Review: The Merlin Chronicles by Daniel Diehl

October 21, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Arthurian fantasy is a popular subgenre of the fantasy genre. Many fantasy authors take either the characters or story from the King Arthur legends and try to write a new version. Daniel Diehl is a recent author I discovered that provides a new take on the story with his “The Merlin Chronicles” trilogy. The books focus on the character of Merlin and is set in modern day United Kingdom. The books have interesting characters, plenty of action and adventure, and some humor. There are even dragons.

Revelations is the first book that begins with American archaeology student Jason excavating a site in Britain. In his digging, he discovers a crystal orb that does not belong. After the discovery, he is plagued by visions of Merlin who asks Jason to free him from the orb. Jason asks fellow student Beverly to help him. Later, they are caught up in a battle to save the world from Morgana LaFey and dragons. There are many adventures around the world to interesting places like Mongolia. Merlin proves to be a humorous, enigmatic character that drives the story to a satisfying conclusion in the first book.

Next, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice finds Jason, Beverly and Merlin still struggling against Morgana and the dragons to still save the world. Merlin sends Jason on a quest to Ethiopia to find the Ark of the Covenant in order to get magic stones that will lock the dragon gateway forever. Merlin stays in Britain with Beverly to keep Morgana busy until Jason can return with the stones. The characters undergo many perilous struggles. This keeps the middle book of the trilogy interesting and suspenseful.

Out of Time concludes the trilogy with a trip into the past to fifth century Britain for the characters. Merlin wants to save Arthur and his kingdom in the past. Jason and Beverly are reluctant to help because they fear changing the future. Merlin convinces them to help and the final book has many bloody battles against the dragons and Saxons in order to save Arthur and Merlin’s time from the dragons. The books brings the trilogy to an action packed, satisfying ending that doesn’t leave readers up in the air.

“The Merlin Chronicles” trilogy by Daniel Diehl is an excellent addition to the subgenre of Arthurian fantasy. Mr. Diehl provides a suspenseful, action story with interesting characters and plot. The books are a fast read and hard to put down.

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Review: _The Broken Sword_ by Molly Cochran & Warren Murphy

July 2, 2016 at 12:47 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

It starts in exotic Morocco with an attempted assassination of a former American president. A young blind girl in the crowd is affected. Miracles occur. From here, The Broken Sword by Molly Cochran & Warren Murphy takes off on a thrilling adventure full of action. This second book of a trilogy is an Arthurian Fantasy set in our present day world. An engaging plot, likable characters and familiar themes makes the book very entertaining.

The engaging plot of the author hooks the reader quickly. The Holy Grail comes into the story at the beginning. Beatrice, the blind girl, has possession of it. She finds herself the target of a killer. In attempting to escape her pursuer, she joins up with Arthur, his bodyguard Hal and an old man named Taliesin. They discover that she has strange powers too. This group finds itself split up and fleeing an evil magician. From there, the book keeps moving at a rapid pace. The authors create a smoothly flowing story of action broken by interesting interludes of the characters’ life stories, producing slightly different perceptions of the Arthurian legend.

In addition, likable characters help keep the plot in perspective. Arthur is an adolescent boy who feels inadequate to handle problems of the modern day world. Hal, a former knight of the Round Table, strives to regain his honor by protecting Arthur. Beatrice is an interesting young girl with troubling powers. Even the villain Katsuleris has understandable motives for his actions. Taliesin is an interesting rendition of Merlin. The authors created characters that readers will want to follow to the conclusion of the book.

In the end, it is the familiar themes that give the readers a strong reason to stay with the book to the conclusion. One of the themes is the struggle between good and evil in our world. This is answered with Arthur’s confusion in deciding his destiny. The fight with the black magician decides it all. Hope is another theme played out with the young girl Beatrice, Taliesin and the Grail bringing hope for the world’s future. The themes keep the book satisfying for readers that don not like bleak ending. The authors weave these very well into the book.

The Broken Sword by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy is the second book of an Arthurian Fantasy trilogy. It is an entertaining book for readers due to the engaging plot, likable characters and familiar themes. Readers will enjoy this book because it does not suffer from a middle book slowness some trilogies possess. The third book is The Third Magic.

