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Reviewed by Tamara Felsinger
Celaena is an assassin working in salt mines to serve her life’s sentence after getting caught. But the prince and his captain take her away earlier than anticipated in order to enter her in a tournament against the most brutal criminals in the land so that she might win the right to become the king’s Champion. Except, when she gets there, she discovers someone’s killing competitors in the most horrific ways, and she might be next.
I really wanted to like this book. A Cinderella retelling where she’s an assassin sounded cool. But I usually read books in a day, and months later I’m still only halfway through this one so I decided to call it quits. There are plenty of other books in my TBR (To Be Read) pile demanding my attention.
Edited by Deborah Stanish and LM Myles
Mad Norwegian Press (2012)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
I’m a fairly recent Doctor Who convert. Early last year I became hooked thanks to wanting to watch the Neil Gaiman authored episode “The Doctor’s Wife”, so started with the Eleventh Doctor, and was so enamoured I went immediately back to the beginning of New Who and devoured the lot. Of course I have memories of watching Classic Who when I was a kid, with the Fourth Doctor, K9 and the Daleks being the only real things that I remember. And despite the best efforts of good friends trying to encourage me to embrace a bit of Classic Who now, I’ve struggled. Well, after reading Chicks Unravel Time, I just want to go back in time myself and be able to watch the whole of Doctor Who from the very beginning!
The essays in this book are passionate, engaging and entertaining, encompassing, as the subtitle suggests, every season of Doctor Who, written by women who clearly know their stuff. As we lead up to the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode, I can’t think of a better way to garner an understanding of the show in its entirety! Some authors focussed on characters, some on story, some on companions, some on production, but all, even those finding fault with aspects of the show, betray the writer’s love for Doctor Who, and this more than anything was a key factor in my own enjoyment. I particularly enjoyed contributions by Barbara Hambly (looking at the first new season reboot), “The Doctor’s Balls” by Diana Gabaldon (which has awakened in me a desperate desire to watch any Jamie McCrimmon episodes possible), LM Myles’ “Identity Crisis” (considering the importance of the very first regeneration), “For the love of Tom” by Sarah Lotz (because Tom Baker was “my Doctor” until I fell in love with Matt Smith last year!), “Donna Noble saves the universe” by Martha Wells (because, Donna!), and… Look, I’m just going to name every entry in the book at this rate. Trust me when I say this is a fantastic collection of essays examining a hugely popular show from perspectives you might not have considered. It’s an excellent introduction to Classic Who, with delvings into New Who, and I recommend it to both hard core and casual fans of the show.
To be completely honest though, I do have a complaint – I simply wanted more! Some of the essays I really wanted to be longer, and I would have loved to see further exploration of the tie-in media (Big Finish audio plays and the novelisations etc) in relation to the characters being discussed. But really, when the one complaint is that the reader loves the books so much she wishes it was longer? That’s a pretty good recommendation I reckon!
Lightbringer, Book 2
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
Kip Guile, bastard son of the Prism everyone in the Seven Satrapies thinks is Gavin Guile, has been thrown into a world of intrigue and power he is in no way prepared to handle. Despite his perceived shortcomings, however, Kip is determined to make his way in the world, even though his grandfather will do everything to stand in his path, and everyone else thinks Kip’s only chance of getting ahead is by using his father’s influence. At the same time, Gavin’s power is crumbling, at the time when his world can least afford to lose him – and the horrible secret he has kept for the past sixteen years is escaping…
Sequel to 2011’s The Black Prism, this book continues with the same frenetic action and colourful characterisation as its predecessor, rollicking from battle to battle on both small and large scales. While this series doesn’t have the polish or pace of Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, it is still an enjoyable read, with an interesting magical premise, strongly written action scenes and thoroughly engaging characters. The worldbuilding of the series is of particular interest; far-reaching, yet well-contained and realised. The lead characters, and those in supporting roles, flesh out this world with great variety, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the plot threads are pulled together in the final book.
Weeks’ novels are intimidating in size, but so readable that within a few pages you forget how much there is to read and simply become caught up in the story. Recommended to read in series order for best effect.
ISBN 978 0 575 09583 0
Reviewed by Jason Nahrung
It’s no surprise that this latest novel from UK author Joe Abercrombie is dedicated in part to Clint Eastwood. Nominally a fantasy novel set in Abercrombie’s world established in the First Law Trilogy, it is quite the western homage, where quick swords, daggers and crossbows replace six shooters.
Abercrombie conjures a world in which magic is fading – he portrays berserker rage a la Dungeons and Dragons very well, but there are no Merlins or Gandalfs here – and an industrial revolution is around the corner – there is gunpowder, printing presses, early signs of steam power. There is a real sense that the practitioners of unmitigated violence who stride this stage, mostly veterans with more regrets than ambitions, have had their day.
It’s taken me a long time – about a year – of soul searching to finally come to this place. But it’s time. I’ve decided to close ASif! at the end of this year. This is a project that I have felt passionate about from conception and over the last 8 years. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone who has ever been involved and I’ve met so many people and formed many firm, life long friendships through ASif!
