Rantings and Ravings: My Journey Through SF&F.

As a huge Fantasy bookworm (and occasionally SciFi as well) I have stumbled along blindly through the SF&F section at my local bookstores. I am hoping that through this little "blog" I can let others learn from my findings, and I can learn too if anyone else would like to share!

July 10, 2006

Welcome!

This is my very first entry. I will now pause for the customary celebrations. Champagne, balloons, and confetti are expected but should be cleaned up promptly following the festivities.
*pause*

Ok. Now that we have that out of the way... Here is how this will go for me. Throughout the next months, years, or what-have-you, I will publicly reveal what I have read, am reading, or will read and my opinions on these books. I have several predjudices I wish to get out in the open. I have compiled these literary predjudices into a list.

1. I prefer, nearly without exception, fantasy over any other genre.
2. It is my belief that a series of books is almost always better than a solitary book.
3. I cling to the authors that first introduced me to the genre like barnacles on a ship's hull. You can not tear me from them. They are like family. Thus I will forgive more from said authors than other, more recent discoveries.

I will try as hard as I can to have at least one new review every two weeks. This is a lot. That's at least 24 books a year and, well, I have a full-time job too so you can't expect more than that!! You will find on the sidebar my posting history (archives) and a list of links. I will have a link related to every author I post about so that you can do some more research before deciding to read. From time to time I will include other sites that are simply interesting to me. I will try and group them at the bottom of the list. Cheers and happy reading!

August 06, 2004

Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

Hmmm... This book was definately meant to set up a longer epic fantasy. Don't get me wrong, it was good, definately good, just you could tell that even though the things that happened were suspenseful and important, you knew that it was just setting the stage for something better. I loved the characters, very well done. There were some nice character foils and some interesting fantastical beasts. All in all, a good read but not a riveting one. Despite this, though, I KNOW I will read the rest of this series (Sword of Truth) because I just know it's going to get better, I don't see how it can't. It set the stage beautifully, especially with some fun backstory in the ending... Can't wait! I already bought the second book, Stone of Tears and read the first two chapters just to see and I'm already excited. The 2nd book is huge, I think almost 1000 pages. I love huge books!!

I'm going to wait on Stone of Tears however because I want to read Scepters (L.E. Modesitt Jr), the 3rd book of Corus. I'm about a 3rd of the way through and I'm not as impressed as the first 2 books but we'll see. After Scepters, though, I think I'll try and work my way all the way through the Sword of Truth books (the ones that are published anyways), and then by about September, I should be able to move on. I have another book waiting, Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb, which George R. R. Martin himself has praised ("I fell right through the pages"). And we all know how much sway George's opinion has around here!! *sigh* Anyways. It, too, was one of my awesome $7.99 buys at Coles (regularly $37.95!!) so I can't go wrong.

So that's my enormous rant for the day, just so no one forgets I exist. I promise to keep reading and reviewing as regularly as possible. Now I am going to bed... So sleepy...

July 30, 2004

Rules of Ascension by David B. Coe

Fantastic.
Absolutely fantastic. The whole concept is amazing. Two races of people living in a country together. One, the human class, hold most of the power and rules the land. The other, a magical race whose every magic act shortens their own life, tries to conquer the country, fails, and now finds itself holding positions of authority as advisors to upper class humans all over. This sets the stage for some very interesting race relations as well as a huge threat of social upheaval.

Written spectacularly, this is a GREAT novel. Quite likely one of the best new fantasy novels I've read lately. Pick it up. $6.99 Canadian at Coles/Indigo/Chapters.

I'm going away for the long weekend, back middle of next week. I just started reading Wizards First Rule so I'll have a review when I get back, I'm sure. After that I'll be reading Scepters. Looks to be a book-filled summer!!

July 24, 2004

New book(s)!

I'm now reading Rules of Ascension by David B. Coe (hardcover) which I purchased for the low price of $6.99 Canadian at Coles today. As of this very second, I am 24 pages into it. Thus far, I'm really feeling the atmosphere; very "disgruntled Middle-Ages proletariat", unstable ruling class, social turmoil sort of thing.

Stay tuned. I also have ANOTHER $6.99 Fantasy novel (also hardcover) to read and soon I will have Scepters by L.E. Modesitt (Corean Chronicles, book 3) mailed to me as well as Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (Sword of Truth, book 1). You guys will have to read A LOT this week to keep up!!!!

July 23, 2004

L. E. Modesitt - Corean Chronicles - finally

....but first!!

