Kailana's Review

This novel comes before Once Upon a Summer's Day, a novel I read earlier in the month. It is rare that I read the same author in the same month, I like to get some variety, but sometimes there are those books that you just can't wait to get into. This is one of those authors. From the back of the book:

Once upon a winter's night, a poor crofter trades his daughter Camille to wed Prince Alain of the Summerwood in exchange for a lifetime of riches. Though true love blossoms between Camille and the prince, he is haunted by sadness and will not allow her to see his unmasked face. Believing she can lift whatever curse has been bestowed on him, Camille acts on her own - with devastating results, as all she loves is swept away.

Not, to regain what she has lost, she must embark on a desperate quest through the hinterlands of Faery, seeking a mysterious place lying somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon...

Once Upon a Winter's Night is a retelling of the classic folk tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Unlike Once Upon a Summer's Day, the person on a quest this time is a girl, Camille. She is of in search of the Prince of the Summerwood instead of him searchng for her. This takes care of the two brother, as the other prince did the rescuing in Once Upon a Summer's Day. That means that the later two novels will concentrate on the princesses and their adventures.

I am shocked how many people are not familiar with this fairy tale/folk tale. My advice to you is that you should read where it all began before attempting this novel. A little background information will reveal to you the basics of the novel, but the children's tale came first, so it is only right.

In the novel, as in the classic fairy tale, the prince is cursed to take on the shape of a bear by the day and a prince by night. Only Camille is not allowed to know that, or the prince's curse will be farther reaching. Camille listens to her mother, though, who is a money-hungry oppurtunitist, and the girl attempts to learn the secret of her princes fate. Once she does, though, disaster strikes and she is forced into a quest with only a bird to accompany her and unlikely aid along her path.

It is hard to write this review, because by explaining the basics of the novel, I give away the fairy tale to those that have not read it. Many people would think that Camille is being shown as a nosey female, not knowing what is good for her, but her courage is tested and she is shown willing. She makes unlikely friends along the way, and there is laughter and danger to follow. In the end, her curiousity may have been better for the prince than remaining in the dark, because she shows readers that heroes do not always have to be men and shows Camille that she is capable of doing anything. Something that had been dashed while living in her small lifestyle with her parents and several siblings.

Sort of corny in a sense, a novel that shows that love can overcome all obstacles, but then it is a fairy tale novel, isn't it.


Mailyn's review

From Amazon:

When the prince of Summerland (in Faery, of course) falls in love with poor farmer's daughter Camille, she is borne from her family's rough home to his grand castle on the back of a great white bear. In short order, she falls in love with the prince, though she is not permitted to see his face because of a family curse. One night, however, overcome with curiosity, she shines a candle on his beautiful face, which brings the curse on the household. All disappear but Camille, left alone to confront her fears and evil trolls who seek to claim Summerland's throne. She seeks the help of Lady Soriel, who gives her vague, oracular advice; an injured bird as companion; and a walking stick for the journey she must make. Camille has only a year and a day to search all of Faery for her lost love and free him from his terrible fate.

This book is one of many which flesh out the old Norwegian fairy tale East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon and I must say that the book grabbed me from the very beginning as Dennis L. McKiernan's writing is engaging. As the plot is fairly accurately described above I am simply going to concentrate on what I did and did not like.

To be honest there was little I did not like. Camille, although your average innocent fairy tale heroine is somewhat modernized. For example, she actually questions why it's OK for a man to be sexually active but a woman must remain a virgin until she marries. She does have her moments where you wonder what she was thinking but the way the story is narrated and unfolds makes you forgive her. Besides, if you've read many fairy tales you will by now recognize this as typical fairy tale heroine behavior [otherwise nothing bad would ever happen!]

The downside of the book is that it gets repetitive in some places. I realize this is meant to give Camille trials and tribulations and a very hard time before she gets to the end of her journey but sometimes it was overdone. One example that comes to mind is when she encounters the Fates. The reader basically is treated to the same exact thing three times and you have to wonder why the first Fate couldn't just give Camille everything she needed.

Overall I will say I rather enjoyed this book as I am an avid fairy tale lover. I didn't love it as much as the majority of people seem to love it but I trully did enjoy it. I especially liked the interactions between Camille, the Prince and the bear and have to say those were some of the best moments in the entire book and made it all worth reading.

I recommend it for anyone over 15 as this does have some sexual innuendos and interaction between Camille and the Prince althought this is well executed and not just thrown in for the sake of spicing up the novel.

A solid 4 out of 5!

And, the winners are:


We have decided that instead of choosing the books for you, we will just let you pick out of the four choices, which one you want to read the most.

Poison Study by Maria Snyder
Archangel by Sharon Shinn
Ill Wind by Rachel Caine
Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

So, just leave which book you want in the comments, and email us your addresses at either thetwistedk(at)gmail(dot)com or one of our personal addresses. Congrats folks!

The Assassin King by Elizabeth Haydon
Released December 2006

The Assassin King opens at winter's end with the arrival by sea of a mysterious hunter, a man of ancient race and purpose, who endlessly chants the names of the pantheon of demons that are his intended victims, as well as one other: Ysk, the original name of the Brother, now known as Achmed, the Assassin King of Ylorc.
At the same moment of this portentous arrival, two gatherings of great import are taking place. The first is a convocation of dragons, who gather in a primeval forest glade--the site of the horrific ending of Llauron, one of the last of their kind. They mourn not only his irrevocable death, but the loss of the lore and control over the Earth itself that it represents. The ancient wyrms are terrified for what will come as a result of this loss.
The Hedge King by George R.R. Martin
Released December 21, 2006
Collecting the six issue mini-series adapting Martin's hit novel, bringing the world of a Song of Ice and Fire to life in comic book form.

Night falls over the life of one noble knight and brings the dawn of his squire's knighthood. Dubbing himself 'Ser Duncan the Tall', The Hedge Knight sets forth to the tourney at Ashford Meadow in search of fame and glory and the honor of upholding his oath as a knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately for him, the world isn't ready for a knight who keeps his oaths, and his chivalrous methods could be the very cause of his demise.

Nobody is safe in the secret hour.

Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma.

Time freezes.

Nobody moves.

For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour — only they are free to move about the midnight time.

These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School.

Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica . . . and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.

