Tough Travels – Flying Rides

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is FLYING RIDES

Because honestly?  Horses just got boring.  (Thanks to author Anne Leonard for the suggestion).

I have never been more proud of one of my topic blurbs to be perfectly honest.  Let us see what I can come up with this week.

Edit: Not sure what happened to the link up this morning but it is working now!

Magic Carpets!

DeadfallGuant and Bone by Chris Willrich – Hi there! I know what you are thinking, Magic Carpets! SO COOL. And you are thinking that cool rug from Aladdin who acts like a loyal pet. And now you are looking up gifs of said magic carpet and not paying any attention to me. I know it is so damn cute! It’s OK. I will wait.

You back? Great. Because this is not that carpet. This is the carpet with a homicidal personality that has no issue rolling up a person tightly until all the air is gone. Not quite as cute is it? But he is perversely loyal in his own way. And damn it, he is trying to be a better person carpet.   And he flies and people ride him. Therefore I win Tough Travels again. (It is good to be the sole arbiter of such things, ya know?). This series also involved a few balloons so it could have made the list several ways.

Non sentient magic carpet Jingo by Terry Pratchett – Since we are already on the subject of magical carpets I may as well mention one that didn’t get much screen time but provided one good joke. And yes I shall give away the punchline without providing the set up because I suck like that. Remember, always make sure your magic carpet is right side up.

Dragons!

All the (Dragons in the) Weyrs of PernPern by Anne McCaffrey – The single example that should be on every single list this week. The series that got me into speculative fiction, and it is completely filled with people riding dragons. There is not much else to say about this really…

Temeraire His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik- Oh ya, there is another series that is known for riding dragons. But instead of one person per dragon the fighting ships that Temeraire represents act like a battleship, complete with a full crew. Also likey to show on a lot of lists this week, I am getting to be something of a prophet.

Gyrocopters!

GyrocoptersWarcraft – Gnomish flying machines first seen in Warcraft 2 I believe. And I wanted to add them so I did.

Join us next week as we look at NEW BEGINNINGS

A new leaf, a new life, a complete change of pace for a character in fantasyland is how most stories start.  Bad people get a second chance, farm kids leave the farm, or a soldier gets a new post.  From there adventure awaits!

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.  For a list of upcoming topics just keep heading back to this post.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Advertisements

Thriller Review: ‘The Gods of Laki’ by Chris Angus

The Gods of Laki: A ThrillerI read a lot of Michael Crichton in high school. Like, all of it. And for fifteen(plus) years since then I have tried to find books like what he writes. Sci-fi thrillers that are actually worth a damn. Those where people are either screwing with science they shouldn’t or perhaps where mother nature is screwing with them. What I usually find instead are trite monstrosities where the lead male meets a hot girl, goes on an adventure that doesn’t even make sense, then saves the hot girl from a rape where she falls in love with him. It is a tired formula but seems to be bestseller gold.

The Gods of Laki is better than most of the wannabe thrillers I just alluded too. It has a small fantasy element that sets it apart from its sci-fi brethren but firmly fits into the thriller group. And I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is not the next coming of Jurassic Park by any means, but an enjoyable romp with a pretty cool premise.

In it a former member of the secret service takes a job that sends him to Iceland to guard a woman studying the volcanic activity. He is uniquely suited for this because geology happens to be what he left the service for. The volcanic activity of Laki is drawing a lot of interest though and through this tale we will be watching how it has drawn in a diverse group over time; 9th century Vikings, the Germans in World War II, and now various special interests with very different goals. The protagonist will join this conveniently gorgeous woman in stopping plans that have worldwide implications.

What else can we expect, right?

Some of the familiar traps that thrillers fall into are unfortunately present. Know why Elle in Jurassic Park has proven so much more memorable in the movie version than she was in the book? She wasn’t sexualized. She didn’t fall into the ‘same as every other book trap’ and thus stood out. (At least this is my humble opinion). In The Gods of Laki I have already forgotten the lead woman’s motivation. Despite being a huge part of the plot it was never her story. There was also a sexual assault story line on a different character that took up a decent amount of space seemingly only to drop a single important detail about a bad man’s plot.

