Friday, February 27, 2015

The Belgariad and the Mallorean, by David Eddings

Pawn_of_Prophecy_cover
Two series of books by the late David Eddings  form the basis of a watershed empire in the fantasy pantheon. I have discussed this series several times on this blog--I tend to measure all fantasy books by this epic saga.

Pawn of Prophecy is the opening book in a 5-book series ultimately called The Belgariad. First published in 1982, I have read five paperback copies of these books to death. If you have never read the Belgariad, try the the first book, Pawn of Prophecy,  and if you love fantasy, you will be swept away. Be prepared to sit down and read, because this book is a truly great, immersive read.

I love the opening lines of the first chapter of the opening book in the series, Pawn of Prophecy"The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into a bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and security and, above all, home. No matter how high Garion rose in life, he never forgot that all his memories began in that kitchen."
Queen of Sorcery
A chance visit by an old story teller, Mr. Wolf changes everything, and Garion finds himself and his Aunt leaving the farm in search of something which has been stolen; traveling in the company of Durnik the Smith, and Mr. Wolf.As they travel, they meet up with Silk, a Drasnian spy, and Barak, Cherek Warrior.  Garion soon finds out that no one is what they seem to be.  Silk is actually Prince Kheldar of Drasnia; and Barak is actually the Earl of Trellheim of Cherek.  Only Durnik is who he always was; a good honest man of Sendaria, who just happens to be in love with Pol.

In this first book, Garion doesn't discover who he is, but knowing who he is not is very important, and now he know he is not technically his Aunt Pol's nephew, as he had always believed. This knowledge shakes his world to its foundations, making him fear that he was unwanted. The anger he feels over having been lied to is well portrayed, as is his eventual acceptance of his true path in life.

Enchanter's_End_Game_coverThis is a vivid series of books, written from the heart. What David Eddings does in the first chapters of this book is truly magical. He immediately drew me in and within two paragraphs I was immersed in this world--I could smell the smell scents of the kitchen and visualize the people who worked there so companionably in the generous employ of Farmer Faldor. I felt I knew them, and I felt I knew that farm.

These books were comforting right off the launching pad. 

Wikipedia described it as "picaresque" that is, of a genre of prose fiction depicting the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. But just for the record--Wikipedia got it all wrong. It's a coming-of-age story. the tale of a boy  growing up through the events that shape him, becoming a man with strengths and weaknesses, and it is the story of the people he met on that journey.

Guardians of the WestThe Malloreon is a five-part fantasy book series written by David Eddings, which follows The Belgariad. The Malloreon is set in the same world as The Belgariad, but expands on several aspects of the setting, especially the eastern continent of Mallorea. At the end of The Belgariad, Garion has slain the evil god Torak and expects lasting peace.

Things being what they are in a fantasy universe, he does not get it.
The book opens on a peaceful world. The  foundling, Errand, has become Polgara's ward, and he has grown up on the farm with Polgara and Durnik, as their son. The first half of the first book deals with some really humorous situations, as everyone settles into a somewhat peaceful existence.

After eight years as King of Riva, Garion learns that he is still a figure of prophecy and bears the responsibility of defeating Torak's successor, the "Child of Dark." His son is kidnapped, and the next five books of the Mallorean detail the task of getting him back.

This is just as gripping a series of books as the Belgariad.

Belgarath_coverMany times I see authors try to force an exact, detailed picture of their world on the reader, and it ruins the story for me. An author doesn't have to beat me over the head with minute detail; that sort of thing bores me. David Eddings never fell into that trap. Eddings had the ability to convey a sense of place in a few well-chosen words.

David Eddings freely admitted that he wrote all his books with his wife, Leigh Eddings, and in later books of this series she is credited as his co-author.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Heart Search Book Three: Betrayal, by Carlie M.A. Cullen




Today we are looking at the third and final volume in the Heart Search Trilogy by Carlie M.A. CullenHeart Search  book three: Betrayal. I have to say, I love the cover--it really represents the story well, and the book beneath that cover does not disappoint in any way.

BUT FIRST, THE BLURB:
One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive? 

MY REVIEW:
Where to start? It is the third book in the trilogy, and so it picks at the end of the previous book, of course–but a new reader could start with this book and be intrigued.

