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Glenda Larke

Watergivers Trilogy, Book 3

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8931-7

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

“Not all Reduners are coloured with the same dust.”

Neither are all fantasy authors cut from the same cloth. This volume brings to a close Glenda Larke’s third fantasy trilogy, and what an enjoyable journey it has been. The most striking element of Larke’s storytelling is the way, in all her series, that the landscape is rendered as not just a backdrop, but as a very real element in the societies she describes. In the case of the Watergivers, the environment is all-consuming. This runs all the way down to the characters’ curses, without ever feeling forced or twee. The societies are eminently believable, with economies, religion and social structures all shaped to some degree by the climate.

In the previous books, we’ve seen how the desert-dwelling Reduners have risen up to oppose the seat of power in the coastal Scarpen, intent on destroying the stormlords’ hegemony over the distribution of rain. In the background is a conflict of beliefs – Larke loves to explore the complexity of religion and the danger of fundamentalism – and issues of inter-cultural understanding and social justice (there are transgender and homosexual characters here, and varying degrees of cultural appreciation for the role of women, all handled with the minimum of fuss and no screaming slogans).

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Paul Garrety

Helix Prophecy, book 2

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9155-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Emerald Tablets is Book 2 of the Helix Prophecy, apparently completing the story begun in The Seventh Wave. Like the first book, it could be read as a standalone novel without much problem; you will probably get more out of it, however, if you’ve read the first novel.

Callum wakes up in 2062. On the brink of death in 2012, Callum was thrown forward into the future (the how is never really explained), apparently to serve as a last ditch reserve to save humanity. The Immortals have taken over Earth, but now they want to return to their own planet, taking with them some of what they’ve gained on Earth. And that would annihilate Earth, so Callum must stop them, despite the fact that most of the current population doesn’t really care. The Emerald Tablets of Atlantis (something else that isn’t credibly explained) have the power to frustrate the Immortals in their departure. So Callum sets off on a wild-eyed chase to try to find the Tablets before the Immortals do.

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Paul Garrety

Helix Prophecy, book 1

Harper Voyager

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9154-9

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Seventh Wave is Book 1 of the Helix Prophecy, which appears to conclude with Book 2 (The Emerald Tablets). However, The Seventh Wave also stands alone, and could be comfortably read without any intention of reading the second novel.

Callum is a professional thief, a good one. He plans his jobs thoroughly, keeps the risks low, and makes a nice profit to feed his gambling habit. But one night things go badly awry; he breaks into a house and all hell breaks loose. Just as he thinks he’s found the treasure trove of his dreams, he finds it’s guarded by creatures from his nightmares. During his hasty exit from the house, he collects freelance journalist Sam Goodman, who’d followed him in. She was interested in getting dirt on the houseowner, and a friend named Freda had told her Callum would be breaking in.

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Glenda Larke

Watergivers, Book 3

Harper Voyager (2011 )

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8931-7

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Glenda Larke has to be one of the best writers of fantasy Australia has produced. With a solid backlist of two great trilogies behind her, she has really hammered home her dominance with the Watergivers trilogy. Having set up a world that seems just a little too real with its water problems, but is nonetheless entirely alien, Larke populates it with both magical and mundane characters of wonderful diversity, then throws them into intense conflict. While her books are high fantasy of the fattest “fat fantasy” tradition, they draw you in so completely that the pages simply fly by.

It is difficult to review the third novel without spoiling the first two, as such significant character development occurs throughout the series. It’s also worth saying that I highly recommend this series be read in close progression. I wish I’d had the time to reread the first two before devouring the third, as although Larke does well to recap on past events within the narrative, it is a large cast and a broad canvas, so rolling through from beginning to end helps heighten the emotional investment in the story.

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Tracey O’Hara

Dark Brethren, book 2

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 9780061783142

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Death’s Sweet Embrace is the second book in Tracey O’Hara’s Dark Brethren urban fantasy series. The first book was Night’s Cold Kiss.

In the Dark Brethren world, humans and parahumans live together in an uneasy truce. Parahumans in this world include the Aeternus (vampires) and Animalians (shapeshifters). The first book in this series focused on the Aeternus and the Venators, humans who hunt rogue Aeternus. Specifically, the book’s protagonist was the Venator Antoinette Petrescu, and the main story arc followed her relationship with the Aeternus Christian.

The second book shifts focus to the Animalians, the focal character also changing to a snow leopard shapeshifter, Kitt Jordan. Kitt was a minor character in the first novel, a lecturer in parahuman forensic pathology. She is called to be part of a task force investigating a serial killer targeting young shapeshifters; the task force also includes Antoinette. Her work also brings her back into contact with the werewolf Raven, her one-time lover, and her estranged twin daughters.

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Lauren DeStefano

HarperVoyager (2011)

ISBN: 978 0 00 738698 7

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

SPOILER WARNING

It can be a fine line between clever misdirection and a pervasive atmosphere of bullshit, and I can’t help but feel that in her debut novel, Wither, Lauren DeStefano has failed to cross that line. From the very first scene, I could feel her land of make believe tumbling down, logic brick by logic brick. Ordinarily, that would’ve meant a quick flick of the novel across the room and a move on to something more captivating. But with Wither, I felt compelled to read on, enticed by nothing more than curiosity about how DeStefano was going to deconstruct her implausible creation.

