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.
Series: The View from the Mirror
A Shadow on the Glass
A Shadow on the Glass opens with the story of Llian, a 28-year-old Zain Chronicler of Chanthed. His graduation telling, where he presents the Tale of the Forbidding, is a great success but Wistan, the college headmaster, realizing his student might inadvertantly have uncovered a deadly mystery, harrases him to retract his tale.
That day Karan, a young red-haired sensitive, is in the audience. After a week's walk she finally arrives home in Gothryme, only to be snatched off again by Maigraith, a woman to whom she owes her life. And when the latter asks her to go to Fiz Gorgo and help her steal a legendary relic, the Mirror of Aachan, from the hands of the powerful mancer Yggur, Karan simply cannot refuse.
But in the citadel, Maigraith is made prisoner, and Karan barely escapes. The book then describes Karan's flight through marshes and mountains chains, hunted by a band of alien Whelm, Yggur's servants. When Mendark, the Magister of Thurkad who is also Llian's former sponsor and Yggur's bitter enemy, asks Wistan to help Karan and bring back the Mirror to him, the headmaster is only too happy to get rid of the dangerous Chronicler and sends Llian.
But the young man is tremendously awkward, and obsessed by the secrets he has recently exposed and which could be the key to the discovery of Great Tale, and in the end it is he who becomes a real burden for Karan. It's only after several weeks of running and hiding that she faces the fact that he probably is her only friend.
A Shadow on the Glass is a bit shallower than what I expected. Although I can say I enjoyed it, I found it hard to concentrate on the story, which somehow failed to grip me, and I hope that in the next volumes it'll become a little more intricate, the characters better developed.
The Tower on the Rift
Yggur's army is now marching on the city of Thurkad, and after Tensor's treacherous attack of the Conclave, all parties spread in different directions.
Tensor, the leader of the Aachim, steals the Mirror and kidnaps Llian, believing the Chronicler might prove useful in his scheme to use the artifact. Since the city of Shazmak has been destroyed by Yggur's Whelm become Ghâshâd, the now homeless Aachim are forced to flee North, towards the Dry Sea.
Mendark the former magister, along with his guard Osseion, his lieutenant Tallia and the young girl Lilis try to escape through the underground network of Thurkad, which has just capitulated. With the help of Pender and his boat, they sail to Zile, an old city famous for its Great Library.
Llian believes Karan dead, but the young Sensitive woman is soon rescued from the ruins of the Conclave by Shand, and takes refuge in the wharf city of Thurkad while the mysterious old man is looking for help. Karan is terribly worried about Llian, whom she realize she's fallen in love with. Her sole idea is to deliver him from the clutches of Tensor.
Maigraith, saved by her Faellem liege Faellamor, is brought to Yggur, whom she'll seduce.
In this volume, after yet other interminable pursuits through tunnels and over seas and salt deserts, all parties converge again towards the much conveted Mirror of Aachim, for a final conflagration in the Tower of Katazza. But whereas the characters are likeable, and the story gained a little in complexity, I didn't find it very passionating or attention-catching, and in the end my mind was often wandering elsewhere.
Dark Is the Moon
Dark Is the Moon starts in the tower of Katazza, where Tensor has just opened a gate to the Nightland. In the process, Rulke the Charon has managed to escape from his imprisonment of a thousand years, while Karan and Llian have been sucked throught the gate. Mendark, Malien, Tallia and Yggur have to overcome their differences and ally against their common enemy and try to use the power of the Rift to seal the Nightland. Karan and Llian's lives are at stake.
And so in the Nightland, Karan and Llian have no choice but to team with Rulke, or they'll be trapped forever. But in the battle, the new alliance draws to much power from the Rift and Katazza collapses over them. Thanks to that diversion, Karan manages to escape throught the gate and lands in the rubble of the destroyed citadel. However, Llian is still stuck with Rulke, who compels him to tell the Histories but finally lets him go five days later. When with Karan they catch up with Yggur, Mendark, Shand and the others, everyone suspects he's become Rulke's spy.
After crossing the Dry Sea again, the group realizes that their only chance to beat Rulke is to make a replica of the golden Flute, a legendary artifact that is said to have the power to open the Way between the Worlds. But for this they need Aachan red gold, which is extremely rare, and information on how to use the instrument.
In this thrid volume, all roads diverge, to converge again at the end
for another confrontation: Mendark sets off to Havissard in search of
the gold, Yggur goes back to Thurkad where his army is at war, Tallia
and Shand go look for young Lilis's father, and Karan wants to go back
to her estate in Gothryme to see how her people are faring. Llian accompanies
her, and on the way they stop in Chanthed, where lies the College of
the Histories, and where he thinks he might gather new
In the meantime Faellamor, with the help of her always faithful Maigraith, is searching for a way to break the Forbidding and tries to link with fher far away kin, the Faellem, and ask them for help. They manage to open a gate to Havissard.
