Monday 26 January 2009

Soldier King - Violette Malan

Dhulyn and Parno's second adventure is as exciting as their first. Having chosen the winning side in battle they discover their prisoner is the enemy's crown prince! But their employers refuse to accept the brotherhood's code of honour, requiring the merceneries to release the prince without ransom. So they refuse pay and kidnap him, intending to escort him home.

But not everyone from his home country wants to see the prince return. The Blue Mage, the power behind the throne, sets in motion plans to take over completely, leaving the merceneries and their charge walking into a trap.

The book is full of action and surprising consequences to decisions made now and in the past (for example you discover that the downside to Dhulyn's immunity to poisons is her inability to use herbs to dull pain). There's also a touch of romance and some interesting stories within stories, as the three end up masquerading as actors and more in order to reach the capital.

A fun read.

Company of Liars - Karen Maitland

Having a degree in Medieval Studies I find it difficult to read historical fiction of that period because there are often so many errors I can't enjoy the story. Every now and then I take a chance and read one, and sometimes I get lucky.

If you like the historical accuracy and mystery of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, but without the requirement of understanding all the esoteric knowledge he throws in, you're going to love Company of Liars.

Told from the point of view of Camelot, a travelling relic seller, the novel takes place in 1348. Camelot ends up helping and later leading a group of men and women, who, like him, are trying to outrun both the black death (newly come to England's shores) and the coming winter. In the group are a magician anxious to get to Ireland, a very pregnant woman and her doting husband, two court minstrels unused to rustic living, a storyteller with one human arm and one swan wing, a midwife and an albino girl who reads the runes with startling accuracy. As they travel north and west Camelot begins to realize that though each traveller has told a story of where they've come from and where they're going they haven't told the truth.

And one by one, for seemingly unrelated reasons, they start dying.

Karen Maitland manages to insert a lot of details about medieval life above and beyond what's required of the story, making it informative as well as an exciting read.


The only 'negative' about this book for me was that the ending is rather abrupt. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions - which can be both bad and good depending on your tastes. It didn't help that I finished the book on my lunch break and so got to the end just as I was getting back into the story. But be prepared to turn the last page looking for more.

Monday 12 January 2009

Not Your Children's Fairy Tales

Considering that Fairy Tales were not originally written for children this may seem redundant, but rewriting fairy tales for a modern adult audience seems to be in vogue at the moment so I thought I'd make a list of some good ones. I'm using the term original tales VERY loosly. Again, the list is not comprehensive - espicially in the originals section - but should steer you towards something intesting to read. The books are listed in no particular order.

“Original” Tales:
Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Other Classic Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault - Angela Carter
Perrault’s Fairy Tales - Charles Perrault
Norwegian Folktales - Peter Christen Asbjornsen
Annotated Hans Christian Anderson - Hans Christian Anderson
Complete Fairytales of the Brothers Grimm - Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Folk & Fairy Tales - Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek, Ed.
Carter’s Fairy Tales - Angela Carter
Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde - Oscar Wilde
Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies - Moss Roberts
Irish Tales of the Fairies and the Ghost World - Jeremiah Curtin
Russian Fairytales - Aleksandr Afans’ev
Arabian Fairy Tales - Amina Shah
Blue Fairy Book - Andrew Lang (has a whole series of coloured fairy books)
Feminist Fairytales - B. Walker
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories - James Finn Garner (out of print)

Short story collections:
Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears - Ellen Datlow, Ed.
Hags, Sirens and other Bad Girls of Fantasy - Denise Little, Ed.
Fair Folk - Marvin Kaye, Ed.

Novels based on Fairy Tales
Stepsister Scheme - Jim Hines
Faery Taile Project: Red’s Tale - Jim Hines
Woodcutter’s Grim Series - Karen Wiesner
Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire
Last Wish - Andrzej Sapkowski
Rose Daughter - Robin McKinley
Beauty - Robin McKinley
Spindle’s End - Robin McKinley
Unhandsome Prince - John Moore
Never After - Rebecca Lickiss (out of print)
Once Upon a Winter Night - Dennis McKiernan
Once Upon a Summer Day -
Dennis McKiernan
Once Upon an Autumn Eve
- Dennis McKiernan
Once Upon a Spring Morn - Dennis McKiernan
Once Upon a Dreadful Time - Dennis McKiernan
Fairy Godmother - Mercedes Lackey
Briar Rose - Jane Yolan
Brother Grimm - Craig Russell
Fables 1: Legends in Exile - Bill Willingham and Lan Medina (graphic novel)

Midsummer Night’s Dream
- William Shakespeare
Lords and Ladies - Terry Pratchett
Sandman 3: The Dream Country - Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)

Monday 5 January 2009

Stepsister Scheme - Book Review

And They Lived Happily Ever After.

