Tag Archives: #SwordandSorcery

Coughlan, Andy: The Elementalist (2013)

The Elementalist

The Elementalist is very much an adventure story with earth, wind, fire and water elementals being summoned by trained elementalists. We also have pirates (or privateers as they prefer to be called themselves). I have never really understood the distinction, for what they do tends to be the same. But these pirates are good pirates, at least what we see of them. In addition, we get fighting of the sword and magic kind and a little love and betrayal. All of it is told with a twinkle in the eye and maybe a few winks here and there.

Poor Barin Elicerio! He’s not certain exactly what it is he is supposed to have done, except that he has been accused of consorting with spirits of a malignant nature. Barin is pretty confident he has not done so, but the evidence points straight at him. Barely avoiding the death sentence (who wants to sentence to death the star elementalist), Barin is instead exiled to his birth town forbidden the practice of elementalism. And that is a pretty harsh sentence to serve for a person who practically eats, drinks and breathes elementalism.

Strange things begin happening in Barin’s life. First comes the strangest storm the sea-side village has ever seen.

Barin knew the sea. He had grown up in this village; his father had been a fisherman. He knew about the winds, the tides, and the dangers of the sea. He knew that if the wind blew from the north, as id did now, then the sea in the small protected harbour should be calm…. Far below, powerful white-crested waves tossed the moored boats about like toys….

The wind whipped at them from all directions. The rain and sea spray glowed eerily in the milky light from the small lighthouse. Out of the darkness came snatches of the fearful cries of fishermen, carried on the gusts of wind that threatened to throw everyone into the raging sea.

To the rescue men, to the rescue. Some of the fishermen are saved from the wrath of the waves but not all. What Barin does during the storm changes the attitude of the villagers toward him. Or perhaps their eyes are opened to their own folly. Strangewort, the town Elder, finally accepts Barin, thus opening up the way for the rest of the village to begin treating Barin like something other than a pimple under the skin.

Then another boat fights its way to land having saved several fishermen from certain death. Privateers led by Captain Glib turn Barin’s life up-side-down. All of a sudden Barin finds himself breaking the edict of the Tetras and on the run trying to figure out what on earth is going on.

Courage is a strange thing and we find it at the strangest times and in the oddest places. Barin finds his courage when his journey to figure out why the elemental spirits are behaving the way they do begins. He continues having to drag it out, facing his fears and learnings. Perhaps the most courageous thing any of us does is face ourselves and admit that what we have been taught is only partially true. Barin gets a lot of practice doing that in The Elementalist.

A fun adventure taking us into the land of possibilities. I would say the starting age for The Elementalist would be from 8 to 10 years old.


Reviews:


Lynch, Scott: The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard III) (2014)

the-republic-of-thieves-by-scott-lynch-new-uk
Cover art by Benjamin Carrè
By far my favorite “The Republic of Thieves” covers

the republic of thieves threesomeThe cover by Benjamin Carrè is amazing. It is definitely going onto my list of favorite covers and he is one of my favorite artists. Whew!

I have been a fan of the Gentleman Bastard ever since Lynch launched The Lies of Locke Lamora. My attraction to a piece of writing is never really about the tools of the trade or whether the author avoids falling into writer-traps. Instead my liking a piece of writing has more to do with whether my reader-bone is tickled and often about whether I identify with something in the writing.

Sabetha Belacoros is a fun character and she isn’t “good” the way society defines good. The gang of Chains definitely has a set of morals that they follow, but those morals follow the laws of The Crooked Warden. If I had to compare them to anyone in today’s society, the seeming morals of the filthy rich come to mind. In The Gentleman Bastard series there is not much difference between how the gangs of Chains and Lamora behave and the way the top tiers of their society behave (nobles, aristocrats, bonds-magi and so on). But then there isn’t much difference between the two tiers of society in real life society.

Maybe Jean is my favorite character. Where Locke and Sabetha are flashy figures, Jean is the guy that keeps the rest of them going. Flash has never really appealed to me in real life. People who sparkle and draw in the rest of us can be fun in tiny amounts, but the steady ones are the ones I am attracted to. I married a Jean although my Jean’s criminal activities are limited to sometimes driving too fast.

Our look into the past was my favorite part. Chains’ old gang is an insane delight. Those Sanzas! In the newer part, the bondsmagi were a chilling reminder of the sheepyness of society. You do not need magic to achieve the effect they had on Karthain. A crime free society where all are fed and taken care of is a dream come true. Perhaps not with the cost that affects the inhabitants of Karthain but there might be more reasonable paths to such a society.

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Reviews:

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  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; Hardback edition (10 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575077018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575077010

The Way Into Egalitarian Society

Singer, Z.N.: For the Last Time (Someday Wars) (2011)

For the Last Time
Sword stock used in cover courtesy of FantasyStock of Deviantart.

