the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘magic

the-kingdom-of-gods-by-nk-jemisinThe Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance trilogy, book 3)

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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This is the third book in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.  It’s straight up fantasy, but it’s the kind of fantasy that’s tough to categorize, which means it’s the kind of fantasy I really like.  You can’t go into this novel blind, you really do need to read the first two books in the series.  Each book in the series is told from a different characters point of view. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Yeine’s story, her journey from mortal heir to goddess. The Broken Kingdoms is Oree’s story, a blind artist who becomes the mother of a demon.  This final book is Sieh’s story, that of a godling who refused to grow up.

 

And why should he “grow up”? Sieh is the godling of childhood, after all. He’s the godling of tricks and white lies, spying, and coming home to loving parents. Above all, Sieh craves loves from his parents. He’ll never admit it, but he’s also the godling of not understanding the consequences of his actions. Not unlike your average ten year old.

 

The gods have been free of the enslavement of the Arameri family for generations, yet Sieh still finds himself drawn to their palace. This is where he grew up, where hidden caches of toys are mingled with horrible memories. These days, the palace is nearly empty. Sieh meets two young mortal siblings, Shahar and Dekarta, who are lost in the underpalace. He helps them, and befriends them.  The kids of course, want to be “friends forever”, like all eight year olds promise to their friends, but to Sieh, this smells of the enslavement of old. “Friends forever” means something different when you are Sieh. But he can’t blame these kids for the sins of their ancestors. What they want from him is completely innocent, right?   They seal their agreement with blood, and in a flash, the world ends.

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clarkesworld4Folks, this is it. With this post I’ve let you know about all the original fiction Clarkesworld published during their fourth year. They just celebrated seven years, by the way. Pretty awesome, right?

just joining us? catch up with parts one, two, three, four and five.

This “go through their entire year” project was fun. You interested in me doing something like this again? I only did one year out of seven, but I feel like a bit of a completest anyway.

These final stories involve memory theft, magic candies, murderous whirlwinds, a vengeful astronaut, and a tragic military science fiction story. Let’s dive in!

Between Two Dragons, by Yoon Ha Lee – The nation of Cho has tried to stay neutral. On one side is the war like Yamat rattles it’s sabers, and makes plans to invade Feng-Huang, located on the far side of Cho. Avoiding violence from one side all but forces them to betray the other neighbor. And the famous Admiral Yen Shemar will remember none of it. Knowing the fate that awaits him after the war, he opts to face it on his own terms, and pays a visit to a woman who can erase his memories and in the process change his personality. This was the part of the story that struck me the hardest. The person being “re-written” doesn’t remember the procedure, doesn’t understand why their mother or child or sister looks at them funny afterwards because they no longer love their favorite foods, or claim to have never seen the film or read the book or poet that they used to always quote from. Your loved one becomes a stranger. At work recently, I overhear two people comparing their closed head injury recoveries. What they both agreed on was that the injury changed their personality. they could remember who they were before, but their personality changed afterwards. Is being “rewritten” a little like that, except you can’t remember who you were before? It was uncanny, to overhear that conversation shortly after reading this story. Between Two Dragons is a military science fiction story, but it doesn’t read like you’d expect a military scifi story to read.  It reads like a list of fears, of regrets. It’s not told in chronological order either, as if the characters are writing down fleeting memories before they can be forcefully taken.

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Codex Born, by Jim Hines (Magic ex Libris #2)

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Picking up shortly after the end of Libriomancer (review here), Isaac Vainio is back up at the Copper River library. As time allows,he’s been working with Jeneta, a poetry loving teenager who has learned to pull poetic metaphors out of e-readers, and together, they are trying to figure out why her kind of Libriomancy even works. Lena’s oak tree stands tall in Isaac’s backyard, and he’s working hard to get used to the fact that his girlfriend has another girlfriend (it’s complicated).  When you are a libriomancer doing research for the Porters, there’s no such thing as a normal summer.

