the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘magic

 

You saw this article on BoingBoing about Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny, yeah?

I’m going to talk about these books in the order I read them. Even though in hindsight, I should have read them in the opposite order. Oh well.

 

Minor spoilers and major teases ahead.

 

So, I haven’t read every single book in this series,  and the ones that I have read, I haven’t exactly read them in order.  But it’s okay, because the books in this series are sorta kinda meant to be read in whatever order you please, and then reread in whatever order you please.  I kinda don’t want to get to the point where I’ve read every book in this series? Like, I always want there to be some surprises left. Lol I’ll be 90 years old and blind, and that’s when I’ll decide to read the one I haven’t read, and then I’ll be shouting in the middle of the night at the nursing home “That’s how Teldra and Morrolan met? You are fucking shitting me!”

 

These books are my comfort reads.  When I need something I know I’m going to love from page one,  I pick up a Vlad Taltos book, and I’m a happy camper for a few days.

 

Also, I’ve got a little bit of history with this series.

 

 

Phoenix was written in 1990, and is chronologically the approximate 9th book in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series.  (yeah, this isn’t that kind of fantasy and these aren’t those dragons. Just so we’re clear)

 

This is the book where Vlad realizes his marriage is over.  Some readers will gloss right over those scenes, I had a really tough time.  I’m a softy, ok? And he still loves her. And I think she still loves him. And I get why they split, and I respect it, but I can still cry about it, ok?

 

Anyway, the book opens with Vlad getting killed.  And he thinks about the Demon Goddess Verra, and how he

 

“had once traveled several thousand miles through supernatural horrors and the realm of the dead men just to bid her good-day”

 

And I thought that sounded hella cool, so I pulled Taltos off my bookshelf to read next.   Not only does Verra answer when Vlad calls out to her with his dying breath, she gives him a job.  All Vlad’s gotta do is kill a guy. He’s pretty good at that, so no problem. Except, his target is the king of a tiny island country that the Empire doesn’t have anything to do with, because sorcery doesn’t work there.  Sorcery is what allows the Empire to function, so if you could go somewhere where it doesn’t work . . . .

 

There’s also a drummer who might be a spy.

 

And there’s a revolution brewing at home.  This book has buckets of societal questions about the rights of the lower classes and the rights of minority ethnic groups, and the right to protest and the right to be heard. But this isn’t a book about how to start a revolution, it’s not a youth anthem, it’s not a book about toppling the system, this ain’t Hunger Games, you know.  In truth, Vlad would very much like for things to quiet down and go back to the way they were. He just wants to live a quiet life where he gets paid to kill people, and runs illegal gambling dens, you know?

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instead of a some long drawn out reviews, howsabout a few words on some books I enjoyed recently?   You’d like that?  yeah, me too.

 

 

They made a movie out of The Prestige by Christopher Priest, and all I remember was i think Hugh Jackman was in it? And there was some scene at the end where there are like 30 top hats just blowing away?   I’m pretty sure another Illusionist/Magician movie came out around the same time, and I might be getting them mixed up.   Anyone remember the details of this, or even what year these movies came out?

From seeing the movie, I pretty much already knew the “big reveal” in the book. But friends had told me that the reveal is treated totally different in the book,  and boy were they right!!!   if you like slow-ish moving historical dramas, this is the story for you!  The beginning was a bit slow, and then it ramps up and the drama ramps up, and at the end I couldn’t put the book down.  If you’ve not ever read any Christopher Priest because everyone says his book are weird AF (they are!), this is a great book to start with because it’s completely readable and keeps you turning the pages, even when weird shit happens.  The further you get into the book, the more weird shit happens.  Also? Nikola Tesla has a cameo!

Both main characters, the guys who are feuding, neither of them are sympathetic characters.  They are both shit heads, they both feel bad for the shitty stuff they did, and at the end of the book I wasn’t sure who I felt more bad for. I pity them both.

 

The Prestige is a great place to start with Christopher Priest  and Vallista isn’t a good place to start with Steven Brust.  Vallista is the 15th book in Brust’s Dragaeran series (but like, the 13th book, chronologically?  i’m really not sure).   I love this series.   When I am feeling stressed out,  these are the comfort books I turn to.  This series is basically about a guy, Vlad. I’m not going to get into it more than that, because if I did I’d be blathering on forever.  If you are that interested, start here, and from there there is about a million directions you can go.

