Friday, October 25, 2013

Imago Chronicles: Revelations, Lorna T. Suzuki

In a long series set in one world and centered around one or two main characters it is incredibly hard to sustain the energy and passion that characterizes the first few volumes.  In her landmark Imago series, Canadian author Lorna T. Suzuki has done just that. Revelations lives up to the high standards set by the previous books in this series.

The Blurb:
Time does not heal all wounds and sometimes, revenge is the only answer…

It is the end of an era. With the natural balance of the realm in turmoil since the tragic disappearance of Lindras Weatherstone, the Wizard of the West, chaos reigns supreme when a mysterious killer emerges from the most unlikely of places.

Drawn into this deadly game of cat and mouse, Nayla Treeborn and the surviving members of the Order are on the hunt to capture this fiend. To make matters worse, at the height of this misadventure, while following a trail of mass murders committed by this villain with a secret agenda, those closest to Nayla have mysteriously vanished.

Now, she and her comrades are pitted against a formidable enemy unlike any they had ever encountered and this time, their nemesis comes bearing strange and powerful weapons not even the remaining Wizards know how to combat.

Nothing is as it seems and in the end, lives will be forever altered in this final tale that brings the Imago Chronicles to its stunning conclusion.

My Review:
The Imago series now ranks as one of my all-time favorite epic fantasy series. I love Nayla the warrior and her story as it continues in this eighth book in the Imago series. Time and motherhood have mellowed her, but Nayla is still a force to be reckoned with. She is as fierce a mother as she is a warrior.

The action is nonstop in this tale, and the narrative flows from one event to the next, leaving you breathless.  Hatred and revenge are the driving forces behind the action, and the actions taken by the mysterious villainess are harsh and coldly executed. Some will die, and that is hard to handle, when we have followed them for so long. But sorrow and strife make for compelling drama.  Suzuki understands her characters well, and never loses who they are or how they would react to a given situation. Nayla a warrior and woman, and Suzuki blends both aspects of this very complex woman into the narrative with the fine hand of a master.

Revelations is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to a classic fantasy series. Imago has been optioned for a movie, and production has begun. I can't wait to see Nayla Treeborn on the big screen. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Pale Hand of God, by S.M. White

This week we are looking at  The Pale Hand of God, a novel by indie author S.M. White. I have no memory of how I came to purchase this particular novel. Perhaps it was on a Kindle deals day, or perhaps I was simply looking for reasonably priced epic fantasy. Either way, it was an excellent choice on my part. I am now a great fan of author S.M. White.


The Blurb:

"All Ages have a living darkness. In some, it is long buried. In others, it lives and thrives. And then there is the darkness no one sees, the patient darkness that reveals itself only when all light fails."

In an Age of fallen heroes, stolen princesses, and a city prison, the world balances upon the blades of haunted men.

Behind the walls of the clergy-controlled prison city of Iban Su, Lainn Sevai endures. But after losing his father and brother, Lainn finds the determination to seek freedom, following in the footsteps of the man whose iron tutelage molded him into one of the fiercest warriors Iban Su has ever known. In the process he discovers his father's terrible secret, and uncovers the thousand year mystery as to why the prophesied End of Days never came to the world. And in that sets in motion a terrible future.

With all the edge and grit of a Gemmell novel, The Pale Hand of God is the first half of a series that will determine the fate of a world fallen to cowardice and indolence. Heroes will topple, and villains will ascend. Light will fade, and shadows prevail. This is a tale of violence and peace, of love and hatred, and of how one man's fight to save his soul could very well damn all humanity.

My Review:

There is a depth to this tale that goes well beyond the events it chronicles. Lainn Sevai is one of the most complex characters I’ve lately read. He is alternately likable and unlikable  His world is violent, and he makes decisions based on what he knows of his world, choices that seem harsh on the surface. Lainn’s brother Ereck is terribly important to him, as is his late father.  Lainn both loves and hates them both, envies and adores them. The brutalities of Lainn’s childhood follow him and color his perceptions—he is a charismatic warrior tortured by loss and self-doubt. In the end Lainn is one of the great heroes of epic fantasy, right up there with Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd.

The prose is quite reminiscent of the truly great fantasy tales, those great epic sagas written in an age when authors of speculative fiction knew they were on the fringe of respectability in the publishing world and wrote tales to please themselves, simply assuming their readers would understand compound words. This high quality of storytelling makes for a tale that fully involves the reader. The surroundings are clearly drawn with an economy of well-phrased words, with all the sounds and scents of a dirty, medieval environment. I found myself immersed in the tale to the exclusion of everything else, reading until I fell asleep with the Kindle in my hands and letting everything else go to hell until I had finished the book.

THAT powerful sort of writing is what I want from my epic fantasy, and it is a rare commodity in this day and age, where authors of all genres are told they must write in 60 second sound-bites so their readers won’t lose interest on the first page.

This is a great fantasy journey through all the many twists and turns, and though the road is rough for the characters who live in this strange world, it is a fantasy I can highly recommend. The Pale Hand of God by S.M. White is a book for the dedicated reader, and not for the faint of heart.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Children of the Elementi, by Ceri Clark

This review celebrates the re-release of one of my all-time favorite books, Children of the Elementi by UK author, Ceri Clark.

The Blurb:

From the ashes of an ancient empire, five must save the future.

