new reviews..but I’m sticking with it and working my way through. It’s getting better..and I’m interested in where things are heading.

So there are more reviews coming, very soon!

With that said, I’ll end this with a picture of an adorable kitten.

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“Howl’s Moving Castle,” by Dianna Wynne Jones is a magical tale that takes place in the town of Market Chipping; a land where all is possible. The story begins introducing us to our main character, Sophie. As her younger sisters prepare to leave home and seek the fortunes of life, sister Sophie, being the eldest, is assigned to stay behind and run the family hat shop. Unfortunately for her, running a hat shop is incredibly dull; that is, until the witch of the wastes drops by. After a brief confrontation, Sophie is left feeling a bit different – a bit stiff. She soon comes to realize that an awful spell has been cast upon her; one that has turned her into an old woman. This then ignites the fire of the story as Sophie sets off on her own journey; a journey that leads her straight to the eerie castle that looms above the town – Howl’s Moving Castle.

This is one fantasy novel that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. While I never truly forgot about it, I kept putting it off. Part of my reluctance came from the fact that it appeared to be a novel directed toward much younger readers. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with young adult/children’s literature, I wasn’t convinced that it would be something I could connect to. Nevertheless, the description intrigued me, and much of the reviews were quite positive. So despite my reluctance, I picked it up and jumped in. I’ll say right now that I’m pleased that I did. “Howl’s Moving Castle” was an incredibly entertaining and fun read. Here’s why:

To start, the characters were great; so great in-fact, that it was nearly impossible to single any out as favorites. I will say, however, that Sophie was one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read in a long time. Not only was she strong-willed and brave – but hilarious, witty, and a bit mad. She had a big heart and it really showed. Aside from Sophie, we also had the all-powerful Wizard Howl. As I was introduced to his character, I have to admit that I was actually rather surprised. For whatever reason, I expected something reminiscent of king Haggard from “The Last Unicorn;” someone depressed, mopey, unlikeable. He was quite the opposite (though prone to leaking green slime when depressed). Oh and yes, we can’t forget Calcifer, an adorable puppy-dog-like fire demon; Michael, Howl’s young apprentice; a creepy scarecrow, and the witch of the wastes. To say the least, I was really impressed with Jones’s ability to create such diverse and interesting characters.

In addition, there was also the writing. Well, what can I say? It was equally as impressive. As stated above, when I decided to begin “Howl’s Moving Castle,” I was expecting something crafted for a much younger audience. My assumption however, was quickly destroyed. After reading just a few chapters, I soon found that it was much more; and while kids could definitely get a kick out of it, nothing was dumbed down. The overall language was impressive; the pacing was perfect; the tone was amusing. Diana Wynne Jones is clearly a witty and clever author, and her style in “Howl’s Moving Castle” was both comfortable and easy to follow; yet at the same time, well-written and carefully detailed. Her words were like art, flowing from page to page; her humor had me cracking a smile through-out. This wasn’t like reading, this was like taking a journey.

Lastly, the story itself was refreshing, creative, and fun. From Sophie’s odd predicament, to Calcifer the fire demon, to magic spells and shooting stars, “Howl’s Moving Castle” was jam packed with wonder and enchantment. While reading this lovely tale, I found myself never knowing what would happen next – and with Wizard Howl in the picture (who was a very skilled wizard, mind you), anything was possible. Aside from that, things progressed swiftly, and there was never a dull or boring moment; there was a huge amount of character development, leading all the way up to the final page, and there were even a few interesting plot twists. Overall, this story was spot on, and held my interest all the way up to the end. Oh, and speaking of the ending? I absolutely loved it. I can’t imagine it being any different.

With that said, “Howl’s Moving Castle” was really impressing, and after closing the final chapter and beginning this review, I quickly came to find that coming up any sort of critique was a real challenge. For me, this is one of those novels where nothing should be changed. From the intelligent writing, to the memorable and lovely characters, to the story, and to Howl himself, I found myself completely immersed within each page. While this is indeed considered a young adult novel, and I can certainly understand why, it’s clear to me that people of all ages could enjoy the magic of this novel. If you’re looking for a really fun, well written fantasy, this could be exactly what you’re seeking. Overall, I found “Howl’s Moving Castle” to be a truly a riveting and enchanting tale; one full of wit, heart, and a whole lot of magic.

