Friday, December 21, 2007

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust is an enchanting tale told in the manner and tradition of the fairy tale. Tristran Thorne, a young man who is unaware of his unusual parentage, lives in the town of Wall, in which there is a carefully guarded gate into the world of faerie. Tristran sets off on a journey into faerie to gain the love of the prettiest girl in wall.

Gaiman's prose is masterful, and the story is told in an engaging manner. Despite his adherence to many traditional forms, such as the rash boast and impossible quest that set the plot in motion, and his use of such beings as witches and unicorns, Stardust is a highly original tale. The world of faerie is filled with interesting creatures and wondrous magic, and despite the frequent light tone, the reader is rarely certain that Tristran will fulfill his quest, or even live for that matter.

The one relative area of weakness is the lack of depth to the story. Of course, the book is not intended to be a deep, complex fantasy tale, but I found myself wanting more. In one section, several perilous encounters are summed up in a single paragraph. I found myself thinking, "I would have like to read about that!"

Overall, Stardust is a light, entertaining story for the fantasy reader looking for variety.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Brandon Sanderson to complete Wheel of Time

-----Press Release----

Tor Books announced today that novelist Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to finish writing the final novel in Robert Jordan's bestselling Wheel of Time fantasy series. Jordan--described by some as Tolkien's heir--died Sept. 16 from a rare blood disease. The new novel, A Memory of Light, will be the 12th and final book in the fantasy series which has sold more than 14 million copies in North America and more than 30 million copies worldwide. The last four books in the series were all #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Harriet Popham Rigney, Jordan's widow and editor, chose Sanderson to complete A Memory of Light--which Jordan worked on almost daily for the last few months of his life--and will edit it. Rigney said some scenes from the book were completed by Jordan before his death, and some exist in draft form. "He left copious notes and hours of audio recordings," she said. He also revealed details about the end of the series to close members of his family.

Sanderson, who acknowledged Jordan as an inspiration to him as a writer, has established a loyal fan base as the author of three fantasy novels: Elantris, Mistborn and The Well of Ascension (Tor), as well as a YA novel, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Scholastic Press). Sanderson said, "I'm both extremely excited and daunted by this opportunity. There is only one man who could have done this book the way it deserved to be written, and we lost him in September. However, I promise to do my very best to remain true to Mr. Jordan's vision and produce the book we have all been waiting to read."

A Memory of Light is scheduled for publication in fall 2009.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Sorry for the long absence. I'll kick off my return with a review of the biggest fantasy novel of the year, at least in terms of hype if not word count.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins just prior to Harry's seventeenth birthday. This is a significant date because in the wizarding world, a seventeen year-old is an adult, which means the protection afforded Harry in the Dursley's home will no longer be effectual. The action begins almost immediately, with well-loved characters dying early on, serving notice to the reader that everyone is in danger.

Harry, Ron and Hermione soon set off in search of the horcruxes of which Harry learned in book six. Along the way they must avoid the Death Eaters who have taken almost total control of the Ministry of Magic. Their search uncovers the story of the Deathly Hallows: a trio of magic items that can make one the master of death. Events lead to the inevitable showdown with Voldemort.

Rowling masterfully interweaves elements of mystery regarding Dumbledore's past, and also finally gives us a peek into Snape's personal history. We finally know for certain whose side he's on and why he is the way he is.

On the negative side of the ledger, the introduction of the concept of the Deathly Hallows so late in the series is, for many readers, too much deus ex machina. Others might argue that the conclusion is too C.S. Lewis for their taste. Personally, I found the story entertaining and satisfying, save the epilogue, which is just... bad.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a worthy conclusion to a wonderful series. Read the book and skip the epilogue.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I plan to get back to posting soon, but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Robert Jordan, the author of the Wheel of Time series. He will be missed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been touted by many as the best Potter film to-date. The movie has excellent visual effects, good pacing, and some excellent casting. On the downside, it lacks some significant elements.

Measured by word count, Order of the Phoenix is by far the longest Harry Potter book. Naturally some elements must be left out. It must be asked, however, why the longest book in the series was made into the shortest movie? In some cases, elements were omitted that were not needed (exploration and back-story of Grimauld Place, for example). In other cases, references were there, but only someone very familiar with the Potter books would truly notice or understand them.

The most glaring absence, to me, was the lack of student life at Hogwarts. Human nature, especially that of young people, is to go on with ordinary life to the greatest degree possible even in the face of danger. The story flew by with out ever capturing the feel of being in school at Hogwarts. O.W.L.'s were mentioned once at the outset, and virtually ignored until near the end during the grossly underdone exit of Fred and George, when we see the students actually testing. Voldemort notwithstanding, teenagers would be agonizing over such important tests.

