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Review: Curse of Chalion


The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Plot Summary: A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril has returned to the noble household he once served as page, and is named, to his great surprise, secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is as assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions. But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge -- an act that will mark the loyal, damaged servant as a tool of the miraculous ... and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death.

Jim’s Review: I first picked up The Curse of Chalion because of how much I enjoy Bujold’s other series, the Vorkosigan Saga. I quickly noted similarities:

- A male protagonist stigmatized in his society by physical injuries, as that society values physical prowess as a sign of masculinity.
- Injuries were inflicted upon him by enemy forces.
- He uses quick wits in an attempt to compensate for his physical limitations.
- He performs a series of high-risk activities, believing he’s the only one he can count on to do so.
- He falls in love with a woman he can’t believe might actually return that love.

But to stop with this list of similarities does a disservice to both series. The characters of Chalion are distinct, engaging, and have emotional depth. The theology is consistent and well thought out, with the gods a pleasant mix of the familiar and transcendent. The plot starts out slow, but once it builds up momentum, it really carries you along. This is one book I will enjoy reading again.

You might enjoy this book if you enjoyed:
Lois McMaster Bujold’sVorkosigan Saga
L. E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluce
Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera


Categories: Book Lists

Booklist’s Top Ten Science Fiction/Fantasy Books

The summer is warming up and it's a great time to do some summer reading. Here are some more recommendations from Booklist magazine. Enjoy!

All the Lives He Led by Frederick Pohl

Summary: Two thousand years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii is a popular theme park eagerly awaiting the celebration of the great anniversary. But Vesuvius is still capable of erupting, and even more threatening are terrorists who want to draw attention to their cause.

The Best of Larry Niven by Larry Niven

Summary: A six hundred page book that collects twenty-seven stories from over three decades of writing by one of the best known names in Science Fiction.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness

Summary: Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos.

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb
Summary: Centuries had passed since dragons last roamed the war-torn world of the Rain Wild River. But as peace once again settled upon the land, a lost generation of sea serpents-ancient, half-starved, and weary-returned to cocoon, certain that they would be reborn as the beautiful and powerful dragons of legend. But their arduous journey exacted a heavy toll, and the proud serpents emerged as sickly, half-formed beasts, unable to fly or hunt . . . or thrive. For years now they have been trapped on a swampy riverbank between forest and river, hungry and barely alive, reliant on humans to provide for them. With their survival at stake, fifteen dragons-among them the wise golden Mercor, the haughty and dazzling silver-blue queen Sintara, and the delicate copper beauty Relpda-have set off on a dangerous trek into the unknown, up the Rain Wild River, in hopes of rediscovering the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra, the lost haven for dragons and Elderlings alike. The dragons are accompanied by a disparate group of human keepers, rejects from Rain Wild society. They, too, yearn to find Kelsingra and create a home of their own, one in which they may make their own rules and decide their own fate. But is Kelsingra real or merely a fragment of a glorified past buried deep in the dragons' shared memories? No map exists to guide them, and the noble creatures find their ancient recollections of little use in a land changed by generations of flooding and seismic chaos. As the dragons, the humans-including the strong and defiant Rain Wild girl Thymara; the wealthy dragon scholar and Trader's wife, Alise; and her companion, the urbane Sedric-and their magical supply barge, captained by the gruff Leftrin, forge their way ever deeper into uncharted wilderness, human and beast alike discover they are changing in mysterious and dangerous ways. While the bonds between them solidify, starvation, flashfloods, and predators will imperil them all. But dragons and humans soon learn that the most savage threats come from within their own company . . . and not all of them may survive.

Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Andersons

Summary Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a new home on Hellhole. Reeling from a recent asteroid impact, tortured with horrific storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and churning volcanic eruptions, the planet is a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans; but also a haven for dreamers and independent pioneers. Against all odds, an exiled general named Adolphus has turned Hellhole into a place of real opportunity for the desperate colonists who call the planet their home. While the colonists are hard at work developing the planet, General Adolphus secretly builds alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds, forming a clandestine coalition against the tyrannical, fossilized government responsible for their exile. What no one knows is this: the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides an amazing secret. Deep beneath its surface lies the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization and the buried memories of its unrecorded past that, when unearthed, could tear the galaxy apart.

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington

Summary: AA sensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials ”the fair folk ”is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death. Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man? The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Summary: Condemned and shunned for black magic, Rachel Morgan has three days to get to the annual witches’ conference and clear her name, or be trapped in the demonic ever-after . . . forever after.

But a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car going across the country? Talk about a recipe for certain disaster, even without being the targets for assassination.

For after centuries of torment, a fearsome demon walks in the sunlight—freed at last to slay the innocent and devour their souls. But his ultimate goal is Rachel Morgan, and in the fight for survival that follows, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

Summary: Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief. But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect. The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while. Like a king.

Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent

Summary: While the Oprichniki's primary reason for journeying to Russia is to stop the French, one of them takes a different path. For he has a different agenda, he is to be the nightmare instrument of revenge on the Romanovs. Now the time has come: it is 1825.

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Summary: In the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy. Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, recreating in detail Blackwood's crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family - his wife and three children - will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer. As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is not a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.


Categories: New Books, Book Lists

Booklist’s Top Ten Science Fiction/Fantasy Books for Youth

Booklist magazine has published its 2010/2011 top ten Science Fiction and Fantasy titles for youth. Check these out:

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Summary: In the early twentieth century in Swampsea, seventeen-year-old Briony, who can see the spirits that haunt the marshes around their town, feels responsible for her twin sister's horrible injury until a young man enters their lives and exposes secrets that even Briony does not know about.

Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey

Summary: In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a New England scientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh.

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Summary: Twelve-year-old September's ordinary life in Omaha turns to adventure when a Green Wind takes her to Fairyland to retrieve a talisman the new and fickle Marquess wants from the enchanted woods.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Summary: After being kidnapped and barely escaping, sixteen-year-old Jack goes to London with his best friend Connor, where someone gives him a pair of glasses that send him to an alternate universe where war is raging, he is responsible for the survival of two younger boys, and Connor is trying to kill them all.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Summary The Capitol is angry that Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice, stirring unrest by having defied the rules, and President Snow has made it clear that she, her family and friends, and the people of District 12 may all be held accountable.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Summary: As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions, questioning all they have ever known as they try to step back from the darkness and find the best way to achieve peace.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Rigg has a secret ability to see the paths of others' pasts, but revelations after his father's death set him on a dangerous quest that brings new threats from those who would either control his destiny or kill him.

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

Summary: Wise-cracking djinni Bartimaeus finds himself at the court of King Solomon with an unpleasant master, a sinister servant, and King Solomon's magic ring.

Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi

Summary: In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley

Summary: From the age of seven when she became scullery maid in a castle, Molly has seen visions of the future which, years later, lead her and friend Tobias on an adventure to keep Alaric, the heir to the throne, safe from a curse.


Review: Battle Royale Ultimate Edition

Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition. Volume 1 by Koushun Takami.

May's Review: If you are fan of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, chances are you have already heard of Koushun Takami's Battle Royale, a dystopian-themed book that was originally published in 1999 and also deals with teenaged kids killing each other in a government-sponsored, gladiator-style competition. While a number of people have commented on the similarities between the two books, my review will focus solely on the manga adaption of Takami's book.

First of all, if you are even a bit squeamish about explicit violent acts and/or graphic depictions of sex, then this is not the manga for you. There is a reason why this series comes with a "parents advisory" warning label and let's just say, this story is not for the faint of heart. Within the first 100 pages in the first volume, there were already 3 deaths/murders along with a very unsettling panel depicting a rape scene. The story just comes at you like a sledgehammer with one violent encounter after another that you barely have time to process what is happening, let alone who to root for (note: there is at least 5-6 main characters in the story which gets kinda confusing sometimes because of the similarities in some of the kids' names).