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Wonder Tales: The Book of Wonder and Tales of Wonder, is a collection of short stories written by the highly influential Lord Dunsany, between 1912 and 1916. Thirty-three diverse tales lay within these pages; all set in a magical and unique world; a world poetically crafted by a true master of modern fantasy. From comedy, to action, to the macabre;  Dunsany lyrically tells the tales of several different characters, all of whom’ reside beyond the fields we know.

After numerous times of passing by this novel at our local bookstore, only to skim through a few pages on each visit, I finally had come to the conclusion that I might as well purchase it. Besides, after reading his beautiful and inspiring “King of Elfland’s Daughter,” I had always wanted to read more of his work, I just hadn’t the time. With a “to be read” list as large as mine, it’s hard to keep track of things. Nevertheless..Dunsany had made a huge impression on me after reading his novel, and his lyrical tone and lush descriptions had me in awe for days. So naturally I couldn’t wait to delve into his other writings; to explore more of his vast and creative worlds.

“Wonder Tales,” a book which contains both “The Book of Wonder” and “Tales of Wonder” was a unique collection to say the least. From humorous stories, to slightly disturbing ones,  to down right weird ones; I was bit surprised at how versatile Dunsany was as an artist. In truth, when I began reading this, I was expecting a lot of the same – magic, elves, princes – much of what was in “The King of Elfland’s Daughter.”  However after reading just a few of the stories, I was quite pleased to discover otherwise.  While the lyrical beauty of Dunsany’s writing was always there, gracing each unique page – every story had it’s own vibe. It’s own life.

As there are so many stories within this collection, I can’t exactly go over each one without creating a novel-sized review; so I will go over just a few of the stand outs. My personal favorites were:

The Quest of the Queen’s Tears – A tale of an unconventional queen who could feel no love; who failed to meet the fairytale standards of fable or myth. Rather than sending brave knights and princes out on epic quests to slay dragons or battle sea-serpents,  she would sing to them; tell them legends, entertain them. Needless to say, her people were not happy – as this was no way for a queen to behave. So,  to fulfill their desires she gave them a quest – a quest called (for histories and song), the “Quest of the Queen’s Tears.” To complete this quest, one must simply move her to tears. He that achieved this, she would wed – no matter who it be. Quite a fun tale; excellently written.

How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles – The tale of Mr. Nuth, a professional burglar of great skill who takes on an apprentice named Tonker. After a bit of training and preparation, he then decides to plan a daring mission – one that he unfolds to his new apprentice over a cup of tea. The mission you ask? Why, to burgle the house of the Gnoles of course! Gnoles, an incredibly dangerous creature that reside in the dark woods  are said possess large emeralds; emeralds of great value. This then leads to quite a unique story; one that was actually a bit creepy.

Lastly, as far as my favorites go..I will also say that I quite enjoyed “Chubu and Sheemish,” a tail of two jealous gods who just can’t get along; “The Wonderful Window,” A story of a magic window that reveals a brilliant and living medieval city;  “The Watchtower,” a beautifully written ghost story, “The Three Sailor’s Gambit,” A chess story (yes, chess), and it actually wasn’t boring!; “City of Mallington Moor,” A city that appears from the mist, only to disappear the next morning; and finally, “The Three Infernal Jokes,” A rather odd tale of a list of jokes that when read, can literally make one die of laughter.

With that said, this was a really fun collection. While I enjoyed most of the stories – and all of them we’re interesting in their own right, I will admit that a few went over my head, leaving me asking.. “what did I just read? ” I’m not sure if that was due to the fact that I often read in the middle of the night, or something entirely different, but I plan to review those again when I get a chance. Overall though, this was a great book full of rather diverse stories; each enchanted with the magic of Lord Dunsany.  I was truly amazed at how much he could do in just 3 or 4 pages — at how he created such unique and engaging tales with so few words. Many authors fail to do that in 400 pages, much less 4!

While I can’t guarantee that this collection would be right for the everyday, casual fantasy reader (think swords..dragons..lots of action..), I can say that if you’re a fan of Tolkien and/or William Morris, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy these. “Wonder Tales” is truly an excellent piece of literature; one that was not only beautifully written, but entertaining. If gone into with an idea of what to expect; these wonder tales can be enjoyed by anyone.

(4 out of 5)

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