Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Bristling Wood: Dawnspell: Deverry Act One: Book 3 (Review)

Mulluane | 2:30 PM | 6 Comments so far
The Bristling Wood by Katharine Kerr

By Katharine Kerr

Genre: Sword & Sorcery, 16+
ISBN: 0553285815
Publisher: Spectra (April 1, 1990)
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Blurb:
Over a thousand years ago the People of Deverry were driven from their splendid kingdom by their enemy, the Hordes, and forced to find sanctuary in the remote forests in the east of their lands where they eventually settled. Succeeding generations remembered these terrible events as the Burning - and they never forgot the cities, towns and marvels of the far, far west.

Dawnspell, the third compelling volume in Katharine Kerr's epic Deverry series, continues the bold saga of Nevyn, Rhodry and Jill as they battle with the evil forces threatening the world of Deverry in the decades that follow the Burning. Rooted in celtic mythology, this dazzling novel offers a vision of an extraordinary universe of magicians, kings, elves and prophets, of a world where love is triumphant - even over death

It is easy to see why this is such an enduring and much loved series. It just keeps getting better the more you read it. The story tightens up in this third installment of act one. This is due in large part to the reduction in past incarnations of the main characters. This go round only two are covered. There is the present reincarnation featuring Jill and Rhodry and a previous incarnation that takes place when the Kingdom of Deverry - as Jill and Rhodry know it - is being formed. By default, with the focus tightened, the character development is also more focused, making this my favorite book so far.

Of course, it helps that by now I am used to Katharine Kerr's writing style. I have seen it described as Celtic storytelling; meaning the story is told in segments according to importance to the main storyline. This explains the jumps in timeline and the seemingly random bits of back-story. Only they are not random; each jump has some bearing on the present events and is inserted into the book in order of relevance, even though you might not pick up on the exact relevance at the time. Once you get used to this, you learn to file away certain events in the old brain filing cabinet, because trust me, at some point later you will have an "Ah ha!" moment. It is actually alot of fun, kind of like putting a puzzle together without seeing the picture on the box first.

There is another fun component to the whole reincarnation factor. You never know who is going to show up in what role, although you can be sure that at some point in the story they will all cross paths. However, once they do, will they be the best of friends or deadly enemies? It makes the whole saga a joy to experience.

So is there anything I do not like about this book? Well, not really. It has all of the elements I love most about High or Sword and Sorcery Fantasy. It has elves, dwarves, elementals, tons of magic, a kick butt strong female lead, back-stabbing politics, high adventure, true love, more twists then a slinky, interfering gods and forces of evil. In this tale, Jill is truly coming into her own, playing both heroine and victim to perfection. Nevyn remains a fascinating character as he begins to show just how far he will go to save his beloved kingdom and Rhodry, both as himself and as his past incarnation, Maddyn, manages to surprise me with his depth of character. Equally as interesting is Perryn, though we are not sure exactly what he is. He plays a complicated role as both a truly evil individual and a purely innocent one. The balancing act that Katharine Kerr plays with this character is simply amazing. You hate him with a passion only to turn right around and feel sorry for the poor guy. By the time it is all said and done, you are not sure what to think.

Content is not as harsh as in book two. There is rape of a sort, cannot elaborate without giving away an important plot detail. There are love scenes but nothing terribly graphic. There is slavery and torture, which is never pretty but again, most of the details are left to your imagination. And, of course, it is a violent world at times but I do not think I have ever read a fantasy that did not contain violence. As with most good fantasies though, all of the bad elements are balanced by the good. Love, trust, and loyalty in the face of impossible odds, and in this case, lasting 100s of years, more then make up for the harsher elements.

There is one more book in Act 1 and I am off to savor it now. It will be interesting to see how Katharine Kerr wraps things up. (It has been so long since I read these I honestly do not remember.) Once this Act is concluded, the story is continued in two more acts consisting of four books each, followed by an epilogue, which has not been written yet. All of this just insures that those of us who love the world of Deverry will have plenty to enjoy for years to come.

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Shelfari Rating 4/5

Librarything Rating 3.81/5

Amazon Rating 4+ out of 5 stars
(14 Customer Reviews)


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Darkspell: Deverry Act One: Book 2 (Review)

Mulluane | 11:15 PM | 9 Comments so far
Darkspell by Katharine Kerr

By Katharine Kerr

Genre: Sword & Sorcery, 16+
ISBN: 0553568884
Publisher: Spectra Revised edition (November 10, 1994)
Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher's Blurb:
On the long roads of Deverry ride two mercenaries whose fates like hidden deep in that of their own land. But Lord Rhodry, exiled from the dragon court of Aberwyn, has yet to discover his true parentage, and his swordmaster-lover, Jill, has barely glimpsed her awesome powers. Meanwhile, the ancient sorcerer Nevyn, held back by his vows from boldly intervening in their lives, can only watch and wait as Rhodry and Jill move ever closer to danger. For as the two struggle to recover the Great Stone, the mystic jewel that guides the conscience of the kingship of Deverry, malevolent dark masters are weaving terrifying spells against them--and displacing messengers of death.

