The Nine (Thieves of Fate)
When fantasy and science fiction collide, the results can sometimes be unpredictable, but The Nine by Tracy Townsend is an enthralling and beautifully constructed example of the genre. Rowena Downshire, the young girl at the heart of the novel, is a courier for a smuggler, spending her days delivering illicit goods and stealing whatever she can to help pay off her mother’s debt. She’s used to carrying dangerous items and being a target for theft, but she wasn’t prepared for the chaos one book brought into her life.
The Nine splits its voice between Rowena and several other characters central to the story in such a natural way that I was never lost as to who we were following or where we were in the city. Nor did any of the characters suffer for the branching attention; I felt like every character was well rounded and had enough backstory and motivation to feel like a well-rounded human(oid). Townsend’s writing through the narrative is compelling, if a bit high-toned to start with; once you get into the rhythm of the telling, the story flows quite well. It was a struggle to put down the book at any point, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next in the Thieves of Fate series.
Last Call for Caviar ( vol.1)
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade has been stranded in the Riviera during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Author Melissa Roen creates a rather convincing alternate reality in Last Call for Caviar, one in which the world as we know it is quickly and definitively coming to an end. The earth seems to have entered a purge mode, spewing, shattering and shocking humanity right off of her face. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, extreme weather of all kinds are testing the limits of mankind and the results are catastrophic. War rages everywhere as bands fight against bands, governments fight against their citizens, and individuals fight for their lives. The landscape is chaotic.
Yet, in the midst of all this devastation, there are places where champagne still flows lavishly and caviar is consumed in abundance. Tucked away on the beautiful coast of the Côte dAzur, the wealthy hide from the treacherous minefields of the disintegrating world. It is in this glittery, gilded backdrop that Maya finds herselfcut off from the security of family, the safety of civilization, and the love she found in France. Having traveled to the region for school and making a life there because of connections, Maya fell in love with the Riviera. When sexy surgeon Julian steals her heart, Mayas destiny is sealed. After a fated lovers quarrel leads to their separation, and tragic world events lead to a splintering of society, Maya becomes desperate. Should she abandon her hopes of happiness with the love of her life and run tail for home in the US? Should she stick it out on the slim chance that Julian will return to her? Should she cultivate her resources to find another way to survive the end of the world? Is survival even possible? The questions keep mounting as more and more craziness ensues.
With each new episode of insanity, a greater truth is revealed to Maya, a truth that only she seems to understand or see.
Roen is convincing here. Her vision of the end is so well crafted and executed, as I read, the news humming in the background, it seemed not just feasible but utterly possible that Roen herself is a seer. There is nothing overly farfetched here, which makes the fantastical elements of Last Call for Caviar that much more intriguing; any of this could happen at any moment. And thats what made me keep turning the pages (and watching the skies).
A fairly long volume at 302 pages, the book was a swift read, sucking me in from the very beginning. There is little fat here, this is a trim and tone narrative. Maya Jade is a kick-ass heroine, dynamic and organic, nuanced and complex. At turns shrinking violet and fierce lioness, damsel in distress and irreverent daredevil. The plot allows for rich interactions that lend cinematic interest, with intense action, gut-wrenching drama, sensual and haunting sizzle, well-placed comedy, and the type of fantasy/sci-fi that makes you think Could this really happen?.
There really isnt much to complain about here. A word of caution: read the whole book from the Prologue; its incredibly important to understand the story and set you up for Volume 2 (which I started before even finishing volume 1). Small deductions for: cover art, I found myself wanting to turn the book over, but I have never been one for messy eaters; typos, Im sorry to say but there were a few that pulled me out of the story occasionally; and an incomplete and hard to use glossary of terms. These are the smallest of complaints. The meat here is worth the price and then some. I just might feast on this tasty meal again and again. I hate caviar, but I loved Last Call.
Tomorrows End Book One
Tomorrows End is the first book in a series by author G. R. Morris. This book starts with some pretty basic science fiction themes and extrapolates out in some interesting and unexpected directions. Focusing mainly on two teenage main characters who come into their abilities in varying stages of reluctance, this novel follows Daren, a girl trapped in a horrible foster home, and Kevin, a boy trapped in a home with an abusive stepfather. Both characters become major players in an age old battle of light vs. dark. Mr. Morris also introduces a very interesting theory about free will and destiny in Kevins story arc, while also informing readers about alien technology that is running the world, as well as aliens who are impersonating and replacing humans.
Part one unfortunately begins with a few stumbles and has lines of banal text such as; Some people believed love conquers all. And they were right. It had beaten him. However, I would urge readers to keep reading past the initial pages and really discover the original ideas that Morris has integrated alongside traditional sci-fi staples. The dual story lines are not perfect, but they are handled well and have completely different styles and tones. I enjoyed Darens story line more because the audience was allowed to share her story and her experiences, we got to know her as a person. Kevins story seemed more like exposition. There was an entire three or four chapter section in the middle of the book devoted to explaining the philosophy behind the story. At one point the author seems to even make light of the length with this exchange; Stop interrupting. Robert yelled, I have a whole speech going on here. Sorry, Im beginning to get bored Kevin laughed.
