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Jack Dann (ed.)

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286255

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in August 2008)

I need to preface this review by saying while I think this collection is missing a number of Australia’s best contemporary genre short story writers, there are many highly readable works in this fatly packed book. I’ve chosen to discuss only a very few that particularly resonated with me, but with more than thirty stories, the fact I have not talked about a story does not mean it wasn’t a good yarn. You will need to test these waters for yourself, and just see if you agree with me…

In “This is My Blood”, Brisbanite Chris Lynch teams up with fellow Clarion South graduate Ben Francisco from the US. I found it interesting that editor Jack Dann chose to include a story co-written by a non-Aussie in this Australian anthology, especially given the weight of stories enclosed. However, it’s a strong piece. To me, this story was a dark journey into an otherworldly missionary life. Mother Rena attempts to bring God to the natives but at the same time finds herself coming to understand their alien culture in ways she had never imagined. A challenging consideration of sex and gender and religion, this piece drew me in and engrossed me from the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Fallon

Rift Runners, book 1

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 9780732290849

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I had a very bad experience at the end of Jennifer Fallon’s last series (the Tide Lords) and was very reluctant to take on her new book, because of my extreme disappointment with how that quartet was finished. However, fellow ASif! reviewer Lorraine Cormack expressed her enjoyment of this new series, and I trust her judgment, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Psychic twins Rónán and Darragh were separated as small children by a rogue Druid – Rónán was thrown through a rift in reality to a world that appears to be pretty much modern day Earth as we know it, while Darragh was left behind to try to hold his rightful place as the Undivided, without his twin.

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Jennifer Fallon

Rift Runners, Book One

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9084-9

Harper Voyager (2011)

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

DISCLAIMER:   Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

The Undivided is book one of the Rift Runners, and it left me keen to read book two. I really want to know what happens to these characters, and how the plot plays out.

Jennifer Fallon is not an author I automatically look out for. I’ve enjoyed some of her books before, but can’t remember being particularly impressed by any. However, this one really caught my attention and kept me turning the pages with enthusiasm. Although I imagine it should please many of her existing fans, it should also win her some new readers.

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Creature Court trilogy, book 2

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978073228944 7

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

In which the Tasmanian author furthers the tale begun in Power and Majesty. For those who came in late: the city of Aufleur is under attack, with interdimensional rifts trying to destroy it overnight. Defending the city is a bunch of hedonistic and political shape shifters, led by a Power and Majesty. In Book 1, the ruling P&M was whisked away through a split in the sky, and was replaced – not by the most likely candidate, the damaged and reluctant Ashiol, but seamstress Velody.

It’s a gloriously complex world, with Italian Renaissance overtones, and both the workings of the magical world and its relationship with the physical are explored further in The Shattered City.

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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Creature Court, book 1

Harper Voyager

ISBN: 9780732289430

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

Power and Majesty came out in 2010. It’s the first volume of the Creature Court series by Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts — the second volume, The Shattered City, and third, Reign of Beasts, are out now. I polished Power and Majesty off on the flight to Perth for Swancon at Easter, where it was awarded a Ditmar for best novel of 2010 and it also won the Aurealis Award for Fantasy Novel, announced in May 2011.

The story is set in Aufleur, where Velody and two friends run a dress shop. Aufleur comes across as an Italian-style town — Renaissance with steamtrains — where festivals are a prime social and economic activity; even the calendar is set by the celebrations.

Behind the superficiality of the social calendar lurks a different reality, however. The sky is an enemy, raining death and destruction in a most creative way — the population is unawares of their peril from this extradimensional danger. It falls to a band of shape-shifting magic users to defend the plane, but they are far from a cohesive entity. Their number has been whittled down by combat and politics and they hunger for leadership from a king. Ashiol is the prime candidate, but abused and ashamed, he wants none of it. And so the jostling begins, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance…

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Karen Miller

Fisherman’s Children

HarperVoyager (2009)

ISBN: 9780732287542

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in October 2009)

Following after the events of Miller’s much accoladed The Innocent Mage and Innocence Lost books, this is the first book of a new series in the same world. Initially focusing on the original characters, the story gradually segues to concentrate more on the younger generation (hence the Fisherman’s Children of the series title. Almost two decades after the events of the previous books, much change has occurred for the people of Lur. Still greatly affected by the events prior to and during the Mage War, the people struggle to adapt to the new circumstances of their world, and when things begin to become unstable once more, it is difficult to see their way forward. Son of heroes Asher and Dathne, Rafel seeks to forge to the future, but is blocked on all sides: by parents unwilling to see him hurt by magic or conflict; by a sister too fragile for the world; by a mortal enemy, who maybe isn’t quite what he seems. Rafel struggles against all those who bind him, and in doing so, both risks himself and simultaneously may be the shining hope for his people.

I enjoyed reading The Prodigal Mage, but it seemed to take a good while to really get into the story. I haven’t read the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker sequence, and found myself feeling a bit left out because of it, as the characters are clearly still quite entrenched in those books. For me, the second half of the book, when it really started to focus on the younger generation, was when I truly became engaged, but at the same time, the first half really made me want to go read The Innocent Mage books!

Miller is a multi-talented writer who has a grand vision in her stories, and it’s always a pleasure to read her books. I don’t think I found the characters as three dimensional as is usual for her work, primarily because there seemed to be an expectation that the reader was already acquainted with them from the earlier books. This left me a bit high and dry, but I eventually gained a feel for most of the characters. I think it would be a far better experience to start with the original books, from all accounts, a worthwhile read in themselves, so no real hardship for the lover of good fantasy!