Review: _My Favorite Fantasy Story_

June 18, 2016 at 1:02 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

There are many Fantasy short stories that are memorable and classics of the genre. Sometimes short stories are all readers have time for reading, but it is hard to find some of these older stories. _My Favorite Fantasy Story_ edited by Martin H. Greenberg is an anthology of such stories. They are favorite stories picked by Fantasy authors with an explanation at the beginning of each story. The stories vary from humorous to serious by many fine Fantasists.

“The Gnarly Man” by the late L. Sprague de Camp is an interesting story. It is a humorous story about an immortal Neanderthal. He goes through life avoiding trouble, so he has a lot of knowledge about the small things in history. The main character is well drawn and sympathetic. This is an entertaining Fantasy story.

Fantasy meets mystery in the Contemporary Fantasy story “Stealing God” by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. The premise is that the Templar knights still exist in our modern day world along with magic. Peter Crossman the Templar knight is summoned to New York to find the missing Holy Grail. An intriguing story of action and mystery ensues. He must fight different factions for the Grail with the help of a warrior nun. Guns, magic and mystery blend well in this entertaining story.

Charles de Lint’s “Ghosts of Wind and Shadow” is another Contemporary Fantasy. It takes place in the fictional city of Newford where Fairy meets reality. Lesli is a teenage girl with the gift of seeing fairies. Her ˘mother doesn’t want her daughter to see such things. Mr. de Lint presents an entertaining story with his descriptive prose and wonderful characters.

There are two Dying Earth stories by classic fantasist Jack Vance. “Mazirian the Magician” is about an ambitious mage trying to steal secrets from another one. He pursues an unattainable woman through a dangerous landscape. “Liane the Wayfarer”  tells the story of Liane, a thief and braggart. He meets the witch Lith who he desires for himself. She sends him on a quest to retrieve her stolen tapestry. He meets an interesting fate for the witch. These stories have wonderful descriptions and quirky  characters. They leave memorable images in the readers mind.

Terry Pratchett’s “Troll Bridge” provides a Humorous Fantasy chosen by Michelle West. It is a satire about Cohen the Barbarian and his talking horse. In his old age, he wants to fight a troll before dying. They find an old, abandoned bridge where a stubborn troll and his family live. This is the tale o˛f what becomes of aging heroes told in Mr. Pratchett’s usual sly humor. Readers will laugh at this story.

Manly Wade Wellman is another Fantasy author of classic stories. He writes magical stories with a Southern flavor. His character of John the Balladeer appears in “The Spring.” In this tale we get the story of a witch trying to control a spring of healing water. John helps his friend Zeb protect the spring with his faith and silver stringed guitar. This is a quiet story that leaves a memorable touch on your mind.

_My Favorite Fantasy Story_ is an entertaining anthology of Fantasy stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg. It is full of good stories picked by Fantasy authors of today. Many of the stories are classics and range from humorous to serious. There are stories by Jack Vance, Barbara Kingsolver, M.R. James and many others. It is a worthwhile read.

Mini-Review: Ink Dance by Deborah J. Ross

May 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Books about writing can be helpful at times to learn new things, refresh old knowledge or inspire us to write. Ink Dance by Deborah J. Ross is a collection of short essays about writing. She covers diverse topics about the craft of writing, the business and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Readers can learn about how this writer handles her career while writers will find useful, insightful information that will help with their writing. I found this book very informative and helpful.

Book Review: The Element of Fire by Martha Wells

January 30, 2016 at 1:45 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Pistols fire at an invading Unseelie host. The king is a weak, emotionally battered young man. Strong and ruthless, the king’s mother tries to keep the kingdom intact. These are some of the many events of _The Element of Fire_ by Martha Wells. This book has many elements that weave together to form a powerful entertaining Fantasy for readers. Vivid characters, a convincing plot and detailed setting add up to a great adventure.

Thomas Boniface is the Captain of the Queen’s Guard, an excellent swordsman, clever but cynical. He works for the Dowager Queen Ravenna. She is an aging, strong willed woman who keeps the kingdom from falling apart. Her son Roland, the king, is controlled by the cold, vicious man Denzil. Another entry into this volatile mix is Kade Carrion, the half human half fairy daughter of the dead king. She is a wildã rejected member of the family, but a powerful sorceress. The author brings these characters to vivid life with her subtle descriptions and their actions. These characters  bring the plot to fruition.

