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Friday, April 30, 2004

ElizaBeth Gilligan's THE SILKEN SHROUD -- Linda
The Silken Shroud

THE SILKEN SHROUD concentrates more on the previously secondary characters Maggiore Mandero di Montago and his tragic love Alessandra. Maggiore is finally given permission to search for the Cardinal who has stolen his fiancee Alessandra's body for use in black magic. He is also supposed be getting information on a group of witchhunters reportedly in the country. The Romani and the faery help Maggiore out. He agrees to a spell that ties him closer to Alessa to try to keep her spirit from losing her sense of self, for the longer she is in this mullo state and full of hate, the more evil she will become. Somehow during the faery ceremony, he is united temporarily with his love...long enough to marry and have a night (or part of one <g>) together.

From Alessa's side, you see her battle for escape from the Cardinal and her inevitable decline as she starts losing her sense of self and has her first taste of blood.  But all is not hopeless and she discovers she's not alone in her pain.  She is not the only body that the Cardinal has experimented with.

There is also a crisis going on at the palace with the Queen and Luciana (from the previous book).  They are both with child, but magic has been used wrongly and the Queen is in jeopardy.

I enjoyed THE SILKEN SHROUD immensely; there is never a dull moment. I wouldn't recommend reading THE SILKEN SHROUD without first having read the first book, MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE. This is another thick book, and I unfortunately had to put it down often, but my interest kept getting caught as soon as I picked it up again.  All the plots in the story kept me on my toes. Unfortunately, the story is left hanging with lots of unfinished business for the next book in the series.  Wonder how many books are planned??  Nevertheless, I am still highly recommending this and look forward to the next one.--Linda

--MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE (bk 1) at Amazon
--THE SILKEN SHROUD (bk 2) at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Monday, April 26, 2004

ElizaBeth Gilligan's MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE -- Linda
Magic's Silken Snare

MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE is set in 1684, in a mythical place called Tyrrhia. Tyrrhia is fashioned after Sicily and has given refuge to many of the persecuted races of the day: Romani, Jews, Huguenots etc. But it's a very fine balance that the White King must keep between all the factions.

The heroine, Luciana, is a woman of two worlds. She is Romani, one of the wandering folk, but has been raised in the gadje world since her mother had remarried a gadje husband. When she died, Luciana chose to stay with her beloved half-sister, Alessandra, but she is Romani through and through. Her grandmother is the Romani Queen, and she has inherited the responsibilities of the gypsy silk holdings. Her husband, Stefano, Duca di Drago, brother to the White Queen, is away fighting the Turks. Theirs is a love match that has been hammered by long separations due to duty and is estranged at the moment.

When Luciana receives word that her sister Alessandra is dead under questionable circumstances, thought to be suicide, she knows it's not true. A Romani would never willingly die indoors. Alessa had also been accused of killing Capitano de Montago, the man she loved. To further distress Luciana, she receives word that Alessa's body has been stolen from her crypt. As a sister and under orders of her Romani Queen, she leaves for the royal court to follow Romani vendetta--to bring justice to her sister. She is soon joined by her husband. [...]

The Silken Shroud
I might as well let you know right now, the book is thick <g>. I know that can be intimidating, but it's well worth reading. In all honesty, I've only read a few books set in Italy around this time and have avoided them ever since. So much intrigue and back biting. Well this also has a lot of intrigue and backbiting <g> but also great characters, good love story, unusual plot, and ghosts and magic. I really enjoyed this book, so I have to say...what a difference a good author makes!!

I consider this romantic. The conflicts between the h/h were very realistic and had been exacerbated by long separations in the past, but their unswerving love is easily discernible to the reader and the misunderstandings aren't prolonged. The villains are discovered in the end but the story is far from finished. The author gives you a real feel for the period with her use of some Italian and Romani words without ever making it boring.

