Reivew: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Reivew: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Published by Macmillan on February 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Historical
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now.Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

I don’t typically write reviews for anything less than a full book, but I kept seeing this one around and I was intrigued. NetGalley only had an excerpt available for review so here we are. The excerpt was roughly the first ~150 pages of the book, so that’s what I’ll be basing my opinions here on.

This book is written in 3rd person, and we have 2 POV characters in this first part. The one with the most time devoted to him is Kell, the Red Ambassador and one of only two people that we know of that can walk across worlds. The second POV is Delilah Bard, who is a pickpocket and thief from Grey London. Despite the discrepancy in the time we have with each of them, I like Delilah much better than Kell. She may be unscrupulous in her ambition, but Kell is careless in both thought and deed. He also seems rather spoiled, to be honest.

In this story, there are 4 Londons located across space and time. Except not all of them are called London, and none of them are much alike at all, except for being generally in the same geographical area in their own worlds. First, is Grey London, which is magic-less and a close approximation (so far) of our own world. The second is Red London, where magic is a tool to be used and things are beautiful. This is where Kell is from. Third is White London, where magic is currency and everything is about having power. Magic is mined from the world like oil in ours and consumed. This drains the world and its inhabitants of color and vitality, which is why this London is White. The fourth London, only whispered about and currently only a memory, is Black London, where magic turned into a weapon of mass destruction and exploded. Black London, if it still exists in Kell’s time, is cut off from the rest, and because of that, taking more than letters from one world to the next is forbidden.

This directive of ‘forbidden’ Kell, of course, ignores as he has a nice side business set up carrying trinkets back and forth to sell on the black market. I told you he was spoiled. This leads to a dangerous artifact — perhaps from Black London — being given to him to deliver as a gift. Because Kell also seems quite stupid, without opening it, he takes the package  across the worlds and is then attacked in his super secret lair, forcing him to run to the one London without magic in order to escape. This is essentially where the excerpt ended.

Now, this book has some solid writing that really sucks you in. The premise is interesting — although I have one beef I will get to in a minute. In even the short excerpt, the characters were vivid enough that you really get to know them, albeit from Kell’s perspective of them. I’m pretty interested to know where Schwab is going with her aspiring pirate, magic coats, and strange magical artifacts.

Am I $12.99 ebook or $23 hard cover interested? Eh. Honestly, I’ll probably wait for a sale. This author is new to me, and while the excerpt was intriguing, it wasn’t rush-right-out-to-read-the-rest-of-the-book material for me.

Which brings me to my beef. WHY is it always London? Mirrored London, in fact. This has been done so many times that it’s practically its own trope. Schwab’s version is a twist, and I’m wondering if there’s a world-building reason for four Londons instead of the usual twin set. I’m also wondering why Kell would refer to them as “London” when only Grey London is really named London and he’s not even from there. Wouldn’t calling them all after the name of his own Red city make more sense to him? I don’t know, maybe there’s a reason for that, too.

I’ll be honest, I am probably being harder on this book then I would have been if I’d gotten to read the whole thing rather than an excerpt. That’s the problem with only getting part of a story. It’s like getting sand in your shoe. It’s not going to hurt you, and the journey to the beach was pleasant, but the grit rubs your feet and irritates to the point where you almost regret going at all.

I’m going to give this book 3 stars for pirates and magic coats and sociopathic white ladies who drink blood. If you have the book budget to spend and you like the elements listed here, give this book a try. I’d personally like to see a review from someone who’s read the whole thing. (There are 15 reviews on Amazon right now with a total score of 4 stars.)

 

three-stars

Review: Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Thieftaker is the debut novel from pseudonymous author D.B. Jackson. It is the first in a series called the Thieftaker Chronicles. It was published July 3rd from Tor Books.

The Blurb

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see. [Goodreads]

The Review

This book was a deviation from my usual stuff. I don’t normally read historical fantasy, but the idea of a thieftaker (and a female antagonist!) was too big of a draw for me. And I’m super glad that I took a chance on this one, because I really enjoyed it.

