Here are the 197 reviews I have written so far. The most recent was added on 26th February 2016, go read it! They are sorted alphabetically by author, and then by series. Since this page was becoming quite heavy, I decided to split it into 5 parts:

Authors: A-E   F-H   I-K   L-S   T-Z

For a clearer view of my tastes in fantasy, I've also added the other (mostly) fantasy books I have read, along with my ratings. As you can see, I used to be into vampires before... erm.



Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Not as hilarious as expected. (written on 20th September 2005)
This is the story of an Englishman called Arthur Dent, and how he's saved from the destruction of the planet Earth by his friend Ford Perfect, who's in fact not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.

I read this book because I wanted to do so before seeing the film, and because I wanted to know the Answer to the Great Question to Life, the Universe and Everything (well to tell you the truth, I actually knew the Answer, but I wanted to know the Question, too), and because I'm a great fan of English humour (Pratchett, Monty Pythons). But overall, I was a teensy-weensy bit disappointed, probably because I'd heard so much praise about it, I really expected to laugh my buttocks off, and I didn't. OK, I chuckled quite a bit and even guffawed sometimes, but it wasn't as hilarious as I thought it'd be.

You've got to love Marvin the paranoid android though.

Richard Adams
Series: Watership Down

Watership Down
Wonderful Rabbit-lore! (written on 26th May 1999)
Watership Down tells the story of a bunch of rabbits (Hazel and his brother Fiver, Bigwig, Silver and others) who are forced to leave their warren as Fiver's sixth sense tells him great danger is coming. As they look for a place to settle down, not only do they encounter many enemies along the way, but also other rabbits with different ways of living, and who can sometimes be particularly unfriendly.

They finally find an idyllic place to live: on Watership Down. As they settle down, they suddenly realise they've forgotten about something: females!

The story goes on to describe their raids to capture does and bring them back to their new warren. They first manage to get a hutch female rabbit from a nearby farm, but soon realise that just one female is not enough.

So they make for Efrafa, a warren not far from theirs, only to discover it is run by a certain General Woundwort, a tyrant who thinks of his rabbits as an army. In fact, these rabbits are prisoners, unhappy and unable to escape.

So Hazel, Bigwig and their friends devise a plan to rescue some does, risking their own lives in the process.

From this brief outline of the plot and even from the cover of the book, Watership Down may look like a children's book. Do not be fooled: this book is full of violence and cruelty, not just between rabbits and their natural foes, but also among themselves. And you realise early on that, somehow like in George Orwell's Animal Farm, it's fundamentaly a critical view of our own human society, a way of showing us how we also can behave in a barbarous way.

Anyway, I think the book is still suitable for children who will love this great adventure, as Watership Down is aslo full of suspense and once you've started, it's "unputdownable"! Moreover, its characters are very interesting and well developed, and in the end it's extremely amusing, especially when these rabbits take a look at us human beings...

This book is not just for bunny lovers so hop along and get yourself a copy quick! And don't forget its companion: Tales from Watership Down.

Tales from Watership Down
The essential Watership Down Companion! (written on 12th October 2000)
If you've read Watership Down (and no doubt you loved it), this collection of short stories is a must have! Meet Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and the rest as they tell each other stories of El-ahrairah (and some other stories that are really very funny) and discover what they have all become since their return from Efrafa.

Tom Arden
Series: The Orokon

The Harlequin's Dance
A slow start but enjoyable. (written on 25th October 2013)
This is the first book of The Orokon pentalogy (before The King and Queen of Swords, Sultan of the Moon and Stars, Sisterhood of the Blue Storm, and Empress of the Endless Sun).

The events of this book take place in an 18th-Century setting, in the isolated village of Irion, a remote place still mostly unconcerned by the civil war of Ejland: the usurper Ejard Blue has overthrown his brother Ejard Red's government, the rightful heir.

Catayane is a young Vaga girl who lives in the Wildwood with her blind father Silas, the village's former Lector, now an apostate. She can understand Nature and communicate with animals.

Jemany is a cripple, a bastard son of the Archduke of Ixiter's family. He is confined in the decrepit castle of Irion with his pharisaic great-aunt Umbecca who, with the help of apothecary Waxwell, likes to keep his addict mother Ela in a drugged stupor, until his new companion, the mysterious dwarf Barnabas, teaches him to walk with crutches. This, of course, is not to Waxwell's taste: he will try and exorcise Jem by amputating his ill-shapen legs!

I found this first volume a little slow to start. It takes about half the book for Jem to meet Cata, and the other half for him to learn about his destiny. And even though the book is divided in numerous chapters and subchapters, Arden's tendency to switch POV between paragraphs is sometimes distracting.

However, I fairly enjoyed The Harlequin's Dance. Its setting reminded me much of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, with Aunt Becca's bigotry and Waxwell's creepy methods. I also found the fat redheaded bully Poltiss, Waxwell's cruel adoptive son, particularly despicable. And of course, the Ejlanders' persecution of the Vagas echoes today's xenophobia against the Romani.

The King and Queen of Swords
Wearisome beginning, until the final two parts. (written on 24th January 2014)
This is the second book of The Orokon pentalogy (after The Harlequin's Dance, and before Sultan of the Moon and Stars, Sisterhood of the Blue Storm, and Empress of the Endless Sun).

In this volume, Jemany and Catayana have been separated.

Cata, whose mind has been wiped clear, has been turned into a fine young lady and now lives with her grotesque Aunt Umbecca in the city of Agondon. Hopefully, Nirry the maid is still around to help her out of her catatonia.

Jem, no more a cripple, has also left Irion and is now travelling in disguise with a troupe of Vaga-players, making friends with a Vaga-boy, Rajal. As told by Harlequin, Jem must reach Agondon, where he will meet his mysterious guardian Lord Empster and get clues for his quest: the second Crystal of the Orokon.

The book is full to the brim with characters, mostly high society members plotting against each other, and soldiers preparing for the oncoming war in Wrax. Among the latter is lewd Polty Veeldrop, now a captain in the blue army, who still slavers over Cata.

I found the beginning of this second volume wearisome. Many chapters about young ladies being prepared to enter the polite society of Agondon (but dying before they can) were rather superfluous in my opinion. Only in the final two parts, when battle is looming near, does the story pick up again. I really enjoyed meeting Bob Scarlett's band of highwaymen, and reading about Crum and Morvy, two soldiers of the blue army, who end up joining them.

Sultan of the Moon and Stars
Lacking in suspense for Jemís quest. (written on 14th June 2014)
This is the third book of the Orokon pentalogy (after The Harlequin’s Dance and The King and Queen of Swords, and before Sisterhood of the Blue Storm and Empress of the Endless Dream).

The story takes place in the southern country of Unang-Lia. In Kal-Theron, the capital, the son of Sultan Kaled, young Prince Dea, is put through rites of passage by his tutor Simonides, preparing for his upcoming marriage to Princess Bela Dona, daughter of the Sultan's brother and ruler of the southern city of Qatani, Caliph Oman Elmani. Alas, the Princess has been cursed by Simonides’s brother, the Teller Evitamus, and is shimmering between two half images, Bela Dona and Dona Bela. Only Oman and his Vizier Hasem know about the Princess’s condition. She must be restored to her whole self before the Sultan and Dea arrive.

Continuing his quest to find the five crystals of the Orokon, Jem is travelling with Rajal and Lord Empster to Unang-Lia on Captain Porlo’s ship, the Catayane, when suddenly a ray of green light appears. Jem vanishes… and is replaced by Cata! She will accompany the crew to Qatani and befriend the Princess.

As for Jem, he finds himself teleported to a strange dreamland created by Almoran the enchanter, brother to Simonides and Evitamus.

Other protagonists include Faha Ejo and his band of thieves, a mysterious girl-boy named Amed, and Eli Elo Oli the whoremonger. And of course Polty is still lurking around, looking for Cata.

Even though it wasn’t boring per se, I found this volume a little too long and the story not really heading anywhere for many chapters. I was entertained by the couple of funny references to Arabian Nights, such as a genie in a magic lamp and a flying carpet, but annoyed by the lack of progress in Jem’s quest, which was stalled for about three quarters of the book. So far, I find this series somewhat low on suspense, which probably explains why it takes me so long to read it.

Sisterhod of the Blue Storm
Entertaining from start to finish. (written on 29th August 2014)
This is the fourth book of the Orokon pentalogy (after The Harlequin’s Dance, The King and Queen of Swords and Sultan of the Moon and Stars, and before Empress of the Endless Dream).

