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Showing posts from September, 2010

Names Have Power

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So we're told by fairy tales, and authors of novels spend plenty of time coming up with names for their characters.  Names are tricky, and I'm sure different readers are more or less forgiving of different naming conventions. I can be forgiving of many naming sins if I like the story enough, but here are a few starting rules, starting with the most important: Names must be pronounceable.  Simple, right?  I just need to be able to read the name and have some idea of how it would sound.  I don't even have to be correct in my pronunciation.  I read about Eilonwy ( The Prydain Chronicles ) for a long time before I realized I was mentally pronouncing her name wrong. Quit it already with the weird spelling/punctuation! A little of this goes a long way.  A few works get a pass for when they were written, or if it's not too pervasive.  Mercedes Lackey popularized the abuse of apostrophes in the Valdemar books, (Shin'a'in, Ma'ar, k'Whatever) but at least

American Fairy Tales

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American Fairy Tales L. Frank Baum, 1901 I have a Kindle!  I know, you're excited.  And you know what is FREE on the Kindle? Well, yes, lots of things are free on the Kindle, or on the internet and able to transfer to the Kindle, but that is not the point.  The point today is that lots of collections of Fairy Tales are FREE on the Kindle.  I've been busy, so short stories are just the ticket right now.  Today's selection is a rather unique series of tales by L Frank Baum. There is a fascinating harmony here between a practical "American" spirit and elements of traditional fairy tales.  For example, fairy spirits make trouble for fashion-conscious shopkeepers, an aspiring young cowboy lassoes Father Time, a boy king has trouble with spendthrift hangers-on, a "wise and ancient chemist" creates magical bon-bons, an immigrant (who happens to be an evil wizard) attempts to turn troublesome schoolboys into pigs. They are a bit unbalanced in ton

A Mighty Fortress

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A Mighty Fortress David Weber, 2010 This series seriously needs a “Last Time, On Safehold...” prologue.  I'm not going to re-read, or even re-skim, one or more additional 600-plus page doorstops to reorient myself in preparation for reading this one.  This is part four, incidentally, of what seems to now be shaping up to be Arthurian motifs plus Protestant Reformation plus Industrial Revolution plus Interminable Boring Warfare , In Space. Also, the names continue to be eye-bleedingly awful.  See the third paragraph of my review of the previous volume for more on this.  I may have to write an entire rant about names soon. After the action pace of By Heresies Distressed , A Mighty Fortress felt like filler.  Not much happened, and when there was plot, it mostly happened to characters I didn't care about.  It meanders endlessly, and I'm beginning to lose all hope that Weber doesn't plan to write a giant book about each year of a 30 year war.  Almost

Well of Darkness

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Well of Darkness (The Sovereign Stone, Book 1) Weis and Hickman, 2000 I should just call this the “sooner or later I'll get through all the dollar fantasy I picked up at Forbidden Planet” series and be done with it.  Like Lord of the Isles , Well of Darkness was picked up on the very cheap, because I like the authors. In this case, I got almost exactly what I expected.  Nothing jaw-dropping, no brilliant characters or plots here, but okay structure, an interesting magic system, and cool world-building.  Cool world-building is really what I expect from these guys. Here we've got your standard fantasy world with a nice subtle twist.  They've kept something core about each race, and just given a perspective shift on the rest.  For example, the elves, as expected, love nature, live mostly in fancy gardens, and are contemplative.  They are also inspired by aspects of various Asian cultures and history.  Their society is very complex, they are very concerned with s

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

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Sheepfarmer's Daughter (The Deed of Paksenarrion , Book 1) Elizabeth Moon, 1988 I love the Baen Free Library .  I'd been meaning to read The Deed of Paksenarrion for some time, and was able to download the first part on my laptop for free.  Huzzah! This is exactly what Baen's project is for.  I get to try the first book, and if I love it, I track down the rest.  And I did love it. It wasn't tremendously ground-breaking or anything, but it was solid enjoyable D&D-style fantasy, medium magic level, with good action, good description, good characters.  I don't need everything to have a twist, i.e. to be fantasy but with (insert odd addition to setting or race here), and it's nice to see a new fantasy that doesn't make me feel like it's trying too hard. I liked the prologue, which foreshadowed the story with a nicely mythic tone.  The first chapter begins in an awkwardly clich├ęd scene, and if I hadn't been reassured by the prologue,