Image by Joshua Sosrosaputro

It’s finally here – the new site! Although I’m a little sad (and a little nervous) about leaving the old one behind, I do love the new header image my husband made for this one. But it has been over 3 years since I’ve had the other one now and it’s time for a change.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for the new site, please let me know! My husband and I have tested this one in several different browsers and are hoping it will be a little friendlier to a wider variety of browsers and computers than the old site.

A few pieces of business to attend to first:

  • The posts and comments from the old site were imported here, but I did notice that occasionally there was a comment that didn’t get moved for some reason. Content from the old site was imported before October 3, which means all posts from that point forward had to be entered here manually and do not have comments.
  • Depending on which RSS subscription option you were using, you may need to re-subscribe. There is a link under “Follow” on the top right for the new one.
  • If you happen to link have a link on your site to Fantasy Cafe, please update the URL to http://www.fantasybookcafe.com. And thank you to everyone who does link to my site!

As a tradeoff for my nervousness in leaving the Blogger behind, this WordPress install has a ton of new toys to play with!  Some you’ll notice and some you won’t, but here are a couple of examples:

  • Fantasy Cafe is now much more friendly to mobile users!  A mobile version of the site loads with an iPhone-like interface that is easy to read on small screens.
  • Disqus integration provides a cleaner and more advanced commenting system.  You can now log in to comment using your Open ID, Facebook, Twitter, Disqus, or Yahoo! account (or no account at all as a guest).
  • Though it has existed for a while, there is now a link to Fantasy Cafe’s Facebook page along with all the other follow options on the upper-right corner of the page.
  • Some new layout widgets like hidden spoiler sections and a bookbox template – which you might think just looks nice, but building it out as a template shortcode saves me a lot of time when I’m trying to format my reviews.
  • …and more to come, once we figure out if the new site has any kinks that need working out!

I hope those of you who visit will continue to stop by even though I have moved!  Thanks to everybody for a great first four (almost)  years, I’m looking forward to many more!

Yesterday I received a review copy of one of my most anticipated releases of this year, The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin.  Today I got a second copy of the book in the mail so I’m giving away my extra copy.  This is a not an ARC – it is the finished copy of the book, which will be released on November 3.

The Broken Kingdoms is the second book in the Inheritance trilogy, although it is supposed to be about different main characters than The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms earlier this year and loved it for its narrative voice, mythology and characters (review).  Here’s some more information on The Broken Kingdoms:

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree’s guest is at the heart of it. . .

If it sounds interesting or if you just can’t look away from that gorgeous cover and want to win a copy, fill out the form to enter.

Note: The contact form that used to be here has been removed since the giveaway is over.

Giveaway Rules

This giveaway is open worldwide – it does not matter where you live.  Entries will be accepted through the end of the day on Friday October 29 and the winner will be selected randomly and contacted on October 30.  If I do not get an address to send the book to from the winner by November 2, a new winner will be selected.  Good luck!

This week I bought one book that is out of print. I happened to find some used copies available for $2 – $3 on Amazon that qualified for Prime so I snatched one up.

The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly

This book came out in the 1984 and is the first book in the Sun Wolf and Starhawk trilogy. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and have had it on my “out of print book” wish list for a while. Unfortunately, I had always thought it was very expensive since searching for it on Amazon shows it is unavailable other than one used copy for $999.98. While I do want to read it, I don’t want to read it quite that badly… This time I found there are other editions available that are MUCH cheaper if you actually click on the book, though. Since there were some for $2 or $3 that qualified for free shipping, I figured why not get one now.

When Sun Wolf, a mercenary captain, turned down an elegant lady from the town of Mandrigyn and her preposterous request that he fight for her an unwinable battle, he had no idea what trouble he was getting into. Sheera had no intention of taking no for an answer, and as an unwilling prisoner, Sun Wolf begins to train the women of Mandrigyn as a fighting force. His lieutenant, Starhawk, follows his trail to the city where all the men have been imprisoned by the last wizard to walk to the earth. Sun Wolf is foced to admit, before long, that he has violated ever rule about wizardry and love that his father handed down to him, and once reunited, both Sun Wolf and Starhawk (in a theme which soon becomes familiar during their subsequent travels), are forced to leave Mandrigyn at the end of the story – and the newly-freed men to the surprises that their battle-trained wives and daughters have become.
Locus award nominee, 1985
Published by Del Rey books in 1984.

 

This is part two of my review of this collection of novels. It was originally meant to be one review of the entire omnibus, but it ended up a little wordier than I had hoped so I split it up. The first part is here. This part has the introduction to Of Darkness, Light, and Fire and covers the second book in it, The Fire’s Stone.

Of Darkness, Light, and Fire is an omnibus containing the third and fourth novels written by Tanya Huff, who has written many more novels since the first of these two was published in 1989. Both novels in this collection are completely unrelated books with no sequels or prequels. Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light is a contemporary fantasy set in Toronto, and The Fire’s Stone is a more traditional quest-based fantasy. These two novels are out of print now other than in this collection.

