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January 1, 2010

New book reviews posted - including a Discworld and D&D book!

I think it was just the other day that I said I didn't know when my latest review would post because there were still some from November that hadn't been posted. I wonder if that was seen by my editor?

The reason I say that is because she must have been very busy today.  A grand total of four reviews have been posted to Curled Up With a Good Book today.  I'll give you the rundown below.  The links are to the reviews themselves.

The first one is Devon Monk's Magic in the Shadows.  This is the latest in the "Allie Beckstrom" series of urban fantasy novels, and it's a pretty good one.  Unfortunately, while it's completely understandable if this is your first book, you do feel like you're missing a lot of backstory.  Monk does a good job of explaining it all, but I still felt way over my head.
"Allie is a Hound - someone who traces the use of magic and tracks down those who abuse their magical powers. Her own use of magic has marked her in distinctive ways; she has magical tattoos all over her arms and body, and recent events have caused her to lose her memory, including those of the man she loves - the man who is intimately involved with the Authority, that group of magic users who control most of the magic use in the world, and the man who may be her ticket into joining the Authority. It doesn't help that Allie’s dead father, Daniel Beckstrom, inhabits her mind, trying to convince her to use her power even more. A vicious creature is trying to kill her as well. Allie's had better days."
Still, it looks like an interesting series, and I did ultimately enjoy this novel as well.

The second book is Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld book, Unseen Academicals.  If you're a Discworld fan, then you probably already have this.  Those of you unfamiliar with Pratchett and the Disc, suffice it to say that this series takes place in a world that is completely flat, carried on top of four cosmic elephants who are standing on top of a huge turtle that makes its way through the cosmos.  On the Disc, there is magic aplenty, but there are also many things that are just a touch off from our real world.  Cameras, for instance, have a little imp inside that magically paints a picture of what the photographer sees through the lens.  Pratchett uses his books for social commentary as well as huge laughs.

Anyway, here's a brief plot description for Unseen Academicals:
To keep the money flowing from a fund that’s been used for many years to finance the university, the Unseen University is supposed to field a regular annual "foot-the-ball" team and play against the other guilds in the city of Ankh-Morpork. Since these wizards consider eating the most strenuous sport they'll ever play, this could become a problem. Foot-the-ball has been going on in an unorganized fashion for many years, resulting in much violence and mayhem, and Lord Vetinari (Ankh Morpork's benevolent tyrant) has decided to organize a game to bring the rabble under control. Meanwhile, behind the scenes at the university, other weirdness is occurring as Trev, son of an ex-player who died on the streets, has fallen for Juliet the maid, who is friends with Glenda, the night cook who specializes in pies. Glenda, meanwhile, has befriended Mr. Nutt, a creature sheltered by the university who doesn't know anything about his own history. When all the secrets come boiling to the surface, some people could lose their heads!"
It really is a good book, though by no means is it Pratchett's best.  If you're interested in seeing what Pratchett has to offer, I would suggest one of the City Watch books, such as Guards! Guards! or one of the Death books, such as Reaper Man

The third book review posted was Jim C. Hines' The Mermaid's Madness.  I've been a big fan of Hines since I read his first book, Goblin Quest (you can see my ode to Hines, as well as the "one-question" interview I had with him, in this post).  That post gives my whole history with Hines, so I'll just say that I enjoyed The Mermaid's Madness, but it's not his best book.  Basically, Hines takes some of the best known fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid) and turns them on their head.  He also makes a comedy out of them, though the first book (The Stepsister Scheme) does a better job of that than this one does.  Still, it's well worth a read.  Take a look at my plot description:

"Queen Beatrice of Lorindar is holding the annual tribute meeting with the merfolk (or "Undine," as Hines calls them), but something seems to be amiss this year. Instead of the king, his daughter Lirea comes at the head of the Undine and attacks the queen. She thinks that Beatrice is harboring her sister, the one other mermaid who can stand in the way of her domination of her people. Lirea fell in love with a human prince and was magically transformed into a human being so that she could be with him, but despite what the fairy tales say, it all led to murder and a horrible magical turn. The consequences could end up killing the queen unless Snow, Talia and Danielle can put things right. Anybody who thinks the fairy tales tell the whole story is very much in the wrong."

Give all of Hines' books a try, as they are all well-worth reading.  He's also a great short story writer too.

Finally, there is R.A. Salvatore's Transitions III: The Ghost King, a novel set in the Dungeons & Dragons world of the Forgotten Realms.  This one wasn't quite the success that the other three were.  One of the most-loved characters in the Forgotten Realms is a Drow elf named Drizzt Do'Urden, and Salvatore has written quite a number of trilogies either about him or about the Drow themselves.  The "Transitions" series seems to be a chance for him to move the entire saga forward in one great leap.  The three books take place years apart and there are quite a few changes and heartaches that Salvatore puts his characters through.  Two of them quite monumental.  Unfortunately, as deep as the book is supposed to be (Salvatore says in his dedication that this was the hardest book for him to write because he had to return to some really dark areas of his life), it all boils down to a lot of fighting.  Too much so, in my book (which would really surprise my greatest fan).

"Reflect back to the first Drizzt Do'Urden trilogy and Salvatore's first book, The Crystal Shard. The remnants of that shard are being put back together. The dragon whose fiery breath destroyed the shard gets killed and becomes one of the most feared monsters in all the Realms: a Dracolich. The liches who became part of the shard, along with the mind-flayer Yharaskrik, wish to take over the world, but the dragon is hell-bent on revenge, using masses of undead creatures that it can control.

Meanwhile, Drizzt's wife, Cattie-Brie, learning the ways of magic, is struck down when the Weave of the Realms' magic begins malfunctioning all over the world. The dark elf Jarlaxle, upon whom the dragon also wants revenge, knows that only one place offers possible safety: the massive library of the druid Cadderly, a third subject of the dragon's vengeful fantasies. But Jarlaxle needs Drizzt to get him in there. Will they be able to figure out what is going on and defeat the dragon before they are all killed?"

It's not a bad book, but there are so many better ones out there.  And it's a shame that Salvatore's transitional series had to go out on a wrong note like this.

Take a look at the reviews and let me know what you think!  And if you've read the books, I'd love to know your thoughts on the books themselves too.


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