Katharine Kerr has extensively rewritten Darkspell, incorporating major changes in the text, making this her definitive edition. Here the epic saga that began with the Daggerspell continues--a tale of might and magic, lust and glory, dark danger and poignant desires that echo from Deverry's sapphire waters to its secret mountain caverns. It's a spellbinding story destined to please fantasy lovers everywhere.

The second book of Act 1 is, if possible, even better then the first book. This time around we get to delve deeper into the personalities of the main characters while the back story (previous incarnations) continues to build. We also go much deeper into the "dark" side of dweomer magic.

Since I have already mentioned the dark arts, I am going to go ahead and give you a content warning. If you are at all bothered by rape, specifically the repeated rape of a male character, then certain aspects of the aforementioned dark arts will trouble you. It is not terribly graphic but close and you are left with no doubt about what is occurring. This is the type of thing that crosses age barriers. I know folks my age that would shy away from this subject while I know High School kids who know this type of thing goes on and would not be bothered by it in the slightest. Atleast not past feeling a certain amount of sympathy for the victim. It is also an important part of the story so you cannot just skip over it and still understand the result. I do want to note that it does not occur for shock value, it plays a vital role in character development and as a component of the magic system.

OK, now that we have that aspect covered, on with the good stuff!

I am not much of a plot person, being way too much of a character lover but as far as plots go, I prefer one that is complicated and multilayered. Well you do not get any more layered then this story. You have the present storyline that revolves around Jill, Rhodry, and Nevyn fighting against the forces of evil. You have the previous incarnations with their storylines covering the extensive back-story and you have the ever-present question, will Nevyn be able to help Jill fulfill her destiny in this lifetime or will he have to wait, once again, for her to be reborn. Whenever I read a book like this, I think of a tapestry. You start out with a bunch of individual threads of various colors, and then you weave them together, creating an intricate picture. It is really pretty amazing if you think about it, and this story gives me that very same feeling.

There is another aspect of this story that blows me away and that is how well it flows. You would think that a story that jumps timelines as much as this one does would be really confusing. And, ever so often, due to no fault of the author, I will miss a switch in timelines and be caught off guard, but as a rule, I have no problem with the change in focus. When you consider that these are not just simple changes of PoV, these are complete changes in characters, settings, story, and time, with Nevyn as the only common denominator, this is an amazing feat. It is also, as I mentioned in my review of Daggerspell, kind of fun. With each reincarnation, once you (or Nevyn) have figured out who is who this time; you look forward to seeing which traits remain the same and which ones change for better or for worse. The whole concept is very enjoyable.

Well, that is enough about book two. I am off to read book three. Meanwhile I hope you enjoyed the walk down memory lane and if you have not read this series yet, I hope you give it a try. It remains one of my favorites and one I reread atleast once every few years.

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 4/5

Librarything Rating 3.76/5

Amazon Rating 4 out of 5 stars
(16 Customer Reviews)


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daggerspell: Deverry Act One: Book 1 (Review)

Mulluane | 11:45 PM | 8 Comments so far
Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr

By Katharine Kerr

Genre: Sword & Sorcery, 16+
ISBN: 0553565214
Publisher: Spectra (November 1, 1993)
Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages


Publisher's Blurb:
Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he'd rightened that wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness. . . and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago.
This series is not only a beloved classic; it is an example of Sword & Sorcery at its best. The story is so unique that you will remember it years after you have forgotten the name of the series and the characters. I know this to be fact because I have seen many questions like this on forums over the years.

"What is the name of those books about a wizard who can not die until he finds his reincarnated fiancé and makes amends for causing her untimely death?"

Which is an accurate description of this series, though it is a bit more complicated then that.

Inside the covers of this book, you will find plenty of familiar Fantasy tropes. You have the disgraced Prince in exile, outcast mercenaries, the ancient wizard posing as a simple herbman, elusive, misunderstood (and thus feared) elves, evil sorcerers plying the Dark Arts, gnomes and fae type creatures that only magic wielders can see, and the list goes on... However, it is how Katharine Kerr handles these tropes that gives this book, and series, its charm.

The worldbuilding is incredible. The setting is rich in Celtic overtones, as is the language used. The magic system is well thought out, with limitations in place as to its use. (I love magic with rules) The method of story telling itself is different and may take a bit of getting used to but let us see if I can explain further, without making you scratch your head in confusion.