I found the mystery a little confusing, but that could be because I don’t know a whole lot about Boston’s pre-Revolutionary War days. I had some trouble keeping all of the various players straight, which didn’t really facilitate finding all the little clues. But this could have something to do with my reading before bed. That’s not my sharpest time of the day. I’m not bothered too much by it — I like to be surprised in my reading. I doubt other readers would have this problem with the book; this is simply my unique little difficulty, so don’t base any decisions on this.

What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that the author didn’t use the time period as an excuse to give us weak-willed little fainting ladies. There are two main female characters in this book: the aforementioned antagonist, another thieftaker by the name of Sephira Pryce, and Ethan’s lover, a widowed tavern owner. A more peripheral character is Ethan’s sister, who is also pretty strong-willed for being a seemingly typical colonial wife. All of these are very different fully-developed women characters with their own motivations and goals. We don’t see more than a scene or two with each of them, but there’s enough to give the hope that they’ll be truly awesome in the future!

I also love the addition of magic to the history. It gives things a certain spice that makes them even more compelling. I’m not sure how close to history this story will be as it continues, although the author has said that he’s tried to remain fairly accurate – with the obvious exception of the fact that there were never any thieftakers in America, that is.

This is a solid debut with plenty to offer a reader, and it’s bite-sized enough at only 333 pages (in the hardcover, according to Goodreads) that it won’t take you long to swallow it whole.

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Guest Post + Giveaway: What’s In A Name? by L.J. McDonald

L.J. McDonald is an author for Dorchester Publishing, home to our already esteemed Leanna Renee Hieber. She is the author of the Sylph series, consisting of The Battle Sylph, The Shattered Sylph, and the upcoming Queen of the Sylphs. If you haven’t heard of L.J. McDonald before, don’t worry – I hadn’t either. What I can tell you now, after reading the first book in the series, is that if you’re a fantastical or paranormal romance fan, then I think you want to give this series a try. I am admittedly hesitant to pick up any sort of romance novel, and yet I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it. It was original and engrossing – and reading it digitally means there are no embarrassing “man-candy” covers to display in public! As my regular readers know – from me, this is a huge endorsement! Stay tuned after the guest post for an e-book giveaway!

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

L.J. McDonald

Sòlas is a Gaelic word meaning solace, comfort, consolation, contentment, pleasure. I can’t pronounce it. My ability to speak French, the second language of my country, makes people laugh. My ability to say anything in Gaelic, which I don’t speak at all, is likely an abomination.  However, I can look in a dictionary with the best of them.

If anyone does any serious study of the history of English – I haven’t, which means I just know enough to get myself into trouble – they learn that a lot of English words find their origins in ones from other languages, such as Latin. J.K. Rowling took all the spell names she used in her book from Latin words.  I think this is brilliant, not that I knew enough Latin to realize it until I read the fact on a blog somewhere. It’s also something I’ve been doing for years, likely the same as a lot of authors, but I’ve been using Gaelic instead of Latin.

I brought up the word Sòlas because that’s the word I used to come up with the name for Solie, one of the heroines in my Sylph series. Obviously, I immediately bastardized it, since I don’t particularly want anyone to look at the name and go “hey, she named her heroine Comfort.” Plus I only know the definition of the word and nothing about how it’s used in context.

I don’t always do this. Sometimes the name just comes to me. I have a mental list of names I’d always planned to use and sometimes they fit that way. Leon got his name that way. Sometimes, however, it backfires on me. I love the name Blue. Took me a while to realize I’ve used it in three separate books now. All minor characters. After I finished laughing, I decided to leave it that way, just to see down the road if anyone notices. Only one of those books is on the shelves right now. Autumn’s shown up twice too. That one I’m more peeved about. It’s going to change in the other book once I get around to getting it fully typed and published.