Dark is the Moon is of the same quality as the previous books in the series, that is, full of entertaining adventures and well written, but nothing outstanding, although the characters have started to grow in depth, and me to consider reading Ian Irvine's next series, The Well of Echoes. But on to the fourth and final volume first.
The Way Between the Worlds
It's hythe, mid-winter's day, in Carcharon Tower, and a dark moon is rising. In exchange for Llian's life and freedom, Rulke has convinced Karan to betray her people and help him open the Way between the Worlds.
In the process, a horde of monsters is unleashed from the void, and while Rulke the Great Betrayer is off exploring, with Karan's mind accompanying him in a trance, her defenseless body is suddenly attacked by deadly Lorrsk and Thranx. But taking advantage of the confusion, she barely manages to escape, to find herself in the cold, snowy mountains again, reminding her of her ordeal of the year before.
In this volume, Rulke wants to save his people, the last hundred or so remaining Charon, from extinction, Faelamor wants to lead her people the Faellem back to Tallallame, Mendark wants to become the most famous magister on Santhenar. And all are ready to sacrifice everything to achieve their goal. Karan just wants to go home and rest.
On the one hand, I was a bit disappointed by the sudden appearance of grotesque monsters which, in my opinion, serve no real purpose and weaken the plot. On the other hand, Mendark, Yggur, Rulke, Faelamor and Shand finally start to show the various facets of their personalities, to become multidimentional, but to such an extent that in the end it's all quite complicated and it's hard to make up one's mind as to whom you want to see win the battle. Hopefully, to glue it all together, there's a whole cast of endearing characters such as Pender, Thallia, Lilis and Jevi, Maigraith Karan and Llian. They're the ones that make you read on.
*The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
I read this story because I love the film, and was surprised to see how few pages, less than ten out of fifty, were actually devoted to the mystery of the headless horseman itself. Although very well written, with descriptions that are stunningly real, the book left me hungry for more.
*Rip Van Winkle
Series: Fighting Fantasy
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Le
Sorcier de la Montagne de Feu) with Ian Livingstone
The Shamutanti Hills (Les
Finn Family Moomintroll
Finn Family Moomintroll is a collection of several of the Moomin funny and silly little adventures following the discovery of the hat. Indeed, the sometimes absurd situations reminded me of Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. Lavishly illustrated with wonderful black and white ink drawings by the author, it is also a perfect book to read aloud to your children!
Other titles in the series are: Comet in Moominland, Moominsummer Madness, Moominland Midwinter, Moominpappa at Sea, Moominpappa's Memoirs, and Tales from Moominvalley.
Series: The Book of Words
The Baker's Boy
At Castle Harvell, Jack, a thirteen-year-old orphan, is the baker's boy. Since he doesn't know how to read, the mischevious king's chancellor and sorcerer Baralis employs him as a blind scribe to copy the precious books of Tavalisk the Archbishop of Rorn's library. After five years of hard work and little sleep, Jack has secretly learnt how to decipher the signs and dreams of adventures where he'll find out the truth about his origins.
In the meantime, Bevlin the wiseman enrolls Tawl, one of the famous Knights of Valdis, to go on a quest to find the young boy whom the Prophecy in Marod's Book of Words speaks of. Four years later, he'll find himself locked, bound and starved in a dark and damp cell, prisoner of the repugnant Tavalisk.
Simultaneously, Lord Maybor, the richest but also most ambitious lord of the Four Kingdoms, and Baralis have made arrangements to have the king wounded in a hunting party. As a result, a soon stalemated war with the neighbouring lands will assuredly keep the queen's mind occupied and let them scheme quietly to steady their positions. And as one of his moves, Lord Maybor wants his daughter Melliandra to be bethroted to the queen's son and heir, Prince Kylock. Finding out about what has been arranged without her consent, Melliandra runs away.
At the same time one afternoon, after oversleeping and letting some precious loaves of bread burn, out of sheer panic and still unaware of his powers, Jack performs a miracle and goes back in time. When he hears that Baralis, who can feel when sorcery has been performed, is coming to get him, he has to flee from the castle.
Although it is easy to guess that Jack, as well as Tawl, will have a great role to play in the story, this first volume focuses mainly on the numerous and intricate intrigues of the mighty. The book is well written, the pace fast and humourous when the tension needs relaxing, and there's plenty of wooing as well as a great deal of food to go round. I enjoyed it thoroughly!
