Category fantasies

Tooth and Claw 0

Aug1

 Tooth and Clawby Jo Walton

In as few words as possible, the best way to describe Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw (Orb Books, 2009) is to say that although it owes a great deal of its sensibility to the tropes of the Victorian novel, the main characters are all dragons.  This is not in any sense a mash-up (do not, for example, think Abraham Lincoln and vampires), rather it’s a melding of two cultures—humanity and dragonity.  (And as far as I can tell, the main difference between the two cultures is that dragons ritually eat their dead in order to share their wisdom, strength, and power.) As Walton herself put it, the novel is “the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology.”  As a lover of both Anthony Trollope’s multitudinous works and fantasy novels, it was a natural choice for me to pick up.  Walton begins with the bare outlines of the plot of Trollope’s Framley Parsonage: a father dies and the family begins a fight over his bequests.  One son, a parson, hears his father’s last confession and learns a fact that he is not to divulge to the rest of the family; another son decides to contest the original will.  Meanwhile, the two unmarried daughters become pawns of the male-dominated society.  How will it all work out?  Will the good get their just rewards and the evil be punished accordingly? Walton’s captivating tale is not to be missed.

 Tooth and Claw  Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw 0

Aug1

 Tooth and Clawby Jo Walton

In as few words as possible, the best way to describe Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw (Orb Books, 2009) is to say that although it owes a great deal of its sensibility to the tropes of the Victorian novel, the main characters are all dragons.  This is not in any sense a mash-up (do not, for example, think Abraham Lincoln and vampires), rather it’s a melding of two cultures—humanity and dragonity.  (And as far as I can tell, the main difference between the two cultures is that dragons ritually eat their dead in order to share their wisdom, strength, and power.) As Walton herself put it, the novel is “the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology.”  As a lover of both Anthony Trollope’s multitudinous works and fantasy novels, it was a natural choice for me to pick up.  Walton begins with the bare outlines of the plot of Trollope’s Framley Parsonage: a father dies and the family begins a fight over his bequests.  One son, a parson, hears his father’s last confession and learns a fact that he is not to divulge to the rest of the family; another son decides to contest the original will.  Meanwhile, the two unmarried daughters become pawns of the male-dominated society.  How will it all work out?  Will the good get their just rewards and the evil be punished accordingly? Walton’s captivating tale is not to be missed.

 Tooth and Claw  Tooth and Claw

To Color the Wind 0

Jun14

 To Color the Wind

Guest Blog by Jean Hays Mishler

In the trilogy To Color the Wind: The Wolf Head Amulet, The Golden Stag, and King’s Capture, Barbara Glynn has created a fantastic world.  The heroine, Jesipam, endears herself to the reader immediately with her quick wit, cunning, and outside-of-the-box thinking.  Only a child, she is thrust into adult responsibilities when she and her sister are cast out of court,  thanks to a tempestuous king who is also their father.  Alone amid strangers, Jesipam must make new alliances, keep her sister safe and fed, and discover how to use and control her own strange magical powers.  Along the way, she tirelessly works to regain the life to which she is entitled. 

Tirshaw, a rich world of desert, spices, and magic, where communication happens via “thread tubes,” will entice young readers with its unusual people and customs. Three “houses” of differing life values contend for power. Jesipam cleverly weaves her way among the houses, and in the process gives the reader a clear view of this complicated political landscape. This fantasy series gives an entertaining glimpse into a new world, but also serves as metaphor for many current events where politics and value clashes cast large shadows on individuals and their life opportunities.

Even though I am an adult, I found Glynn’s writing captivating and could not put the books down.  Her skillful suspense kept me turning the page and waiting at the mailbox for the next book delivery.  I highly recommend these books, especially to young readers, as the heroine is such a great role model for that age group.

Jean Hays Mishler is a writer and singer who primarily makes her living teaching private voice lessons. If you are interested in hearing her music, listen here:  www.mosaicthecd.com.

 To Color the Wind  To Color the Wind

Castle Waiting 0

Jun6

 Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting, and its sequel, Castle Waiting 2 (Fantagraphics, 2006 and 2011), were originally available as a series of award-winning individual comic books. I’m hopeful that they’ll gain a much-deserved wider reading audience now that the collection has been brought together and republished in two beautifully produced volumes. Beginning with a Sleeping Beauty-like backstory of her cursed birth, the tale extends outward as the hobgoblin-infested castle where Sleeping Beauty grew up becomes a sanctuary for anyone in need. Each of the motley crew at the heart of these tales has sought out the confines of the castle looking for support, friendship, and comfort. They include Jain, a pregnant aristocrat on the run from an arranged marriage; Beakie, a merchant; a horse-headed knight named Sir Destrier; a group of bearded nuns (who were once part of a circus); as well as various other, equally distinctive characters. In the second collection, we continue to learn more about all the appealing characters before they came to Castle Waiting; we also follow their ongoing interactions with one another. The black and white drawings are precisely drawn, with small endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun. Once you’ve read them, I know you’ll join those of us who are eagerly awaiting the appearance of Castle Waiting 3.

 Castle Waiting  Castle Waiting

Matched 0

May25

 Matchedby Ally Condie

Dystopian novels for teens have been around for a while, but this particular sub-genre of fantasy got a huge second wind from Susanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. If a teen you know is looking for a good follow-up, point them toward Matched, a first novel by Ally Condie (Dutton, 2010). The novel is set in a world controlled by an all-powerful group known as The Society, in which everything about each person’s life—food intake, profession, marriage partner, date of death—is determined by statistical formulas. Seventeen year-old Cassia Reyes gets her first hint that something’s not right during the all-important Matching Ceremony when she learns who her husband will be. It turns out that it’s her best friend, Xander. But when she gets home and looks at the picture she’s been given, it’s that of Ky, one of the school outcasts. How could this discrepancy occur in a perfectly regulated society? And is there anything she can do? Can any individual take on The Society—and win? Matched is followed by Crossed, which is due out in November, 2011; but I somehow doubt that the story will end there. Perfect for 7th graders and up.

 Matched  Matched

Midnight Riot 0

May18

 Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Mysteries with a touch or more of the supernatural are not hard to find on library and bookstore shelves these days; but I found Ben Aaronovitch’s novel of elastic realism, Midnight Riot, to be something special, mainly because of the voice of the narrator, London Police Constable Peter Grant. Caught in the wrong (or right?) place at the right (or wrong?) time, he stumbles upon a murder scene where a ghost approaches him and claims he witnessed the crime.  As a result, Grant is assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the Department’s go-to man for crimes involving magic. In short order, he finds himself enmeshed in a family feud among the personifications of the various tributaries (both above and below ground) of the Thames River.  Meanwhile, this being a police procedural, he and Nightingale plod away at unraveling not only the original murder, but various other nasty events that seem to be related to it.  And, under Nightingale’s tutelage, Grant begins to develop the magical abilities that he seems to have a gift for (as evidenced by his having been able to talk to the ghost witness in the first place) but of which he’s been previously unaware. Grant’s voice is colloquial and self-deprecating, the pages turn quickly, and London comes alive in all its squalor and beauty. And did I mention Toby, one of the best canine sidekicks in contemporary fiction? Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere should enjoy Aaronovitch’s novel and its sequels quite a lot. Now to decide whether to shelve it with the mysteries or the fantasies…

 Midnight Riot  Midnight Riot