Mercedes Lackey's PHOENIX AND ASHES--While-Away-the-Hours Good (Preeti)
Mercedes Lackey's PHOENIX AND ASHES sets the Cinderella fairy tale in WWI England. I think it's the novelty of the setting that hooked me, the romance of a wartime era that I haven't encountered in my reading too often. Plus the story was more readable than other Lackeys I've tried.
Eleanor Robinson is a bright young Englishwoman denied a chance to study at Oxford as promised, and even to have a decent life, after her doting industrialist father suddenly marries a wicked woman and transfers all his attention and affection to her. Upon his death, Eleanor's stepmother, a powerful elemental master of earth, brutally and magically binds her to the hearth in her home in order to bilk her of her inheritance. She also makes the townspeople forget about Eleanor.
Reginald Fenyx is local gentry and someone who was a friend to Eleanor during her childhood despite their different social strata. A WWI pilot, he's also an elemental master of air. Now he's back in the countryside recuperating from an accident. He and Eleanor manage to reconnect and fall in love, except that he doesn't know how hellish her life has become.
Eleanor has to find a way to free herself, defeat her stepmother, and come into her own powers. And nab her prince, of course. All along the way, the script of a darker version of Cinderella is followed. For example, instead of glass slippers, we have a four-fingered glove, and a gruesome twist to the tale that is.
I liked the plot, and I liked all the characters. I rooted for Eleanor and couldn't wait to see the eeevvil stepmother, Alison, get her just deserts. What more can you hope for from a fairy tale retelling? (Don't answer.) This was a basic and fun story with just enough new elements to keep me happy.
Overall, I recommend PHOENIX AND ASHES. Reading it whiled away several hours enjoyably.--Preeti
Preeti already gave a concise review of this book, so I'm going to try not to say too much about the plot and spoil the surprises. In short, I was very happy with the romance in Rachel Caine's HEAT STROKE. Additionally, seeing the view of the world first laid out in ILL WIND from the other side (the djinn side) was fascinating. The history of the only other living man-made djinn and his tragic romance and what followed was really something!! I was interested in all of it--the mystery of the rip and the blue sparkles included. Confused about the danger, too, since you were kept guessing on what it was...but never bored. And while Joanne and David do manage to solve the mystery and save the world, you do get left with a kind of cliffhanger on another front. Preeti, I'm so jealous that you got to read CHILL FACTOR already!! I think it's coming out this year, though, so I'll try to be patient. :-) You can put me in for a high recommend for HEAT STROKE in the meantime!--Linda
Caitlin Brennan's THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL--More Than Girlish Fantasy (Lynn)
I almost didn't read THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL or even buy it. Magic white horses who have mystical bonds with their riders? A "the only girl" plot? I was thinking unflattering things about Mercedes Lackey wannabes, and even Lackey's take on that can be a little twee.
The beginning was unpromising--girl gets mystic call to magic mountain, even though girls have never been called to this sort of thing for a thousand years. (Don't writers get how *long* a thousand years is?) Also, she disguises herself as a boy during some of the initial testing. Despite this, I sure kept turning the pages.
I had heard that this Caitlin Brennan was Judith Tarr writing under a pseudonym, so even though I sort of cringed, I bought it. It just goes to show that there is no cliche or idea so obvious that a good writer can't make something really excellent out of it.
Short summary: doom is coming and only the heroine will be able to save the country, and possibly the world. But tradition and male hostility may cause her to be rejected, possibly cause her death, and prevent her from getting the training she needs. Additionally, a "prince" from a hostile country is trying to subvert her and seduce her over to their side.
The story has unexpected grit in a number of places that I think would offer a hard transition for a reader coming to this Luna book out of romance tropes, but I found it to be a very satisfying story. The two most obvious gritty bits are a near rape near the beginning of the book and the conflict between and appealing nature of the two main male characters, along with the sexual relationship the heroine has at various points with each of them. It isn't at all an obvious "good" and "evil" story.
I particularly liked a secondary character who is the heiress to the kingdom. She has real power and the willingness to make decisions and own her power.
The horses were also wonderful and very naturalistic for all their godlike powers, which is only to be expected since Tarr raises Lipizzan horses.
