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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Sarah Zettel's IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW -- Preeti's and Linda's Reactions
In Camelot's Shadow

I read my first book from the Luna line and by Sarah Zettel: IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW. I'm happy to report it was an absorbing read. The story focuses on Risa, a girl who manages to save herself from attacks from her newly-discovered enemies with help from the gallant knight Gawain, who is nephew and heir to King Arthur.

Gawain is much taken by Risa's bravery in the face of adversity and her beauty; she, by his caring, strength, and general studliness. Gawain's weakness is women in need, so he wonders whether his feelings for Risa have staying power. Tension from Risa's point of view comes from wondering whether a baron's daughter fleeing her family with only a horse can aspire to marry Gawain. Together they manage to foil an evil sorcerer and witch's plots against Arthur's Camelot.

Since I actively avoid Arthurian retellings, I had some resistance to this story going in. But I think because this installment didn't dwell on Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot--although it seemed clear future books might--I was more open to the story. Plus the story of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady is my hands-down favorite remembered Arthurian tale from my childhood. I liked the way Zettel refashioned the Gawain stories, fleshing them out and tying them together in a satisfying way. Well, except for at the end. The resolutions felt less "grounded," more fairy-tale-like than the rest of the story.

If you care, in this book Arthur and Guinevere are noble and good, Lancelot is a glory hound, Merlin is bland, Morgaine is scheming and probably evil, and her son Mordred still a child. As much as I liked IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW, I don't know if I want to read more if they're about these very familiar characters coming to the fore. I recommend this one, though.--Preeti


I just finished this and highly enjoyed it too.  Thanks for the recommends.  I never would have tried it normally since I avoid anything that says "Arthurian" or "Camelot" in it.  But since this didn't center on Arthur and Lancelot, I was able to enjoy it thoroughly.  I loved Zettel's writing.  It gave you a real feeling for the time period without being boring.--Linda

--In Camelot's Shadow review page
--Other Luna Books
--In Camelot's Shadow at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Monday, March 29, 2004

Catherine Asaro and Laura Resnick Up for RITA Awards

The nominations for the 2004 Romance Writers of America's RITA awards have been posted, and science fiction author Catherine Asaro's SKYFALL is up for Best Paranormal Romance. She thinks it may be the first time ever that a book from a purely science fiction house (Tor in this case) has been nominated for a RITA. (More of us staffing this site need to read it, I guess!)

Also of interest is fantasy author Laura Resnick's nomination for her contemporary romance FALLEN FROM GRACE, written as Laura Leone. FALLEN FROM GRACE was just about my favorite romance novel from last year, and it'll be out in trade paperback in a couple of months. Resnick's fantasy novels were disappointingly lacking in the romance department (I've been told), but all that will hopefully change when the first of her books for the Luna line--DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY--is released in 2005. It will reportedly combine mystery, romance, humor and fantasy.

--SKYFALL at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Saturday, March 27, 2004

ILL WIND by Rachel Caine -- Preeti's Take
Ill Wind

What a fun read.  ILL WIND is about Joanne, a car-mad, full-of-attitude, mid- level weather warden in trouble and on the run.  Looping flashbacks explain her history with all the story's characters and the events that led up to the current situation.  I skipped around and read the book completely out of order, so I have only myself to blame for sometimes being confused.

The story had me itching to get back to it whenever I put it down, though.  I loved the whole magic system Caine created.  The weather, fire, and earth wardens are part of a bureacracy that keep earth habitable for humans.  The powers of many high-level wardens are augmented by enslaved djinn, while some others are tempted to seek unsanctioned power through opening themselves up to demons.   There might be a religious underpinning to all this somewhere that isn't explained in ILL WIND--demons and (briefly) angels and a One God are referenced--but, hey, that's what sequels are for.

There's also a love story that's integral to the plot.  To say more might ruin some of the pleasure in discovering the surprises in the story for yourself.  I really liked this enough to look forward to more.--Preeti

--ILL WIND at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Lee and Miller's BALANCE OF TRADE -- Suzanne's and Edith's Opinions
Balance of Trade

For you Miller and Lee fans, I just finished their latest--BALANCE OF TRADE--and really liked it.  There's just a hint of a possible romance to come, so it's not SFR, but I thought it better than THE TOMORROW LOG

It is set in the Liaden universe a couple of hundred years prior to the Clan Korval series, and is a kind of "Cinderella" story about a terran teenage boy, Jethri Gobelyn, who has been raised on a trading ship, but is despised and given the lowliest jobs on the ship by its captain (who is also his mother).  He performs a deed that gets the notice of a Liaden master trader and drastically changes his life.

