Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.

Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.”

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Throwback Thursday, October 9

Guardians of the KeepI’ve been reviewing since 2001, when I was employed at the local newspaper and my reviews appeared in their arts section on the third Thursday of the month.  When I started this website in 2011, I was amazed (and somewhat horrified) to realize that I had a decade of reviews to archive!  I’m still working on it to this day, and so my version of “Throwback Thursday” will feature some of those old reviews.  Just for fun, we’ll jump back to ten years ago this month.

Today, have a peek back at Guardians of the Keep by Carol Berg.  Click the cover of the book to read the review.

Waiting on Wednesday, October 8

Empire of ShadowsToday’s Waiting on Wednesday pick is Empire of Shadows by Miriam Forster, second book of the Bhinian Empire series.  Synopsis:

“Cast out of her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her—a school where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire’s capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could’ve imagined. More shocking still, she finds the boy she thought she had lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew her life in the dizzying Imperial city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?

Empire of Shadows will take readers on a spellbinding journey into the world Miriam Forster first introduced in City of a Thousand Dolls—a world with a divided society, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and deeply laid conspiracies.”

Silverblind by Tina Connolly

Silverblind(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Dorie Rochart has been hiding her fey side for a long time. Now, finished with University, she plans to study magical creatures and plants in the wild, bringing long-forgotten cures to those in need. But when no one will hire a girl to fight basilisks, she releases her shape-changing fey powers—to disguise herself as a boy.

While hunting for wyvern eggs, she saves a young scientist who’s about to get steamed by a silvertail—and finds her childhood friend Tam Grimsby, to whom she hasn’t spoken in seven years. Not since she traded him to the fey. She can’t bear to tell him who she really is, but every day grows harder as he comes to trust her.

The wyverns are being hunted to extinction for the powerful compounds in their eggs. The fey are dying out as humans grow in power. Now Tam and Dorie will have to decide which side they will fight for. And if they end up on opposite sides, can their returning friendship survive?”

Wow, this book is a ton of fun! I wish that it was one that you could jump into without reading the two that came before, because it would be a great book to get people into the genre. Then again, describing this book might get new readers to pick up Connolly’s books, which is all to the good.

The author has definitely moved her story beyond a fantasy-inspired retelling of Jane Eyre. This is a world that has its own politics, its own culture, and its own mythology. Some of it is an outgrowth of the fae mythology that was set down in the original novel, and some of it has taken on a life of its own as the series has progressed. In this book, fae magic takes a backseat to mythical animals—specifically, to wyverns, although these critters relate to the fae.

Even with the new aspects, this novel hearkens back to the first one by featuring Dorie, who was merely a half-fae child when we last saw her. Now she’s grown up and looking for a career of her own. Her young sense of mischief has matured, but not gone away, and there are all kinds of trouble that she gets into even though she’s an adult. Her boy disguise leads her into situations that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred and there’s a certain degree of comic relief inherent in them.

Also funny are the wyverns, especially one specific one that plays a large role in the tale. Their vocalizations are described as yodeling, and this makes for some hilarious moments. The way that they’re described in general reminds me of the Terrible Terrors from the How to Train Your Dragon movies. I loved every moment they were on the page. They don’t take over the story; they merely accentuate the humor and keep things from getting too serious.

An interesting part of the novel is the snippets from other “books” that begin each chapter. The quotes are from books that deal with fae history, and many of them are about Dorie and things that happened because of her attraction to the fae. This builds up curiosity about what really happened to her and Tam, and provides a background for the tension between them without having to work it into the narrative.

This is the final book in the series, and for that I’m truly sorry. Connolly’s alternate Victorian era is unique and vibrant, and Silverblind adds humor and humanity to the mix as well. I highly recommend this book, and this series, to anybody who loves good, solid fantasy.

Series: Ironskin
ISBN: 9780765375148
Publisher: Tor
Page Count: 272
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website
Read an excerpt

Tuesday Teaser, October 7

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

“I have seen toddlers in this Court that display more sense, and more forethought, than you did last night.  Of all the thoughtless, inconsiderate, foolish things you could have done, you chose to perform the one thoughtless, inconsiderate, foolish thing that could have brought permanent disgrace to you, reflected disgrace to your sisters, and bloodshed to your family!”

–from page 174 of Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey

Leave a comment with a link to your own Teaser Tuesday post, or just leave the teaser in the comment if you don’t have a blog!

Monday Musings, October 6

I’m currently reading Mercedes Lackey’s newest Valdemar book, Closer to Home.  It’s the first book in the Herald Spy series, and the sixth book featuring Mags, a mine slave turned Herald.

I haven’t been very thrilled with the Valdemar books in recent years, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.  In the earlier series, there was always a main character (usually one with challenges of some sort), and that character’s story was always important; however, their personal story always served to tell a larger story about Valdemar as a whole.  For example, in the original series, Talia has to learn how to control her strong Gift while learning to be Queen’s Own, but her experience tied in with the issue of finding the traitor working to bring down the country.

Mags’s story was supposed to have been part and parcel of the founding of the Herald’s Collegium, but that never really materialized.  Instead, readers got five books of the “magical orphan” story, and there wasn’t much about changes at the Collegium.

And yet, I’m still reading Valdemar books.  There’s something comforting about reading a series that I’ve been following for more than two decades.  I just wish that Lackey would get back to the Valdemar tales that I know and love.