Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Favorites

On this, the last day of the year, I thought I'd reflect on the debuts that I read since I started Fantasy Debut. Rather than attempting to rank a list of favorites, I came up with some stand-outs in several areas. Several debuts appear more than once.

Best Laugh
Let's face it: it's hard to write humor. Many authors don't even try. Therefore, special kudos to for this memorable scene.

The Condom Scene in Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

Best Cry
Movies and books that make me cry are always my favorites. I blubber like a baby in the goodbye scene in Pollyanna every time. This particular weepy scene was even more special since it was completely unexpected. It sent me for tissues and turned a good novel into a great one.

The Stepmother Goodbye Scene in You Had Me at Halo by Amanda Ashby

Best Kiss
A good fictional kiss, in my mind, is the kind that is not immediately followed by a sex scene. A kiss needs to stand alone, in my opinion. Sex should come much later, if at all. Yes. I'm a bit of a prude. Anyway, who could forget this kiss?

Tam's Kiss in Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin

Best Sense of Wonder
A sense of wonder is important to me in fantasy, which is why I veer away from the dark and gritty stuff. However, even though I don't read a lot of gritty or dark stuff, the wonder still tends to be missing from most fantasy. Here is where I found it in this year's debuts.

The Cloak in Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet
The creatures in Thief With no Shadow by Emily Gee

Most Original Setting
Two authors in particular deserve special kudos for coming up with truly original settings for their fantasy debuts.

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell
The Princes of the Golden Cage by Nathalie Mallet

Best Villain Group
Two villain groups stood out this year for originality and ruthlessness.

The League in Acacia: The War With the Mein by David Anthony Durham
The Pilot-Masters in The Hidden Worlds by Kristin Landon

Best Villain
We all love a villain. I particularly love villains with whom I can sympathize a bit. I really only had one favorite for the year.

Hanish Mein in Acacia: The War With the Mein by David Anthony Durham

Overall Favorite Characters
Who did I just plain like the best? Well, that was easy. Here are my female and male favorites.

Favorite Female
Raine in Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin
Favorite Male
Joby in The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari

Most Difficult To Put Down
Although these are not necessarily my favorites, I found them the most impossible to put down.

The Hidden Worlds by Kristin Landon
Thief With No Shadow by Emily Gee

Overall Favorite
If I had to pick one to name as my favorite, I simply must go with the one that made me cry. The ironic thing about this one is, for the most part, the book is pure humor.

You Had Me at Halo by Amanda Ashby

Friday, December 28, 2007

Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick

According to Amazon, ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD (USA, Canada, UK) by Russell Kirkpatrick does not release until January 1, but since I saw it in Book-a-Million the other day, I thought I might as well announce it. I have a copy, courtesy of Orbit books, and I plan to start reading next week. Since it is a rather lengthy tome (736 pages), I have lined up several guest reviewers who will hopefully be able to put up some reviews in the meantime.

From a tiny snowbound village, five men and women are about to embark on a journey that will change their lives -and the destiny of their world.For two thousand years, since he was cast out from Dona Mihst, the fabled Undying Man has been plotting his revenge on the Most High. The Destroyer's plans of vengeance are nearing fruition-and he will allow nothing to stand in his way.But one man has escaped from the Destroyer's prison, and even though the Lords of Fear ride in pursuit, he will bring word to his people. It will be up to his sons, Hal and Leith, together with a small group of villagers, to warn their world of the coming war.

It sounds fairly exciting, but the reviews I've seen so far have been mixed. Robert at Fantasy Book Critic and John at Grasping for the Wind were both ambivalent, but they ultimately found it too geography-intensive. We'll have to see if I agree.

The author keeps a blog at his website. As a professional geographer, he has worked on several atlas projects. You can see his Australia cover at his website, and I like it much better than the UK/USA/Canada cover. The author has an older website here, and while it is dated, it has lots of maps!

I have to admit that the very title of this novel is somewhat intimidating. Sometimes I really like quest novels, but other times it seems like I am forced to watch while the main characters go about every second of their lives while on the road. I have no problem at all when an author says, "three weeks later, they arrive" rather than make me live through page after page describing those three weeks. From what I'm reading on Robert and John's blogs, I may be in for some agonizing scenes. However, I'll try to read with an open mind. This book is coming at a good time for me, because it has been a long time since I've read a quest novel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Debut Coverage Elsewhere

I constantly accumulate links to other debut coverage in the sidebar to the left, but every couple of weeks I like to call attention to debut news and reviews on blogs elsewhere. Here's the latest round-up.

