Sunday, 29 July 2007

Another Sapkowski review plus Update

Those of you interested in Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish, which recently arrived in English translation and was released in the UK a couple of months back (review here), may be intrigued by this review by Wotmana stalwart Dylanfanatic (aka Larry).

Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist recently visited New York City and met with several publishers, picking up interesting info about Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch's series as well as some intriguing info about George RR Martin's much-delayed A Dance with Dragons, which is now apparently an early-to-mid 2008 release. Incidentally on the GRRM front, Martin and Gardner Dozois are collaborating on a fantasy anthology of short stories for release possibly in late 2008, which will be entitled Warriors. Robin Hobb is the only confirmed contributor so far, but I would bet money on the third of GRRM's 'Dunk & Egg' stories set in Westeros seeing the light here as well.

As for myself, I am currently reading Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott and hope to pick up Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void tomorrow. However, packing for the house move means that my reading schedule is likely to be disrupted for the next few weeks. I hope to get at least these two books, if not Ian Esslemont's
Night of Knives and Paul McAuley's Cowboy Angels, before the move happens. I also hope to get to the cinema to see The Simpsons Movie and Transformers in the next week or two to flesh out the currently under-strength movie reviews section (speaking of which, Sunshine is now on general release in the United States).

Incidentally, the reason why Heroes, despite being listed as one of my favourite TV programmes of the moment, has not had a review for its first season yet is that it has only just started on British terrastial television and I didn't want to discuss spoilers before it had aired here. Expect a review once the series is concluded.

I've also noted that despite promising PC game reviews on this blog, this hasn't happened yet. Mainly this is due to the fact that a lot of the games I've been playing recently don't have any SF&F component (Medieval II: Total War and Company of Heroes) or are so huge I haven't properly completed them (Oblivion and STALKER). I hope to do some work on this section in the near future, probably starting with Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, which has numerous SF&F crossover elements.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Burning Stone, Child of Flame & The Gathering Storm by Kate Elliott

My reading of Kate Elliott's seven-volume fantasy epic Crown of Stars continues. I unexpectedly made a lot of good time reading the series, so I decided to combine the reviews for the next three books into one review.

The Burning Stone (1999) is the third volume in the series and picks up the storyline after the events at the Battle of Gent. The quasi-self-contained storylines of the first two novels are abandoned here in favour of a more serialised approach as Elliott kicks in the central story arc of the whole series. The reader gains an understanding of the stakes and the true nature of the threat to Novaria, but Elliott presents us with several different viewpoints of the same events and it's unclear which is the true explanation. As I mentioned earlier, enjoyment of the first two novels is marred by the weakness of the character of Liath, but in this third volume she becomes more interesting as she is confronted by the apparent truth of her upbringing and birth. Elsewhere, political intrigue gathers pace and the Eika gain a new chieftain. The Eika plotline is extremely well-handled in this series and it's a shame it isn't given more airtime, but at a thousand pages in paperback this is already a long novel that doesn't really need to be any longer.

The Burning Stone (***½) is an important step forward in the series, delineating the main threats and clarifying what the central plot arc of the series actually is. However, the lack of a rigorous central narrative and the increasingly sprawling cast of characters and secondary plotlines does undermine some of the benefits of the stronger storytelling in this volume. The book is available from DAW in the USA and Orbit in the UK.

Child of Flame (2000) is an intriguing addition to the Crown of Stars series. As the middle volume of the series, it would have been easy for this to be a slower-paced book full of setting up and limited plot resolution. Instead Elliott pulls off some interesting writing decisions which allows her to delve deeper into the mysteries at the heart of the series whilst pushing forward the action decisively. There are huge battles, several key storylines are closed off and the destinies of Alain and Liath (who has a lot less screen-time than in previous volumes) take them to some very strange places.

Child of Flame (****) is the strongest novel of the first four in the series, featuring some unexpected plot developments and forcing some serious reconsidering of what came before.


The Gathering Storm (2003) was originally supposed to be the penultimate volume of the series, but the final book was split in half due to its size. As such, the reader may be taken aback that the major climax of the series comes two volumes before its conclusion. The purpose of this novel is to take all of the developments of the past two volumes (and some from before that) and tie them all together into a massive convergence of plotlines, characters and events. This works very well, and the purposes of secondary storylines and characters who previously didn't seem to be contributing much to the overriding narrative is made clearer, sometimes surprisingly so. Again, the Eika storyline (now revealed to be much more closely tied to the central narrative than previously thought) is very strong in this novel, although some of the key characters do get a little lost in the middle of the book (Sanglant in particular, who has major roles in the opening and closing chapters but is otherwise off-stage for a significant chunk of the novel). There's also some curious and slightly baffling plot decisions which at first glance don't seem to make much sense, particularly a number of coincidences and happenstances in Alain's storyline that verge on the ludicrous. That said, it's certainly a relief that the major events foreseen and talked about (at times interminably) for the last several volumes finally come to pass in an explosive and apocalyptic finale.

The Gathering Storm (***½) is a highly significant step forward in the series and Elliott handles the major sweeping events of the book quite well, although a number of weaknesses in the plotting detract from the enjoyment of the book. As the novel concludes the reader is left feeling slightly dazed and asking, "Now what?"


The final two volumes in the series are In the Ruins and Crown of Stars, which I hope to have finished next week.

Interview with Peter F. Hamilton

Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist recently gave me the opportunity to collaborate with him on an interview with SF author Peter F. Hamilton, whose new novel The Dreaming Void is published next week in the UK. The interview is located here. As usual, many thanks to Pat for this opportunity!

Friday, 13 July 2007


I continue in my reading of Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series, although a househunting expedition to Ireland has slowed my reading rate at the moment. The review of the third book should be up shortly though.

Currently, as well as the four remaining books of that series, I also have Ian Cameron Esslemont's Night of Knives, China Mieville's Looking for Jake, CS Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, Paul Kearney's This Forsaken Earth and Paul J. McAuley's Cowboy Angels waiting to be read, although Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void will take precedence when it is released on 2 August. Hopefully I can pick up the pace a little in the next few weeks (although a major house move may interfere with that).

Speaking of Paul Kearney, apparently he is close to finalising a deal for a new series and a reprint of his superb Monarchies of God series in one volume, as well as determining the fate of the final Sea Beggars volume after Bantam declined to carry on with the series. Watch this space, or indeed, Paul's website.

It's been a sad few weeks for SF figures passing away. Fred Saberhagen, best known for his Beserker series of SF novels, passed away on 29 June at the age of 77. Douglas Hill, who wrote a number of SF novels for younger readers, passed away on 21 June at the age of 72 after being hit by a bus in Palmer's Green, London. His many works included the enjoyable ColSec Trilogy. British actor and voice artist Peter Tuddenham passed away on 9 July at the age of 88. Tuddenham did voice work for several episodes of the original Doctor Who series but is best known for voicing the three recurring AI characters in Blake's 7, namely Zen, ORAC and Slave.