For me, this book is a roller-coaster of events and emotion, as Samir’s and Joshua’s covens prepare to defend themselves from an upstart rival’s attempted takeover. The disappearance and kidnapping of one of their own casts suspicion on several people, and the discovery of a traitor in their midst is an unpleasant monkey-wrench tossed into the works, making it difficult for Samir and Joshua to know who to trust.

This book has many, many threads that are woven together to create a compelling story of intrigue, Stockholm Syndrome, and the arrogance that comes with immortality. It is filled with strong characters and inventive plot twists—some creepy, some chilling, and some downright horrifying.

Phoenix, the hidden traitor in their midst is an arrogant, self-absorbed twit. We don't find out until nearly the end just who Phoenix is, man or woman. This traitor claims to care for the person handed over as a hostage, but does it anyway, knowing the hostage will not be treated well. Phoenix manages to cause nothing but trouble before their identity is finally revealed.
Their enemy, Liam, is a low-class thug who has no problem starting the equivalent of a gang-war within the vampires’ society. His heavy-handed bullying of his subordinates and cruelty to his victims is evidence of that. His second in command, Max, is a much smarter vampire, a man who could have been quite decent under other circumstances and isn't quite sure that his maker is all that sane.

This is a fitting climax to a wonderful series. It’s a paranormal romance, so some graphic sex and a great deal of violence make this book definitely an adult read.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Darkness Rising Book 5: Broken, by Ross M. Kitson





Darkness Rising Book 5: Broken is the long awaited fifth installment in the sweeping  Prism Series, by Ross M. Kitson.  I LOVE this series! Book 5: Broken does not disappoint! It has all the hallmarks of classic high fantasy, with unique, gut-wrenching twists that, in this book, take the reader down dark paths.

But first, THE BLURB:


Beneath the veneer, beneath the beauty, there is always the coldness of stone.’

Tragedy has torn apart Emelia and her companions, a terrible betrayal instigated by the Darkmaster, Vildor. A devastated Jem struggles to control the fearful power of the crystals, becoming distant from his closest friends. Hunor and Orla are tested by a secret from the past, a revelation that will change everything between them. In the Dead City, Emelia begins a search for her past, a journey that will plunge her deeper into the darkness of Vildor and his twisted schemes.
Desperate to seek aid in their battle against Vildor, the companions travel north to Belgo, capital of North Artoria. But everything is not what it seems in the palace, and danger lurks in every shadow, whether cast by friend or foe. Separated and alone, can Emelia, Jem and Hunor hope to prevail? Or will the evils of the present and the past overcome them at last?

MY REVIEW:
What I love most about this series is the way Kitson gets into the heads of his protagonists. Each one is individual and unique in their own right. There are many intriguing characters in this tale, and the evil ones, such as Vildor, are truly horrendous. There is no depth to which he will not sink to achieve their goal, that of gaining all the prisms.

Several times during this book I had the urge to throttle certain characters. Emelia makes some astounding decisions, as does Lady Orla. I felt like slapping both of them.

For me, Hunor's story in this particular episode is deeply compelling. Jem also faces some tough realities, and grows stronger from them. Marthir does have a role in this book, but only toward the end.

Kitson weaves his tales with the hand of the master. Each of the many story-lines is dealt with, and done in such a way that it was hard to put the book down, and hard to say good by to the book at the end. 

The next book will be the final book of the series, and I can't wait to get it! I have to know how this ends!!! Mr. Kitson--please finish writing book six NOW.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Metanoia, by Rachel Tsoumbakos



Australian indie author Rachel Tsoumbakos is known for her dystopian fiction, love of all things a bit twisted, and stark settings. Metanoia does not disappoint in any way!

But first THE BLURB:
METANOIA

Definition: n. a spiritual conversion or awakening; a fundamental change of character

Etymology: Greek 'change one's mind, repent'

Marli Anderson has just one task: assassinate Oscar La Monde, the man she once loved.

As assassin for hire for the prestigious Merrick’s Inc., she is sent back to her home town to kill the man she now loathes beyond all others—her husband. Considering they are on opposing sides of the uprising, Marli anticipates an easy task; ‘closure’ they call it. The fact that she can exact her revenge for his past discretions is just the icing on the cake.

