Books

Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

Lumin is a forest world, with trees who’s roots reach all the way to the planet’s core. The lives of the people of Lumin are closely entwined with those trees. Maybe too entwined; after using the energy that flows through the forests to power every aspect of society, the Core is heating up and the trees themselves are dying. There’s only one way to reverse the damage: shut down the entire Network, cutting off all advanced technology that feeds off the trees and throwing the planet into a new dark age. The Core will stay sealed for as long as it takes the planet to heal.

More than six hundred years later, a young woman named Mia stumbles across a treasure in the Archives of the Order of Vis Firmitas. The treasure is a book, hidden away for centuries. The history of an ancient battle and the key to the lost technology of the planet may be contained inside the mysterious artifact that slowly comes to life in Mia’s hands: the Compendium.

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

Last week the Binary System Podcast was on vacation (check out the BSP Facebook page for pictures taken in and around Niagara Falls), and traveling means picking something want to read, something out of a list of books I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Adam-Troy Castro’s short story collection Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories was the perfect choice for some light reading while waiting around in airports.

Keep in mind that “light” in this case refers to the size of the book. It does not mean “happy”.

Shakespeare wrote that art is “a mirror held up to nature”; for this book Adam Troy-Castro is using a funhouse mirror with a magnifying glass, reflecting some of the very worst that human nature has to offer. These stories are dark like you wouldn’t believe. They’re also fascinating, thought-provoking, hard to put down and, in several cases, deeply upsetting. You could plow through all eight stories in a matter of hours, but I’d recommend following the suggestion David Gerrold wrote in the intro: don’t read all of them at once.

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Review: The Thief’s Daughter

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Review: The Thief’s Daughter

Jeff Wheeler returns us to the kingdom of Ceredigion with The Thief’s Daughter, the second book in the Kingfountain series.

It’s been ten years since the end of The Queen’s Poisoner, and they’ve been some of the happiest years of Owen Kiskaddon’s life. The terrified little Fountain-Blessed boy has now grown into a capable young man, training every day to become a fighter and tactician. Even better, he’s been able to spend most of that time living with the kindly Duke Horwath and the Duke’s granddaughter, Evie (that’s Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer to you.) Owen’s best friend – and possibly the love of his life – has grown into a beautiful and devastatingly intelligent young woman who’s just as determined to marry Owen as she was when she was nine.

But a nearby kingdom plans to attack Ceredigion, and there are rumors that one of the King’s deposed nephews is still alive and returning to reclaim the throne. Owen and Evie will have to thread their way through plots and assassination attempts while trying to prove their loyalty to a king who will do anything to protect his kingdom and his crown, even at the expense of everyone around him.

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Review: Masks

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Review: Masks

“And when the last of the traitors had been executed, the young Autarch made a decree: Henceforth all citizens of Aygrima would be Masked in all public places…”

The Masks are what makes the kingdom of Aygrima safe, everybody knows that. Enchanted to reveal treasonous thoughts, they protect the rule of the blessed Autarch from rebellion. And sure, Mara worries a little about whether the Masks change people, and she hasn’t been completely truthful about how much magic she’s still able to see. But it’s okay, the celebration for her fifteenth birthday is almost here, and as the Gifted daughter of the Master Maskmaker she’ll have the most beautiful Mask her father can make, and she’ll join Aygrima society as an adult and her father’s apprentice and it will all be fine.

Then her Masking goes horribly wrong, and Mara finds herself one of the unMasked. Outcast and doomed to spend the rest of her life as a slave in the Mines, Mara learns that everything’s she’s been told about the blessed Autarch’s reign is a lie. More than that, there are fellow outcasts working to overthrow the powerful Autarchy, and Mara has to decide if she can trust them as she tries to learn the extent of her own impossibly powerful magical talents.

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Review: Summerlong

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Review: Summerlong

It’s been three years since Peter S. Beagle released a short story or essay, and longer than that since his last novel. That’s a long dry spell, especially for someone who’s writing was such a big part of my childhood. Fortunately Beagle’s latest novel, Summerlong, is due out this September, and it’s absolutely worth the wait.

Retired professor Abe and soon-to-be-retired flight attendant Joanna have spent the last twenty-two years building a comfortable life for themselves. They have their own odd quirks, but also a lot of sense; they’re certainly not the type of people to be captivated by a total stranger and invite her to live with them. Except that’s exactly what they do a few hours after meeting the new waitress at their favorite diner.