Thunderer by Felix Gilman releases today, but Robert is way ahead of me, as usual, with his review. He's already mentioning it as a possible favorite for 2008!

SMD has reviewed another small press novel over at The Fantasy and SciFi Lovin' Book Review. This one is The Longevity Thesis by Jennifer Rahn and he gives it mostly high marks.

Mark Rose over at Bookgasm is somewhat mixed in his review of Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell.

Over at Grasping for the Wind, John seems to have enjoyed Rosemary Jones's Crypt of the Moaning Diamond. Rosemary also offered me this novel, but at the time, I was booked. I'll probably go ahead and pick it up on my next bookstore trip; John makes it sound fun.

Lawrence over at the Gravel Pit is not wild about Brian Francis Slattery's Spaceman Blues: A Love Song. He calls it the weirdest book he read in 2007.

The prolific Robert has mixed feelings about Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick. This is up next on my reading list so I'm feeling a bit of trepidation.

To end on a more positive note, Pat at the Fantasy Hotlist was quite happy with The Devil You Know by Mike Carey. He makes it sound like it might be more my cup of tea than I thought it would be.

I'm expecting two guest reviews in upcoming weeks, plus two interviews (one which I still have to actually write). I should be done with Auralia's Colors in the next day or so. Once I finish it, I'll post my favorites of 2007 list.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I am just over halfway through Auralia's Colors by Jeff Overstreet. Now that I no longer have any other novels competing with it, I should be able to get along much quicker.

It's difficult to summarize this book. The people of House Abascar live under oppression. All things with color must be given as gifts to the king, and the people can only wear drab clothing. The exceptions are favored ones of the house, who can earn various colors. The Queen of House Abascar declared that this time of no colors would be the Winter of Abascar, and it would remain Winter until she declared that it was Abascar's Spring.

Except the Queen has since disappeared, and the Winter has dragged on for two decades.

Into this House comes Auralia, who has a gift with weaving colors from things found in nature. Another key character appears to be the ale boy, who has no name that he knows. Auralia says that she knows his name, but she cannot pronounce it. Anyway, the ale boy has a way with fire. An exiled mage has a gift with stone. And the Captain of the Guard, Arc-robin, who enforces all of the King's edicts, seems to key into the story in a significant way.

Despite its somewhat leisurely opening, this novel is shaping up to be very good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Catch a Mermaid by Suzanne Selfors

I've been meaning to post my thoughts on TO CATCH A MERMAID by Suzanne Selfors for some weeks now. I don't usually read children's novels and I probably will demur in the future, except for young adult. I did my homework on this novel and read a bunch of other reviews out there, and none of them are in the least bit negative.

The writing itself is great. It's about a boy named Boom Broom who brings home a wild baby mermaid (actually more like a toddler) from a reject seafood bucket. The merbaby brings a curse that Boom must break in order to save his sister. The merbaby can also grant wishes. His sister promptly falls in love with the cranky merbaby, and refuses to be parted from it. Adding angst to the story is that before the start of the novel, Boom's mother was carried away by a twister. Boom is an appealing character, despite his struggles with greed. There is almost no violence in the book.

The beginning of the novel is quite humorous, with crazy situations such as Boom's sister Mertyle wishing for some buttery corn, then Boom going outside and presto! The field next door is filled with buttery corn growing on the stalk, ready to eat. Mertyle cannot seem to wish for anything practical, but there doesn't seem to be any limit to her wishes, so why should she bother?

The high point of the story comes when Mertyle contracts ich from the merbaby. Anyone who has ever kept a fish knows about fish ich, which is spelled ick in this book. For a while it is quite funny, but after this part, the book took a turn for me. I realize that Boom was concerned for his sister, but from then on, the story was too much of a downer, in my opinion.

One problem that authors have in writing children's lit is how to separate the child from the parent. It must be done, because any responsible parent would prevent their child from having dangerous adventures. Harry Potter and Tom Sawyer were both orphans. Huck's father was a drunken drifter. Many children's novels simply take place in boarding schools. In this novel, Boom just can't count on the important people or institutions in his life, including:

• His father, who developed agoraphobia after the twister carried away Boom's mother, and keeps himself locked in the attic in case another twister comes. He does manage to bestir himself toward the end and help his children, but he's never exactly inspiring.