Heyou’s name was a joke from Solie’s first words to him of “hey you”. So was Wat’s.  It’s basically a misspelling of ‘What’? I’m sure there’s some sylph out there somewhere whose name is “Ohcrap” or even something ruder.
Back to the use of Gaelic. Sala definitely came from Gaelic, though there’s no exact use of the word Sala in Gaelic. It’s a corruption of a word that gives a very large hint as to her character.  That’s why I like it.  By taking a name from an existing word, I can give it a meaning, even if it’s one only I know.

A character’s name is very important. In a novel, it can give a fast first impression of that person and affect the way that people see them. In a fantasy it can throw the reader right out of their immersion in the world. I have a minor character in QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS called Fhranke. In the first draft, I called him Frank. I was asked to change that because it was too jarring for the beta readers. I’m sure no one would take a battler seriously if I named him Bubbles, but if I felt so inclined, I could name him Suilean and only true Gaelic speakers would want to throw the book at my head (which means I’d likely called him ‘Suilen’ instead. Close enough to Bubbles the battle sylph to make me laugh).

I’m not entirely sure how other authors come up with their names for people and places, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  Using Gaelic as a source helps in finding a word when I’m stuck that has a flow to it that doesn’t sound like English and feels like it could be from a fantasy world. Besides, that way I can name some villain Asalpur someday and only I would ever know that it loosely translates as ‘donkey butt’.

Asalpur….hrm….I like it.

This is Kiara back again and now it’s time for our giveaway! One lucky winner who comments here by October 7th (11:59:00 PM Eastern) will win a download code from Dorchester Publishing to get their own copy of Queen of the Sylphs!

Here’s the blurb:

It was a dream come true. Solie had her own battler, a creature of almost infinite magic who could vaporize legions in the blink of an eye and would willingly suffer a thousand bloody deaths to protect her. She was his love. More simply, she was his queen.

Many others feel the same. The new-built settlement is a haven for all. Erected by sylphs of earth and fire, air and water, the Valley is Solie’s dominion. But, lovers without peer or killers without mercy, the very nature of their battler protectors means peril. It is not in any sylph’s nature to disobey, and while some are hers to command, others are the slaves of Solie’s enemies—the jealous, the cruel. Those who guard her must not fail. Their peasant-born ruler is not yet safe as…QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS

A Precious Gift, or How David & Leigh Eddings’ Books Taught Me to Be A Decent Human Being

I’ve done lots of stupid things in my life. I think just about everyone has. Regardless, I try not to spend a whole lot of time on regrets because if even one thing in my past were changed, I think the whole domino pile of craziness would collapse — and, well. I kind of like where I’m at now.

So I only really ever had one big regret, and it has nothing to do with past loves or big mistakes or foolish choices.

It is simply this: I never got to meet David or Leigh Eddings. If you’re not familiar with this King and Queen of Epic Fantasy (and why aren’t you?), then you’ve probably never read the series known as The Belgariad. Or the ones titled: The Mallorean, The Elenium, The Tamuli or the stand-alone The Redemption of Althalus.

The Belgariad in particular is a universal, coming-of-age, farm boy becomes a King kind of epic fantasy. Yes, that’s become a familiar trope but dare I say (and yes, I do) that even if Eddings did not do it first, then at least he did it best. This is a truly world-encompassing tale with sorcerers, knights, both benevolent and evil gods, and a pair of dueling prophecies that could shatter the entire universe with their opposition.

I admit it – I read this series when I was very young. I read it, and loved every bit of it. From the illiterate kitchen scullion to the fiery-haired princess to the magic-wielding aunt to the curmudgeonly old story-teller/sorcerer. I didn’t love it in the same (lesser) way that I enjoyed Dragonlance, which I read at about the same time. That was adventure, but this was something else.