A dream? Now that would be worthy of a wall toss. Perhaps her narrator is caught in some kind of artificial reality? After all, Rhine does think that Chris Columbus was the first man to circumnavigate the globe. But then, maybe that’s just an indictment of the US education system. It’s even worse in Rhine’s time. The problem is, if you’re setting out to reveal that the world is not what either your narrator purposefully misleads you into thinking it is, or actually what they mistakenly believe it to be, then you have to throw your reader a bone. You have to convince them that you will honour their trust with a believable, and traceable, reveal that will reward their suspension of disbelief. And at no stage does DeStefano engender in me that trust. Which means, regardless of whether the world building here is fair dinkum sloppy or a purposeful artifice, the story has failed.

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Kylie Chan

Journey to Wudang, Book 3

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8688-0

Reviewed by Mitenae

Emma continues looking after Wudang Mountain while John is gone but Kitty Kwok is still on the loose and undetectable copies have infiltrated Wudang. But something large and dangerous is coming just as John (Xuan Wu) begins to slowly retake human form.

Heaven to Wudang is the sixth book about Emma, John, Simone and Leo and although it’s supposed to be the final book of the second trilogy, it doesn’t come across that way. This is a story about a family and a world and it doesn’t lend itself well to being a trilogy (or a series of trilogies). This book feels incomplete and the ending doesn’t come across as the cliffhanger it should. It feels like it’s an instalment of a regular series, rather than the end of a trilogy.

Karen Miller

A Kingmaker, Kingbreaker novel

HarperVoyager

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8756-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Kingmaker, Kingbreaker novels (The Innocent Mage and Innocence Lost) were Karen Miller’s debut novels; extremely assured and well written novels. She has since gone on to demonstrate repeatedly that it wasn’t a fluke – she is a highly skilled writer. However, A Blight of Mages is not her best work. The essential problem is that A Blight of Mages is a prequel to the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology, and as a result many readers will have a very good sense from page one of what will happen. This robs the narrative of a lot of its momentum, and although the novel is still interesting, it isn’t exactly riveting.

A Blight of Mages focuses on Barl Linden and Morgan Danfey and their relationship. Those who’ve read the other novels will know that these two are towering figures of history, and will know in broad terms what happens between them and what impact it has on their society. However, assuming you have picked up a book labelled “a Kingmaker, Kingbreaker novel” without having read any of the others, the plot goes like this: Barl is a powerful mage, but because she is socially inferior she is denied the highest levels of training and has only limited opportunities to use her power. She chafes under these restrictions and believes the powerful Council of Mages is abusing its power by reinforcing the social strata that mean more than magical power or talent.

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Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm

Harper Voyager

ISBN: 978-0-00-727379-9

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

The Inheritance is a collection of short stories by alter egos Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm. Containing both original to the collection and reprint stories, The Inheritance is an almost soul bearing group of stories, particularly those written under the Lindholm name, which stem from reflections of the author’s own life. Containing two stories set in Hobb’s Elderlings world, this book is a showcase of quality writing and thoughtful plots.

The first seven stories are nominally by Megan Lindholm. In her introduction, the author states that Lindholm’s stories are more concise than Hobb’s, while “Robin still tends to sprawl in her storytelling, so while she takes up as many pages, there are fewer stories by her in these pages.” (p. ix). So it is that the first half of the book are shorter pieces, tending to examine smaller pieces of life, but in a depth and beauty that’s hard to find in short stories today. Some stories are so slightly left of centre that they are almost mainstream, but only almost. The touch of speculation is always there, however covertly.

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Jennifer Fallon

Riftrunners, Book 1

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9084-9

Reviewed by Mitenae

The Undivided is the latest offering in a new series from fantasy author Jennifer Fallon. It tells the tale of Darragh and Rónán, psychically linked twins who have been separated since they were young.

Rónán, now known as Ren, grows up in Dublin, the adopted son of actress Kiva Kavanaugh. He wakes up one night with a mysterious cut caused through no fault of his own, again, yet no one believes him. Darragh grows up in a world of magic, one that was never taken over by the Romans, well aware that his brother is missing and that together they are the Undivided. While others plot to end a two thousand year old treaty, Darragh searches for his brother in order to bring him back to Eire (Ireland) and reunite the Undivided.

It took a while for me to warm to this book and it was only several chapters in, once Ren’s story was underway, that I began to enjoy it. I found the lack of timeframe in the initial chapters annoying, especially due to the use of the name Amergin, which I know to be the name of poets from Irish mythology. For me, the story could have done with including the dates at the beginning of these initial set up chapters to help understand that it is the present rather than a thousand or more years ago. There is a timeline, but it’s in the back of the book and provided no real reference until I had some knowledge of what is happening in the story.

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