 

I lovethis series so much because, well, the writing and the story and the characters, they are all fantastic.  I love first person POV, i love dialog banter, I love snark, I love long running jokes, I love slow world building. This series has all of that.  I love that this series is just about people trying to live their lives, and people who care  about their families.  Knowing I have a stack of Steven Brust books (many of which are Vlad books) that I can read whenever I want is therapeutic for me.  Just knowing they are there,  like, it works for me, ok?  Being alive at the same time that Vlad’s life is being created, like, it’s a good time to be alive. and yes, I know Loiosh is giving me side-eye right now for not making him out to be the main character.  I earned that side-eye!

 

ok, anyway, Vallista.  What a fun book!   Devera shows up and asks for Vlad’s help (she doesn’t tell him with what, exactly), and of course he’s going to help her!  She runs into a house on a hill (YES, the house from the end of Hawk! eeeeee!!!!), he follows her,  and the door locks behind him.   This  house doesn’t follow any rules of physics or architecture, and when Vlad meets the ghost of the architect, her explanation doesn’t help any.   The book gave me Doctor Who vibes, in the best way.  The people who Vlad meets in this weird house,  he’s got to figure out  how to get them to keep talking, because the more he learns about what the hell is going on,  the more likely he is to figure out how to get out of this weird screwy house!

if you’re not caught up in the series,  so long as you have met Devera, you’re good to read Vallista.  I know she shows up in Tiassa,  I don’t remember if she shows up prior to that.

I dig this series,  because the world building happens slowly.   Like, you remember when you were young, and you started collecting books, or comic books, or whatever?  You had a little bookshelf in your room, and it slowly filled up.  When it filled up, you were really excited – your bookshelf was full!  then you got a fullsize bookshelf.  and that filled up.   fast forward ten years, and you’ve rooms full of books. and you are happy, because they are full, and you are happy because you keep buying more books.   that’s what the worldbuilding in this series feels like – just the right amount at a time, at just the right speed.  I didn’t explain it well.  #sorrynotsorry

 

A question to my fellow Dragaeran readers: Who is your favorite character in the series?

 

Stay tuned,  one of these days I’ll post about two books I read recently that didn’t wow me!

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This post is part of The Gossamer Blog Tour! and it wouldn’t be a blog tour without a giveaway, now would it?  In the almost ten years that I have been blogging, I have NEVER seen a give away like this before!   Click for details! (Are you outside the US? Gotcha covered!)

Earlier today I posted a guest post from Julie Czerneda, where she takes us inside her worldbuilding process, and talks about maps and distances and that sometimes the map is the territory.

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The Gossamer Mage by Julie Czerneda

Available August 6 2019

Where I got it: Received ARC (thanks DAW!)

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Where I got it:  received for review (thanks DAW!)

Go ahead, judge a book by its cover.  Especially this book. The golden ink on that cover, you would swear that it moves when you look away.  What happens to the words that are written with such ink, with the intentions that come with those words?  What indeed.

 

Julie Czerneda’s newest fantasy novel, The Gossamer Mage, takes us to the beautiful land of Tananen.  In the port city, in the rolling hills, in the villages, in the mage school up in the mountains, magic flows through Tananen.  Mages and Priestesses commit their lives to the Deathless Goddess, and through Her, through writing Her intentions, amazing magic happens.  While the townspeople and villagers love the magical medicines, technologies, machines, and trinkets, those intimately involved with Her magic know the terrible cost of what they do.  Travelers and traders have learned the hard way that magic only exists within the boundaries of Tananen, and that the Deathless Goddess is not welcoming to strangers. She protects Her secrets.

 

The Gossamer Mage is a quietly compelling, character driven, smartly written fantasy. If you crave characters that leap off the page, if you  prefer knowledge over swords, if you liked Fullmetal Alchemist (really! There’s a connection!), this is the book for you.

 

The first thing that hit me while reading The Gossamer Mage was how much I loved the way Czerneda did the world building.  I feel like if I took a drive, Tananen could be over the next hilltop and I’d know exactly where I was. Czerneda’s writing is incredibly immersive, but it never feels like she is burying the reader in exposition or infodumps.  As characters travel around Tananen, she takes the opportunity to show their experiences and observations as they explore their new locations, everything feels immersive and natural.

 

Magic in Tananen isn’t cheap.  Getting a magical trinket, or a made-horse from a mage won’t cost you very much. . .  but it costs the mage dearly.   Magic is done by writing the Goddess’s Intentions, and each  successfully written intention costs the mage at least a year off their lifespan.  The more bells sewn into a mage’s hair, the more intentions they have written, the less years they have left to live.  A 30 year old mage easily appears to be 85 years of age, or older. It is an honor for your child to show the talent that will take them to the mage school.  Mothers weep at the news, knowing they will outlive their child.