Review: This book was a fast-paced, action packed story that fell short of my expectations. The beginning started off pretty decent, but by halfway through, I was bored. First, the world wasn’t fleshed out as well as I would have liked it, nor were the characters, thus they didn’t come alive on the page for me. And a few of the characters felt a bit sterotypical. Another problem I had with this book was that were way too many action sequences between the Midnighters and the darklings/slithers (the cannon fodder predator/snake-like creatures that roam the midnight hour). It got to the point where I would think (with irritation), “Here we go again! Another action scene!” There’s even a small amount of romance that was just developing as the story ends, but I didn’t find it very compelling. I did, however, think the concept of this book was neat—I mean, how many times have you wished for an extra hour in the day? The idea that there’s a 25th hour, that time freezes at midnight and only a select few--those born exactly at midnight—can access it, is interesting; I just think the idea wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, and by the end of the book, I still had questions--like why it is that only teenagers seem to be able to access the midnight hour? If those born at midnight are the only ones able to enter the midnight hour, shouldn’t there be older people who can access it too? Perhaps these questions are answered in the next book, but I doubt I’ll pick up the next in the trilogy to find out. I do, however, plan to give Westerfeld’s acclaimed Uglies trilogy a try. As for this one...

Rating: 3.0

I know, morbid title, but I have been thinking a lot lately about how authors that are dead continue to have books come out claiming that they wrote them. This arises from my excitement, and yet doubt, about Marion Zimmer Bradley. She is the author of one my favourite books, The Mists of Avalon.

A brief biography taken from Fantastic Fiction:

Marion Zimmer was born in Albany, NY, on June 3, 1930, and married Robert Alden Bradley in 1949. Mrs. Bradley received her B.A. in 1964 from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, then did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1965-67.

Writing for over 4 decades, she is best known for her Darkover science fantasy series and her Arthurian masterpiece, The Mists of Avalon. She also edited anthologies for 14 years and published Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine.
She died in Berkeley, California on September 25, 1999, four days after suffering a major heart attack.

As you can see from that brief biography, Bradley died 7 years ago , but yet, books continue to come out that state that they are by her, with help from another author. It makes you wonder, is it worth it to pay the money for these books? Is it holding on to your love of the old author, or is it finding love for a new one? And, did Bradley really intend for her series to continue and develop in such a way?

This is the question I asked myself when Ancestors of Avalon came out in 2004. All of the books that Bradley had wrote for this series after Mists of Avalon were written with the help of Diana L. Paxson. Priestess of Avalon came out in 2000, but it was still close enough to when Bradley was alive to be realistically connected to her. She has had several books come out after she died. This is all being written because she has the sixth book in the Avalon series coming out next year, Ravens of Avalon. I have yet to read Anecestors of Avalon, but I am planning to make it a near future read. I just think sometimes that Bradley's books should have stopped coming out when she died, but yet I at the same time love the Avalon books and would love to continue to see where the story takes us.

So, my question to other readers, do you think that books should cease with the death of the author, or do you think that people that are familiar with the series and the author should continue them? Or, even random people that just feel that the series should continue?

Howdy Strangers! I know that everything has been quiet on here, but starting today, I am going to try and post more! First up, I have a challenge of sorts that I came up with. I cleaned off my shelves, finding some fantasy books that have been sitting there for quite some time, and the plan is to read at least one of them every month. I have plenty of other fantasy books, though, so hopefully I will review more than one a month. So, without further ado, the list.

Mass Market:

1. Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
2. The Catsworld Portal by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
3. Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop
4. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
5. The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky
6. Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper
7. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
8. The Sun, the Moon and the Stars by Steven Brust
9. Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
10.Mammoth by John Varley
11.The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
12.Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams


1. Lyonesse by Jack Vance
2. Pride of Kings by Judith Tarr
3. The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley
4. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Holly here they are! ^_^

by Mailyn

I've had a helluva hard time writing a review for this book. In fact, I only recall another time when I had SUCH a hard time writing a review and that was for The Gilded Chain: A Tale of the King's Blade. Just as it happened with that book I loved Poison Study so much I had no idea what else to say about it. If you've been here before then you'll notice this is not my regular review format and that's the reason why.

Some people look for good grammar or spelling mistakes. Me, I love what writing with style, with class. I am turned off when I encounter writing that seems too contemporary or just bland. This is especially true when I read Fantasy since a lot of it is based on other worlds that somewhat remind me of Medieval or 18th century Europe. Even when this is not the case I think Fantasy should have writing that stands out and is more than just a simple telling of events. It requires "fancier" language if you will.

Mrs. Snyder doesn't disappoint one bit. From the moment I started reading Poison Study I was hooked on her world and everything that was happening to our characters. Her writing is engaging and I never found myself bored or wishing a scene had been cut.

As far as characters, Snyder has come up with two of the best I’ve seen in any genre. Without a doubt I think that Yelena is one of THE best heroines I've ever read. This is how you write a strong female lead. There is no need for her to huff and puff and declare she doesn’t need anyone or that she knows what she is doing while running headlong into enemy territory. Yelena knows exactly what her weaknesses and strengths are and she is not above asking for help when she needs it. She tries to learn as much as she can and, as she truly has no choice, she accepts her new life. At the same time, she does dream of getting away but she goes about it the right way. She starts training and learns as many skills as she can which will help her defend herself from those that want to harm her and also to make her escape more plausible. I honestly didn't find any major faults with her character. She is not obnoxious like many Xena wannabe heroines. She carries herself with dignity regardless of all that she has been through.

Then there is Valek. He quickly became one of my favorite heroes as well. Much as I love my cocky, tortured, alpha bastards he was a breath of fresh air. Silent but deadly is how you'd describe him. At first you aren't certain that you like him, especially since he is the one in charge of teaching Yelena about poisons...and that means she has to drink them all in order to recognize the tastes. Soon enough you see that there is more to Valek and you start seeing things from his perspective as well. Just like Yelena he doesn't have much choice in serving his master. He is, in fact, the deadliest assassin they have but, almost like Yelena, he was driven by outside forces to choose this path in life.

As for the relationship between the two all I have to say is that I enjoyed every single minute of it. They start off as uneasy allies who don't trust each other yet are forced to work together. With time you see the way that Valek comes to care about Yelena's health even if he tries not to show it. Yelena also starts having feelings for Valek but she doesn't know what to make of them. On the one hand he is her enemy in a sense and she knows she shouldn't develop any "friendly" feelings towards him. I loved the way they interact with one another and none of it seemed forced or rushed. For me it was perfect.

As far as fantasy this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, especially by a new author, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to my favorite characters as the series progresses.