When she arrives, the town has changed. The man she hated is unexpectedly welcoming. And the town’s folk—well, they’re just… different. Someone or something has transformed them all into a bunch of zombies. They appear to be harmless - but are they?

As she begins to uncover details of who may be behind the townsfolk’s’ metamorphosis, Marli is left fighting for the truth. Will she and Oscar be able to unravel the web of deception before it’s too late?

Should she trust her heart or her head? Which is less likely to get her killed?

Either way, METANOIA is a heart-stopping zombie apocalypse adventure that will keep you guessing at every twist and turn until the very end.

MY REVIEW:
Let me just say at the outset: this thing starts off with a bang and keeps on going. I don’t normally read books about Zombies, unless the plot is about more than a rehash of lurid B-movies. This is a book about the hard realities of life on the edge, politics, and murder. And contrasting with these dark themes is tenderness, love, and loyalty.

Marli is a strong woman, a loner, and confused in many ways, but she has a backbone and she's not afraid to use it. Oscar is also a strong character, as are the others who make appearances in this tale.

I love the way that just when you think this book is going in one direction, it makes a sharp turn for the intriguing. The stress of life in that society, the environment, and the opposing agendas of the antagonists keep this this tale moving along at a real clip.

The society she places Marli and Oscar in is intricate and eerily possible, and is all the more frightening because it is so possible. All together this book took me away for two days of in-depth reading--mainly because I read it twice, back to back.

I strongly recommend this book to fans of dystopian fiction.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Blacksmith's Son, by Michael G. Manning






The Blacksmith's Son by Michael G. Manning is an interesting book. It is a voyage of discovery, with plenty of adventure midst a great amount of humor, and is the lead-off book for the Mageborn series. I had a great time with this book.

BUT FIRST THE BLURB:
Mordecai’s simple life as the son of a blacksmith is transformed by the discovery of his magical birthright. As he journeys to understand the power within him he is drawn into a dangerous plot to destroy the Duke of Lancaster and undermine the Kingdom of Lothion. Love and treachery combine to embroil him in events he was never prepared to face. What he uncovers will change his understanding of the past, and alter the future of those around him.

MY REVIEW:
Mort is a great character, both wise beyond his years and naive as heck. Manning goes deep into the world of Lothian, creating characters who are real and who respond to their circumstances in entirely realistic ways. 

At first he his unaware of his birthright, and as his gifts develop and his knack for trouble unfolds, Mort grows into a strong character. I liked the interactions between Mort, his friend of noble birth, Marcus, and his love for good, brave, honest Penny.

Devon Tremont is a complete villain, the perfect evil character, as is Father Tonnsdale. They are well-drawn and dramatic, and both fear Mort's emerging powers.

I liked this story because it is a story. The surroundings of the village and castle, the people within the castle, their values and morals make a great backdrop to this tale of political intrigue and high adventure. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kandide and the Secrets of the Mist, by Diana S. Zimmerman



As a grandmother, I often check out books that are suitable to buy for my older grandchildren, books that may not be labeled as young adult. Beautifully illustrated by Maxine Gadd, Kandide and the Secrets of the Mist, by Diana S. Zimmerman is an excellent choice if you or you older child/young adult loves fantasy romance and fairy tales.

But FIRST THE BLURB:

What if everything you love is suddenly gone?

And everything you fear is all you have?

Welcome to Calabiyau. Still a teen in human years, Kandide is the personification of perfection. She is also spoiled beyond belief and vain beyond control. You won’t like her when you first meet her. Nevertheless, she is heir to Calabiyau’s throne and the keeper of the “Gift”—the key to the survival for all Fée.

When a terrible accident leaves her less than perfect, her own mother mercilessly sends her to a treacherous land where strange beasts roam the dark lifeless forest, and even stranger Fée rule its secret kingdom. If she is to survive, Kandide must battle terrifying creatures, as well as her own internal repulsion for the ‘Imperfects’ she is now like. But that is just the beginning of her troubles. Within Calabiyau a presence far more deadly is emerging.

