Friday, April 28, 2006

The Road Into Darkness

Consisting of Beneath the Vaulted Hills and The Compass of the Soul, by Sean Russell. Contains voyeurism and probably some other objectionable things.

Another fantasy, of course, set in a world where mysterious Strangers occasionally appear, lost through holes where the worlds touch together. The mysterious Lord Eldrich is the last mage remaining and is on a terrible and ruthless mission to carry out the charge left to him: eliminate magic from the world lest a terrible apocalypse foreseen 500 years before be unleashed upon the world.

Eldrich would have had little problem finishing out his quest but for a rebel group called the Tellerites who are determined to see that the power of the mages is not lost. Their hope is placed in Anna Fielding, trained to be a mage but unable to become one without the jealously guarded flower known as king's blood, a powerful and habituating herb that enhances magical power...

In almost every way, Eldrich is a terrible foe, dealing ruthlessly with n0t only those who oppose him but almost anyone involved at all in order to destroy Anna and the Tellerites, but, especially in the second book, the more human side of him is shown: he is not an exceptional mage, only the last one, and he is terrified that he will be unable to carry out his duty.

The ending was not very satisfying to me, but perhaps inevitable. The rest of the story was fairly compelling, although the frequent switches to different sets of characters in each chapter was somewhat distracting and possibly detracted, as the author may have tried to detail too many characters and as a result leave several unfinished.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Secrets of Jin-Shei

By Alma Alexander (Hromic). This is a moderate fantasy set in a country somewhat resembling (I assume) medieval China. It's a story of sisterhood, so-called "sisters of the heart" who bind themselves together with the promise of jin-shei and a secret writing language known only to women. This book is much more about the relationships between the characters than the few fantasy elements, although one particular piece of alchemy is pivotal in the way the plot progresses, although that's more because of the "public" reaction to it rather than the magic itself.

This was a pretty good book with a somewhat bittersweet ending. You can probably find it in a local library and decide whether you want to read it yourself.

The Mists of Everness

Also by John C. Wright. I read this last night, and it is the second of two books that were probably split up in the same way as The Orphans of Chaos. As of this review I have not read the first book (The Last Guardian of Everness.)

This is more fantasy (seeing a theme yet?). I didn't think it was nearly as good as The Orphans of Chaos. The first chapter opened very well, but afterwards a lot of what happens seems to be disconnected and somewhat causeless. Characters appear out of nowhere to go places with no explanation for where they were or why they're going where they are. Also, in this book, the number of allusions to mythology are almost overwhelming, especially since they lack good explanations for people who are unfamiliar with them. Possibly they were explained in the first book.

Anyways: not so recommended. It might have made a lot more sense if I had read The Last Guardian of Everness first, though, so YMMV.

The Orphans of Chaos

I liked this fantasy (by John C. Wright) a lot, but I would like knowing how it ends more. Unfortunately, the second book (the first ends very abruptly) is not scheduled to come out until November of this year.

This is an interesting take on a lot of mythology: the setting is a British boarding school with five students who begin to suspect they're being lied to and kept prisoner, despite receiving the best education possible. They each seem to have a different way of looking at the world which affects how they explain the strange things that begin happening--and that they make happen. Vanity seems to discover secret passages, Quentin can fly and talk to animals (at least, the other students suspect so), Colin gets letters from Hollywood starlets, Victor disproves the theory of relativity experimentally, and Amelia, who can see in four dimensions, gradually puts the pieces together.

Only the ending was disappointing: as far as I can tell, the two books were probably intended to be published as one volume, but had to be split up due to length. So, I'd recommend it. Even my sister read it!

Find it on Amazon. (Don't read the "review" by John C. Wright on that page unless you want to know who Amelia is!)