Reblog of my review of Terry Pratchett’s “Moving Pictures” from 1990.
Trust is a valuable commodity. To whom do I give my trust? The entertainment industry? News media? Scientific research? Pratchett’s Moving Pictures is a biting and funny social commentary about the impact and influence media can have on us.
About thirty miles Turnwise of Ankh-Morpork the surf boomed on the wind-blown, seagrass-waving, sand-dune-covered spit of land where the Circle Sea met the Rim Ocean.
The hill itself was visible for miles. It wasn’t very high, but lay amongst the dunes like an upturned boat or a very unlucky whale, and was covered in scrub trees. No rain fell here, if it could possibly avoid it. Although the wind sculpted the dunes around it, the low summit of the hill remained in an everlasting, ringing calm.
Nothing but the sand had changed here in hundreds of years. (p.10)
Moving Pictures is the 10th novel in the Discworld bibliography and was published in 1990 (my paperback edition is 333 pages). Its cover was illustrated by Josh Kirby. His illustration is spot on with regards to both the spirit and letter of the story. Our narrator is omniscient and, therefore, knows and shares details from important places and people. One of Pratchett’s techniques is Footnotes. They aren’t essential to the story-line, but they do add to the narrative-believability. Chapter headings are non-existent. At first, that might be confusing but you soon get used to it. There are 17 non-English translations of the story and the novel has been dissected by scholars from some of those countries.
‘Oh, yes. Yes. Yes,’ breathed Soll. ‘What a picture! Pure kinema!’
‘A giant woman carrying a screaming ape up a tall building,’ sighed Dibbler. ‘And we’re not even having to pay wages!’ (p.300)
Making fun of the movie industry begins on the dedication page with Pratchett’s “Thank you speech” and continues throughout the story. Names (e.g. “Silverfish“), titles (e.g. “Last Keeper of the Door“) and places (e.g. “Holy Wood“) are from novels and films (e.g. “Gone with the Wind” + “King Kong” = “Blown Away”) that span the period that started with the Phantasmagoria shows of the 1790’s up through the one-reel Celluloid film from the late 1800‘s that developed into the silent movies of the early 1900‘s ending with the movies 1980‘s.
Many of the characters in this story are like people I know. Main characters are Theda Withel (Ginger/Delores del Syn), Victor Tugelbend (Victor Marachismo), Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler (Dibbler), Gaspode The Talking Dog (Gaspode), the Alchemist’s Guild, the Wizards of Unseen University, the Librarian, Holy Wood and Ankh-Morpork.
Our story begins and ends with Holy Wood. From the description above, it seems an idyllic place yet all Keepers of the Door have maintained a 3-times-a-day set of rituals to prevent an apocalypse. When Death puts a stop to the priestly line, whatever was kept back by the chanting begins to seep out……
I completely agree with the criticism of some of the reviewers of Obsidian Son. Much in the way of the Paranormal Romances I have read, Obsidian Son has a bizarre view of looks and what attracts people to each other. Instead of big cocks, there are big racks. The main character is shallow, obnoxious and has few redeeming qualities. In addition, there is a lack of research. Finally, there are grammatical problems.
In spite of all that, I had fun. Imagine what Shayne Silvers could have accomplished with a better team. So many of the authors I read, or try to read, claim their stories have had editors and beta-readers. As does Silvers. Hmmm. Who are these editors and beta-readers?
I still had fun. This is an urban fantasy interspersed with mythological and magical creatures. The main character has magic, is wealthy and is extremely attractive to the opposite gender. Some of that attraction is because of out-of-control magic. There are dragons. They are the best part of the story. Really fun dragons.
About five years before the beginning of Parasitic Souls, the Earth experienced a magic apocalypse. As a result of the apocalypse, some people became magical. The strangest form of magic is SL (spontaneous lycanthropy), in this case to coyote . More common is magical talent. Those who had practiced magic before the apocalypse, like brujas/brujos and witches/wizards, had a head-start. The magically talented are able to use their energy to set wards, make charms or influence people. Scientists study magic in hopes of understanding its underlying principles.
One of the magics discovered is a fountain of youth. Not a particularly ethical magic, but one that might potentially earn the inventor loads of money. Many people would be willing to use this highly questionable form of magic and pay almost anything. However, before this fountain of youth could be sold to the wealthy and unscrupulous, it needs testing. Which is how we meet Lenny.
The apartment was dark except for the streetlight shining rudely through the curtains. Since she had a raging thirst and an urgent need to pee, Fiona got up. She managed to find the bathroom without shinning herself too badly on the birch Ektorp coffee table, and she only had to open four cabinets before finding a cup to drink out of. As she was downing her third glass of water, she heard a non-human voice creak at her through the kitchen window.
“Let me in!”
She dropped the glass on the floor. It bounced and rolled under the table, spilling water everywhere.
Fiona gets called to Clementine, California, by her step-mom’s assistant, Sophie. Fiona’s step-mom, Carlotta, had done a disappearing act. There was little the two girls could do to find her, except wait and hoped that the only thing wrong is a severe hangover. Turns out, Carlotta’s problem is a bit more serious. In fact, her whole demeanor changed from warm and kind to cold and mean. At least towards Fiona and Sophie. Something is up, and the two of them know it has to be bad.
Fiona is 24-years old and born to a messed up mother and father. One of her father’s marriages had been to Carlotta. Carlotta was everything Fiona needed, and she was there for Fiona even after she divorced Fiona’s father. So Fiona has reason to expect Carlotta to, at least, let her sleep on the couch. Instead, Fiona has to shack up with Sophie.