I give it a solid 5 out of 5!!!!!

by Nath

Grade: 4.75/5

Wow, this book was great. You know, I've been hearing so much about it... I think the first time was on Jennie's blog :) I was hearing so much good stuff about it that it scared me and that's why it took me so much time to decide reading it :D Definitively a keeper :D

You probably know the story by now, but it doesn't matter. Growing up in an orphanage, Yelena was sentenced to death after killing the son of her benefactor, General Brazell - not without good reason. Now the day has arrived and she is given a choice: death by hanging or become the Commander's food taster. Yelena is no fool and the choice is easy. Then, her learning of poison starts. However, poisons are not the only thing Yelena has to worry about: a) Valek (the Commander's right hand man)'s imprevisible tests and b) Brazell's attempts on her life. In addition, Yelena discovers that she has magic power in a country where magic is forbidden and magicians are killed. Who is friend, who is foe and how can she escape?

I really liked this book. The telling was very smooth and although it was a first person point of view, it didn't bother me at all. I liked it when we went through the learning of the poisons, although it was too short to my taste and I liked it that her job wasn't limited as food taster. Yelena is bright and courageous, but she's human too. She has doubts, she fears, but she's calm. She can be in a good mood one moment and be down in the next. You know, she's not the fearless food taster who's like: I want to escape and that's my goal and unique goal. She gets attached to the others... anyway, she felt really real to me :D I liked Valek a lot... see, that's the kind of man who is obviously an alpha male, but he doesn't overshadow the woman. That was quite a nice change. Valek is smart, cunning and moves like an assassin :) Valek and Yelena together are a deadly combination :D I liked the ppl Yelena befriended with too, but for once, it seems that the story will focus only on the main couple.

Okay, I'm running out of thing to praise LOL. Basically: I love it, everything - the characters, the plot, the writing - people love it and if you haven't read it, go find it! I'm going to read Fire Study tonight and tomorrow, while you're looking for it :D I'm actually glad that Fire Study is also getting good comments, because what's worst than having a good first book and the second is a flop? Nothing... that would be major disappointment. I know, I know... if I love it so much, why only 4.75? Why not a perfect grade like Mailyn? One major reason and one minor. The major reason, I thought as a reader, I didn't get enough world-building information. This is fantasy... I know that they live in Ixia which is divided into Military Districts... The commander rules, everyone has a job and wears uniform... okay, I get that... but what about the setting: is it a desert? because I kept imagining somewhere very dry, a bit like in Kingdom of Heaven (with Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson), but then, I was reminded that there was a forest... so you know, was the castle where they live more European or Middle East? My other reason, which is really, really, really minor and I know, you're going to laugh... is that the author, i think only twice (and in the same conversation), used the word 'okay.' So what's the problem with it? Well 'okay' sounds way too modern for Poison Study. It was just out of blues, out of context and it jumped right at me... am I too picky? Perhaps, but still. you don't use 'okay' in regencies right? well same thing here... it shouldn't have been used. Oh, and one more thing... what is the mutation? But nonetheless, this is an AWESOMELY, FANTABULOUSLY GOOD BOOK!

by Dance Chica

This book was a pleasant surprise. It was also one of those books where first person narration worked to the advantage of the story. Yelena was an awesome herione; she was likeable and smart. She has a dark past with a lot of painful memories and so when we're first introduced to Yelena, her past experiences have conditioned her to run and hide when there's danger. But even so, she's hardly weak and as the story develops, Yelena begins to blossom and come into her own. Synder did a wonderful job of portraying her growth.

I liked that the worldbuilding was subtly done and that the focus was on the characters. Synder created a wonderful cast of characters equipped with cleverness and sarcasm. Their interactions as well as the development of their relationships was enthralling. The action keeps moving while at the same time avoids becoming overwhelming.

There's a bit of magic and romance interlaced within the plot, however, the romance was minimal and just developing when the book ends; regardless, its development was interesting and I can’t wait to read more. There's also a bit of political intrigue as Yelena thrawts assassination attempts as well as attempts for power. But while all this is going on, I never felt that the plot became convoluted.

It's rare for me to be captivated so throughoutly by a book but this one grabbed me and wouldn't let go until I'd read the very last page. I honestly can't find anything that really annoyed me and do you know how rare that is?

I can't wait to see what else this series brings. Synder is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend this book!

Rating: 4.5

The Genre
High Fantasy, Elves, Necromancers, Vampires, Magic, Quests, Orcs, Dwarfs

The Plot:

From Amazon:

The dark elf vampire who rules Castle Mistmore is searching for a small red harp. Chanzoon Nexus, necromancer, wants to know why. He has the harp—now he needs a bard who can play it well enough to uncover its secrets. But Faydwer’s bards consider harps to be quaint folk instruments, unworthy of their attention.

Elizerain grew up with a harp in her hands. A merry, fun-loving wood elf, she collects ballads like other adventurers collect treasure. If these story-songs are entertaining, she doesn’t care if they’re accurate.

That was before a necromancer’s curse gave her a choice: learn the true stories behind her ballads, or die screaming.

One such ballad features her new red harp. Intent on her search, surrounded by deadly enemies and treacherous alliances, Elizerain doesn’t realize that the real danger may be the harp itself.

If you know me at all then you know there is NO way on Earth I could pass up a book with a description like that. Vampires? Check. Elves? Check. Necromancers? Check. Necromancer who wants to get secrets of a vampire elf? Check! Add to that the very first paragraph in the book:

"The necromancer stalked from the silent chamber, his black and scarlet robes swirling around him. Frustration twisted his face, and his pale blue eyes, though deeply shadowed by the cowl of his cloak, burned like azure flame. Behind him, one of the finest bards in all of Faydwer knelt in a pool of her own blood. Tears of pain and despair coursed down her cheeks as she stared at the twisted, broken things her hands had become."

I was immediately hooked. This story, as the plot suggests is about an evil, and for once very smexy, necromancer who wants to be the one and only Dawnwalker. A Dawnwalker is one who is a vampire by night, with all the super powers that entitles, but is back to his or her old self during the day. So, basically he'd be a powerful necromancer by day and an even more powerful vampire by night.

Now tell me you aren't just dying to read that!

Unfortunately for our friend, the very very evil necromancer by the name of Chanzoon Nexus, the only way to find out how this works is by playing the blood red harp. Problem is that the harp will only yield its secret when the right bard plays it. Our necro friend won't be stopped by such trivial things so he sets out to torture and kill any and all bards he can get his hands on to find the perfect one. To do this, he has "enlisted" [more like forced] the aid of a very unscrupulous rogue by the name of Davin the Dark. As he is under Chanzoon's spell he has to help him find said bard and he does so by suggesting his ex wife the wood elf Elizerain.