So, in spite of an unpromising premise, this is a wonderful book. Highly recommended. I want the next one!--Lynn
Rachel Caine --I scored an ARC of Rachel Caine's CHILL FACTOR (Weather Warden Bk3) at the Ace/Roc forthcoming books panel! I've already read it and loved it.
Wen Spencer --In a panel on sex scenes, Wen Spencer said she couldn't find a place for sex scenes in the sequel to TINKER. Nothing wrong with that, but I hope that doesn't mean that sexual and romantic tension are also lacking in TINKER. --Wen Spencer's A BROTHER'S PRICE is due out in September 2005.
Charlaine Harris --Charlaine Harris' next Sookie Stackhouse book, DEAD AS A DOORNAIL, is due out in May 2005 in hardcover. --There will be a Sookie Stackhouse story in the Dana Stabenow edited anthology POWERS OF DETECTION, along with stories from lots of cool authors: Sharon Shinn, Anne Bishop, Simon Green. --Charlaine Harris will have a new series debuting next year about Harper Connelly (sp?), a woman who is struck by lightning and becomes a geiger counter for dead bodies. (Can you tell I went to a lot of panels featuring Charlaine Harris or talking about her books?) --There will be a Sookie story in the anthology BITE, which will be released in January 2005. Other authors are Laurell K. Hamilton (with a story set around the time of OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY), MaryJanice Davidson (with a Betsy Taylor story), Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor.
Elizabeth Haydon --Elizabeth Haydon's next series, "The Great War Trilogy", is continuing in her current world.
Patricia Briggs --The title of Patricia Briggs' next book is tentatively RAVEN'S STRIKE; It's due out in August 2005. --Patricia Briggs' earlier books are getting reprinted, but I didn't note which titles.
Jim Butcher --Jim Butcher's sequel to FURIES OF CALDERON, called ACADEM'S FURY, is due out in hardcover in July 2005. Ace has bought three books so far of the six Butcher envisions in the series.
Dawn Cook --Dawn Cook's new series begins with THE DECOY PRINCESS. Her current "Truth" series will be wrapped up with the December release in which the romantic triangle gets resolved.
S.L. Viehl --S.L. Viehl's next books will be two Cherijo (a.k.a. Stardoc) mass market paperbacks. Our wallets are cheering!
Carol Berg --Carol Berg's D'Arnath series is now a tetralogy instead of a trilogy.
Sharon Shinn --Next Sharon Shinn is MYSTIC AND RIDER, "A Novel of Twelve Houses". Fantasy kingdom. Each book focuses on one of the characters from a company of heroes. This first book has a woman mystic who can work fire. The hero, a rider (whatever that is) doesn't have use for magic. Inevitably, they fall in love. Tension in that one of them might have to go back to the kingdom to make an arranged marriage. Ginjer Buchanan, the editor, said the book had "gentle romance" and that she "cried twice". Sequel is titled THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE. Warning: I was taking notes as fast as I could, but I could have recorded some information incorrectly!
Some info: --Kelley Armstrong sold three fantasy thrillers and delivered HAUNTED to Anne Groell at Bantam via Helen Heller. --Kim Harrison sold three new "Rachel Morgan" novels--the fourth, fifth, and sixth in the series--to Diana Gill at Eos via Richard Curtis. --Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, writing as "Rachel Caine", sold two supernatural thrillers to Silhouette Bombshell via Lucienne Diver. --Sharon Shinn turned in THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE, sequel to MYSTIC AND RIDER, to Ginjer Buchanan at Ace. --Tanya Huff turned in SMOKE AND MIRRORS to Sheila Gilbert at DAW.
Holly Black's TITHE -- Too Adult for YA Label (Rebekah)
I'm having a hard time deciding what I thought about this book TITHE, by Holly Black. It had a distinct style and strong voice. The female lead, Kaye, really grew on me. The book does a good job of showing grey areas and complexity in species/peoples and individuals. There are no white hats and black hats, with the most interesting and ambiguous character being the male lead, Roibon. It's a fresh take on Faerie--no pretty veneer, just straight to the heart of what are inhuman and ultimately unfathomable creatures.