Quidditch is completely ignored, despite it being such an important part of student life at Hogwarts. This particular season was significant for Ron's character development, as well as drawing Ginny more into the spotlight, not to mention escalating the conflict with Umbridge and providing impetus for the departure of Fred and George.

One the positive side, the series of minstry decrees is handled with clever and entertaining montages, the sorcerer duels are visually stunning, and the broom flight from Privet Drive to Grimauld Place is also well-done. All the important parts of the main story arcs are intact with important quotes and scenes preserved.

Casting is the movie's greatest strength. Among the new characters, Helena Bonham Carter makes a perfect Bellatrix, Evanna Lynch is excellent as Luna, and Imelda Staunton impeccably captures Umbridge. Though she gets almost no screen time, Natalia Tena makes a great Tonks as well. Michael Gambon continues to be the only real casting clunker, bringing an unwelcome pugnacious quality to the role of the supremely confident, serene Dumbledore.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an entertaining movie, but be sure to read the book, or you'll miss a great deal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

News and Notes

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction will be experimenting with free stories.

The Locus Award Winners have been announced.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is #1 on

Read an excerpt from Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkien

The Children of Hurin is an assemblage of Tolkien's assorted writings, put together in novel format by son Christopher. The story was begun by JRR Tolkien in 1918, but never assembled as a complete novel. Christopher Tolkien has organized the work into novel format without altering his father's words, save a few grammatical corrections. Thus, this is considered a complete JRR Tolkien narrative.

Darker than Lord of the Rings and more mature than The Hobbit, The Children of Hurin takes place several thousand years before the events of The Hobbit, at a time that the Elves were greater and were strongly allied with the nations of Men. Elves and Men have suffered a disastrous defeat in war, and Turin, the son of the greatest warrior in human history, is trying to reverse their fortunes.

Readers familiar only with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings might have trouble identifying with the rash Hurin. He has none of the Hobbit-sense of Bilbo Baggins, nor the exceeding nobility and honor of Aragorn. If he is reminiscent of any LotR character, it would perhaps be Boromir, who has the best intentions but does not always see the greater picture.

It has been argued that Tolkien was not so much a writer as the ultimate world-builder- creating a detailed history of Middle Earth, along with languages, literature, folklore and cultures. One cannot read Lord of the Rings without feeling the pressure of tomes of Middle Earth history threatening to burst forth from the pages. There is more story than can ever be told, and The Children of Hurin is an enjoyable chapter in that history. The downside is that the story often reads like a history book. It's not always an engrossing read.

Opinions on this book among Tolkien fans will probably be split into three groups. Avid Tolkien readers will devour this book and beg for more. Readers who liked the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but didn't like them enough to read the Silmarillion will find it boring at parts, but worth the read. Fans who love the Peter Jackson movies but are not so in love with the books will hate it.

Overall, The Children of Hurin is a worthwhile read for the average fantasy fan, and a must-read for Tolkien aficionados.

Monday, June 4, 2007

News and Notes

Here's an update from Terry Pratchett's "Discworld Monthly:" is now listing Making Money as being released on 24th September 2007. It features Moist Von Lipwig doing to the Ankh Morpork Mint what he did to the Post Office in Going Postal.

Going Postal was my first exposure to Discworld, and remains my favorite. Can't wait!

Tobias Buckell's Ragamuffin is set for a June 12 release. That's next week! Buckell's debut, Crystal Rain, garnered him much well-deserved attention as one of the best new voices in SF. Visit his site here.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

In the Eye of Heaven by David Keck

What does a young man do when you take away all that he has? That is the pivotal question in David Keck's In the Eye of Heaven. Durand believes he will assume the lordship of a small village that lies under his father's authority, but his plan is shattered when the heir to the village, believed dead, turns up very much alive. This event sends Durand on an adventure, through a dark, gritty medieval world.

Keck's strength is that he has crafted an almost tangible world. The reader can easily get lost in this perilous, often creepy place Keck has created. The plot is not your overdone fantasy quest, but is original and engrossing.

The weaknesses of In the Eye of Heaven lie first in the characters, where none other than Durant truly pique the reader's interest, and in the development, or lack thereof of the way in which magic works in the world. It is present, but not explored, at least in this installment of what is sure to be a solid fantasy series.

Keck is one of the best new voices in fantasy and I look forward to his next book.

Rating: 8/10