Did you get a kick out of Libriomancer? Codex Born is better.

The plot gets started very quickly, when dead wendigos are found, the local werewolf clan can’t agree on who has jurisdiction,  and strange metal bugs are attacking Lena’s tree. The marks left on her tree match the marks left on the wendigo corpses, and there’s only one person who could have made these metal creatures: Victor Harrison. IT Guy for The Porters, tinkerer extraordinaire, also dead. With the help of a very creepy vampire, Isaac, Lena, and a few other Libriomancers put on the case learn that Victor’s father, August, has used his late son’s inventions to hack into the Porter’s databases and awoken an old and nearly forgotten type of Libriomancy. Not even Gutenberg’s soul-powered automatons have a chance in this fight.

sounds pretty awesome, right?

What if I told you the kick ass plot is the least kick-ass part of this book?

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Black Fire smallThe Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen

published June 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the author

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On a filthy and horrifying Riverboat, young Erzelle has learned to stay hidden. So long as she plays her harp during dinner and stays small, there’s a chance she might stay alive.  Every night the guests arrive, and every night a mutated ghoul from the holds below becomes dinner. Erzelle will never forget her first night on the Riverboat, when it was her parents on that silver platter, their heads still alive.

One evening, a beautiful human woman is a dinner guest. Erzelle fears the woman will become dinner, but instead she joines Erzelle on stage to accompany her with a magical pipe that glows with runes. By dawn, the guests have been run off or slaughtered, Erzelle has been freed from bondage, and the beautiful woman, Olyssa, has realized her lost sister is nowhere to be found on the Riverboat.

Thus begins Mike Allen’s debut novel, The Black Fire Concerto. Exploding with magic, music, and violence, this short novel has the magical feel of an old school suspenseful fantasy adventure as filtered through the eyes of H.R. Giger.

Olyssa takes the orphaned Erzelle under her wing, and the two travel the wasted Earth searching for Olyssa’s sister. Along the way, she teaches Erzelle a concerto for harp and pipe and the child unwittingly becomes the sorcereress’s apprentice. Erzelle came to the Riverboat as a small child, she knows very little of the outside world, and all she saw on board were ghouls and horrors.  She and Olyssa escape a Temple of Grey Ones, befriend the vulpine Reneer, and through visions of an Antlered Man, Erzelle becomes dangerously involved in Olyssa’s family heritage.

Where did the Grey Ones come from? What’s their connection with the Vulpine community nearby? Who is the antlered man who Erzelle keeping seeing in her minds eye? She can’t possibly understand what he’s asking of her. The gift he gives her will save her life as it slowly kills her.

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War for the OaksWar for the Oaks, by Emma Bull

published in 1987

where I got it: library

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I wish I’d read War For The Oaks years ago. I wish this had been the book that had introduced me to Urban Fantasy. People, this is what Urban Fantasy can be. This is what it should be. Lyrical and funny, shadowy and mysterious, War For The Oaks grabbed me on page one and never let go. I kept trying to read bits and pieces of it out-loud to my other half, who kept telling me to quit that, because he wanted to read it next.

The novel opens with last show of Eddi McCandry’s band. Her boyfriend Stuart is a mess, the band isn’t playing what the bar patrons want to hear, a both a band break-up and a romantic one follow in quick succession. Good thing on both fronts, or Eddi would never get the chance to start an even better band with her best friend Carla.

When a Phouka shows up in her life and announces he is her new bodyguard against the Unseelie, Eddi tells him to get lost and threatens to call the cops. She might be recently unemployed, but she’s not crazy. It’s funny, because we’ve all read urban fantasies, we’d all know a pooka or a Sidhe when we see one (or at least like to think we would), but Eddi doesn’t. She’s never read an urban fantasy novel before, and she doesn’t know how these stories go.

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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 Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

published November 2012

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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The story is interesting, the magic is thrilling, but it’s the characterization that turns this simple tale into a glowing story and had me asking myself who is Brandon Sanderson, and why aren’t I reading more of him?