He announced that the twister would return, then he locked himself in his attic studio and asked for weather updates through the keyhole. Except for his dashes to the bathroom, or an occasional appearance in the kitchen to obtain something to eat, he had rarely been seen since. The world beyond the front porch had proven itself to be unpredictably dangerous, and Mr. Broom had decided to avoid it entirely.

• School, for the principal is a sadistic meanie who is so keen to catch kids getting in trouble that she keeps a telescope in her office so she can spy on the kids in the playground. However, I'm willing to give the author a pass on this one, because mocking schoolteachers has a long and glorious tradition in kid's lit, possibly beginning with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

• The Church, which was so awful that Boom cannot dredge up a single positive memory of his dead mother taking him church.

He knew that Winger would be at church, suffering through a long, boring service in a starched-up shirt and a tie. Then he'd sing off-key in the choir's back row. Boom used to go to church with Mrs. Broom. She always stuffed her purse with hard candies, to help Boom get through the blah, blah, blahs that never made much sense. Why was everyone so worried about the next life when there was so much to worry about in this one?

• God, who doesn't seem answer prayers. However, Thor might.

"All Mighty Thor, God of Direct Viking Descendents, show us your mercy and send us wind."

Mr. Jorgenson stood and raised his arms.

"Help us, Mighty Thor."

Boom didn't care who answered their plea -- be it a Viking god, the god of Winger's church, or a green menace from the sea. Was it too much to ask for the universe to look kindly upon him just one time? One stinking time?

The people who do help Boom include the oddball members of the Sons of the Vikings, a flaky fish store owner and the fisherman who let Boom rummage in his fish bucket. It's meant to be whimsical, I think. Most of the other adults are greedy, apathetic or just plain evil.

If I had read this when I was twelve years old, that quote about the afterlife would have really bothered me. Why would you want to bring angst to the child of a Christian family? (I'm assuming the author was writing about a Christian church, since the description fits Christian churches.) Do you write for children because you love them, or do you have other reasons? The prayers to Thor bothered me as well, but at least it fit into the whole "Sons of the Vikings" storyline. The anti-church/afterlife statement sort of came in out of nowhere. It seemed like editorializing to me. If I had been reading for pleasure, it would have been the point at which I would have put the book down.

It is possible, I suppose, that the author was merely careless and meant no harm. The second book (for there appears to be room for a sequel) will tell if this is so, if any more such statements appear.

That's not the only thing that bothered me about this novel. We all hear laments about the decline of reading in children. If this book represents today's children's literature, then I can only say, "Who can blame them?" This book was hard to get through. There's no rousing adventure, little that uplifts. The final struggle dragged on and on and was filled with despair. The ending, while happy enough, was more of a relief than anything else. Even Shrek was more uplifting than this novel. The theme in Shrek is the classic beauty lies within story. The theme for this novel? Maybe something like, "Life is tough, kid. Get used to it."


I spent a few weeks sitting on this review because the author was really quite lovely, and when she sent me a copy, she even autographed it. In the end, I decided to go with the adage that "a bad review is better than no review." Maybe she will find something helpful in the honest perspective of a reader who was really looking forward to this book, and who ultimately felt disappointed by it. Maybe some of you will want to purchase it in order to read it for yourself.

In any case, I have decided that in the future, I will only accept review copies from publishers or publicists. I love being in touch with authors, but I need a sense of detachment -- at least at first -- if I'm going to review their books. I have already adjusted my "about" post to reflect this policy.

How Much is Fantasy Debut Worth?

I found this at Pat's.

My blog is worth $44,598.66.
How much is your blog worth?

It's not worth as much as Pat's, but hey -- that it's worth anything to anyone (besides me) is just a thrill.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Annual Winter Cold

Yes, I have my pre-Christmas cold. I'm just glad that I have it now and not next week. So, things will be blog-lite for a day or so. I do have one serious review almost ready to post, but I need to do a last-minute quote-check against the book and I just don't feel like doing it right now.

Next week, I'll have debuts to announce again! Lots of them! One from this Friday and three on the 26th!

Monday, December 17, 2007

My First Blurb!

My first Featured Debut here has also resulted in my first blurb! Lisa Shearin has recently posted the bookmarks for her second book, Armed and Magical on her blog. And with all her other blurbs is mine! Here are the bookmarks:

And on the reverse is my blurb!

It's attributed to SFFWorld because I did a reader review there. Cool, huh?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Next Featured Debut - Auralia's Colors

I decided to finish reading Auralia's Colors, and I'll make it my featured debut tomorrow in order to motivate myself to get going. Not that I am disliking the story. But I did have a lot of author-sent books to read, and I rank them higher in my reading stack than books that simply arrive in the mail. By the way, I no longer have any author-sent books in my stack, so I'll be reading those publisher-sent ones pronto.

