Sunday, September 30, 2007

Signed Copy of The Orc King

R. A. Salvatore's newest book, The Orc King, is currently available on The Signed Page. There are only 13 copies of this book signed by both Salvatore and Todd Lockwood (cover artist). It's $40 and with only a limited number of copies available, making this a rare book, it will go quickly!

Heavenly Sword

I saw the trailer and animated series for Heavenly Sword for the Playstation 3 today and it looked really, really cool. Now if only I could afford a PS3.

The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure

The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure is the first of the Wraeththu Histories trilogy that Storm Constantine wrote about 17 years after writing the original Wraeththu Chronicles. This book begins about halfway through the first of the original Wraeththu books, The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, and ends shortly before the ending of the last of the original Wraeththu books, The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire. For that reason, I would not recommend reading this review unless you have read the original Wraeththu Chronicles or you do not mind if part of the story is spoiled.

I was a little apprehensive about reading this book since I loved the Wraeththu Chronicles so much and I was afraid that revisiting it would be disappointing and not at all the same. Now that I've read the first two books in the Wraeththu Histories trilogy, I still prefer the original trilogy but I did not find this one worse so much as having a different purpose. The poetic writing is not as prominent, but this series is told from third person instead of the first person point of view so all the thoughts of the characters are not as fleshed out and a simpler, more succinct writing style is more fitting.

The first Wraeththu trilogy was more about the individual Wraeththu characters - the story of Pellaz in the first book, then Swift, then Cal. It was an exploration of what it meant to be Wraeththu and the way this new race developed and adjusted (or didn't adjust) to no longer being a part of humanity. The Wraeththu Histories series is less character-driven and more plot-oriented; it is beginning to explore where the Wraeththu and their sister race the Kamagrian came from and why they were created.

In The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure, the affects of the death and rebirth of Pellaz on the rest of Wraeththu-kind is shown. Ulaume (whom we met briefly in The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit in a scene in which he attempted to overpower Pellaz and strangle him with his hair) is obsessed with getting revenge on Pellaz. He makes plans to cast a spell on Pellaz during an important festival night and instead feels the death of Pellaz very strongly. This affects him deeply and Ulaume runs away from Lianvis and the rest of the Kakkahaar tribe. Soon after, he finds an abandoned Kakkahaar child, whom he cares for and raises.

Meanwhile, in Saltrock, the shaman Orien also sees the death of Pellaz. Eventually, Cal returns to Saltrock heartbroken and sure Orien knows why Pellaz was killed. Flick becomes close to Cal and is devastated when Cal kills Orien (yes, more details on what happened with Cal and Orien are in this book). Flick had promised Pellaz he would find his family one day, so he leaves Saltrock in order to fulfill this promise and meets a mysterious spirit who teaches him about the dehara, a pantheon of gods. Eventually, Flick finds Mima and Terez, the sister and brother of Pellaz, and meets up with Ulaume and the child Lileem who appears Wraeththu yet does not.

The main characters in this book are Flick, Ulaume, Mima, and Lileem, although Pellaz does appear more toward the end which made me really happy. I missed seeing him in the second and third books, but this book has a lot more about him. I was hoping to read more about Vaysh as well since I found him a particularly intriguing character, but he only made a brief appearance or two.

This book also contains more details on the Kamagrian and their similarities to and differences from the Wraeththu, which was interesting since I was not sure exactly how similar they were.

I did find this book a lot harder to get into than any of the original Wraeththu books, probably because it started with characters I knew very little about. Once it got going, I really enjoyed it, although not quite as much as the original trilogy. I still love all the characters - even the minor ones always seem to have their own personalities that set them apart from the others. Each character has their strengths as well as their flaws and is very realistically portrayed.

While not quite as enjoyable as the original trilogy, this book was interesting and well-done. It was fun to see more of Cal's return to Saltrock after Pell's death as well as a few glimpses into Pellaz's life in Immanion. Also, this book tied together events in the first three books so the motivation behind happenings made more sense. I would highly recommend these to anybody who has read the original Wraeththu trilogy.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Vacation in Montreal

I am on vacation in Montreal this week so I probably won't be writing much, although I had some time to read while driving down. And I've had some time to read today since I'm not really sure what to do with myself since my fiance is at his conference (the reason we're down here). Tomorrow we'll be able to do more, at least.