Caught stealing in the palace, Shai is scheduled for execution.  You see, it’s perfectly fine for the licensed palace artists to forge and reforge ancient artwork that will beautify the palace. But what Shai does is illegal.  Beyond being guilty of changing her own soul and practicing pagan arts, she’s unlicensed.  But before they rid themselves of one more filthy forger who insists on using pagan magics, the powers that be will use her to their benefit.  I’m just as uppity as the Imperial Councillors in the story, for having preconceived notions about her, for misunderstanding how and why she does what she does.

To earn her life back, Shai is given an impossible task.  She’s to re-forge the soul of the Emperor, who has been in a coma since an attack on the palace. The Emperor is expected to be in seclusion for one hundred days to mourn the death of his wife.  If the Emperor fails to appear after that time period, if Shai isn’t successful in her task, the Empire will fall.  Well, maybe not the Empire, but at least the ruling faction.   Her skills are seen as an abomination by the ruling faction, but she’s just become their key to staying in power.

Forging isn’t as easy as you’d think, and this isn’t a magic that just happens because some powerful wizard wills it to.    The forger isn’t just making a painting, or a vase, or an ornamented table, they are convincing the materials to remember a different history, a more beautiful history. To turn an old, scratched up table into something beautiful, the wood itself must be convinced that it was cut from a healthy tree, was carefully carved and then polished and oiled weekly. Using uniquely carved soul stamps, a forger isn’t making a copy, or a fake, they are changing the soul of the item to believe it was always that way.  And if forging a painting or sculpture is that complicated, just imagine how complicated it would be to forge the soul of a person.

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The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers

published in 1983

where I got it: that one bookshelf where my favorite books are.

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The short version of this review is that The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is utterly brilliant and amazing.   Aren’t sure if time travel books are your thing? Doesn’t matter, this book transcends. Aren’t sure if Tim Powers is for you? He transcends all as well, and you can learn more about him in my Why You Should be Reading Tim Powers article.

here’s the long version:

Brendan Doyle lives a remarkably boring life. An expert in the lives of the romantic poets, Doyle tracks down obscure manuscripts and gets papers published in even more obscure literary magazines.  When he flies to London to meet with wealthy yet eccentric J. Cochran Darrow, Doyle’s in it for the money. this crazy old guy wants to pay Doyle a million dollars to give an hour lecture about Samuel Taylor Coleridge to a dinner party? No problem.  that money will go a long way towards Doyle’s research of an obscure poet who was in London around the same time as Coleridge, William Ashbless.

Except it’s not just any dinner party, and this isn’t just any old rich guy. J. Cochran Darrow has discovered how to jump through time. Brendan will give his lecture, answer a few questions, and then entire group, Darrow, Brendan, and the guests, will travel through time to 1810 see Coleridge himself. Everything must be timing perfectly, as these breaks in the river of time are sometimes only open for a few hours.

The only predictable scene happens when the time travel jump is successful, everything is going swimmingly, and suddenly Doyle gets separated from the group and is left behind in 1810.  Abandoned, yet hopeful, Doyle has a plan. He knows the exact time and date that Ashbless wrote a famous poem at a tavern in London. If Doyle can survive for a week, he can approach Ashbless and hopefully work with the man. Should Doyle ever get back to modern day London, he’d be able to write the ultimate Ashbless biography.

But Darrow isn’t the only person jumping through time. A few someone elses, many hundreds of years ago, used arcane magic to open these gates in time.  These ancient magicians have forsaken their connection with the earth, and wear heels, platform clogs, and even spring heeled shoes to keep their flesh as far from the Earth as possible.  Even J. Cochran Darrow has his own ulterior motives.

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Clockwork Phoenix (anthology) Volume 3, edited by Mike Allen

published in 2010

where I got it: gift from a friend (and she got it autographed for me!!)