My first post on Auralia's Colors is here. In it, I was having a tough time. I've actually read quite a bit since then and the action did pick up. The story intrigues the hell out of me, so this is not going to be one that I will give up on easily. Plus, I've been following Jeff's blog, and he seems like quite an interesting guy. And he is a very busy blogger!

I feel like I lost focus for a while and I let myself get sidetracked and overwhelmed. It is very easy to allow yourself to get buried in books as a blogger! However, I'm back on track in time for the new year. I have a couple of guest reviewers who are busy reading books, and I hope to be able to post their reviews in the coming weeks. It's a good thing, too. Next on my reading stack is Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick, and I think it is going to keep me busy for weeks!

I have not heard of any major publisher debuts since the end of November, and none show up on my calendar until the last two weeks of December. I'm keeping an eye on Locus Magazine's Monitor for the ones that got away, but things appear to have really slowed down in the publishing world. From what I understand, this is typical.

I also have an interview coming up with Janet Lorimer, author of Master of Shadows. I was especially interested in interviewing her because I don't often get the chance to interview such practiced authors. I hope to post her interview next week. (First I need to actually write it and send it to her!)

Master of Shadows - Final Review

First, I must post a disclaimer. Janet and I have been exchanging friendly emails since before I started reading her book. She was also kind enough to send me an autographed copy.

MASTER OF SHADOWS by Janet Lorimer begins like this:

Once upon a time, toward the end of the 20th century . . .

With a single sentence, Lorimer establishes the mood of the entire novel. And there, she starts a familiar story--Beauty meets the Beast and goes to live with him in his enchanted castle. Or, he COULD be a beast. Since he is always shrouded in a cowl, she doesn't know for certain.

In the story, Louvel hires Ariel to categorize the books in his extensive library. Ariel has a master's degree in Liberal Arts--a proper degree for a the daughter of a wealthy man--and she is delighted to have a chance to actually use it. Also, since her father's mysterious death, she rather desperately needs the money. While she is doing the job, Louvel insists that she stay in his mansion. There is no good road to and from the mansion, and staying elsewhere just is not practical. Louvel has very specific, odd and mysterious rules that he insists she follow. However, when her curiosity gets the better of her, Louvel begins to fear that she will uncover his secrets.

In fact, the story is bursting with secrets. Everyone has them; Ariel's father, Ariel's former fiance and her future father-in-law. And some of them are left to the reader to figure out.

At times, I wished that the timeframe of the story was clearer. All I know is it is "late in the 20th century". I'm thinking early 90s. Computers were available, but their use was not yet widespread. Ariel must write letters; she cannot send emails. The setting is also unclear, with references to "the city" and "the village". I believe the author did all this on purpose, to promote a sort of fairy-tale vagueness.

Late in the book, Louvel says this:

. . . "my secrets are dark ones that would devastate you. I cannot bear the thought of your love spoiled by the hate, the disgust, the horror you would taste if . . ."

After reading this, I expected nothing short of Louvel having a demonic nature. The truth turns out to be rather less dark.

In an earlier post, I said that this story reminded me of an old Kathleen Woodiwiss story. That comparison did not hold true. However, the comparison I made to Victoria Holt proved to be close to the mark. This novel is romantic suspense written like a fairy tale, although the prince is unlike like any hero I've ever read before. (No rippling abs here!) This fairy tale has a dark and entirely modern underside. The villains in the story operate very much in the shadows. And it has two mysteries, neatly woven together.

Lorimer is a seasoned writer, with years of experience writing children's fiction under her belt. And it shows. I loved the way she adapted her metaphors to the current setting. For example, if the characters were eating, she might compare something with a golden color to melted butter. Her verbs are all active ("a stab of guilt") and her dialog effortless to follow. The novel shows solid research, some which I fact-checked and found to be true.

I can call it a fairy tale, but I hesitate to call it a fantasy. It has moments that seem like magic, like when in Silas Marner by George Eliot, Silas finds his stolen gold. In this novel, Beauty discovers just who is the true Beast. I've always loved stories like this, where the mundane seems magical. If you enjoy reading delicious little romantic suspense novels that keep you up late at night, this novel would work for you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is UP with Google?