A wizard, a thief, and an alcoholic prince – all with serious issues with their fathers – undertake a quest to save Ischia from imminent destruction. The volcano in Ischia is held back by a magical stone, but it was stolen and the only hope of saving the city is discovering the location of this powerful item and returning it to its proper place.

Prince Darvish has largely been left out of princely duties due to his unfortunate birth as the third son instead of the heir or the backup heir. Instead, he’s turned to being the drunken life of the party and when the stone is stolen, his reputation allows him to get into seedy areas to investigate without anyone thinking twice about it. Also, he has experience with thievery on his side due to his recent rescue of the thief Aaron, who was to die for his crimes. He and Aaron are later joined in their search by Chandra, a princess betrothed to Prince Darvish. Chandra traveled to Ischia just to tell Darvish that she cannot marry him since she is a Wizard of the Nine who must focus on her studies. However, when she hears the stone is missing she blackmails Darvish and Aaron into letting her accompany them – after all, they may need a wizard and she feels it is her responsibility help retrieve the legendary stone created by other Wizards of the Nine.

The Fire’s Stone is the more character driven of the two novels in Of Darkness, Light and Fire and it is definitely my favorite of the two. It’s a fairly conventional epic fantasy story in which a group of characters set out on a quest to save part of the world, but Aaron and Darvish made it very worth reading. Chandra, however, irritated me to no end for a while, although she did grow on me more as the story progressed. It was a good thing Aaron and Darvish were so interesting from the start because there were several times I thought if I read her saying or thinking, “I am a Wizard of the Nine!” again I might throw the book at the wall. By the end, Chandra was even somewhat likable as she seemed to ease up on the attitude and also had remarkable courage.

There was a nice camaraderie among the three, especially by the end when they had all worked through their various struggles some. Each of the characters had a big problem that he or she had to deal with throughout the story. As the third prince, fun-loving Darvish was overlooked and his father never gave him a second thought. The competent, charismatic thief Aaron left his home because his father killed the woman he loved, and he’s dealing with his feelings for Darvish after being taught all his life that homosexuality was wrong. Chandra just wants to be an all-powerful Wizard of the Nine with none of this princess stuff her father is foisting upon her.

There were also some pretty decent lines in this book that added a little bit of humor to a mostly serious story, such as when Chandra was trying to convince Darvish and Aaron to let her help them in their search for the stone:

 

“And what are you and Aaron going to do when you find this unknown and, I might add just in case you haven’t caught on yet, very powerful wizard with The Stone?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what are you going to do? Whack him with your sword while Aaron picks his pocket?” [pp. 330]

I also had to smile when Darvish and Chandra were trying to figure out whether or not some boats in the distance were pirate ships they needed to worry about:

 

“Bugger the Nine!” Darvish stood, and kicked the stool aside. “We have to know what’s going on.” He slammed a fist into the cabin wall. “Where’s Aaron? Pirates are just thieves in a boat, maybe he’ll know how to identify them.” [pp. 352]

While the plot was fairly generic epic fantasy with a quest to save part of the world, the characters of Aaron and Darvish made the book. They both began with various struggles, but throughout they developed and changed. In spite of the fact that Chandra was quite annoying at times, these two made this well worth reading and Chandra also became more likable by the time the story was finished.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Gift from a friend who really wanted me to read The Fire’s Stone.

Of Darkness, Light, and Fire: Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light
by Tanya Huff
528pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.98/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.85/5
 

This is part one of a review of two stories in one book. Originally, I had planned to review the entire omnibus together and just keep my review of each book within it fairly short. While the reviews of each book were shorter than my usual, the entire review ended up pretty long so I decided to split it up and post the first half today and the next half in a couple of days. Today’s review introduces the omnibus and covers the first part, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light.

Of Darkness, Light, and Fire is an omnibus containing the third and fourth novels written by Tanya Huff, who has written many more novels since these two were originally published in 1989 and 1990. Both novels in this collection are completely unrelated books with no sequels or prequels. Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light is a contemporary fantasy set in Toronto, and The Fire’s Stone is a more traditional quest-based fantasy. These two novels are out of print now other than in this collection.

A young, mentally challenged woman named Rebecca has the ability to see magic in the world. One day soon after she arrives home from her job at a bakery, she notices it seems too quiet outside. When she steps out to take a look around, some blood falls on her from a nearby tree and she discovers the little man who inhabits it has been attacked. Rebecca manages to drag him into her bedroom but is then unsure of what to do since most other people will not even be able to see him. She decides to find Roland, a man who plays guitar in the street but does not yet realize magic exists. Roland agrees to help the panicking Rebecca although it is against his better judgment – after all, she just came up to him and announced she doesn’t know what to do with the bleeding man in her bed.

Soon after Rebecca and Roland return, the little man dies. Since he was her friend, Rebecca wants to find out more so she brings Roland with her to see Mrs. Ruth, a homeless lady. Mrs. Ruth reveals that Roland has the Sight because he is a Bard – or at least he will be once he completes his training. She also says that the man died as the result of Darkness coming to the world and that the balance between Dark and Light must be restored. If they want to hold back the forces of the Dark, Rebecca and Roland need to send for an Adept of the Light – and quickly.

Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light is enjoyable in spite of the fact that it is basically another tale of good vs. evil. It’s also a tale of magic existing in the modern world, although it was written about 20 years ago before urban fantasy was everywhere. While they’re not exceptionally well-developed, the characters were at least different enough from the usual to make it more unique even if it seems as though it’s a story one has read before. Rebecca was brain damaged as a child, and Huff handled her character well by giving her depth beyond merely being a woman with a disability. Although she is innocent and childlike, she is in many ways adult and perceptive as Roland noted when he recalled the first time he met her:

 

“I’m not retarded,” she’d told him that first afternoon, prompted by his condescending voice and manner. “I’m mentally disadvantaged.” Her pronunciation of the long words was slow, but perfect.

“Oh?” he’d said. “Who told you that?”

“Daru, my social worker. But I like what Mrs. Ruth says I am better.”

“And what’s that?”

“Simple.”

“Uh, you do know what that means?”

“Yes. It means I have less pieces than most people.”

“Oh.” There wasn’t much else he could think of to reply.

She’d grinned at him. “And that means I’m solider than most people.”

And the funny thing, Roland mused, was that while undeniably retarded, in a number of ways Rebecca was solider than most people. She knew who and what she was. [pp. 9]

In addition to Rebecca, there is of course Roland, the Bard who was unaware of magic until he learned from Rebecca how to look for it. He was also unaware that he may like other men until Evan, the Adept of the Light showed up, and struggles with this new aspect of his identity throughout the book. Mrs. Ruth may seem like a crazy bag lady, but she has a lot of knowledge about the Darkness and the Light. Then there is Daru, Rebecca’s social worker, and Tom, a cat who seems to understand more than one may expect (but he’s not Rebecca’s cat – she is quick to point out that he is his own cat). These are the ones on the side of Light who are the only hope for defeating the Darkness.

The basic plot was very familiar since those on the side of the Light were very good and the Darkness was very evil, but I did like the way it ended very much. Certain hints made sense with the final revelation, and the mythology behind these references made it work well.

Overall, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light is an entertaining book, although its basic premise of good battling evil will be very familiar to fantasy readers. There are enough characters with different situations than the norm to keep it from being stale, though, and the conclusion is also well done.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Gift from a friend who really wanted me to read the second book in this collection, The Fire’s Stone.

Right now I’m dividing my time between working on getting the new website ready to go and a review of Tanya Huff’s Of Darkness, Light and Fire. It’s been taking me forever to update all the links on the review index, but after that is done hopefully progress on the new site will go faster.

I also think I’ve found a new author I must read more by – Freda Warrington. Elfland is wonderful so far – beautifully written and very character driven. Unfortunately this is her only book published in the US until Midsummer Night comes out next month. I looked up some of her other books and they are expensive, but I may have to pick up some of them at some point (I’ll probably start with the ones published by Immanion, a publisher founded by Storm Constantine, when I do).

This week I got 3 review copies.

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

The first book in The Legend of Eli Monpress series recently came out, and the next book will be out September 26 with the third following at the end of November. I’ve actually already read this one since I got an ARC over the summer (this is the finished copy – yay, page 70 kept falling out of my ARC while I was reading it and it was driving me nuts). It’s in my “to review” stack now.

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron

This is the second book in The Legend of Eli Monpress series, and it will be out September 26. After reading the first one, I was glad to see this one show up in the mail. For the first half of the book, I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it, but the second half was better and there were enough hints of things to come in future installments that I’m curious about what happens next. Plus I do have a soft spot for intelligent thieves, and I’m hoping Eli’s character will be better fleshed out in this book.

Eli Monpress is brilliant. He’s incorrigible. And he’s a thief.

He’s also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. While she’s been kicked out of the Spirit Court, Eli’s had plenty of time to plan his next adventure. But now the tables have turned, because Miranda has a new job — and an opportunity to capture a certain thief.

Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He’s picked a winner for his newest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol’s famous “thief-proof” citadel. Eli knows Gaol is a trap, but what’s life without challenges? Except the Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the world, a wizard who rules his duchy with an iron fist, and an obsessive perfectionist with only one hobby: catching Eli.

It seems that everyone is hunting for Eli Monpress.

The Rebel Prince by Celine Kiernan

The final book in the Moorehawke trilogy will be available in the US on October 18. Although I did read and review the first book in the series, The Poison Throne, I have yet to read the second book. I’m curious about what happens, but not enough to read the rest of these books before some of the other books on the TBR pile. The Poison Throne was one of those tough books to review – one that I liked reading for the most part but also had some big issues with.

Wynter Moorehawke has braved bandits and Loup-Garous to find her way to Alberon-the exiled, rebel prince. But now that she’s there, she will learn firsthand that politics is a deadly mistress. With the king and his heir on the edge of war and alliances made with deadly enemies, the Kingdom is torn not just by civil war – but strife between the various factions as well. Wynter knows that no one has the answer to the problems that plague the Kingdom – and she knows that their differences will not just tear apart her friends – but the Kingdom as well.