After leaving Unang-Lia on a flying carpet, Jem, Raj, Littler and the dog Rainbow crash on the volcanic Wenayan island of Aroc, where they are taken prisoners by Uchy and Ojo, two youths who are passing their Manhood Trial in the jungle.

Soon they learn that strange things have been going on on Aroc: a young man named Leki has gone mad and several others have mysteriously died. Moreover, the volcano is constantly rumbling, and Inorchis, their home island across the bay, has vanished!

On the island of Hora, the Triarch is dying and needs to marry his daughter Selinda to one of the candidates to his succession. Lord Glond or Prince Lepato? He has to choose carefully and find out who will be… the loser. Indeed, he wants to spare his daughter the burden he’s had to bear his whole life. But for Selinda, either choice is a poor one, as she’s just fallen in love with Maius Eneo, the handsome castaway she, her nanny Ra Fanana and her eunuch servant Tagan have found on the beach.

Meanwhile, wooden-legged Captain Porlo is also sailing to Wenaya on the Catayane, a treasure map in his hand. While searching for the fourth Crystal of the Oronkon (the blue one, belonging to Javander, goddess of the seas) Jem and Raj make new friends, row on a galley, fly to a floating island inside a vortex, fight a giant spider and even meet the legendary Robander Selsoe, a famous castaway… In short, this volume is full of adventure and entertaining from start to finish, it’s my favourite of the series so far.

Empress of the Endless Dream
Not captivating enough for the end of a series. (written on 7th November 2014)
This is the fifth and final book of the Orokon pentalogy (after The Harlequin’s Dance, The King and Queen of Swords and Sultan of the Moon and Stars, and Sisterhood of the Blue Storm).

In this volume, Jem & Co. have to travel back to Agondon as fast as possible, if they want a chance to save Myla from the curse that makes her age unnaturally. But their skyship crashes on a barn in the snow covered hills. They take refuge there for a while, until Jem decides to weather the storm and walk to the city. There he finds Nirry’s tavern, the Cat & Crown, but just misses Cata.

In Agondon, civil war is brewing: the Redjacket rebels are trying to overthrow the Bluejacket regime, and have a plan to kidnap Queen Jeli. A bomb explodes at Eay Feval’s inaugural, mutilating the Great Lector. Umbecca, who had spotted Nirry among the crowd, immediately accuses her former maid of the attack. The innkeeper is arrested, she will be hanged.

All the while, Polty goes on helping Toth, in the hope that the anti-god will restore his precious Penge. And of course his lovestruck sidekick Bean is always assisting.

Later, Jem learns that he has to go to the Lamasery of the Winds to find the fifth crystal and save Raj’s sister. And so these three friends, along with the other crystal bearers Littler and Cata, and Tishy Cham-Charing, begin a perilous trek into the mountains, with Toth in various forms always on their heels.

I found the end of this series just not captivating enough, with a complicated battle between gods and anti-gods. I was also more curious about the fate of secondary characters such as Littler or Bean, than about the heroes’, and the final chapters, after the big “climax”, were more interesting than the denouement. Especially since in the end, it seems this all was for almost nothing, as the world goes on as before, only with a new King, who is just as narrow-minded as the previous one.

Sarah Ash
Series: The Tears of Artamon

Lord of Snow and Shadows
Cold and grim, but extremely engrossing. (written on 19th January 2010)
This is the first volume of The Tears of Artamon (before Prisoner of the Ironsea Tower, and Children of the Serpent Gate).

Lord of Snow and Shadows tells the story of Gavril, a young painter who is suddenly snatched from his quiet life in sun-bathed Smarna after the father he's never met is murdered, and forcibly taken to the snow-bound kingdom of Azhkendir, where he's expected to avenge and succeed him.

Moreover, he soon learns that his heirloom comes with yet another price: the blood that runs in his family's veins is slowly transforming him into a Drakhaoul, a beast of incredible might but needing to be refuelled with the blood of young innocents. Gavril must absolutely resist it to preserve his soul and not give in to this dreadful craving.

In the meantime, his mother Elysia searches for him, imploring the help of the neighbouring Muscobite aristocracy, only to find herself caught in the middle of a powerplay between people lying in wait of a sign of weakness from the North to attack her son. She'll end up trusting the wrong people, who'll use her to invade Azhkendir.

I was taken in by the story from the very first pages and soon lost myself in the account of these intricate events, trying to see through these complex characters. The book is no light and happy fairy tale, though and some passages are terribly grim. However, Gavril's helplessness and good-heartedness make him very lovable, and I became very fond of Kiukiu, the cook's young niece and other maids' bully target, who'll discover powers of her own and finally befriend the Kastel's other desolate soul... I also enjoyed Sarah Ash's descriptions of winter in Azhkendir, so true to life I could feel the harshness of the cold. I'm eager to go on reading and see how the very tricky situation everyone is entangled in evolves.

Prisoner of the Ironsea Tower
A perpetual chase. (written on 7th February 2010)
This is the second volume of the Tears of Artamon (after Lord of Snow and Shadows and before Children of the Serpent Gate).

After the terrible battle in Azhkendir, Eugene is disfigured but alive, and asks Astasia to marry him. Seeing her Duchy going to pieces and fearing for her parents' sanity, she has little choice but to comply. The empire of New Rossiya is created.

Knowing that Gavril has cast out the dragon and is no longer a threat, Eugene takes the opportunity to seek revenge on the man who maimed him. Gavril is condemned and imprisoned in the Ironsea Tower, an asylum for the insane on the jagged and desolate cliffs of Arnskammar. How long can he resist calling the Drakhaoul to his rescue?

In the meantime, Gavril's mother Elysia travels back to her home in Smarna and kindles the flames of rebellion, while Kiukiu is sweet-talked by Kaspar Linnaius into helping Eugene find the way to Ty Nagar, where the Drakhaons are waiting for their release. The vicious Magus will leave her lost in the Ways Beyond.

In opposition to the first volume where I felt trapped with the heroes and struggling with them, in this book I was rather watching from afar. For me this middle-volume can be summarized as a perpetual chase, with characters repeatedly looking for others where they're not, and relatively few relevant events happening in the end. I did enjoy the court intrigue between Empress Astasia and the Francian singer Celestine, though, and hope the third part will grip me as much as the first one did.

Children of the Serpent Gate
The Drakhaoul menace... (written on 19th March 2010)
This is the third and final volume of the Tears of Artamon (after Lord of Snow and Shadows and Prisoner of the Ironsea Tower).

After being set free by Eugene on Ty Nagar, new daemons are now looking for their hosts among the descendants of Artamon. Their aim is to open the Serpent Gate with the sacrifice of innocent children, to let their lord Nagazdiel invade the World. Realizing everything is getting out of his hands, Eugene has no choice but to ask Gavril for help: their Drakhaouls must unite against their brothers' dire intentions.

At the same time, pious Enguerrand of Francia has stolen the rubies and is claiming now the throne of New Rossiya. He and his Guerriers have launched an inquisition against all forms of magic, and are raiding Smarna and Tielen in search of heretics, to burn them at the stake.

And so Kaspar Linnaius is captured. But Kiukiu needs the Magus's skills to restore her. Indeed, she has stayed too long in the Ways Beyond trying to help the wraith-children and has lost almost all her life force. She is now as frail and fragile as an old woman and will die soon, and mostly she doesn't want Gavril to see her like that.

Meanwhile Astasia, who has fled to Francia with her brother Andrei, is starting to regret her move.

Again, I missed the immersion I experienced in the first volume. There are many characters and twice as many plot lines, some of which are left dangling at the end of the series (if the character has not been killed yet), and the perpetual chase goes on. However, I very much enjoyed seeing Gavril and Khezef's relationship deepen, and witnessing Eugene's evolution over time, surprisingly becoming more human with the daemon in him.

Peter S. Beagle
Series: The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn
A real fairy tale (written on 31st March 2004)
"The Unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone..."

But when one day she overhears two hunters arguing about the existence, or not, of her kind, she starts wondering if she's indeed the last unicorn, and sets off on a quest to find others like her. Nobody believes in fairy tales anymore and everyone she meets thinks she's nothing more than a white mare. Even Mommy Fortuna, who captures her one night while she's indiscreetly sleeping on the edge of a wood, and puts her in a cage to entertain and impress customers of her Midnight Carnival, alongside other animals that the witch turns into various illusory mythical beasts. Hopefully, one of Fortuna's assistants, Schmendrick the wannabe magician, recognizes the unicorn for what she really is. He releases her, and travelling together, meeting a new companion called Molly Grue on the way, they make for King Haggard's cursed castle. There lives the terrible Red Bull, the blind, devilish creature responsible for the disappearance of the unicorns, or so they've heard.