First, Google arbitrarily turns off the ability for blog commenters to input their URL when they (1) don't feel like logging in, or (2) they don't particularly like Blogger's profile page, or (3) they maintain blogs elsewhere. I managed to find a way around that, and I plan to put up a post on how to set up that in the very near future (hopefully tonight).

Now, my Google reader is acting decidedly wonky. (Yes, that is a technical term. I've spent 11 years in IT, so I know.) The sidebar now superimposes itself over the rest of the page when you click on it. It's either a bug or a hideous new feature, and it's been that way since last night. If you actually try to use the thing, it makes your browser crash (which has happened every time, today).

What's up? Now I'm not only considering fleeing to WordPress, but I'm considering switching to another feed reader such as Bloglines. This blog is supposed to be about fantasy debuts, for crying out loud, not about problems with Google. One gets the impression that Google is spending so much time acquiring companies and slapping the Google name on them that they are not paying much attention to things that matter to customers.

Until I get set up elsewhere (or Reader gets fixed) I guess I'll catch up on everyone's blogs the old fashioned way.

Rant over. Thanks for listening.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Debut Coverage in My Favorite Blogs

I always have links in my sidebar gizmo to the latest stuff that I have noticed on other blogs. However, since the sidebar is easy to ignore, I like to occasionally do a round up of all the debut coverage that I've noticed elsewhere.

Pat has put up a review of Acacia on his Fantasy Hotlist, and it is not entirely favorable. He's garnered some comments that both agree and disagree with him.

There are two related posts up on John Lindqvist's Let Me In, one at the Fantasy and SciFi Lovin' Book Review, written by TexasBoyBlue, and the other at TexasBoyBlue's Of Science Fiction.

Chris the Book Swede has invited Jennifer Rardin, author of Once Bitten, Twice Shy, to do his Favorite Quote feature this week. She picked a Mark Twain quote about -- what else? -- laughter.

UPDATE! He also has an interview with Patrick Rothfuss! It's hilarious too!

SQT is giving away a copy of Darwin's Paradox by Nina Munteanu over at her Fantasy and SciFi Lovin' Book Review. Hurry! The deadline for the contest is tomorrow.

Jennifer Rardin becomes an early Debut Graduate with her recent release of Another One Bites the Dust, and Kimberly Swan over at Darque Reviews has a review.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Master of Shadows - Channeling Victoria Holt

Today, one doesn't hear much about Gothic fiction. If they do, they immediately think vampires. Well, back in the 80s, Gothic fiction meant Victoria Holt to me. Exciting suspense novels with nary a sex scene in any of its pages. Mysterious, dangerous heroes and plots that seem thick with magic, yet ending up having entirely rational explanations.

MASTER OF SHADOWS is shaping up to be a Gothic novel in the grand tradition of Victoria Holt. An intriguing man, shrouded (literally!) in mystery. A suspicious other man, who seems to have nefarious reasons for his interest in the heroine, Ariel. A missing father. A strange set of servants for the master of the house. And best of all, a secret passage. Oh, and a hidden graveyard!

And all of this takes place in modern-day USA.

Actually, the time and place was difficult for me to pin down at first. What really threw me was when Ariel had store credit at the general store in the "village" near which she lived. As a matter of serendipity, I happened to have been researching the concept of store credit the week before I started reading this book. (Strange, huh? I research all sorts of oddball things.) Therefore, when I ran into the scene where Ariel manages to pay off some of her store credit, my thought process went something like this.

Ok, so they have cars and telephones, so it's at least the 1900s. They also have store credit, so it cannot be much later than 1950. Since they were recently financially ruined, I'm tempted to guess this takes place in the 30s. However, Ariel has a master's degree in liberal arts; when were they first available?

As it turns out, the time frame is at least 1995 or later. Not sure why that guy in the general store doesn't have a credit card machine.

This is the ONLY critique I can think of. The story has grabbed me and I have no idea where it is going to take me. I'm almost exactly halfway through the novel. The mysterious man, Louvel, has his share of unexpected blemishes on his character, and he either has a monster in his house, or he IS the monster in his house. He has some 'splaining to do about more than a few things, and he's not exactly the talkative type. The whole thing has the feel of a fairy tale, especially of Beauty and the Beast, which is probably the very first Gothic story, ever (well, maybe not).

I'm loving it. It makes me nostalgic. Maybe I need to go to the library and check out some Victoria Holt books to reread. Then again, maybe I ought to just try to get through the reading stack I've accumulated so far.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Master of Shadows - First Chapter

I started a new book and I thought it would be fun to dust off my Featured Debut feature. I didn't want to do a Featured Debut of the last two books that I've read because I wasn't sure how they would turn out, and I only do this for books that I'm reasonably certain that I will like.