What the book had going for it was a decent pace (a must for a thriller), some actual twists (including a duel villain thing that kept everything more interesting) and a genuinely different premise.

What else can I really say about the book? I don’t do thrillers enough to give them the respect they deserve but this one seems to fall into the better side of ‘run of the mill.’ I don’t think anything is fantastic, and while the premise is unique the execution feels very familiar. On the other hand it doesn’t actively insult me like some of the best sellers I tried have recently. And I like the slight fantasy influence.

Plus it has a fabulous cover, one of my favorites this year.

3 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

Tough Travels – Middle Aged Hero

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is MIDDLE AGED HEROES

This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game.  And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved.  It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.

I admit it.  I came up with this topic basically assuming it would be nothing but Lois McMaster Bujold characters.  Because she truly excels at doing stuff a little different.  Sure Miles is the exception to the rule here, and he is probably the best known of her characters, but I won’t let that keep me down.

Requisite Pratchett ReferenceSamuel and Sybil Vimes – A truly one of a kind relationship in fantasyland.  A middle aged man meets a middle aged woman.  Neither are hot catches beating off suitors with a stick despite one having a small amount of power and the other holding a whole lot of money.  Sybil sits in the background quite a bit but by The Fifth Elephant is quite capable of holding her own; I do wish she had been given the chance to take the lead in a book at some point.  And Vimes is arguably author’s best know and most popular character.

So why does everyone have to be so young in fantasyland?

Bujold Example #1 Cordelia and Aral– The Vorkosigan Saga is taken over by Miles, no doubt.  But it all starts with two middle aged people meeting on a strange planet.  Enemies with grudging respect it isn’t love at first sight but some things are meant to be. Two characters fully capable of carrying a novel, neither taking a back seat to the other.

Bujold Example #2Lupe dy Cazaril – Seeing how I am in my mid thirties it pains me to call him middle aged but Caz did have some time as a galley slave to age him a bit more. Sadly he breaks my middle aged people getting together streak as his love interest in The Curse of Chalion is quite a bit younger but his story is no less interesting.

Bujold Example #3 – ItsaOh crud.  Still have not read Paladin of Souls.  Really need to get on that. But Itsa counts!

Join us next week as we look at FLYING RIDES

Because honestly?  Horses just got boring.  (Thanks to author Anne Leonard for the suggestion).

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.  For a list of upcoming topics just keep heading back to this post.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Review: ‘Last First Snow’ by Max Gladstone

Have you started reading the Craft Sequence yet? Because if not you are now four books Last First Snow (Craft Sequence #4)behind in what is probably the best series running under the speculative fiction label. I come to this conclusion slowly. I have not personally five starred any of the previous outings despite finding them all highly enjoyable. And here is a spoiler for you; I will be giving Last First Snow four stars instead of five at the end of the review.

Because what we have here is a series that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is high praise because each outing of this series has been unique and wonderful, brimming with a creative setting unlike any other and dealing with a cast of characters that hasn’t disappointed throughout. The design and outlining that has gone into crafting (bad pun) this series to date is nothing short of exceptional. Because while up to now we have seen plenty of overlapping the first three books we complete standalones in a timeline we could only guess at. With Last First Snow it is all coming together AND continuing to operate as a complete stand alone.

For the first time the main protagonists are people we have spent serious time with before though neither were the main characters in their previous appearance. A craft lawyer (aka magical necromancer who operates within some rules) and a former priest of now dead gods find their paths crossed during land negotiations. That’s right, negotiations over land. That is what this book is about. Except of course, it is so much more. Because it is a battle of classes, a battle of gods, a fight about tradition (which means live sacrifice) and of course—a battle of law. When lawyers can toss magical shields, priests can take a hands on approach to violence, and a skeleton represents the ruling class anything can happen.

What makes this book great is the same thing that has powered the three previous entries. It is fast paced and unique. It makes seemingly mundane details matter; particularly when the very base of the story involves a common land dispute. When the fantasy aspects really start to show their face they turn things up to eleven. And the strength of the characters is second to none. This is a world without villains but full of people to love and hate. Everyone has motivations that are understandable; some selfish and some less so but all very human.