A side note on The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown: WOW!  I hardly ever venture from my well-worn path to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of the local bookshoppes but this foray into the popular murder mystery was well worth the trip. I know many people will call books "riveting" so you pick them up and find them good, but not mind-blowing. The DiVinci Code is actually mindblowingly riveting. I read the first few chapters and set it down to go to work. When I came home, I read straight through until it was finished, finally, at 3 a.m. despite my having to be up at 6:30 to go back to work. I was tired, but satisfied. I won't write what it's about, the dust jacket does it well enough.

Now.  I shall return to the reason we are all here (and by 'here' I mean this website, not in a deep philosophical sense). Fantasy.

L. E. Modesitt was every bit as good as I expected. The first novel, Legacies, was great. Good characters, good plots, good settings and very realistic dialogue. The book got my attention so well, in fact, that I went and read the second book, Darknesses, immediately after. (Realistically, I figure maybe 2 people have accidentally stumbled on this site, it's not like I've let anyone down by reading the sequel before reviewing it....) The third book, Scepters, which I believe is the last novel in the series, has just recently come out in hardcover and my copy is expected to be delivered in about 3 or 4 days (stupid local bookstores, no one carries it yet). When I have finished that I will do a more detailed review of the series as a whole.

For now, let me say that I loved the first book and really liked the second. I'm not sure why it is that the second didn't catch my attention in the same way, I honestly couldn't tell you. Perhaps it got a little too "magic-y" without enough backstory to explain why... Vague, I know, but that's all I can think. Either way, both are still a great read.

Until next time, my adoring public! (Did you catch the sarcasm? No? That's because you don't exist. This site is so empty it makes me cry.)

July 14, 2004

Delay...

Apologies to anyone waiting on my review of "Legacies" by L. E. Modesitt. I have accidentally become involved in another book that I just can't put down! It's called "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown (I know, not fantasy... I am ashamed....). I'm only about 40 pages into it and I am absolutely hooked. I should be finished in a day or so, time permitting, then I'll be back to my fantasy so I can continue this site!

Seriously though. The book is GOOD.

July 11, 2004

J. R. R. Tolkien - Lord of the Rings trilogy/The Hobbit

Today I would like to do a brief post on Tolkien, godfather of fantasy. His name is synonomous with epic fantasy. His work has been reprinted hundreds of times. He remains a landmark on the map of literature. Unfortunately, some people have not yet had the time or the desire to read his works. While I maintain that he is a fantastic story-teller, I agree that his books are not for everyone.

Personally, I adore the Trilogy (for the unlearned, this consists of "The Fellowship of the Ring", "The Two Towers", and "The Return of the King" with "The Hobbit" as a prequel to the three) and own two copies. I have read and reread the whole massive epic likely as many as 17 times in my short 2 decades of life.

I really feel, however, that these books are best appreciated by adults. Many younger readers will likely find that it is hard to keep track of so many descriptions of people, of places, of weapons, of languages, of history, of cultures, and so on. It is a very lengthy, wordy, thoroughly descriptive piece of literature and reminds me somewhat of a historical recollection of a real event. I certainly don't mean that I think it could have really happened, I just mean that it is told the way someone would write a book about the French revolution, for example, focusing on a specific small group of people and their contributions to the event. There is extensive detail that some younger or more impatient souls might find dry, dull, boring, or mind-numbing. It is precisely that extent of detail, however, that makes this a magnificently rich tapestry of words. Just like rich foods, though, it's not to everyone's taste.

For those who have tried reading his work and found it not to their liking and too slow of a read, I suggest you do two things.

1) Watch the movies. They are not as in-depth as the books (by half, at least. Just imagine how long they would be if they were!) but Peter Jackson definately captured the spirit of them while distilling the entertainment out of much of the detail to produce something marketable in Hollywood.

2) Read (if you haven't yet) The Belgariad series and The Mallorean series by David Eddings. This is basically the same type of thing... Unusual assortment of people band together to save the world from evil, do a lot of travelling, and in the end everyone is a hero and everyone (even the people you thought were unimportant) show how truly crucial they were. It's just a little more relaxed than Tolkien. More in the nature of mind candy.

(I told you I had a pro-Eddings agenda! ...yes, despite his dismal recent performances...)

July 11/04 - Currently reading...

The book I am currently reading is called Legacies by L. E. Modesitt Jr. It is the first book of the Corean Chronicles series. I also picked up the second book, Darknesses and plan to read that after, unless this first one makes me vomit (although, from the first 100 pages, I can't see that happening).

...okay. Even if it did, I would still read the second book. You know, in case it gets better? I have a hard time giving up on people, even if they're characters in books.