Of course, I had to find the nearest bookstore and I found one, Bertrand's Bookstore, right on the street we are on! They didn't have much for science fiction and fantasy and most of what they did have was expensive considering the US dollar is equal to the Canadian dollar at the moment, but I did end up buying the Canadian omnibus edition of The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. I figured it was cheaper than buying the three books separately and the cover is gorgeous, so I might as well get it. It looks like that particular book is unavailable on Amazon Canada and out of print now, though, so maybe it was a harder to find book than I had thought.

I was hoping to find the third Wraeththu Histories book since I'm reading the second one now, but no such luck. Oh well. It looks like those are a lot more expensive here than in the U.S. anyway.

The Wraeththu Histories have me hooked - they're not as gorgeously written as the original Wraeththu Chronicles, but they are still a lot of fun to read and revisiting some of the old characters is fun. I just finished The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure yesterday on the drive up here so expect a review sometime after I get back (or maybe before depending on how long I'm by myself wondering what to do today).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flesh and Spirit

Recently, I read the newest book by Carol Berg, one of my favorite authors and a very underrated one, at that. Flesh and Spirit is the first book in the Lighthouse Duology. Fortunately, the second book Breath and Bone is already completed and is supposed to be out in January 2008 so there is not a long wait for the closing volume.

Valen, our hero - er, anti-hero - is a Pureblood, a sorcerer whose life is controlled by the Pureblood Registry and their own family. Purebloods are considered to be highly gifted and privileged, and the price of this gift is a limit on the freedom they have. These sorcerers are not allowed to control their own destiny - everything from marriage to employment is settled by a contract made by their family. Valen was a rebellious child who never got along well with his family, particularly his father who hated both Valen and his grandfather, who singled out Valen as his favorite.

When we meet Valen at the beginning of the story, he has been a runaway for several years and is badly wounded. His partner thief, Boreas, takes all Valen's belongings he can find, except for a book he considers worthless, and abandons Valen. Fortunately, Valen is found by some monks belonging to a nearby monastery who offer him sanctuary. Not having anywhere else to go, Valen decides to become a monk for a time. The abbot seems all too ready to accept Valen as a monk due to the book he carries with him, which is a magic book known to lead to lands of the Danae, a magical race similar to angels.

Valen soon finds that at least some of the members of the monastery are more than what they seem and are trying to prepare for a time of darkness in which men will forget much of what they know. With the rare knowledge of the book of maps he carries, Valen may be the only one who can help them prepare for the dark times ahead.

I was surprised at how slow the beginning of this book was since all of Carol Berg's other books I have read have grabbed my attention from the beginning and been nearly impossible to put down. Once I got into this book, though, I found the world to be very interesting and I am looking forward to the next book very much. There were a lot of unresolved mysteries about the Danae and Valen's grandfather that piqued my curiosity. I'll definitely be picking up the next volume when it comes out.

Like the Rai-kirah trilogy and Song of the Beast, this book is written from a first person perspective. The characterization is fairly well done, and although I really liked Valen, I didn't feel as connected to him as I did to the characters from Carol Berg's other books I have read - Seyonne from the Rai-kirah trilogy or Aidan from Song of the Beast. Valen is an interesting character with a mix of good and bad qualities, and I'm not sure exactly what was lacking when I compare him to the other characters. He was still a tragic figure you could feel for, but he wasn't as "nice" as the other characters, which may be why - you feel that he deserves at least some of what is coming to him.

The book was very well written and Valen definitely had his own voice that stood out from the other characters Berg has written about. It always takes an author of talent to not always write characters who all sounds the same when writing from their perspective, and I feel she does this very well.

The themes are similar to the themes in the other books I have read by this author - slavery/lack of freedom, the truth about reality, personal growth, and the confinements of religion. These are all themes I really enjoy, so that may be why I tend to love her books so much.

In spite of not being as good as Transformation (which is one of my favorite books so it is hard to live up to), Flesh and Spirit is an enjoyable, intriguing tale if you have the patience to wait for the story to get going. Once I did get into it, it had me hooked and eager for the next volume.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Robert Jordan Has Passed Away

It has been announced on the Robert Jordan's blog that the author of the beloved Wheel of Time series died at 2:45 this afternoon. It is very sad that he died so young of the rare disease amyloidosis, and I am sorry to hear it. It sounded like he was very optimistic about getting better, and for a while he sounded as though he was doing much better than expected.