Ms. Wells has created a very convincing plot of court intrigue, nasty fairies and mages, and a very dysfunctional royal family. Thomas must maneuver through all these things to keep Ile-Rein in one piece. The book starts out with the rescue of a sorcerer from a Bisran renegade. Then, Kade Carrion, the exiled illegitimate princess returns to court. This sets off a murder and invasion by the Unseelie fairies of the palace. Thomas evacuates the royal family and tries to discover who is the traitor to the crown. The plot is neatly set up and tightly woven to produce a hard to put down story of intrigue and adventure.

Lastly, the setting of Ile-Rein is a detailed place that brings the story to life. LMartha Wells created an unforgettable setting with rich descriptions of the culture and court life. The little details combine with the overall background to give a realistic feel to the kingdom of Ile-Rein. Readers can almost feel the bitter cold and smell the odor of gunpowder and death in the air. Ile-Rein becomes a memorable Fantasy world.

Vivid characters, a convincing plot and detailed setting weave together to make _The Element of Fire_ a very entertaining book. Martha Wells is an excellent author. She creates rich Fantasy worlds full of interesting characters, cultures and magic. Her stories add a fresh view to the Fantasy genre. This book is currently out of print but might be found in a used bookstore. Seek out her other books too: _City of Bones_, _Death of a Necromancer_ and _Wheel of the Infinite_.

Book Review: Flights of Fantasy edited by Mercedes Lackey

January 2, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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An anthology is a collection of short stories by different authors on some theme. _Flights of Fantasy_ edited by Mercedes Lackey is an anthology of Fantasy stories about birds of prey. The introduction by Lackey explains some basic facts about these birds that fascinate humans with their power and beauty. Stories range from humorous to serious with some on the dark side. Many are entertaining.

“Tweaked in the Head” by Samuel C. Conway is a humorous story. A scientist enhances the intelligence of a Red-tailed Hawk. The result is a talking hawk with a snide personality. The conversations between the scientist and Red are funny. It has a touching side to it also with the theme of do we have the right to do such things to creatures.

Gaining magic from animal totems is the main theme of the story “Eagle’s Eye” by Jody Lynn Nye. Imoh must find his eagle to gain the seer magic of his people or be an outcast. He travels into the wilderness looking for eagles to meet their eyes and find his particular bird. Imoh’s adventures are interesting. The story has a good character, adventure and a little humor. It’s an enjoyable read.

Those who challenge gods learn a valuable lesson in “Owl Light” by Nancy Asire. The priestess Yslinda must keep faith in her goddess to avoid marrying the priest of a conquering religion and nation. Her patience is tried with the king and other pressures. This story weaves a strong tale with sympathetic characters and a different setting. It is very descriptive.

Adelia is a powerful sorceress. She makes a servant from a young girl and a wren. Not satisfied, she decides to make a new servant from a male slave and a hawk. “Taking Freedom” by S.M. Stirling is a Dark Fantasy about the price of arrogance. Stirling tells a good story in a clear style. Readers will enjoy the ending.

Ravens are intelligent birds and carnivores to a certain extent. They play a major role in “The Tale of Hrafn-bui” by Diana Paxson. This is a tale using elements of Norse mythology. The birds help Hrafn-bui to reagain his land. Hrafn-bui grows and changes from his experience with the birds. This story has a dark edge with vivid descriptions of hunting. Paxson’s deft touch in creating memorable characters is present throughout the story.

The last story is “Wide Wings” by Mercedes Lackey. It tells the story of one of her secondary characters from her recent novel _Black Swan_. Honoria is the eldest daughter in a royal family. She is interested in riding, hunting and especially falconry. Her sisters can’t get married until she is married. Frustrated, her father issues an ultimatum that she either chooses someone to marry or must join a convent. Honoria is determined to find an escape. A goshawk offers her an alternative. This story has good characters and a lot of informative detail on falconry.

Birds of prey fascinate us with their beauty, power and strength. The stories in _Flights of Fantasy_ gives readers a sense of these things and more. This anthology is full of enjoyable stories that readers will find interesting and entertaining. Take flight.

Review: _Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce

December 6, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Forests hold a fascination over people. There is something about deep, dark woods filled with old trees that appeal to people in a mythic way. Stories taking place in mysterious forests with magic are a part of the Fantasy genre. _Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce is such a book. Published as a young adult novel, the book is entertaining for adults too with many things to entice them. A wonderful story is told through appealing characters, an entertaining plot and vivid setting.

