the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘epic

The DivinerThe Diviner, by Melanie Rawn

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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Whatever you expect this book to be, or to be about, it isn’t. The blurb on the back is fairly useless, making it sound like an action packed revenge story with some magic. I’ll give it that, it is a revenge story, and there is some magic. But at the core, The Diviner is the story of a family who was nearly destroyed, and instead, irrevocably changed the world.

Long review short, Melanie Rawn’s The Diviner is so full of awesome that I don’t even know where to start talking about it. Complex and sprawling, subtle yet epic, The Diviner offers stunning world building, an elegant magic system, and characters who I swear I just spent an endless summer with.  Doesn’t hurt that Rawn’s writing style is poetic yet purposeful, layered like sheer silks that shift and billow in the breeze, offering momentary glimpses of a larger pattern.

The Diviner is all about the details – details that support other details, that are required to make something else work, yet like a cathedral or a fractal, the complexities blend into the background at first blush.  There’s so much I want to touch on, that trying to review this book is like trying to review Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. It would be so much easier if this review could just consist of “you have to read this book!” over and over again until I reach 800 words.

Spanning four generations, the pacing of The Diviner is very fast, but the point of the book requires that time pass quickly. When months or years pass between chapters, we’re often given a passage written by a chronicler who has documented what happened. The chroniclers are just one more subtle architectural detail, it’s easy to see they each have their own style but were trained in the same school. This method of showing the passage of time may not work for all readers, but I found it refreshing and enjoyable.

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Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams

published November 2012

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher

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Epic Fantasy requires the story to be bigger, the dragons be faster, the warriors be stronger, and everything generally be more. And Epic: Legends of Fantasy offers up just that – more mythos,  higher stakes, more of simply everything.

Many of the entries are part of the author’s larger work, taking place in an epic fantasy world that the author has already written hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages about. Randomly, the stories I read first happened to be part of larger works, and at first, the lack of stand alone works bothered me, but I quickly came to appreciate it, and to learn the collection had plenty of stand alone stories as well. An anthology like this is a brilliant method of introducing readers to these larger fantasy worlds created by famous authors such as Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Tad Williams, and many others, and serves as an excellent introduction to the writings of newer authors  as well.

Some works were fairly new, but others were older than I am. the Moorcock for example was originally written in 1961. A pure classic sword and sorcery, complete with sexualized and helpless female, it might be offensive to today’s readers, but I’m happy Adams included it, as what’s the point of talking about Epic Fantasy if we’re not going to touch on the journey the genre has taken?

Clocking in at over 600 pages, Epic: Legends of Fantasy is itself a bit of a doorstopper.  We eat clunksters like this for breakfast, so I was surprised at how long it took me to plow through it. ahh, but spending 600+ pages in one fantasy world is one thing. Try spending that quantity of pages in over a dozen fantasy worlds. More often than not, my brain needed a little break in between.   This isn’t the kind of anthology to gorge on, this is the kind you savor, over many winter evenings.

Here’s my thoughts a handful of the entries:

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The Emperor’s Knife, by Mazarkis Williams

Available in the UK: Oct 2011 Jo Fletcher Books, US Dec 2011, Night Shade Books

Where I got it: Received advanced reading copy

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A royal family on the brink of disaster, a bride with an unsettled assassin on her trail, an ill emperor and his mad brother, their royal mother who will do anything to keep whatever power she has, a conniving vizier who will do anything to steal the throne and a mysterious magician known only as The Pattern Master, saying there isn’t much going on in this story is the understatement of the year. With echoes of a crusades era Ottoman Empire and brimming with the intrigue and courtly betrayals that reminded me at times of a Zhang Yimou film, Mazarkis William’s debut novel The Emperor’s Knife is a refreshing change from the European centered epic fantasy that’s recently seemed to take over bookstore shelves.