Sophie is 18-years old and the adopted child of adoring and overprotective parents. Because Carlotta is related to her mother, Sophie was able to move to Clementine and apprentice with Carlotta. Up until the personality change, Carlotta had treated Sophie kindly. Now neither Fiona or Sophie has a job, and they certainly have no idea what to do about Carlotta. Should they go back or stay and try to fix things?
Parasitic Souls would be a terrible, and probably realistic, story if they chose to give up. However, the two do not. Things happen, and through them we meet Marcello and Xavier. Marcello teaches magic theory at Clementine Preparatory Academy for Magic and Technology. Xavier is apprenticed to his grandmother, the bruja, Luna. Luna is a woman you do not want as an enemy. The two men are in their early twenties and both of them are interested in the two women. So. Some romance.
Parasitic Souls is a Young Adult story with three types of stories in it. Coming-of-age, romance and “what if”. There is plenty of action, some of it rather unusual. Kater Cheek also manages to thrown in her odd, but cool, sense of humor. I liked it and recommend Parasitic Souls.
Thaumatology 101is a mystery. Ceridwyn (Ceri) Brent has been hired as a research assistant to Dr. Tennant at the Metropolitan University in London at the High-energy Thaumatology Building. Thaumatology is the magic of Teasdale’s world. Dr. Tennant has been working for a couple of years on finding a solution for the containment of T-Null. It turns out her other assistant, Shane Walters, has hampered her work. After an accident occurs that almost kills Ceri, Ceri and Lily begin searching for an answer to why Shane is out to stop Ceri.
I like the way Teasdale introduces us to the world (and the house) both Ceri and Lily are part of. Thaumatology 101 is very much about the friendship between Lily and Ceri. Ceri experiences major changes in her life during the story and Lily is there to both support and hamper her. Thaumatology 101 celebrates sexuality without being preachy or crude. I found that refreshing. Not being a romance was also great. Violence in the story was toned down. Because of the toned down violence and joyful sexuality, I would call this an older Young Adult urban fantasy tale. The story is somewhere between a novella and a novel in length (137 pgs).
Saving the world is what heroes do. Tremaine Valiere is such a heroine. With the help of her friends and resurrected father she sets out to kick the Gardier out of her world and the Syprian world.
Sometimes the people we want to save do everything in their power to be destroyed. Falling for the lure of “something for nothing” could be tempting when your world is falling apart around you. Ixion promises much, but will he deliver? Oh, yes. He delivers. What he does deliver might not be what the Ile-Rien had in mind when they took him in from the wrath of Gilead and Ileas. We do stuff like this all the time. Internet and mail scams come to mind. Pyramid schemes. Hedgefunds. Humans must have evolved to be suckers. I love that Martha Wells shows some of the processes leading up to such catastrophic decisions.
Idiots or not, heroines do what heroines have to do. Her father is even more ruthless than Tremaine. Arisilde’s shade is as eccentric as the living person was. Ander is Ander. Gilead keeps on realizing how much of his works as the god’s vessel involves sorcery. Gerard tries to be the father-figure that Nicholas is incapable of. Florian’s abilities are stretched beyond what she thought possible. Even the Gardier prisoner proves an unexpected resource.
As I see it, the story is about Tremaine and her adventures and her ability to accept the world as it is. Just as falling for schemes seems to be part of our genetic make-up so does the inability to see people and situations for what they are. People are complicated. What I am able to observe in others, I am incapable of observing in myself. Lying to myself is no less part of autism than it is part of the lives of non-autists. This is what the societies we grow up in train us to do. Conforming to expectations and popular thinking gets you accepted, but so does not conforming as long as you do it the right way. While Tremain oftene goes against the Ile-Rien thinking on women, she has been inundated with their teachings from childhood. Breaking from the lies of society and her family through independent thinking and admissions of own strengths and flaws is incredibly challenging for Tremaine. But she keeps on trying. I think Martha Wells does an excellent job showing just that in her trilogy.
Martha Wells brings back the three worlds caught up in the invasion of Ile-Rien.
For some reason there are readers out there who have decided that TheFall of the Ile-Rien is a fantasy work. The first story, The Wizard Hunters, has plenty of elements of fantasy in it, so that would be a natural conclusion to draw about that. That is until you get to the parallel world and strange technologies that turn up. In The Ships of Air the science fiction element is even stronger. My annoyance comes from the way women authors are so casually relegated categories that simply do not fit.
There, rant over.
Tremaine is a great main character. In spite of Ander’s misogynism, she manages to get people to follow her. Perhaps this is due to her quick thinking, diplomacy and ability to cut through objections when need be. Her childhood training by her father and uncle is clearly an asset in the treacherous landscapes of worlds and people that she finds herself in.
Ander, on the other hand, still needs to have his testicles removed. He never quite seems to grasp just how different the Syprian society is to the one of Ile-Rien and the power women have in Sypria. He really needs to be a bit more careful about what he says around Tremaine. The men surrounding her would probably just nod approvingly if Tremaine got her scissors out.
We get to meet representatives of the Gardier community. The “top dog” there seems to be a soldier of some sort. The Gardier are an interesting people. All of them seem to be terrified of the evil Ile-Rien and dismissive of the animal-like Syprians. Their beliefs about their own superiority mirrors much of what we see in the real world on a regular basis. Hell, 6 million Jews got killed for being “animals”.
