Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Library Book: The Queen in Winter

After reading To Weave a Web of Magic, I immediately started reading The Queen in Winter.  It has stories from three of the four authors of the other book (replacing Patricia McKillip with Sarah Monette) so I was ready to be wowed.  Unfortunately that really wasn't the case.  Sure, I enjoyed these stories, but overall I thought that To Weave a Web of Magic was better.

This time Lynn Kurland's story "A Whisper of Spring" opens the volume.  This is the story of how Symon won the hand of Iolaire from her father, the Elf King.  Well, that happened after he helped her escape from Lothar's clutches.  I really liked that Iolaire wasn't passive; she managed to escape from her cell by herself.  I liked some of the characters (like Symon's father, who was hilarious) but overall this story was just okay, especially after Lothar was bested (which just sort of happened in a rather anti-climatic way).

Next up was Sharon Shinn's "When Winter Comes."  I was expecting to enjoy this one, having really liked all of the other stories I've read by Shinn thus far.  "When Winter Comes" takes place in her Twelve Houses world, which is somewhere I am completely unfamiliar with.  It is the story about two sisters trekking across the land.  One was kicked out of their house mecause she had a mystic baby.  The other sister chose to go with her.  So together they are looking for a safe place to raise the baby in a world which is deadly to mystics.  The premise was alright, but I found this story sort of plodded along until it came to an end.  The story was somewhat predictable and all around just ok.  Of the three Sharon Shinn stories I've read so far, this one was definitely my least favourite.

Claire Delacroix's "The Kiss of the Snow Queen" came next.  When I first started reading it, I really didn't like it.  I think it had a lot to do with the main character sort of waffling about what to do for a loooong time.  But once her decision was made, the story suddenly got a lot better.  "The Kiss of the Snow Queen" is sort of a retelling of "The Snow Queen."  Gerta is a seer, who is bethrothed to a horrible man.  Her and her father (the king) were forced out of their land by the Cath Palug, a nasty cat thing that killed her father's best warriors.  Gerta summons a sorceror named Cai to help.  she is also hoping that if he bests the Cath Palug, she will be given to him instead of to her bethrothed.  Unfortunately the Cath Palug bests him; she watches (through her mirror) as the cat drags him away.  Meanwhile a shadowy being enters Gerta's room and talks her into journeying to the Cath Palug to save Cai.  This being calls himself Loki; he is one of the Fallen Angels.  Loki himself is at odds with the rest of the story.  He speaks in a modern way, which ends up quite funny, particularly when he speaks to Gerta, who often calls him on his speech (ie "You speak nonsence again").  The two of them make quite the pair; overall it is their interactions that made this story pretty good.

The final story is Sarah Monette's "A Gift of Wings."  The beginning of this story was hard to get through; there are a lot of weird names of people and places (and no map to help keep it all straight!)  I found out after reading it that "A Gift of Wings" takes place in her world Meduse (where her Doctrine of Labyrinths books take place).  Once you get passed all that though, "A Gift of Wings" is a super good story.  It's about Maur, a wizard who was cripled in a war (both his hands and his magic), and Agido, a soldier who loves him. The story is about them learning to trust each other again in the wake of that war.  This is compounded by the fact that Maur was also hurt by the people who were supposed to be helping him heal, and so he is cold to Agido because he is trying to protect himself from being hurt like that again.  The story also has a murder mystery thrown in, which was interesting but a bit hard to follow (once again because of the names).  Agido is blamed for the murder, so she and Maur have only a few days to prove her innocence before the watch shows up. 

So overall, The Queen in Winter was an alright read.  I think it would be better if you are more familiar with some of the worlds the authors are writing about (particularly for Shinn's and Monette's stories). 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Library Book: To Weave a Web of Magic

I decided to read To Weave a Web of Magic because of Lynn Kurland.  One of her books caught my eye at work; unfortunately the book wasn't the first in the series. So I did a bit of research on her work and found that she had written a short story related to that book both in To Weave a Web of Magic and in The Queen in Winter.  I was originally planning on reading only Lynn Kurland's and Sharon Shinn's stories (Kurland's being "The Tale of the Two Swords," and Shinn's "Fallen Angel;" I've read a short story by Shinn before and really liked it).  In the end I decided to read all four stories.  And I'm glad I did; I liked them all!