MASTER OF SHADOWS by Janet Lorimer has been described to me as a fairy tale for adults. This is the second Juno Books novel that I've featured here, and both covers were done by Timothy Lantz. Lantz has done many covers for Juno Books. However, even though I like this cover, it just was not as stunning as the cover he did for Wind Follower. That cover (you can see it here) really makes you stop and take notice. Such a feat must be difficult for an artist to duplicate.

The blurb on the back of the book is brief:

Belief is a powerful charm. . .

Never go into the woods at night, especially if the moon is full.

The old woman's warning, hissed years ago in Ariel's ear, came back that night to haunt her.

They say there's a beast that lives in those woods...a beast that walks and talks like a man.

An ominous shadow blocked the pale light and a powerful hand clamped down on her shoulder.

"Do not move. Do not turn around."

The voice was male, deep and harsh in the silence. At the sound of it, Ariel uttered a startled cry.

"Ariel McPherson . . ."

A guttural whisper in the dark, but he'd made her name sound like velvet being stroked.

This pretty much sums up the action in the first chapter. Ariel meets a stranger in the woods when she goes to fetch a bottle of water from a spring that is rumored to have healing powers. From this description you might think that this is a medieval fantasy, but it's not.

Ariel must trespass onto the stranger's property to fetch the bottle of water, and he catches her in the act. The stranger will not let him see his face as he questions her. He's a bit touchy-feely for my taste, but you get the definite impression that "he's just not from 'round here." This feeling is strengthened in the second chapter, when Ariel reflects on the archaic words he uses and his unusual accent.

There's a mystery established up front, having to do with her father's disappearance. Her mother is just not coping and the 25 year-old Ariel seems to be trying to help her mother keep it together.

There is a longer blurb at Juno's website; here's the rest:
Ariel's life had been a modern fairy tale, but her father's baffling disappearance brought it all to a crashing end. She meets the enigmatic Louvel one night, but never sees his face -- even after accepting employment at his magnificent estate. When it becomes imperative to solve the mystery of what happened to her father, Louvel appears to be helping her . . . but can Ariel trust a man who lives in the shadows?
This blurb and the romance set-up reminds me of a very old romance novel called A Rose in Winter by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Since none of the novels that I've read lately have had any good love stories, so this novel might be coming at just the right time for me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Spotlight Review - The Red Wolf Conspiracy at The Wertzone

Adam Whitehead over at the Wertzone has an advanced review up of an upcoming UK debut. THE RED WOLF CONSPIRACY looks to be a nautical fantasy. Adam gave it four stars and expects that the author, Robert V. S. Redick will, "be 'the' big new fantasy author of 2008, and deservedly so."

THE RED WOLF CONSPIRACY comes out on February 1st. Gollancz is releasing it in both hardcover and trade paperback. Here is a small excerpt from Adam's review:

The Red Wolf Conspiracy is the opening volume of The Chathrand Voyage, a fantasy trilogy by debut author Robert V.S. Redick. Gollancz's pre-publicity draws comparisons with Scott Lynch and Philip Pullman, and I suspect over the coming months a similar word-of-mouth pre-release excitment will build that is comparable to Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora or Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. Certainly The Red Wolf Conspiracy is an exceptionally fine novel and more than worthy of such comparisons.
Head on over to the Wertzone for Adam's review, plus Amazon links and more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones

Rosemary Jones's debut, CRYPT OF THE MOANING DIAMOND (USA, UK, Canada) is part of The Dungeons series by Wizards of the Coast. Other titles in this series includes Depths of Madness by Erik Scott de Bie, The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson and Stardeep by Bruce R. Cordell. I found this blurb at the author's website:

Once again Tsurlagol has been invaded and now a band of orcs controls the city and the city's stout defenses. Luckily for the citizens of Tsurlagol, the forces of Procampur have come marching to the rescue. Even more luckily (although the proper and extraordinarily stuffy Procampur officers don't know it yet), the Siegebreakers are available to help for a quite reasonable fee.

The merry band of mercenaries knows all the tricks for overcoming a city's defenses. Except the Siegebreakers just fell into a vast underground ruin, which is being flooded by the river that they unleashed. The waters are rising, the ceilings are collapsing, and every turn reveals a new creature that wants to attack them.