But what makes this a great series is the way everything is starting to come together. It is no secret that the chronology of this series is represented by the numbers in the title. With this forth book being the first some questions are being answered. Questions I didn’t know I had. Characters are fleshed out, the land’s history is becoming clearer, even the nature of the craft that we have seen used since the beginning is becoming more clear. Context we didn’t need yet craved is being provided book but increasingly good book.

This may be the best book of the series. It may not, I seem to be saying that after each new outing. Certainly my own opinion is suspect because I am a sucker for books that hint at class warfare. And let’s give some credit for have a likeable character involved in human sacrifice (something I have only seen in Aliette de Bodard’s historical fantasy series before). Not that I am a propionate of human sacrifice but it adds an interesting dynamic in this case.

I ask again. Are you reading the Craft Sequence? Because if it isn’t obvious, I think you should be.

4 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

Tough Travels – Extreme Climates

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is EXTREME CLIMATES

Perhaps the hansom prince lives in a castle surrounded by green countryside and sunny days.  The rest of the land is forced to deal with freezing cold, searing heat, and every other extreme climate mother nature can throw at you.

So.  Um.  Didn’t make a list this week.  Don’t act surprised. 

Here you go, a sixty second list.

Hoth from Star Wars.

Whatever the land in The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke is (vast desert kept alive by water wizards; seriously you need to read this book).

Oh guys, guys!  There is a squirrel out my window!  It is so damn cute!

Darn.  Time is up.

Join us next week as we look at MIDDLE AGE HEROES

This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game.  And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved.  It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.  For a list of upcoming topics just keep heading back to this post.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Fantasy Review: ‘The Chart of Tomorrows’ by Chris Willrich

The Chart of Tomorrows (Gaunt and Bone #3)I am not sure if the Gaunt and Bone series, now on book three, is literary fantasy or just cleverly designed to look like it is. Personally I enjoyed the complete perspective changes used when switching point of view such as Mad Katta’s thoughts only seen through a journal while other characters are seen in a more traditional third person view. Flashbacks coming in story form takes away some of the awkwardness simply by realizing that if it is going to stand out then it is better that it is meant to. And the prose started of strong and has not slacked.

And while I have been mesmerized by a unique style I have also just enjoyed my reading experience thus far. Because I have characters to root for, not because they are wonderful humans but because even in this land of strange and noteworthy most of them have very a very human feel. Wants, desires, loyalties are something universal, as are lusts, irrational hatreds, and greed. All things that make even the villains worth reading about (though villain is hard word to justify seeing how in Chart of Tomorrows several of the ‘heroes’ end up on opposite sides of the brewing fight).

By suggesting that the Gaunt and Bone series could be literary in nature it would not be a stretch if one were to guess the series borders on the ‘weird’ side; new weird seems to attract a authors with the ability to turn a phrase and track insane little details. Chart of Tomorrows doesn’t disappoint on that end. It continues with a unique time moving trick that allows some characters to grow dramatically between books while others have only seen a year or two go by (tracking time is not my strong point). It has trolls, people switched with trolls at birth, and a heart hidden away from a body. And if you have stuck with the series you already know about Bone’s unique condition, the hidden world in a scroll (used to great effect this time around), and the magic carpet with major identity issues.

Here is the thing though. Despite the fact that the page count keeps getting inflated, book by book, I am not all that positive that somewhere along the line the author didn’t pull a fast one on me. The dense language and nonlinear plotting doesn’t make the series an easy read but I think I am a fairly intelligent reader and somewhere along the way I realized I wasn’t that sure what the hell is going on. Two children we have watched grow became the center of something earth shaking. Why was their path inevitable? I also have no idea what a few of the characters added outside of lengthy passages that left me cold. Too many characters played small parts without really seeming important enough to warrant their page time; it is the author’s story to tell but I missed the shorter and (slightly) more focused style of the first book.

If I could level one more small complaint it feels like we got a bit heavy handed with the anachronistic social issues. I am not, and I want this clear, complaining that the book featured societies accepting of things like gender fluidity. I applaud that a character can choose to be genderless without the book dissolving into medieval persecution. But the way it is handled, particularly in dialog as people not familiar with the concept come to terms with it, feel very twenty first century. I felt the that supporting text explaining things took away from the impact that just letting the character clearly be seen could have had.