If you want information on the Someday Wars and Z.N. Singer’s vampires you should visit his website.

For the Last Time is about the love of a father and what a parent is willing to do to save his son from himself. I read this story many books ago. I think I borrowed it at the library. Back then it made an impression on me. Let me tell you, For the Last Time broke my heart all over again.

Mardon sets off for a village where a new vampire Lord is setting up headquarters. That means going against a stream of refugees and meeting a whole lot of zombies on his way. As a Master of The Discipline he has the right tools at his disposal to shorten the death of these slowly dying people who are in thrall to their master.

In the Author’s words Singer apologizes if the reader has found this story a little confusing. I didn’t but you are now warned.

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You will now have to get For the Last Time as part of a collection of short stories called For the Last Time and Other Tales at:

Smashwords:

Published: Dec. 25, 2011 
Words: 39,010 (approximate)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781465743695

May, James: Heartbeats 1 (2013)

Heartbeats

I’m trying to figure out if the James May of Heartbeats is the same James May as the one of BBC’s Top Gear. Any takers? I’m not finding any information on him out there.

It was not the cover that made me buy this short story but rather the blurb. It contains the words evil, sword and stop nightmare. Yup, that will often be all it takes to get me to read.

Heartbeats is part one of what thus far is four parts. I have only read the first and am therefore not certain if that is the end. Each story is about the same length as this one (between 15-20 pages).

Heartbeats is a dark story, one of death and destruction and grief. We meet Stalus at the celebration of the wedding of Duon and Shelly. Except what was to be a happy event has turned into a nightmare, a nightmare that has been part of Stalus’ life for the past thirty years. It is the story of a man growing from utter helplessness to the realisation that he, too, can make a difference. Hopefully Stalus will be able to hold on to his humanity through all he has to do.

I would have to say that this is one of the darker stories I have read. Not so much because of the violence, although the violence is explicit and plenty. But more because of the utter hopelessness that is conveyed through the writing. James May writes well within the flow and writes a story that makes me think about what it must be like to fight against the odds without believing that you will make it.


  • Print Length: 17 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CSVR8IG

Maternowski, Todd: Towers of Dawn (Exmortus I) (2011)

Exmortus

Todd Maternowski states:

(Exmortus) is NOT intended for children, unless you like your kids reading about grisly murders, sex magic and genocidal demons, in which case, it IS intended for your kids.

Exmortus is in part a coming of age novel. As such I guess you could call it a young adult novel (keeping in mind the above warning). But it is also about the arrogance that comes with believing that you have the correct truth.

The Knights of Exmortus Abbey believe that their path is the correct one. They get to see a whole lot more of the more challenging sides of life than the people living inside the great wall. Ash Xavier is one of the apprentices hoping that he will make the rank of Knight. Ash is incredibly smart and knows it but he has no idea how to apply his knowledge to real life. That is what Speed and Ziggy (the duo) show him while his fellow apprentice, Simon, shows Ash that there are alternative ways of thinking.

Getting his dreams smashed within a few hours is certainly a factor in helping Ash grow. The demons that destroyed the Abbey are on Ash & company’s tails through much of the novel. People they thought they could trust (at least Ash did) show themselves as traitors while people Ash had thought of as evil end up getting Ash & company out of trouble.

We get plenty of action, some philosophising and some enthusiastic sex. The action is graphic at times while the sex is semi-explicit (probably not new to most teenagers).


Reviews:


  • Series: Exmortus
  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463788177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463788179

Lindsay, David A.: Gaspar and the Demoiselle Clara (2012)

Gaspar

Gaspar and the Demoiselle Clara was a free download from various sites when I got it. It is no longer available by itself. But it is part of a novel called Gaspar The Thief. I have not read this novel yet.

David A. Lindsay is from Scotland. That gives us an insight into Scottish humour. I am a huge fan of English humour, although I do tend to call that British humour. Shame on me.

Gaspar is two-thirds bravado and usually one-third inebriation. He tends to like having money but is also relieved when he has managed to spend it all. That way he can leave off his life of indulgence and get back to work. As you have surmised, Gaspar’s job is being a thief. This time his mark is to be the Demoiselle Clara.

I guess you could say that Gaspar is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, a rapscallion. A guy like that makes a great character in a story but they aren’t very reliable in real life. Gaspar’s favorite jobs are the ones where he can scam another person. For that he needs to put on masks (not literal ones, no). Putting on a mask to get our way is probably something we are all guilty of. At least I am.

Demoiselle Clara is a fun one. She has learned the art of masking quite well. If Gaspar is lucky, he will learn a lesson from her depth of deviousness.