I highly recommend MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE. My only complaint with this book is the name. Between an unknown author, a time period I avoid, and a title like MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE, it's lucky this book didn't pass me by. I'm glad it didn't. :-) --Linda

--MAGIC'S SILKEN SNARE at Amazon
--THE SILKEN SHROUD (bk 2) at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Friday, April 23, 2004

Drawing for Free Copy of Patricia Briggs' STEAL THE DRAGON
Steal the Dragon

I found a used copy of the hard-to-find STEAL THE DRAGON, by Patricia Briggs, this past weekend. Since I already have one, I thought I'd hold a drawing to give it away to one of this site's readers. (Plus, I don't have any new reviews to post.)

Patricia Briggs is one of this site's favorite authors although I myself have only read her most recent books. Her WHEN DEMONS WALK made our list of "SFR 101" -- i.e., the basic books every fan of the romantic SF genre should read. Publication of her THE HOB'S BARGAIN prompted an interview with Patricia Briggs in which you can find out how her early books are connected.

This copy of STEAL THE DRAGON has several creases in the spine and wear all around the edges. That is, it doesn't look as spiffy as the picture on the left.

Please send me your name and email. I'll draw a winner on Monday evening and email her to obtain a mailing address. I reserve the right to use whatever postage rate I want and take no responsibility for the book once it's left my hands. Non-U.S. folks welcome to participate.

--STEAL THE DRAGON at Amazon
--Patricia Briggs' Web site

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS and KUSHIEL'S DART -- Danielle in Brief II
Scholar of Magics

A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS by Caroline Stevermer

Suzanne reviewed this so well that all I have to say is "ditto."

A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS is a little more restrained and less swashbuckling than A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, which is fitting considering the English academic setting. I didn't love it *quite* as much as the first book--but since A COLLEGE OF MAGICS is one of my Top Ten all-time favourite books, that's a very tiny criticism.--Danielle

***

Kushiel's Dart

KUSHIEL'S DART by Jacqueline Carey

Finally got around to reading KUSHIEL'S DART, as a friend lent me her copy, and enjoyed it more than I expected to given the melodramatic elements.

This is a book to be read for plot rather than character or world-building; it's fast-paced and compulsively readable, with a wonderfully over-the-top villain. I'm definitely interested in reading the sequels, but I hope that Phedre (the protagonist) develops some flaws--she's annoyingly perfect so far.--Danielle

--SCHOLAR OF MAGICS at Amazon
--KUSHIEL'S DART at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Saturday, April 17, 2004

Tinker

It seems to be award season, as the Sapphire Awards for the Best Science Fiction Romance have also been announced. The award is given by the Science Fiction Romance Newsletter for the year's best work that "combines science fiction or fantasy and romance as critical components of the plot". The first place in the Novel Category went to TINKER by Wen Spencer, second place to DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and third place to SKYFALL by Catherine Asaro. In the Short Fiction Category, the winners were Catherine Asaro, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Susan Grant, in that order.

--TINKER review page
--SKYFALL review page [more]

Posted by rebekah @ 05:42 PM ET [Link]



Friday, April 16, 2004

Well-Done Dragons -- Rebekah on Mercedes Lackey's ALTA
Angel Seeker

ALTA is about a slave who escapes to his homeland with a stolen dragon. Kiron was a slave in his enemy's Jousters (dragon-riders) compound. There he learned about dragons then hid and raised his own egg. (JOUST is about how he raises the dragon.) He travels to his homeland of Alta, full of hopes that he can revive Alta's beleagured Jouster ranks by teaching the technique of hand-raising and therefore taming dragons--as opposed to capturing them wild and constantly drugging them into submission.

While Kiron could have easily been looked at as a spy and enemy warrior, he lucks out when he rescues a Lord's daughter from a crocodile; he's given powerful protection and accepted into Altan society and their Jousters. He goes about introducing his techniques and has some success, but the more he becomes aware of Altan society and power structure, the more he realizes how corrupt it is and how ultimately his country is as much to blame for the constant war as his enemy's.