Rather than be disgusted by what I was seeing and reading on the pages, I found myself drawn further into the story as the author and the illustrator carefully inserts mini-stories that examines some of these minor characters' lives before and during the competition. You cannot help but feel intrigued. One thing I noticed is that almost nobody in the story seems to have a happy life with loving parents or other family members. All the kids seem to be "running wild" and engaging in all sorts of criminal activities that was it any wonder that this class of students was picked to participate in Battle Royale?

This book is simply a gory and disturbing blood fest that is hard to put down. You simply want to read more just to learn what would turn your stomach and force you to put this book down. So far, I have finished volume 3 and it looks like I have a very strong stomach for these type of stories.

Here are the rest of the books in the ultimate series (combines the manga volumes in larger sets):

- Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition. Volume 2

- Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition. Volume 3

- Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition. Volume 4

- Battle Royale. Ultimate Edition. Volume 5


2010 Nebula Award Winner

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) handed out the 2010 Nebula awards to celebrate excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing this past weekend. The winner in the best novel category was:

Blackout by Connie Willis

Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

All Clear by Connie Willis

Summary: In the first novel, three Oxford historians from 2060 slipped back into the war-torn world of 1940 England. Sent to observe behavior of the period, the trio becomes convinced that they might have inadvertently re-steered present and future history on a very damaging new course. All Clear sounds an alarm that is anything but reassuring. Meanwhile, back in 2060, the historians' supervisor and one of his young students begin a corrective mission of their own.

Here is a list of other nominees in the novel category:

* The Native Star M.K. Hobson

* The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

* Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

* Echo by Jack McDevitt

* Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

For more information about winners in the other categories, click on the link.


Categories: Book Lists

Pt 2 SF Site's Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2010: Reader's Choice

Every year, the SF Site calls upon readers to nominate and vote on the best science fiction and fantasy books published in the previous year. Here is part 2 of the 2010 list:

6. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Summary: The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.

7. Blackout by Connie Willis

Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

8. (TIE) How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Summary: The narrator/main character of this ambitious inner space adventure is Charles Yu, a properly certified time travel technician who works, we are told, for the owner of this universe Time Warner Time. Yu shares his name, not coincidentally, with the author of this book, but his supporting characters are not quite so recognizable. They include, for instance, TAMMY, an operating system with disturbingly low self-esteem; a nonexistent dog named Ed; and a mother stuck forever in a one-hour time loop. Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.

8. (TIE) Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Summary: Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove - he's been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp - an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future - attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out. On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair.

Click here to read Jim's review of this book.

9. Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

Summary: Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.
When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

10. (TIE) Saltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Summary: Theo, star pilot wannabe and troubled misfit has been accepted, against all her expectations, to Anlingdin. It’s the Hogwarts of star piloting academies, and Theo has been selected to train there with the best-of-the-best. Even better – she can finally leave behind the gawky, misfit days of teenage angst her previous life so complicated before. Great Liaden star pilots are born with a bang and not a whimper–and Theo has set a course to graduate from misfit to genuine maverick.

10. (TIE) Changes by Jim Butcher

Summary: Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it. Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...He's fighting to save his child.


Review: Scourge of the Gods

Courtesy of the Graphic Novels blog

Scourge of the Gods, Volume 1 by Valerie Mangin

Scourge of the Gods: The Fall. Volume 2 by Valerie Mangin

May's Review: Both volumes are basically the graphic retelling of Attilla the Hun's military campaign against the Roman empire and its general, Flavius Aetius, set in alternate universe involving spaceships, planets and divine intervention. In volume 1, readers are introduced to the two main characters, Attila who is the brutal warlord who defies his peace-loving father by waging war against the Roman Galactic Empire, and Flavia Aetia, a young Roman girl who is supposedly the reincarnation of Kerka, the Hun Goddess of Chaos. Manipulated by Attila, Flavia innocently reveals the secret location of Rome and is forced to watch as her family and her home planet are destroyed by the rampaging Huns. Rather than wallow in pity and despair, Flavia fights back and sets off an internal power struggle between her faction and the Emperor's forces just as the Huns appear on their doorsteps.