The first story is Patricia A. McKillip's "The Gorgon in the Cupboard."  I've never read anything of McKillip's before, so I really didn't know what to expect.  "The Gorgon in the Cupboard" was a quirky story about a painter looking for his muse and finding her in Medusa, who starts talking to him out of one of his paintings.  Along with inspiring him and his painting, Medusa pushes him to see beyond his painting to the women who model for him and his friends as the people they really are. 

Next came Lynn Kurland's "The Tale of the Two Swords."  This story had a framing narrative; an eight year old boy wants an adventure, but agrees to having his father tell a story instead.  And so his father tells him and his two siblings the tale of how the king and queen of the land met.  The girl, Mehar, ran away from her father and an unwanted arranged marriage.  Gil (short for Gilraehen) is the crown prince of the land.  He saw his father killed and was himself wounded, having to flee the battle against his uncle.  The two meet at the king's hidden castle; Mehar was going there for help, Gil was hiding while his people regrouped.  The two start to fall in love, even though their love cannot be; Mehar is below Gil's station and Gil is betrothed.

The third story was Sharon Shinn's "Fallen Angel."  I've read one of her stories before and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to "Fallen Angel."  And it didn't disappoint.  This is the story of Eden, a Manadavvi woman who falls in love with a forbidden angel named Jesse.  As a Manadavvi woman, Eden is a society girl, waiting for her father to choose her husband for her.  And Jesse is a free-spirit and a troublemaker, exactly the kind of person she should not fall in love with because she knows they can never be together.  But Jesse shows her how shallow her life is, how boring, and makes her want to be free, like him. 

The final story was "An Elegy For Melusine" by Claire Delacroix.  Delacroix is another author I am unfamiliar with. Her story is about Melusine, a half-mortal Fey who strikes a bargain with a mortal man named Raymond.  She wants to be free of her mother's curse, and so needs a mortal man's love so she can live forever in the fey world.  Of course, Melusine did not bargain on love.  And it is that love that is her undoing.

All four stories in To Weave a Web of Magic were excellent.  I enjoyed reading everything, and now I'm really looking forward to The Queen in Winter, which features stories by three of these four authors.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer

I bought Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer in the bargain section of Chapters a few years ago.  I don't honestly remember when, but I'm sure the premise intrigued me.  But not enough to read it right away. And so it's sat in my closet until just recently, when I am trying to actually read some of these books that I bought on a whim.  Most of them I'll probably read once then send on their way for someone else to enjoy.  I fully expected to do that with Blackbringer.

And then I started reading it.

I think I read pretty much all of it last night.  I started it earlier in the day.  Then last night I was going to go play Terraria, but decided at the last minute to continue reading this instead.  And I was blown away by how good it is.

Blackbringer is the story of Magpie Windwitch and her clan of crows.  They travel the world hunting the demons who are being released by the stupid humans ("mannies") who find their prisons (One demon granted some mannies three wishes, so now everyone is clamouring to get some wishes of their own; unfortunately most of the demons aren't as benevolent as that one happened to be).  Then Magpie finds a boat where a prison has been opened but there is no other evidence of the demon, not even the dead mannies who are usually left in a demon's wake; all that is left are their shoes.  And so Magpie must track the most deadly demon of all right into the faerie home of Dreamdark.

Blackbringer was written for a younger audience, so it's an easy read.  Easy, but so very good. It's got faeries fighting demons, magic, adventure, everything!  I actually fell in love with the book (i gave it a 5 on Goodreads and even marked it as a favourite) and bought the second one in the series from Amazon as soon as I finished reading.  I can't wait to read more from Dreamdark!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Library Book: Fallen Angel Volume 1

I stumbled on the Fallen Angel series when I was researching Supergirl a few months ago. Fallen Angel was written by Peter David, the same guy who wrote the Supergirl series featuring Linda Danvers as Supergirl, a series I really enjoyed. I was excited to find Volume 1 at the library, giving me a chance to check the series out.

I don't really want to say much about it though. Volume 1 is very much an introduction, leaving more questions than answers. The story focuses on Lee, aka the Fallen Angel. She has weird mind powers and is both ridiculously strong and resilient. She has moved into the corrupt city of Bete Noire as a force of justice and someone the desperate can turn to. Unfortunately her presence is also disrupting the city's balance of power.

I enjoyed reading rt his volume, but like I said I now have more questions than answers. The library doesn't have the second volume, so I'll have to look into getting it myself sometime.