Fear is a powerful tool to get your citizenship in line. We see the US using this tool all the time these days, and it seems to be working. Even here in Norway the government has started using the same type of fear-propaganda. The Gardier leader’s socialisation shows in the way she interacts with the Syprians and the Ile-Rien. Just because she is a Gardier leader does not mean that she sees other Gardiaer’s as equal to herself. Oh, no. Nor do the people in either Ile-Rien or Sypria. That is how the world works. It seems humans have this need to belong to a “we” group that feels far superior to the “them” group where the rest of the world is lumped.
I really enjoy the questions raised in this trilogy and the action I get to enjoy. Sadly, I have to admit to enjoying well-written fight scenes. Yes, that probably makes me a violent creature, but there you are. Martha Wells knows how to make her worlds of the possible and impossible come alive for this reader.
Łowcy czarnoksiężników (Polish title); translated by Sylwia Twardo
A female protagonist looking to die in what seems to be an accidental manner is a relief to meet. Wanting to die is something I experience on a regular basis so I find it nice to know that there are people in literature who feel the same way. Her death-wish is why Tremaine joins the clean-up crews after bombings and why she joins Gerard when he asks her to bring her uncle’s sphere along. Tremaine Valiarde is a woman with an unusual life up to now and it is about to enter the realm of the unexpected. She has two qualities that I really like. One is her ability to make difficult decisions quickly without needing to question her choices. The other is her ability to integrate others in her life as a matter of course. Actually, there are three qualities I really appreciate. The third is Tremaine’s ability to remain fairly clear-/ and level-headed in a crisis. When she, Florian and Gerard end up on an island in the middle of the ocean those qualities will become essential to survival.
Ilias and Giliead see it as their mission in life to hunt wizards. Their experience with wizards thus far in life has been that all wizards are insane. In Sypria being a sorcerer, wizard or even the victim of one gets you either shunned or killed. Ilias and Giliead are about to get their views challenged.
Prejudice is an interesting quality. All of our fear-attitudes are. There must be people out there who do not struggle with prejudices, but I have not met any of them yet. We get to see different types of prejudices in the people from Ile-Rien and the people from Sypria, but at heart all of their prejudices are the same. This is where Tremaine’s ability to integrate others into her life becomes especially important.
Meetings between two fairly different cultures are bound to be troublesome. But the need to fight a common enemy enables people to overcome some of the fear and cooperate. Gardier provides the role of a common enemy through their invasions of both Ile-Rien and Sypria. When survival depends upon the parties cooperating logic states that they cooperate. But reality both here in the real world and in the world of The Wizard Hunters shows that people aren’t always logical.
The Wizard Hunters is my first meeting with Martha Wells. I have had a lot of first meetings with authors over the years and not all have been as successful as this one. Definitely recommended.
“Bean Sidhe” by Alessandro Cristiano at elfwood.com
Detective Inspector Helen Crane of the Metropolitan Police’s Magic and Murder Squad embodies the law of unintended consequences to me. As we saw in The Sweet Scent of Blood and The Cold Kiss of Death DI Crane is out to get Genvieve Taylor. Helen is a Witch. Genvieve a Sidhe. Crane’s hatred is not due to their two races, or rather not directly. In her youth Helen Crane went through a traumatic experience that has caused her hatred for both the Sidhe fae and for Vampires. Poor Genny hasn’t a clue why DI Crane is out to destroy her, but Genvieve Taylor is the one who has to live with the consequences of that long-ago experience.
Spellcrackers.com is both serial and series. If you want to understand the overarching story of the whys and whereofs of the search for a solution to the fae sterility problem you will need to read the preceding novels. But if all you want is a fun mystery then you can read The Bitter Seed of Magic on its own. That also goes for The Sweet Scent of Blood and for The Cold Kiss of Death.
Our mystery in The Bitter Seed of Magic has to do with the strange circumstances around the deaths of fae women. They turn up glamoured to look like human girls. At the very least all magic should have been washed away by the River Thames from which they were pulled. But this is not the case. Obviously magic is involved and because of its nature Genvieve becomes involved. At first only to remove the spells on their bodies. Then it becomes personal – due to the matter of the feud DI Crane has instigated.
Genny’s own past comes to haunt her. She meets long-lost relatives. Her nickname for one of them is Mad Max (no irony intended) and that should tell you what you need to know about him. Others of her relatives also make an appearance in Genvieve’s life, but I will leave you to find out just who they are on your own. Lets just say that Mad Max is not the only crazy family Genny has. Perhaps crazy is the wrong word for their personalities. Amoral might be a better one or maybe just ethically different seeing as none of them are human.
One thing our experiences with Genvieve Taylor shows is that curses are a whole lot simpler to cast than to undo. In fact that goes for all of our experiences in life. In general it seems to be easier to prevent than to fix. Poor Genny. Left having to fix the idiocy and thoughtlessness of others. She is not on her own though and that could help. Having friends does seem to make my troubles easier to bear. New friends turn up in Genny’s life making her troubles a little less complicated as well. She will need those friends considering just who is pushing Genvieve around. Phew. I am so glad I am not her. Boring is good is my motto when it comes to my own life.
But excitement in the form of stories and excellent authors is another matter. Suzanne McLeod not only makes Genvieve Nataliya Zakharinova Taylor come alive for me but also very much makes me care what happens to her and her life and her friends.