All in all, quite an enjoyable humourous read.


Reviews:


  • Print Length: 26 pages
  • Publisher: Balmerino Publishing; 1st edition (July 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008P2PCLM

Keller, Robert E.: The Eye of Divinity (Knights) (2011)

Knights
Cover art by Carolina Mylius

The Eye of Divinity is probably for 10-years and up. The story is a serial as there was no closure at the end of The Eye of Divinity.

You will see from the reviews below that readers had extremely mixed views on the quality of the novel. That is not without reason.

Lannon – our protagonist – is the kind of character that you either get or do not get in my opinion. His family exhibits passive aggressive behavior toward each other and Lannon carries that with him through the novel. Later on in The Eye of Divinity we discover the reason for their reactions toward each other.

In some ways this is a typical coming of age tale. Lannon shows growth and eventually realises that he is the only one who is able to change what he is into a different version of himself. Getting through the growing up years is in some ways a dreadful experience for all of us. Carrying the baggage of a dysfunctional family only makes it worse.

To say that Cordus, Taris and Furlus are disappointed at the quality of the potential Dark Watchman they are bringing back with them to the Tower would be no exaggeration. And, you know, I get why. There is nothing special about Lannon. His personality is wishy-washy and he has no unique talents. In fact, nothing at all points toward his potential knighthood. One reviewer called Lannon a noodle.

I liked The Eye of Divinity. Most of that has to do with Lannon. He was so hopeless, yet every once in a while a tiny glimmer of spine shone through.


Reviews:


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Weber, David: Oath of Swords (War God) (1995)

Oath of Swords
Cover art by Larry Elmore

I have long been a fan of David Weber. By the time I discovered Oath of Swords I had already read most of his science fiction stuff. Weber has a varied writing background of which the War God series is his only venture into the world of fantasy – a good choice for him in my opinion.

Some of the violence in the novel was disturbing to me. This was the part that dealt with Sharna – one of the dark gods. Why this specific kind of violence is especially disturbing to me is difficult to understand. Maybe it has something to do with my religious upbringing? Because, in fact, the violent parts are not worse that a whole lot of other violence that I have read and not been especially bothered by. Just saying.

One reviewer wished Bazhell would have kept on fighting Tormak until the end. I kind of agree with that assessment. Bazhell is a stubborn old hradani and his fighting what the war-god wanted was fun. What the ending would have been like if he had resisted until the end is something only David Weber could know.

Oath of Swords is very much about being the outsider. Bahzell is a hradani hostage at the human court. He is extremely easy to spot – size and all. Like any outsider he is treated as less. But he does have friends at court and also support from some of the gods.

I enjoyed Oath of Swords a lot and have actually read it two or three times.



  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Baen; later printing edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671876422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671876425

McKinley, Robin: The Blue Sword (1982)

“The Blue Sword” by Emily Doyle

In spite of being written first, The Blue Sword is the second book in the Damarian saga. There are few things in life that I’m truly envious of, but the ability to write in a manner that flows is one. Maybe it has to do with the comfort that I’ve derived from such books. Truly excellent ones distract me from my pain and makes those long boring days when I can’t do much bearable. McKinley has this ability.

While the plot in The Blue Sword is straightforward, the execution is not. What a gift. I guess I’m just in a praise-mood today (maybe).

Harry Crew is a young woman who, after the death of her parents, has to move to Damar and her brother (Victorian standards in her country). There the adventure begins. She falls in love with the desert, gets kidnapped by the Hillfolk and has to fulfill her destiny as Harimad-sol, the hope of the Damarian people.

There is “slightly” more meat to the story =), thankfully. Action galore and some romance. Just the things that make for fun fantasy.


Winner of 1983 Newberry Honor Book

McKinley, Robin: The Hero and the Crown (1984)

The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #2)To me reading is like listening to music or maybe it’s vice versa. Sometimes words flow seamlessly from one sentence to the next, one chapter to the next. Subject matter does not matter. I’ve seen it in academic articles and in this case in a young adult book.The Hero and the Crown flows beautifully. To me that makes McKinley and excellent writer. I’ve only read two of her books, but in both cases I found this indefinable flow. I suspect the ability to make text “flow” is something you have to be born with, like any other talent.

While “Hero” is the first book in the Damarian saga, it was written after The Blue Sword (another Newberry awarded book). Keep that in mind while reading the books.

Aerin is the only child of the Damarian king, born without talent and child of a suspect mother (dead). She refuses to act as a proper “lady” should. Instead she learns to wield the sword, chase dragons and tame horses. Then disaster strikes and Damarian faces war. As the king rides off with his forces, a messenger comes riding in asking for help to kill a dragon. Aerin goes off and …….


Winner of 1985 Newberry Medal Award