The book has Miller and Lee's trademark sparkling dialogue and wonderful character development.  Jethri just comes to life on the page.  I followed his trials and tribulations with great anticipation.  The book is stand-alone, but leaves enough unresolved threads (including that possible romance) that there should be a sequel, although on Miller and Lee's website they say they haven't contracted for one.  I hope that situation will change since Jethri is a character whose story is definitely worth following further--I just fell in love with him.--Suzanne


I finished this last week.  Honestly, if it didn't have Miller and Lee's name on the cover, I doubt I would have bought it.  The book has one seriously hairy-butt-ugly cover.  I can't figure it out 'cause the artist is famous and his other covers aren't bad.  (He did the cover on Martha Wells's last book, which I loved.)

I also liked the story and absolutely concur with Suzanne's statement that BALANCE OF TRADE has "Miller and Lee's trademark sparkling dialogue and wonderful character development."

The nice thing about this one is that you don't have to remember the names and relationships of 20-odd people.  If they'd written a sequel to the last Liaden universe book, I DARE, I think I would have had to read the whole series again to properly appreciate it.--Edith

--BALANCE OF TRADE review page

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Monday, March 22, 2004

Sharon Shinn's ANGEL-SEEKER - Awesome, According to Preeti
Angel Seeker

Can I say it again? Every time I read one of Sharon Shinn's Samaria novels, I'm surprised, pleased, and impressed that she chooses to show the progress of a world through the love stories of its inhabitants. ANGEL-SEEKER was another marvelous mix of science fiction and romance, even better than last year's ANGELICA. But whereas ANGELICA was a prequel to the original Samaria trilogy, ANGEL-SEEKER continues after the events of ARCHANGEL (Rachel and Gabriel make appearances.)

ANGEL-SEEKER chronicles the lives of two women. One is an angel-seeker--a groupie in pursuit of love and status via a liaison and hopefully impregnation by an angel--and the other is a well-off young woman living in the repressive Jansai society. The two women are living a two-degrees-of-separation life, with angel Obadiah as the connection.

Elizabeth's is the story of personal emotional growth. She abandons the drudgery of farm life for the allure of the city of Cedar Hills and the angels contructing a new hold there. She's very much a groupie, blind to anything but chasing after angels, but eventually finds self-worth, purpose, and love after learning some hard lessons in the city. Elizabeth's journey was touching, but it wasn't the reason I loved this book.

Rebekah's story was both grander and more dramatic, serving as the catalysis for incremental reform in Samarian society. She finds a charming young angel injured in the desert, and although she is forbidden in her society from having anything to do with men not of her family, she ministers to Obadiah. The two are fascinated by each other and embark on a forbidden, dangerous affair. The tension in this tragedy-tinged romance was what really propelled ANGEL-SEEKER into being an unputdownable read.

I loved revisiting Samaria and finding out more about different segments of its society, this time the Jansai and the angel-seekers, and I hope Shinn continues writing about the people of this world. It's rare enough as to be precious to find deeply satisfying love stories, ones which are futhermore used to illuminate a fascinating world. (The glamour of the winged angels and the magic of the "Kiss" has yet to get old.)--Preeti

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

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Patricia Briggs Returns to the Beginning

Good news for fans of Patricia Briggs! According to Brigg's website, she has almost finished writing a sequel to her debut novel MASQUES, which will be called WOLFSBANE. She's 3/4s of the way through the rewrite, then will give it to her agent to find a publisher. We all hope that it will quickly find a home, and also cause a reprint of the incredibly hard-to-find MASQUES!

For more about Patricia Briggs, check out our feature article and interview.

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Seduced by Moonlight

I read SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT as an unabridged audiobook, so my spelling of character names will more than likely be more heinous than usual. After the first few minutes I realized I should've reread the previous books in the series or at least skimmed them (ah, if I only had the time!). Basically, I remembered that Merry was desperate to become pregnant to inherit the throne, Gaelen was her childhood love, and that she had temporarily entered into an agreement with the goblins involving blood and sex.

The book starts off as Merry and her crew of nearly naked lovers are about to put on a scandalous show to please the pesky media. Just where this little foray lead I'm still unsure, but it sure started the book out on an exciting note. Soon the goblin king and his nasty queen enter the picture and the court politics begin. At this point the plot seems to be going nowhere, and the descriptions of each and every one of Merry's lovers are endless. But this is actually a good thing for me since I can't remember what anyone looks like except for maybe Gaelen the green dude and Doyle her darkness.