So far so good....

We'll see what I think in a couple days.

Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling

The whole world is Potter crazy. Including myself. If you haven't read these books simply because you think they're childish, you are in for an eye opener. There are whole levels of these books that kids simply don't have the knowledge or perception to pick up on. The books also, as the series progresses, get darker and more mysterious and less cheerful. There is death, there is fear, there is loss. Sure the main character is a school-aged boy. That doesn't mean it's not appropriate reading for grown-ups! Frodo Baggins was quite young when he set off on his adventure, that didn't stop millions of adults from following his tale.

Those of you who have discovered Harry Potter, kudos. For those who are teetering on the edge of trying the books, dive in. For the sake of your inner schild, your imagination and your general love of all great literature, pick up these books!

Do not be turned off by the movies. The books are HUNDREDS of times better. SO much was cut or mangled to make them into movies, if that's all you know then you're missing out. Try to read the books before you see the films, if possible, to preserve the magic.

In case you've been living up a tree for the last 10 years, the series is as follows:

1. The Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone in the USA)
2. The Chamber of Secrets
3. The Prisoner of Azkaban
4. The Goblet of Fire
5. The Order of the Phoenix
and coming eventually...
The Half-Blood Prince!! (no release date scheduled yet. I'm assuming summer of 2005 maybe?

Seriously though. If you've never picked up a Harry Potter book, there's still time to get on the train. Pick one up today and you won't regret it!

July 10, 2004

Sarah Zettel - Novels of Isavalta

I had not heard of Sarah before but now that I have time to read her list of publications, I think some of you may recognize her work. She is an accomplished writer best known for her Science Fiction. Some of her works include:

Reclamation
Fool's War
Playing God
The Quiet Invasion
Kingdom of Cages

I originally picked up this series as sort of "filler" reading to keep me occupied while waiting for.... (drumroll please)... "A Feast for Crows"! (See George R. R. Martin entry). Let me say that I was pleasantly surprised. The cover art on the paperback of the novels (only 2 of the series are out yet with the third due in August 2004, next month. Stay tuned for that review) sort of appealed to me. The girl on the cover of the first novel, "A Sorcerer's Treason" had this mesmerizing facial expression... To me anyway.... The series is as follows:

1. A Sorcerer's Treason
2. The Usurper's Crown
and coming soon...
3. The Firebird's Vengeance

The first book in the series is, chronologically, the second book. The second book is, chronologically, the first. In the first book, "A Sorcerer's Treason" you get to know Bridget Lederle and follow her adventures into the land of Isavalta. You are told, vaguely, that the reason she has to leave her home (Lake Superior, in a fishing village around 1900) has something to do with her mother. In the second book, "The Usurper's Crown", you get all the back story. You learn about the antagonist from the first book as well as Bridget's mother, Ingrid Loftfield, and her story.

The world Sarah Zettel creates is rich, lush, and magnificent. It is filled with intrigue, magic, and politics that you can really get into. Two thumbs up and, once again, I eagerly await the next, and last, installment.

...when WILL I stop picking series that I have to wait to continue/finish? Such bad luck...

The War of the Flowers - Tad Williams

Hmmmm... I have to say I had mixed feelings about this until I was about 2/3 of the way through. Though well-written, it was a bit slow to start rolling. The first half-dozen chapters I had to encourage myself regularly to keep reading. After about the half-way mark I realized I had transitioned from "reading for the sake of reading" to "reading because I wanted to". By the 2/3 mark, I couldn't put it down. I suffered some severe eyestrain near the end due to reading for hours at a time with very poor lighting.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5. The only reason I take the 1.5 off is due to the slow start and slightly rushed feeling conclusion (SLIGHTLY... Not too bad).

This is a stand-alone novel, unlike most of his other work. I have yet to pressure my bookstores into carrying more of his work but I am leaning on them in hopes of getting my hands on a copy of his "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" trilogy, which I have heard is fantastic (no pun intented).

The tale starts in modern-day Earth and, though a series of events which I will allow you to discover yourself, transports the main character into the realm of Faerie. Yes. Fairies. Little tiny people with wings. It sounds like a book that is not intended for grownups, but it is.

It is a good read. Not a bad risk to take at the ol' book store.

George R. R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire

Ahh... True love.

My first experience with this author was almost like that first date with the pefect person. You are only just discovering them and yet you can feel, deep in your soul, that it is a fabulous match. The series is, so far, as follows:

1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings
3. A Storm of Swords
and coming soon...
4. A Feast for Crows

Ohh, I can hardly WAIT for that 4th book!!