The beautiful Lioness always has that effect, effortlessly charming the people she meets and causing everyone – customers, neighbors, children, whales, Joanna’s often-heartbroken grown daughter Lilly, even the usually gloomy Puget Sound weather – to fall head-over-heels in love with her. Abe and Joanna are soon exploring new dreams for themselves, and trying to ignore the nagging sense that there’s more to Lioness than she’s letting anyone know.

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Review: Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird

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Review: Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird

Elizabeth over at Binary System Podcast has been trying to get me to read the latest Doctor Strange series almost since it first came out last October. I finally ran out of excuses when I stumbled over the gorgeous hardback graphic novel Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird, collecting the first five issues of the series written by Jason Aaron (Star Wars, The Mighty Thor, Avengers vs. X-Men), with art by Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, plus a couple dozen other X-titles).

Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the character; Aaron gives you a quick history of the surgeon-turned-Sorcerer-Surpreme on the first page, and then throws you into a gloriously insane world of magic and monsters that’s hidden from most “normal” humans.

Ever since starting his new life as a sorcerer, Doctor Strange has been operating as something of a supernatural troubleshooter, driving out magical infestations from his home in Manhattan. But there are rumors that there’s something out there worse than alien parasites or demonic nightmares. And whatever it is, it’s getting closer, right when Strange is starting to realize that the price of using magic may be a lot higher than he can pay.

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Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

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Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

Charlie N. Holmberg – author of The Paper Magician series – is working with a new type of magic in her latest book Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet (due out June 28). Instead of paper or metal or glass, the magician in this book works with food.

Maire is a magical baker who can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities. She can give someone a sense of love with a slice of cake, or a downtrodden worker new strength with a sugar cookie. She can even make baked goods do things they were never intended to do, like, say, making gingerbread strong enough to be used to build a house. Sounds like the makings for a whimsical, fun book, right?

Wrong.

Maire’s fanciful magic powers are just the backdrop for a book that’s almost relentlessly dark in places. The reader is quickly thrown into a story of Maire attempts to survive being kidnapped by marauders and sold to a lunatic, all while trying to recover her forgotten past. It’s also a story of love (lost and found), and little tidbits about what type of cake works the best for each kind of magic. The book is an intriguing mix of the cute and the dire, and none of my initial guesses about Maire’s origin ended up being right.

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

I’ve been meaning to read more of Greg Bear’s short stories, especially after reading Blood Music (my review can be found here), a groundbreaking novel that was originally based on one of his earlier stories. Fortunately his short-story collection Just Over the Horizon caught my eye right when I was looking for something to read over my vacation. This collection is volume one of what I hope will be several more books, and it features some of Bear’s earlier works from the 1970’s and 80’s, when he was already showing a dazzling skill at taking a concept that’s very tricky to understand, explaining it in a way that a non-scientist can at least start to understand, and then wrapping a story around it.

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Review: Crimson Peak Movie Novelization

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Review: Crimson Peak Movie Novelization

A long weekend is a good chance to finally catch up on some books I’ve been meaning to read for a while: Dante’s Inferno, another Allison Weir history book on the Tudors, maybe even a re-read of Edith Hamilton’s classic book from the 1940’s on Greek Mythology.

Or I could pour myself a glass of wine and read a movie novelization. That would probably be an even better idea.

It’s been over two years since I last read one of these (see my review here) and I talked then about how writers of novelizations have to walk a fine line between slavishly writing down every bit of dialog, or changing things so much that the story no longer resembles the movie. Nancy Holder (author of the Wicked series and many many TV and movie tie-ins) manages to walk this line with ease with Crimson Peak. Keeping in mind that I loved the film and am hypersensitive to any changes, I still think this is one of the best novelizations I’ve read.

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Review: Moth and Spark

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Review: Moth and Spark

Anne Leonard’s debut novel isn’t just a fantasy epic, it’s a story of discovery. The main characters, Corin and Tam, discover their place in their kingdoms, their hidden talents, and a blossoming and impossible love for each other, while at the same time the reader discovers the author’s intricate world and its magic, all acting as the backdrop to a tale of plots, betrayals, marauding armies, and hidden agendas.

And also there are dragons.

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