ALTA is SFR--there is a nice teenage romance with a HEA ending. It can be read without having read JOUST, though there are a few relationships that won't make as much sense without it.

I liked the book, I'd recommend it, especially to someone who likes well-done dragons, but ALTA has the same problem as JOUST--it lacks narrative pull. The story just goes along with no real goal or endpoint in sight, merely telling the story of a boy's life. About page 150 something shows up that might be a goal or purpose, but the story still veers this way and that.

Luckily, the main character is likeable and the world and secondary characters are interesting. It is set in a land similar to ancient Egypt, with a fairly complex culture. I didn't expect where the story did end up, so I guess some of that meandering helps it be less predictable.--Rebekah

--ALTA review page
--ALTA at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Shinn's Best Since ARCHANGEL -- Suzanne
Angel Seeker

ANGEL-SEEKER is Sharon Shinn's best book since ARCHANGEL.  Set a year after the events of ARCHANGEL, it tells two interweaving stories.  The first concerns Elizabeth, an orphaned and impoverished woman forced to work for her room and board at her cousin's farm and have her life made miserable by her cousin's wife.  So she runs away to the new city the angels are building and decides to join the "angel seekers"--mortal women who try to seduce an angel in order to have an angel child, thereby insuring their future.

The second plot line follows angel Obadiah, who is shot through his wing while flying over the desert, and falls.  Near death, he is discovered and secretly nursed to health by a Jansai woman, Rebekah. Afterwards, thoughts of her haunt him.

The Jansai hate angels because their lucrative trade in slaves has been banned by the Archangel Gabriel.  Obadiah is sent by Gabriel to engage in political manouevering with the Jansai and meets Rebekah again. She is as attracted to him as he to her, but they must meet in secret because the patriarchal Jansai society cloisters and subjugates its women.

Rebekah is a moving and well-written character, her story filled with gripping conflict. I was thoroughly involved in her relationship with Obadiah and the seemingly insoluble cultural differences threatening to doom their love.

Elizabeth's story is not quite as involving, but I liked the fact that this somewhat selfish and self-absorbed character is moved to grow and change. She's faced with a number of pathways and eventually succeeds in choosing a life and partner she wants.

I liked ANGEL-SEEKER very much.  You don't need to read ARCHANGEL first in order to enjoy the story--it's self-contained--but you might be a bit confused about the world of Samaria and the angels' place in it if you haven't.  Besides, ARCHANGEL does a good job of setting the stage in Shinn's world and is a great story!--Suzanne


ANGEL-SEEKER was probably my favorite Shinn since ARCHANGEL, too, although I liked SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN very much.  Elizabeth and Rebekah were neither too passive nor too reckless, unlike the respective heroines of ANGELICA.--Preeti


--ANGEL-SEEKER review page
--ANGEL-SEEKER at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Monday, April 12, 2004

Paladin of SoulsThe nominations are in for this year's Hugo awards, one of Science Fiction & Fantasy's most prestigious honors, and on the list are two romantic SF works! One is Lois McMaster Bujold's novel, Paladin of Souls, and the other is Catherine Asaro's novella, "Walk in Silence". The Hugos are nominated and voted on by popular vote, so they really reflect the tastes of the active SF&F community. Also nominated are non-romantic-sf fiction by some of our favorite authors -- Neil Gaiman (Short Story) and Connie Willis (Novella).

On the same ballot, but not a Hugo (it is sponsored by Dell Magazines), is the "John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer" aka the Campbell. One of the nominees is Chris Moriarty, whose SPIN STATE has the romantic SF community all abuzz and on many of our to-be-read-soon piles.