The Last Unicorn is a real fairy tale, where everything seems to happen in a kind of ethereal, parallel reality. Beagle’s style is such that every place, every character, and every action that takes place is hard to focus on, as if it were a dream that you're trying to remember. And on the other hand, it approaches very real themes, ones you can relate to, such as finding who you are and what you want to be, or making the right choices and compromises in your life... I won't say I understood it all, but I was charmed by this deep, very poetic, and sad tale of love and magic, good and evil, by this quest for seasons of candor, when we believe in fairy tales and legendary creatures.

Terry Brooks
Series: Shannara

The Sword of Shannara (Le Glaive de Shannara)
The Elfstones of Shannara (Les Pierres des Elfes de Shannara)
The Wishsong of Shannara (L'Enchantement de Shannara)

Series: The Heritage of Shannara

The Scions of Shannara
The Druid of Shannara
The Elf Queen of Shannara
The Talismans of Shannara

Series: Shannara Prequel

First King of Shannara

Series: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara

Ilse Witch
Entertaining, but too straightforward. (written on 25th August 2003)
This is the first book in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy (before Antrax and Morgawr), set one hundred and thirty years after the events of The Heritage of Shannara tetralogy.

Ilse Witch opens with Hunter Predd, a Wing Rider, patrolling the Blue Divide coast on his Roc Obsidian, and finding the half-drown body of an Elf, whose features are hideously mutilated. When Hunter discovers a silver bracelet and a map with strange writings on the barely alive creature, he knows the latter must be Kael Elessedil, the Elven King's brother, gone thirty years ago in search of a ancient, mysterious magic. Could the map lead to it? After bringing the body to the healer's, Hunter hurries off to warn Allardon Elessedil, the King of the Elves.

But the healer's assistant is a spy, and soon his mistress the Ilse Witch learns of what has just been found: the directions to a magic which she too covets.

In the meantime, Hunter Predd is sent to Paranor to ask Walker Boh for help, as the last of the Druids is the only one who can decipher the map. Back in the Elven city of Arborlon, Walker reluctantly agrees to follow the castaway's map in search of the magic, but not before striking a bargain with Allardon. In exchange for the his help and for sharing whatever he'll find on the way, the King will allow Walker to set up a Druid Council, something they've both been arguing about for ages.

The first half of the book describes Walker going all around the Four Lands to assemble a crew of about thirty people for his quest. Among them, the young Highlander Quentin Leah, descendant of Morgan Leah and wielder of the supposedly magical Sword of Leah, if only he knew how to unleash its power. With his best friend Bek Rowe, an orphan adopted by Quentin's uncle, they are sent East, to Anar, to recruit Truls Rohk the shapeshifter, and Panax, a dwarf. As the story flows, Bek starts wondering about his past, about who is parents really were.

Coming along are also Hunter Predd and Obsidian, a couple of other Wing Riders and their Rocs, and Ard Patrinell, the former Captain of the Elven King's Home Guard, who will be in command of a small party of Elven Hunters. Ahren Elessedil, one of Allardon's sons, Ryer Ord Star, a young seeress and empath, and a healer called Joad Rush will be joining them too.

And to fly over the Blue Divide, Walker will also need an airship, a light-powered vessel now common in the Westland. The Rover Spanner Frew will build the Jerle Shannara, whereas Redden Alt Mer, a.k.a. Big Red, and his sister Rue Meridian, a.k.a. Little Red, will captain it. More Rovers will be necessary to man it.

The second half of the book describes the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara and its crew, following the instructions on the castaway's map. Hopping from island to island, first Flay Creech, then Shatterstone, then Mephitic, they're supposed to retrieve three keys. After overcoming many obstacles and fighting the ghastly monsters that guard these keys, they'll finally land near Castledown on the Isle of Parkasia, to open the door behind which lies the legendary magic.

As a whole, I'd say that Ilse Witch is entertaining, but not exceptional. The descriptions are enjoyable but not very poetic and rather straightforward, leaving little room for the reader's own imagination. The monsters are a bit grostesque, the characters a bit shallow. However, I must say I liked Bek's shy, unsure and awkward personality. The women seem interesting too, but maybe that's because I'm one too. I hope they'll hold water in the next installments, and that the story will become deeper and maybe, will live up to the previous Shannara books.

Antrax
Enjoyable and annoying at the same time. (written on 4th September 2003)
This is the second book in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy (after Ilse Witch and before Morgawr).

After his visits on Flay Creech, Shatterstone and Mephitic, the Druid Walker realizes that the challenges he and his friends faced on these islands were nothing but a test, the castaway's map nothing but a lure. Whatever lives in the ruined catacombs of Castledown, the ancient, giant city from the Old World, covets their magic.

At the beginning of Antrax, picking up where Ilse Witch left off, the protagonists are scattered in little groups, exploring Castledown and its surrounding jungle in search of the legendary books of magic. It won't be long until they come across hoards of metallic monsters and fire threads, trying to block their way at all costs. And soon they'll learn that the whole city is controlled by Antrax, an intelligent computer from before the Great Wars, programmed to protect this great knowledge forever.

Meanwhile, on the Jerle Shannara, the members of her crew have been made prisoners after being attacked by the Ilse Witch's airship, Black Moclips. They are locked up in her hold and Little Red, who is dangling from a rope attached to the ship's rigging and all but exhausted, might be their sole hope of survival, as the Jerle Shannara is slowly drifting in the wind, heading towards the huge, stomping and crushing ice pillars of the Squirm.

At the same time, Bek Rowe is facing Grianne, the Ilse Witch, trying to make her see the truth about who she is, nothing but a pawn in the Morgawr's game.

Even though this book is quite suspenseful and contains some interesting character development, what I didn't expect is that in this volume, Terry Brooks blends a great deal of Science Fiction into his Sword & Sorcery. Antrax is crammed with hackneyed themes reminiscent of Brazil or The Matrix, and with all kinds of stereotypical robots that reminded me, in turns, of R2D2 or Robocop. The fate of some of the heroes is so horrible it might even have made good Thriller matter. As a whole I enjoyed this book but also found it all a tad annoying.

Morgawr
The best book in the trilogy. (written on 2nd October 2003)
This is the third and final book of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy (after Ilse Witch and Antrax).

There are only a few survivors in the ruins of Castledown. As some of them are still trying to get out, others go in search of lost pieces of the Jerle Shannara, only to come across more monsters, the bloodthirsty beasts that dwell in the forests and mountains of Parkasia.

And not only do the heroes have to find a way to repair the airship in order to cross the Blue Divide and go back home, but the Morgawr has just arrived with a fleet of airships and is attacking them to take possession of the legendary Books of Magic that he believes have been found.

Held prisoner on Black Moclips by Cree Bega and his Mwellrets, Bek barely manages to escape with the help of the shapeshifter Truls Rohk, and goes in search of Walker in the ruins of Castledown. When they finally find him in the maze of corridors, the Ilse Witch is beside him, holding the bloodied Sword of Shannara in her hands.

What she's experiencing at this moment is the magic of the artefact flowing through her, making her see the Truth, the dreadful horror of all the things she's done under the Morgawr's dominion. So shocked, so ashamed is she of what her life has been for all these years, she hides deep within herself, and falls into a catatonic state. Before leaving, Bek promises the dying Druid to bring her back to the Four Lands and to do everything to protect her, as she has yet another destiny to fulfill.

After reading a more cheap sci-fi than fantasy Antrax, I was rather scared and didn't now what to expect of this book. To my relief, Morgawr is in my opinion the best volume of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. Packed with action, and with characters that finally grow in depth, it reminded me of some of the good old Shannara adventures.

Tim Burton

*The Melancholy Death of Oyster-Boy
Bitter-sweet jewel! (written on 6th November 2000)
I was offered this book by a friend who surely knew I like Tim Burton's films. What a beautiful gift: these funny yet macabre little poems are just perfect!

Jesse L. Byock

The Saga of the Volsungs
Neither difficult nor boring, but not what I expected either. (written on 11th November 2005)
The saga of the Volsungs is a compound of old Norse lays. The first part tells the story of Sigurd's ancestry and of his quest to slay the dragon Fafnir. The second is very similar to the Nibelungenlied, with characters such as King Gunnar, Hogni and Brynhild.