There are four storylines and each is told in small chunks. First, we have poor Nevyn who has lived for 400 years and is in search of the current reincarnation of the five souls whose destiny he must set right. Then we have the original fiasco where a set of unfortunate choices results in the destruction those five lives, interfering in their predestined Wyrds. The story then switches between several other reincarnations that have taken place between the time of original events and Nevyn's current search. Confused yet? Well it does take some quick thinking at times but if you stick with it, it will all begin to make sense. Not only will it make sense but you will find yourself addicted to the story and losing whole chunks of your own life in the process. You will even find yourself trying to guess which person in each reincarnation matches one of the original five, or atleast I did. Trying to figure it out before Nevyn is half the fun!

Once you get used to the storytelling style, you will discover a tale that keeps you fully engaged in the unfolding events. Boring is not a word I could imagine using in conjunction with this book. It twists, it turns, it has action pouring off the pages and there is constant underlying question, will Nevyn ever find a way to make things right? Meanwhile you have plenty of entertaining characters, desperate wars, evil sorcerers, human tragedies and heart wrenching love stories, all designed to keep you glued to the pages until you look up and wonder where the time went.

As far as content goes, this book has definite adult overtones, which should be taken into account. There is incest, moderate profanity, plenty of violence and a few mildly descriptive love scenes but nothing overly graphic. I am comfortable with saying it is readable by 16+ but that will depend on the maturity of the reader. As always, this is only my opinion and should be taken as such.

There is a reason why this series remains in print and I for one am grateful for this fact. Over the years, I have worn out or loaned out, and never gotten back, multiple copies of the books in this wonderful classic. Highly, highly recommended!

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 4/5

Librarything Rating 3.78/5

Amazon Rating 4 out of 5 stars
(56 Customer Reviews)


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Worldweavers by Alma Alexander (Series Summary)

Mulluane | 10:40 PM | 5 Comments so far

A Fantasy Series Review

Worldweavers by Alma Alexander
Gift of the Unmage by Alma AlexanderSpellspam by Alma AlexanderCybermage by Alma Alexander


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gift of the Unmage by Alma Alexander (Worldweavers: Book 1) | Science Fantasy YA Review

Mulluane | 11:20 PM | 3 Comments so far


Who knew you'd be a true weaver?

Great things have been expected of Thea, the seventh child of two seventh children. Sent back in time to learn from Cheveyo, an Anasazi mage, Thea begins to weave herself a new magical identity, infused with elements of the original worlds.

But back home, Thea keeps her abilities hidden and is sent to the Wandless Academy, the one school on Earth for those who have no apparent magical talent. It is there that Thea realizes that her enemies are hungrier and more dangerous than she knew. What’s more, her greatest strength may be the powerlessness she has resisted for so long.

It will be needed to save her world.

*Blurb source*Author
Blurb might contain spoilers, toggle to view.
( Toggle may not function in email and some feed readers.)



Gift of the Unmage by Alma Alexander (Worldweavers: Book 1) | Science Fantasy YA Review

| Source: Author
| Author: Alma Alexander
| Genre: Young Adult, Science Fantasy, 12+
| Content: Unique Magic Systems
| Series: Worldweavers: Book 1
| ISBN-10: 0060839554
| ISBN-13: 9780060839574
| Publisher: HarperTeen (March 13, 2007)
| Mass Market Paperback: 389 pages
| Rating: 4/5 Stars
Book Depository
Gift of the Unmage (Worldweavers, #1)



♦ Mini Review ♦
Alma Alexander has woven a richly invented fantasy out of elements from many cultures, both real and imagined, and a memorable cast of characters.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spellspam: Worldweavers: Book 2 (Review)

Mulluane | 11:00 PM | 1 Comment so far
Spellspam by Alma Alexander

By Alma Alexander

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, 12+
ISBN: 0060839600
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 10, 2009)
Paperback: 480 pages
Read an Excerpt

Publisher's Blurb:
What do you get when ordinary e-mail spam becomes infused with magic? Spellspam—and it's not supposed to exist. As far as Thea and her friends know, computers are meant to be inert vehicles for storing magic spells, not magical processors themselves. But all that seems to have changed as students at Wandless Academy find themselves the victim of practical jokes—with magical consequences—simply by opening an e-mail.

Now the spellspams are getting worse, and it's possible there's someone behind them who is not just bent on stirring up trouble but has a much scarier and more wide-reaching agenda. Until now, Thea has been the only person she's ever met who can reach through the computer using magic. But someone else is out there, and even her friends can't help her track down the source of the spellspam before it gets much, much worse.

This series is turning out to be alot of fun. Honestly, I am surprised that it has not gotten more attention. I hope to help to change that in some small way because everybody needs a good, solid fun read ever so often and this series would fit the bill.

If anything, this book is better then the first and that is saying alot. The only reason why I even say it now is because Thea is growing up and it shows. Gone is the insecure girl of book one and instead we get to experience a teenager developing her own sense of self worth. She is also developing definite leadership abilities.