A Man Betrayed
Melli and Jack, fleeing for the second time from Castle Harvell, take refuge in a chicken coop. While Jack is taking a morning stroll in the snow to stretch his legs and bury the corpse of the Halcus man he's just killed to defend Melli, a group of soldiers kidnap the girl to sell her to a flesh-trader. On his way back to the coop, Jack is captured by Rovas and taken to his house. There he meets the smuggler's makeshift family: Magra and her mysterious daughter Tarissa, two noblewomen, exiles like him from the Four Kingdoms. They'll make him believe that Melli has been raped and slaughtered and enroll him to kill the Halcus captain responsible for her death.
In the North, Lord Maybor and Baralis are both travelling to Bren, acting respectively as king and prince envoys to arrange the bethrotal between Prince Kylock and the Duke of Bren's daughter, the young and beautiful Catherine. But in the meantime, Kylock murders his father and therefore becomes king of the Four Kingdoms. He won't wait long before dismissing his mother and invading Halcus in order to put an end to the war.
In this middle volume, the protagonists are all steadily converging to the city of Bren for the third and final act. As J.V. tries not to reveal too much of the plot in itself, with this book she digs deeper into the various characters' personality, and as a result I was surprisingly starting to feel pity for a character I used to loathe, or be just as confused as the hero about another one. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Master and Fool!
Master and Fool
In Bren, the duke has just been murdered on his wedding night. Thanks to Baralis, quickly the rumours spread, claiming that Tawl the duke's champion and former Knight of Valdis, is the assasin. He and Melli, now the duke's widow, have to flee and hide away, along with Maybor and a couple of guards.
About a month later, king Kylock, who is becoming more and more deranged by the day under the effects of Baralis's drugs, kills his bride on discovering she is not pure and will not be able to wash his sins away. What he and Baralis will soon find out is that the first marriage had been in fact consummated. Melli is pregnant and now, if the child turns out to be a boy, with Bren's only rightful heir.
Meanwhile, Jack is in Annis, learning to master his magical powers with the help of Stillfox. One day, on a sudden impulse he leaves the sorcerer's cottage, and on his way he meets with a guild of bakers who will fill him in on the event in Bren. Melli is in danger, he has to go and try to save her.
The Book of Words is a poignant fantasy. In a land revaged by war, Marod's prophecy slowly unfolds with unexpected twists and turns, as Jack learns more and more about his past. With characters worth caring for, the detailed and sometimes colourful descriptions make it all believable. J.V. Jones is now swelling the ranks of my favourite authors.
The Barbed Coil
One day, to flee her responsibilities, she takes her yellow Honda Civic and drives without stopping until she comes to a clearing in the Cleveland National Forest. There among the trees are piles of safe deposit boxes, and a intricate, mysterious golden ring. As she puts it on, she's transported into another, exotic world.
More exactly in Bay'Zell, a port city of the province of Rhaize. Bay'Zell is a dangerous place for a young woman on her own and soon she finds herself harassed by two rogues. Fortunately, a piratical but handsone man named Ravis comes to her rescue and decides to take her under his wing.
Quickly she learns more about the continent on which she's just landed: Izgard of Garizon, the bearer of the Coil, is about to invade Rhaize to gain access to the sea. With the help of his monstruous horde of Harras, he's slaughtering all who stand in his path to quench the Barbed Coil's thirst for blood. And so Berick of Thorn, who conquered Garizon fifty years ago, is slain. His son Camron will hire Ravis to get revenge and assassinate Izgard.
Tessa finds herself caught up in these events. Taking refuge in Emith and his mother's cosy cottage, she'll soon realise she also has a part to play. Emith, who was Deveric, the late king's counselor and scribe's devoted assistant before he too was murdered, starts teaching her the art of painting illuminations, as patterns are the catalyst of this world's magic. But his skills are limited, and he sends her to the Annointed Ilse, where his former master Avaccus lives.
The Barbed Coil is a good, fast-paced adventure novel. I was a bit skeptical at first, but as the story flowed, I started to grow fonder of the characters, particularly of Emith and his mother, and of Angeline too, Izgard's courageous young wife. J. V. Jones's elaborate decriptions of the use of pigments and vellums are passionating and the gathering of momentum at the end is most suspenseful. I even caught myself holding my breath as I ploughed through the last pages.
The Cat with Two Tails short story
Series: The Fionavar Tapestry
The Summer Tree
At Loren Silvercloak the mage's bidding, Kevin, Kim, Jennifer, Paul and Dave, five University students from Toronto, 'cross' into the Kingdom of Fionavar, the First of all Worlds, to help him in an oncoming war against Rakoth the Unraveller, and thus fulfil their destinies.