Ivy, the leader of the Siegebreakers, knows that making walls fall down is easy: not being underneath when the walls collapse is the hard part.
Wizards hosts a sample chapter in a zipfile. The author maintains a MySpace site, including a blog.

Comments Feature Fixed!

LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad and any other blog host using OpenID can now post a comment to this blog and include their URL.

When you make a comment, look for this dropdown box:

Select your blog host, enter your user ID and password and you should be good to go. I guess this was to prevent someone from impersonating someone else. This is all in an experimental version of Blogger called Blogger In Draft. I found something in Blogger's help, which you can find here, but I'll go ahead and paste:

Blogger has removed the URL field for unauthenticated comments. Instead, we're rolling out support for OpenID, a technology for "signing" your comments with your own URL. OpenID lets you comment with the URL you want, while preventing others from impersonating you. Blog admins can turn on OpenID now on Blogger in Draft. Learn more.
Why they turned off the unauthenticated URL before rolling out OpenID is anyone's guess. I BELIEVE that I've turned on this feature for this blog. I'm about to test it as soon as I put up this post.

In the meantime, I had a lot of fun playing with WordPress. It has a lot of great features that I truly envy in Blogger. However, for now I'm going to stay put.

Blogger Comment Feature Downgraded

Blogger has seen fit to downgrade its comments feature, leaving me seriously considering switching to WordPress. Have you noticed it yet? This graphic is what I get when I attempt to leave a comment on another blog. Notice the "Nickname" field.

This is all well-and-good for Blogger users. But now my Wordpress and users of other blogs -- which, except LiveJournal allow links to any site -- can no longer enter a link to their site.

The reason that I did not choose a LiveJournal blog is because of restrictions like this one. Few LiveJournal users leave comments on this blog, and I leave comments on very few LiveJournal blogs. LiveJournal makes its community very insular. Now Blogger is becoming just like LiveJournal.

I'd rather have a paid account somewhere than be subjected to random downgradings like this one. I would have taken a look at WordPress last night, except my Internet connection was down. My only problem with switching is that everyone who has linked to Fantasy Debut would now have dead links. I could leave a pointer post at this blog, of course, but in many ways it would be almost like starting over.

If you are as seriously peeved about this downgrading as I am, please put a post up about it on your blog and find some way to complain to Blogger.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Historical Debut - ERAGON by Christopher Paolini

I wrote this review way before I started Fantasy Debut, but once I wrote it I didn't have anywhere to post it. Since I seem to be having trouble getting through my reading stack in a timely manner, I thought I'd go back and put up some posts on some oldies.

ERAGON was one of the books that inspired Fantasy Debut. How did a seventeen year old kid's first novel manage to grab so much attention? Was it really that great? And then when the movie came out, I got curiouser. So I went out and purchased a used copy (Sorry Paolini, but the only other copies available were cheap-looking paperbacks with the movie cover. Ick. I hate movie covers.) As soon as I finished it, I wrote down my thoughts on it.

This review was first written on Thursday, February 22, 2007. I edited it for major spoilers before posting it.

I just finished Eragon last night. I read the entire book without any memorable lag points. I found Eragon a likable -- but not lovable -- character. Paolini wrote the book with a vivid imagination and memorable scene-setting, especially Tronjheim. There were a lot of unpronounceable words, but they didn't bother me.

The story is about a boy who discovers a dragon egg. It appears to be one of the only dragon eggs left in the world, and there are people willing to kill to get it. Once Eragon is in possession of the egg, it promptly hatches and bonds itself to Eragon, Anne McCaffrey style. Then, Eragon must run from the egg-hunters. Brom, a mysterious storyteller, travels with Eragon and along the way trains him in both dragon-riding and magic. All along, Saphira, the young female dragon, is growing up and gets Eragon into continual scrapes. Their adventures set them against the evil king, Galbatorix, who is a dragon rider, himself.

Much has been said about the derivation of this novel from Star Wars, The Dragonriders of Pern and The Lord of the Rings. Yes, I could see the connection, but they didn't really bother me. Novelists borrow from other novelists all the time. Yes, Paolini borrowed rather heavily, but the plot became his own. And this is a YA novel, where such derivations seem to occur more often. Children have not yet read all the other stuff.

I did have two major nits. The plot seemed too predictable and the character motivations were, on the whole, not convincing. Here are the major characters and why I found them convincing or not:

Brom: I found his motivations thoroughly convincing. Of course he was hiding something about himself, he made that clear, but I had no problem with his motivation being to see Eragon trained.