Elizerain and Davin were married for about a year and this, along with the fact that she is a bard AND likes to play the harp [seen by elves as beneath them] has gotten her a reputation amongst her elven clan. She doesn't seem to care much since she is off all over the place in quests and adventures and she travels alone. During one of her travels she goes to Kelethin for a song festival and runs into an old friend by the name of Xander Fletcher whom she used to be in love with. Xander however doesn't think too much of Elizerain after she was involved with the bandit Davin and his band of robbers.

Through a series of [shall I say it? lol] unfortunate events Elizerain is cursed by the necromancer and is forced on a quest to save her life. Xander, as well as a highborn elf by the name of Nyson and Trobe the dwarf joins her in this quest but as with anything in these types of quests nothing and no one is as they seem.

The Review

Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVED this book and was hoping against hope there was a sequel or a series to follow. I couldn’t get enough of all the characters, both good and evil. They all fit their parts perfectly and none of them dragged the story down or seemed out of place. Elizerain Greenleaf is a perfect heroine for this quest. She isn't under the illusion that she is better than anyone or that she can do everything herself. She knows exactly what her weaknesses are and she takes them into account when it's time for her to act. I can honestly say that there was only one time where she chose the wrong thing to do and, even the, you can understand where she is coming from as she did it to help someone in need. She is strong yet she is not above following directions or someone else’s' lead when she understands they know better than she does in the particular circumstances. I also liked her spunky attitude because it goes well with the adventures they encountered.

As far as the rest of the characters, well, I have no complaints. Chanzoon Nexus, the necromancer and villain of the book was truly evil. He had no scruples and he did whatever necessary to get what he wants. At the same time he is not portrayed as an all-powerful super villain, who usually look ridiculous, and he knows when to back off and rethink his plan.

Xander Fletcher, the wood elf soldier, and Nyson Impholder, the highborn elf, also fit their roles perfectly. Xander was a true hero yet even he had his darker side and Nyson, although a highborn and with every right to have the snobby attitude you'd expect from any aristocratic elf, didn't fall into the dandy or whiny category.

The quest itself was very entertaining and not once did I skim ahead or did the pace of the story bore me. My only complain is that the ending was a bit too fast paced and didn't keep with the rest of the story. To be sure, the outcome and the way everything was solved was in keeping with the story and very satisfying but it should have been a little more detailed, again, in keeping with the rest of the story.

Other than that I've no cause for complain.

The Verdict
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good solid read about adventure with wonderful characters, a truly evil villain and lots of action and adventure. I wish the author would give us more of these wonderful characters and I'd love a series based on this world.

I am giving it a solid 4.5 out of 5!

Ironside is the direct sequel to Tithe so we'll see the return of Roiben and Kaye in this one (which I'm looking forward to because I really enjoyed the two characters).

[Edited to Add Blurb]

In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben’s coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure only of one thing--her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can’t see or speak with Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn’t exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.

Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth—that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother’s shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But once back in the faerie courts, Kaye finds herself a pawn in the games of Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court. Silarial wants Roiben’s throne, and she will use Kaye, and any means necessary, to get it. In this game of wits and weapons, can a pixie outplay a queen?

Holly Black spins a seductive tale at once achingly real and chillingly enchanted, set in a dangerous world where pleasure mingles with pain and nothing is exactly as it appears.

Ironside will be availabe May 2007. You can pre-order from Amazon.

For more information, you can visit Holly Black's website or check out her LiveJournal.

All Together Dead is the seventh installment in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) series.

Is it just me, or does that look like Eric on the cover? I hope we get some more Eric screen time! It seems like we will if the events that occurred in the last book are any indiacator.

This book will be availabe May 2007. You can pre-order from Amazon.

For more information, you can visit Charlaine Harris's website.

So, any Sookie fans? Who are you rooting for? Personally, my favorite is Eric--hot, viking, vampire warrior. Yum! ;-)

The Genre:
Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Dark Elves, Warhammer Universe

The Plot:
From Amazon:

Ambitious dark elf warrior Malus Darkblade learns the location of a powerful relic and decides he wants it for himself. Malus leads an expedition into the dangerous Chaos Wastes in search of it but finds far more than he had bargained for. Possessed by a powerful daemon, he must undertake an epic quest to save his very soul.

The Review:
That blurb doesn't even begin to cover the rollercoaster ride that is this book. Let's just start by saying that this book is NOT for the faint of heart or anyone that wants a Lord of the Ring's type fantasy or some light reading about a hero on a quest.

Malus Darkblade is not a hero. He is not even an anti hero. Malus is a villain and one of the meanest and most evil ones you will come across. He never even pretends to be a hero and the book doesn't try for one minute to convince you of this since it would be completely useless. From the moment we are introduced to Malus he is doing what he does best: torturing, maiming and killing.

After all, he is a dark elf.

Let me backtrack for a little explanation. Malus is a dark elf and, thus, a character in the Warhammer universe. Warhammer is a role playing game like, say, Warcraft, etc. However, lets forget about Warhammer because, in case you are not a fan of RPG or don't care thinking you need to know about this universe I'm here to tell you that you don't need to know squat. The Malus novels are stand alone and can be read by anyone who likes fantasy.

Here is a little info from the ever reliable Wiki to introduce you to the druchii, or dark elves, of this universe:

The dark elves are sworn enemies of the high elves and try incessantly to invade Ulthuan. Dark elves enjoy nothing more than inflicting pain and suffering on others and frequently launch raids throughout the Old World in order to capture more slaves to feed their hunger for cruelty.

You begin to get the idea? The druchii's idea of fun and entertainment consists of torturing their slaves, or just about anyone really, in various ways. What makes this world a bit more interesting is the fact that the druchii are in turn tortured themselves. Even the lords, or highborns as they are called, get treated to the most horrendous tortures as a riual to their god. When you add to that the fact that nobody is safe as families backstab each other for power and to survive, you can see where their thirst for blood comes from. From the moment they are born they are subject to nothing but a world filled with torture, survival of the fittest-type deal and you have to claw your way around regardless of who or what you are.

Malus is the illegitimate son of Lurhan, the Vaulkhar of the city of Hag Graef. Regardless of this the noble family, as seems to be a tradition amongst the druchiis, don't care anything for family or familial ties. In fact, they hate each other and plot ways of destroying one another to inherit their father's fortune, etc. Malus, being the last and illegitimate son, has nothing to look forward to so he tries to make his own fortune but is ambushed and returns to Hag Graef with nothing but debts and the certainty that his enemies will seize this opportunity to murder him.

