I enjoyed this very much. The Grimm fairy tale that it's based on was one of my favourites as a child--I was a little morbid, what can I say--and I was happy to see it done so imaginatively. I would compare this book to McKinley's fairy tale retellings in THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE; if you like those, you'll appreciate this. The prose was lovely, if a bit self-consciously "literary" (some of the figurative language tries too hard for an effect).
The romance was subtly done and convincing. There were more philosophical musings on the nature of identity and justice than I'd have expected in a YA novel, but I liked the fact that Ani didn't simply step back into her old life without being changed, and without acknowledging the cost.--Danielle
I just finished this yesterday--it's one of the few books I've found entertaining enough recently to be worth writing a review. In contrast to Edith, I liked it better than Rachel Caine's Weather Warden books. Betsy was an annoying twit, but a funnier one than Joanne. Her distinctive, whiny voice made me laugh out loud (something I rarely do while reading).
If I read more "chick lit," I suppose I might have found it derivative; since I don't, the concept was still fresh enough to amuse me. While I'm not a shoe fetishist either, Betsy's footwear lust was done well enough that I bought it. She critiques everyone's fashion choices so much that it's obvious she thinks about these things a lot.
Another thing I liked about Betsy's world was that it wasn't entirely heteronormative. One of her best friends is gay, and there are some nods to vampires', um, polymorphous sexual appetites.
It wasn't a romance to me; I didn't particularly like her love interest, or care whether they ended up together. But it was a funny, snappy fantasy read with lots of black humour.--Danielle
The end of the first book has a high HSQ (Holy Sh-- Quotient); if you don't like loose ends I wouldn't start it without the second close at hand.
The first book was better, I think; I really liked Caine's detailed descriptions of working weather magic. I don't know enough about meteorology to know if it's accurate, but at least she made it concrete. There's rather too much "woo woo" hand-waving in the second book.
And I agree with Edith that if Joanne is supposed to be so tough, she should show it. She lets people get away with too much--Betsy, despite her airheadedness, was meaner.--Danielle
News and Speculation - Viehl, Logston, Elliott, Arthur
--S.L. Viehl will have new vampire series out under the name 'Lynn Viehl'. There's a big website promotion at Darkyn. (Read an interesting interview about the website and Viehl's style in general at Trashotron.)
--Kate Elliott finally finished the first draft of the CROWN OF STARS in September. It's going to be another brick-and-a-half. Hope publication date is announced soon. You can read an exerpt at her website.
--Interesting about the Keri Arthur. [We previously announced that Keri Arthur sold dark urban fantasy FULL MOON RISING and two sequels to Bantam Spectra.] Wasn't she with ImaJinn or someplace similar? Is Bantam Spectra looking for talent in romantic/paranormal small/epresses? They're publishing Linnea Sinclair too. Also, Berkley Sensation seems to be mining Ellora's Cave for talent. (Didn't Christine Warren also get a print contract with someone? In fact, it seems like just about everyone Linda used to rave about on the boards has got a publishing contract *g*)
Paige and her supporting cast--boyfriend Lucas, foster daughter Savannah, friend Elena, pain-in-the-ass acquaintance Cassandra, etc.--have appeared in previous books, but I think you can enjoy this without having read the previous contemporary supernatural fantasies. Paige and Lucas are great characters and a nice couple, a realistically young one.
INDUSTRIAL MAGIC focuses on sorcerous cabals, kinda like mafia but kinda not. Lucas is the son of the leader of one of the cabals, but he has rebelled against his father by becoming a do-gooder lawyer. His dangerous and powerful father favors Lucas over all his children, though, and is constantly trying to lure him back into the cabal.
This leads to the plot of the story: Paige, a witch, and Lucas, a sorcerer, hop around country to figure out who is killing the children of various cabal members. Investigating the murders and stopping the killer inevitably forces Lucas to re-engage with his father. Paige's main relationship arc is with Cassandra, the magnificently self-centered vampire who is now facing her own mortality. Lots of other familiar characters texture the story.
As is normal for me, I enjoyed the relationship stuff more than the mystery. The thriller aspect of this story did intrigue me, though, right from the beginning. The pace of the story--the urge to find out what happens next--kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. The set-up part of the story was great--it was only once they started solving the murders that I felt the story got bogged down; I enjoyed the suspense more than the resolution of it.
Still, I went away thinking Armstrong has created an intriguing world even if she doesn't draw me in with every book set there.--Preeti
Kim Harrison's DEAD WITCH WALKING--Just Right (Laurie)
This looks to be a series worth following (and there aren't too many I find worth following these days) so this one gets a recommend. I very much enjoyed the world Kim Harrison is developing and the dynamics between the different characters.
The first 100 or so pages were interesting but a bit hard to get into. I was a bit confused about living versus dead vamps and witches and was slightly annoyed that the ominous "Turn" was talked about for pages on end before it was finally explained (loved the explanation--just wish it had occurred sooner). The author throws around lots of unfamiliar slang which also doesn't help out with the confusion.