Eragon: Here is where I had trouble. Once his family had either died or scattered, his motivation was revenge. Eragon is not a dark enough character to be revenge-motivated. I have not read many revenge stories for a reason: revenge as a motivation does not appeal to me. Paolini might have lost me here if I had not been determined to read the whole thing.

Murtagh: Once Eragon is on his own, Murtagh joins him. I like this character. He's too dark to be the protagonist, but he is not weak enough to be a sidekick. I don't know what Paolini has planned for him, and I like that. However, the story that he finally comes out with implies a deeper connection to Eragon. It seems quite obvious, once I read it, just who Murtagh is. Of course, I might be completely wrong about this, and it would be kind of cool if I am.

Anyway, Murtagh's decision to travel with Eragon seemed spurious to me as well. He just sort of gloms onto Eragon. I don't see Eragon as being a particularly compelling character to glom onto.

Saphira: I don't really know what her motivation is. Love for Eragon, I guess. I think a good motivation might be to free the other eggs from the Evil King. Paolini does a good job -- for the most part -- of depicting her as a juvenile dragon. I do wish she could have used her fire to greater purpose when she finally is able to use it at the end of the story.

I mentioned that I found the plot predictable. A fortune teller basically told the reader the entire story and I think her predictions will give Paolini trouble further on in the series. Other than that, here are some dead givaways (I tried to disguise any spoilers).

  • Of course, Brom was doomed.
  • Of course, Murtaugh would be forced to do something that he kept saying he would never do.
  • Of course, the slide from the dragon hold was designed for no other purpose than to have Eragon slide down it. It was not nearly as dangerous as had I hoped, however.
  • Of course, Eragon was doomed to fight a certain powerful minion.
Despite the predictable nature of the plot, the book held a few surprises for me. I don't know why Brom's origin surprised me. It ought to have been obvious. I did a head-cracking number when I read it, and bravo to Paolini for making me do that.

I also did not expect Murtagh's origin. It was not quite the "duh" moment, but it came entirely out of left field, to use a cliché. It also brought a lot of interest to the plot for reasons detailed above.

I have mixed feelings about the final battle. First, the Powerful Minion has put Eragon on the mental and physical defensive with a breathtaking attack. When Eragon was injured and his mind open to the Minion at the same time, I found it a great "how can he possibly win" moment. However, in no time at all, Eragon has turned things around and is rooting through the Minion's mind. I think we needed at least a page of uncertainty. Then, while Eragon is reliving the Minion's memories, the Minion manages to turn things around again, and he has Eragon at another "how can he possibly win" moment. All of this took place in about two pages.

Some hopes for the next book:
  • I am hoping against hope that Arya is not the "great romance" that Eragon will have. It would be an entirely uneven relationship. A much better choice would be the daughter of the rebel chieftain, who has an unpronounceable name. But I think I am doomed to reading about the growing love between Eragon and Arya. Ack.
  • The Twins are shaping up to be traitors to the Varden. I hope they do not turn out to be. I think it would be better to continually keep us guessing about their motivations, like Rowling did with Snape.
  • Eragon will apparently have a new mentor once he gets to the elf homeland. I am hoping he turns out to be a secret villain.
On the whole, I enjoyed ERAGON and I even lent my used copy to a friend, who enjoyed it as well. (I know, bad EVIL Tia!) I certainly would recommend it for younger readers, or for tolerant readers who don't mind derivative works. If you tend to be jaded about such things, you might want to skip it and you probably already have.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

And Now, a Song!

Since so many of my readers are journeyman writers, my blog suffered a dip in traffic during NaNoWriMo, a dip that began to reverse itself in the middle of the month. In honor of all my NaNoWriMo readers, both successful and not, I have composed this little song.

The Blogger's NaNoWriMo Lament
By Tia Nevitt
(Sung to the tune of "Oh Where, Oh Where Did My Little Dog Go")

Oh where, oh where have my blog readers gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
With their visits so short but their comment threads long,
Oh where, oh where can they be?

To NaNoWriMo all my readers have gone,
That annual novelist spree!
With their time so short and their word counts so long
They no longer have time for poor me!

Welcome back!

My Reading Stack

I realize that my reading stack is not towering compared to some, but here are all the books that I've received in the past few weeks. About half of them are books that I agreed to read ahead-of-time. The folder on the bottom is a manuscript that I agreed to beta-read for a friend. I'm currently reading the one on top, To Catch a Mermaid, and when I finish that one, the manuscript is next.

If you plan to review any of these, let me know and I'll be sure to give your review a shout-out.