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This is Mike Allen’s third volume of beautiful and strange short fiction. In previous volumes, he showcased new works by authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, Catherynne M. Valente,  and Tanith Lee. And volume three continues in this vein, offering an intriguing collection of short fiction by well known authors such as John C. Wright, Cat Rambo, Gemma Files and Marie Brennan, along with works by lesser known folks that I am thrilled to have gotten to know a little better.  The theme to these anthologies is “tales of beauty and strangeness”, and Allen has certainly chosen works that match that description.  Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, we can look forward to a fourth volume of beauty and strangeness, the surreal and the fantastic.

Anthologies tend to run hot and cold for me. It’s like buying an album (did I just date myself?). You buy the album for one song, and hope the rest of it doesn’t suck. I’m the same way with anthologies. Out of the fifteen  short stories, maybe 3 of them were just okay for me. And the rest? The rest were pure winners.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts on a handful of my favorite short stories in the collection:

Murder in Metachronopolis, by John C. Wright – one of the longer works, and purposely presented in an unusual way. Jake Frontino has been brought to the city outside of time, Metachronopolis, the city of the Masters of Time, to work for them as a Private Investigator. They’ve sent him through time on missions to stop terrible things before they happen – to kill the mothers of dictators, to foil marriages and stop meetings from taking place. The Masters of Time supposedly have no enemies, but Jake has met those enemies, been party to their plans for a coup. The story is written in numbered portions, so the reader immediately knows we are not getting the story in chronological order, we are not getting “the truth” in the right order. And you know what I did the moment I finished this story? I read it again, flipping the pages back and forth so that with the help of the section numbers I could read it in chronological order, in the order that things happened to Jake. And it was a completely different story. I love it when that happens, when I can experience the same story in a completely new light.
The Gospel of Nachash by Marie Brennan – This is a retelling of the story of the Garden of Eden. I’m a sucker for any kind of old testament mythology, so this tale was right up my alley. Among its other twists, is the story of the Expulsion is told from the serpent’s point of view.  The serpent, Nachash, was also a creation of God, was also in the garden for a specific reason. Nachash and God’s Daughter watch Adam and Chava’s lives after the garden, and they witness the birth of Chava’s two sons. How will this tiny mortal family populate the earth, with no other women? God’s Daughter has a plan, and Nachash is at the center of it. But that’s not the twist, oh no, Brennan’s got an ever better trick up her sleeve.

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Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, book 1), by Jim C. Hines

published – August 2012

where I got it: received review copy from the author

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Libriomancer is a book for people who love stories, who love characters, who want to visit the places they read about and meet the characters they’ve only been able to visit on paper. Seriously. If the magic of a story has ever leapt off the page and seduced you into knowing that dragons and wizards and galactic empires and zombies exist, this is the book for you. If you adore the physical object known as book, this is the story for you.

Exiled to a tiny municipal library in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, ex-libriomancer Isaac Vainio should be able to stay out of trouble, right?  He’s been set up in an easy job,  been forbidden from doing magic, and is attempting to live a normal life with only his fire-spider Smudge by his side.  Isaac yearns to dive into books again, and pull out something magical, but knows he shouldn’t. Isaac’s exile was for his own safety, because he couldn’t control his magic,  but when vampires attack him in his library, it’s time to find out what the hell is going on.

Thus starts Jim Hines’ newest series, Magic Ex Libris.  Isaac strikes me as a Harry Dresden type character, someone trained in a specific type of magic,  but also responsible for making sure regular people are never aware that anything unusual is going on. He’s been educated and burned, and doesn’t want any more people to get hurt through his own carelessness.

Someone has been attacking Libriomancers, the vampires seem to have lost their minds,  and the creator of Libriomancy himself, Johannes Gutenberg, has gone missing, along with his mechanical bodyguards. Isaac teams up with the motorcycle riding, bokken wielding dryad, Lena, to get to the bottom of the mystery, before it’s too late.

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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.