I did read this directly on the heels of Laurell K. Hamilton's latest, INCUBUS DREAMS, and couldn't help wishing that Rachel had a bit more of a kick-ass attitude (as Linda mentioned in her comments). She's tough but needed to be saved by others just a wee too much for my liking. But, as I said, this could also be due to the fact that I'd just read an Anita Blake novel.
The blend of action, humor, and character interaction was just right and the author has created some very intriguing secondary characters. I want to find out more about Rachel, her vampire friend Ivy, and Nick (is he or isn't he entirely human?) and can't wait to see more of Jenk's the sexy little pixie man. The romance is very slight but it shows potential in the future.--Laurie
Another Round on Clare Dunkle's CLOSE KIN (Preeti, Margaret)
Margaret, I finally read your comments about CLOSE KIN today. Glad to see we thought it could have been a tighter story. As to your comments about beauty--which I presume are in response to my saying "I don't get this thing about elves and goblins and their notions of beauty"--it's not the message so much as the worldbuilding that must support it that I find to be unconvincing.--Preeti
I'll be interested to see how she manages in the next book. Unfortunately I have a nasty feeling that, as a result of the gratuitous ending of this book, I now know more than I want to about how the plot's going to go.
I commented on beauty because I think it's an important theme of the series. In the first book the emphasis was that ugly doesn't equal evil or stupid. In this book it was that beauty doesn't equal good or intelligent.
One thing I found interesting was that, from the Goblin point of view, having even one drop of Goblin blood (as determined by a blood test) means you're a Goblin.--Margaret
I thought it might be trying to turn the "one-drop rule" (where, in America, if you had even "one drop" of black blood, you were considered black) on its head, making the "one drop" test a tool of inclusiveness instead of intolerance.--Preeti
The December 2004 Locus contains interviews with writers Michael Chabon and Karen Joy Fowler, a report from this year's World Fantasy Awards banquet (which I enjoyed attending), and forthcoming books listings for the US and Britain, through September 2005.
Some news: --Dave Duncan's SF/Fantasy duology, CHILDREN OF CHAOS and MOTHER OF LIES went to Tor. --Keri Arthur sold dark urban fantasy FULL MOON RISING and two sequels to Bantam Spectra. --There were many new acquisitions by Firebird, including Graham Joyce's TWOC, Pat Murphy's THE WILD GIRLS and THE CITY NOT LONG AFTER, and Ellen Klages's THE GREEN GLASS SEA. --Fantasy author Kelley Armstrong sold mainstream thriller NO HUMANS INVOLVED to Bantam. --Anne Kelleher turned in SILVER'S BANE, second in her "Faerie Queen" trilogy, to Luna. --Julie Czerneda was one of the winners of the 2004 Prix Aurora Award, given by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.
Ani is a princess who is able to learn and speak the language of animals. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the gift of speaking to people (I’d call it charisma), which the kings and queens of her country have always had. Probably because of this lack, her mother decides that even though Ani is the Crown Princess and was supposed to become Queen, she will be married to the prince of the neighboring powerful kingdom. Ani feels hurt and deeply betrayed as she’s sent off with a royal retinue.
Near the end of her journey, she has to flee for her life. She is saved by peasants, dons a disguise, and becomes a goose girl as she tries to figure out how to reclaim her rightful place. When she acquires the post of Goose Girl, Ani slowly and incrementally makes friends and learns the difficult speech of the geese. One of the men she meets is one of the prince’s guards who has problems with his horse. He visits often, bringing her lunch. She falls in love, of course, but the romance is not to be.
Ani is forced to decide on a course of action.... There were many tense moments as Ani eludes her captors, and I wondered how she could possibly be saved approaching the gripping ending. This book is a nice blend of adventure and romance. Definitely recommended.--Edith
I saved this book for the plane trip to Worldcon. I hate traveling and knew I could count on Briggs to distract me from the stress. Preeti already gave a summary of the book, so I’ll only add that I also loved this book.
Briggs is, hands-down, a master at creating likable, decent heroes you fall in love with: strong, capable, and above all, honorable. What also amazes me is how very good she is at creating satisfying endings even though you know there’s another book to come. I detest being left hanging and won’t usually read duologies or trilogies unless I’ve got all the books in my hot little hands, but I know I can trust Briggs not to leave me angry and unsatisfied at the end of a book. And in any case, it’s never a hardship to re-read any of her books in preparation for the next. She deserves to be in hardcover.--Edith
Like Preeti, I thought this book was worth reading, but the characters weren't as compelling as THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. Since Emily and Seylin were too young and uncomplicated to be really interesting, I think they merely provided an excuse for Dunkle to tell Sable's much more engrossing story. The blurb misdirects us as to who the "main" characters are. I thought Dunkle did a good job showing how the two elf women overcame their fear of goblins, although I think it happened a little too quickly.