I have to give Alma Alexander some well-deserved credit here. She does a wonderful job with personalities, how they mesh, and how they conflict. I love a book where each person has a well-defined personality with strengths and weaknesses. Take that one-step further and add in group dynamics. Alma Alexander has created a very real heroine in Thea but she does not stop there. Thea's circle of friends range wildly in personality, from the shy but smart kid who questions everything to the impulsive but compassionate roommate. However, as a group they click, each fulfilling a role within the group and lending it strength. As a lover of great characters, I have to admit that I enjoyed every nuance of these relationships.

The different types of relationships do not stop there. Thea is a go to, get it done, type of gal, but she also knows when she needs adult help, and is not afraid to ask for it. Well, atleast not now that she has a better idea of who to trust. Did I mention that Thea makes a great YA heroine? When she can get it done herself, she goes for it. When she needs help from friends, family, or other adults, she knows the difference. And, she is smart too. What a girl!

The story itself is priceless. Email spam that casts a spell on you if you read it. Clever, inventive spells too, like "Do you want Longer, Thicker Hair - Instantly!” Guess what you get from that email. Come on, guess... OK, I will give you a clue, email header reads "From: Harry Ears <>" (giggles). The other great addition to this story is an elemental house. This is the house of my dreams. Are you a slob? Drop your clothes on the floor, come back and they are cleaned, folded and put away. Ready to eat? It feeds you whatever you are in the mood for then clears the table. Oh my goodness, I would think I had died and gone to heaven! Remember how I said in the review of book one that I could step into Alma Alexander's world and feel perfectly at home there? Well now, I am heartbroken that I cannot do just that, even if it means dealing with trade hungry aliens and dangerous (or at least inconvenient) email. I will tell you this much, next time I desperately need to escape from this world, I now know which book I am picking up to reread.

I kind of feel guilty when I gush over a book/series because I know down deep that nothing is perfect. Problem is there is so much that I love about this story that if there are any faults (and I am sure there are) I just do not recognize them. There are some concepts that you need to work to wrap your mind around, but that is not a bad thing. I like stories that make me think outside the box. Only thing I can think of to point out is that while this book, like book one, wraps up conclusively, it does rely heavily on information learned in Gift of the Unmage. Not a big problem for me since I always try to read a series from start to finish but I would not suggest reading this book without reading the first.

Now I am off to see what kind of trouble Thea and her friends get into in book three. In the meantime, I highly suggest you run out and get this series. Awesome books for teens but huge amounts of fun for adults too, especially those of us who are young at heart.

Series Summary
Other books in the series

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 5/5

Librarything Rating 3.5/5

Amazon Rating 4+ out of 5 stars
(5 Customer Reviews)


What Should I Read Next?

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cybermage: Worldweavers: Book 3 (Review)

Mulluane | 1:16 PM | 2 Comments so far
Cybermage by Alma Alexander

By Alma Alexander

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, 12+
ISBN: 0060839619
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 10, 2009)
Hardcover: 432 pages
Read an Excerpt

Publisher's Blurb:
This year at the Wandless Academy feels all wrong to Thea. Her best friend, Magpie, will barely give her the time of day. Ben's been moody and dismissive. Since when did Tess have a boyfriend? And why is Humphrey May, agent for the Federal Bureau of Magic, lurking around the Academy?

Thea is out of sorts—in all ways, magical and otherwise—and that's before she discovers she's an elemental mage, a category of magician so rare that only four others are known to exist.

Now the Federal Bureau of Magic needs Thea's help to unlock the mysterious white cube—the same cube found over the summer in the professor's house, the same cube the dangerous Alphiri are still after. To stay ahead of the Alphiri and the wiles of the FBM, Thea needs her friends—all of them.

Finally! A concluding book in a series that did not let me down. If anything, this book is the strongest of the three. Why you ask? Well I am going to tell you!

Thea has had an interesting life up to this point but while she has had to deal with some serious and life altering issues, she has had the protection of the world at large believing she has no magic. This is about to change in a big way. Once again, Thea is put into a position where she has no idea who to trust. Even her loyal circle of friends appears to have their own agendas, leaving Thea feeling pretty hurt and abandoned. Boy did this strike a cord with me. How well do I remember my friends wandering off as they discovered boys and gravitated to new friends in the process. However, this is just a temporary setback. I only insert it here to show you how real even the minor issues in this story truly are. Before it is all said and done, Thea will be tested in ways that would make even an adult cringe, and does some serious growing up in the process.

To say that I have connected with Thea is an understatement. I may be 49 years old but I still remember what it felt like to be a teenager and I have raised two of my own through that nightmare. Of course in a world where magic trumps technology the issues are different and yet, surprisingly the same. This installment in the series is much more serious then the last. Book 2 still dealt with some serious issues mind you, but the often hilarious spellspam emails lightened the load a bit. Still there is adventure, challenge, and with all three books, a mystery (or three) to solve. More then enough going on to keep you reading (and thinking) until 4am.

A side note: Make sure that if you read this book you check out the author's note at the end. One of the main characters is based on a real person that I personally had never heard of and found to be someone I very much want to learn more about. Added bonus to an already great book!