The only way he sees to get out of this problem is by going after the treasures of the legendary temple of Kul Hadar. The book follows Malus on the treacherous journey were even a black hearted dark elve's courage will be tried once and again.

I have to say that, as evil and despicable as Malus is, well, there are even worse villains here thus giving the reader an innitiative to keep reading. Nobody wants to read about an invincible villain therefore the rest of the characters Malus is forced to interact with keep things balanced and interesting.

From the get go you see just how evil and sick Malus is so you have to wonder what, if anything, will make him at the very least waver in his quest. The book didn't disappoint and kept me entertained from page one. I was also, at times, creeped out by various things, one of which is the yuck factor of Malus incestuous relationship with one of his half-sisters. Not only is the relationship itself creepy but his sister is, I do believe, worse than Malus by a long shot. And that's saying a lot.

Double creepy.

The Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the rest in the series. I recommend it for anyone that loves a good quest mixed with dark fantasy with the gore/ick level turned up a few notches yet well written and not just thrown in for good measure. Not your average fantasy reading, that's for sure, but I loved every minute of it.

I'm giving it a solid 4 out of 5.

Following on from the The Safe-Keeper's Secret, this is the second book in Sharon Shinn's young adult trilogy.

From Amazon:

Eleda sees the world in "all sharp edges and simple lines": she is a Truth-Teller, and she cannot speak a lie or hear one spoken. Her twin, Adele, whose name is a palindrome of Eleda's, is a Safe-Keeper, a listener who never betrays a confidence. Two halves of a whole, the sisters occasionally infuriate each other but frequently find that their complementary gifts prove useful--particularly as they stumble through adolescence, experiencing love and heartache, and sharing everything with their high-spirited friend, Roellyn. The novel's first half follows the girls from early childhood to their teens; the second half focuses on their seventeenth summer, when the arrival of two handsome strangers occasions both swooning romance and enough wild confusion to rival Shakespeare's most outrageous comedies. The rules governing the Truth-Telling and Safe-Keeping gifts sometimes feel too conveniently flexible, and Eleda--a slightly rigid personality, as befitting her Truth-Telling role--may appeal to readers less than her sister and the vivacious Roellyn. But the comforting, fairy-tale rhythms of the girls' stories exert an irresistible pull, and Shinn's numerous fans will welcome a second helping of the refreshing tale spinning and charmingly homespun, village-centered fantasy culture that marked The Safe-Keeper's Secret

I liked this book better than the first one, my main problem with this trilogy is that I always have the secrets figured out by the end of the book, so getting to the end is just a matter of finding out if I was right. We have already learned what it is like to be a secret-keeper in the first book, so this book offers a chance to see the opposite side of the field. Eleda tells the readers everything that she knows, it is only the things that have not been revealed to her that she does not reveal to us. It was a much more informative and happening novel than the book that came before it.

We also get glimpses of another secret-keeper when Eleda explains what her mirror opposite twin, Adele, does in certain situations. That sister is as secretive as they come, even when she hurts herself or is sick she does not reveal it to her family.

I said in the last book that I found these books read like fairy tales. This one is even moreso a fairy tale, but not like a Grimm's tale. This novel shows women getting the job done, and breaks fairy tale conventions to make a different way of looking at the events presented in this novel. So, in fairy tale style, there are princes and knights in shining armour. The twins best friend is supposed to one day marry the prince, but she doesn't want to and the prince does everything in his power to just avoid meeting her. It is safe to say that, even though the prince does not wish to make an appearance, there is plenty of romance present in this novel.

All in all, I enjoyed this read. It was better than book one, but not worthy of a 5 at the same time. So, for lack of something better, I give it a


Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I've read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I've noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present...

*The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."
8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
16. I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."

17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.

19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.
20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.

23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)

25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.

27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.

29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.

31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.

33. I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.

35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.

37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he's my trusted lieutenant.
38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.

39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.

41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.

43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.

45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
46. If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.

47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.

51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.

53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.
54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.

55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.

57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.
58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.

59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.

61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.

63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.

65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.

67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.

69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.

71. If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.

73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.

75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)

77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."

79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.

81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.

83. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.

89. After I captures the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.

91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)

93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.

95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.

97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.

99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

*This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.

Okay, like I needed to add another book to the collection, but I got Don't Bet on the Prince by Jake Zipes in the mail the other day, and decided why not just add it in. So, now, I have been trying to read at least one fairy tale per night. The other night at work, I managed to read one from each book. I tried that again last night, but I only got one fairy tale read, and it was from Don't Bet on the Prince. I think, though, that this evens things out. While I am reading books put together by three men and only one by a woman, the Jack Zipes one is about "Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England".

Don't Bet on the Prince
The Princess That Stood on Her Own Two Feet
by Jeanne Desy
This fairy tale takes a spin on the common ideas held in fairy tales that princesses are meant to be shorter than the prince, only speak when spoken to, and behave in a very lady-like fashion. The princess in this story has had a very hard time finding a man to marry her, so when she finds a possible choice, she does everything she can to get him to marry her. But, she learns an important lesson in this story, because there really is only one thing in the world that loves her for who she is, and it takes a loss for her to understand what she is giving up for what she thinks is love.

Prince Amilec
by Tanith Lee
Tanith Lee is actually a very proliferic fantasy author. One of the ones that I would like to read a lot of, so I was happy to see that she was included in this collection. Her short story goes along with the idea that the thing that truly matters might be the think that is right in front of your face. The Prince has come to offer a princess his hand in marriage, but she does not wish to be married and fights him at every turn. He thinks he loves her, though, so he continues to do nearly impossible things in the name of love. He does not do it alone, a witch, that breaks all the witch stereotypes, lends him a hand.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters
The Three Sisters and Their Husbands, Three Brothers
I had actually read this folktale before. I am not sure when or where, but it was very familiar to me. It is about three sisters that marry three brothers, obviously. It shows the idea that women are smart, and men are not always as smart as they would like people to think that they are. In the story, the three sisters end up dining with their landlord, he will give free rent for ten years and money to the sister that can embarass their husband the most. You really have to laugh at the things that happen in this tale.

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales
Faithful John
In a way, this is a rather disturbing story. But then, it is the Grimm's, so what else should you expect. In the story, a King dies and leaves his son the crown. On his death bed he asks his faithful servant, John, to look out for the young king. This leads to some problems for John when the prince finds the woman that he intends to marry. John learns that the marriage may not be as simply as they thought, and has to do things that will put his faithfulness to the test.