Once again, even though Odin, the Valkyries and other supernatural beings appear here and there in the first part, I was expecting this book to comprise much more Norse mythology, such as tales of Yggdrasil, Bifrost and Ragnarok. Maybe I should give a try to the Prose Edda?

Anyway, it wasn't too difficult or boring, and of course it was nice to spots some of Tolkien's sources of inspiration.

Trudi Canavan
Series: The Black Magician Trilogy

The Magicians' Guild
Enjoyable and entertaining. (written on 18th January 2006)
It's the beginning of winter in the city of Imardin, it's the day of the Purge. Like every year for thirty years, the streets are being cleared of beggars, homeless vagrants and suspected criminals, and Sonea, her aunt Jonna and uncle Ranel have just been kicked out of the stayhouse they've been living in for years. Sonea has been sent ahead to see if they can get a room at their old place before the guards and magicians drive them beyond the Outer Circle.

Reaching the North Square where a large crowd has gathered, she meets some street youths, among which her friends Cery and Harrin. As a row of Magicians begin to push people forward, the young boys start their yearly sport of throwing stones at them, the missiles expectedly bouncing off the invisible magical shield. When she hears a fair-haired, well-groomed magician insulting them through the barrier, Sonea's hand tightens around the rock in her pocket. Holding her breath, she watches as the stone flies through the air and in a flash of blue light, slams into the magician's temple.

Bedazzled, she quickly understands there can only be one explanation to what just happened: she used magic. She has to hide.

The first half of the book describes Sonea's flight through the city streets, convinced that the magicians want to punish her for hurting one of them, and because surely no "dwell" may use magic, it's reserved for the wealthy families of the Houses.

Her friend Cery will convince the Thieves to help her, but as she tries to master her newly discovered powers, they only grow stronger, uncontrollable and very dangerous. Fearing for the safety of the neighbourhood, the Thieves finally turn her in.

In the second half, Sonea is at the Magicians' Guild, under the guidance of the Alchemist Lord Rothen whose job is to teach her Control before she decides to stay and maybe later become a Healer, or leave and go back to the slums with her powers blocked forever. In the meantime Lord Fergun, the Warrior magician who was hit by the stone, is planning his revenge.

After reading several reference books and standalone novels, it's good to be back with a good old fantasy trilogy! Although the story is rather linear and straightforward, the intrigue woven into the plot makes it a real page-turner. As a whole, the book is not extremely mind-boggling, but all the same very enjoyable and entertaining, with loveable characters such as Sonea's friend Cery, or Lord Rothen and his former pupil Lord Dannyl. I'm excited to read the second volume: The Novice.

The Novice
Very exciting! (written on 30th January 2006)
Now that Lord Fergun has been sent into exile, Sonea is starting her first year as Novice at the Magician's Guild University, under Lord Rothen's guardianship. She's eager to learn, but being a slum girl she knows it won't be easy to be accepted by, not to mention make friends with, her wealthier and nobler classmates from the Houses. However, she far from conceives the depth of their scorn yet. Indeed one of them, Regin, probably because he simply can't stand a mere slum girl outdoing him, will rally the others and gang them up against her, bully her constantly, play pranks on her, repeatedly ambush her to exhaust her strength and destroy her notes. In other words, make her life hell.

In the meantime Lord Dannyl has taken up his new role of Second Guild Ambassador to Elyne. After an adventurous sea voyage, and after sorting out some of his appointed duties in the capital Capia, he finally has some time to himself to investigate Akkarin's journeys. Indeed, Administrator Lorlen, who suspects the High Lord of performing Black Magic, which is forbidden by the Guild's laws, has asked the young magician to retrace Akkarin's footsteps, ten years earlier. Doing so, Dannyl meets Tayend, a scholar who works at the Great Library and has an amazing memory. The handsome lad will aid him in research and they'll become close friends.

This middle novel is very exciting, I just couldn't put it down. All the loveable characters from the first volume are back, with the exception of Cery, whom we almost hear nothing of. Replacing Fergun, Regin is suitably despicable and irritating, and you can really feel Sonea's frustration when she can't find proof enough to expose him. The High Lord, although first depicted as the ultimate invincible villain, becomes more three-dimensional throughout the book, and I'm looking forward to reading the thrid installment to discover what his real motives are.

The High Lord
A very engrossing story. (written on 14th February 2006)
It's been a year since the Challenge, and Sonea is finally treated with some respect by the other novices.

This third and final volume first concentrates on the mysterious murders that have been recently committed in the city of Imardin. One thing is certain, Black Magic has been used to kill these people. Aware of the High Lord's secret knowledge of this forbidden power, Administrator Lorlen and Lord Rothen's are more and more lead to think that the murderer might be Akkarin.

However, Sonea knows these dead are actually Sachakan slaves sent by their master to kill the High Lord, so the latter was merely defending himself. But she still finds it hard to feel at ease around her Guardian, and Akkarin needs her trust. He has no choice but to share his secret story with her, telling her of Kariko's desire to avenge his brother Dakova's death, and of his impending invasion with other Ichani, outcast Sachakan black magicians, each a hundred times stronger than several Guild Magicians. As utter destruction threatens the city of Imardin, Kyralia and the rest of the Allied Lands face reduction of its entire people to slavery.

In the meantime, Cery has earned respect among the Thieves, and befriended a Sachakan woman who says she can help him predict the next murders. As for Ambassador Dannyl, he's back in Elyne to investigate on a band of rebel magicians.

I absolutely loved witnessing the evolution of Akkarin's character, as well as that of his relationship with Sonea. Their trek in the mountains created images that reminded me of the Kalbarri and Karijini gorges in Australia, the ambush in Calia was in the vein of a great Clint Eastwood Western, and the final chase in the twisted streets of Imardin was like a giant game of hide-and-seek. My only regret is I wish there were more loose ends tied up after the grand finale, which concludes a little too abruptly in my opinion. Otherwise it's a fantastic series, a very engrossing story.

Agatha Christie
Series: Miss Marple

*Nemesis
What a charming old lady! (written on 27th April 2003)
In Nemesis, Miss Jane Marple is quietly sitting in her house in St Mary Mead, reading the obituaries in her favourite newspaper, when one of the names printed there strikes her as familiar. Mr. Rafiel, whom she'd met briefly during a sojourn in the West Indies a year earlier, and with whom she'd help solve a mystery, has died.

About a week later, she recieves a letter from London, asking her to go to the late Mr. Rafiel's solicitors' office. There she learns that Mr. Rafiel is leaving her a rather large amount of money, at the condition that she manages to solve a certain mystery, for the sake of Justice he says. The problem is, he doesn't give her any clues as to where she should start, nor what she should be looking for. Is she to witness, or prevent a crime? Catch a murderer red-handed, or maybe right some wrong that was done in a time long past? Intrigued, Miss Marple decides to accept the proposition.

Not long after, she recieves an invitation to go on coach tour of the Famous Houses and Gardens of Great Britain. Everything has been arranged and paid for by none other than Mr. Rafiel. Miss Marple starts her investigation.

What I enjoy the most in Nemesis is the way Agatha Christie makes you look at the world through the eyes of an old lady, the way you can follow her thoughts and deductions. How Miss Marple takes advantage of seeming a harmless old lady to bully people into revealing things is very funny too. Of course it's cleverly written and very suspenseful, but you wouldn't except less from "The Acknowledged Queen of Detective Fiction", now would you?

*And Then There Were None
Still entertaining, even after several reads. (written on 23rd January 2003)
And Then There Were None tells the story of ten people, all with different backgrounds, and who don't know each other, who are invited by a certain U. N. Owen to spend some time on Nigger Island, off the shore of Devonshire. When they disembark they learn that their host has't arrived yet. They're all speculating as to who this mysterious man or woman can be when a record starts playing on the gramophone, accusing each guest of murder. Not long after, one of them dies, poisoned.

The next morning, it's another one's turn. One by one they die, according to the verses of the nursery rhyme Ten Little Niggers, and one by one the ten little negroid statuettes displayed in the dining room disappear. After a thourough but infructuous search of the island, they're forced to face the music: the murderer must be one of them.

It was the third time I read this book, albeit the first in its original language. And even though I was bound to find it a little less suspenseful, it was nice to see the tension build up as the guests all start to suspect each other, and it was much entertaining. Lady Agatha Christie sure knew how to write them detective stories!

W. J. Corbett
Series: Pentecost

The Song of Pentecost
Maybe a little bit too moralizing for me. (written on 11th October 2001)
This is the first of the Pentecost books (followed by Pentecost and the Chosen One and Pentecost of Lickey Top).