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The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry

Available July 2019

where I got it: received ARC (Thanks Hachette!!)

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Since the beginning of ever there has been this thing that readers and writers of literature don’t read or write genre fiction, and readers and writers  of genre fiction don’t read or write literature. That’s all bullshit by the way, but there are always authors who are offended that people call them “science fiction writers”, and readers of literature who look down on us speculative fiction readers.

 

Yet, it begs the question – how to get lit readers and genre fiction readers to see how much they have in common? That we all love a story well told, that we all love characters who go  through hell and back, that we all love the feeling of falling headfirst into a book? The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry could be the book that brings us all together. This book stitches together a scholar’s love for classic British literature with the scifi/fantasy joyful gleefulness of fictional characters who literally come alive out of books and then someone’s got to help them figure out how to live in the real world, or shove them screaming back into their dry paper pages.

 

If you’re a scifi/fantasy fan, and you enjoy Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer books, or if you secretly loved those ST:TNG episodes where the holodeck went haywire and some poor Ensign found themselves face to face with Moriarty, you’ll enjoy this book.

 

If you have no idea what libriomancy or a holodeck is, but you love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and anything involving Sherlock Holmes, and/or if you intimately know the beauty and the power of literature,  you’ll enjoy this book.

 

For nearly 30 years, Rob has helped keep a dangerous family secret.  The secret is that his little brother, Charley, can literally pull story book characters out of books.  When then were little boys, Charley pulled the Cat in the Hat right out of the book! Now that Charley is back in Rob’s life,  Rob’s got to once again get used to middle of the night phone calls of “help, it happened again. Can you come over?”. The family fears the worst if anyone where to find out about Charley’s secret power. Would he be thrown into some secret prison lab somewhere, never be to be seen again?

 

Much of the story is told from Rob’s point of view, and he’s the classic frustrated older sibling, as loyal to and protective of his little brother has he is annoyed by being constantly dragged into his brother’s problems. How long can Rob keep this a secret from his fiance? And who the hell is this Uriah Heep look-a-like who has shown up as an intern at Rob’s workplace??

 

The plot thickens right away, when Charley and Rob are told of a secret “street”. Through an alleyway, they find a secret door, behind which lies The Street. Storybook characters who have been given life (by Charley???  By someone else?) eventually find their way to the Street, where they can live safely. The White Witch of Narnia is here, as is the Implied Reader, along with Heathcliff, Matilda, five versions of Mr. Darcy, Miss Matty,   Dorian Gray, and Millie Radcliffe-Dix, among others. I’ll need a pulp mystery expert’s help here, but I believe Millie Radcliffe-Dix is an actual fictional character made up for this novel, she’s a 1950s Girl Detective – full of moxie and smarts, and never in any actual physical danger.

 

Rob is astounded and rather terrified to see all these fictional characters wandering around, and Charley is full of wonder and glee. The Street is the first place where Charley has felt safe.

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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

publishes on March 5, 2019

where I got it: Received ARC

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Little Red Reviewer doesn’t read kids books, you say!

 

But Little Red Reviewer does read Carlos Hernandez, says I!   I am interested in reading anything Carlos Hernandez writes. He could write a cookbook, and I’d read it (actually, yes please?) gleefully.    Same thing goes for a handful of other authors, by the way.

 

So, yeah, I read a kids book.  And I liked it! Or, at least, I liked this one. It made me feel carefree.

 

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is an adorable novel aimed toward middle school aged readers. It is very fast paced, has serious scenes, has a lot of humor, great characters, loving families,  magic tricks, middle school hijinks, fast thinking and faster talking, and a kid who really misses his mom.

 

This is the Harry Potter book you didn’t realize you were waiting for.

 

Sal Vidon is in a new town, and a new school. So far  his new magnet school seems like the best school ever – the electives are interesting, the teachers do really fun activities to help the students get engaged with what they are learning, and some of the students are even entertained by Sal’s amatuer magic tricks!  When he magicked a dead chicken into someone’s locker, the Principal was not entertained. After the dead chicken trick, some students have started thinking Sal might be a brujo.

 

For the first time in a long time, Sal actually enjoys going to school.

For the first time since his Mami died, he’s smiling and laughing.

 

And as much as he enjoys sleight of hand magic tricks, Sal didn’t use magic to put the dead chicken into that other kid’s locker.   Sal is able to reach into the multiverse, and go to any spot in any universe, and grab whatever he wants. His actions tear a hole in spacetime, but the holes usually sew themselves right back up after a few hours. And there was that one time, when he went looking for his Mami. In a parallel universe, she’s still Mami Viva.  In a lot of other parallel universes, she’s cooking the most amazing Cuban food you’ve ever had.

