Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study (books 1-3).

Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study (Yelena Zaltana: books 1-3), By Maria V. Snyder.

A series of books that follow a 20 year old woman (Yelena) from her time as a prisoner awaiting her execution, through to the discovery of being a rather powerful magician. To put things into context, the world Yelena grows up in is divided into to countries: Ixia (ruled by The Commander who had killed the tyrannical magic-weilding King, and split Ixia into military districts), and Sitia (viewed as being more liberal. A refuge for those seeking to escape military rule. Also a sanctuary for magicians).

Yelena chooses to accept the high-risk position of food taster for the paranoid Commander and, in doing so, sets about a chain of events that begin to reveal who she is, where she has come from, and a whole host of other events she was embroiled in without even realising. As any main character should know, their very survival is imperative in order to prevent the whole world from being destroyed, or changed in ways that the general populace would be unhappy with.

I really enjoyed this series. It had lots of action, strong female role models, as well as good and evil warring against each other (and many you think fall into one character, end up switching sides frequently). The general storyline comes across like a good YA fantasy, but parts of the content wouldn’t be suitable for younger audiences, as there are many references to rape, sacrifice, and gruesome murders. The rape scenes aren’t particularly graphic, but the murders are.  The many references to  these ‘bad people’ and the things they do to the young and vulnerable could be upsetting for the more sensitive audiences.

That said, our heroine is no Bella (re: Twilight). She has bouts of self-doubt (well, she was a nobody), she’s uncertain of her skill (she was never really trained), she’s consumed by grief or loss (a lot of people die)… but she claws her way back up and out of the cesspool and kicks some motherfuckin’ ass!

A minor issue with this series is the repetition. Chunks of text from previous books are regurgitated in later ones. I am very well versed in both Ixian and Sitian history, magic, and all that jazz since I have had frequent reminders throughout. I expect these tidbits would be useful reminders if I’d left more time between reading each book, but I read them directly after each other, so they became a little annoying.

In the last book, there also seemed to be a lot of people who were smiling “sardonically”.

Like I said though, minor issues. Definitely worth a read!

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In the zone: channelling my energies.

I have spent far too long ducking from self-imposed deadlines, and making crappy excuses for not getting things done. Have had to seriously question recently what I really want from my life. Every time I ask myself where I would see me in “x” amount of years, in some way or another it always involves writing and the publishing industry.

I know that I can’t predict whether I’ll be a successful writer, but that isn’t really the point. It will be great if the writing will support me, but I see writing as being a part of the whole. Every dream I have involves writing, either as a novelist, lyricist, or script writer. There are often many other layers to those dreams: marketing, project managing, publisher… and so on. But being creative is always the focus.

So, with that in mind, why do I keep shying away from what I want? I can only assume it’s that pesky inner voice that doesn’t want me to try. If I don’t try, then I don’t fail. But if I don’t try, then I fail anyway, right? So, shut the f*ck up, inner voice. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

With that in mind, here are a list of projects that I’ve been working on over the years and, thanks to the prompting of a chatty fella on a facebook writer support group, I have managed to begin setting myself achievable targets that will work around my degree and job. I will succeed! Even if it’s to succeed at completing tasks. Woo!

*The Devil’s Beat – first draft complete (64,639 words); contemporary fantasy. No plan – major rewrite needed.

1) Read draft and make notes, approx 10,000 words a day [by 7 Oct ‘12].

2) Re-plot for second draft [by 14 Oct ‘12].

3) Set targets for re-write, and adhere to them.

*The Monster Hunter Club: Monster City – first draft (733 words); young children’s fantasy. No plot, just rough concept.

*King of Hearts – first draft (50,028 words); thriller. Nano ’10 – major rewrite needed.

*The Monster Hunter Club: Brazzelworth – first draft (813 words); young children’s fantasy. No plot, just rough concept.

*The Rising – first draft (27,001 words); fantasy. Basic plan.

*Blood ties – first draft (3,450 words); screenplay. Basic plan.

*Nightminders – first draft (17,351 words); medieval fantasy. Basic plot outlined.

*Shadow – first draft (9,291 words); fantasy. No plot, just rough concept.

*Shakti – first draft (3,619 words); contemporary fantasy. No plan, just basic concept.

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Book Review: Witch and Warrior.

Witch and Warrior, by Marie Brennan.

This is the second installment from Marie, which follows the book Doppelganger. Witch and Warrior follows Mirei (Miryo and Mirage in one form) on her journey to teach herself how to use gifts The Goddess gave her when she is the first of her kind. Being the first complete witch, she is both loved and hated in equal measure. She is fighting to keep herself alive, to teach others about who she has become, to secure a future for those who’ll become like her, but she is also struggling to deal with the politics of huge divide between witches planning to oppose the changes – they are preparing for war.

Initially, the book was a fairly slow start with all the politics, training, guerilla warfare, espionage… and so forth. By part two though, things really began to get interesting. Despite certain twists and turns in the plot being somewhat predictable, they were so rapidly fired out and new problems arose to replace them that you were never left bored, or waiting for something to happen.

There are parts in the book where I just couldn’t physically stop reading, and parts where I couldn’t believe something had happened. The whole combination of varying pace, layered action, and ‘real’ risks to Mirei and her followers, made the read feel incredibly gripping. “Who’s going to die? Who’s going to be captured? Will they survive? Will they lose their powers? Will they be found out?” – were all questions I was asking myself as I was continuing to follow the plot.

It never feels like Marie is drawing the story out either, and she mustn’t feel obligated to extend it into a third book (to which I’m grateful, as I hate feeling like things are dragged out for the sake of another book). Although the book appears to reach its end rather quickly, in my opinion, it’s a very satisfying ending – not too much is explained, but enough that you can draw conclusions yourself as to how things would continue to resolve themselves. It was a more realistic approach, rather than a fairytale ending.

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Book Review: Doppelganger.

Doppelganger, by Marie Brennan.

This was a book I stumbled across by accident on one of those book exchange shelves you find in the workplace. I was intrigued by its original spin on witchcraft as a schooled discipline, as well as it being a birthright. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Brennan interweaves various disciplines, ranging from warrior to witch. They are inextricably linked to The Goddess in her five states: the four elements, and as the warrior. What this book explores is the concept that, for witches, the first magic ritual when they are five days old, creates a doppelganger which has to be killed in order for the witch to be able to control her power. The doppelganger is referred to as being “the antithesis to magic”. Some of these doppelgangers survive, most likely to an exposure to starlight which creates the soul. If the child receives its soul, it cannot be killed by anyone but its other self unless they intend to kill both babies.

Mirage (warrior) and Miryo (witch in training) discover each other and learn about how well they are linked. They are in a desperate race to find a way to ensure the survival of them both, as well as ensuring Miryo can reach the much sought after position of full-fledged witch, before she reaches for her power and potentially kills them both by accident. They cannot accept The Goddess meant to create another self, only for it to be murdered. Certainly not if the witch had to go against her conscience to do so.

This book really did surprise me with how well paced it was, lots of twists and turns to keep things interesting, and certainly felt very original in its concept. I’m really looking forward to reading the second book: Warrior and Witch.

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