Ms. Pierce provides appealing characters that a reader can sympathize with throughout the book. Hannah is a young girl living in a wintry land. She has drab clothing and hair with plants growing in it. Living in the Tanglewood, Hannah lives a simple life with her talking animal friends of Magpie, Badger and young fox pups. She visits the wizard once a month, but does not like him too much. Her worst problem is her amnesia along with her friends, so her past remains in question. Hannah grows throughout the story by the author’s weaving of slow changes for her.

Next, the characters help the entertaining plot keep readers hooked. Hannah brews a tea from the flowers in her hair for the wizard each month. This leaves her feeling weak every time. People come for healing from her, which leaves questions in Hannah’s mind about the wizard. She watches mysterious young knights disappear into the forest all the time. After the wizard plucks all of her flowers one month, leaving her near death, she learns a terrible secret about the forest. She meets the young knight Foxkith who sets her on a quest in order to save him.

Finally, the author creates a vivid setting to bring the book to life. The characters move through the setting in a change of seasons. Hannah starts out in winter living in the dark, cold Tanglewood forest. Spring changes her dress to green as she runs across fields that come to life in her wake. Summer finds her in a town paying homage to the goddess of the season. Toward the end, Hannah finds herself on the island of the sorceress queen. Ms. Pierce blends the seasons in with places to give the story a vivid life.

_Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce is an entertaining Fantasy book. Its appealing characters, entertaining plot and vivid setting brings the book to life for readers. Marketed as a book for young adults, older readers will find a pleasing story with mythic elements in it. For an exciting adventurous read, try a quest into the Tanglewood forest.

Review: _Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe

September 27, 2014 at 1:08 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Humans are fascinated by the past. Some eras that really draw people are the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Many people spend weekends dressing up to attend recreations of these fairs, involved in various aspects of a fair whether for pleasure or a serious pursuit. These fairs form the main theme of the Fantasy anthology _Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe. All the stories are set in these types of fairs with fantasy elements. Ranging from humorous to serious, readers can find many entertaining stories in the book.

The anthology opens with the humorous story of “Jewels Beyond Price” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Daniel is a jewelry maker, selling his creations at a Faire. He is plagued by arrogant customers that do not pay him for his stuff. Things change when he acquires the genie Habib. The wishes Daniel makes changes things and make this story a combination of a humorous and sometimes serious story. Ms. Scarborough provides a good story with nice characters that leads to a satisfying ending.

“Splinter” by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta is a Christian Fantasy. The main character, Wil, is a pick pocket thief. He goes to Renaissance Faires in order to steal from the patrons. Wil tries stealing a valuable treasure from an elderly storyteller, but gets pricked in his finger. After, every time he tries to steal something, he falls down in excruciating pain. He keeps experiencing things and returns to the story teller to discover his plight. The authors use the Christian element of the Cross to tell a compelling story that changes people.

Fairies play a part in the story “Wimpin’ Wady” by Jayge Carr. A two year old girl, Lottie, attends a Faire with her parents. The little girl loves fairies. She is stolen by a young fairy and taken to the land of fairy due to his being lonely. The parents, other people and a friend search for the missing child. Jennet, the limping lady, risks losing her ability to walk searching for Lottie. An entertaining story of likable characters is provided by the author for readers to enjoy.

Esther M. Friesner is a master author of humor. “Marriage A La Modred” is a humorous story of strange happenings. Renaissance Faires have characters that ply roles. Bethany Barre is singled out by a friar to be married in a mock wedding to a complete stranger. Her brother Vic makes jokes about the situation, further embarrassing Bethany. Events propel Bethany into a binding marriage with an elf king. Vic must save his sister from her magical fate. Readers will enjoy the humor of a fantastic situation created by the author’s vivid description and funny characters.

A man visits a Renaissance Faire that is set up in the place he played games with his best friend Dalton as a child. He tells the story of how he went blind in one eye and other events in flashbacks while taking part in a mock battle at the Faire. “The Land of the Awful Shadow” by Brian A. Hopkins explains how the blinded eye changed the boy’s life. The author writes a memorable tale with vivid descriptions of a fascinating childhood that affects the characters as adults.

_Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe is an entertaining Fantasy anthology based on the theme of modern day Renaissance Faires. Readers will discover stories ranging from humorous to dark fantasy. The stories bring to life these weekend excursions into the past by adding magic. Some memorable stories makes this anthology worth a reader’s time.