While Tomorrows End may not be the most entertaining novel I have read recently, it is one of the more thought provoking. In a genre that is already crowded with rehashes of ideas, it is truly remarkable to find a debut novel with something new and compelling to offer readers. I hope to see this creativity continue throughout the rest of the series.
Codex Ocularis is a journey; a journey through time and physical space to a distant planet, but also a journey through the mind.
There is a planet in a galaxy far, far away that is unlike any planet you’ve ever seen or known of. It is known as Ocularis because it is eye-shaped, and has a focused lens pointed right at planet Earth. Yes, the planet is in fact looking at Earth and from what it sees, it is creating unique creatures in the aqueous humors of its surface. How do we know this? Because of one Astronaut/Psychonaut/Holonaut who has traveled across the dimensions of time and space and visited the planet through this unique advanced technology that employs the mind in some way. His words and diagrams have been left in his log book known as the “Codex Ocularis,” where you’ll find his thoughts and musings, his scientific theories and revelations of Ocularis.
Codex Ocularis is partly a storybook, partly a philosophical journey, and partly Ian Pyper having a lot of fun illustrating the ideas of a planet. The concept is an interesting one, but the execution is a little lacking. The astronaut’s notes are done in cursive that make it hard to read certain words at times. The content of the writing is pretty complex and “pretend-scientific” that kind of loses the reader. The illustrations are fun, but get a bit repetitive and when the reader isn’t sure what they’re reading, it makes understanding the images even harder. The book could’ve used more structure and plot to help the reader along.
The Children of Darkness
In this case, you really cant judge a book by its cover. The Children of Darkness is not at all the post-apocalyptic tale that you might expect, based on the cover or the title. It is, in actuality, a delightful sci-fi/fantasy story about three kids trying to find themselves and achieve their potential through understanding their history and, consequently, the history of the world. While not categorized as a YA novel, I think it should be. There is probably more meat here that kids on the cusp of adulthood would find nourishing than more mature readers (although its not an unwelcome trip down memory lane).
Orah (the smart girl), Nathaniel (the strapping leader), and Thomas (the nimble artist) unwittingly embark upon a life-changing journey to find the truth after each has a teaching encounter with the vicars of the Temple of Light. In this post-post-post-modern world with little-to-no technology, defined castes, and isolation between communities, the Temple of Light controls all life functionsfrom how many children may be born to what citizens may think. These three kids bumble into a treasure hunt that will finally lead them to the truth about the darkness.
Litwack has created a gem that incorporates some of the best of the genre: Orah will likely remind many readers of J.K. Rowlings Hermoine (Harry Potter). Elements of the story arch are classic, but will seem particularly familiar to readers of Terry Goodkind (The Wizards First Rule). And while Litwack uses typical archetypes, his characters approach conflict in some ways that diverge from expectation while also providing enough of the familiar, tried and true not to disappoint.
The pacing of The Children of Darkness drags in places; all of the inner dialogue and story setup may not be appealing to every reader, and so you may feel a niggling desire to skip a few pages to get back into the action. But, in general, there is careful craftsmanship at play that endeavors to provide enough description without becoming bogged in unnecessary detailswhich could easily happen as Litwack creates an in-between world that is not quite medieval, but not modern either.
There are also seems to be a bit of a struggle with light and darkness not just in the themes but in the presentation as well; there is a tension in the novel that Im not sure is intentional. Litwack seems to want to convey the darkness of humanity but seems timid in just how much to describe, how dark to go. The story hovers in an uncomfortable realm that suggests horrors, but never truly shows them. There is order, but a sinister element bubbles just under the surface; however, Litwack never really allows us to look at it. Never giving into the grotesque or graphic for graphics sake, Litwacks restrained pen seems to be the balance to contemporary sci-fi productions (Mad Max: Road to Fury , Dredd ). There is something about the seemingly inevitable direction of the story that wants some moment of violence, something explosive in the pot that the three young adults stir.
If it is Litwacks project to complicate the notions of good and evil, he succeeds. In unexpected ways, he shows the fallibility and potential of human beings as a race and as individuals to effect changeperhaps neither for good nor ill. There is much to unpack here and a great deal worth expecting in the sequel.
A good read if you check your expectations at the door.
Dreams of Distant Shores
World Fantasy Award-winning author, Patricia A. McKillip, shines in this collection of tales. Dreams of Distant Shores compiles never before released short stories that exemplify her lyrical style and poet’s ear for storytelling.
From a goddess imbued in the statue of a mermaid, to a young artist’s possession by his muse, these powerful stories are seductive and strange, a combination that makes for stories like no other. Monsters, witches, magic, and death coexist and intermingle with the everyday, with artists, sailors, and waitresses. Part fairy tale, part lucid dreams, these tales are elegant, beautiful, and heartbreakingly vivid. Reading one is like everything wonderful about a Patricia McKillip novel distilled into concise, precise bites.
Elegant and absorbing, her work never reads as stiff or formal, as some fantasy stories can lean toward, and the language, while beautiful, never loses the reader, but instead remains both lyrical and deeply visceral. There is nothing quite like the experience of reading a Patricia McKillip novel. Fans of her work will not be disappointed in this collection, and likewise new readers will find themselves enchanted.