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Yearly Archives: 2011

Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan

Led by prophecy, the directions of the witches that dwell beyond the Troll Wall, viking King Authun raids a monastery not for riches but for a boy child, a child stolen from the gods. Instead Authun find twins. He takes both, leaving one with the witches, taking the other to claim as his heir.

Vali is fostered away from Anthun, promised to wed another Viking King’s daughter, but has eyes only for a farmers’s daughter named Adisla. Feileg is raised in the wilds, more wolf than man, a far cry from his brother’s royal upbringing, and is shown a rare bit of sympathy and affection by Adisla when he is captured. Adisla is the thread that ties them together and drives them towards their fate. For they are pawns in the scheming of the gods, and the gods fight for keeps.

Wolfangel is thick with old world magic- shamans and witches, runes and drums and terrifying ritual. It’s fantasy elements seem perfectly rooted into the historical and are more mythological than fantastical. It keeps the book believable. Even as gods and witches are fighting it out in the background, the main story is one of love as both brothers work to save Adisla. It is a love story set against the backdrop of an ancient Norse society- harsh, often beautiful, and utterly enthralling in its ferocity. Eerie and atmospheric, albeit violent, it is not a book for the faint of heart. It takes the Norse warrior spirit into account and may characters are sent to feast in Valhalla.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette

“On the landing, the roses of the Queen of Elfland, as clamorous as trumpets, continued to shout their glory to the uncomprehending house.” (‘Sarah Monette, Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, pg 185)

Like the Queen of Elfland’s roses, the stories contained in ‘Somewhere Beneath Those Waves’ will sing out their glory long after the reader had turned the final page. Contained within are captive figureheads and selkies, dragons and dreams and all the hopes and nightmares caught in between. The stories whisper of love and terror, and kept me up late into the night with a driving need to keep reading. The stories are all so very different, but are told in such a starkly elegant voice a reader cannot help but be compelled to pay attention.

For me, the stories that stood out most were ‘Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland’- a haunting story about love and lust and reasons humans are not meant to love faeries, ‘Katabasis: Seraphic Trains’- an atmospheric and elegant piece about inspiration and the darker corners of human motivation, ‘Amante Doree’- an almost historical piece with spies and issues of gender and acceptance, ‘Under the Beansidhe’s Pillow’- a short, gorgeous piece about the bits of culture and its spirits that immigrated to America, and both ‘A Night in Electric Squidland’ and ‘Imposters’- two stunning bits of urban fantasy with truly likable characters.

This collection should be on everyone’s shelf. It has a story for everyone, from fairy tale to horror and back again, each story unique and yet somehow still pulling the collection together as a whole.

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty

It was an accident, Sacha revealing the magic behind a seemingly innocent bit of Jewish food in a time and place where homegrown magic is frowned upon if not illegal. Sacha, who seemingly has no magical talent of his own can see witches. Thus starts his apprenticeship to Maximillian Wolf and his entanglement with historical greats like Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, and Teddy Roosevelt as a deadly sort of magic unfurls around him. Sacha and fellow apprentice Lily will follow Wolf through a New York City that is wavering between magic and machine, trying to stay ahead of the shadow dogging him.

I fear this book may have been written for me. I have a dreadful soft spot for well done alternate histories, and The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is a perfect blend of early immigrant New York City and all of the mythologies and cultures that migrated in with Her people. The city is perfectly entangled, each street has its own personality, each block feels like city in itself. And the characters Moriarty has peopled her book with…They are all so wonderfully, hilariously human. It makes the book a pleasure to read.

I have a soft spot for YA fantasy novels- there is something straightforward about them. The well done ones know what they have to say and go straight-about saying it. It is up to the reader to fumble their way to a meaning. It will appeal to any age- there is something for everyone to absorb and enjoy.

From Jewish demons to Wall Street devils, The Inquisitor’s Apprentice has enough to draw any reader in, and will keep them turning pages.

Pilgrim of the Sky by Natania Barron

Maddie’s boyfriend Alvin has vanished, an assumed suicide, and she has finally gotten herself together enough to start moving on. She agrees to take Alvin’s troubled brother Randy with her on one last trip to drop off some of Alvin’s books to an old colleague.

And that is where she is pulled through an antique and into the body of Matilda, an opium addicted seamstress who is married to Randall, who looks frighteningly similar to Randy.  Randall who tells her Alvin is alive, and professes to know how to find him.

Thus starts Maddie’s terrifying and beautiful experience in a strange new world where Mary is the deity on high and America has a queen, one of eight worlds all existing in harmony with each other, hosting a series of reflected individuals with supernatural abilities known as twains. Matilda is Maddie’s twain, as Randall is to Randy. She will search for Alvin and try to make sense with his disappearance and learn more of his motives than anyone had expected. In all of the personal politics of the very powerful and very long lived Maddie has to find her place and help keep the balance between the worlds intact.