I am very surprised that this book, and the series, has appeared to pass completely under the internet radar. Not even Amazon has any reviews on Cybermage and very few on the other two. Only thing I can come up with is what Jeff said here: Today in Fantasy: May 10, 2009 about the cover art. My apologies to the cover artist, but I have to agree. I do not care for it either and frankly, if I were book browsing the shelves at my local bookstore, I would pass right by these books. Only other reason I can think of would be the YA designation. Possibly, it is being lost on the YA shelf and not coming to the notice of adults like me (you know, the ones who normally write these reviews.) In either case, it is a shame. This series deserves more attention then it has gotten. Well, in my opinion anyway.

I highly recommend this book (and series) to both YA and adult lovers of Fantasy. The issues are real, often tragic, and always complicated. There are never any easy answers, as is often the case where magic is involved. Thea makes for a great teen heroine, strong yet insecure at times, scared but able to work through her fear, independent yet knows when to ask for help. This story makes you think, makes you feel, and entertains all at the same time. So ignore the cover art (if it bothers you) go browse the YA section of your bookstore and buy this series!

One last observation. The book ends with a satisfactory conclusion to the main storyline while leaving you with the impression that this story is far from over. Does this mean that we will be treated to more adventures with Thea and her friends? All I can say is that I truly hope so!

Series Summary
Other books in the series

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 0/5

Librarything Rating 2/5

Amazon Rating 0 out of 5 stars

What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Audible: No

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Briar King (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: Book 1) by Greg Keyes

Mulluane | 1:45 AM | 1 Comment so far

*Blurb*

Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from the bitter yoke of slavery.

But now monstrous creatures roam the land—and destinies become inextricably entangled in a drama of power and seduction. The king’s woodsman, a rebellious girl, a young priest, a roguish adventurer, and a young man made suddenly into a knight—all face malevolent forces that shake the foundations of the kingdom, even as the Briar King, legendary harbinger of death, awakens from his slumber.

At the heart of this many-layered tale is Anne Dare, youngest daughter of the royal family . . . upon whom the fate of her world may depend. *Blurb source was author's website which no longer available*

The Briar KingThe Briar King

The Briar King by Greg Keyes

| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: 16+
| Author: Greg Keyes
| ISBN-10: 0345440706
| ISBN-13: 978-0345440709
| Publisher: Del Rey (March 30, 2004)
| Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
| Read an Excerpt
| Source: Personal copy
| Rating: 4 Stars
Fantasy Series Book Review by Mulluane
The Briar King is one of those delightful books that slowly grows on you. It starts off a bit slow, gaining in momentum, until you look up and it is 3am, and you kick yourself for all those "just one more chapter..." moments.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Charnel Prince (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: Book 2) by Greg Keyes

Mulluane | 3:15 PM | 1 Comment so far

*Blurb*

When the legendary Briar King awoke from his slumber, a season of darkness and horror fell upon the Kingdom of Crotheny. Now countless breeds of unspeakable monsters roam the countryside. An epidemic of madness has transformed peaceful villagers from the wildlands into savage, flesh-eating fiends. In Eslen, King William has been murdered, Queen Muriele is stalked by treachery on every side, and their last surviving daughter, Anne, has fled the assassins bent on destroying her family.

Close on the heels of the runaway princess, young knight Neil MeqVren, the queen’s one trusted ally, is sworn to rescue Anne from her murderous pursuers. Anne herself undertakes a perilous journey toward the sanctuary of her distant paramour’s arms, but along the way lie the sinister agents and hidden snares of a sprawling conspiracy that few might hope to evade.

At the same time, spies in the service of Praifec Hespero, the powerful Churchman, embark upon a mission to destroy the Briar King in the heart of his domain. And the power-hungry Church, spurred on by the mystical events, has launched an inquisition whose repercussions threaten even the queen. As the noose of intrigue tightens across the land, personal fates and a kingdom’s destiny alike will be decided in a conflict between virtue and malevolence, might and magic.*Blurb source Del Rey*

The Charnel Prince

The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes

| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: 16+
| Author: Greg Keyes
| ISBN-10: 0345440714
| ISBN-13: 978-0345440716
| Publisher: Del Rey (October 25, 2005)
| Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
| Read an Excerpt
| Source: Personal copy
| Rating: 5 Stars
Fantasy Series Book Review by Mulluane
The Charnel Prince proved to be another captivating read. The tension remains high, the PoV switches were done smoothly, and the characters all develop in believable ways. One of the reasons, I believe, that this series is so popular, is the balance. There are many components to this story. Mystery, love, politics, humor, interesting world building, loyalty, betrayal, royal characters, and lowborn characters are all present in equal measure. Moreover, those are just examples, there are many themes running through this story, and the best part is, it is all done seamlessly. You would think that it would be complex and confusing but instead it flows well and the only things that keep you confused are the underlying mysteries.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Blood Knight: (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: Book 3) by Greg Keyes

Mulluane | 1:15 AM | 2 Comments so far

*Blurb*

The legendary Briar King has awakened, spreading madness and destruction. Half-remembered, poorly understood prophecies seem to point to the young princess Anne Dare, rightful heir to the throne of Crotheny, as the world’s only hope. Yet Anne is hunted by the minions of the usurper Robert, whose return from the grave has opened a doorway through which sinister sorceries have poured into the world. Though Anne herself is the conduit of fearsome powers beyond her understanding and control, it is time for girl to become woman, princess to become queen. Anne must stop running and instead march at the head of an army to take back her kingdom . . . or die trying.