--PALADIN OF SOULS review page
--PALADIN OF SOULS at Amazon
--SPIN STATE at Amazon [more]

Posted by rebekah @ 12:32 PM ET [Link]



Saturday, April 10, 2004

Werewolves and Dragons -- Danielle in Brief
Bitten

BITTEN by Kelly Armstrong
Loved the idea of the protagonist being the only female werewolf in the world, which understandably makes her rather, um, sought after. Elena (the werewolf) has a great voice, and Armstrong has fun with the frustrations of a wild thing trying to "pass" in a modern city. (The tone is very Buffy-ish, with lots of light quippage.)

I normally hate the dominant male type of romance hero, but I liked Clay. After all, he literally is an alpha wolf, so he has an excuse for behaving that way.--Danielle

***

TOOTH AND CLAW by Jo Walton
An absolutely bizarre premise--a Victorian novel (think deathbed confessions, long-lost relatives, and court cases) in which the characters are all dragons--pulled off with tons of style. The narration hits exactly the right Trollopian note of amused satire.

As in most Victorian novels, marriage proposals play a large part in the story, so I'd say this definitely qualifies as SFR.--Danielle

--BITTEN at Amazon
--TOOTH AND CLAW at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Thursday, April 8, 2004

Caroline Stevermer's A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS -- Suzanne
Scholar of Magics

This delightful book is set in the same world as A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, but can be read as a stand-alone. The focus of the story is the ancient Glasscastle University, a rival to Oxford or Cambridge, but where the curriculum consists of the learning, research and practice of magic. The time is slightly after the turn of the last century. It is a slightly different world--one where magic, if not commonplace, is certainly present.

Samuel Lambert's last job was as a sharpshooter at Kiowa Bob's Wild West Show. He is inivited to Glasscastle to use his shooting skills to help with a top-secret project the college is involved in. There, he meets Jane, who teaches mathematics at a women's college of magics in Normandy and who has traveled home to visit her sister. We see the events that unfold through Lambert's point of view, and while Lambert is very much a fish out of water as the American cowboy that almost everyone underestimates, his internal dialogue is a joy.

As you might suspect, sinister events take place, and our young couple is caught up in a whirlwind adventure.

The book is full of delightful settings and witty dialogue. I love coming across a throw-away line like this (referring to the college's dining hall):

"It was too hot that evening for the customary menu of meat and two vegetables, comprehensively boiled, but out of sheer habit, Lambert ate dinner in the hall just the same, right down to sampling the tray of cheeses offered as a final blow to the digestion."

Or this little bit as Lambert meets up with Jane:

"She was dressed in what Lambert could only assume was the latest Parisian mode, since he'd never seen anything quite as sleek in his life. Her hat alone must have cost a month's pay. Only high style could get away with doing that to a bird."

The book is full of goodies like these. And though a romance in the best sense of the word, it is long on plot and short on actual romantic scenes. However, the intrepid couple do have a moment or two. I expect Lambert will find a way to continue his wooing in the next book.

I highly recommend this little gem, and am greatly anticipating Stevermer's next book.--Suzanne


--Book 1, A COLLEGE OF MAGICS review page
--Book 2, A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS review page
--A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Monday, April 5, 2004

Favorite SF Military Heroine? - Poll
Barrayar

After having Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian books recommended for a few years, I thought I'd skim through one--the third one is what I had on hand. I wasn't sucked in by the story, but that Lucien, whoa--he was riveting. He reminded me somewhat of Michael from the La Femme Nikita TV series, in that he's hot, coldly deadly (Lucien is an amoral sociopath, if I skimmed correctly), perhaps playing lots of different sides in order to secretly protect the heroine, and whose motives are unknowable and suspect--but whom you want to believe is motivated by mad love for the kick-ass heroine; he's capable of killing for her and dying for her. Plus he's charming and a younger man to boot. If this affair between Jani and Lucien was more prominent in the series, I'd be reading them all right now instead of creating this poll. :-)

Anyway, enough drooling. Skimming through LAW OF SURVIVAL, my mind turned to warrior heroines, which led to this poll question. If you'd like, please use the comments field to explain why you like one over another or to suggest other heroines.