Still, there is something about the whimsical nature that Willrich has laced this series with and that something has held from book one to three. While the weird vibe allows for a world where it seems anything can happen nothing ever feels like there isn’t an explanation for it somewhere. Not, mind you, an explanation the author feels he has to tell the reader each and every time. Rather there is a feeling that there are some rules this strange and wonderful world lives by; be it genie powered balloons or time shifting or carpets with homicidal tendencies.

Is this the final book in the series? I honestly don’t know though it reads like it could be. If so I will consider the series quite a success. It did something different, borrowed from earth and various cultures without ever converting to stereotypes or clichés. It mixed and matched cultures, creatures, and ideas and came out completely unique. While overall I don’t feel the final book was the best representative of the series it did end with a lot of excitement. And to bring things full circle I think literary fantasy is a perfectly apt description of this mostly indescribable series.

3 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

Tough Traveling with T. Frohock – Otherworldly Creatures

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is OTHERWORLDLY CREATURES

Creatures not of our world or even our plain of existence, perhaps living in another dimension. Preferably, though not required, with tentacles.

In kind of a strange fate of fortune I messed up what topic was supposed to be up this week and yet it seems to be working out in my favor.  Because I have a special guest post from the wonderful T. Frohock that was supposed to be Angels and Demons.  Which, by luck, are otherworldly creatures.

So please enjoy this very special guest post and PLEASE check out her works.

Angels and demons aren’t new to fiction. Milton and Dante were exploring these supernatural creatures long before urban fantasy took them over. When I designed the mythology for Los Nefilim, I wanted to do something completely different.

Most people consider angels to be benevolent creatures, but when I read the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, I realized that the angels were more like a different species—something alien, from another planet or sphere. The Book of Enoch is like a travelogue through Heaven with the angels trying to simultaneously strike awe and fear into the dreaming man. Enoch went into great detail about the different levels of heaven, and even the Kabbalah speaks of connecting realms. I started to wonder what would happen if the angels had come from a different realm and invading our reality, and who or what could possibly oppose them.

In Christianity, demons were considered to be fallen angels. Yet other cultures had stories of demons, which were different creatures. So as I examined the various names and spellings for demons, I came across the word daimon, which is a variant of daemon, and is Greek for lesser gods. Daimon didn’t immediately conjure the fallen angels to my mind the same way the word demon did.

In my Los Nefilim series, I made the daimons of my world the old earth gods. They were here first and enjoyed control over the mortals until the angels came. The angels in the world of Los Nefilim are actually invaders, and the daimons fight them.

So with that bit of twisted mythology in mind, I present to you books with demons and angels that either warped the mythology around angels and demons, or put a slightly different spin the theme. All of these books are well worth your while:

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman: Thomas is a disgraced knight, who is Between Two Firesroaming the land with a band of rogues, when he saves a young girl from certain death. The girl is from a family with Cather leanings. Buehlman skillfully handles the merging of the supernatural realms with the natural world to create an enthralling historical fantasy.

God’s Demon by Wayne Barlowe: Probably one of my favorite books that deals with demons. Barlowe sticks strictly with the Catholic version of Hell, but in spite of this, he creates memorable characters and situations. One demon is looking to return to Heaven and finds his redemption through a war in Hell.

About the Author

T . Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. Her other publications include everything from novelettes to short stories. She is also the author of the novel, Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is coming from Harper Voyager Impulse and debuts in June 2015 with the novella, In Midnight’s Silence. T. lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.  She has a website and can be found on Twitter.

About In Midnight’s Silence

In Midnight's Silence (Los Nefilim #1)The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind …

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes.  Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war.  The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s IN MIDNIGHT’S SILENCE shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

Find the book on Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Kobo/Apple

Join us next week as we look at EXTREME CLIMATES

Perhaps the hansom prince lives in a castle surrounded by green countryside and sunny days.  The rest of the land is forced to deal with freezing cold, searing heat, and every other extreme climate mother nature can throw at you.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.  For a list of upcoming topics just keep heading back to this post.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!