I like Sam’s (Samhain) character. Upon beginning this review I looked for further literature about our magically-challenged witch. There is a novel (Death’s Daughter) in the inning, but I do not know when it is going to be published. The Brinded Cat (striped cat) is even more fun than Foul is Fair.
Witches and their cats! Or maybe it is witches and their familiars. In this case Mrs. McGinty’s cat is caught in a tree and Sam is asked by her boss, Fin, to climb up and rescue it. Fin is involved with Mrs. McGinty and therefore amenable to granting her small favors, but Fin is also afraid of heights. So Sam has to step into the fray and keep Fin in Mrs. McGinty’s favour, and she does. That is after all what good friends do. We support our friends in their affairs of the heart, but only to a certain point.
When Sam meets Mrs. McGinty’s cat, she realises that perhaps the cat needs rescuing but not rescuing from the tree. And off we go.
Sam is adorable. Ms. Halpin has made her strong, vulnerable, insightful, experienced and funny. I think perhaps I like people who protect under-dogs (well, in this case a cat). The vulnerable need protecting and once upon a time Sam herself found such protection when she most needed it.
How old would you have to be to read The Brinded Cat? Well, The Brinded Cat is safe enough for a five-year old to read the story, but I doubt they would get much out of it. There is extremely little violence and no sexual content. Beyond that I haven’t got a clue. There is plenty of action, some fighting, lots of magic, and a look at trust.
“Her friends shot her sympathetic glances, but none of them dared leave their husbands’ or fathers’ sides to be with her.
Smallfolk tradition prevented the girls from going off without permission, even such a small distance. It was only common sense, Tildi had been lectured all the time while growing up. Girls weren’t as strong or as fast as boys. Plenty of dangerous creatures lurked about the Quarters waiting from such a tender young morsel to happen by unprotected – and not all of them were wild animals. That was the rationale her mother had given her for why the custom continued even in cultivated places where there was no reasonable threat. The explanation did not satisfy her, but such matters could only be discussed in private among her companions where the boys couldn’t hear them. Disobedient girls would be made to stand up in meetings with a slate around their necks that read SHAME.”
Even today it can be difficult to find female main characters who stand alone. Or rather female characters who do not need romantic involvement or hero-worship of a male character to keep the story going. Tildi Summerbee in An Unexpected Apprentice manages to be such a character. Perhaps that is not such a surprise considering the society she comes from. In tearing herself loose from the Smallfolk Quarters and setting out on her own, Tildi has to redefine and question the values she has grown up with. Having been orphaned from her entire family is probably a major factor in her seeking her own future independent of the voices of her elders. Sometimes it is when we seemingly have no choices, we find that it is only just now that we have real choices.
I like Tildi. She goes from questioning her right to do anything to being someone who has learned to do without all the things she had previously thought important.
The wizard Nemeth is the reason Tildi and her merry band of 6 set off on their quest to recover “The Book” (really a scroll). My diagnosis is that Nemeth has gone insane from his contact with The Book and from his lust for revenge. I understand his need. Who hasn’t at some point or another wished for the ability to pay back some perceived wrong (whether real or imaginary). Revenge coupled with power over the fabric of the world turns out dire in its effects.
Thankfully Tildi’s merry band is a little more experienced than she. We have the wizards Edynn and her daughter Serafina. Both are accomplished at their craft even though Edynn has centuries more experience than Serafina. The princess Rin is the representative from the centaurs (half horse/half human). She is highly competitive, fun and strong. Tildi ends up having to catch a ride with Rin because of her complete lack of experience in riding any kind of animal. Lakanta is a peddler and a seemingly odd choice for the merry band, but as the story progresses we see that she too represents a group of people that aren’t quite human. Finally we have the Captain Teryn and her soldier Morag. Morag has been magically transformed into a mix of human and something else. For natural reasons he tends to panic when faced with too much magic. The Captain is highly protective of Morag.
There are two more characters that I really enjoyed in An Unexpected Apprentice. One of them is Silvertree. Silvertree is supposed to be the home of the wizard Olen. It is that. But Silvertree is also a person in its own rights. If visitors offend it, Silvertree makes life a whole lot more difficult for them – the way it did with Rin’s brother when he was rude to it. Tildi, on the other, hand gets VIP treatment from Silvertree. I like a tree with a personality.
Magpie is another great character. He lets the world think of him as nothing more than a troubadour with his mind aflutter with silliness. In fact there is a bit more depth to him and he just happens to be the third son of King Solindur of Orontae.
Nemeth isn’t really “the bad guy”. He is just crazy. If I was going to pick a “bad guy”, I would have to choose the Scholardom. Scholardom is such an innocent sounding word. Well-intentioned people can be incredibly dangerous. Getting their hands on The Book is something that must be avoided for these are the people who want to correct all the aberrations of the world. That would mean that any mix of human and other should be changed into human. They find it unfathomable that anyone would actually choose to remain as they are.
I think An Unexpected Apprentice would fit the age range of anyone able to read the Hobbit or Harry Potter. An Unexpected Apprentice is full of humour, of action, warmth, and drama.
One of the really interesting people in Path of Honor is Verit Aare. Verit Aare is the heir to the throne and eager to replace his father. As his father has been more or less absent the past six months, Aare’s lust for power is growing. Unfortunately for Koduteel (capital) and all of Kodu Riik Verit Aare is a psychopath/sociopath. While a lot of us have psychopathic traits, very few of us reach Aare’s level of sociopathy. According to Psychology Today one needs to show a lack of empathy (cold-heartedness, an inability to feel deeply); show a lack of shame, guilt, fear or embarrassment at ones actions; a tendency to blame others for their own failures, or no shame if confronted; show a strong ability to remain focused on a task; appear charming yet have a tendency toward pathological lying, and they seem comfortable even when found out; incredibly overconfident, as if they cannot fail; impulsive; incredibly selfish and parasitic; lack realistic long-term goals; and finally be prone to violence.