The ending was definitely tacked on to foreshadow the contents of the next book, and it made an unsatisfying ending. Those of us who are Dunkle fans would have read the next book without that ending. Not a good editorial decision, IMO.--Edith
CLOSE KIN by Clare Dunkle -- Enjoyable, Uneven (Margaret)
I read CLOSE KIN, by Clare B. Dunkle, a couple of days ago and agree with Preeti. I enjoyed the book but don't think it actually had a plot. Each thread was fine but they didn't really braid together.
I expected the Seylin/Emily thread to be the main one but it lacked depth. I would have liked a bit more about them before the proposal scene--I expect the author knows what's been going on in the six years since the last book but we don't, although some bits are filled in later. However we do get some idea of Seylin's character--what sort of man (goblin, elf, whatever) tries to propose to a woman who is entertaining a group of children? I felt that the relationship was based less on love than on Seylin's infatuation and Emily's not wishing to lose a dear friend.
The Sable thread had much more depth and dominated the book. In this book we actually meet Elves, which really reinforces the message of the last book that beauty does not equal goodness, intelligence or kindness and that, correspondingly, ugliness does not equal evil, stupidity or cruelty.
I enjoyed the scenes between Marak and Kate--it was nice to see how they were getting on after seven years of marriage.
The last chunk was very strange--it came out of nowhere and led nowhere. My feeling on reading it was "this will lead to Trouble!" so I presume the trouble will eventuate in the next book. Which is rather strange, now I come to think about. If I can see trouble, surely Marak could as well so why didn't he do something about it? Perhaps, as was shown with his dealings with Kate's uncle, he doesn't have much understanding of what humans will do if really pissed off.
This book was enjoyable but uneven. More intensity in the Seylin/Emily relationship would have helped balance it.--Margaret
Note that I'm not a fan of novellas since, for me, they're generally too short. That should explain most of my reaction to these stories.
Sharon Shinn's story was the strongest. It's about a young Manadavvi heiress yearning for a bad-boy angel. I didn't understand why these two people should fall in love given their very limited meetings and interactions. Pleasant story but not unforgettable. This story takes place some years after ARCHANGEL, so the high points for me were the glimpses of Gabriel, Rachel, and their wonderful, young, responsible son.
Patricia McKillip's story of the artist who learns to see the person behind the woman he uses as a model was interesting but not particulary involving. Usually her writing draws me in no matter how strange her story, but this time didn't do much for me. I just wanted to thwack the hero in the head and say OPEN YOUR EYES.
Lynn Kurland's story about a young boy who begs his parents for his favorite story of derring-do started charmingly. The father relates the tale of a high-born young girl who flees from an arranged marriage and searches for a mage to help her decode her dead mother's book. She arrives at a run-down castle where the peasant who inhabits the place turns out to be (surprise) the hero. He's handsome, she's beautiful, it's predictable, blah blah blah.
I didn't read the Delacroix story because I figured it would be as predictable as the Kurland.--Edith
UNDEAD AND UNWED by MaryJanice Davidson (not a romance -- yet?)
I read this one and thought it was barely OK. It's about a woman who dies but becomes one of the undead. Mostly it's about the heroine understanding her new status (she has some cool powers) and her fight with the head of the undead. It appears to have the beginnings of a romance in it.
My biggest problem was with the heroine's attitude: she has too much of it. This went beyond feisty, IMO, to a bit stupid. She doesn't know the limits of her new powers yet is mouthy towards people who could harm her. In spite of the fact that the nasty people could hurt her friends and family, she doesn't rein herself in.
And what's with the new chicklit trend that heroines have to be really into shoes? I am *so* sick of Manolo Blahniks mentioned in all the chicklit stories. What a pathetic lame overworn female stereotype. FWIW, I am a person who has two pairs of tennis shoes (white & black), two paris of sandals (white & black), and two pairs of dress shoes (guess the colors!).
I loved the first Rachel Caine book, ILL WIND, and think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I hadn't just read MaryJanice Davidson's UNDEAD AND UNWED. Unfortunately this one also had a heroine with attitude who is into SHOES. I started out thinking "Geeze, not again!" but was quickly drawn into the story. There were two huge weak points, however, and they both came at the end of the book. The first comes when the heroine refuses to take advantage of the opportunity to kill a person who is the personification of evil. This pissed me off. If she’s going to be written as strong and feisty, then it would be really nice if she had some balls instead of being a pathetic soft-hearted weenie. The other weak point was the confusing and unsatisfying explanation of the "blue sparkle" phenomenon. So all in all, I'd give this a mild recommendation. Fun, but flawed.--Edith
Poll: What is on your holiday wish list?
Thanks to imprints like Firebird and the smarts of other publishers, we've lately been gifted by reissues of books like SORCERY AND CECELIA, WAR FOR THE OAKS, and Patricia Briggs's books. Also authors have resurfaced with some long-lost stories like THE GRAND TOUR, new "Black Jewels" stories from Anne Bishop, and the upcoming METALLIC LOVE. But we're greedy and want more! Which of the following would be on top of your holiday wish list? (If we get enough comments of other choices people wanted, we'll run another poll.)