After his father's death, Snake is bamboozled by his alleged Cousin who, backed up by a Frog, claims he whas fallen heir to Snake's dear home, the Oily Green Pool.

Determined to have his pond back, Snake sets out in search of the lying batrachian. He ends up in a old farm, the home of a family of harvest mice, the leader of whom is Pentecost. The mouse agrees to help Snake find Frog if in return he finds them a new home, as the farm is going to be detroyed by the over-spilling City.

The story goes on to describe their journey across the English countryside to the Oily Green Pool and the Lickey Hills, meeting numerous beasts on the way, either friend or foe, but often "playing both ends against the middle".

The Song of Pentecost is a lovely animal fable, where in the end everyone learns from their mistakes or repents from their treacheries, but I must say I was a little bit disturbed by the religious, often moralizing metaphors. I was also deeply shocked by the end.

Pentecost and the Chosen One
Little mouse goes to big City. (written on 23rd October 2001)
This the second of the Pentecost books (after The Song of Pentecost and before Petecost of Lickey-Top).

After settling on Lickey-Top, the harvest mice live a life of peace and quiet. But after the tragic death of their leader, the hero who lead them to the Promised Land, the newly elected Pentecost dreams of danger and adventure where he could prove himself worthy of his leadership.

One day an old hedgehog and his son arrive on Lickey-Top. And when the Old Codger, gifted with devinatory skills, reveals the Prophecy that a mouse is to go to the City to overthrow a tyrant and bring back peace, it doesn't take the restless Pentecost long to take the opportunity and desert his family.

So on the back of Fox of Furrowfield, he travels to the City, where he will meet the Gas Street Mob, a gang of rogue mice lead by the mean and not very bright Zero, among which is a mouse who, strangely, looks very much like Pentecost himself.

Pentecost and the Chosen One is nice adventure novel, if you don't mind being lectured from time to time. It isn't very suspenseful, although funny at times, and you can be sure the Cockle-Snorkle is always up to some mischief.

Pentecost of Lickey-Top
Peace is threatened again on the Lickey Hills. (written on 1st November 2001)
This is the third and last of the Pentecost books (after The Song of Pentecost and Pentecost and the Chosen One).

It's winter. At Earlswood lake, the only recently orphaned Otter decides to leave his home for ever. Following what he believes is his Lucky Star, he settles in the pond at the foot of The One Hundred Steps, just below Lickey-Top. But the pond belongs to Owl, and when Pentecost and Fox, thinking Otter won't stay, come to greet him, he challenges them.

For Pentecost, this is another chance to prove he's a hero by saving his family from the eviction Owl is threatening them with, if he manages to fulfill Otter's outrageous conditions and rescue Otter's hostage, the always grumbling Uncle. But as always, the Cockle-Snorkle is here to "play both ends against the middle".

Like the first two books, this is again a real nice animal story with some funny passages. As an adult, I was slightly annoyed by the many moralizing bits, but I would recommend it to all children.

Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Penguin Book of Norse myths, Gods of the Vikings
Must-have reference. (written on 4th January 2006)
Finally I've found it: the book of tales of Odin, and Thor, and Bifrost, and Ragnarok! What a pleasure to read the tales that inspired so much of the world's fantasy literature! Here you'll find the background stories behind and the likes of Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied or the Volsungs' Saga, and obviously the roots of Professor Tolkien's own Middle-Earth mythology, so numerous are the similarities.

Not only are the thirty-two myths comprised in this translation very well told and captivating, but the introduction and notes are very complete and interesting, not to mention the very practical glossary and index. I haven't read Snorri Sturluson's Edda so I can't compare, but I'm pretty sure Kevin Crossley-Holland's is one of the best reference books on the subject, a must-have on one's shelf.

Roald Dahl
Series: Charlie

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A wonderful story! (written on 3rd April 2005)
As the title implies, this is the story of Charlie. Charlie Bucket is the only son of a very poor family. He lives in a very small cottage just outside of town, with his Mom and Dad, his two Grandmas and his two Grandpas.

Charlie absolutely loves chocolate. Alas, his parents are so poor they can only afford to buy him a bar once a year, for his birthday, which is awaited eagerly. Needless to say that passing by Willy Wonka's enormous chocolate factory, the most famous in the world, on his way to school every day is close to torture for poor little Charlie.

Until the day Charlie finds one in only five golden tickets in the whole world that entitles him to a visit of the reknown factory.

I decided to read this book before Tim Burton's adaptation comes out. What a wonderful children story, full of adventures and twists and turns! The factory's a fantastic place, the characters are great, especially Grandpa Joe, and I'm looking forward to seeing the talented (among other qualities) Johnny Depp as Mr. Willy Wonka. And Quentin Blake's illustrations are excellent. Definitely something I'm going to read to my kids (when I have some). I ran to the shop right after I finished it to buy its sequel: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Enjoyable, but not a must-read. (written on 6th April 2005)
This is the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...

...and I'm afraid I didn't like it as much, probably because what happens to Charlie and his family and Mr. Wonka is much more far-fetched. And what I enjoyed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was precisely that however extraordinary, everything was plausible, or at least very close to.

In this book, our eight protagonists shoot to the stars in Mr. Wonka's glass elevator, and are mistaken for terrorists by astronauts in a space shuttle. Then they have to fight monsters called Vermicious Knids (sound the K), and when they finally get back down to the Chocolate Factory, the story shifts to something totally different... but closer to the style of the first book, therefore more to my liking: Wonka-vite, the rejuvenating pills.

So yeah, it's enjoyable, but I wouldn't call it a must-read.

Dante Alighieri
Series: The Divine Comedy

*Inferno
Not for Me (written on 11th March 2008)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (before Purgatorio and Paradiso).

In this book, we follow Dante as he visits Hell, walking down its nine consecutive Circles accompanied by the poet Virgil, and meeting old acquaintances on the way.

This should not become a habit, but I intend to stop after the first volume and not finish the trilogy. First, I realize I'm simply not sensitive to poetry. Then, there are too many references to public or mythical figures of the Antiquity and 13th-century Florence, and I'm not sufficiently educated in History and Biblical Lore to enjoy this book.

Still, Sisson's modern English translation is good and reads easily. The notes at the end of the book are well-done and help understand what Dante is referring to, but I was too lazy to constantly check back and forth. I'm wondering if it would have been a better choice if they'd been placed in the margin.

Cecilia Dart-Thornton
Series: The Bitterbynde

The Ill-Made Mute
Hard to rate... (written on 20th May 2007)
The Ill-Made Mute is the first book in the Bitterbynde trilogy (before The Lady of Sorrows and The Battle of Evernight).

The story starts on the lower floors of Isse Tower, the huge, black relay fortress of the Stormriders and their winged steeds. Down in the servants' quarters, an ugly, deformed and mute foundling is raised by an old crone.

Hearing terrifying stories about the evil creatures that dwell in the outside world, but constantly bullied not only by the lordly inhabitants of the upper levels but even by the other menials, the child one day scales the walls of the tower and escapes aboard a Windship.

Soon the flying vessel is attacked by pirates though, and crashes in the forest. The youth is rescued by and Ertishman called Sianadh, taught hand-speak and given a name: "Imrhien". Together they start a journey through the woods, and face the attacks of numerous monsters, one looking for treasure, the other for a wise woman who could heal those disfiguring scars.

This book is actually hard to rate... Cecilia Dart-Thorton's style is elaborate, alas sometimes to such an extent as to be difficult to read. Her use of clever words, mostly for the purpose of lovely alliterations, is somewhat hindering (at least for an non-native English speaker like me).

Same thing about the plot... The first chapters in Isse Tower have descriptions that can really make your head spin from vertigo. Then the story seems to stall: the companions meet so many wights, often grostesque or simply annoying, in the forest, they barely make any progress (those familiar with the Final Fantasy game franchise probably know what I mean). Thankfully, the story eventually picks up again in the last chapters, when Imrhien and Sianadh's nephew, Diarmid, meet a Dainnan warrior, Thorn. Now I'm eager to go on with the next book!

The Lady of the Sorrows
More captivating than the first volume. (written on 27th June 2007)
This is the second book in the Bitterbynde trilogy (after The Ill-Made Mute and before The Battle of Evernight).