 

When Sal loses control of some part of his inner self, a Mami Viva comes into our universe.  She has no idea that it’s been five years. She has no idea her husband, Sal’s Papi, has remarried. She has no idea that in this universe, she’s dead.  Them’s some awkward family dinners, that’s for sure.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Fearful Symmetries – I picked this anthology up from a used book dealer. Edited by Ellen Datlow, the TOC includes Pat Cadigan, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Marshall Smith.  That’s the extent of my knowledge. How do you fare with anthologies?

 

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez – Yes, this is the collection that has the famous robot panda sex story. and it is a damn good short story!! Actually, every story in this collection is fantastic (review here), as is Hernandez’s kids book that is out in March (review coming soon)

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.  My favorite Murderbot book. review here. If for whatever reason you only read the first novella in the series and then stopped, please do yourself a favor and read this second one.

(huh. hadn’t realized until right this second that I had so many short stories/novellas in this five for friday photo. oh well)

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross.  I really like Stross’s Laundry Files books, enjoyed Accellerando and Glass House (although I worry those two have not aged well).  Anyone read Rule 34? How is it?

 

Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz – Crap. I meant to put the FIRST book in this trilogy in the photo, and instead I grabbed the LAST book. OOPS. What a fun urban fantasy read! If you like stories where everyone has unique magic, and they have to learn most of the rules as they go, this is the series for you! Protagonist is a father who is just trying to protect his daughter, and you’ll get to meet Valentine, one of my favorite female characters, ever.  Oh, do you like the movie Fight Club? you will really, really love the second book in this series! here my review of the first book, Flex.

 

 

have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  If you’ve not read these, do any look interesting to you?

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss

publishes Feb  5th, 2019

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thanks Mythic Delirium!)

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I have two pieces of excellent news for you today!  The first piece of excellent news is that Theodora Goss’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, is available today! And the second piece of equally excellent good news is that if you’re not quite sure about buying this collection, a few  of the stories I mention below are available to read for free online. I’ve helpfully provided links, which #sorrynotsorry, will make you want to buy the book. Also, have I mentioned how awesome Theodora Goss is?

 

I am still trying to figure out how Goss crammed so much top notch story telling into this slender little book of just over 200 pages.  There is flash fiction, short poems, longer stories, stories that make me giggle, others that made me think deep thoughts, others that were simply joyful to read.  You’d think you could zip through a 200 page collection in a day or two, right? Yeah, you’d be wrong. This is one you want to savor and slowly dip into, enjoying the beautiful prose that will greet you on every page.  Don’t rush your way through, enjoy your walk through the forest, keep your eyes open for any wolves or taking bears, and allow yourself to be lured in.

 

And ok, can we talk about the poetry in this collection for a minute? I am freakin’ terrified of poetry.  Half the the time I just don’t get it, half the time I spend so much time stumbling over the meter enforced word choices that I don’t even know what the sentence means, and the other half the time i just don’t enjoy it. Poetry is clubhouse I’ve never known the secret password to.

 

And now Theodora Goss has me all turned around in the best possible of ways. These poems are photographs, they are short stories until themselves where the idea is more important than the meter. I’d classify them as songs or vignettes before classifying many of them as poems. Sorry if I just insulted all the poets reading this. Thanks to this collection, I feel more comfortable reading poetry, I now feel like I can get something out of it, that there is a story in there for me.  This book is my secret password to the poetry clubhouse.

 

A few words on my favorite poems:

 

Diamonds and Toads which tells a story about two sisters one who has a positive attitude so gets diamonds, and other who has a negative attitude so gets toads,  and how maybe the two sisters are actually one person and that none of us are completely positive or completely cranky, and it’s the balance that helps us live full lives. Diamonds come in handy, but it’s amazing how often toads come in handy.

 

Thorns and Briars, which is a poem you can read in under 60 seconds. I like this one because it starts out as a fairy tale or myth might, where some is locking their heart away for the right person to find. And then, well, life happens, and the right person does claim her heart.

 

Goldilocks and the Bear, which tells an endearing story about how Goldilocks really met the bear that she ends up marrying. Apparently I just love stories about thieves and bears and honey and people realizing it’s ok to be vulnerable and living happily ever after and that a strong relationship means knowing your partner isn’t perfect and will never be perfect, and that’s kind of what makes them perfect.

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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.