Intelligent and complex, volume 1 is a terrific mix of mythology, history and politics wrapped up in a very engrossing and mesmerizing package. The central theme in the book is clearly the struggle between chaos and order but the underlying theme is the struggle between fate and destiny. In other words, either Rome has fallen before and will fall again or the future of Rome still uncertain even though there is good possibility that it could fall? Yes, I know that it's a very complex philosophical argument but the author does a terrific job of exploring it.

The fate vs destiny theme becomes even more crucial to the storyline in volume 2. Without giving too much of the story away, Flavia's and Attila's struggle against one another is pushed aside as the two of them are forced to join forces when a much larger enemy appears, namely the gods. As it turns out, what they deem as gods are really advanced humans who have manipulated science and technology to give themselves the ability to stop aging, create force fields, etc. As Flavia and Attila fight against Saturn and his fellow gods, the conflict now threatens to destroy the entire universe. The question then becomes, not who will ins but will there be any survivors left in this galactic conflict?

An excellent read for those who like their stories with plenty of action (some of it gory) mixed with lots of political backstabbing that features highly complex characters pondering weighty philosophical issues. Enjoy!


RPL Booksale


Stock up on your summer reading!

Saturday, April 30, 2011
10 am - 4 pm
George Bothwell Branch
Southland Mall

Hardcovers $1
Paperbacks 50¢
Spoken Word $1
Movies $1
DVDs/CDs $1

No taxes, GST exempt.

Save even more when you fill up a RPL bag for $10.

For more details, visit or call 777-6000.

Payment by cash or cheque only.


Categories: Book Lists

SF Site's Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2010: Reader's Choice

Every year, the SF Site calls upon readers to nominate and vote on the best science fiction and fantasy books published in the previous year. Here is part 1 of the 2010 list:

1. The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Summary: A terrorist bomb sets off a chain of events that, over the next five days, entangles the lives of six characters. McDonald brilliantly imagines a world in which the ultramodern exists side-by-side with the ancient, and he blends science and mysticism to embody the contradiction that is Istanbul in 2027.

2. Kraken by China Miéville

Summary: In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air. As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now.

3. Under Heavenby Guy Gavriel Kay

Summary: Haunted by the ghosts of fallen warriors, Shen Tai is forced into the political machinations of the Emperor’s court when he receives a rare and valuable gift. Lyrical language and complex characterization draw readers into this elaborately unfolding epic set in a fantasy world that richly re-imagines 8th century Tang Dynasty China.

4. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

Summary: Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

5. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Summary: Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy - from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts, to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars. Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons - the Dilemma Prison - against countless copies of himself.


Categories: Author News & Events

Diana Wynne Jones (1934 – 2011)

Fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones died over the weekend at the age of 76. She published over forty books, including Howl’s Moving Castle.

Born August 16, 1934 in London, Jones started her writing career as a playwright. Shifting her focus to fantasy, Jones wrote a number of books by which many of them were intended for children and young adults. She won the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2007, and her books won Mythopoeic Awards in 1996 and 1999.

For more information about Jones, check out her Wikipedia entry.

To find books written by Jones, click on this link to take you to the library's catalog.

Categories: New Books

New Sci-Fi/Fantasy Paperbacks

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Summary: The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.

Grail by Elizabeth Bear

Summary: At last the generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has arrived at its destination: the planet they have come to call Grail. But this habitable jewel just happens to be populated already: by humans who call their home Fortune. And they are wary of sharing Fortune—especially with people who have genetically engineered themselves to such an extent that it is a matter of debate whether they are even human anymore. To make matters worse, a shocking murder aboard the Jacob’s Ladder has alerted Captain Perceval and the angel Nova that formidable enemies remain hidden somewhere among the crew.

