Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Book Reviews: The Left-Handed Hummingbird by Kate Orman

Author: Kate Orman
Title:The Left-Handed Hummingbird
Publication Info: London : Doctor Who Books, 1993.

This Doctor Who novel is epic in scope from contemporary Mexico to the Aztec empire to hippie London in the 60s to the John Lennon assassination to the sinking of Titanic. And yet, this may be the most internal story for the Doctor and his companions.  Their relationship is strained, especially the Doctor and Ace since she’s become something of soldier during her absence from the TARDIS. Worse yet, the Doctor faces an antagonist manifest as an Aztec god who is altering history.  The Doctor’s usual strategy of manipulating people and events fail and we see him at his most defeated. This novel is good in that it’s a rare story that’s set in Latin America in both precolonial and contemporary settings.  The only downside is that like Timewyrm: Exodus  it credits some historical acts of human evil to extraterrestrial influence.  This was the first novel by Kate Orman, who was also the first woman and first Australian to write for the Doctor Who line, and it’s a pretty remarkable achievement in how it reimagines what a Doctor Who story can be.
Favorite Passages:

“Has it ever occurred to you that the reason the sacrifices are made is to dispose of foreign warriors taken captive in battle – and to cause more and more battles to be fought?’”

“‘It’s already written in the book of history,’ he continued. ‘Painted in the records. Nothing I can do or say is going to change it. But there’s something else here, something that isn’t in the book, or wasn’t the last time I visited. Things have changed. Something’s wrong. Someone’s interfering. I need to find a way to read between the lines…’”

“‘Time travel,’ said Bernice, ‘is like banging your head on a brick wall. Only someone keeps moving the bricks.’”

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

AuthorUrsula Le Guin
TitleA Wizard of Earthsea
NarratorHarlan Ellison
Publication Info: San Bruno, CA : Fantastic Audio, p2001. [originally published, 1968]

This fantasy novel set in the magical land of Earthsea introduces Ged, a boy whose magical ability shines in a society with numerous witches and practitioners of magic.  After saving his village from an attack, Ged is taken as apprentice by a wise wizard and then sent to wizarding school.  Despite his talent and proclamations that he may become the greatest wizard, Ged is headstrong and impatient and unleashes an evil shadow that follows him around and tries to possess his body.  Ged thus has to face many quests and challenges to learn how to face down the shadow creature and understand himself.  It’s a good novel, and apparently pretty influential as many of the tropes and ideas are picked up by other fantasy novels.  Harlan Ellison’s reading of the audiobook is a dynamic performance that captures Ged’s anger and uncertainty.

Recommended booksThe Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
Rating: **1/2

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

AuthorEoin Colfer
TitleArtemis Fowl: The Last Guardian
Narrator: Nathaniel Parker
Publication Info: New York : Listening Library, p2012.

The final installment in the Artemis Fowl series or so it would seem.  Opal Koboi has her biggest take over the world plot, Mulch Diggums has his biggest flatulence, and Artemis has his ultimate moment of genius.  And sacrifice.  Colfer’s humor stands out as Koboi raises an army with her minions occupying the bodies of the dead with comic results. It’s a nice distraction from the grim reality of a story that puts the entire world in peril.  This is a strong finale the series.

Rating: ***

Book Review: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
TitleA Feast for Crows
Narrator: John Lee
Publication Info: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2006
Summary/Review: The fourth book in A Song of Ice and Fire is a departure from the style of the earlier books, as it focuses on stories of only some of the major characters, while characters like Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Davos are not featured at all.  This leaves room to explore the Greyjoy/Iron Island and Martell/Dorne story lines in greater depth than ever before.  More familiar characters appearing in this book include:

  • Cersei, using the deaths of Joffrey and Tywin, and absence of Tyrion to consolidate power as Queen Regent.
  • Brienne and Podrick, continuing their search for Sansa and Arya in the lawless lands of Westeros.
  • Samwell, Gilly, Maester Aemon, and Dareon travel to Oldtown so that Samwell can train to be a maester.
  • Arya takes on a new identity in Braavos.
  • Jaime grows distant from his sister/lover and tries to reestablish himself as a military leader despite his missing hand.
  • Sansa adjusts to her new life in the Vale disguised as Littlefinger’s daughter.

In some ways, this book seems to restarting the story.  It also seems to be dragging its heels at points. But mostly it continues to tell a complex and epic tell in interesting ways.

Rating: ***

Book Review:The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

AuthorNeil Gaiman 
TitleThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publication Info: [New York] : Harper Audio, 2013.
Previously read by the same author:


This novel is a mix of fantasy and horror, as a seven-year-old boy’s life is turned upside-down by a supernatural being that invades his home by way of his body taking the form of the superbly creepy Ursula Monkton. Fortunately, the equally mysterious but benevolent Hempstock women live on a farm nearby, and he’s able to go to them for aid.  The book is full of mystery and atmosphere, and captures the feel of childhood when new things can be a source of joy and discovery and the familiar can suddenly be horrific.  Neil Gaiman’s narration on the audiobook is excellent as his diction and delivery add to the feel of a child experiencing the horror and mystery.

Favorite Passages:

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyways.”

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, and I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

“Oh, monsters are scared, said Lettie. That’s why they’re monsters.”

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

“Different people remember things differently, and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not.”

Recommended books: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Boneshaker by Kate Milford.
Rating: ****

Book Review:A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
Title: A Storm of Swords
NarratorRoy Dotrice
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2012)
Previous books in the series: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings
Summary/Review:  The high fantasy series continues with the grim and deadly doing of Westeros, a place where weddings are more dangerous than battlefields and being a king doesn’t offer much job security.  Dotrice’s narration continues to make the series for me, providing an old-time storyteller’s feel to the tales of adventure, intrigue, betrayal, and occasionally friendship and love.  I’ve watched the tv series, and it appears for the most part that the tv series has only depicted events up to the end of this books, so I look forward to reading the next two published books completely unspoiled.
Rating: ***

Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
TitleA Clash of Kings
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2011)
Previously read by the same author: A Game of Thrones

The second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire was gripping to my ears as I plowed through the audiobook.  Despite the title, there is not much clashing for most of the novel, but there is a lot of moving of chess pieces around the board.  There’s also a grim portrait of the effect of war on the ordinary people in Westeros.  Having watched the television series, I notice that it diverges more from the source material than in A Game of Thrones, but not so much that I’d wonder why they make the changes.

Rating: ***


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