Monthly Fantasy

The Invisible Library      The Masked City    The Burning Page

This month is a review of a relatively new series called The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.  The series currently has three books published, The Invisible Library, The Masked City, and The Burning Page.

I’ve included the synopsis of the first book:

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested–the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something–secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option–because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

I haven’t read any but the first book yet, they are so popular I haven’t been able to get my hands on them, but I really enjoyed it.  It has a little of everything: fantasy, steampunk, mystery, faeries, order vs. chaos, and parallel worlds, all featuring a cast of likable characters.  If you are looking for a fun read, with more than just the one book, this is it. According the the author, she is editing book 4, and writing book 5.

Your dose of Fantasy

26892110This month I’m only going to talk about one book, “The Library at Mount Char” by Scott Hawkins.  This is a book that doesn’t really fit into one genre.  We have it tagged as fantasy here but beware, there is a hefty dose of horror as well.  It’s also a book that you have to be patient with. Events happen in chronological order, but aren’t explained until close to the end of the book. For the first 100 or so pages, be prepared to be confused.

The book flap has this to say:

A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.
 
Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.

After all, she was a normal American herself once.

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.

But Carolyn has accounted for this.

And Carolyn has a plan.

The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

I can’t say much more than that without giving away the book.  I can say that it’s a weird mix of urban fantasy, horror, and humour.  There are a couple of fairly graphic violent scenes, sex happens off screen (to the commentary of the listeners)  a few times, and Father can be cruel to the point of torture.  Having said all that, I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone willing to try something that refuses to be defined, or neatly boxed up.

Fantasy for the month

This month, I’m focusing on fantasy again.

I just read a fantastic series that blends historical fiction and fantasy.  Specifically the Napoleonic Wars and dragons.

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik tells the story of Captain Laurence, of His Majesty’s Navy, who becomes bonded to the dragon Temeraire.

28876When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future-and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

The series starts with “His Majesty’s Dragon”, and continues through another 7 titles.

My second choice is from well known Science Fiction author David Weber.

He has turned his hand to fantasy in the War God series.

17315The first book is “Oath of Swords”. Our Hero: The unlikely Paladin, Bahzell Bahnakson of the Horse Stealer Hradani. He’s no knight in shining armor. He’s a hradani, a race known for their uncontrollable rages, bloodthirsty tendencies, and inability to maintain civilized conduct. None of the other Five Races of man like the hradani. Besides his ethnic burden, Bahzell has problems of his own to deal with: a violated hostage bond, a vengeful prince, a price on his head. He doesn’t want to mess with anybody else’s problems, let alone a god’s. Let alone the War God’s! So how does he end up a thousand leagues from home, neck-deep in political intrigue, assassins, demons, psionicists, evil sorcery, white sorcery, dark gods, good gods, bad poets, greedy landlords, and most of Bortalik Bay? Well, it’s all the War God’s fault.

This is nice because although it is the first book in a series, it does tie itself up nicely at the end.

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 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

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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.