At least he died peacefully with his family and the knowledge that he had enriched the lives of many through his books. They certainly had a big impact on many people, and lots of friendships have been formed because of shared enjoyment of his series.

RIP Robert Jordan.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Coming Up

I know, I promised a review of Lamb by Christopher Moore and I haven't gotten it up here yet. I will at some point before I forget what happened.

Currently, I'm continuing my quest to read more of the books released in 2007 with the newest novel by Carol Berg, Flesh and Spirit. This is the first book of two in the Lighthouse Duology. I believe the second book will be out in March 2008.

I was considering putting up a review (or rather, a warning about) the 10th Kingdom miniseries, but I don't know if I'll get to it or not. It should suffice to say whatever you do, do not believe the 4 and 5 star Amazon reviews or the people praising it as the most complex fantasy movie other than Lord of the Rings. I would only recommend watching this very long miniseries if you really want to watch something to make fun of Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. There were one or two funny parts, and the rest was just stupid and I don't think they could have paid the actors enough to act so moronic. That probably sums it up enough that I don't have to write a full review/warning.

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Finally, I read and finished one of my most anticipated books of the year - Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book of seven in the Gentleman Bastards sequence by Scott Lynch. Although it was enjoyable and certainly well-worth reading, I didn't think it quite lived up to The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place approximately two years after the end of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Locke and Jean are now in Tal Verrar, attempting to scheme the owner of a successful gambling house out of his money. Soon the two Gentleman Bastards are caught up between balances of power and trying to stay afloat in their web of convoluted half-truths. I'll let you read the rest for yourself since this is definitely one of those books that is very plot-oriented and more fun to read if you don't have a clue what's going to happen next.

Technically, Red Seas Under Red Skies is an improvement over The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is better written, for the most part - I did think the prologue in Lies was better done. The writing is much smoother, though, and there are fewer flashbacks, although there are some interludes in the beginning that cover some of the gaps in the two years between the first book and this one.

The dialogue is still clever and witty and not quite as overdone as it was at times in Lies, so this is also an improvement. Some of the lines definitely made me laugh out loud.

The characters still have roguish tendencies, but also possess a loyalty to each other that can be quite touching. There is not deep characterization in these books, but I have to say, Locke is probably my favorite character I've read about who is not a fully fleshed out character with a lot of depth. I'm a sucker for clever, roguish characters with a bit of a soft side. Plus these characters are portrayed as being highly clever, yet they do not always come out on top, which gives this series a bit more of a realistic feel than a lot of books that try to do the same type of thing.

The story was still interesting and fun, although sometimes it seemed a little bit like Lynch was using some of the same techniques as the first book. This did not happen enough to bother me that much, but I found this book a bit more predictable than the first in some ways, although there was a twist at the end that I rather enjoyed. The ending was very rushed, which may be in part because Lynch had to cut out some parts of the book and try to keep it to close to the same length as the first, according to an interview with the author on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

One of the strengths in the first book, in addition to the characters, witty dialogue, and purely entertaining story, was some scenes that portrayed very emotional, heart-wrenching moments. There were some scenes in this book I felt were supposed to have the same impact, yet somehow they didn't. It lacked some of the little everyday human touches that were in the first book, such as all the Gentleman Bastards sitting down to dinner together and bantering with each other.

This doesn't influence my opinion of the book in any way, but for once, the American version of the cover is far superior to the UK cover. It is actually absolutely gorgeous and would win my favorite cover art of the year award, if I had one.

Although it didn't quite live up to the standards set by the first book in the series, I found Red Seas Under Red Skies to be a very entertaining book, and I wish the next book, Republic of Thieves, was out already.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Hugo Award Winners

The 2007 Hugo Award winners have been announced. The winners are listed on the official Hugo website.

Sadly, I haven't actually read any of the nominees for best novel, even though I do have Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon. I have seen all the movies that were nominated, though, and Pan's Labyrinth was a good choice for the win. I wouldn't have been disappointed if The Prestige or V for Vendetta had won, either, since I really liked both of those. I thought Children of Men was just ok and A Scanner Darkly was awful.

I also heard that Novik's His Majesty's Dragon won the Campbell award, beating Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.