I feel certain most of you would be worried if a person like this lusted for the leadership of your country. Yet Aare seems to fulfil most of these criteria and for me that is the reason I find him especially fascinating and possibly revolting. Take how he treats his sister, the Vertina Emelovi, and what he does to his father’s hostage, Soka.
When Soka was nine years old his father had broken the terms of the hostage agreement. Something had to be done to avenge the wrong and it was decided that Soka would lose an eye. But the Iisand was not able to attend the removal and sent his son, Verit Aare, instead. Aare made the little boy remain awake during the procedure but had Soka drugged so he would remain docile while it went on. Finally, a map of Soka’s father’s lands was sown into the lid of his eye as a reminder of the deal. It had not been the Iisand’s intention that the procedure would be so cruel for the boy, but Aare liked the feeling it gave him.
Once again, Soka is in his power. Naturally, Soka is scared shitless. What will the Verit do to him this time?
On to Verit Aare’s sister. Poor Emelovi. She has to live with the man on a daily basis and he is not a good brother to have. Her fear of him is intense, yet he has kept his father duped as to the depths of his depravity. Perhaps that is because people tend to see what people want to see. Vertina Emelovi, on the other hand, is quite familiar with her brother’s cruelty. He expects nothing but complete submission. If she does not do what he tells her to, she suffers greatly. The first time she was made aware of that was when he killed her puppy because Emelovi had refused to dance with one of his friends. Since then, well. One does what one has to with such a maniac in the vicinity.
Aare does not like Reisil. He does his best to turn the court against her. Lucky him. Sodur (another ahalad-kaaslane team) has made his job much easier. On his part, Sodur did have the best of intentions. But what do intentions help when consequences are what determines the value of them. Poor Reisil, the consequences for her are stinky. Things are looking up for Aare when it comes to using his charisma and power-hunger against her.
Reisil is not completely alone. Kebonsat has come to court Emelovi on the chance an alliance between Kodu Riik and Patvermese might happen. Hmmm. Despite this task, Kebonsat does not forget his friendship with Reisil. Nor has Juhrnus. Reisil is thankful to have two such loyal friends on her side as it seems the rest of the powers of Kodu Riik have turned against her. But friends do turn up in strange places and sometimes lives change because of decisions one has made. She does have the “common people” on her side. But the common people do not have much power. Not really. Like us, the common people in Kodu Riik trust that the powers that be must be interested in the best of the country. Man, we are suckers, aren’t we.
If an author is going to create an Apocalyptic event he might as well do it thoroughly. Killing off seven billion people overnight seems to be pretty thorough to me. Messing with the environment and changing the stars and planets we usually see adds to that thoroughness. R.J. Murray shares such an event with us in The Event. The Event appears to be a science fiction tale that slowly but surely leans toward fantasy. Not fantasy as we know it but rather new technology that has to be developed due to the teeny tiny damages wrought by Earth’s changes. Mutated people that have the qualities we find in traditional fantasy adds to the fantasy feel of the story.
As with other apocalyptic tales, we find that the qualities people already have seem to intensify in times of crisis. This is a normal trait in humans. Any type of traumatic event tends to pare down all of our extras leaving some sort of quality central that we draw upon. This is when we see a person run back into a mall again and again saving people’s lives while others break into buildings raiding them of wares, beat up others and do other heinous deeds. People are people whether our skyline changes or not.
The mutations we see are people whose bodies morph into something other than they were used to being (that is, those who did not turn to dust or remain human). Let’s see what we have:
Wizards are people who find themselves younger/stronger/longer-lived and able to handle the tools left from before the apocalypse. All races have their own wizards.
Elves also seem to be long-lived and changed into a stronger/younger version of themselves. But they seem more attuned to plants and living creatures rather than technology.
Dwarves are like the ones in stories: like to live underground and have an affinity for stone. Dwarves are shorter and more compact than humans. They will probably end up being longer-lived as well.
Humans are more numerous than the others and breed easier. There really isn’t much more to say about them.
Goblins are like the goblins we know from epic fantasy. There are various types, sizes and numbers. Most of them live underground or underwater. They too have wizards.
Thankfully Murray hasn’t fallen for the temptation of making people smarter or dumber than they were just because they happen to be elf, wizard, dwarf or goblin. There are qualities that are intensified but if you were dumb as bread before the apocalypse, well, you are going to remain dumb as bread – and probably dead within a very short time. Some of the people have to learn the hard way and for some that means they end up dead.
That probably tells you that it is not all happy endings. In spite of that I would not say that The Event is particularly dark. It is more like the traditional sword/sorcery stories in tone. I’m guessing this is a young adult story. It’s a pretty straight-forward tale without explicit violence or explicit sex. There is action and plenty of it.
Murray builds his world for us showing us how people become what they are and what happens to the Earth itself. By the end I felt pretty comfortable with the whole thing. I felt there was a proper ending although there was a tiny hill-hanger showing me that a continuation was on its way.
A pretty enjoyable tale that looks as if it has great potential.