But a mysterious assassin stalks her, so skilled in the deadly fencing style of dessrata that even Anne’s friend and protector Cazio, a master of the form, cannot stand against him, nor can her sworn defender, the young knight Neil MeqVren.

As for Anne’s other companions–Aspar White, the royal holter who bears an enchanted arrow capable of felling the Briar King; and Stephen Darige, the monk who blew the horn that woke the Briar King from his slumber–they cannot help her, as their separate paths carry them ever deeper into a deadly maze of myth and magic from which return may be impossible.

Meanwhile, Queen Muriele is a prisoner of the false king. With no allies but a crippled musician, who is himself a prisoner, and a serving woman who is both more and less than she seems, Muriele will find herself a pawn in Robert’s schemes for conquest–and a weapon to be used against her own daughter.*Blurb source Del Rey*

The Blood KnightThe Blood Knight

The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes

| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: 16+
| Author: Greg Keyes
| ISBN-10: 0345440722
| ISBN-13: 978-0345440723
| Publisher: Del Rey (May 1, 2007)
| Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
| Read an Excerpt
| Source: Personal copy
| Rating: 4 Stars
Fantasy Series Book Review by Mulluane
I have some mixed feelings about this installment of the series. Maybe because my gut is telling me that it should all be wrapped up by now, and yet there is another book to go. More then likely it is the lack of character development, which has been replaced by plot development. Well, you people know me by now, I am all about the characters, and this book did not feed my need so to speak. Basically, readers who are more story focused then character focused will find plenty to love here. Character focused readers might be a bit disappointed, but as I said, there is plenty of story to get you through.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Born Queen: (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: Book 4) by Greg Keyes

Mulluane | 1:55 PM | 5 Comments so far

*Blurb*

The Briar King is dead, and the world itself follows him to ruin. Aspar White, wounded and tired, must embark on one last quest to save the forest and the people he loves, but he has little hope of success.

Anne Dare at last sits on the throne of Crotheny, but for how long? The Church, now led by the corrupt and powerful Marché Hespero, has declared a holy war against her, giving the king of Hansa the pretext he needs to unleash his vast might on the young queen and her unready army.

But Hansa is the least of Anne’s worries. The Hellrune, war seer of Hansa, strikes at her through vision and prophecy. The Kept–last of the elder Skasloi lords–weaves his own dark webs. Anne’s teacher and ally in the sedos world might also be her worst enemy, and Anne’s own mounting strength compels her toward madness.

Surviving these dangers and mastering her eldritch abilities are merely prelude to the real struggle. There are many–some with power matching or even exceeding Anne’s own–who are willing to kill in order to seize control. For whoever sits upon the throne will have the ultimate command to bring about the world’s salvation–or its apocalypse.*Blurb source Del Rey*

The Born QueenThe Born Queen

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes

| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: 16+
| Author: Greg Keyes
| ISBN-10: 0345440730
| ISBN-13: 978-0345440730
| Publisher: Del Rey (January 27, 2009)
| Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
| Read an Excerpt
| Source: Personal copy
| Rating: 3 Stars
Fantasy Series Book Review by Mulluane
Sadly, it is my considered opinion that this book should have been split into atleast one, if not two, more volumes. There was potential here, the characters were fun to watch, the underlying subplots hinted at great things to come, and all of that is thrown right out the window as this book rushes to a confusing and hectic conclusion. Yes, I know I said that the last book made me feel like the series was needlessly dragging on, this novel proved me wrong; it needed to be extended instead of trying to cram everything that happens into one book.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Path of Fate Trilogy by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Series Summary)

Mulluane | 12:01 AM | 3 Comments so far
Path of Fate by Diana Pharaoh Francis

An Epic Fantasy Series Summary

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Series: Path of Fate Series
Genre: Epic Fantasy, 16+
Publisher: Roc
Book Reviews of: Path of Fate - Path of Honor - Path of Blood


This is a story of difficult choices, self-sacrifice, and a reluctant heroine. The main protagonist, Reisel, is an orphan and essentially raised by the entire town. In her society, orphans are passed from one household to another so that no one family is "burdened" with their care. Fortunately, Reisel discovers that she has a talent for healing, a talent that will finally give her a firm place within the town that raised her. This sense of belonging is the one thing she wants most in the world, her heart's desire. But, the Lady has other plans for Reisel and soon she will be forced to make a choice. Can our heroine give up on her heart's desire to become chosen of the gods and save her kingdom from destruction? Not as easy a decision as you might think.

