Good fantasy reads

This week, I chose an author rather than two different books.  Guy Gavriel Kay writes fantasy novels, but usually doesn’t involve much magic, or other fantasy staples such as elves or dwarves.  He has several books, ranging from high fantasy (The Fionavar Tapestry) to works that could be called ‘historical fantasy’. (The Sarantine Mosaic)

The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy

The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy consisting of “The Summer Tree”, “The Wandering Fire” and “The Darkest Road”.

In the three novels that make up the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy collected in this omnibus edition (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road), five University of Toronto students find themselves transported to a magical land to do battle with the forces of evil. At a Celtic conference, Kimberley, Kevin, Jennifer, Dave, and Paul meet wizard Loren Silvercloak. Returning with him to the magical kingdom of Fionavar to attend a festival, they soon discover that they are being drawn into the conflict between the dark and the light as Unraveller Rakoth Maugrim breaks free of his mountain prison and threatens the continued existence of Fionavar. They join mages, elves, dwarves, and the forces of the High King of Brennin to do battle with Maugrim, where Kay’s imaginative powers as a world-builder come to the fore. He stunningly weaves Arthurian legends into the fluid mix of Celtic, Nordic, and Teutonic, creating a grand fantasy that sweeps readers into a heroic struggle that the author makes all the more memorable because of the tributes he pays to past masters.

The trilogy is a grand homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but while the echoes of Tolkien’s masterwork are very real, the books offer the wonderful taste of a new fantasy writer cutting his teeth at the foot of a master. Kay has a very real connection to Tolkien–as Christopher Tolkien’s assistant, Kay was invaluable in helping to wrestle Tolkien’s posthumous The Silmarillion into shape for publication. Kay is undoubtedly one of the Canadian masters of high fantasy, and The Fionavar Tapestry is one of his most enduring works.

 

Sailing to Sarantium (The Sarantine Mosaic, #1)Canadian edition of Lord of EmperorsThe Sarantine Mosaic is a set of two books, “Sailing to Sarantium” and “Lord of Emperors”.

Sailing to Sarantium

Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world, and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial City. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.

Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.

Lord of Emperors

Having finally achieved his journey to fabled Sarantium, Crispin the mosaicist wants nothing more than to confront the challenges of his art high on the scaffolding of destiny—but in Sarantium no man may easily withdraw from the turmoil of court and city, or forget that the presence of the half-world is always close by.

To the Imperial City there comes another voyager, this time from the east. Rustem of Kerakek, a physician, must find his own balance of family and ambition, healing and death, as he, too, is drawn into the deadly webs of Sarantium.

 

Science Fiction Picks

This month I went for two new science fiction titles.

Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold

18490706

Artemis Awakening is the start of a new series by New York Times bestseller Jane Lindskold. The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay…but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had “bested” the environment.

The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets…and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.

The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson

22238149In our rapidly changing world of social media, everyday people are more and more able to sort themselves into social groups based on finer and finer criteria. In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities, this process is supercharged by new analytic technologies: genetic, brain-mapping, behavioral. To join one of the twenty-two Affinities is to change one’s life. It’s like family, and more than family. Your fellow members aren’t just like you, and they aren’t just people who are likely to like you. They’re also the people with whom you can best cooperate in all areas of life, creative, interpersonal, even financial.

At loose ends both professional and personal, young Adam Fisk takes the suite of tests to see whether he qualifies for any of the Affinities and finds that he’s a match for one of the largest, the one called Tau. It’s utopian–at first. His problems resolve themselves as he becomes part of a global network of people dedicated to helping one another, to helping him, but as the differing Affinities put their new powers to the test, they begin to rapidly chip away at the power of governments, of global corporations, and of all the institutions of the old world; then, with dreadful inevitability, the different Affinities begin to go to war with one another.

Science Fiction Picks

This month I chose something that’s a little older to share.  One urban fantasy, and one high fantasy series.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front

Harry Dresden’s Yellow Pages ad reads:

Harry Dresden–Wizard
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, no-one else does what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting. Magic. It can get a guy killed.

In Fantasy reader circles, Harry Dresden is sometimes known as ‘the other wizard named Harry’.  Storm Front is the first book in a series of 15 books (so far) detailing Harry’s adventures with magic in the city of Chicago.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

228665

The book starts off with the lives of Rand, Perrin, and Matt, three young men in a small village at the end of the road.  Evil takes notice of the village, and one of the three will become the Dragon, destined to save the world, as well as destroy it.  What follows is a high adventure, complete with good vs. evil, magic, a bit of a love story, and close escapes.  Robert Jordan excels at world building, so the setting of this fantasy epic is very vivid.

The Eye of the World is the first book of the Wheel of Time series, a 14 book series.

Anna’s Science Fiction Picks

Welcome to a monthly review of Science Fiction and Fantasy book, and the occasional horror thrown in. Every month, will feature a couple of titles, new or old from the Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy collection.

The Just City by Jo Walton

index.aspxCreated as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future – all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past. The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome – and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her. Meanwhile, Apollo – stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does – has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human. Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives – the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself – to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect.

The Border by Robert McCammon

index.aspxThe Border is the saga of an Earth devastated by a war between two marauding alien civilizations. But it is not just the living ships of the monstrous Gorgons or the motion-blurred shock troops of the armored Cyphers that endanger the holdouts in the human bastion of Panther Ridge. The world itself has turned against the handful of survivors, as one by one they succumb to despair and suicide or, even worse, are transformed by otherworldly pollution into hideous Gray Men, cannibalistic mutants driven by insatiable hunger. Into these desperate circumstances comes an amnesiac teenaged boy who names himself Ethan–a boy who must overcome mistrust and suspicion to master unknowable powers that may prove to be the last hope for humanity’s salvation. Those same powers make Ethan a threat to the warring aliens, long used to fearing only each other, and thrust him and his comrades into ever more perilous circumstances.