King's Justice by Maurice Broaddus

Summary: Guided by the crazed visions of his advisor Merle, King knows that he must unite the opposing factions, before the streets erupt in all-out war. But how can he preach peace when even his own warriors are plotting against him?

The Trade of Queens by Charles Stross

Summary: A dissident faction of the Clan, the alternate universe group of families that has traded covertly with our world for a century or more, have carried nuclear devices between the worlds and exploded them in Washington, DC, killing the President of the United States. Now they will exterminate the rest of the Clan and keep Miriam alive only long enough to bear her child, the heir to the throne of their land in the Gruinmarkt world.

Blackout by Rob Thurman

Summary: Half-human Cal Leandros has always walked a bloody line between keeping his mortal soul free and clear (sort of) and unleashing the horror of his otherworldly heritage. The one thing that’s always saved him is the memory of his brother, Niko, his friends, and those he loves. Until now...

Mighty Fortress by David Weber

Summary: Young Cayleb Ahrmahk has accomplished things few people could even dream of. Not yet even thirty years old, he’s won the most crushing naval victories in human history. He’s smashed a hostile alliance of no less than five princedoms and won the hand of the beautiful young Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm. Cayleb and Sharleyan have created the Charisian Empire, the greatest naval power in the history of Safehold, and they’ve turned Charis into a place of refuge for all who treasure freedom. However, their success may prove short-lived...


Categories: Author News & Events

RPL's New Writer in Residence for 2011-2012

For those of you who missed the announcement a couple of weeks back (cause obviously we sort of did), Regina Public Library announced that Regina author Edward Willett will be its writer-in-residence for the 2011-2012 season, beginning on September 1, 2011 until May 31, 2012.

As writer-in-residence, Willett will be available for consultation with local writers looking for guidance on personal writing projects. He will also conduct public readings and workshops focused on serving and supporting the writing community in Regina.

Willett is the author of more than 40 non-fiction and fiction books, including Marseguro which won the Aurora Award for Best Canadian Science Fiction Novel in 2009.


Categories: Award Winners

2011 Fantasy Reading List Winner

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) announced the winners of its annual Reading List awards in several categories, including fantasy, for books published in 2010.


Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Summary: Haunted by the ghosts of fallen warriors, Shen Tai is forced into the political machinations of the Emperor’s court when he receives a rare and valuable gift. Lyrical language and complex characterization draw readers into this elaborately unfolding epic set in a fantasy world that richly re-imagines 8th century Tang Dynasty China.

Click on link to read Jim's Review of the book.


Black Ships by Jo Graham

Summary: The daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, Gull was chosen to become the voice of the Lady of the Dead and counsel kings. But when nine black ships appear, captained by exiled Prince Aeneas, she joins him as his guide and leads him to his destiny.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden

Summary: He was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating across the rugged steppe. Temujin’s young life was shaped by a series of brutal acts: the betrayal of his father by a neighboring tribe and the abandonment of his entire family, cruelly left to die on the harsh plain. But Temujin endured—and from that moment on, he was driven by a singular fury: to survive in the face of death, to kill before being killed, and to conquer enemies who could come without warning from beyond the horizon.

The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre

Summary: Tell the story of Marie-Josèphe, a young lady in the court of Louis XIV. When her brother Yves returns from a naturalist voyage with two sea monsters (one live, one dead), Marie-Josèphe is caught up in a battle of wills involving the fate of the living creature. The king intends to test whether the sea monster holds the secrets of immortality, but Marie-Josèphe knows the creature to be an intelligent, lonely being who yearns only to be set free. In a monumental test of the limits of patience and love, Marie-Josèphe defies the will of the king, her brother, and the pope in defense of what she knows is right, at any cost.