Now that the old carlin Maeve One-Eye has healed Imrhien, restored her beauty and her voice, but not her memory, the young woman can travel to the royal city of Caermelor in order to deliver to the King-Emperor the secret message of the treasure found at Waterstairs. She goes there disguised as Rohain Tarrenys, Lady of the Sorrows, the distant islands or Severnesse. Alas, the King-Emperor is not at court but has gone to battle against the army of unseelie beings who have declared war on humankind. She has no choice but to wait, try and find clues about her past, and look for the mysterious Dainnan warrior Thorn whom she's fallen for.

But for Imrhien it's hard to blend in, with the constant threat of the courtiers seeing through her disguise if she doesn't learn their manners fast. Luckily, she soon makes friends with her maid Viviana, who starts to teach her slingua (a made-up court-language).

Seeing that the King-Emperor is not coming back any time soon, she decides to make for Isse Tower, where she used to be known as the Ill-Made Mute, to meet those among whom she used to live and gather information on her former life. There she makes an astounding discovery, but her happiness is short-lived. Indeed, after an attack by the unseelie hordes, she comes to understand she might actually be the target of Huon the Hunter and his Wild Hunt.

Even though I found that the heroin's name changed too often, I liked this middle-volume better than the previous one. For one part it is not as over-written, but its pace is also faster. The plot is more captivating, with a romantic first half and intriguing, albeit predictable ending chapters, in which the story shifts to another place and time when the legendary Faêran still roamed the land of Erith.

The Battle of Evernight
Longish and anticlimactic. (written on 21st September 2007)
The Battle of Evernight is the third and final book of the Bitterbynde trilogy (after The Ill-Made Mute and The Lady of the Sorrows).

Now that Tahquil, our heroin-with-too-many-names, has gotten most of her memory back, she's gnawed at by the Langothe, an unendurable longing for the Faêran Realm, in addition to her yearning for her lover Thorn.

Tahquil knows now that she is the only one who can open the magic door to the Fair Realm, left ajar with three strands of her golden hair several hundred years ago. Which is why she is sought after by Angavar and hunted down by Morragan and his hordes of unseelie creatures: the Faêran King and his twin brother and nemesis, the Raven Prince are trapped in Erith.

In the company of her maids Caitri and Viviana, she sets out on a journey to Arcdur, to find the Gate of Oblivion's Kiss. Starting near Huntingtowers, together they'll travel all across Eldaraigne, successively through: the flowery Arven Meadows, the jungle of Khazathdaur and its tree-top catwalks, the river-ridden hills of Lallillir, the orchards of Cinnarine, then changing their course to go to Morragan's lair, through the labyrinthine hedges of Firzenholt, the wasteland, and the volcanic desolation of Tapthartharath, making friends with helpful wights along the way: an Urisk, a Waterhorse and a Swanmaiden.

Does this description sound like a tedious enumeration to you? Well, it actually echoes what reading the story felt like to me. Although the vocabulary used in this volume is less intricate, the book is mostly longish and uneventful. Even the long-expected clash between good and evil falls flat, anticlimactic. Still, there are a couple of passages I enjoyed: a moment of respite when the girls make a halt in Appleton Thorn, enjoying the villagers' traditions and rites, and the unexpected fifteen-or-so last pages.

Sara Douglass
Series: The Axis Trilogy

BattleAxe
Enchanting. (written on 2nd July 2002)
This is the first book of the Axis Trilogy (followed by Enchanter and
StarMan).

The story takes place in Achar, a land ruled by the Seneshal, a powerful religious organisation teaching the Way of the Plough and the fear of the god Artor. For centuries, the Seneshal has also been teaching that two other races living in Achar, the Icarii and the Avar, are evil magical creatures. They are called the Forbidden.

Our hero, Axis, is the BattleAxe, the chief commander of the Axe-Wielders, the army of the Seneshal. He's also the illegimate son of the Princess Rivkah, King Priam's late sister, and his half-brother Borneheld is the Duke of Ichtar and heir to the throne. A strong enmity lies between the both of them, as Borneheld has always been jealous of Axis's achievements and success with women, and hated him bitterly because of the shame Axis's birth is causing him.

With Ice Creatures appearing at the border, a sign that the evil Gorgrael is stirring, the Acharites are preparing for war. But when Axis is asked to escort Faraday, the beautiful young noblewoman bethroted against her will to Borneheld, to the stronghold of Gorkenfort where his brother lives, they can't help falling in love with each other.

However, when stopping at the Keep in the Silent Woman Woods to seek help and answers, Axis reads the Prophecy of the Destroyer: to survive this war, the Acharites have to unite with the people they call the Forbidden, and Faraday has to wed Borneheld to prevent him from killing Axis out of sheer jealousy, as he is the only person who can save the world from Gorgrael. The time has come for them to bring their beliefs into question.

The reason why I didn't give this book five stars is that I found Gorgrael and his minions a bit grotesque at times, and were it not for the strong and extremely loveable (or loathable) characters such as the Sentinels, or Belial and Azhure, as well as for the enchanting descriptions of the beautiful relationship the Avar and Icarii have with Nature, maybe I wouldn't have liked this series. But even though the pace of the book can be irregular, the battles scenes are most suspenseful too. In the end I liked BattleAxe (or The Wayfarer Redemption as it's called in the US) a lot, and I admit I can't wait to read the next book, so it mustn't be that bad, must it?

Enchanter
Very enjoyable. (written on 4th August 2002)
Enchanter is the second book of the Axis Trilogy (beginning with BattleAxe _The Wayfarer Redemption in the US_ and ending with StarMan).

After the terrible battle of Gorkenfort, Axis is spending some time with his new family, among the Icarii. While learning the songs that are the core of his Enchanter powers, he is also training the Icarii Strike Force, among which the beautiful Azhure, for the oncoming confrontation with his hated brother Borneheld and Gorgrael's Skrealings.

In the meantime, Faraday, now wed to Borneheld, patiently awaits the return of the man she loves, managing from time to time to escape the bitter reality with her magical powers and to link with the Mother.

This middle volume is definitely focused on Axis marching across Achar, determined to reunite the three races, Acharites, Icarii and Avar, and to recreate the legendary kingdom of Tencendor; of Faraday and the Avar, little is said. However, everything slowly clicks into place, and it soon becomes clear that each character has a role to play, that all must fulfill their part of the Prophecy in order to save the world from a Gorgrael who is becoming more powerful with every passing day.

Even though the pace slows down at times, Enchanter is a suspenseful novel with some great battle scenes and above all, believable characters. The outcome of certain intrigues might sometimes seem too easy, or to have come out of nowhere, but as a whole it is a very enjoyable story. The end was most surprising and I'm looking forward to discover what happens next.

StarMan
A spellbinding atmosphere. (written on 22nd August 2002)
StarMan is the third and final book of the Axis Trilogy (started with BattleAxe and Enchanter).

After defeating his half-brother Borneheld, Axis and his army march North for the final battle against Gorgrael, who's bringing along his terrible legion of Gryphon. The situation seems hopeless.

Meanwhile the Prophecy of the Destroyer goes on enfolding, and Azhure and Faraday both set off on a journey to fulfill their part. Azhure, accompanied by StarDrifter, travels to the Island of Mist and Memory, where she'll unravel the mystery of her and Axis's heritage. Faraday, now freed from both Borneheld's and Axis's love, moves East to replant the forty-two thousand seedlings, souls of the dead Avar banes, and reawaken the ancient forests whose power must, in the end, help Axis defeat Gorgrael.

The only two reasons why I didn't give this book five stars is because some battles sometimes seemed to be won too easily, and because I found the Skraelings and Gryphon a tad grotesque. But aside from this, StarMan is an spellbinding, beautifully woven tale of love and friendship, where enchanting moments and unexpected events take place, and where the descriptions and atmosphere betray the author's deep, passionate love of Nature.

David & Leigh Eddings
Series: The Belgariad

Pawn of Prophecy
Fast-paced and entertaining. (written on 26th October 2008)
This is the first book in the Belgariad (before Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter's End Game).

Garion is a 9-year-old boy living on Faldor's farm in Sendaria with his Aunt Pol. He likes spending time in the smithy watching Durnik work, and in the tavern listening to Old Wolf the storyteller's tales of ancient Gods and battles.

One day, when accompanying Wolf to the spice merchant in the town of Upper Gralt, he's questioned by a Murgo, who gives him an Angarak penny. Alarmed, Old Wolf brings him back to Faldor's farm and leaves.