Following three major story lines (and a few small ones), we are quickly introduced to Prince Sarmin, younger brother to ruling Emperor Beyon; Eyul, the Emperor’s assassin; and Mesema, a young woman from a Felting tribe destined to be a royal bride.  Instead of a chapter at a time from each storyline, the point of view changes every few pages, or in some cases, every few paragraphs. It takes a bit to get used to, but this style of writing quickly turns into a method of keeping the reader’s rapt attention.

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Guess who at ComicCon?

Eh,  I finished one book this morning and am about a third of the way through another one.  No reviews even close to be being ready to post, let alone even started.  And I got a busy crazy blog-on-fire week coming up (more on that later, I promise).

Here’s some delicious link soup for you. Tastes like Epic.

Wanna join our read-along for Lord of the Rings? starts this coming week, one book per month till we finish. Sign up here.

Awesome article on Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris series, focusing on City of Saints and Madmen.

Neat article/video on blood & guts CGI in HBO’s Game of Thrones (no fake blood was harmed in the making of this show).

Love fest for Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. Tastes like blood and guts. . .

My buddy Jim got me hooked on Mercury Men, a noirish SF alien invasion 7 minutes per episode webshow on Hulu. Go check it out.

Patrick Rothfuss answers your questions at SDCC.

and Patrick Rothfuss’s epic blog post about being epic at SDCC

Vote for your favorite SFF titles on NPR’s top 100 SFF book list. Everyone gets 10 votes, so make ‘em count!

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

Published August 2011

Where I got it: rec’d review copy from Harper Collins/Voyager

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With an epic, empire-shattering sprawl that brings George R R Martin to mind,  and a quick and snarky narrative style reminiscent of Scott Lynch, yet with a twist unlike anything I’vecome across, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is easily the most incredible epic fantasy I have ever read. To drop yet another name,  this is a novel that practically vibrates with deliberateness, making me think of Patrick Rothfuss at times.

Showing a true mastery of foreshadowing, Lawrence drops hints both overt and subtle that creep up on the reader like a path of breadcrumbs that twists and turns through the forest.  I don’t care if this path leads to a witch’s house, Lawrence has completely seduced me to the point where I can do naught but follow. I knew from the first chapter this was a book I’d be devouring.  The plot set-up is fast and clean,  the prose and dialog alive with “show me”, and long before the first twist hits you’ll realize this is nothing at all like your typical epic fantasy.

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Our Dune read along was such a success (thanks to YOU of course!) that I’ve decided to jump right in and do it again. I was so very impressed by the response and how many people were interested in diving into a classic SF book that maybe wasn’t their cup of tea, that I felt it’s only fair for me to do the same for a classic Fantasy series.

Yes, yours truly, who just over a year ago swore she would never read fantasy because she hated it (and then I read The Name of the Wind, and wow did that change everything!) will not only be reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings this summer and fall, but co-hosting a read along with Geeky Daddy.  

I hope you’ll join us on our trip to Middle Earth, whether you’ve read LOTR a million times, once, or like me, have only seen the movies. personally, I couldn’t be more excited about the whole thing!

We’ll be taking three to four weeks to read and discuss each book, with discussions starting on Saturdays. Here’s the tentative schedule for starting each book:

The Hobbit-August 8
Fellowship of the Ring-September 1
The Two Towers-October 1
Return of the King-November 1
Children of Hurin- December 1

Geeky Daddy and I will be taking turns hosting guided discussions.  We hope you’ll join us.   To receive the guided discussion questions, just leave a reply here or on Geeky Daddy’s website.  Even if you don’t the mailing list, you are welcome to read along and post your thoughts.

 

walk without rhythym. . . .

Hi Everyone, and welcome to the final section of our Dune read along. Hope you enjoyed the ride!    Our last group of questions was kindly supplied by Grace, and she came up with some great ones!

Here are the questions, and my answers are after the jump:

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?
2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

3.  On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?
6.  One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.”  What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.