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Monthly Archives: November 2011

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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.

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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.