Ok, so my big question is.... This is a young adult book?? There's an intense erotic S/M relationship, an adult who plans how he is going to kill people with a machine gun, and a lot of--what's a good word--debauchery. The violence is vivid and explicit (an attempted rape, gouging out an eye, pulling the wing off of a fairy and letting it flop around on the floor, etc). There's a creature that talks at length about the joy of drowning humans just to watch them thrash and fade. Maybe I haven't been reading the same YA as everyone else, but I found it jarring.
That said, I do recommend this book. It's got great ambigous characters, atmosphere and it sucked me right in. But, zhesh, shelf it in the adult section.--Rebekah
I was reading adult books as a preteen, so I had no problems with the darkness of TITHE. I think there's tension between wanting to protect minors and letting them know the world as it really is. Don't know where that line should be. TITHE didn't cross it for me, although it did raise my eyebrows. It definitely mirrored a certain type of not-uncommon teenage experience, and I think teenagers should be allowed to work through darkness to heroism on a more accessible level than "evil darklord" versus "pure heroic village boy or girl" set-up. I think TITHE is more akin to the Grimm fairy tales in that way (i.e., in having sex and violence and the darker side of human nature.)--Preeti
The ambiguity of the characters didn't bother me (I think it's good) or the realistic potrayal of teenagers or even the sex/drugs/rock-n-roll -- it was things like the very compelling portrayal of a serial killer mentality (the kelpie) and the character of Corny, particularly his way of thinking and his relationship with the spike-cloaked faerie. TITHE begs for a sequel and I wouldn't be surprised if the main evil in it would be Corny.--Rebekah
When I talk about "sex and violence and the darker side of human nature" I refer to all the dark things in the book. I don't think disturbing characterization and deeds need to be the sole province of adult literature if the book has a moral center. That said, I was quite surprised TITHE was a young adult book, but not dismayed by the label. I remember chalking it up to teenagers being forced to deal with sophisticated issues at a younger age than ever, for good or bad. I don't remember enough about Corny to predict whether he is redeemable or not in the sequel Black is writing. Really, really looking forward to the sequel.--Preeti
In an interview at TeenReads.Com, Holly Black says the sequel to TITHE, titled IRONSIDE, is due out in summer of 2006. "She's also working on a book set in the same world, but with a different protagonist, called VALIANT. That will be out in summer 2005."
I liked this book a lot. I'll probably buy the hardcover as soon as it comes out because I really feel it needs a reread. And probably will buy the ebook although I'll wait on that until the ebook goes down to paperback prices. I'm a book junkie though.
[Fans self some more, just remembering the book.]
But I'm probably weird. Part of that may be that I do read erotica, even though I do like a romantic subplot in that, so I may have a higher tolerance for overt and extensive sexuality in a book. This book has some scenes that I found "hot" but not erotic. In spite of being explicit, the underlying structure and purpose of the scenes didn't strike me as erotica-based but as aspects of character development. I would agree that this book could use somewhat more editing--more about that in a minute--but I like big, juicy books with lots of character stuff, and I'm happy with less plot.
In fact, there is a plot in this book, and if Hamilton were less successful, somebody could probably take the six or seven chapters that deal with strippers being drained dry by unknown vampires and the two or three chapters about a group of vampires that belong to a "vampire church" that doesn't follow traditional vampire protocols (and which may be producing--ummm--sort of "unhealthy, badly taught vampires") and there would probably be a book that the fans of the early Anita books would like. Especially if there was just a chapter or two of sex or sexual tension.
But what we have is the other half of the book which has a lot of stuff about sex and power and sex and Anita's relationships. And power. And sex. We see a lot more of Richard in this book, and this book seemed to rationalize what had happened to that triumvirate as well as explaining some of the character changes that we have seen in Jean-Claude, Richard, and Anita. I liked this partial redemption of Richard. It didn't seem to me that we had that many more new characters. If you haven't read the last couple of books recently, they might have blurred together, although they didn't for me.
Unlike Suzanne, I did like the Richard/Anita/Jean-Claude scene. I would agree with her though that it wasn't erotic, but in fact was somewhat edgy and awkward because the characters were experiencing it as edgy and awkward. I thought that was the point, but I can see how it wouldn't work for people.
I liked it that it seemed to me that Anita was moving toward a view that she could learn to live a life that wasn't what she expected it to be in terms of little house with a white picket fence. For me this had a wider symbolism that life isn't what we expect and sometimes it is scary and pushes us places we never wanted or expected to go.