The Belgariad is carried not by its plot (which is, though entertaining, fairly predictable for anyone familiar with the fantasy genre), but on the backs of its characters. Garion, our hero, is very young when the story starts and is essentially “raised” during the course of the books. From his practical old friend, Durnik, he learns the value of hard work and that the best course is always honesty. From the old storyteller, Belgarath, he learns that many things can be accomplished based on the way others perceive you. From the burly Barak, he learned swordsmanship; from the knight Mandorallen, bravery; from the spy Silk, cunning and wit; from the horse-lord Hettar he learned a sort of stoic justice; from Her Imperial Highness the Princess Ce’Nedra, he learned passion; from his impulsive friend Lelldorin, he learned  devotion. And from his aunt, the sorceress Polgara, he learned the value of boundless love.

As Garion learned these things… So did I. As I read of serpent queens and mad gods, I was also taught the value of self-worth, honesty, the real meaning of courage, practicality, and much, much more.

When I am exhausted, defeated or lonely, I come back to this story, these books (and, to my great satisfaction, I am not the only person I know who does this). The characters are all the oldest of my friends. Each one has a voice of their own in my head, and I could probably quote long portions or at the very least tell the whole tale without reference. It was only recently that I started to wonder at the fact that it seems very apparent that The Belgariad taught me how to be a good person. I am grateful for that, more grateful than even I could know, I think.

So it was with a heavy heart that I heard of Leigh Eddings’ death – on my birthday, no less – in 2007. Later, I read with real devastation the announcement of David’s own death in 2009. Gone were my heroes, the most beloved of the hundreds (thousands?) of authors I have read. I think it took me another year or maybe even two before I realized the full tragedy: I would never meet either of them, would never hear them speak at a convention or book signing, and I would never possess a signed copy of any of these books.

Until now.

Slip case and cover

A dear, dear friend who has often spoiled me far more than I truly deserve has done it yet again. (There is a reason, my dear Reader, that she was the best “man” at my wedding. We could find no better person – woman OR man.)

#280!

This is a Signed, Numbered, Hard Cover, Slip-Cased, Limited, FIRST edition of The Redemption of Althalus. Althalus is, of course, my favorite of Eddings’ work now that I’m an adult. The Belgariad is an old childhood friend that taught me everything I know about growing up. Althalus is the devious, incredibly fun friend of dubious morality – a perfect grown-up companion. Garion’s world is where I retreat when I’m feeling beaten. Althalus’ realm is where I go when I’m feeling sort of naughty*. (*In a “short-sheeting the bed” prank-y kind of way, not the Adults Only kind of naughty.)

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this, but boy am I grateful for them. And? Not only do I have the one thing I never thought I would (which is the second best option to actually meeting David and Leigh, which would be sort of difficult at the moment), but apparently the dough that was ponied up for this book also went to benefit the people of Japan after their recent disaster(s). That, I think, would make Durnik awfully proud.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I realized what I was holding. I don’t think that even after this entire post that I can really express to you what it means to me to be holding a tiny piece of the history of two people that, despite my never having met them, made a very large difference in my life. It is a gift beyond measure, and I am doubly blessed that not only can I hold it, but that I have a friend who would go to this distance to put this most significant gift into my hands.

The only way I could think to repay her (since she would not accept anything else) was to share this story with you.

Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

 

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Kingkiller Chronicle #2

Written: Patrick Rothfuss

Published: March 1, 2011

Publisher: DAW

ISBN: 0756404738

Obtained via: Purchase

Blurb:

For nearly four years, fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting this second volume to Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. The first volume, The Name of the Wind, won the prestigious Quill Award and was recently voted as the third-best SFF novel of the decade on Tor.com. In this linchpin book of the trilogy, Kvothe continues his perilous search for answers about the Chandrian even as he grapples with more pressing dangers.

My Review:

Pat Rothfuss’ writing ranks about an 8 on the Sanderson scale. What? You don’t know about the Sanderson scale?

Have you ever read any of Brandon Sanderson’s stuff? Not his Wheel of Time work, but the books that spring from his own imagination like Elantris, Mistborn or — most especially — The Way of Kings? You see, Sanderson writes a mind-bogglingly good fantasy novel. A very highly complex, really good fantasy novel.