Anyways. Everyone who has ANY interest in fantasy who I've introduced to this series falls in love. One girl was so lovestruck she kept my copies for almost 8 months... much to my dismay.

The books are written with a different character as the viewpoint for each chapter. Most of the crucial characters have many chapters. Each book you are introduced to a new viewpoint or two, and some are taken away, and thus you have a constantly changing but still very thorough view on the world and everything that happens therein. It's a fantastic method that is hard to pull off. Martin is a literary GENIUS however and pulls it off with ease. Each book is better than the last and I encourage EVERYONE to read these...

Now I'm all in a flutter... I'd best be moving on before I faint!!

David Eddings: An Overview

Many people who love fantasy as adults cut their fantasy teeth as young adults on Eddings' work. I did. My grade 8 English teacher "forced" the class to read "Pawn of Prophecy" as a class reading. Let it be known he also introduced us to Anne McCaffrey, another author of some prestige. Eddings and, more recently, his wife Leigh, have written several books, as follows:

The Belgariad
1. Pawn of Prophecy
2. Queen of Sorcery
3. Magician's Gambit
4. Castle of Wizardry
5. Enchanter's End Game

The Mallorean - series continues The Belgariad
1. Guardian of the West
2. King of the Murgos
3. Demon Lord of Karanda
4. Sorceress of Darshiva
5. The Seeress of Kell

Supplementary reading - relating to The Belgariad and The Mallorean
Belgarath the Sorcerer
Polgara the Sorceress
The Rivan Codex

The Elenium
1. The Diamond Throne
2. The Ruby Knight
3. The Sapphire Rose

The Tamuli - series continues The Elenium
1. Domes of Fire
2. The Shining Ones
3. The Hidden City

The Dreamers
1. The Elder Gods
2. The Treasured One - yet to be published

Stand-alone Novels
High Hunt *
The Losers
Regina's Song *
The Redemption of Althalus

I have read all of them, save the two with stars by them and the one that has not yet been published. I will tell you this, if you have not yet read Eddings' work: The newer books are of a slightly lower quality than his older ones. The Belgariad and the Mallorean were spectacular epic fantasy. Vivid characters, believable cultures and lands. The Gods were not outlandish and the method of "magic" is defined down to a science so realistic you wonder if perhaps it is the truth.

Once you have read these two series, you should DEFINATELY read the Belgarath/Polgara books. The Rivan Codex is very interesting but is more in the format of a history text and thus might not appeal to all readers. I found that the religion of the cultures was very intriguing and anyone else who also thought so will definately get a kick out of the Codex. (Most Tolkein fans will like it too as they are accustomed to some dry history/mythology parts).

The Elenium and Tamuli are also good. Not quite the depth of the Belgariad/Mallorean but you learn to love and hate with the characters, you care about the fate of their world. Once again, realistic method of magic. The cultures are slightly more fantastical, but described well enough to maintain belief.

The Dreamers so far has been a HUGE letdown. Those who have read Eddings' other work will recognize several "trademarked" phrases (eg- "Be nice" and "Would I do/say something like that?") and the staple sarcastic bickering between family members who really love each other. The plot seems rushed and lacklustre. The whole book builds and builds (slowly, but it does build) and then the big "finale" is only a few pages long! I was left feeling terribly unsatisfied and a little betrayed.

The Redemption of Althalus was an interesting read. As I said before, not up to the Belgariad standard but still worth a read. His first attempt at an epic fantasy in one book was a letdown. Character development could have been better but the plot is at least interesting enough to grab and maintain your interest. Still uses the trademarked phrases and petty sarcasm between loved ones, in typical Eddings style... Not sure if maybe this is his wife's bad influence? Only the books she has her name on seem to be bad... Hmm... Yoko Ono anyone?

The Losers was a very different style for him. I quite liked it though. It has a modern feel, set on Earth. Anyone who feels like they're been dealt a sub-par hand in life will likely find this a good read. I don't really feel that way but I still liked it and I can see how others who do feel that way would appreciate it all the more.

So. That is my little tirade about David Eddings. Hopefully that gives everyone a jumping off point! Dive in!

Disclaimer: His books are good but do not expect an "adult" book. There is no sex, no coarse language except the occasional fictional "curse" in the ways of the cultures in the novel (eg- "Belar!!" the name of a God from The Belgariad). They are an excellent starting point for newcomers to the genre. Old hands at fantasy will still enjoy them, but probably won't find them as life-changing.


June 24, 2004

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