Categories: Award Winners

2011 Science-Fiction Reading List Winner

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) announced the winners of its annual Reading List awards in several categories, including science fiction, for books published last year.


The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Summary: A terrorist bomb sets off a chain of events that, over the next five days, entangles the lives of six characters. McDonald brilliantly imagines a world in which the ultramodern exists side-by-side with the ancient, and he blends science and mysticism to embody the contradiction that is Istanbul in 2027.


Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Summary: Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected. Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

Summary: In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audran has kept his independence the hard way. Still, like everything else in the Budayeen, he's available....for a price. For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audran has been made an offer he can't refuse. The two hundred-year-old godfather of the Budayeen's underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Summary: What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? And what happens when said bio-terrorism forces humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution?

Click here to read Jim's Review of Windup Girl.


Classic sci-fi gets graphic novel treatment

Courtesy of the Graphic Novels blog.

Ender's Game - Battle School
I enjoyed this for many reasons, nostalgia being one and for the simple reason Ender's Game is one of my favorite novels of all time (if you haven't read it, I would highly recommend that you do). This is a decent adaptation, but woefully abridged from the source material. There's so much left out it's only made me want to go back and re-read the novel.

The growing trend to adapt classic novels into this format is one I'm on board with -- it's like waiting for my favorite books to get made into movies. And like film adaptations, sometimes the graphic novel format works, and sometimes it doesn't. It works here ... to a point. For me though, there's just too much good stuff left out for it to really work -- especially for those who have not read the novel. It's those readers who will be short-changed the most.

Ender's Game - Command School
This is an okay adaptation, but leaves way too much out for my liking. You get all the spoilers with none of the richness, complexity and reward that comes with the unabridged novel. This adaptation will rob of you of that experience and ruin the novel, so if you haven't, do yourself a huge favor and please read the book first. The illustrations are a little too simplistic for my taste, and just don't adequately capture the conflicting emotions or white-knuckled tension.


Categories: Book Lists

Freedom to Read Week 2011

Freedom to Read week runs from February 20-26 this year. Celebrate your freedom to read by enjoying one or more of these novels and their themes of freedom or control of information.

After by Francine Prose
The shootings in Pleasant Valley were fifty miles away, but at Central High a grief and crisis counselor is hired, security is increased, and privileges are being taken away. If you break the new rules the punishment is severe, and the rules keep changing every day. Students and teachers begin disappearing. If you trade your freedom for safety, how safe are you?

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
What makes the Evil Librarians so evil? They control what information people get to know, keeping secrets and spreading lies as part of a massive conspiracy to take over the world!
The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
Maya Andreyeva is a journalist who works as her own camera, after getting sensory and telecommunications equipment implanted in her brain. Whatever she sees is broadcast for a major news network.
Matched by Ally Condie
Like everyone in the Society, Cassia is forced to listen to the same 100 authorized songs, read the same 100 poems and books, and appreciate the same 100 paintings. She has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her including what to eat and to whom she should marry. But what happens when a mistake is made and Cassia starts questioning what it means to be creative? Will she accept her "official" match or will she refuse to "go gently into the good night" by exploring a relationship with someone else?
The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman
Mikk of Vyzania mastered the Somalite song dance, then is prohibited from performing it. The penalty would be death, unless he finds some way to change the law.
The Truth by Terry Pratchett
William de Worde is the accidental editor of the Discworld's first newspaper. Now he must cope with the traditional perils of a journalist's life -- people who want him dead, a recovering vampire with a suicidal fascination for flash photography, some more people who want him dead in a different way and, worst of all, the man who keeps begging him to publish pictures of his humorously shaped potatoes.
Whole Wide World by Paul J. McAuley
Omnipresent surveillance cameras are all connected to an artificial intelligence system. The Internet is patrolled by zealous Censors. Welcome to London, in the aftermath of the Infowar, where people might do anything to control information, and Sophie Booth's murder was just broadcast over the Internet for everyone to see.