The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
Little Ida's Flowers
I have always thought that this fairy tale is one of the cutest ones written. It is about the magic of flowers and one little girls kind heart. You see, a man tells young Ida that her flowers look so horrible because they had been out dancing the night before and were tired. Ida believes this man when he tells her that there are balls for flowers all over the kingdom when the humanfolk are not watching. He tells her a wonderful tale of how it all comes to happen, and though she is told not to believe him, she does anyways. In this way, the magic is able to come alive for Ida.

I have seen this book making the blog rounds in the last few months, and decided that I was going to eventually read it. I was trying to decide which blog to put it on, though, but since it is a fairy tale, I decided to put it here.

From Amazon:

Kate DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie, spins a tidy tale of mice and men where she explores the "powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous" nature of love, hope, and forgiveness. Her old-fashioned, somewhat dark story, narrated "Dear Reader"-style, begins "within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse." Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon.

The first book of four tells Despereaux's sad story, where he falls deeply in love with Princess Pea and meets his cruel fate. The second book introduces another creature who differs from his peers--Chiaroscuro, a rat who instead of loving the darkness of his home in the dungeon, loves the light so much he ends up in the castle in the queen's soup. The third book describes young Miggery Sow, a girl who has been "clouted" so many times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, all the slow-witted, hard-of-hearing Mig dreams of is wearing the crown of Princess Pea. The fourth book returns to the dungeon-bound Despereaux and connects the lives of mouse, rat, girl, and princess in a dramatic denouement.

Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break "never-to-be-broken rules of conduct." Timothy Basil Ering's pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo's extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after.

I thought that this was a very well done young reader novel. So well done that I enjoyed it probably as much as any young reader. It is just cute, with a very likeable cast of characters. I think the Amazon quote sums the story up nicely, so I will just say that I very much enjoyed this book. I had read Because of Winn-Dixie by her, so this is not the first time that I have enjoyed one of her books.


I bought this graphic novel as a gift for my boyfriend, and then ended up giving it to him, but then borrowing it back to read.

From the back of the book:

The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comic series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics' most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven. The saga of THE SANDMAN encommpasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

PRELUDES & NOCTURNES introduces readers to a dark and enchanting world of dreams and nightmares - the home of The Sandman, Master of Dreams, and his kin, The Endless. This first collection of Neil Gaiman's multi-award-winning title introduces key themes and characters, combining myth, magic, and black humor.

I thought this book was so cool. I read it on a Friday the 13th, and it was totally creepy enough to count. The drawing and story work together to tell the story of The Sandman, who has been captured by mortals that were attempting to capture Death. While he is under their care, people of the world suffer from sleeplessness and bad dreams, because the Sandman is not there to aid them in their rest. It is not until his freedom is won and he goes looking to recapture his life that the world, and all the people that were having sleepless nights, can recapture their good nights rest. A very dark, scary, adventure story.

For someone that had never read Neil Gaiman before this year, I think I am doing pretty good in reading him, as this is the third time in two months. I thought I would share the correct order that The Sandman is meant to be read in:


A very enjoyable first look at THE SANDMAN series, I look forward to eventually reading the other 10 books in the series.


Like two books were not enough, I added a third book to this last night. Why? Well, because Grimm's and Andersen are not exactly models for feminist readings. They pretty much leave strong, cool women characters out. Now, I am more of the feminist aspect, and while I have learned to forgive the Grimm's and Andersen because of the time frame that they live in, I needed some strong women! So, I went digging, and found my copy of Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines from Folktales Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan last night.

It always amazes me, you know. Obviously, when the Grimm's and Andersen were collecting together these fairy tales, women were viewed as subordinate. That shouldn't mean people shouldn't read them. They just reflect the times that they were written in. I read fairy tales with women characters too, it is all about balance. This all came about because of a post on a message board that I visit. Someone said that they didn't read Mark Twain because of the way he portrayed the South. Alright, so they were prejudice, but that was then, and this is now. The best way to make important changes in the future is by knowing where you come from and changing it, not censoring or avoiding.

On with my fairy tales.

First up, Kathleen Ragan.

The Stolen Bairn and the Sidh
This is a folk tale from Scotland. The Sidh are the fairy folk, and one day while they are out, they spot a baby (bairn) on the side of the road. Looking around, they see no one that owns the baby, and so they decide that the baby is their's and take it home with them. In the meantime, the mother was actually collecting water and fell in. Dazed and confused, some fishermen come to her rescue. All she can think about, though, is her bairn. During this story, even when everyone thinks it cannot be done, she uses her brain and resources around her to rescue her baby back from the Sidh.

Then, from Andersen.

Little Tiny or Thumbelina
I was amazed how much the movie version of this holds to the basic ideas of this story. When Disney makes a movie, they change everything around. Disney didn't make this one, and they held very closely to the true story. Most people know this story, at least, I hope you do. It is the story of an older woman that very much wants a child, and ends up with Thumbelina, who she loves dearly. Only, sadly, one night an evil frog mother steals Thumbelina for her son to have as his wife. Thus begins Thumbelina's adventures. I must say, I think that Thumbelina is a good feminist character, because she gets herself out of a lot of messes.

The Brave Tin Soldier
This story annoys me. I mean, it is so male! This soldier ends up being burned in a fire, because instead of asking for help, he decides to be a male and do nothing so that people don't think he is weak. There is a line between being brave and being passive! Of course, things work out for the soldier, up until the fire, because it is a story. It is just so annoying, it tries to say that if you do nothing, you will be saved. That is really not the case at all. Good to see I hate this story as much now as I did when I was little.

The Ugly Duckling
This is another one of those stories that people generally know. And much less annoying than "The Brave Tin Soldier". It is about a duck that is very ugly, and everyone teases the poor little thing. He is forced to leave and spends a very miserable winter the bunt of everyone's jokes. But then the spring comes and he is actually a very beautiful swan, something that he can appreciate more because he was teased so much when he was little. Good little story, much better image than the stupid soldier.

Last up, the Grimm's.

Our Lady's Child
This is a rather religious story. It is about a little girl that when her parents can no longer afford to feed her, The Virgin Mary comes and offers her a place in heaven. She lives there happily until she breaks a very important rule that Mary has, and then lies about it. When she refuses to tell the truth, she is sent back to earth to live in a grove of trees until a King comes along, falls in love with her, and takes her back to his castle. The problem is that she is unable to talk, and each time she has a child the Virgin Mary comes and asks if she is going to tell the truth about what she does. Each time the girl does not, and Mary takes the child with her to heaven. Without being able to talk, the girl is thought to be eating her children, and has no way to tell the truth. This leads to some adventures, and talks about the ideas of sinning and forgiveness.

