Book reviews

Abe Gross argross at bigpond.net.au
Sun May 11 04:25:57 EDT 2003


Jennifer wrote:

> Death of a Necromancer, Martha Wells
> Several people here have recommended Wells, which finally got me to put it
> in an order, and her others are now firmly on the to-read list.
> This seems a really... dense... book to me- a lot of stuff in there. It
> didn't feel over-crammed, though. The setting is a 19th century European
> city (with magic), so the feel matches well- it seems a bit like a
> 19th-century novel, lots of incident and complications. I suspect it will
> stand up very well to rereading, there will always be more to find.
> The background works really well. Is there a genre "historical urban
> fantasy"? (I suppose it's like fantasy steampunk.) If not, then there
ought
> to be, because I've read several very good examples recently. It's a
clever
> way of getting the sense of distance and discovery of a foreign/past
> setting, with some of the reality and grubbiness of city life. I think
this
> one is nicely done.
> I liked the characters (I'd love to have read the whole thing from
> Madeline's POV, or Ronsard's, or Isham's- fascinating story there) and the
> magic. The bits of backstory made me want to know more, the baddie is very
> nasty but thoroughly believable in context and nicely difficult to find,
the
> ending wound it up satisfyingly without being too neat.

I also read this after people here had recommended it, and I was delighted
with it. Intriguing setting, vivid characters. I agree about the
denseness--lots of things to explore.

I've just recently read another one by Wells, _The Element of Fire_. After
what was a shaky beginning for me, when I felt confused by nd not
sufficiently interested in all the many characters and political
machinations, it soon became an un-put-downable read for me. I ended up
liking it even better than _Necromancer_. Thomas and Kade are such engaging
characters.  It's obviously in the same world as _Necromancer_, but I'm not
sure how the two books relate in terms of  time-line in that world.

I'm definitely going to read her other books...

Ros


>
> Family Bites, Lisa Williams
> This one will be difficult to find if I manage to convince anyone to try
it-
> it's a first book, and the publishers aren't promoting it very much.
> Amazon.co.uk has it, and shops will order it in.
> I found out about it because it was written by an alt.fan.pratchett
regular,
> and several people on the group tried it and really liked it (One of them
> set up a website for it, www.bleurgh.net/fhall).
> Right, enough about why I'm talking about an author nobody has heard of,
> something about the actual *book*. It's comic fantasy. A family of
> werewolves has lived in harmony with the local village for a long time,
and
> they are pleased when a new family moves in at the big house. It's a bit
odd
> they won't come round for tea until after sunset, but they seem nice
enough.
> Then people start being attacked...
> I found this funny and nicely written, which made a change from some
"comic
> fantasy" I've tried. The author's style is light and colloquial, very
> readable. I read this just after the Wells book, and it seemed almost
fluffy
> in comparison (despite a few murders). On looking back on it, I think that
> isn't quite fair, and most of the bits that have stuck in my memory are
the
> more serious passages. The characters are worth spending time with. There
> are a lot of nice touches and bits of description. Not the best book I've
> read this year (well, how could it be, Merlin came out!), but this is fun,
a
> very good first book, and I'll certainly read Williams's next one. Well
> worth a go if you like Pratchett, Holt, or vampire books.
> Warning of sorts: This has a lot of sex; the young protagonists have, um,
> healthy appetites. Luckily (at least I think so) it happens off-screen.
>
> The Tomorrow Log, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
> Mutter grumble, didn't mention anywhere it wasn't stand-alone, now I have
to
> wait for a sequel.
> My reviewing muscles are tired... This is a good Lee & Miller book. A very
> successful thief is contacted by someone claiming that the Ship needs him.
> But the Captain threw him out when he was a boy and he sees no reason to
> help the crew now. Adventures ensue.  The settings are well done. There
were
> a couple of nice- not twists, but plot developments that surprised me. If
> you like intelligent space opera, try it. (The pair-everyone-off tendency
> that I found a bit strong in the last couple of Korval books has been much
> pruned here.)
>
> I was going to do a few more but this has taken quite a long time; the
> others I got were
> The Far-Enough Window, John Grant
> John Grant is aka Paul Barnett, who co-edited the Encyclopaedia of
Fantasy.
> He also writes for Infinity Plus, where the first couple of chapters of
The
> Far-Enough Window are hosted.
> http://www.iplus.zetnet.co.uk/stories/farenough.htm I bought it because I
> liked the taster. The book becomes darker later on, the quality of the
> writing stays the same. It reminded me slightly of Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
>
> The Gathering Flame, Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
> A prequel to their main Mageworlds series, showing the parents of the
> protagonists in the later books. Action-packed, enjoyable, some
interesting
> conflicts among the characters. I haven't read the rest of the series but
> I'll look for them.
>
> Eight Skilled Gentlemen, Barry Hughart
> A magical China that never was. Master Li and Number Ten Ox investigate a
> murder and find that magical bird-cages and demons are involved. Not as
> funny as Bridge of Birds, but very good.
>
> Jennifer
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