Who is your favorite far-future military/-istic heroine from among this list? Creator name is in parentheses.
-----
Soz Valdoria (Catherine Asaro) 188 26%
Cordelia Naismith (Lois McMaster Bujold) 199 28%
Miri Robertson (Sharon Lee & Steve Miller) 177 25%
Paksenarrion (Elizabeth Moon) 8 1%
Catherine Li (Chris Moriarty) 6 1%
Jani Kilian (Kristine Smith) 44 6%
Honor Harrington (David Weber) 79 11%
Heris Serrano (Elizabeth Moon) 15 2%
-----
Total votes: 716
Start date: 04/05/04
End date: 04/15/04

Posted by Preeti [Link]



Saturday, April 3, 2004

Merry Gentry Series Addictive, Better Than Anita Blake -- JW
Seduced by Moonlight

I read these via audiobook, but anyway, I've now been through all three of Laurell K. Hamilton's series about Faerie Princess Meredith and her struggles to become true heir to the throne of the Unseelie court: A KISS OF SHADOWS, A CARESS OF TWILIGHT, SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT. I'd read the first book when it was published but never got around to the second one, so this time I started with book one again and went straight through.  

I loved them.  

I enjoy the Anita Blake books, but I like these stories better, with their mixture of fantasy, magic, sex, violence, action, and at times heart-wrenching emotion; this series is addictive.  I had a difficult time making myself stop listening to do anything else.

Both the sex and the violence are explicit, and while I never mind explicit sex , I really don't like gore, yet I love these books anyway.  I think maybe it's because the characters care, and the author makes you care, so the blood and graphic violence is not simply there for shock value as it seems to be in so many violent novels.  

Caress of TwilightEveryone probably already know this but for a brief overview:

The main premise of the story so far is that Princess Meredith has to become pregnant to become true heir to throne.  In this, she is in a "race" with her very evil cousin Cel, the one who is always trying to kill her.  Her aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness, has provided her with a selection of Guards to be her lovers.  The first one to get her pregnant will become her husband and will be king to rule at her side.  In the meanwhile, Meredith is building relationships with her men while trying to stay alive in a jungle of court politics, win and hold alliances that will help her gain power and thus safety, and, oh yes, in her spare time she can figure out her rapidly growing magical powers.  

I'm really enjoying the fantasy of Merry and her harem of fascinating males.  All of them have interesting qualities and backstories, with hints of much more to come.  

It's obvious that this series is never going to have a HEA ending; if and when Merry gets pregnant, either it's going to be some magical event where no one man becomes her husband and/or true love, or if she ever decides on one true love, he is shortly going to be lost to her, one way or another. I think we can pretty much count on that much, so not hoping too much for that kind of happy conclusion will make the series more enjoyable for me.  

I'm not a big fan of the never-ending saga, which both this series and the other one are, but LKH does a better job of most, since while each book leaves me wanting more, it does not leave me feeling cheated, which is the effect of most unfinished stories.  These books are more episodic than "part 1 of 3" or whatever.  I'm a little sad now, though, since it will be at least a year until I get another installment.

Kiss of ShadowsJust a couple of other comments:

I do see many similarities with the Anita Blake stories, particularly in the way in which new and greater magical powers keep being thrown in before anyone (reader or characters) even gets used to the old ones.  :-)  Also, in book 2, CARESS OF TWILIGHT, there seemed to be a major plot element simply dropped.  There were two dangerous "entities" loose, and only one was addressed by the end of the book.  The other is not mentioned again.

I particularly enjoyed the ending of the third book, SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT, with the "good night, John-boy" scene with Merry bedded down (for sleep, those of you with evil minds <g>) with all her men. Very touching, and very effective in showing how Merry is winning the most important prize of all: trust.  It is interesting seeing her grow into a true leader.

Happy reading.--JW

--Seduced by Moonlight review page
--Seduced by Moonlight at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]


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