The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
This story has always been fun to me. It is about a boy, who is not the smartest person in the world. His desire is to learned what it means to shudder, because he is rather stupid, not so much fearless, and doesn't understand that the things that are happening to him are meant to scare him. Instead, he does rather stupid things in an attempt to fix these people. It's a funny story. He does some very interesting things in the course of it.

The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids
This is a story about a wolf and some sheep. Now, to many, it looks just like that, but it actually is a story about not opening the door to strangers and being careful even if it is someone you know, because it could still be a stranger, but they are pretending to be someone you know.

This concludes the second edition of Fairy Tales Revisited.


Ragan: here.
Grimm's: here.
Andersen: here.

Last year, I read The Light Princess by this same author. His books are rather interesting fairy tales, and I felt that I should read another one by him. So, I read the one that I had heard of, The Princess and the Goblin.

From the back of the book:

The Ageless story of mystery and magic, good and evil.

Princess Irene's discovery of a secret stair to the top turret of the castle leads to a wonderful revelation. At the same time, the miner's son Curdie overhears a fiendish plot by the goblins who love below the mountain. But it will take all their wit and courage, and the help of Irene's magic ring, to make sense of their separate knowledge and foil the goblins' schemes.

This is the story of Princess Irene and Curdie. The castle is located around a goblin underground home, and because of that, Irene is not allowed out after dark. One night, though, her and her nurse lose track of time and find that they are not going to make it back to the castle in time. That is where Curdie enters the story. He knows the tricks to make the goblins leave him alone, and helps the princess and her nurse back to the castle. Then, Irene thinks that she will have little reason to see him again.

In the meantime, she discovers that her many great grandmother is living in a turret room in the castle. No one believes that she is truly there, but Irene knows. She has many adventures that her grandmother play a part in. It is her grandmother that gives her the magic ring, that aids her when bad things happen. Curdie is very brave, and gets down in the thick of things by spying on the goblins to learn their plan. Irene, on the other hand, is not your damsel in distress, she gets herself out of situations either on her own or with the help of her grandmother. This is not the Grimm's fairy tales, it is truly a modern look at princesses.

I think that this is a good read. Irene is a cute character and their adventures will keep you turning the pages.


I had recently been reading Shinn's Samaria series. I have The Alleluia Files on the go, but after reading Archangel and Jovah's Angel, I felt I needed to give myself a break and read something else. So, for my birthday, I bought myself this trilogy. The Safe-Keeper's Secret is book one in this young adult trilogy.

From Amazon:

When she grows up, Fiona plans to be her village's Safe-Keeper, just like her mother, Damiana, who listens to, but cannot repeat, her neighbors' most troubling stories. Fiona's own family has plenty of secrets: Fiona doesn't know her father's identity, and on the night of her birth, the king's messenger left a mysterious baby with Damiana, asking her to keep and protect the child. The boy, Reed, and Fiona grow up in a bucolic setting as best friends, surrounded by a loving, extended family of magical adults. When Damiana falls ill, Reed and Fiona leave their childhood behind as they care for their mother and make startling discoveries about their respective parents. Shinn, whose fantasy titles for adults have earned her a wide teen following, heavily foreshadows a romance between Reed and Fiona, an element that may disturb some readers, particularly those in blended families. The romance is only hinted at, however, and teens will connect with Shinn's vividly drawn fantasy world as well as her provocative questions about truth, justice, and individual destiny

This was a relatively quick, cute, read, that you could almost say, reads like a fairy tale. Damania is the village safe-keeper. People come from all over to tell her things that they do not want others to know. Sometimes it is a meaningless piece of information, while at other times it is a big thing that if she wasn't the safe-keeper of that secret, you would have to tell someone. Then, late at night, a safe-keeper from another village comes and delivers a baby to Damania that she choses to raise as her own.

This means that she has two children, her daughter, Fiona, and this child from the night, Reed. Fiona is a quiet sort, who can sit around for hours and do nothing, while Reed can't sit still for more than ten seconds. Most of the story is told from Fiona's point of view. It is when these two are older that we enter the story, on the beginning pages they are just turning 10, and the story continues into their late teens.

I thought that this book was very enjoyable. Fiona could annoy me sometimes, but I think that was the point. The Truth-Teller, who I will be exploring more in the second book of this trilogy, told Fiona that she will never be a safe-keeper like her mother before, and she gets pretty resentful. This candid remark from this older man dictates most of Fiona's actions as the novel carries on.

Some people didn't like the ending. I did, because I was expecting it. It is a wonderful twist at the end, and maybe I am alone, but something didn't add up for me throughout the novel. It was great to learn that I was right.


Mailyn says...

The Genre

Sword & Sorcery/Heroic Fantasy

The Plot

From Amazon:
"Gilded Chain follows the career of Durendal, one of the King's magical and deadly swordsmen, who's compelled to serve his ward until death with single-minded purpose. Bound to a conniving, sniveling courtier and apparently doomed to a boring--or worse, compromising--existence, Durendal must find a way to fulfill both his potential and his duty.

Events quickly hurl him halfway across the world to investigate the grisly secret behind a brotherhood of immortal swordmasters. This quest fuels the plot for the remainder of the book, which is nearly impossible to put down after the halfway point (just about the time a side story involving a Lord Roland cleverly dovetails with the main narrative). An inventive, intelligent exploration of duty and honor, and just a corking good adventure besides, The Gilded Chain is swords-and-sorcery at its best."

The Review

I actually read this book a while back but it has taken me forever to write this review because I don't think I can do it justice. This books is one of the best I have read and Mr. Duncan's writing is simply exquisite. I think this is a modern-day masterpiece along the lines of Dumas and Sabatini blended flawlessly with fantasy.

There was nothing I found lacking in Duncan's writing or in the plot itself. Durendal is an excellent hero and he quiclky became one of my favorite. In short, I wish I could say more but this book is better experienced than talked about. Or maybe it's just me and I can't come up with enough praises for this!

This is a great example of quality fantasy as Duncan doesn't sacrifice language, characterization, or plot unlike a lot of modern day fantasy authors that write as if their readers where teenagers or pre-teens.

As a side note I should say that this book should appeal to Temeraire fans. The concept of a bond between master and Blade is similar to the dragon and rider bond in that series. A bond that cannot be broken without terrible consequences and the choices they must make because of it.

The Verdict

Run to your local bookseller and get your hands on this. I don't think there is anything left to say except I'm giving it a solid 5 out of 5!

This novel, which I had never heard of before, was a present from my boyfriend. Why did I have to read it pretty much right away? Fairy tale retelling!

