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.