Michael J. Sullivan has been writing his whole life. Not until he began writing the Rirya Revelations series did he get published. Strange thing that. The Rirya Revelations had been a project that he undertook to please himself and his daughter (who has been part of designing the cartoon on Michael’s website). All six books were finished before the first one was published.
After a while the sales took off and Michael J. Sullivan has become a well-known name in the fantasy world. That recognition is well-deserved. His books are fun to read and they kept me wanting to know how the greater plot is resolved. The characters are fun and varied. It is not immediately clear whether the butler did it or not (I know there isn’t a butler in these books) and that is something that I really like in a writer. We should be kept wondering who the baddest baddie is.
All six books are stand-alone books in the sense that the main problem is resolved. However, there is a greater plot spanning all six books, so it would be a good idea to start at omnibus no. 1 – Theft of Swords. That way you get all of those pesky little threads tied together from the beginning.
Royce Melborne and Hadrian Blackwater are essential characters in all six novels. They are the Rirya – a gang of two. Together they get into and out of all sorts of trouble. These books are good for young adults and upwards. There isn’t too much violence and no sex.
The gods of Elan are: Erebus (Father of the gods), Ferrol (Eldest son, god of elves), Drome (Second son, god of dwarves), Maribor (Third son, god of men), Muriel (Only daughter, goddess of nature) and Uberlin (Son of Muriel and Erebus, god of darkness).
The main political parties to be aware of are:
Imperialists: Those wishing to unite mankind under a single leader who is the direct descendant of the demigod Novron.
Nationalists: Those wishing to be ruled by a leader chosen by the people.
Royalists: Those wishing to continue rule by individual, independent monarchs.
THEFT OF SWORDS (2011): THE CROWN CONSPIRACY AND AVEMPARTHA
Hadrian and Royce are stopped by highway robbers, incredibly incompetent ones according to Hadrian and Royce. When the highway robbers discover that they are dealing with the Rirya, panic settles in. Before they go, Hadrian gives the robbers advice on how to rob people properly.
Hadrian and Royce are on their way to a job. That is what they do. They get paid to rob the wealthy for various reasons. The two of them are quite successful at what they do. But things are bound to go wrong when they are asked to undertake a job that leaves them practically no time plan. A sword is placed in the chapel at the Medford castle, and the boys are to remove it to give Count Pickering trouble in a duel. What Hadrian discovers instead is a dead king and he and Royce are accused of the murder.
Hadrian and Royce meet up with the guy who asked them to steal the sword, and you can probably imagine that they weren’t best pleased. But for some strange reason the man walked out of that meeting alive. Royce gets to chat with old friends and the two men are told of a young girl looking for them. They must be in a soft frame of mind, for when they meet this young girl, Thrace, they end up going with her to her village. There, mighty adventure awaits. Ok, that was a bit over-kill.
In the meantime, and you just know there has to be a meantime don’t you?, Arista bounces into her brother King Alric’s meeting misunderstanding the meeting’s intent. She thinks he is about to marry her off, while he is in reality planning on sending her as an ambassador to Dunmore. Arista likes the idea of having something to do, especially as it gets her away from all of the rumors of her witchhood. Along with her normal entourage bishop Saldur comes along with the Pickering brothers. Fanin and Mauvin are going to enter into a contest the church of Novron is holding in Ervanon.
RISE OF EMPIRE (2011): NYPHRON RISING AND THE EMERALD STORM
Young Amilia works as a bullied scullion maid at Aquesta. She is being threatened once again by Edith Mon, the head maid, but saved when two women enter the kitchen. One is clearly some kind of nobility, having both the manners and the clothes for it. The other is an extremely thin and quiet young woman who turns out to be the Empress of Modina. She does not look the part at all.
Through luck Regent Saldur (formerly bishop) appoints Amilia as the Empress’ new secretary. Amilia is terrified as she knows the fate of those who disappoint the regent. But Amilia turns out to have a positive effect on the Empress.
Royce and Hadrian have become royal spies, a job they are really good at. They have found themselves willing to be in the service of the Royal family of Medford, trying to keep the kingdom alive and well in a growing Empire. But keeping Medford on its feet is quite a challenge. Princess Arista has had no luck as an ambassador in finding allies. Every country is too afraid of the new Empire to dare to fight it.
THE EMERALD STORM
Merrick Marius is the world’s best and most cunning assassin. He has been hired to kill someone in Arista’s closest circle. It goes off without a hitch, leaving Arista without an important aid in keeping Ratibor in the hands of the nationalists. But he leaves her with a riddle: “Find the Horn of Gylindora … at Wintertide the Uli Vermar ends … Patriarch … is the same …”. Arista knows the message is extremely important but she hasn’t got a clue how to go about it.
Amilia is still the Empress’ secretary. Modena has been moved to better lodgings, but Amilia still feels as though she is treading water. But fortunately she has acquired her own helper in Nimbus, a landless nobelman. Amilia’s life is on the line every day, as Regent Saldur has made it quite clear what will happen if the Empress embarrasses him in any kind of manner.
Royce and Hadrian go off hunting Merrick. Once Royce and Merrick were good friends, but something happened and Merric now hates Royce. Now he has the chance to play with the Ryria and work against the kingdom of Medford. He tries to lure the two into a trap, quite a cunning one it turns out.
HEIR OF NOVRON (2012): WINTERTIDE AND PERCEPLIQUIS
Stealing is what he has to do to survive. But back luck strikes and he gets yelled at when he gets back to his gang. They decide to try to fleece two newcomers to the city. Royce and Hadrian enter the Imperial Square in a snowstorm. They have come to save Degan Gaunt from execution. The boys discover that the newcomers might be more than they have bargained for, but their meeting actually turns out to be fortuitous for both sides.
