Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Well of Darkness (Sovereign Stone #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Well of Darkness (Sovereign Stone, #1)Well of Darkness by Margaret Weis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is apparently based on a role-playing game, but since I am not into RPGs, I've never heard of it. I have, however, read many of Weis & Hickman's books, and generally enjoy them. This was no exception.

I will warn readers that this is a very dark story. It begins with the choosing of nine year old Gareth to be the whipping boy for Prince Dagnarus (the authors will forgive me, please, for wanting to read that as Prince "Dagnabit" every time! I do have an odd sense of humor.) The whipping boy soon falls under the control of the charming, spoiled and selfish Prince. When Gareth shows an adept's talent for magic, especially the forbidden Void magic, the prince sets out to use his whipping boy to wrest the kingdom from his older brother, the Crown Prince.

The story uses the four familiar races in fantasy: human, elf, dwarf and ork. But all three are given a twist. The elves have a very complex political and social system, dwarves are master horsemen and orks sail the sea and are fishermen. It makes for interesting reading, and puts enough spin on each race that they don't fall into stereotype.

The main draw to this book is the world building, something these authors do excel at. Each race is distinct, with its own politics, religion and social structure. Where they come together, the overlapping differences and divisions make up the background for the main story. The setting is confined and we don't see a lot of the other races' homelands, but the human world (where most of the story takes place) is well-drawn and detailed.

There is little to relieve the dark tone of the book: Gareth's parents care more for their position in court than for their son, Dagnarus is vain and bent on defeating his brother and becoming King, Gareth is torn and guilt-ridden, unable through most of the story to face up to Dagnarus. It could be a bit off-putting to some readers because of the tone. I found it fascinating.

I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy at some point.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Progress Report, and a Warning

No book review this week. Sorry. Next week. Maybe even two.

Thought I'd update my progress this time around. I've just about done with the first pass through the Work-In-Progress. That's the one where I try to pick up the misspellings and egregious grammar errors, as well as the really obvious bits and pieces of story. Reading through that draft now to make notes on what needs changing, filling in, expanding, cutting, etc. Oh, yeah, and I still have to finish the ending!

I've got the first 2 chapters out to a reader for crit. Always important to get another set of eyes (or two) on a work in draft. Too often, what seems obvious to me is a "Huh?" moment for the reader. And there are always a few mechanical errors I miss. The goal is to get this thing in finished form by the end of the year. Right now, that seems like it should be on track.

And the warning: It's one that you hear a lot. We all know it, and at one time or another, we all get bitten by not doing it. What happened? Well, yesterday, we had no internet service here at the house all day long. Ok, I thought, that is probably a good thing, since I will have to get some work done and I will not have the temptation of social media to distract me. (Yes, I close all that stuff when I am working, but the possibility of it is still there, niggling at my mind.) And I did get a fair bit done. I had moved the laptop from my desk to the living room, where I could put my feet up to work. Put the computer aside, and got up, WITHOUT HITTING THE SAVE ICON. Oh, yes, I see you all cringing out there! Of course, I came back and the thing was frozen. Couldn't get it working again. Thankfully, when the BaldMan looked at it after work, he managed to get it running. Took a remove and replace of the battery, and why that worked- no clue. But I did lose a chunk of work. I am not happy, but I have only myself to blame. And I lost the time twise- once yesterday, and again today when I had to redo it all. Will I do that again soon? You can bet not. Will I do it again eventually? Probably. Will it bite me in the ass again? We'll see. Until then, I repeat, as a warning to you all: Save early, Save often!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Spirit Gate (Crossroads, #1)Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Spirit Gate is the first book in Kate Elliott's Crossroad's series. The story is set in the Hundred, a land in trouble. For many years, the Guardians, an almost god-like group, dispensed justice and kept the peace. Now the Guardians are gone and presumed dead. The reeves, who ride giant eagles, patrol the land and have been the peace keepers for many years. But now, the reeves are losing the respect of the people and are becoming unable to do protect the people. A deadly, mysterious force has invaded the land, with an army that kills and lays waste to everything in its path. One reeve, named Joss, after suffering the loss of his fellow reeve and lover and sinking into years of rebellious, self-destructive behavior, is beginning to regain his resolve. A band of trained militia from outside the Hundred, led by the resourceful Captain Anji, come into the Hundred in exile from their own land. With Anji is his wife, Mai and one of her uncles. Together, they try to combat the forces intent on ripping the Hundred apart.

Sounds like a pretty standard plot, but the real interest in this book lies in the characters. There is a whole cast of people involved in the story, to more or less degree, but even some of the minor characters are well-drawn and personal. The female characters are strong and resourceful, and able to forge a place in what is, for the most part, a male dominated world. Mai in particular shows growth, appearing at first to be rather biddable and unassuming, despite an inner resolve. As she realizes that her new husband chose her because he recognized many of those strong traits in her, she grows more confident and willing to use skills learned in her family's merchant business to help Anji as he and his men get pulled deeper into the conflict.

The world is interesting and well drawn, with mythologies and religious aspects that come into conflict as the outlanders make their way into the new land. At times, the details can become a bit confusing, but don't take away from the enjoyment of the story. There is some introspective narrative, especially with Mai's uncle, as well as some instances of info-dump, but no more than with any first of a trilogy novel.

In all, it was an interesting and engaging read.

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