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)


What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Ebook: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US - Canada - UK

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)


What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: No

Ebook: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US - Canada - UK

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
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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?

Kindle: No

Audible: No

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US Canada UK

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

Buy Book: B&N - Powells - Abe Books

Amazon: US Canada UK

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