Categories: Book Lists

LJ's Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2010

Not to be outdone, Library Journal (LJ) released its best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2010:

Elfsorrow by James Barclay

LJ's Verdict: The mercenaries of the Raven journey to the heart of the elven continent of Calaius to save the land from dying in a superbly visualized fantasy adventure reminiscent of Glen Cook's classic Black Company tales.

Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey

LJ's Verdict: Devotion and sacrifice are the twin keys that will save Pern from a plague that is killing the dragons necessary to combat the deadly space-born spore that falls from the sky. The son of sf Grand Master Anne McCaffrey continues the beloved world created by his mother.

Kraken by China Miéville

LJ's Verdict: Museum curator Billy Harrow tracks the preserved corpse of a giant squid through a London populated by cultists, paranormal investigators, and supernatural scoundrels. Brilliant storytelling and doses of eccentric humor and eerily compelling horror call to mind the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells.

Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton

LJ's Verdict: Conspiracy and murder threaten the grand city of Villjamur as an ice age's approach brings throngs of refugees to civilization's heart. Newton's outstanding fantasy series debut is filled with splendid imagery and compelling dramatic conflicts.

And Falling, Fly by by Skyler White

LJ's Verdict: A neuroscientist seeking to cure his memories of past lives meets a fallen angel of desire in an underground asylum. One of the year's most unusual blends of supernatural fiction and urban fantasy.


Review: The Fall

Courtesy of the Horror Blog.

The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

May's Review: In the follow-up sequel to Del Toro's and Hogan's The Strain, The Fall chronicles the aftermath of the vampiric infection as nations slowly crumble and the Master sets his nefarious plans for world domination into motion. Amid this backdrop of suspended disbelief and gradual decay, our heroes led by vampire hunter Blade tries...Whoops! Sorry, wrong hero. What I means to say is that our heroes led by vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian and his band of followers, including former CDC member Eph Goodweather and exterminator Vasiliy Fet, struggle to save mankind only to find themselves drawn into a deadly war between two deadly vampire factions.

What I like about sequels is that the reader doesn't have to wait around for the main characters to catch up. None of this, "I wonder why my supposedly dead husband is now walking around and seems to be fixated on my neck" business. Instead, the reader is plunged right into the storyline that is filled with break-neck action sequences and plenty of suspense. The interludes are probably my favorite portions of the book because they reveal more of Setrakian's character, especially his all-consuming drive to kill the Master. I particularly liked Vasiliy's character in this book, especially when he reveals his hidden heritage and why he is helping Setrakian.

Overall this is a good vampire book with some moderate scare scenes. Enough to make me want to read the third and final book in the series which should be coming out this month.


Spin by Robert Charles Wilson


by Robert Charles Wilson

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives (Product Description)

The best way to come at this novel is completely blind, not knowing a thing of what it’s about. My complaint about most movies these days is that too much is revealed in the trailers, so much so that the movie in its entirety is often a disappointment. For Spin to really work its magic on you the less you know the better. If you’re not expecting it, the awesome plot and the ramifications for the characters involved will hit you like a jack-hammer to the solar plexus. The good news is, if you read up on the book and know a fair amount before you begin, the intricate story and how it unfolds will still impress you, and engage you to the last page.

At its core Spin is a very science driven story, but it isn't overly burdened by scientific jargon and dense explanations. The scenario is easy to grasp, seemingly plausible (ergo endlessly frightening and exciting). Wilson is a talented writer and his tale is well told, and he doesn’t sacrifice his characters to plot – the way some big budget movies will sacrifice story and characters to special effects. Ty, Diane and Jase are believable, likable, flawed characters, richly drawn. You live through the Spin with them and hold your breath wondering how it’s all going to end. Theirs is a story of friendship, and the bonds that bring us together as children, and keep us together as adults, even when the world is falling apart and the miles and years pile up around you.