If you’ve read any of the above, especially TWoK, you’ll understand. The Sanderson scale is when you come across a book that is a mind-blowing, amazingly fun read — even though you have no idea what the capital-F is going on. And it’s an exponential scale, kind of like the one they have for earthquakes. An 8 on the Sanderson scale is like 100 times more crazily weird than a 7, and so on.

The Wise Man’s Fear is about an 8 on the Sanderson scale because Rothfuss manages to slip in about a 100,000 tiny little mysteries and then MAKES YOU FORGET ABOUT THEM in the next five words, because of the other awesomeness he is writing about.

There are the big ones, of course. Like the Chandrian and the Amyr or who Denna’s patron is. But there are hundreds of smaller ones, too. Like why is Denna’s ring so important to her? And why did Auri come to Kvothe’s room the night Ambrose drugged him? There are tons of little things like that, the ones that make me wonder for an instant and then are gone by the next page.

Intricate is about the only word I can use to describe this book. Kvothe’s whole world seems so intricately locked together that it’s no wonder it took so long for Rothfuss to write and edit book two. I couldn’t even begin to pull out all the threads for examination, let alone keep them all straight in my head if I were the author of this beast!

So yes, here is my summary of adjectives: mind-blowing, amazing, intricate, mysterious, complex. Wonderful. Stunning. (And lots of people say “stunning” in regard to books and movies, but I say I am seriously *stunned* to even think about the amount of effort that went into creating this story.)

Patrick Rothfuss is a rare and delightful storyteller, the likes of which come along by only a handful in each generation. The writer in me can only grovel, bang my forehead on the floor and weep, “I’m not worthy!” The reader in me would say something profound… Except she is still stunned by the depth and richness of this story, and can only blink and rub her eyes and look mystified.

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Review & Giveaway: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Inheritance Trilogy #1

Written: N.K. Jemisin

Published: February 25, 2010

Publisher: Orbit

ISBN: 0316043915

Obtained via: Gift from a friend

Blurb:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.

My Review:

N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms twists and pulls traditional fantasy more times than a piece of string on a pair of knitting needles. We have all the usual epic fantasy elements: strange gods, a stoic king, a beautiful palace, powerful magic, and a youngster trying to find her place in the world. Except that none of those pieces fit together in any of the usual ways: the king is a tyrant, the palace is poison, the youngster already ruled her homeland before we met her, and the gods are weapons and slaves turned against each other by mortal hand.

The world of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is exotic and strange, and the Palace of Sky is the strangest, most exotic place in all the land. It is a place where the ruling family is dozens (maybe hundreds) strong and where the large majority of them work as servants, but the only slaves in the place aren’t human — they’re gods. Yeine is thrust into this strange world – her mother’s world – where she’s been declared heir to the kingdom, if she can survive. Surviving won’t be easy, though, with her two cousins doing their best to kill her and with the god-slaves trying to draw her into their own dangerous conspiracies.

This book is cruel and strange; deadly and beautiful; by turns compelling and repulsive. I’ve seen a whole truckload of hype about this book, and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s lived up to all of it. But I daresay that it was woven well and uniquely and is worth a look for any fantasy fan. I’m looking forward to having the time to take #2 – The Broken Kingdoms off my shelf.

[xrr rating=3.5/5 imageset=default]

Interested in winning your own copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? Leave a comment on this post by midnight ET on February 28th, 2011 to be entered to win. (1 entry per person, drawn at random. Must have US shipping address.)