From Amazon:

In Lickiss' charming, clever, and surprisingly substantial slice of fictional cake, Princess Vevila, having had enough of dancing with doltish prospective husbands, would rather seek out adventure. Meanwhile her cousin, Prince Althelstan, has fought through yards of brambles into a somnolent castle to discover three sleeping princes instead of one spellbound princess. "It has to have been a transcription error," he muses, just as he notices a slender beauty dozing near the throne. Captivated, Althelstan decides to inveigle his cousin into waking the princes, which, he hopes, will simultaneously free the object of his affection. Aiding Althelstan are three recent graduates of magical Recondite University, all gearing up to confront the witch who, claiming to be protecting the innocent princes, cast the sleeping spell. Figure in a mysterious little man with mismatched clothing and handfuls of gold, and an insecure princess with two sallow stepsisters, and, well, you see where we're headed. A welcome addition to the fractured fairy tale genre and perfect reading for the beach or an air-conditioned castle bedroom.

In the sub-script to the title, it says "Not just another frog-meets-girl story". And it was rather different. Some of the fairy tales present in the novel are Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Frog Prince (which I just read for Fairy Tales Revisited), Rumplestilskin (I am going to have to look that word up), and more. The story goes that a prince has been informed that he can only marry a princess, but the only princess available is 2-years-old, and thus not right for him. He hears of a sleeping castle, though, and a princess that needs to be awoken by a kiss. He sets off to search the castle in the hopes that he will find the woman that he is meant to marry. The problem is that an "s" was added, because there is not a princess waiting for him, but not one, but three princes. This presents a problem.

The young prince, though, has a solution. There is a woman in the castle that he is sure is a princess, so he goes and gets his cousin to wake the princes so that the castle will awake and he can marry the young princess. Along the way he collects three wizards, that really add to the story. Unfortunately for our young prince, the fairy godmother that locked the princes up in the first place does not want them to have to face the cruel world, so she tries to put a stop to it. The princes cousin, Vevila, also proves to be a problem when she is forced into a dark chamber and told to make straw into gold. Sound familiar? Unlike the original tale, though, Vevila tries to escape several times. She is not interested in getting married, she is there for the adventure.

While all of this is going on, 4 more young girls enter the story. One other is put to the princess test, where we witness a girl who has to sleep on a great pile of mattresses. Can we guess what the goal is? Then, there is a large ball in order for an older woman to find husbands for her daughters. The ball is crashed, though, by a mysterious young woman. Know what fairy tale that is?

All in all, I thought this book was a very refreshing retelling of some of my favourite fairy tales. It is a relatively short read, but enjoyable. I suggest it if you are into fairy tales, you will not be disappointed.


I must thank Dance Chica for this book, not because she has read it, but because she was the reason I read Moon Called by Briggs. I liked that book so much, I thought I would read more from her. She is an author I had always meant to read, and now I am very glad I got the push in her direction.

This is what Briggs has to say about it on her website:

I like to stretch my skills on each book I write both to keep me from getting stale and to keep myself from writing the same book over and over. With five books under my belt (including the unpublished sequel to Masques) I felt up to the challenge of writing a male viewpoint. I tried third person, knowing that this story was going to require multiple viewpoints, but Ward insisted on telling this story himself.

From the beginning Ward had a very strong voice, but I never knew from one day's writing to the next, exactly what he was going to be up to. I don't write from an outline, but Ward's story was extreme even for me. When he decided to go to war, I read ever mediaeval war book I could find as well as Sun Tsu's The Art of War. Then I had to research a whole slew of things...only to find that Ward had a few more tricks up his sleeve. I can remember the icy chill of dread that hit me when Ward and Oreg are on board ship and I realized how I had to end the book. To my surprise, when I began the first rewrite, Dragon Bones felt as if I'd planned it scene by scene and I only had to do a very little work to knit it together.

Dragon Bones is the only book I've written that wasn't a romance. I've always found love to be a very strong motivation for characters, making for interesting books. Dragon Bones though had so much emotion to work out between my major characters that there simply wasn't enough space for a good romance, so I left the romance for its sequel Dragon Blood.

From Amazon:

Ward of Hurog has tried all his life to convince people he is just a simple, harmless fool...And it's worked. But now, to regain his kingdom, he must ride into war-and convince them otherwise.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought that Briggs did a very good job of writing from the male viewpoint. Ward, who has pretended to be an idiot in an attempt to protect himself from his angry father, suddenly finds his plans destroyed when his father dies suddenly. Everyone thinks that he is an idiot, and now he has to prove to them that he is not. This starts himself on an adventure that proves to both show the world what he is made of, but also to find himself. He has lived behind a mask for so long, he has forgotten who he truly is.

Briggs writes this in an interesting way. Ward is the main character, most of the book is from his viewpoint, but every few chapters she gives the other characters in the book a chance to offer their thoughts on what is going on in the course of the novel. That way it is not only Ward speaking. It is a relatively short novel, but it packs a good story. I pretty much read it in one sitting, and the best thing about it, no cliff-hanger ending! So, while I plan to read the sequel, Dragon's Blood, I don't have to in order to figure out what happened next. I love that in a book.


The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason (January 2007)

You can visit Colleen's website here.

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs (January 2007)

This is the second book in the Mercedes Thompson series featuring Mercy, an auto mechanic and a coyote "walker". I really enjoyed Briggs's first in the series, Moon Called, and am highly anticipating this sequel. Click here for Brigg's website.

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris (May 2007) - 7th in the Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire series.

Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale by Holly Black (May 2007) - I hear this book is supposed to continue Kaye and Roiben's story from Tithe.

I've also got my eye out for:

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian (May 2007)

In present day Boston, trouble is brewing. Vampires are going Rogue, feeding without discretion, killing humans in the streets. For Lucan Thorne, a Breed warrior of the first generation and the Order's fearsome leader, the battles are just a taste of the carnage to come. A blood war is set to ignite, and he is determined to put it to a swift end. But when a beautiful young photographer gets caught in the crosshairs, her pictures threatening to expose the entire vampire race, Lucan has no choice except to bring her into the dark world he commands.

Lara's website here.

What new books or series are you looking forward to?

About this blog

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About Me

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Since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with books. Early photos show me with a book in hand, even if it was not exactly my reading level... My first word was a made-up word meaning 'book', actually. I suppose I had my priorities at an early age... Over the years my interest in books has become one of the defining features of who I am as a person. You can probably call me a bookworm. While I have other interests, reading will always be the one I talk about the most, even if I am not focusing on it as much as I used to.