Kandide’s prankster brother, Teren, her tomboy sister, Tara, and a group of misfit Imperfects set off on a perilous journey to save their sister and their land. They must challenge the darkest of forces to face an evil far worse than ever imagined. Calaiyau is forever changed. Or is it? Nevertheless, she is heir to Calabiyau’s throne and the keeper of the “Gift”—the key to the survival for all Fée. When a terrible accident leaves her less than “perfect,” Kandide's own mother mercilessly sends her to a treacherous land where strange beasts roam the dark lifeless forest and even stranger Fée rule its secret kingdom. If she is to survive, Kandide must battle hideous creatures, as well as her own repulsion for the “Imperfects” that she has become. But that is just the beginning of her troubles. Within Calabiyau, a presence far more deadly is emerging. Kandide’s prankster brother, Teren, her tomboy sister, Tara, and a group of misfit Imperfects set off on a perilous journey to save their sister and their land. They must challenge the darkest of forces to face an evil far worse than any imagined. Kandide and her kingdom are forever changed. Or are they?

MY REVIEW:

First, let me assure you that once you work your way past the daunting list of critical praises that make up a good portion of the front of this book, slog through the encyclopedic history of Kandide’s World, and arrive at the map, there is a really good story here midst the ornate descriptions, so stick with it, or skip those parts entirely. The actual story is great and the illustrations will definitely please young readers.

This is a tale that lays bare the falseness of eternally striving to achieve perfect beauty. In true fairytale fashion, this story lays bare the flaw in our own eye. Zimmerman frankly deals with the perception of physical beauty as determining ones worth. Yes, she wraps it up in flowery prose, but she hangs it out there, nonetheless. Vanity, lust for power, the irrational but pervasive fear of people with crippling disabilities, and the callous shunting aside of those less-than-beautiful who live among us forms the core of this tale.

Kandide herself is a little pain in the backside, but don’t quit on her. She is dealt a harsh lesson in compassion, learns to love, and sets out to right some wrongs. I enjoyed this tale enough to overlook the sometimes florid style of writing. It doesn’t ruin the book, and some readers will like that style.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pawn of Prophecy, David Eddings



Pawn of Prophecy by the late David Eddings is a watershed book in the fantasy pantheon. It is the opening book in a 5-book series ultimately called The Belgariad. First published in 1982, I have read five paperback copies of this book to death.

But first, THE BLURB:

Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...?


MY REVIEW:
Many times I see authors try to force an exact, detailed picture of their world on the reader, and it ruins the story for me. An author doesn't have to beat me over the head with minute detail; that sort of thing bores me. David Eddings never fell into that trap. Eddings had the ability to convey a sense of place in a few well-chosen words.

The book opens in the kitchen of a farmhouse with Garion's memories of playing under the table in a kitchen as small child. He, is being raised by his Aunt Pol who works as the cook on a prosperous farm in a place called Sendaria. Garion has friends, and as time progresses he even has a wistful almost-romance with one of the girls there. But all is not as it appears, and Garion knows nothing of the reality of his family or the world he lives in.

He has other friends; Durnik the smith who is in love with Garion's Aunt Pol, and a strange old traveling storyteller, Mr. Wolf whom his aunt seems to know well and whom she grudgingly tolerates despite his strange attire and love of ale.

News arrives at the farm that causes Aunt Pol to abruptly leave, embarking with Garion on a journey of far more than merely a week or two, and he suffers a long period of doubt and depression. Fifteen-year-old Garion is poised on the edge of manhood--half child, and half adult. Obviously they are on the run, and he is fearful and angry at being kept in the dark--and not knowing the truth, be begins to believe his life to that point was nothing but a lie. 

In this first book, he doesn't discover who he is, but knowing who he is not is important. This is a vivid book, written from the heart. What David Eddings does in the first chapters of this book is truly magical. He immediately drew me in and within two paragraphs I was immersed in this world--I could smell the smell scents of the kitchen and visualize the people who worked there so companionably in the generous employ of Farmer Faldor. I felt I knew them, and I felt I knew that farm.

If you have never read the Belgariad, try the the first book, and you will be swept away. Be prepared to sit down and read, because this book is a truly great, immersive read.