Like the five heroes, the reader is teleported into a land of magic and fantasy which the author only describes little by little. Although certainly used as a stylistic device, this sometimes makes it hard to understand the ins and outs of certain characters' actions. In the same vein, I also found the few sex scenes somewhat a bit out of place and unpoetic. Anyway, looking back upon it, I realize these were just details.
And indeed, as you turn the pages and learn more about the people and history of Fionavar and about the role the heroes have to play in it, the book really turns out to be enthralling and hard to put down. I particularly enjoyed the third part, where Dave is taken in by a tribe of hunters called the Dalrei, and learns about their customs and rites, to finally risk his own life for them.
Although at first I was a bit sceptical about the mixing of today's world with fantasy, in the end I really liked this book a lot and I'm looking forward to reading the next two. So don't let the first 150 pages or so get you down and read on, it's definitely worth it!
The Wandering Fire
In Fionavar, Maidaladan, Midsummer's Eve, is approching but an unnatural winter is spreading all over the land. The Kings and Mages are gathering to try to understand the reason of this mysterious cold, and the armies of Brennin, Daniloth and Cathal are preparing for an oncoming war. Back in our world, Kim, now a Seer, summons Uther Pendragon in Stonehenge to help her wake his son Arthur in Glastonbury Tor, and crosses with the latter to Fionavar, for he is the legendary Warior who'll help them fight against Rakoth the Unraveller.
Meanwhile, Jennifer secretly gives birth to Darien, the fruit of Rakoth's rape, and puts him in the hands of Vae, Finn's mother, to hide and foster him. On the plains, the Dalrei try, not without great difficulty, to protect the last herds of eltors from the attacks of the monstrous wolves of Galadan, the Wolflord.
I was looking forward to reading this book, I really was. Having gone through the rather tedious introduction of The Summer Tree, I thought this one would start right on with more suspense and fast paced action (although I also enjoy highly desciptive books, such as Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, which I highly recommend, by the way). But it doesn't.
Indeed, I found Kay's style awkward and irregular, and the plot messy and somewhat grotesque at times. It's like he was afraid of revealing too much and enrobed his story in numerous unnecessary and confusing elements that did nothing but slow my reading down. Maybe, had I known the story of Arthur, I would have liked it more.
However, the book also has some good bits, even though I had to wait half the book before the story became interesting, and in the end I can say I enjoyed it. Let's just hope The Darkest Road becomes gripping quicker.
The Darkest Road
And Darien the andain, son of Jennifer and Rakoth, is therefore torn by the terrible choice he has to make between Light and Dark. Desperately searching for someone to love and understand him but feared by all because of who he is, abandoned by Finn his foster brother, ignored and rejected by his mother and her friends who don't want to interfere in his choice, he's flying in the shape of an owl to Starkadh, to bring the sacred blade Lökdal to his father, in hope of his welcome.
In the mountains, Matt Sören, resurrected by Lancelot's powers but no longer Loren Silvercloak the mage's source, goes back to Calor Diman where he belongs, to reclaim his throne as King of the Dwarfs from the hands of Kaen the traitor. He'll have to challenge him according to the rules of the Dwarfmoot.
I found this last volume much more entertaining than the previous one, even though I think Kay tried to include too many fantasy themes in one series and ended up with a messy plot that made it hard to believe. I was also a bit disappointed by how fast the story was resolved. Finally, not knowing Arthur's legend, I'm also sure I missed a lot of interesting references, but then I've only got myself to blame...
Devin is a 19-year-old singer in Menico's travelling troupe. After performing at Sandre, the Duke of Astibar's funeral, he discreetely follows his companion the beautiful Catriana across the rooms of the palace. Hiding in a closet, they are about to witness a secret meeting: Sandre's son is preparing a coup to overthrow Brandin. Devin's curiosity will soon have him caught up in these events.
Dianora is a young woman from Tigana. Taken as "tribute" to Brandin's harem in his colony on the island of Chiara, she becomes his favourite mistress so she can assassinate him and save her land from the enless vengeful slaughter. Instead, she'll slowly fall in love with the man.
Having read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry and not liked it much, I would never have read Tigana but for the unanimous praise I came across. And how wrong I would have been, what great reading pleasure I would have missed! For Tigana is a superbly written epic novel, with complex, not-one-dimensional, and finally extremely human characters. I would only reproach the few explicit sex scenes, which I found rather unpoetic. But without hesitation I'll now join my voice to the praise.
Just So Stories (Histoires
Comme Ça) short stories
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