The repetitiveness of the descriptions are comforting to me in a weird way (sort of like Dean Koontz's habit of being lovingly overly descriptive). I had a difficult time clicking with the story early on, but I think it's due to my poor memory. My head was spinning from all of the court politics and the various characters, and I spent more time trying to remember who was who (and what they meant to the story) than I did concentrating on the current story. I found myself drifting away and doing a lot of rewinding early on.

Still, I valiantly continued reading and eventually fell into the story around tape three (coincidentally, this is when things really begin to, ah, heat up, but I'm sure that has absolutely nothing to do with it) and then some of the bigger details slowly came back to me. The most fascinating aspects of this book for me were the magical elements and the increasing powers. Of course the erotic fantasy elements don't hurt either.

This one gets a recommend from me but with reservations. It is most definitely a middle-of-the-series book and absolutely does not stand alone (in any way), but it was interesting and imaginative and I'll splurge for the next one.--Laurie

--A Kiss of Shadows review page
--A Caress of Twilight review page
--Seduced by Moonlight review page
--Seduced by Moonlight at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

PALADIN OF SOULS by Bujold -- Preeti's Take
Paladin of Souls

This Bujold, I'm sorry to say, didn't excite me. It probably comes down to the fact that the story started off slowly and that the heroine, Dowager Royina Ista, wasn't charismatic and didn't seem to remain an underdog for more than a minute. She was too much of an observer of other people's interesting and dramatic lives until very late in the book. Ista's sly humor and ironic eye were appreciated, though, and I did like the fact, in abstract, that Bujold chose to portray the coming of age of a heroine aged 40 instead of a youngling.

The interesting part of the worldbuilding is the religion of the land, and the gods play an active role in events. Demons have started entering the world in large numbers, and Ista is led by one of the five gods to deal with the problem.

These supernatural aspects of the story grabbed my attention the most. I loved the theological system. Having a god choose you, imbue you with power, give you a life purpose, is quite a potent wish fulfillment fantasy, isn't it? I could tolerate it only because Ista had paid her dues, so to speak, by undergoing great misery for years and years first.

There was a romance for Ista, and it was nice but not memorable. The characters were well-drawn, and almost every one had his or her place in the world changed from the beginning of the book to the end. And the end was thrilling. Getting there was a bit of a slog, though.

BTW, I didn't read THE CURSE OF CHALION, so I can report that this book can stand alone, barring the fact that I never figured out what the curse of Chalion actually was. In any case, I recommend this book mildly because the plot really picked up towards the end.--Preeti

--Curse of Chalion review page
--Paladin of Souls review page
--Paladin of Souls at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Armstrong Cover Looks Familiar - Poll

Kelly Armstrong's DIME STORE MAGIC will be released on April 27th, but the cover art we've seen already seemed familiar. At a quick glance, it looks much like the covers for the popular Laurell K. Hamilton books, in particular CERULEAN SINS. This is quite a divergence from the previous subtle Armstrong covers, and it seems to be an attempt to interest readers of Laurell K. Hamilton's books in Kelley Armstrong. Just for fun, because we love our new poll feature, we decided to ask you your opinion.

Do you like the cover to DIME STORE MAGIC by Kelly Armstrong?
Yes, finally an accurate cover, sexy & paranormal. 1 2%
Yes, because LKH fans *would* enjoy Armstrong too 3 5%
Yes, because it is a cool cover. 11 17%
I'm neutral on the cover. 12 18%
No, because it looks like a cheap LKH knock-off. 14 21%
No, because it doesn't fit the tone of previous books 14 21%
No, because the cover is boring/ugly/tasteless. 11 17%
Total votes: 66
Start date: 03/13/04
End date: 03/23/04


Posted by rebekah [Link]

Thursday, March 11, 2004

In Brief - Susan Sizemore's DECEPTIONS and HEROES

Laws of the Blood - DECEPTIONS
I think this is my favorite of the series so far. It almost seemed like a 'kinder, gentler' Laws of the Blood. The primary romance was fine, but I really enjoyed the secondary characters and the way their romance progressed.--Suzanne


Laws of the Blood - HEROES
I hadn't realized that one of the couples in HEROES was the hero and heroine from PARTNERS. I liked seeing Char and Jebel again and am anxious to see what happens next with them. Their story will definitley have to continue beyond HEROES.

Vampire Enforcer Char still hasn't made her human lover, Jebel, her "companion" by taking his blood. She has an almost irresistible drive to do it, but one of the main things holding her back is the fact that once she starts taking blood, Jebel will become a vampire. Supposedly, made vampires and their sires (dams?) can't be together in this version of vampirism.

I'm also enjoying the other couple, the one with one with the MUCH older vampire. Basically, I thought HEROES was promising, but that Laurell K. Hamilton's books are better.--Linda

--DECEPTIONS at Amazon
--HEROES at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

THE MOON'S SHADOW by Catherine Asaro -- Leila's Take
The Moon's Shadow

I found THE MOON'S SHADOW a very good read. The romance is subtle in the extreme and perhaps a bit scary as the heroine is quite devoid of any scruples in the advancement of her ambitions.

Our hero is the 17-year-old son of Soz and Jaibriol II [see PRIMARY INVERSION and THE RADIANT SEAS] and ascends to his father's throne at the imperial court of the Hightons, who are known as the "Traders" in the Skolian's parlance. As Jai is a powerful telepath in a world where people like him are used to provide extreme pleasure to Hightons by mentally broadcasting pain when made to suffer, he must hide both part of his heritage and his own abilities.

It appears some Hightons have a vague sense of morality and chose to have a discreet operation that prevents them from feeling the bizarre pleasure of transcendance (where they transcend a telepath's pain into drug-like pleasure for themselves). Two such people are the new emperor's cousin and his minister of finance. Both are extremely powerful and adept at the more obscure Highton politics. Being in their presence is restful to Jai, who otherwise suffers from being around Hightons.

As the new emperor, Jai is determined to negotiate a peace treaty with Skolia in memory of his parents. Various factions are vehemently against this and ominous plots and counter-plots take shape. Jai quickly realizes that his life will be hell, and he makes the brilliant move of naming his gorgeous 104-year-old minister of finance his empress, acquiring in the process a very powerful ally (for whom he feels tremendous lust) and even more enemies who promptly start assassination attempts.

It's all terribly complicated, and these political plot and counter-plots, accompanied by elliptical speech, did remind me of Lee and Miller's Liaden universe. I found the Highton court lacking the wit and charm found in the Liaden universe, but that's in keeping with the total lack of human warmth displayed by most Hightons.

The denouement hints at a possible love affair between this emperor and his scary wife, which made for quite a surprising end.

I had stopped reading Asaro for a while. I couldn't stand a universe where the Traders/Hightons were in charge as I despised their society. I still do, but the peace overtures made by Jai give hope that the Skolian universe is redeemable. The book is quite good, a page-turner in fact, and if anyone else had stopped reading Asaro for the same reasons I did, I heartily recommend THE MOON'S SHADOW.--Leila


Posted by Preeti [Link]

Sunday, March 7, 2004

A Surprise Author Encounter
Blood and Chocolate

Got an email notification from the library that they were holding Jennifer Crusie's BET ME for me. Make it there with a minute to spare before closing time. Checkout clerk can't find book and refers me to reference desk. Woman at reference desk looks familiar. I tell her my situation, then glance at her name tag. It says "Annette C. Klause"!

I let her know I'm a big fan of her books. Even as the library lights are being shut off, I ask her how the book we've been hearing about for a couple of years now is coming along. She says she hopes to have it finished in a few months and had just received a five-page feedback letter from her editor, single-spaced.

She then proceeds to try to deal with the mystery of the disappeared book, but she has no luck, and I have run out of time because the library is closed. No Crusie for me, but a tidbit of information to share with you guys is an even exchange. I leave happy instead of annoyed.


Posted by Preeti [Link]

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Two More on TINKER -- Preeti and Suzanne

Mild spoilers in my comments.

I liked it a lot. The story was energetic and fast-paced with a "oh, cool" factor throughout. Tinker, wild girl genius, was a fun character. I hope she doesn't become more muted in later books.

After the Ukiah Oregon books, I was surprised by the greater erotic charge in TINKER. Do you guys think Spencer will pursue the angle with Pony? He stole the book from WindWolf in this one, in my opinion. Heck, even the Tengu character did that. The Tinker-WindWolf romance was surprisingly without emotional depth, although tantalizing enough to keep me hooked and wanting more.

Linda, after reading the book, I realized that your reference to "Pgh" must be a local term for Pittsburgh. Based on your review, I'd honestly expected to read about a land with the unpronouncable name of Pgh. :-)

Did we find out in this book who Tinker's mother was? If not, then I see future books dealing more with Miss Tinker Bell's origins (among other things.)--Preeti


I really like the urban elf fantasies, like WAR FOR THE OAKS, and this is a worthy addition to this subgenre. I also liked the juxtaposition of straight-on driving narrative, layered with budding romances, layered with the world-building detail and enough complexity to have me scratching my head now and then along the way. I wasn't real crazy about Tinker being only 18, but I guess if she were much older you'd lose all that hormonal angst. Anyway, put me down as thumbs up on this one, and now I've got to go back and find this author's backlist.--Suzanne

--Tinker review page

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Friday, March 5, 2004

IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW by Sarah Zettel -- Lynn's Rave
In Camelot's Shadow

Forget everything I said about the Luna line and the first two books. Sarah Zettel's IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW is entirely different.  I just finished it about an hour ago, and last night I was reading portions of it to my friend because even single paragraphs are so powerful. Buy it! Buy it now! (I almost didn't. I'm more or less Arthuriana-ed out, and was skeptical that something new could be done with such a familiar story. I shudder to think I might have missed this book.)

The story manages to bring the characters of Arthurian legend we are familiar with--Gawain, Agravain, the Green Knight--and make them fresh without distorting the substance of the stories we know: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady.

A knight and his very pregnant lady are traveling, she goes into labor, and they need help. They meet a sorceror, Euberacon, and the knight bargains with him to save his lady for a promise of the child to be born.  Nineteen years later, the knight is not allowing the daughter born that night, Risa, to be wed because of his promise to the sorcerer. She finds this out, flees, and is rescued by Gawain, who is investigating a planned Saxon uprising, ten years into Arthur's peace.

The characters, even the minor ones, come alive in just a few paragraphs. [...] The story is deep with association and imagery.  There is Green Knight, something far more powerful than a mere sorceror, who is also the Green Man. There is the background of Euberacon, a man who fled the Constantinople of Justinian and Theodora because of failed sorcerous plots there.

[...] Early in the book, Risa gives a good yet believable account of herself in dangerous situations, including in a seige and in a battle on the road.  Later in the book when she is in danger and being taunted that Gawain may be untrue, she doesn't falter. She does think that if he is untrue, she has still just hidden a knife from a meal and can try to help herself.  She's just a great heroine.  And Gawain...sigh.  I'm now half in love with him; he is tenderhearted, gallant, and true.

Zettel has *brilliantly* made a familiar story fresh and vibrant.  The story just sings.--Lynn

--In Camelot's Shadow review page
--Other Luna Books

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Thursday, March 4, 2004

News from March 2004 Locus

The March 2004 issue of Locus Magazine includes interviews with Robert Silverberg and Elizabeth Moon, the Nebula Awards final ballot, and forthcoming books through the end of 2004.

Some news:
--Mercedes Lackey sold THE WIZARD OF LONDON, next in her "Elemental Masters" series, to DAW.
--Michelle Sagara sold trilogy "Cast in Shadow" to Luna. (Notice that it's Michelle Sagara, not Michelle West -- could it mean something more like the "Sundered" series? We can hope!)
--Judith Tarr turned in RITE OF CONQUEST to Roc.

A few of the interesting forthcoming books:
--New Jacqueline Carey in November called BANEWREAKER.
--Kelley Armstrong in November called INDUSTRIAL MAGIC.
--Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer's THE GRAND TOUR in September.

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Monday, March 1, 2004

Another Take on ILL WIND -- Laurie
Ill Wind

I finished ILL WIND but I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped. Here's my 2 cents.

I found ILL WIND, what with its darker edges and snarky wit, somewhat similar to Jim Butcher's fantasies and Tanya Huff's "Keeper" books, but the premise of weather wardens is one I haven't read about before. The weather, for me at least, has never been so wildly dangerous.

Caine literally throws you into the story with very little in the way of back story or introduction, and initially, this was a bit of a stumbling block for the me of the limited patience and very few working brain cells. Once I became used to the writing method and the frequent flashbacks, I was able to figure a few things out and stopping saying "huh?" every few pages as I did early on. This technique of writing and the lack of shorter chapters to break things up often brought the pace of the story to a screeching halt for me, and it took a bit of an effort to continue turning the pages on more than one occasion.

Fortunately, after the bumpy beginning, things began to move along at a faster clip (this may stem more from the fact that I decided to just accept the storytelling method and began to expect the abrupt jumps back to the past).

Joanne is a Weather Warden and possesses the power to control the weather. When the book begins, she's on the run from both the weather (which is verrry frightening when it decides to turn on you!) and wardens who will end her life once they discover she has been poisoned by some sort of magical demon mark. She's desperately searching for her missing, uber-powerful friend Lewis. He apparently stole three djinn, which is a major offense as djinn apparently help wardens become even more powerful.

What follows is a magical road-trip filled with one adventure after another and lots of hunky men (wish I lived in Joanne's universe!). It was a decent start to the series and intrigued me enough to want to pick up the next book, but I can't say with any honesty that I'll be remembering the details of ILL WIND when HEAT STROKE comes out.--Laurie

--ILL WIND at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]


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