KE Mills

Rogue Agent, book 1

HarperVoyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286040

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was originally published in February 2008)

The Accidental Sorcerer turned out to be a delightful surprise. The first twenty pages seemed to be setting up a rather ordinary, derivative novel without much originality. But then the author hit her stride, and the novel turned into a lively, energetic, original romp that at times made me laugh out loud. By the end, I was already anticipating with pleasure future instalments in the series.

The Sorcerer of the title is Gerald Dunwoody, a depressingly ordinary young man, with a depressingly average level of magical talent. Resigned to his own ordinariness, Gerald has accepted his status as a Third Level magician, and with it a job as a bureaucrat in the Department of Thaumaturgy. Unfortunately, on one of his first jobs things go hideously wrong and he contributes to a devastating explosion at a major wand factory – and creates a huge scandal. Luckily Gerald isn’t entirely friendless, and he manages to get a job in another country as Royal Court Wizard. Given his lowly qualifications, Gerald has a sense that there must be some catch in the job; but it’s a job, and the title alone should give him enough status to eventually rebuild a career in his native land. Read the rest of this entry »

Kylie Chan

Dark Heavens, book 1

HarperCollins (2006) 

ISBN: 9780732282967

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts (this review was originally published in October 2006)

There have been some really great debuts for Australian fantasy writers in the last twelve months, with Karen Miller’s adventurous Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology, and Grace Dugan’s promising first novel, The Silver Road. Like these two exciting new authors, Kylie Chan has produced a fast-paced and innovative debut novel, which adds a new dimension to the general picture of Australian fantasy fiction.

Emma is an Australian living and working in the childcare industry in Hong Kong, her English language skills being particularly prized. When she loses her job in a prestigious kindergarten for making the lessons a bit too much fun, she is snapped up for a full time nanny position by one of her regular clients, a mysterious and handsome Chinese businessman, Mr Chen, with an adorable, completely over-scheduled four year old daughter, Simone.

Sounds like one of those romantic comedies where the nanny falls in love with her employer and fixes his family while she’s at it? You wouldn’t be far wrong, though there is far more to this novel than that plotline. Despite the fact that it takes a long time to be officially revealed (to Emma, at least, who is a touch dense on this particular subject), it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that Mr Chen is not a mobster (as Emma first believes) but is actually a Chinese god, as are many of his strange and entertaining cronies. He and his half-immortal daughter are under attack from various demons, and his current lifespan is running short. It is vital that he trains his daughter to be independent before he has to leave her, and that is only a matter of a few years. Falling in love with Emma is not part of the equation… Read the rest of this entry »

Trudi Canavan

The Magician’s Guild, Harper Voyager (2001), ISBN: 9780732270957

The Novice, Harper Voyager (2002), ISBN: 9780732272364

The High Lord, Harper Voyager (2003), ISBN: 9780732272302

Reviewed by Kathryn Linge (this review was originally published in 2009)

The Black Magician Trilogy revolves around Sonea, a girl born in the slums of the city of Imardin, who discovers that she has magical abilities normally only found (or at least only looked for) in the upper classes. She discovers them during the annual Purge, when magicians from the Guild gather together to purge the city of the homeless by order of the King of Kyralia. Angry at how her friends and family are being treated, Sonea throws a stone at the magicians’ shield, and is amazed when it passes through the magical barrier and knocks a magician unconscious. The Guild are immediately concerned that such strong ability has developed naturally in a slum dweller, partly because no commoner has been accepted to be a Guild magician in hundreds of years, but also because if Sonea cannot learn to control her power, it will destroy her and possibly a good part of the city as well.

A large part of The Magician’s Guild, book one of the trilogy, follows Sonea’s attempts to hide from the magicians, aided by her friend Cery and the Thieves, who see advantage in having access to a magician not controlled by the Guild. And, to be honest, I found the book fairly predictable and unexciting. The action remains static for much of the novel. After rousing the Guild’s interest, Sonea hides throughout the city. The Guild’s need to find her before she (effectively) explodes with power is not clearly established – there’s no real sense of urgency and so we have a storyline where the magicians nearly find her on a couple of occasions, but she avoids them, finds a new spot to hide, and the cycle continues. By the time, Sonea has been found by the Guild, and the danger of her uncontrolled power is finally explained, I was lost to the rest of the story. Don’t get me wrong, The Magician’s Guild is competently written and the text is far from stodgy. It just wasn’t very engaging. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Westwood

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286330

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was originally published in 2009)

The Daughters of Moab presents initially as a science fiction novel; the blurb on the back certainly sounds that way, and the initial setting and scenes give that impression too. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that in many ways this is a fantasy. Personally, I think it works, but some readers may be a little disconcerted if they expect something that sits more strongly within one genre.

The Daughters of Moab is set in Australia, albeit an Australia of the near future that has been ravaged by a pandemic, religious mania, natural disaster, and a bomb. Westwood deliberately avoids using place names, but Australians – or readers familiar with Australia’s geography – won’t have much trouble attaching names to particular cities or locations. By not using names, however, Westwood adds to the slightly dreamlike sense of dislocation that much of the novel generates.

The Followers of Nathaniel (now known as Nathans) are a religious sect that had begun gaining power before the natural disasters that destroyed Australian society. Their main objective was to imprison and potentially destroy the Abominations – girls born either of the union of two mothers, or parthenogenetically from a single mother. Before the apocalypse they had managed to round up most of these children, called Transfects. Now they experiment on them; the Nathans harvest the girls’ blood, hoping to eventually be able to extract from it the secrets of the Transfects’ health and long life. Whatever is helping them flourish, the Nathans most definitely lack. Read the rest of this entry »

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