For fans of apocalyptic / dystopian books, this is a must read. It’s not only a human survival story, but bravely, with keen insight, explores rich philosophical terrain regarding Earth’s place in a larger unknowable Universe. Are we alone? And if we are not, who is keeping us company and to what purpose? There’s not much more I can say, without giving salient plot points away, and I don’t want to get anywhere close to doing that. Remember, the less you know the better. Take a chance and pick up this book as blind as you can –- I promise you won’t regret it.


Categories: Book Lists

PW's Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2010

A couple of months back, Publisher Weekly magazine released its annual list of the Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels of 2010. Here is their picks:

The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum

PW's Verdict: Deadly power games play out in haunted royal palaces, streets thronged with sex workers and political protesters, and sewers inhabited by seductive, amoral vampires.

Feed by Mira Grant

PW's Verdict: Grant (a pseudonym for urban fantasist Seanan McGuire) hits hard in a brutal tale of three bloggers following a Republican presidential candidate through the zombie-infested Midwest.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

PW's Verdict: These searing novels relate the struggles of ordinary people caught up in the machinations of gods at a time of global change when faith, power structures, and the fabric of reality have been called into question.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

PW's Verdict: Young adult author Okorafor makes a blazing entrance onto the adult fiction scene with a story of love, pain, magic, and genocide in postapocalyptic Saharan Africa. Readers will be enthralled by troubled, fierce adolescent Onyesonwu and her quest to find and destroy the sorcerer who fathered her.


Review: Labyrinth


Labyrinth by Kat Richardson

Plot Summary: Harper Blaine was your average small-time P. I. until she died-for two minutes. Now she's a Greywalker, walking the line between the living world and the paranormal realm. There are others who know about her new powers-others with powerful tools and evil intentions, and now that the man who "killed" her has been murdered, the police are also paying close attention. That means Harper has to watch her step while searching for the ghost of her "killer"-who could be a valuable clue in the puzzle of Harper's past and her father's death, as well as a key to figuring out who's trying to manipulate her new powers and why. But with her growing powers pulling her into the Grey, Harper might not be able to come back out.

Jim’s Review: In Labyrinth, Harper is coming fully into her power, is most in danger of losing her humanity, and this second factor leaves her most in danger of losing the reader’s interest. Harper is the central viewpoint character; when she has trouble maintaining her humanity and her relationships, I stop being able to relate to her and care that much less about what happens. As part of the Greywalker series, this book ties up some loose ends, moves the plot forward, shows more of the setting and foreshadows some really exciting events. As a stand-alone novel, this is an action-packed book that’s hard to engage with. I look forward to the next novel in the series, and hope Harper begins getting her humanity back.

You might enjoy this book if you enjoyed:
Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk
Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy
Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman
Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready


Reckless by Cornelia Funke
(note: this link takes you to the downloadable audiobook. Click here if you want a PRINT COPY instead.)

Summary: For years, Jacob Reckless has enjoyed the Mirrorworld’s secrets and treasures. Not anymore. His younger brother has followed him. Now dark magic will turn the boy to beast, break the heart of the girl he loves, and destroy everything Jacob holds most dear...Unless he can find a way to stop it.

May's Review: One of my all-time favorite audiobooks was Funke's Dragon Rider so I was pretty excited to download this author's latest fantasy novel from our Overdrive website. Unlike Dragon Rider which is suitable for younger audiences, Reckless is definitely geared towards an adult audience. Like many re-tellings of fairy tales, this book also explores the darker and more violent themes inherent in some of our favorite and more popular tales.

Despite the "darkness", Reckless was a fairly good story with good pacing and several unexpected twists. While I enjoyed listening to this book, I didn't love it. I think it was partly due to the fact that some of her characters such as Will (Jacob's brother), were never really fully developed so it felt somewhat "clunky" at times. Although I appreciated the not so "happy ever after" ending, I still felt a lot of issues were left up in the air. I'm hoping the sequel will answer some of these questions but until then, this is a decent read to recommend to those who are into re-tellings of fairy tales.