Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: The dragon's Lair by Elizabeth Haydon

If Ven had expected rest after fulfilling his second mission for King Vandemere as royal reporter and having just barely escaped the Thief Queen’s clutches he is sorely mistaken.Barely a day later Vandemere gives Ven a new and rather confusing mission; Ven is to try settle a dispute between two warring kingdoms, one of which is also being menaced by an angry dragon. What’s more Ven has to take most of his friends with him as the Thief Queen is still fuming and has sent every agent at her disposal to track them all down. Some of those friends don’t get on as well with each other as Ven might have hoped.

Like the two previous novels the third follows the same format of having exerts of Ven’s lost journals interspacing the rest of the text put together by ‘archaeologists’. A format which has worked well and continues to do so. The only major difference being Ven now begins every chapter with a memory from home which he relates to his present circumstances, which could be the first hint that he might be beginning to feel homesick. The piece of this book that I find most striking is the awkward position Ven finds himself in when he must keep his merrow friend Amariel’s identity from his other friends and the conflict this evidently leads to. Even though Ven does everything he believes in right in this situation he encounters hostility from both sides. I thought this was a very intriguing stance to take in a young adult novel, essentially there is often no right or wrong answer and applaud the author.

All in all I enjoyed this installment in a series that has sadly not enjoyed the attention it should have. Based on the extract for the fourth book I’m really interested to see the twists it takes from here. 7/10.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Review: Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Fifteen year old Ned Mariner finds himself whisked out of school and on a trip to France with his father, a famous photographer, who is working on a new book. Ned seems a bit uncertain how he feels about this situation until he meets Kate Wegner, an American exchange student with a deep knowledge of the areas local history, while exploring the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral. Both are surprised when they encounter a knife wielding, scarred stranger routing around in the same cathedral. It quickly becomes obvious that they have stumbled upon a world neither of them understand and an extremely old story, whose players seem to be trapped in a continuous cycle. Two men both in love with the same woman, Ysabel, who comes back to life periodically to choose one or the other. Ned finds himself thrust into an familiar position of responsibility and the life of a friend rests in the balance when Melanie, his father's assistant is chosen as the body Ysabel with inhabit. If he can’t find Ysabel before the two other men do his friend will be lost forever.

What immediately struck me when reading this novel is how well Kay gets into the head of the teenage protagonist. Ned Mariner's thoughts often drift to those things important to a boy of his age and he really feels like an individual on the cusp of manhood but still uncertain of it. The overlying theme of this work appears to be the layers of history that can become part of a place and Kay’s masterful descriptions really create a sense of that against the backdrop of France and the many peoples that have occupied it over countless centuries. Two characters from Kay’s earliest novels make an appearance but having not read the books in question I can’t fully appreciate the significance of this, aside from possibly furthering the theme of history and connectedness.

Overall I was once again wowed by Kay’s work and can’t wait to work my way through the body of his work. 8.5/10.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Beyond the Wall of Time by Russell Kirkpatrick

Russell Kirkpatrick really pulled out something special with the first Husk book but lost a bit of steam in the second. I was hoping he could recapture that initial momentum and was curious how the third book, Beyond the Wall of Time would turn out.

The group, made up of three smaller groups each drawn from a different continent, has barely survived an encounter with the Son, one of three gods, and only because of the Most High’s interference. The father cannot risk aiding the travelers again against his two wayward children once they leave the house of the gods or risk destroying creation itself. The son and daughter use that to their advantage to reek havoc on an unsuspecting world, hoping to cause enough death and destruction to break the wall of time and make their escape into the world. Lenares believes she has the power to stop them but needs to unite her companions, many of whom have their own agendas. Meanwhile Husk still lurks in the shadows hoping to lure Stella and the undying man back to Adratan and take a vengeance denied to him for nearly seven decades.

Initially I felt that the pace of this novel was a bit too relentless. The travelers are hit with life threatening event after life threatening event and it’s hard to take it all in. I was a bit worried that the author was trying to jam pack everything into one book that might have needed two. About a third of the way into the book the pace settled into a better rhythm. I had hoped that in the final book Husk would have taken center stage and was a bit disappointed that his story was superseded by the clash with the Gods and he seemingly became nothing more than a tool in that struggle. Kirkpatrick seems to believe that his strength as a writer is world building but I believe he is just as good if not better at creating morally complex characters that show genuine growth and change throughout a series and that was definitely the highlight of this novel. Most noteworthy was Stella and I really enjoyed seeing her finally come to grips with the person she really is.

Overall I did enjoy this novel but never felt it delivered on the promise of the first one. I Found the same thing in Kirkpatrick’s first trilogy but he is definitely showing some real progress and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. 7/10.