Book Review: _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle

August 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Two young women find their destinies in fictional Cat Creek, North Carolina. Molly McColl is dragged from her bed in the middle of the night into another world. Lauren Dane is frightened by a mirror in her house that shows scenes from another world. This is how the Fantasy novel _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle begins. From these two events starts an entertaining read of action, mystery and sorrow.

The author weaves a good story through her characters, plot and magic. Ms. Lisle’s characters brings this book to life through their problems. The book begins the story of two women with serious problems. Lauren Dane is a widow with a two year old son. devastated by the loss of her husband. She must deal with her gate weaving ability, someone trying to kill her, protecting her son, and a memory loss. Her trials help her to grow strong. Molly McColl begins as a troubled loner intent on escaping her captors. A healer, Molly does not want to use her power because it gives h√er pain. She must discover her strength through love and sacrifice. Their growth occurs through interacting with other characters such as Eric of the Sentinels and Seolar of Oria. All of the characters are vivid and realistic in their depictions by the author.

Another element that gives this book a strong, gripping story is the plot. It starts with a kidnapping and magic going awry. Earth is connected to other worlds through magical gates. Those worlds up world from Earth are destroyed, but those down world allow humans to do magic. The world is protected by groups of people called Sentinels that maintain the balance of energy between worlds. Cat Creek is the town of one group of Sentinels faced with saving the world while discovering a traitor and murderer in their midst. Ms. Lisle writes a tight plot with intrigue, suspense and plenty of action.

Finally, the author’s use of magic creates a suspenseful tale. The magical system Ms. Lisle uses is not very unusual. It consists of visualizing and applying a person’s will to cast spells, but magic in this story carries a big price. Every time magic is used in a down world it affects Earth. These affects can be minimal or destroy the world. It is why the Sentinels protect the Earth through careful use of magic. They must stop a spell that created a plague threatening to destroy the world’s population. Time is running out for them. They need Lauren’s help as a gate weaver, but find her hostile since she believes the Sentinels murdered her parents. Magic is integral to the story, adding a lot of suspense for the reader.

_Memory of Fire_ by Holly lisle is a suspenseful book with plenty of action. The author’s deft storytelling weaving of characters, plot and magic provides an entertaining, gripping story for readers to enjoy. Readers will find it hard to put this book down. This is the first book in the “World Gates” series.

Book Review: _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara

August 24, 2014 at 12:54 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

In darkness there is light and in light there is darkness. This is the conflict around which _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara revolves. It is the first book of “The Sundered” series telling the story of the battle between the Bright Heart god and the Dark Heart god through their servants. The author gives readers the beginning of an Epic Fantasy with a dark edge full of interesting characters, a twisting plot and bleak setting.

Erin is a young woman of the Light. She possesses the gift of healing, but wants to fight in the war against the Dark. Full of confusion and desire for battle, she rises to become the Sarillorn of her people, carrying the power of her god. Her youth leads her to failure and capture by Stefanos, First Servant of the Dark god. Ms. Sagara has realistic characters in this book. Erin is torn by love for Stefanos and has many flaws. Stefanos is very interesting with his evil nature but ability to show mercy at times. These two weave their way through a twisting plot of darkness and death.

Events in the book twist around an air of uncertainty. The reader is never sure where the plot will lead to by the conclusion of the book. Erin is chosen by the First Servant of the Light god as the hope of the future. She has no idea where that will lead. Stefanos fluctuates between his dark nature and displays of seeming love for Erin. He does things that are contrary many times. This twisting plot gives the book a sense of ambiguity that keeps the reader hooked until the end.

Lastly, the bleak setting increases the suspense of the book. Rennath is a city of shadows, built of gray and black stone. There is no color to relieve the starkness. Screams of the dying fill the air as priests of the Dark god sacrifice victims in bloody rituals of torture. The Nightwalkers like Stefanos feed on the blood of humans too. Erin must survive, making her way through this horrible place without blighting her soul. The sense of forboding this setting invokes makes the reader sympathize with the main character.

_Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara is an intriguing, suspenseful beginning to an epic Dark Fantasy series. The author uses clear descriptive words to give her interesting characters, tight plot and dark setting a life of their own. Readers will be hooked into wanting to find out what will become of Erin in the other books. This series was published several years ago and the books might be out of print, but can be found in used bookstores. If you come across this book, it is worth reading.

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