In 2004, we set out to build a review website to focus on and highlight Australian speculative fiction and to offer a place of honest critical review to support our local scene. ASif! achieved these goals. After 8 years, the principals of this project are now looking to direct our energies into other activities in continue to build and grow the Australian SF/F scene. And for this, we walk away proud of what we created.
ASif! will close as of 31/12/2012, with old reviews remaining available for now. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered their time, financially supported the project or supplied us with review materials. Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement along the way. I encourage anyone interested in discovering our scene, or in meeting Australian writers, editors, publishers and publicists, or in learning how to start up a publishing venture to consider starting their own critical project. For now, it’s time for ASif! to step off the Australian stage.
Farewell. And thank you.
Executive Director, ASif! Australian Specfic in Focus!
Conversational Review with Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely
HERE BE SPOILERS!
This series is impossible to review in full without spoilers for preceding books. Up front, know that we WILL be discussing major spoilers for all three books. PLEASE do not continue unless you have no intention of reading this (very excellent) science fiction thriller (with zombies), or you REALLY don’t mind spoilers!
Last chance – SPOILERS AHEAD!
Green Rider, book 4
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
I’d put off starting Blackveil, as the cover suggested it was book four in an extended series, and I generally don’t enjoy coming into a series so late. My misgivings were unfounded; although it comes late in the series, it is remarkably easy to get sucked into the world of Blackveil and become totally absorbed in the problems of the characters. Blackveil is not the last of the series; although it has many satisfactions it ends on a cliffhanger, so there is clearly at least one more volume to come.
Karigan is a Rider, one of a small band of messengers magically called to serve the King. Not only are the Riders magically called, each has a (generally small) magic talent which they deploy in the service of their King. They keep the magical part of their job quiet, though, as the Kingdom at large is fearful of magic and antagonistic towards the mere idea of people using it. As the novel opens, Karigan is carrying messages which indicate that the King is preparing for war – he doesn’t want it, but he fully expects the Kingdom to shortly be assailed by magical forces from behind the magical D’Yer Wall and mundane forces from another kingdom. So he is prudently preparing; building up his army and seeking to strengthen those who are trying to repair the damage done at the wall. Read the rest of this entry »
The Forest of Hands and Teeth book 3
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
The Dark and Hollow Places is described on the back of the book as a “companion volume” to two others; in the author’s bio at the back it’s called volume three in a trilogy. I think the second is a more accurate description, and as a result the novel lacks a little when read by itself. Even so, it manages to be an interesting and entertaining read; it’s well suited to the intended young adult audience but will also hold the interest of many adult readers.
The Dark and Hollow Placestells the story of Annah. When she was a child, she and her twin (Abigail), and the older Elias left their village to explore in the forbidden forest. When Abigail fell and hurt herself, Elias and Annah carried on with their adventure. They became irrevocably lost, never able to return to their village. Annah has spent years racked with grief and guilt for her sister. Perhaps she died alone in the forest. Perhaps she too wandered lost and alone. Perhaps she found her way back to the village. Annah has never known and the guilt eats at her every day. Eventually Annah and Elias found their way to the City, one of the few remaining refuges. Here they eked out a living for years. Until eventually Elias joined the Recruiters, a semi-military corps that is supposed to provide some protection for the citizens. He was supposed to return after his two year hitch, but it’s been three years and there’s still no sign of him. Annah doesn’t know if he’s dead, or if he’s alive but has chosen not to return to her.
The Nightbound Land book 2
Angry Robot (2012)
ISBN 978 0 85766 187 6
Reviewed by Jason Nahrung
This is the second, concluding title, of the story that began with Roil. And what an intriguing read The Nightbound Land duology has been.
Thing is, from the first few chapters of Roil, we know what’s going to happen at the end. You can’t have those excerpts from various histories and memoirs of the unfolding action without someone surviving, can you? And this is the key to the books’ tension: who survives, and how? And what shape is the world in when the dust settles?
Jamieson’s hero is David, drug-addicted and now somewhat possessed by the spirit of an immortal, on a mission to save the world from the Roil: an all-consuming wave of darkness inhabited by wonderfully fantastical creatures including a version of zombie. Elsewhere there are analogues of vampires and dire wolves, romping through a landscape of steampunk technology enhanced with the likes of organic and jet-powered aircraft. It’s a fascinating and well-drawn world, and in this second volume the truth of its creation is revealed – I wasn’t carried away by the deeper cyclical nature of it all, but the promise of being able to break the cycle adds interest to the final denouement.
Allen & Unwin (2012)
ISBN: 978 174237 839 8
Reviewed by Jason Nahrung
I read this 350-page book in a little over two days – it’s a hoot. The authors have taken the premise that’s popular of late – a vampire in a high school – and made it palatable. Reasonable. Understandable.
I love the simplicity and sensibility of Team Human’s world, where vampires are a part of life though removed from it, as befits people – they’re definitely people – who do not age, do not eat and do not laugh. Vampirism is regulated, and becoming one carries the risk of death or being left a zombie if the transition fails.