Pilgrim of the Sky is a trip through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole for a new audience of readers. It is a ethereal mirage of splintered gods, improbable magic, and the threads of humanity that weave us all together. Above all it is a story about love, in each of its aspects and all of its possibilities.

Pilgrim of the Sky will be released by Candlemark & Gleam. There is also a Kickstarter for the book running for the next few days!

Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye by J. Damask

“I wanted my land back. It was deep in my blood. It sang in my bones. It demanded action.” -J. Damask, Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye, pg 100

A black drake coils through Jan Xu’s days and dreams, threatening her family, her pack, her land. It is a difficult choice, whether or not to involve her people in a blood feud from her Gang of Four days. But as blood is shed and even the Ancestral Forest is violated, Jan Xu will bring the ferocity of the Lang into play.

There is an ethereal elegance to Damask’s writing that makes me forget I am reading urban fantasy. There is the fuzzy captivation of a dream just before waking, fairy tales and mythology more than the more familiar tropes, and reading her work always awakens in me an interest in everything that has ever hovered in the twilight. Her Lang are wolves, not the werewolves genre fans are more familiar with, with a beautiful, feral culture all of their own. In ‘Obsidian Moon Obsidian Eye’ we get more of that culture, as Jan Xu is now the Alpha of her pack, and the reader tastes the ritual and responsibility that goes with the title.

What I adore more and more about the books is the careful balance Jan Xu has to maintain between her vigilante days and her position as wife, mother, and Alpha. There is so much more accountability than a reader of the genre is usually treated to, and it adds something rich to both the characters and the story. There is an increased sense of tension, of threat, as Jan Xu tries to attend to all of her responsibilities.

Again, Damask’s word brings us more than the usual fey. There is a culture and a history that makes the world of the Lang sing to the reader, a blend of native spirits and animal people that is a pleasure to read, and to get lost in.

The Folded World by Catherynne Valente

“We are all just humans, and most of us fools, and all of us longing for more than we have, to know more than we know- and yet even that is not enough, for if we knew everything we would only be disappointed that there was not one more secret to uncover.” -Catherynne Valente, The Folded World, pg 170

Prester John and Hagia have a daughter, with a sweet mouth on her right hand while a bitter sits on her left, two opposing personalities in one body pulling all the world in one direction. Prester John has another daughter, a crane’s wing where her second arm should be, the result of a fierce and half-forgotten coupling early in his sojourn.

Prester John has an answer to his letter, a plea from Jerusalem for the great king to come to the aid of Christendom with his armies of mythical creatures and magics.

So Prester John takes his wife and fierce crane-winged daughter with him to war, leaving his gentle two-mouthed daughter with a lion who teaches love. While across the diamond wall another human stumbles into lands far stranger than his wildest imaginings and in the dark of the forest a unicorn is lured to the slaughter.

The Folded World retains the mesmerizing air of Habitation of the Blessed, weaving layers of narrative voices that pull together in a rich, decadent tapestry of human emotion and tragedy. Every character is working to sort out their place in a world that is so much larger than any of them had imagined, with pleasures and perils aplenty. It is a book that will reach out to anyone who has ever wondered where they fit in, how to make themselves fit in. From priests to princesses, it is a book about acceptance, on every imaginable level. Valente’s prose is, again, an absolute pleasure to read- rich with sounds and shapes that paint a fascinatingly unique picture sure to leave you daydreaming.

The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman

Rarely does a series end leaving me so completely content.

My fascination with the Vineart War (Flesh and Fire, Weight of Stone, The Shattered Vine) is with watching its characters grow. The grand quest of a fantasy novel carries the story onward, but it is the strength of the characters fumbling their way through what the world is throwing at them that makes the Vineart War so compelling. That strong characterization really shines in The Shattered Vine. Jerzy has been wavering on the line between slave and Vineart throughout the entire series, but it is in Shattered Vine that he really comes into his own. But its not only the main character that evolves throughout- his companions do a fair share of growing themselves, and together it is a pleasure to read.

The politics and mysticism of the world that Gilman has built remains strong to the end, providing a fascinating framework on which the events of the Vineart War build to and equally strong crisis point. What really makes the conclusion of the series stand apart is its ability to end. There is no drawn out aftermath necessary to pull the reader through loose ends being tied together. It may come off as abrupt- I was initially astounded at the lack of wrap up- but as I sat digesting the events of the series, I found my lips curling into a rather content smile. By the end of Shattered Vine I knew the characters well enough that I was able to sit back and appreciate the ending and everything it implied.

I would not have wanted it to end any other way.

If you are looking for a wonderfully unique fantasy with engaging characters and a deeply interesting world pick up the Vineart War books.