Green Rider Series Re-Read: Guest Review of The High King’s Tomb

The High King's Tomb cover art

I have to admit The High King’s Tomb, book 3 of Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, is not my favorite of the three I’ve read so far. For example, again with only the mentions with Stevic G’ladheon. Also, Karigan actually gets a bit whiny in the first half of this book, where as I specifically mentioned she doesn’t get there for me in the other books. However, as usual she’s too busy to be whiny in most of the second half! 😉

The blurb:

Karigan and a Green Rider trainee are sent on what seem to be mundane errands for the king of Sacoridia and Captain Mapstone, and which end up being anything but. Attempts to mend the breach in the D’Yer Wall continue. And the Second Empire continues its no longer secret attempts to overthrow Sacoridia for their ancient leader, Mornhavon the Black. Britain keeps the excitement high from beginning to end, balancing epic magical craziness with the humor and camaraderie of Karigan and her fellow riders.

This novel starts out much more sedately than the first two books, which is actually something I quite like. I like to read about “normal” in these long series. The first couple books were separated by two years, but it wasn’t something that the reader actually gets to experience.

I think I’ve figured out why this novel isn’t sitting the same with me as the first two. The villainess introduced in this book has a mission. She also has a side mission. A huge, horrible side mission that potentially affects the universe, but still only feels like a side project and unimportant to the story. Maybe as the series goes along this side mission will be shown to have had more impact on the story than I could see.

And just a couple of random comments to add: I’ve read reviews that mention how Britain likes to use all the fantasy tropes you can think of, and I can’t disagree with that. However, a lot of them seemed pretty fresh uses to me. There are also definite parallels with Tolkien’s work, beyond the very black and white nature of the characters, but that’s almost hard to not do these days. I would definitely have to agree that Green Rider’s parallels are stronger than those I’ve read in other novels lately. On the other hand, it’s a bit like coming home in that sense.

And apparently my blog has been found at least once by people searching to see if you can read the Green Rider novels out of order. In this case, it’s something I’d definitely not recommend. I may be biased however. Even with series that aren’t necessarily connected (Terry Brooks, Brian Jacques, L.E. Modesitt, Jr.) I like to read them in order. On the other hand, thinking about it, the stories are fairly self contained. I just can’t say personally whether they work out of order, since I’ve never read them that way. One would definitely be missing out on detailed background info as a person might assume.

And now for the most recent installment, which you can still comment to win over at Waiting for Fairies, Blackveil!

Meet Tor’s New Bouncing Baby Twins

Like Fantasy? Like Steampunk? Then I have some good news for you.

Tor.com has announced the creation of two “satellite sites” exclusively for sharing some of the best content found around the ‘net in the fantasy and steampunk genres. Basically, these are Facebook “fan” pages and accompanying Twitter streams.

Would you care to meet these two cute li’l additions to the Tor family? I knew you would.

Meet @TordotFantasy. She’s the eldest by two minutes*. She likes dragons and swords and kicking major evil booty. I think you should meet her.

Don’t forget @TorSteampunk, either. She enjoys gears and goggles, bustles and dirigibles. Give her a call.

*Note: This is completely untrue. I made that up just now. I have no idea which idea came first – but it’s an interesting thing to speculate, right? Kind of like the chicken and the egg!

Pick your poison: Click the links in the text to go to the Twitter pages and the images if you’d rather go to Facebook.

What else has Tor.com got going on? Well – they’re holding a series of Countdown to the Winter Solstice Giveaways. Click the link to find out more information and get in on the winning.

And since Stubby the Rocket (Tor’s mascot/logo) is traveling full-speed ahead into holiday swing, you might just want to keep your eyes peeled for more wacky goodness from our friends at Tor.com.

In other news – stay tuned here at Waiting for Fairies for an upcoming review of the new NookColor from Barnes & Noble!

Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

by Brent Weeks The Black Prism

Lightbringer #1

Written: Brent Weeks [website]

Published: Orbit, Hardcover

When: August 25th, 2010

ISBN: 0316075558

Obtained via: Purchase

Cover blurb: Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

* * *

There is so much to address about The Black Prism. We have a very ambitious new fantasy world, a unique and fairly complicated magic system, an interesting political set-up, and some pretty ambiguous characters.