Path of Honor by Diana Pharaoh FrancisAhalad-kaaslane, the Lady's chosen, are a solitary breed, roaming the world as spies, assassins, peacekeepers and judges, and roaming, much less being solitary, is the last thing Reisel wants to do. There is one benefit however, each ahalad-kaaslane is bonded to an animal blessed by the Lady, a special telepathic bond filled with love and affection, but is the reward worth losing all that Reisel has worked for?

This is a good series, maybe not awesome or even original but it is well worth a read. Especially if you like strong female heroines with bonded animal companions as I do. I also like stories where the author challenges her main protagonist; not physically, not magically but emotionally. I enjoy scenarios that make me question how I would handle the situation. Could I make that decision? Could I handle the consequences of that action? Could I have handled things better considering the circumstances? Give me challenges in my reading and I can ignore minor flaws in other areas.

Path of Blood by Diana Pharaoh FrancisI generally prefer characterization to be a bit more intense and the writing style varies widely over the three books, which was a bit disconcerting. Book 1 was fairly light, book two was much darker and book three was very uneven in pace, the conclusion seemed rushed and the PoV jumps around alot. However, this was a debut trilogy, and one that shows great promise, I was far from disappointed by it. Reisel makes the whole story worth the read. Diana Francis throws everything but the kitchen sink at this girl, including the allure of unlimited magical power and yet, our heroine never lets this go completely to her head. She agonizes over her decisions, struggles with making the right choices and deals with tragedy, betrayal and her greatest fear, isolation. This series is all about self-sacrifice, conquering your fears and doing your best in the face of terrible odds. There is also a bit of adventure, romance, and mystery to help move the story along.

Content includes depravity, torture, rape, famine, disease, and other uncomfortable scenarios. Definite adult themes but if it was a movie, I would rate it as 'R', meaning that older teens could handle the material just fine. They may even find some hidden truths within the trials and challenges that face Reisel. As always, that is my opinion and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. What I can say with confidence is this is a good series and well worth a read (or two). I have not read her newer books, but I am looking forward to it now that I have read and enjoyed this trilogy. I hope that you will too!

Read an Interview with Diana Pharaoh Francis
Similar Reads from LibraryThing
Author's Web Presence
Website - Blog - Old Website - Myspace
Could not find any Ebook or Kindle versions
See the individual reviews for more purchasing options

Monday, March 23, 2009

Path of Fate (Path Series: Book 1)

Mulluane | 1:00 PM | 3 Comments so far
Path of Fate by Diana Pharaoh Francis

A Fantasy Series Book Review

By Diana Pharaoh Francis

Genre: Epic Fantasy, 16+
ISBN: 0451459504
Publisher: Roc (November 4, 2003)
Paperback: 384 pages
Read an Excerpt

Author's Blurb:
A truce has halted the fighting between Reisil's native land and its neighbor. But traitors on both sides plot to shatter the fragile peace. Kidnappers steal the daughter of the foreign ambassador from her bedchamber, leaving behind a trail of blood. To free her friend before she can be used to reignite the war, Reisil must join a band of rescuers she fears to trust. As Reisil journeys into enemy lands, she will be betrayed...
I have several soft spots when it comes to fantasy. One of course, is dragons. Another is animal companions. Likely, this stems from my love of animals and I would love nothing better then to truly bond with one. This series feeds that love. It also contains another of my favorite themes, a reluctant heroine.

What I did not like. The characterization could have been a bit better. It was not bad really, just could have been a bit deeper. Seeing as how this is Diana Pharaoh Francis' debut novel though, I am not too worried. I have no doubt that her writing, including character portrayals, will tighten up. The bonded animals could also have benefited from a little more personality. Again, they were not bad; I just would have liked to see them developed more. I also felt that the main character, Reisil, has way too much unlimited power, fortunately, she has no idea what to do with it most of the time. This seems to be her only real constraint, that and her reluctance to have any power at all. My final nitpick is the deities, again I would have liked to see a more personal look at those. They do make appearances, something I love in a fantasy god, but I found myself left wishing for more.

What I really liked. Overall, I enjoyed the portrayal of Reisil as the reluctant heroine. Her motivation for denying the power offered her was real and even touching. She makes mistakes, sometimes really big ones and she is hardheaded to say the least. A character does not need to be fully developed if I can identify with them, and I definitely identified with Reisil. The world itself was easy to envision, large without being overly so. The magic system was interesting and entering a story at the point where people are trying to stop a war, instead of starting one, was refreshing.

This story is not terribly original, something that matters very little to me personally. I do not believe that any gifted storyteller tells the same tale the same way as any other. Each brings their own unique take, voice, and personality into the story. The story itself is very enjoyable. There is adventure, romance, friendship, and betrayal. Some parts are touching while others are tragic. The pacing is even for the most part. This novel does suffer alittle from first book in a trilogy syndrome, there is alot of setup and back-story to cover, but I did not feel that it bogged the story down very much. Overall, a nicely paced light read with well-balanced elements of tragedy and triumph.

The content has adult themes. There is rape, murder, torture, and betrayal. There is justice in the form of harsh retribution, and people who do horrible things to accomplish their goals. There are also stellar examples of self-sacrifice and perseverance against impossible odds. In fact, I would say that the main theme of this series centers on both sacrifice and the lengths that people will go to obtain what they want, regardless of the cost in either case. The book ties up neatly, no serious cliffhanger here! But there are still plenty of questions left to be addressed in the next book. Well worth a read!

Series Summary
Other books in the series

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 4/5

Librarything Rating 3.78/5

Amazon Rating 4+ out of 5 stars
(34 Customer Reviews)


What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Ebook: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US Canada UK

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Path of Honor (Path Series: Book 2) by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Mulluane | 1:00 PM | 1 Comment so far
Path of Honor by Diana Pharoah Francis

A Fantasy Series Book Review

By Diana Pharaoh Francis

Genre: Epic Fantasy, 16+
ISBN: 0451459911
Publisher: Roc (December 7, 2004)
Paperback: 400 pages
Read an Excerpt

Author's Blurb:
Reisil arrives in Koduteel, only to be met with chill suspicion. Even her fellow ahalad-kaaslane doubt her loyalty. When her healing magic fails to stop a deadly plague, Reisil finds herself ostracized and powerless. She is forced to turn for help to the wizards who want her destroyed. And she is alone—she cannot even trust her best friends...

Publisher's Blurb:
Two years after Reisil's arrival, Kodu Riik is decimated by plague and famine. And now a race of sorcerers is trying to take over. Reisil's power is feared by the nobility, others wish to exploit her, and her fellow ahalad-kaaslane begin to doubt her loyalty, as her healing magic fails to stem the rising plague. But Reisil will discover that although she has lost her power to heal, she now possesses a surging new ability-to destroy.
The story resumes 2 years after the events in Path of Fate. Life for Reisel is not as rosy as she had envisioned and soon she will be faced with some tough choices. If she chooses the wrong path, two worlds will be destroyed. All in a day's work for our heroine right?

Many new characters, another whole world, and The Lady has withdrawn, leaving the ahalad-kaaslane powerless and confused. There is a plague and droughts ravaging the land, strange and deadly monsters are appearing and as if this all is not enough, the Iisand (think king) has gone into seclusion. The stage is set for a world torn apart by famine, disease, civil war, and nasty politics. Lots of action, intrigue, and mystery fill these pages making this book a bit darker then the previous and a whole lot busier.

What I did not like. The beginning was a bit confusing; surprising considering that I put down book one and immediately picked up book two. Events are discussed, making me believe that maybe I missed something in book one, only to be explained later. The story here is much darker, which was disconcerting after the relatively light style of the first. Not that I have any problem with dark, was just a surprise. As complicated as those book is, there were also some important questions that I felt were left unaddressed. Big unanswered questions always distract me, almost like that feeling you get when you know you have forgotten something, but for the life of you, you cannot remember what. No, I am not going to tell you what questions! That would be a spoiler...

What I liked. Reisil and her goshawk companion are intriguing characters. The problems I had with Reisil's unlimited power in book one are solved in book two as it appears that she has lost all of her powers. Whereas the main theme in book one was sacrifice, book two concentrates more on finding answers. There are mysteries popping up on almost every page (maybe too many actually) and Reisel has to struggle constantly to find her path. There are no easy answers; no unlimited power to use to "fix" things, no goddess to conveniently bail her out, and no friends in her corner, Reisil is truly on her own. Well she has her wonderful bond with Saljane, her goshawk, but even the bird is extremely cryptic with her answers. If anything, I liked this book better because there are no easy outs. There is also the addition of a love interest who has a coal drake as a companion. Hey! If I cannot have dragons, I will gladly take drakes instead!

Content is dark, tragic and grisly at times. There are some disturbing torture scenes, plague and famine are never pretty, and some of the "bad" guys in this tale are truly evil and depraved. The pace is fast though, alot happens and the story clips right along. There is also a cliffhanger ending, unlike book one, so it is a good thing that you can go straight on to book three! This book is not the type that will "wow" you but it is a good read and a great adventure. If you enjoy reluctant heroines, animal companions, do not object to dark content and want a story where there are more questions then there are answers, this is well worth a read. Now on to book three to see if some of those questions get answered!

Series Summary
Other books in the series

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books

Shelfari Rating 4/5

Librarything Rating 3.5/5

Amazon Rating 4+ out of 5 stars
(9 customer reviews)


What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Ebook: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US Canada UK

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