By a conservative estimate probably half the book is sex scenes or leads up to sex scenes. I regard that as a feature, not a bug, but in spite of all the sex (and you may be gathering that there is a lot of sex, with a number of men), it isn't erotica--it's something else. I'm not sure I have a name for it, but the discomfort seems to me to be part of the intended effect.
And I think it's interesting to note that as the sex quotient has gone up, the ick/yuck/gore quotient has gone down. There were early books when I was skipping the dripping ichor... And I really haven't heard people mentioning that.
I did find plenty of Laurell K. Hamilton's trademark humor in INCUBUS DREAMS. For example, one character complains that he doesn't want to be offered sex only when it is a "metaphysical emergency", which for some reason I found hysterically funny. It still gives me the giggles a couple of weeks later. And Anita at one point says that a particular sexual episode was "accidental" (i.e., to feed the ardeur) and Jean-Claude comments wryly that only Anita could claim that she had "accidental sex."
I do have one major beef mentioned above about editing. I would hope that a lot of the numerous typo-level errors will be corrected in the published version of the book. But there is a *major, major* continuity error where a whole subplot was taken out of the book, and you lose a whole day and a whole series of events (Hamilton's blogs had given clues to what was deleted). And then at the end of the following chapter, there are still a bunch of artifacts from the part that is gone and still the effect of something that no longer happened in the book.
On the other hand, some continuity problems from previous books (e.g., Damian's age) are corrected in this.
The people who don't like the way the series has been going aren't going to like this book at all. And a lot of people who might like this book would never like or read the early books because they are fundamentally different, and you would have to like both. The style now almost reminds me of Diana Gabaldon, not in its discipiline, but in lush writing and character development over a number of books.
Obviously the publisher thinks someone will buy it....
So I liked it and recommend it but only if you are OK with what has happened so far because we are obviously still in for a long complex ride in books to come....
[Fans self again, looking forward to the release so I can read it again.]--Lynn
I read Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's THE GRAND TOUR this past weekend, and--dare I say it?--I was bored through great chunks of it. It was the delightful little bits interspersed throughout that kept me going. If anyone doesn't know, SORCERY AND CECELIA and THE GRAND TOUR are set in an alternate Regency England, and now Europe as well, in which magic exists and there's even a Royal College of Wizards.
Cousins Cecy and Kate get married and embark upon a wedding journey to the continent with their respective husbands and an aunt. They immediately stumble into a mystery with implications for the security of all Europe.
The full title explains much: THE GRAND TOUR, or The Purloined Coronation Regalia, being a revelation of matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, including extracts from the intimate diary of a Noblewoman and the sworn testimony of a Lady of Quality.
SORCERY AND CECELIA was composed of the two cousins exchanging letters; THE GRAND TOUR had Kate keeping a diary and Cecy recording a deposition for the authorities. This made Kate's documentation altogether the more interesting and intimate, not to mention lengthier, portion of the book. Although you have to work to believe that anyone's diary would read so much like a novel. I didn't quite get there.
In the beginning, I liked Cecy's depositions more because I thought the writer of that section had a stronger period feel and wittier writing. By the middle of the book, I was thoroughly in Kate's camp, not least because in a diary form you actually had some sweet, romantic scenes recorded between Kate and her new husband, Thomas. Kate's diaries had flashes of humor and wit as well.
Not that Kate wasn't annoying. Hers is the central emotional arc of the book--she goes from being wearingly self-conscious about herself to becoming...less so. I'm too used to intrepid heroines, I guess, to properly empathize with Kate even though her emotions are probably ones I'd share in her situation.
Cool thing: references to an older generation of characters being members of the League of the Pimpernel. And, oh, yeah, the mystery. I only became interested in it at the big climactic scene when all was solved, and then I decided it was cool, too.
Overall, I had to finish the book by sheer force of will, kept motivated because the mere idea of a Regency/fantasy combo is so cool, because good bits were scattered throughout, and because I liked SORCERY AND CECELIA so much. I keep going back and forth on whether I'd actually recommend THE GRAND TOUR. Today my answer is yes. A lukewarm yes.--Preeti