First, the magic system – which consists of an inherent ability of certain members of this society to turn pure light into a plastic-y substance of various states of solidity. This substance is called luxin, and consists of the various colors of the visible spectrum of light plus what in the book is called “superviolet” and “sub-red”. Not all people in this world can create luxin, however, and of those that can, none can create luxin from more than 2 or 3 colors out of the entire spectrum. Except, of course, for the man known as the Prism.

Which brings us to Gavin Guile, the current political leader of the Seven Satrapies. Gavin is a wealth of contradictions. He is a savvy politician; a powerful user of the entire spectrum of luxin; a kind and gentle man, who accepts the sudden shame of a half-competent bastard son with barely a care for how it will affect his own plans. We don’t see all of his five goals, but the ones we do see are noble indeed. Yet, he is also the victor of a vicious war who left thousands dead, an entire satrapy virtually destroyed, and his own brother deposed. He then rather callously dumps his fiancée and sets himself up as the supreme ruler of the entire kingdom.

Then there’s Kip, the aforementioned bastard, whose mouth moves fastest, mind moves second, and legs move last of all. He’s a smart-talking, tubby teenager with low self-esteem whose mouth frequently writes checks his body can’t cash. Kip’s snarky, repetitive comments about his size and abilities is occasionally enough to set one’s teeth on edge, but I think it’s a pretty true vision of what a teenager would be thinking. Because there’s no one more important to a 15-year-old than themselves….

Some people have taken issue with Kip’s repeated self-esteem issues – and there are a lot of them. I’ll admit that Weeks is treading a fine line here between an honest portrayal of a character and one so frustrating and pitiful that you must distance yourself as a reader. But my opinion is that he’s coming down on the side of candor, rather than annoyance. Each reader must ultimately judge that for themselves.

I’m leaving out many compelling characters, of course, and even more compelling events. I read this 626 page hardcover in 2-3 days while working full-time. I think that feat speaks to the draw of this book.

There are tropes here to examine, of course: the poor boy who suddenly finds himself in possession of a noble name and great power; a subject king in rebellion (and a siege!); the girl-fighter who became a warrior to hide her vulnerabilities. Every fantasy, by virtue of being called fantasy, must have one or two. I think Weeks has done a pretty good job of stacking them together in a unique new way.

The magic system, in my opinion, is what that in Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker should have been. This is not a knock against that book (which was excellent in its own way); there was plenty going on there and I understand why Sanderson chose not to take that opportunity. However, I’ve been curious to see what a magic system using color and light as separate functions would look like, and I’m pleased that Weeks has managed to do it so well. I’m curious to find out why the various colors have different degrees of solidity and I hope that’s explored further in later books. I’d love to know why, for instance, the author chose yellow as a liquid while blue is a solid, etc.

Ultimately, though, I think this book speaks a lot about whether one can overcome their past and make a better future. Gavin is trying to heal the wounds of a pretty horrific war. He’s lied. He’s murdered. In his mind, both were for the better good. Is that enough to overcome the choices he has made to get where he is? As the first book in a series, we obviously don’t yet have the answer. But it’s the question that is important.

The same goes for Kip. He’s the poor son of a drug-addicted, abusive mother and an (until now) absent father. His home satrapy is conquered by Gavin’s war, and then fifteen years later, his hometown is razed by soldiers of his own King. In this case, Kip’s situation didn’t spring from his own decisions, but he still has a terrible past. Are the brave deeds he accomplishes during the course of this book enough to separate him from that past? Again, we don’t know the answer, but the questioning is even more crucial.

The Black Prism gives us layer upon layer of past decisions and actions affecting current affairs, and it makes a truly intriguing web of events. I’m excited about seeing the rest of these consequences unfold. Once you top that with some well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, each with noble intentions and dangerously real flaws, you get a spicy recipe for a series that I will definitely be lining up to finish.

Buy The Black Prism: Amazon | B&N | Indie Bound

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Writer's Resources for January 9th through January 17th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for January 9th through January 17th: