The Sworn

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Sworn
Gail Z. Martin, 2011

New Release! Copy provided by Netgalley for review.

Premise: King Matris Drayke of Margolan has barely recovered from deposing his patricidal brother and assuming the throne when a new threat approaches. Worshippers of death and chaos are on the rise throughout the region, dark rumors circulate about invasion from abroad, and the dead themselves are frightened enough to warn the young summoner-king and his friends: prepare for war.

I have only one quibble with The Sworn, but it's not a small one: it's not nearly as good a jumping-on point for this world as the marketing push would have you believe. If you are in the mood for some good epic fantasy, you might enjoy, as I did, the experience of catching up, but there is serious catching-up to do.

The author has written four previous books set in this world, dealing with most of the same characters. The prologue of The Sworn summarizes these books in a brain-numbing flood of names and events, and if I hadn't already read and enjoyed the first chapter, I might have put the book down right then. In the book proper, there are at least five major characters and/or pairs of characters, following plotlines taking place in different kingdoms and cities, and it took me a long time to get involved in the stories that had the most history. The characters who seemed to have been created for this book were the ones I found most immediately approachable.

I was surprised at how widely the focus of the plot ranged across all the different characters, I suppose because I've been reading a lot of narrowly focused first-person narratives recently. The plots were starting to pull together by the end (at least into a few main threads), and I'm certain they will continue to do so in the sequels. This is true epic fantasy: dealing delicately with multiple threads simultaneously, the armies of good ranged against the forces of darkness, and the doings of kings and warriors.

The only reason the wide-ranging plot was a problem for me was that I kept being introduced to new characters and plotlines before I'd gotten a handle on the ones I had already read. It was chapter eight before the book returned to the characters I'd liked so much in chapter one.

I have to say that to my surprise, the use of vampires and werewolves in place of other fantasy races works really well. They slip beautifully into a supernatural spectrum that includes a very present spirit world, elemental and ghost-based magic, shamanism, and a well-explored system of goddess-worship.

By the end of the book, I was invested in all of the characters, and had a hard time putting it down. I really like the world, and I like the plot, although there's nothing groundbreaking about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book as a solid, original, large-scale fantasy. I'll watch for the next one, now that I know the characters, and perhaps in the meantime I'll go back and read the previous books. Unfortunately, I didn't really start loving it until about half-way through, and so I can only give it

3 Stars – A Good Book. However, this is a special case. If you're familiar with the characters already from reading the earlier books, consider it 4 Stars.

Buy The Sworn on
Or possibly start with The Summoner?

Closing out a month of constant posting...

I'd like to thank anyone who read through all my reading meme posts this month. (If you missed the month-long meme, see index post here.) I know it's cliche, but I hope that you had as much fun reading them as I had putting them together.

Please steal the prompt list for your own if you like, memes are meant to be shared after all.

Thinking through these short articles put a lot of books back on my "to re-read" list. Partially inspired by this post and partially by a gift I received for the holidays, I've decided on a special event for the upcoming month.

I'm declaring the week of Feb 14th Fantasy Flashback Week here at the Bookshelf. I'm going to read a large pile of classic Middle Grade fantasy, all books that I loved as a child but haven't read in years and years. Some will be obscure, some less so. I'll post about a different book every day that week.

If you reread an old favorite recently, I hope you'll come by and leave a comment here, or on any post that week.

Or if you'd like to read along, here's the planned schedule:

Mon Feb 14: The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander
Tues Feb 15: The Farthest-Away Mountain, by Lynne Reid Banks 
Wed Feb 16: Swept Away, by Josepha Sherman
Thurs Feb 17: Dealing With Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede
Fri Feb 18: Sun Blind, by Gwen Hansen
Sat Feb 19: Bonus Non-Fantasy Book: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
Sun Feb 20: The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

For now, enjoy your regularly scheduled reviews and comics posts!

Day Thirty – Saddest character death

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What a depressing way to end. I'll have to think of something fun to post tomorrow.  Spoiler blocks in place for this. Highlight to read.

I think my answer is  Jake    in The Dark Tower (Book 7). That one hit me right in the gut.  (and yes, I read the epilogue-happy-ending, but still...)

  Aral   in Cryoburn was pretty hard too, but not unexpected. Beautifully written, though.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-nine – Current book obsession

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hmm.. not too much specific going on right now. My current obsession is variety, I guess. Reading a little of this and that, then switching gears entirely. Recent/ongoing obsessions: Military Science-Fiction, Noir, Classic Pulp, Classic Sci-fi, Popular Science...

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-eight – First book obsession

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have to say my first full-blown obsession was fantasy novels in general. I started with Lloyd Alexander, and by the time I went to college and took a break from novels, I had read just about everything available in my local library, and literally owned hundreds of them.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Book Blogger Hop Jan 28

Book Blogger HopThis is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

"What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011? Why are you anticipating that book?"

Despite my relative disappointment with The God of the Hive (review), I am looking forward to Pirate King, the next Mary Russell book. I just re-read A Monstrous Regiment of Women (book two), and am reminded why I love the series.

Other than that, I just don't know.  I don't tend to hear about most books months ahead of time, unless I'm already following the author, and there are only a few authors I currently like enough to follow.

(Not to mention some of the authors I like who are still releasing books, are of the type whose books are on the schedule of "Well, you know, another book will be finished eventually, and it might be this book or it might be something else... or not.")
Recent updates of Interest
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Your eyes do not deceive you

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I've done some gentle tweaking and repair to the look of the blog.  Just minor changes, but I like the effect.

Any Comments/Questions?

Day Twenty-seven – Favorite non-mainstream writer

How do you define “mainstream” I wonder? Most of what I read is genre, most of it is decently known...

Well, I'm sort of sweet on one particular indie writer, but that hardly seems fair.

Hmmm... how about David Petersen, the writer/illustrator behind Mouse Guard. Small press comics are pretty non-mainstream, and Mouse Guard (review) is consistently beautiful and intriguing.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #11, X-Men: Age of X Alpha

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not a lot out this week that I was interested in. Plus it's snowing and disgusting out, so I almost didn't go to the store at all.

Favorite Issue this week: American Vampire #11

Books were new in stores 1/26/11

Notable comic collections released this week:
Avengers Academy Vol. 1: Permanent Record, collecting 1-6 of the very well-written if indifferently drawn series (More about Avengers Academy two weeks ago)

The Last Unicorn, collecting the entire miniseries. I highly recommend this book if you missed the issues. It's an absolutely gorgeous adaptation, although I'm not sure if you might get lost here and there if you haven't read the book. I recommend the book, too, of course.

American Vampire #11 (The Way Out, Part Two)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Mateus Santoluco

What is there left to say about this book? I love it. I love it every month. I love Pearl. Sure, she's troubled by being a vampire, but she tries not to angst about it. She tries to be normal, up to a point. Cross her, though, and the European-style vamps had better run. The contrast here between Hattie and Pearl made for tense little dueling stories.

X-Men: Age of X Alpha
Writer: Mike Carey, Art by Walta, Barberi, Wong, Diaz, Davidson and more...

Picked this up sort of on a whim. I mean, haven't we done alternate-dystopian-present and/or post-apocalyptic future with the X-Men more than a few times now? That said, I enjoyed this little collection of snippets (hence the profusion of artists) that serves as prologue to the upcoming crossover. It does have the advantage (from my perspective) of having nothing to do with current Marvel continuity. There wasn't anything mind-blowing, but intriguing enough little twists on the characters that I'll probably at least look through the other Age of X books when they start to drop next month.

Also Considered:
Wonder Woman #606
Yeah... it's better, I guess, but I'm still not feeling it.

Day Twenty-six – OMG WTF? plot

Hmmm. A decent book with a WTF plot: Perdido Street Station. It's been a while, but I think there are bug people and a caterpillar that eats brainwaves and the plot completely shifts about half-way through. I thought it was well written, but loathed the ending with the fire of a thousand suns.

A bad book with a WTF plot: Space Junque. This little e-novella starts out as pretty good post-apocalyptic sci-fi romance, but completely switches into poorly plotted future religion-destiny-fantasy stuff and abandons the original tone entirely. I didn't like that much.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-five – A book you plan on reading

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Any book? There are plenty on my TBR list. Among them:

The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One 
The Purity Myth 

The Handmaid's Tale 

Name of the Wind 

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us

(Throne of Jade) read since compiling the list

The Black Company 

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Throne of Jade

Monday, January 24, 2011

Throne of Jade 
Naomi Novik, 2006

This was another great installment in the Temeraire series. I purchased it on my Kindle when I was delayed by weather over the holidays, and it did a delightful job of transporting me to a warmer clime.

Premise: Captain Laurence and the dragon Temeraire, introduced in His Majesty's Dragon, travel to China. It is unclear whether the Chinese government will allow Temeraire, who is a Celestial (a special and rare Chinese breed) to remain in company with Laurence, or ever to return to Britain. They face factions, politics, and assassins, and try to make a good impression.

This is a second book, and runs the risk of feeling like more of the same. I think it rides the line beautifully; it neither feels like a disappointment, nor like the action is being ramped up unreasonably. There are new characters, new settings, and new kinds of dragons to learn about.

It is also a great start for the series in finding its moral center. Laurence learns a lot about the way dragons are treated in China, and how the different culture impacts the dragons' lives. The two characters face more tests of their bond, which allows for more growth in their relationship, and an understanding of their possible paths.

The voice is clear and entertaining, as in the first book, although the sense of propriety is easing as Laurence himself learns to work with different groups of people. As a fan of both books about dragons and books about British naval warfare, this series is just perfect for me.

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

More about Throne of Jade on

Day Twenty-four – Best quote

 “...the true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.” - Prince Liir, The Last Unicorn 

Honorable Mentions:

“Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart” - Miles Vorkosigan, Memory 

“I've always thought–tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune.” -Cordelia Vorkosigan, Shards of Honor 

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-three – Most annoying character

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Well, I hated all the characters in Oliver Twist when I read it in High School....

Oh! I stopped reading A Song of Fire and Ice because I couldn't come around on all the annoying characters in that. I don't even remember their names at this point. So for most annoying character, I nominate everyone who survived to book three, more or less.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-two – Favorite ending/climax

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Okay, this one I have to give to Lord of the Rings. The destruction of Mount Doom through to the rescue by the Eagles is one of my favorite parts of any book ever. I'm even highly partial to the Scouring of the Shire.

Honorable Mention: The end of Moonraker (James Bond) I find notable for tension and dark humor, and the end of Memory (Vorkosigan Saga) for mental and moral triumph.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty-one – Favorite fictional romantic relationship

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unsurprisingly, given yesterday's answer, my top two have to be Russell/Holmes and Miles/Ekaterin.

These are both adult, intelligent relationships between equals that are also romantic and sweet.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Twenty – Favorite kiss or love scene

Thursday, January 20, 2011

End of A Monstrous Regiment of Women. Zero doubt in my mind about this one. As hardcore as I can be about my Holmes canon, I'm totally a Russell/Holmes fangirl.

Honorable Mention goes to the end of A Civil Campaign

I enjoy sex scenes, but I usually find a well written kiss far more satisfying. Especially these ones.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #8, Darkwing Duck #8, Supergirl #60

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: Darkwing Duck #8, but it was very close

All books new in stores on 1/19/11

Avengers Academy #8
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Mike McKone

Yes, I caught up over the weekend, as I said I might. The writing on this series is really good, although this felt like one of the weaker issues to me. I suppose I might feel that way because this issue focused on Tigra, an established character I know nothing about, rather than expanding one of the new characters or dealing with a character I'm more familiar with. So your mileage may vary. The kids do push their limits here, and I'm looking forward to the next issue. My major problem with the book is that the art is uneven. There are plenty of good panels, but faces in some perspectives seem to be a problem for this artist.

Darkwing Duck #8
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani

This deserved Book of the Week just for the art alone. Wrapping up the “Crisis on Infinite Darkwings” storyline with humor, drama, and panache, the issue is full of incredibly varied geeky references, from the very first panel.
The writing is quick and clever, and every month I adore the alternate covers: all riffs on old comics, especially Batman. (I enjoy them even when I have to look up the reference, as I did today. Batman 227, FYI) This book consistently makes me smile.

Supergirl #60
Writers: Nick Spenser and James Peaty, Artist: Bernard Chang

I picked this up because I enjoyed the Jimmy Olsen feature that Spencer had been writing. It's a decent-to-good issue, with a 'ripped from the headlines' twist on villainy, and a B-plot with Lois and Cadmus. As advertised, this is a good jumping-on point. My big problem? Art, again.

In one sequence, each panel flips back and forth between two locations, following two separate conversations, but because they're done in the same color palette it's hard to follow at first glance. Also Kara looks frighteningly thin, especially about the waist. Thin is not automatically bad, and she is cute on the cover, but in my opinion she is somewhat scary looking inside.

Also Considered: 
Wolverine and Jubilee #1
This was the start of a mini-series, and I'm generally more likely to pick up an issue of a miniseries on a whim than an issue of an ongoing. I skimmed this in the store, though, and while I thought it was intriguing, and the art was nice, I frankly thought “Vampires? Since when? O-kay...” and put it back. I'm sure it makes sense with larger continuity, but I clearly don't know anything about larger X-Men continuity.

Day Nineteen – Best ensemble of characters in a book

Hmm... I'm repeating myself a bit, but the obvious answer is Dragonlance. Tanis, Flint, Tasslehoff, Raistlin, Caramon, Sturm, (even Riverwind, Goldmoon, Kitiara, Laurana, Tika, etc...) were my constant companions as a teenager, and still what I think of first when I think of a good wide cast of characters.

A newer choice is the lovely ladies of the Birds of Prey. Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk make me quite happy, not to mention occasional members/newer members Hawk and Dove, Vixen, Gypsy, guest spots by Catwoman and Wonder Woman and many others... besides there are the opposing characters in Savant, Lady Shiva, Cheshire, many smaller parts... it's an all around carnival of awesome, and one of the best uses of an ensemble in comics.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Eighteen – Favorite book cover

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I already posted about book covers for a Book Blogger Hop, see my answer here.

I'll add few more pictures of some favorites:

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Full Dark, No Stars

Monday, January 17, 2011

Full Dark, No Stars 
Stephen King, 2010 

Premise: Four long short stories about revenge and human behavior.

The first story was slightly darker and more brutal than I prefer, but I know I can't really complain on that account. “1922” is kin to “The Telltale Heart”. It is the longest story in the collection, and the one I liked the least. The rest, though, were quite good.

My main nitpick about this book is actually that the stories are slightly too long. Each premise is not enough to fill a book, and too much for a normal short story, but most feel just slightly padded out to their current length.

Page count: “1922”: 128, “Big Driver”: 110, “Fair Extension”: 29, “A Good Marriage”: 81

I know not everyone likes Rose Madder, but I do. Of these four new stories, two center on wronged women, and I enjoyed both. “Big Driver” follows a mystery writer who is attacked on the road, “A Good Marriage” is about discovering the dark side of someone the protagonist thinks she knows. Both are about women who struggle with finding a hidden side of themselves, almost a separate person, after extreme events. The stories are different enough from each other to have both in this collection, although it's a near thing.

The other story, “A Fair Extension”, is an amusing and dark piece about making a deal with the devil on the side of the road.

Overall, a decent assortment, and I think the whole book is well written, visceral, dark and bloody, in other words, what I expect from King. All the same, nothing quite grabbed me the way that some of the pieces in Just After Sunset did.

3 Stars – A Good Book 

More about Full Dark, No Stars at

Day Seventeen – Favorite trilogy or tetralogy

Is it too cliché to say LOTR? Maybe so. I find I don't read trilogies much anymore... are they falling out of fashion?

I do have a soft spot for Dragonlance: Legends, or some of the older stuff by Mercedes Lackey.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Sixteen – Your guilty pleasure book

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Well, Guilty Pleasures (review) comes to mind. Much of the Anita Blake series would fit this category. Yes, many of them are awful. That, clearly, is not the point.

Other paranormal romance books come and go on my radar, but these ridiculous books hang around, particularly the first few.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Fifteen – Favorite female character

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Molly Grue, Lady Ekaterin Vorsoisson Vorkosigan, Mary Russell. That's three intelligent, decisive, independent women. Molly might be more clever than intellectual, but she's still fantastic, and deals sensibly with many a difficult situation. I adore Ekaterin, watching her find her feet, then take a breath, and follow both her head and her heart. Mary Russell is a match for Holmes. Of course she's extraordinary.

While we're here, I'm also going to throw some love to Wonder Woman, and the Birds of Prey when they're well written (i.e. Gail Simone). Because superheroines are awesome.

Birds image source

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here

Day Fourteen – Favorite male character

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Maturin, Samuel Vimes, and Lord Miles Vorkosigan. That's one consulting detective, one physician/natural philospher/intelligence agent, one head of the City Watch, and one enthusiastic and eclectic minded leader of men, if you're keeping track.

Back in the day, I would have cited my personal trilogy of favorite magic-users: Raistlin (Dragonlance), FireSong (Valdemar) and Naitachal (Bard's Tale). I still have a soft spot for them, actually, though many of those books don't hold up to much re-reading.
Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Book Blogger Hop Jan 14

Book Blogger HopThis is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

"Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?"

 Well, I read a lot of different genres off and on, but I always return to fantasy and sci-fi novels. I prefer to read about characters in extraordinary situations. I have trouble connecting to characters who aren't engaged in something larger than themselves. I love fantasy for its tales of "what could of been" and sci-fi for its tales of "what could be," (even though I don't actually believe in fairies or alien abduction, etc.)

(This is not to say that I never enjoy "realistic" fiction, but I almost never do, not any set in modern day at least. Other genres of special interest include Historical fiction, Noir, Mystery, and Horror.)

I especially enjoy novels that engage with big ideas or situations that are fantasy today: what might happen if we developed this or that technology, or met an alien race, or met a truly alien race. What would it be like to live in a world that had multiple sentient species (elves, etc.) or if magic was a normal part of life, or the gods were real and they were bastards, or there were superheroes...the more imaginative the better (while still being coherent and interesting). Bonus points for books that manage to also fit in both an exciting, adventurous plot and compelling, intriguing characters.

There are enough "true-to-life" stories in real life.  When I read, I want to explore the boundaries of imagination, and confront something new that I've never thought about before.  

Recent updates of Interest

Day Thirteen – Favorite childhood book

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth. I love The Phantom Tollbooth as a fun story, a funny series of metaphors, a well written adventure, and a rallying point for overly thoughtful, intellectual children.

If you missed this one as child, it's a fairy-tale style adventure of a bored little boy who is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom (containing the major cities of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis) and tasked with rescuing the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason to restore order to the land. It's full of puns and colorful characters, including the Awful Din, the Humbug, the Spelling Bee, and the demons who live in the Mountains of Ignorance.

Honorable Mention: The Prydain Chronicles, The Cat in the Hat

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy Reprint #1-3, Batgirl #17, Birds of Prey #8, Star Trek: Khan: Ruling in Hell #4, Wonder Girl #1

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: Birds of Prey #8

All issues new in stores 1/12/11

Also new this week: collected paperback of Joker's Asylum II, which was a great series of one-shots that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Avengers Academy: Meet the New Class #1 (Reprint of 1-3)
Writer: Christos Gage, Artist: Mike McKone

This issue benefits from some convenient timing. I had decided to look into more Marvel books (see 2010 comic post), Avengers Academy was plugged heavily in the "3 Chicks Review Comics" podcast I enjoyed last week, and then Marvel releases this. It's the first three issues collected for the price of one. Sweet!

I really liked this: it's like New X-Men but I think the character work is better at first glance. It helps to know a little about recent Marvel, but it brings you up to speed quickly. The premise is simple: a bunch of misfit young super-humans created or traumatized by Norman Osborn train with a bunch of misfit Avengers. Sort of. I hope it isn't giving much away to say that in tone it's also like what I wanted Runaways to be. It's the characters that I'm really drawn to so far. By turns fun, dark, and action-packed, this was a great intro to the series.

Of course, now the question is do I follow it? Next week Issue #8 comes out. I have here 1-3. I think the collected 1-6 is coming out, but it'll be more expensive than just buying 4, 5 and 6. Come on, Marvel, cut me a break and give me an easy way to catch up.  Alternately, one of the comic shops could conveniently have a back issue sale soon...or I could wait for the graphic novels to get cheap.... Time and budget will have to decide here.

Batgirl #17
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller, Artist: Pere Perez

This is a really cute story, pairing Stephanie with Damian for a quick adventure. The contrast between the characters is well played, and it lets Steph be more mature, while still herself. I really enjoyed this one. Short, but sweet.

Birds of Prey #8 (The Death of Oracle, Part Two)
Writer: Gail Simone, Artist: Guillem March

Now this is a fantastic issue. The story picks up speed and drama, and is mostly one long involved fight scene. Barbara's plan is starting to crumble, and the tension picks up. The art is smooth and overall great despite a couple of awkward panels, and the cover is pretty sweet. The interplay between Batman and the Birds here is particularly nice. Ha! I just noticed that Bruce doesn't get a snappy character intro in his first panel. The man needs no introduction.

Star Trek: Khan: Ruling in Hell #4 
Writers: Scott and David Tipton, Artist: Fabio Mantovani

This is the last issue of this miniseries. As expected: no surprises, but a solid, resonant ending. I've really enjoyed these, although I had some issues with the art in the first couple. The account of Khan and his people on Ceti Alpha V feels consistent with the episode and film they bridge. I can't tell how much this series owes to the similarly titled novel by Greg Cox, although Cox gets a small acknowledgment in the copyright notice. Hmmm... Well, in any respect, it's a solid, thoughtful miniseries.

Wonder Girl #1
Writer: JT Krul, Penciler: Adriana Melo, Inker: Mariah Benes

This one shot was cute, but nothing that special. I liked the battle, although the emotional context (Cassie's relationship with her mom) was riding the edge between touching and cloying. I'm not sure where I think it falls in the end. A quick Google tells me that the young lady calling herself Solstice in this issue is about to be a new Titan with light-based powers.  I want to like her, she's funny and cute, although in this issue she's dispensing a smidge too much fortune-cookie wisdom.

Also Considered This Week:

Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria #2
Flipped through this, but I don't think this adaptation adds anything to the experience of reading the novella.

Heroes for Hire #2
Another Marvel book I picked up and looked through.  It seems fine, but didn't hook my interest.

Day Twelve – A book you’ve read more than twice

The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Yup, COMPLETE.

Also most of the Vorkosigan books, the core 6 Dragonlance Novels, The Lord of the Rings, the first few Anita Blake books, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, etc., etc.... I like to reread books sometimes.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

Day Eleven – A book that disappointed you

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

So many in this category. Lud-in-the-Mist (review) is a fairly salient one for me, and there have been a few recent works by authors I otherwise love (Cryoburn review, The God of the Hive review) that I've felt weren't quite up to snuff. The God of the Hive particularly, I felt was full of missed opportunities.

The Best of CL Moore (review) also disappointed me. I read it after I had heard a little about her, as one of the first major female genre writers. My feminist heart selfishly wanted her work to blow everyone else's out of the water, and it was just decent with flashes of greatness.

Full schedule of the Reading Meme Here.

The Stepsister Scheme

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Stepsister Scheme
Jim C. Hines, 2009

Premise: Newly-minted Princess Danielle Whiteshore is still adjusting to life at the palace when her stepsister abducts her Prince and tries to kill her.  Luckily, Danielle teams up with two other former Princesses, creating a trio of heroines who are determined to rescue her Prince if they have to fight, flirt, bespell and bluff their way through all of Fairytown to do it.

This book was tons of fun! This is the best pure fantasy adventure I've read in a long time. It's also fairly unabashed girl power. I really enjoyed it.

In this world, fairy tales are true, more or less. Danielle de Glas did sneak off to the ball dressed in glass slippers she received from the tree over her mother's grave. She did not arrive there in a transformed pumpkin. Her comrades in arms are Ermillina “Call me Snow” Curtana, and Talia “ask about the fairies again and I'll kill you” Malak-el-Dahshat. One of the more interesting parts of the setting is which aspects of the stories are revealed to be true, which are false, and which are exaggeration or misinterpretation. The girls are partially legend even in that world. Danielle's story, for example, has grown in the telling in her own kingdom.

Each one has powers relating to her origin. Talia (Sleeping Beauty) has used the fairy gift of grace to become a matchless melee fighter, Snow White channels magic through her mirrors, and Danielle can speak to animals. The allusion on the cover to Charlie's Angels is not misplaced. These princesses are not to be trifled with.

They're such fun characters, as well. The 'types' are obvious on the surface, i.e. Talia is the tomboy, Snow the girly girl, Danielle the mediator/leader, but each has secrets, a good heart and motivations complicated enough to be interesting without being too angsty.

It's so nice to read something where I genuinely like all the characters.

It doesn't get bogged down by the problem that sometime plagues Fables: not every minor character has to be a reference. It's a lot lighter in tone, mostly, and I enjoy it more overall.

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

More about The Stepsister Scheme on