Arista is trying to stay sane in her cell. Arista’s attempt to save Degan Gaunt has not been successful. She just knows that she cannot give up trying to escape as the fate of the world rests upon her hands, quite literally.
Amilia is still secretary to the Empress, finding her life full of new experiences. Modena is still quite grief-struck at the challenges that have met her. But something happens to slowly wake her from her dull and grief-struck state. She finds something to live for a meaning to life. Revenge and retribution.
The elves are a hunted people by humans. Persecution is severe by the Church of Nypron. They are thought of as terrible creatures who should be struck down whenever they are seen. Now the elves have come on to human lands once again, striking down humans.
Rather than help the humans in trouble, Guy Luis is chasing a young girl called Mercy. She is the ward of Arcadius and Arcadius is trying to save her. But that job might turn out to be insurmountable.
Refugees are arriving at the Imperial city. All of the North is being overrun and the humans have no idea why. As more and more refugees come into the city Arista decides that the riddle Eshraddon gave her must be solved and as soon as possible. However, she soon discovers, once again, obstacles in her way. Royce and Hadrian end up providing the assistance she needs.
2010 Iceberg Ink Award Best Read (Avempartha)
2010 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (The Emerald Storm)
2009 National Indie Book Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
2008 ReaderViews Annual Literary Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
Musical writers. What a treat they are. Anne Bishop is one such writer, one who knows how to make all of her chords fit together into a song that satisfies the reader. She manages to portray the darkness in people without stepping into the land of horror. I love dark fantasy when it is performed like this.
Like all of Anne Bishop’s stories, Ephemera is character driven. Generally two or three of them are three-dimensional, while the rest end up complementing the main characters. Ephemera comes from an idea of our outer world reflecting our inner one. What if that were literal? Playing with that idea brought about the Ephemera world (Reading Cafe interview). As we discover in reading these books, the world of Ephemera is ephemeral (transitory). One can never know where one ends up, seeing as one’s heart shows the way.
“Long ago, in a time that has faded from memory, a mother’s tears forged the bridge that, ever after, connected the power of the living, ever-changing world to the human heart. – Myth”
Sebastian is a love story, but more than that it is a story about the choices we make. Do we dare to follow our dreams, or will we make “safe” choices? In the end it might not really matter, because the choices we make could very well all be the ones we really want.
Sebastian is an incubus, an incubus who has begun longing for something more than the life he is living right now in the Den of Iniquity. The Den of Iniquity is a place of ever-lasting carnival, a place where people come to fulfill those dark desires they have.
You can relax if you are worried that we are being cast into a place where the sex and violence is explicit. While the Den of Iniquity might well be a place where that is the case, Anne Bishop has been kind enough to keep us as readers away from the details.
Anyways, back to Sebastian. The Den of Iniquity has been his home since he was about 15. His past was not a good one with a succubus mother and wizard father. Sebastian’s mother left early on and his father left Sebastian’s care to others, people who were afraid of incubi. But Sebastian has turned out pretty well, thanks to Nadia, Belladonna and Lee (adoptive family). They have shown him that there is sunshine in a person. Now he wants someone to love.
“Heart’s hope lies with Belladonna.”
The Eater of the World is once more loose in Ephemera, free to wreak havoc where it sees fit. Dreams are invaded, monsters set free and lives are becoming darker due to its influence.
The only hope lies with Belladonna. Glorianna Belladonna is of the old blood, the blood of the Guides and Guardians. Her heritage is one of light and darkness. Only through the combination of the two is there a possibility of winning.
Unfortunately, Belladonna and Lee do not have all of the answers to her search for a solution to the Eater. She sends out a Heart’s Wish to Ephemera with the hope that someone will come with what she needs to save Ephemera.
In a sense that says it all. What price are we willing to pay to save the ones we love? I have no idea myself. In the world of fantasy people are willing to go to extremes to save the world and not just those close to themselves. Sometimes the price could end up being horrendous.
BRIDGE OF DREAMS (2012)
Anne Bishop pulls it off again. This time we get to hear more about Lee.
Ever since Glorianna Belladonna became Belladonna in every sense of the word, Lee has been frustrated, hurt and angry. Part of his anger is at Glorianna for placing herself in this position and for not going back to how she was previously. Another part of his anger is toward Michael, the Magician, for giving Belladonna the chance to make her choice, and for stopping him when Lee wanted to jump in and save her. Quite a bit of his hurt is toward the relationship that has developed between Michael, Glorianna and Sebastian. Why was Sebastian the one to call Belladonna back and not Lee? It seems unfair. Lee feels unwanted, and unable to come to terms with the way things have turned out.
When he stumbles upon wizards trying to invade one of Belladonna’s landscapes, Lee uses a one-shot bridge taking the wizards with him. He ends up in a city called Vision having to endure torture and the insidious whispering of the wizards.
Danyal, the Shaman, is sent to Vision to figure out what needs to be done to save the city from those places that no Shaman is able to see any longer. Shamen are like the Landscapers in that they take care of their landscapes. But unlike Landscapers they do not seem to have access to Bridges. Upon meeting up with other ways of doing things, Danyal is about to have his beliefs about the world challenged.