Times goes by and the storyteller comes back five years later with such news that'll force Aunt Pol and Garion to flee Faldor's farm with him, taking reliable Durnik along. This is the beginning of a great adventure for Garion. Little by little he learns about his parents and his heritage. As they travel all across Sendaria, their party is joined by a huge red-haired Cherek called Barak, and a sly Drasnian thief called Silk who will teach him a secret sign language. Later, exposed by one of Sendarian King Fulrach's men, they'll sail to Val Alorn, the capital of Cherek, to participate in a council of kings.

This is one of the very first fantasy series I read, 11 years ago, and I remember loving it at the time. Having since then read many other fantasy books, but also a bunch of negative critics about the Eddings couple's work, I felt the need to try those again to make my own updated opinion and compare. And I must say I'm positively surprised! There may not be many descriptions, and the characters might be a little stereotyped, but the plot is really fast-paced and entertaining, and the world so vast I can't wait to explore it all again with Garion and Co.

Queen of Sorcery
Stereotyped and repetitive, but not that bad. (written on 4th November 2008)
This is the second book in the Belgariad (after Pawn of Prophecy, and before Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter's End Game).

Leaving Cherek after the council of Alorn kings, Belgarath, Polgaria, Garion and their companions set off in pursuit of Zedar the Apostate, who stole the Orb of Aldur to bring it to the evil god Torak.

Following the corrupt disciple's trail will bring them across Arendia, then Tolnedra and finally to Nyissa via the Wood of the Dryads. They will meet new companions along the way: Lelldorin the rash Arendish archer, Mandorallen the bold Arendish knight, and Ce' Nedra the spoilt red-haired Tolnedran princess.

All the while, various enemies such as Murgos, Grolim priests and assorted monsters make their best to hinder their progression, but thanks to Polgara's, Belgarath's, and eventually Garion's powers, those are usually quickly brushed aside with the flick of a hand.

After the exciting reunion with a world I had enjoyed 11 years ago, while reading this second volume I finally realized how annoyingly stereotyped some of the characters are and how repetitive the plot is: move to a new kingdom - meet new allies - encounter baddies - fight - win - move on to the next kingdom - ... while Garion wonders about his past and reluctantly discovers his abilities. However, these books manage to stay entertaining, thanks to some of the characters' traits intended for comic relief, such as Silk's knavery or Ce'Nedra's willfulness. All in all they're not that bad.

Magician's Gambit
A pleasurable visit of various landscapes. (written on 8th November 2008)
This is the third book in the Belgariad (after Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery, and before Castle of Wizardry and Enchanter's End Game).

In this volume we follow our heroes as they try to catch up with the Grolim Ctuchik, who's bringing the Orb to Torak, while Garion learns more about his powers and about the dry voice in his head.

They start by going through Maragor and meeting the mourning, inconsolable god Mara whose people became extinct following a Tolnedran gold rush. They are then summoned to the Vale of Aldur, where Belgarath grew up and became a sorcerer. There Garion visits his grandfather's tower and is taught how to use the magic. The party then makes for Ulgoland and its troglodyte people. They are joined by the zealot priest Relg, who has the ability to find secret underground passageways and can travel through solid rock. He will help them penetrate the Murgo capital of Rak Cthol, where Ctuchik awaits their arrival.

What I enjoyed in this volume was watching Ce'Nedra becoming more and more infatuated with Garion, but also and mostly the variety of landscapes visited by the protagonists: the haunted land of Maragor and its terrifying ghosts, the peaceful and bucolic Vale of Aldur, the snowy peaks and claustrophobic caverns of Ulgoland, and the black sands of the Wasteland of Murgos.

The monsters that are naturally sprinkled along the way are a little dangerouser and tougher than in the previous volumes, and Silk even gets captured, but thanks to the group's assortment of strengths, they always manage to come out unscathed.

Again, this is a light and fast read, but very pleasant as well.

Castle of Wizardry
Tying up some of the loose ends. (written on 15th November 2008)
This is the fourth book in the Belgariad (after Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery and Magician's Gambit, and before Enchanter's End Game).

After Ctuchik accidentally destroyed himself in Rak Cthol, the rock pinnacle upon which the city is built has started crumbling on itself and our heroes have to flee through the caves, taking the small boy Errand and the Marag slave woman Taiba with them.

Back on solid ground, they make for Algaria where Hettar is waiting with reinforcements. For that they have to cross the Eastern Escarpment, go down its deep ravines, and the entire Murgo nation is now pursuing them. After his ordeal in Rak Cthol, and protecting his crew from rocks thrown at them for several days, Belgarath collapses.

Yet there is no time to lose, as all protagonists must now converge to the island of Riva, to be there before Erastide in order to fulfill the Prophecy. There both Garion and Ce'Nedra will finally understand their role and embrace their heritage.

But when Garion touches the Orb, the slumbering evil god Torak awakes, and the Prophecy says that Garion is the only one who can confront him, alone. He has no choice but to secretly leave, with just Silk and a recovering Belgarath as company. Meanwhile, Ce' Nedra eavesdrops on the Alorn Kings' discussions and realizes she's the only one who can unite the armies of the West in the oncoming war with the invading Angaraks.

There isn't much to say about this volume which would differ from the previous ones, but it was nice to see some loose ends finally tied up. I enjoyed the flight through the caves of Rak Cthol and the meeting in boggy Sendaria with Vordai and her cute otter-like creatures, the Fenlings. I am now looking forward to reading what lies in store for Garion in the final volume, and also to seeing which hints will be dropped about the sequel, the Malloreon.

Enchanter's End Game
A pleasant conclusion to the series. (written on 24th November 2008)
This is the fifth and final book in the Belgariad (after Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit and Castle of Wizardry).

In this volume, Garion, accompanied by Silk and Belgarath, makes his way through Drasnia and Gar Og Nadrak, and finally crosses the Sea of the East to Mallorea. There in Cthol Mishrak, the evil god Torak is stirring from his endless sleep and waiting for their prophesied battle, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the world.

Meanwhile, Ce'Nedra, self-proclaimed Queen of Riva in Garion's absence, is travelling across Arendia and Tolnedra, raising an army with her speeches. Although it breaks her heart to know that it will be badly outnumbered and that it won't stand a chance against the hordes of Thulls, Murgos and Malloreans, she knows this is a necessary sacrifice to create the diversion Garion needs to reach Mallorea.

The part I preferred in this final volume is when Ce'Nedra's army is encamped in Algaria. There Durnik and the Alorn Kings engineer clever contraptions to carry King Anheg's fleet up the mile-high Eastern Escarpment. I also enjoyed reading about the battle of Thull Mardu, where all plans start to go awry, not to mention the final encounter between Garion and Torak, where all the pieces of the Prophecy click into place. All in all, a pleasant, if not tremendously mind-boggling, conclusion to the series. On to the Malloreon now!

Series: The Malloreon

Guardians of the West
Dragging, then disorderly. (written on 11th December 2008)
This is the first book in the Malloreon (before King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda, Sorceress of Darshiva, and Seeress of Kell).

In this volume we first follow Errand, Polgara and Durnik as they settle for a quiet life in the Vale of Aldur, doing up Poledra's cottage, Errand growing up and playing in the river, until they get news from Riva that Garion and Ce'Nedra barely speak to each other anymore. This can't go on, so they travel to the Isle of the Wind to put an end to the King and Queen of the West's squabble.

One evening, the Orb glows red instead of blue. The Voice of the Prophecy warns Errand and Garion to "Beware Zandramas!", and that there'll be yet another meeting between the Childs of Light and Dark. Garion needs to start looking for explanations and answers in the codices.

Meanwhile, the Alorns are getting impatient for an heir to the Rivan throne. With the help of her Dryad cousins, at long last Ce'Nedra becomes pregnant. But this baby is also a threat to some people's ambitions, and Geran soon becomes the target of numerous attacks.

I found the beginning of this second pentalogy, with its drawn-out accounts of day-to-day life in both the Vale and Riva, rather tedious and slow to get going. In contrast, the end comprises so many rash, inordinate assaults all over the place and so many twists, that instead of relishing some long-awaited action, I was overwhelmed by it and lost interest. The last chapters thankfully heralded the real outset of Garion and his companions' new quest, let's hope it gets more read-worthy, and more focused.

King of the Murgos
Half déjà vu, half voilà! (written on 20th March 2009)
This is the second book in the Malloreon (after Guardians of the West, and before Demon Lord of Karanda, Sorceress of Darshiva, and Seeress of Kell).

In this volume we follow Garion and Ce'Nedra as they pursue Zandramas, who abducted their infant son Geran, heir to the throne of Riva, and follow the prophecy announcing yet another meeting between the Child of Light and the Child of Dark.