The Beginning...

... Of a great new series by the author of the Goblin trilogy, Jim Hines. The story opens with Danielle (Cinderella) three months after her marriage to the prince and still more comfortable with the idea of getting the stains out of clothing than addressing her subjects. When one of her evil stepsisters, angry over losing HER prince, tries to assassinate Danielle, she learns that she's not the only princess who's fairytale has been wildly exaggerated. Or completely mistold. Enter Emrildale (Snow White) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty). Together they must find Danielle's kidnapped prince and rescue him from her stepsister's scheme.

Using elements and characters from several fairy tales - you may not recognize them all at first - and showing realistic consequences to storybook actions, the Stepsister Scheme is an excellent read.

Thursday 1 January 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in February

Once again, I'm using the Chapters/Indigo website for release dates and books, so if something's wrong or missing write a comment and I'll correct it. Also remember that release dates are only approximate and differ by country.


Maelstrom - Taylor Anderson
Without Warning - John Birmingham
Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
The Chessmen of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Thuvia, Maid of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Valley of Shadows - Brian Cullen
The Horde of Mhorrer - M.F.W. Curran
The Lost World - Arthur Conan Doyle
A Magic of Nightfall - S.L. Farrell
Worlds - Eric Flint
White Witch, Black Curse - Kim Harrison
Spirit - Gwyneth Jones
Steal Across the Sky - Nancy Kress
Tuck - Stephen Lawhead
Black Blood - John Meaney
He Walls of the Universe - Paul Melko
Man-Kzin Wars XII - Larry Niven, Ed.
Enclave - Kit Reed
Lamentations - Ken Scholes
The Underground City - Jules Verne

Trade Paperback:

Rx for Chaos - Christopher Anvil
Pebble in the Sky - Isaac Asimov
The Thirteenth - L.A. Banks
The Reavers of Skaith - Leigh Brackett
War Hammer: Adventures of Florin & Lorenzo - Robert Earl
Forever War - Joe Haldeman (reprint)
Nightseer - Laurell Hamilton
Many Bloody Returns - Charlaine Harris, Ed.
King of Ithaca - Glyn Iliffe
A Wind Named Amnesia - Hideyuki Kikuchi
The Outlaws of Mars - Otis Adelbert Kline
Grave Thief - Tom Lloyd
O Fortuna - Edward Morris
Mortal Coils - Eric Nylund
Postsinger - Rudy Rucker
Palimpsest - Cahterynne Valente
The Swan Maiden - Jules Watson
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

Mass Market Paperback:

Into the Storm - Taylor Anderson
Star Trek: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea - Christopher Bennett
Death’s Daughter - Amber Benson
The Accord - Keith Brooke
Forgotten Realms: Unholy - Richard Lee Byers
Undone - Rachel Caine
Foxfire - Barbara Campbell
The Sorcerers’ Plague - David Coe
Seekers of the Chalice - Brian Cullen
Triplanetary - E.E. Doc Smith
The Alchemist’s Code - Dave Duncan
A Magic of Twilight - S.L. Farrell
Pax Britannia: Human Nature - Jonathan Green
Crime Spells - Martin Greenberg, Ed.
The Dreaming Void - Peter Hamilton
The Naked God - Peter Hamilton (reprint)
Carnifex - Tom Kratman
Duainfey - Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Grave Sins - Jenna Maclaine
The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Volume 3 - George Mann, Ed.
Mad Kestral - Misty Massey
The Moon Pool - Abraham Merritt
War Hammer 40K: Gunheads - Steve Parker
A Rush of Wings - Adrian Phoenix
Spell Games - T.A. Pratt
Dawn of War II - Chris Roberson
Duplicate Effort - Kristine Rusch
Galaxy Blues - Allen Steele
In the Court of the Crimson King - S.M. Stirling
Deader Still - Anton Strout
One Day On Mars - Travis Taylor
Kitty & the Dead Man’s Hand - Carrie Vaughn
Better to Beg Forgiveness - Michael Williamson
War Hammer: Dark Storm Gathering - Chris Wraight