So, what can I say about Bridge of Dreams? I liked it. I like Anne Bishop’s version of the darkness that lives in all of us. Our shadows balance out the light in us. When we accept both sides of ourselves our potential becomes greater. All three books in the Ephemera series (trilogy?) follow the pattern of Anne Bishop’s other novels. I guess most authors have a unique style of writing (much like musicians), and sometimes that style works. In Bishop’s case I find myself embracing and enjoying her characters. Getting people to care about the characters in a novel seems to be what being an author should be about.
Originally, Marion Zimmer Bradley started the Sword and Sorceress series to further strong female protagonists in the sword and sorcery genre. She saw the need to change what she considered an appalling attitude toward women in these works.
Readers flocked to these anthologies and submissions to them increased. By the time of her death, she was on the 18th collection. After her death it was decided to publish three more collections. In the end, a volume 21 with Diana L. Paxson as editor was printed, and the tradition has continued from there on. (Wikipedia)
Dawn and Dusk — Dana Kramer-Rolls – Dagne, with the different colored eyes, grew up ostracised by her father, step-mother and brothers for being a freak. In the end she has to run away to protect herself. We meet her in a cabin in the woods on a cold and bitter night.
Spell of the Sparrow – Jim C. Hines – A family of two ex-thieves and a budding wizard ought to be a dream come true. But parents will be parents everywhere, and our two ex-thieving parents do not approve of Mel’s dabbling in magic. That is all about to change when poor old dad is spelled by a Cloudling.
The Woman’s Place — Susan Urbanek Linville – The continuing welfare of the tribe is of prime importance. When winter threatens to destroy all of the, grand-dame has to make a choice that will mean life or death to them all.
Kin — Naomi Kritzer – Once magic has been properly woken in a person, they become addicted to the feeling. Julia is going to have to make the choice between her magic or the saving of a child.
Child’s Play — Esther M. Friesner – Mira’s father is the richest man for miles, but that does not make a difference to either of them when Mira’s mom dies. When a new woman moves into the house, Mira knows she is in trouble. Thankfully she has her teacher on her side, a teacher willing to go the extra mile to protect this child.
Ursa — Jenn Reese – A child was placed on a mountain side to die. Saving it changes the life of Ursa and the father.
Red Caramae — Kit Wesler – Caramae sneaks into the catacombs of the wizards looking for an object of power. What she finds is more than she has bargained for.
Parri’s Blade — Cynthia McQuillin – When Soela steals away with a blade that was supposed to follow Parri on his pyre, Hamli goes after her to right the wrong. What she discovers is that grief has many ways of expressing itself.
Necessity and the Mother — Lee Martindale – In Hemfrock Donta runs the inn – The Mercenary’s Mother. It has an excellent reputation and is popular with all kinds of customers. When the city council decide that all metal in the city must be confiscated for the sake of magicks, Donta and her crew pack up and go somewhere else. What will the city council do when they discover that perhaps their decision was a bit hasty?
Sun Thief — K. A. Laity – This is a story of the sacrifice rebelling against her fate when she discovers the truth about the alleged god she is being sacrificed to.
Lostland — Rosemary Edghill – Ruana Rulane was a proper hero, the kind with a special sword and a destiny to fulfill. Not everyone wants her to keep her sword or for her to stay true to her destiny. Betrayal sends her to Lostland, from which very few people have returned.
Plowshares — Rebecca Maines – When Elisabeth loses her husband to illness, she decides to go on pilgrimage to the holy cathedral. Her journey will teach her a great deal about herself and the role of women.
Step By Step — Catherine Soto – After betrayal from their uncle, Lin Mei and her brother have taken to the roads as caravan workers. One night they are attacked by robbers.
Favor of the Goddess — Lynn Morgan Rosser – An unknown woman is hiding from the guards. She isn’t sure why she keeps on fighting them and running away, she just knows that she has to. Then the Empress is scheduled to appear on the Holy Moon.
Rose in Winter — Marie M. Loughin – Rosabel has three chances to grab happiness. Some choices are life-defining.
Kazhe’s Blade — Terry McGarry – Kazhe prefers staying drunk to stay the memory of her loss. Then the loss comes to her opening old wounds.
The Skin Trade — Heather Rose Jones – Being a Kaltaoven – skin wearer – is a quality the Marcalt of Wilentelu would like to possess. When two come to town, he uses all of his persuasive powers to give him the gift.
Multiple Choice — Leslie Fish – Magic is exacting business, but is a useful tool in discovering the truth. When the old wizard dies and leaves his cabin for the next one coming, the wizardess discovers that he is haunting it. She calls him forth and asks him a few questions.
Oulu — Aimee Kratts – Hilda Lajatur decides to quit the village she is living in so she can go to warmer areas. But not everyone in the village is happy about her choice and decide to kidnap her.
A Kind of Redemption — John P. Buentello – All I’m going to say about this story is that it is a proper ghost story.
Journey’s End — Dorothy J. Heydt – Looking for answers to her questions to the death of her husband, Cynthia goes into a cavern of the gods.
Love Potion #8½ — Marilyn A. Racette – Sometimes when customers do not wish to pay the full price, one must use imagination to change their minds.
There were three stories that I especially liked: Jim C. Hines – Spell of the Sparrow for the ingenious way mother and daughter solved their problem, Dana Kramer-Rolls – Dawn and Dusk for its retribution, and Marilyn A. Racette – Love Potion #8 1/2 for its wit.
The stories are all good. Some are quite serious: Susan Urbanek Linville – The Woman’s Place and some quite swordy (and humorous): Lee Martindale: Necessity and the Mother.