Accompanied by Belgarath and his daughter Polgara, Silk and Velvet the spies, Durnik the smith, the giant mute Toth, and Sadi the eunuch, their route leads from Ulgoland to Tolnedra, then through the Wood of the Dryads into the swamps of Nyissa, and finally across the kingdom of the Murgos to the Isle of Verkat.

Even though I was glad to see our companions hitting the road again after the tiresome first volume, the account of their adventures gave me a strong sense of déjà vu. Thankfully, mid-book, the story picked up again as they started exploring new territories. I particularly enjoyed the meeting with the Murgo king Urgit and his court. I hope we meet this interesting character again in the future.

Demon Lord of Karanda
Discovering another complex character. (written on 12th April 2009)
This is the third book in the Malloreon (after Guardians of the West and King of the Murgos, and before Sorceress of Darshiva and Seeress of Kell).

The first half of the book takes place in the immense Mallorean capital Mal Zeth, where Garion, Ce'Nedra, Belgarath and Polgara, Durnik, Toth, Silk and Velvet, Sadi and Eriond are spending spring as reluctant guests in the imperial palace, trying to convince Kal Zakath to let them leave again on their quest.

In the second half, after finally managing to escape with the help of Silk's associate Yarblek, the Nadrak merchant, Vella and a voluble juggler named Feldegast, our heroes make for Ashaba where, according to Cyradis the seeress, they might catch up with Zandramas.

What I enjoyed the most in this volume was discovering, alongside Garion, Kal Zakath's complex and as it turned out, even friendly personality. In the same vein as with Urgit, the Murgo king, I liked finding out that there was more to him than met the eye. I hope to see more of them both before the end.

Sorceress of Darshiva
Too few things of note. (written on 19th May 2009)
This is the fourth book in the Malloreon (after Guardians of the West and King of the Murgos, and Demon Lord of Karanda, and Seeress of Kell).

In this volume our companions keep heading further East, as far as the island of Melcene, and start heading towards Kell where should be revealed the location of the Place Which Is No More.

Too few things of note happen in this volume. Our heroes are still tailing Zandramas and dodging various conflicts taking place around Mallorea (between Urvon's Karand army, Zandramas's Darshivans, their demons, Dals, Gandahar and their war elephants...). A couple of passages were enjoyable though: in the University of Melcene when Garion and company meet Senji, a clubfooted alchemist and untrained sorcerer who tells them more about the Sardion, and when the party is finally caught up by Zakath, the emperor of Mallorea, whom they gave the slip in the previous book.

The Seeress of Kell
Anticlimactic and unworrisome. (written on 19th June 2009)
This is the fifth and final book in the Malloreon (after Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda and Sorceress of Darshiva).

In this volume, the heroes first make their way to Kell and the place of the Seers to learn the location of the Place Which Is No More, where the final meeting between Garion and Zandramas must take place.

They then sail to the Island of Perivor and its very Arendish society, and finally to the Turim Reef in the middle of the Sea of the East.

I found this final volume rather anticlimactic. Even though Zandramas does everything to hinder Garion and his friends, trying to prevent them from reaching the appointed place at the appointed time, I knew (and not only because I've already read these books) that the Prophecy that's been dictating their lives and the destiny of the world for eons would get them there eventually, so I wasn't even worried about the outcome. The final chapters were a little too mushy for my liking too.

Series: The Belgariad and The Malloreon Prequels

Belgarath the Sorcerer
More enjoyable than the ten main volumes. (written on 28th August 2009)
This is the first prequel to the Belgariad and Malloreon (before Polgara the Sorceress).

In this prequel, Belgarath tells us about his youth and how he became Aldur's pupil and then disciple, along with his brothers Zedar, the twins Belkira and Beltira, Belmakor, Belsambar and the dwarf Beldin.

For a while they all live happily in the Vale, quietly studying, until Aldur's evil brother Torak steals the Orb and cracks the World.

Then follows a history of the events that led to the birth of Garion the Godslayer: Belgarath's meeting the remarkable she-wolf who'll become his wife Poledra, the division of Aloria between Cherek and his sons Dras, Algar and Riva, the birth of his daughters Polgara and Beldaran, the start of the Rivan line and Torak's disciples' efforts to obliterate it, the Battle of Vo Mimbre...

All the while, Belgarath and his brothers are taking care that everything clicks together, deciphering madmen's prophecies, and accordingly arranging meetings and marriages to ensure that Garion will be surrounded by the right companions when the time comes.

All in all, I enjoyed re-reading this prequel more than the ten main volumes, even though Belgarath's flaunty remarks to the reader tended to rile me. Eddings's style and plot crafting has definitely improved during the years between the writing of The Seeress of Kell and this present volume. I hope I will now enjoy Polgara the Sorceress as much as I did when I first read it, it's always been my favourite among the lot!

Polgara the Sorceress
Not as good as I remembered it. (written on 25th November 2009)
This is the second prequel to the Belgariad and Malloreon (after Belgarath the sorcerer).

This volume, as the title implies, tells us Polgara's side of the story, from her childhood in the Vale, growing up with her twin sister Beldaran, spending time in her tree, to the guarding of the Rivan line and her moving to Faldor's farm with Garion.

She tells us about the pain of the separation from her sister when the latter leaves to marry Riva, about her learning medicine when Beldaran becomes pregnant, and about the devastating loss when her sibling finally passes away.

Then follows an account of the time she spent in Asturia as the Duchess of Erat, trying to reunite the belligerent Wacites, Arends and Mimbrates into a semblance of peace, and of the war that finally breaks out, killing several close friends. Polgara then retires to her estate near Lake Sulturn and later creates Sendaria.

Polgara manages to save the Rivan line when she rescues young Geran, the only remaining heir after an terrible attack on the Isle of the Winds. From then on her task will be to protect these little boys from Torak and his minions, and to secure the progeny until the Godslayer is born.

All in all, this volume wasn't as good as I remembered it, although I'm sure I enjoyed some chapters, such as Polgara's time in Asturia, more than the first time. The favourite passages I was looking forward to weren't actually that poignant, and I found her tone and haughty petulance rather irritating in the long run. Not to mention the awfully long months it took me to read it again, which seem now a bit like a loss of time.

The Rivan Codex
A History book for Eddings's world's fans. (written on 1st August 1999)
Do not expect a book as thrilling as the Belgariad or the Malloreon because this time, there's absolutely NO action. But if you really are a FAN of David and Leigh Eddings's series The Belgariad and The Malloreon (as I am), you'll love this book. It contains the theological, social and cultural backgrounds of each country, including money value, traditionnal costumes and other stuff. It also contains comments by David Eddings, advising you not to try to write Fantasy unless you really have the vocation, or simply telling you what to do and what not to do if you still want to write... In a few words, this book is funny to read because you learn many thing about how characters came to life, but do not expect to find even a single once of suspense in it...

Series: The Elenium

The Diamond Throne
The Ruby Knight
The Sapphire Rose

Series: The Tamuli

Domes of Fire
The Shining Ones
The Hidden City

The Redemption of Althalus
Deliciously entertaining! (written on 27th April 2001)
This single-volume epic fantasy tells the story of Althalus, a highly talented thief who prides himself upon being the best of his trade.

Attracted by the riches of the modern cities of the plains, Althalus gets out of his frontierland to rob the wealthy merchants of their goods. But after several fruitless attempts to break in luxurious houses, he has to realize that his Luck, which he's been counting on for so many years, has turned sour on him. And he soon finds himself on the run.

And as he's resting in Nabjor's camp in the remote forests of Hule, drowning his sorrows in home-brewed mead, he is accosted by a cloaked stranger named Ghend. The man has heard of his exploits and hires him to go to the House at the End of the World to steel a book. But on arriving there, Althalus meets a mysterious talking she-cat. After locking him in, she starts teaching him how to read the Book, which, she tells him, was written by the God Deiwos.

And so he'll stays in the House much longer than expected, and after several years, Althalus and the cat he now calls Emerald, because of her green eyes, finally set out on a quest to find a sacred dagger. The runes carved on the blade are supposed to help them pick up allies in their oncoming war against Daeva, Deiwos's brother and enemy, and his minions.

Although The Redemption of Althalus is written in a relatively light and comic tone, the battle scenes are complex and well developed, the characters touchingly natural. The way the Eddings use magic and the teleporting doors of the House makes the plot unpredictable and funny, and even tough it turns out a little bit silly at times, the book is a real page turner and perfectly achieved its goal: it entertained me!


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