Jake: Last in line to the Elementi High King throne, sent through time and space to be brought up in an alien world, he has no knowledge of his past.

Mirim: As the caretaker of the mysterious Citadel which hosts the dying crystal mind of the Matrix, her air power is the only link to the old world.

Kiera: A Romani foundling with growing powers over nature, she is searching for a better life away from her criminal past.

They must find the other two heirs and reunite all their elemental powers over earth, air, fire, and water together with the Matrix to defeat the Empire that conquered their parents.

With a fire demon on his trail, can Jake bring together the last of the Elementi in time?

My Review:

In Children of theElementi, UK author Ceri Clark has written a modern fantasy that manages to create a place in today's world for magic.
This story starts out with action-packed adventure and does not quit until the end.  The twists and turns are quite unexpected, but all are well written and make complete sense. The powers and abilities that the characters have are not unlimited.  There are rules and consequences for using that power and using it draws the notice of the Magi.  This creates the tension and keeps the plot moving at a fast gallop.

Jake’s parents passed away, and he is living with his aunt and uncle; a situation that is less than ideal as his uncle is not a nice man.  Jake knows that he can do some things that are akin to magic, but he keeps his knowledge close to himself.  His ability to read minds has been both a blessing and a curse; and he has some control over fire.  One day he reads in his Aunt’s mind that he was actually adopted.  When he searches their home for the papers that prove this, he also finds a crystal on a chain that is from his birth parents.

Jake has excellent skills with the internet, but when he puts the crystal around his neck his ability to use the internet is transformed exponentially.  An incident occurs at school during which he inadvertently uses his powers.  This alerts Mirrim, who has been looking for him, to get him to safety.  With Mirrim, Jake embarks on a series of adventures that will eventually reunite him with all four of the other Children of the Elementi.

I love the basis of Clark’s universe, and the logic that went into creating it.  The Elementi originally gained their powers through a close association with an immense, crystalline power source called the Matrix. This is a creation of an even older society and is, among other things, an uber-internet created from living crystal. The Matrix has access to an immense knowledge base and gains knowledge at every opportunity.  It is linked to certain crystals that each of the hidden children can use. Members of the Elementi can tap into the Matrix with their minds and have other unique powers related to their family’s particular element that they can use IF they know how.  This melding of science fiction with magic is both intriguing and original.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Covenant of Faceless Knights, Gary Vanucci

This is an old-fashioned sword and sorcery novel, in some ways quite reminiscent of the great swashbuckling novels of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series. That is refreshing in itself! Nothing has more escape value than a tale of flawed heroes and heroines dukeing it out, both with each other and the minions of evil!

The Blurb

When a dangerous artifact goes missing from the Temple of the sun-god, the high priest charged with its protection must come to grips with the fact that he cannot retrieve the stolen relic alone. Calling upon a man who was once his own apprentice, Tiyarnon the High Priest enlists the aid of Garius Forge, who is now an Inquisitor among the Order of the Faceless Knights.  Garius, a man of power and reputation, gathers a handful of allies to help complete his quest--but who among them is worthy of his trust? Aided by the mischievous Rose Thorne, a rogue among rogues, the stoic and bloodthirsty Saeunn, and a promising but naïve elf named Elec, the Inquisitor hopes his training as one among the Faceless Knights has prepared him to keep his companions focused and prepared to survive the trials to come.  Garius must lead his band of allies into dark regions to recover the tainted artifact before it falls into the hands of the evil being that once held or it could spell doom for the inhabitants of Wothlondia and the entire Realm of Ashenclaw.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It’s Dungeons and Dragons on steroids, and indie author Gary Vanucci is the Dungeon Master.

Noble Garius is in way over his head with the group of allies he has gathered. But he’s got no choice, he has to use them. It was a toss up between him and  Elec the Elf  as to who my favorite male character was. Elec is awesome, so young and naïve. 

Rose Thorne is aptly named. She is one tough lady, sharp, sweet and dangerous to know. She is bold and unashamed to use every one of her many weapons to make her point.

Saeunn is the heavy on the good-guys side. Filled with anguish and darkness, she, too, is dangerous to know. I wanted to see more of her in this tale, and that means she is an awesomely written character. Every one of these people is exactly what a true fan of epic fantasy expects to find in a book.

Even the side characters have great stories. So much angst! At times this tale is quite entertaining as Rose’s colorful past poses difficulties for certain respectable men with whom she has a history. That is one of the better threads in this tale!

The plot is great, and the twists and turns are engrossing and at time hilarious. I LOVED the villain! Big, bad, horrifyingly evil villains are what make a tale, from my point of view. The fight scenes are really well thought out and kept me on the edge of my seat. Vanucci’s magic system is logical. Things don’t just happen randomly, which can be a problem in today’s tidal wave of wannabe epic fantasy on the indie front.

Gary Vanucci’s great strength as an author is the ability to create a real, tangible world filled with the right sounds and scents that make the reader forget they are reading. He fills that world with real people, fully drawn and fleshed out, behaving the way they should, and never losing that momentum. As events unfold, things don’t always go the way they want them to, and their reactions to those moments are spot on. 

If I had any complaint, it is that there are a few places where the author seems to repeat himself, but that is by no means a detraction. All in all, the book has a great flow. It is written with passion and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves truly epic fantasy.