Well, this book had two strikes against it when I started: it was the first in a trilogy and it dealt with twelve fiefdoms. TWELVE! I thought that was just too many for me to keep them straight, but it sounded so promising I went ahead and delved in. I'm glad I did because Shinn did a great job in giving the book a natural ending and easing me into the complicated world.
The book is about a group of five people, mystics and riders, who are on a mission for the king. He wants them to feel out the mood and politics of the people. He believes there's trouble brewing and wants a first-hand account from people he trusts.
Mystics are people with a varying range of magical powers. Some can shape-shift, some can heal, some are extra sensitive. Two of the mystics are shape-shifters, and Senneth, the heroine, can command fire. Riders are the king's special guards. They're the best fighters in the kingdom and their first loyalty is to the king.
The story starts with a fun rescue of an indentured servant who turns out to be mystic. The group doesn't want to abandon him, so he accompanies them on their trip. As they travel from one fiefdom to another, Shinn fed me managable bits of information about the geography and the important players. [...]
This book is a road-trip book with lots of disguises, adventure, and hair-breadth escapes. As they lurch from one difficult situation to another, the distrust and animostiy between the riders and mystics turns to grudging acceptance, then to admiration and friendship.
I generally like Shinn's heroes better than her heroines, but in this book it's the reverse. The heroine is strong, incredibly capable, and yet so vulnerable as we discover her sad past (I did easily guess part of her past). The hero started as a bit of a narrow-minded jerk but did get better as the book went along. I do think that as the king's First Rider, he should have known much more; he should have been more aware of politics, the main players, their allegiances, and the inter-relatedness of their families. But other than that minor criticism, I liked the book and would recommend it.--Edith
HAWKSONG by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes involves warring kingdoms (shapesifters who become birds and snakes respectively). When the only route to peace is a marriage between the two heirs, the couple have to work at getting past the fear and hatred their races feel for the other. I found the writing style a bit awkward at the beginning, but once I got used to it, I really enjoyed the book.--JW
CLOSE KIN by Clare Dunkle was the sequel to THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. It was pretty good, although not as outstanding as the first book. I think part of the problem is that the story is more fragmented, following several characters and not developing any of the characters particularly deeply.--JW
The March 2005 Locus includes interviews with writer Clive Barker, Forthcoming Books in the US and UK through December 2005 and the 2004 British Book Summary.
Some news: --Catherine Asaro sold ALPHA, sequel to SUNRISE ALLEY, to Baen. --Hilari Bell sold a new series featuring "a Don-Quixote-esque young nobleman" to HarperChildren's. --S.L. Viehl delivered REBEL ICE, sixth in her StarDoc series, to Roc.
Rachel Lee's SHADOWS OF MYTH--The Spark is Back (Linda)
Rachel Lee's SHADOWS OF MYTH starts out with a bang, grabbing you right away with a scene of a woman regaining consciousness on a battlefield. She is actually lying on a dead person and surrounded by others, and has no memory of who she is. The horror is immediate.
The hero, mysterious Archer Blackcloak, and his small band discover her and decide to take her to the closest village and leave her there. The village is on the verge of catastrophe due to bad weather. An untrusting Archer next decides to take Tess (the name is remembered) to the nearest city to aid her quest for identity. Two villagers who hope to save their village and the people they love decide to tag along in search of solutions in the city.
Thus progresses the rest of the book about the search for Tess' identity and that of the source of all the weather troubles.
I think SHADOWS OF MYTH will keep the interest of anyone who likes a character-driven story. You see Tess' courage in having to live with not knowing anything about herself and whether she could have anything to do with the death of so many people. How was it that she was the only survivor? And the mystery of Archer was intriguing. He's perhaps more than mere mortal and with a troubled past.
This magical fantasy set in a medieval-like setting was intense, fast moving, had great characters and a very interesting plot. That spark that has been missing from Rachel Lee's recent romance and suspense novels for me was present in this fantasy novel.
And there are actually two romances going on: 1) the main characters'--whose relationship is subtle, more like recognizing a feeling of home in each other--and 2) that of shy young Tom, who loves the practical and strongly-built Sara. A high recommend, and I'm looking forward to Rachel Lee's next installment in this series.
Note: Though the longer arc of this story is continued, SHADOWS OF MYTH doesn't leave you with a cliffhanger.--Linda
THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN--Fast-paced & Entertaining (Danielle)
Just finished THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN. I picked it up from the paperback rack at the library and it turned out to be just what I wanted--a "light" adventure, fast-paced and entertaining. I rarely read books in one sitting any more (too many interruptions in my life) but this one took only two days to finish.
The heroine, Lale, is an orphan trained to be a spy and assassin with a fanatical loyalty to the woman who raised her. There is some romance, as she falls in love with someone she shouldn't and begins to question her "mother"'s orders.
I didn't find the romance completely convincing (it felt as if Lale fell in love because the plot demanded it, not because she truly couldn't resist), but Lale is a great character and the growth of her independence as she starts to think for herself was well done. It's also great to see a different setting than the usual vaguely medieval and/or European milieu--this fantasy empire has a history analogous to the Romans, but a culture more akin to the Chinese.