Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger: (Age of Immortals)

Pangaea is an epic fantasy-style story that makes a valiant effort to be all things to all people. Peopled with semi-immortal, metres-tall races, Pangaea is not a peaceful area. The young of the ruling class spend centuries of their long lives learning the arts of war, and subsequently the rest of their lives applying that knowledge.

I found that this book, while some of the settings were interesting, tried to mix and match too many cultures and races to permit focus on the actual story. It read rather like the literary equivalent of a tube of glitter mix – pretty, but neither logical nor coherent.

It is also a smorgasbord of mythological references, relying heavily on Norse legend, but mixing in a variety of Greek and Eastern influences as well. Everything from Valkyrie to lamassu shows up at some point, and while I applaud the eclectic representation, I didn’t find that most of the various types of legends did more than figuratively appear on stage and take a bow; for the vast majority, their history and significance had no role in the story other than to show up.

I also admit I had difficulty finding much empathy for the protagonists. The perfect heir in hiding, famous in his hometown for his mastery of pretty much everything he put his hand to, and the high-born but utterly useless princess both lacked appeal for me. I do feel that with a thorough developmental edit to unearth the bones of the story from the rest, this story could have worthwhile elements, but as it is, the reader is left, like a lone archaeologist, to attempt to unearth stray threads of the plot from the surroundings that they’re buried in.

The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief, Claire Buss

The Rose Thief

The Rose Thief has an upside down opening: quite literally, as Ned Spinks, Chief Thief Catcher, is suspended by his heels for questioning at the time. Someone’s been stealing the Emperor’s roses, and one of them embodies the force of love. Steal that, and the kingdom will lose all ability to care. Ned’s job is to track the rose thief…before he or she makes off with the rose of love. Between that, an undercover warlock, and the murder of a prominent figure in Roshaven’s underworld, Ned’s dance card for the day is getting full – and that’s without the diplomatic pitfalls of beetle cheesecake (spit or swallow?)

The Rose Thief is a light-hearted comedy fantasy, set in a world of magic and intrigue (and we aren’t going to mention the strap-on attachment that allows humans to talk with Sparks the firefly). The plot weaves politics, family feuds, and the power of love into a colourful adventure, underscored with a telling commentary on gender discrimination that forms a more serious sideline to the main story. The character of Jenni, Ned’s partner-come-nemesis, was one that particularly drew me – a sprite with an entertainingly foul mouth to match her customary aroma, Jenni is one of the most powerful characters in the story, a force of nature with no interest in being in charge. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys laughter and fantasy.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

When a series of gruesome murders among London’s upper crust stymies Scotland Yard, Inspector Lestrade reaches out to Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes for help. Between the brutality of the stab wounds to each victim and the inevitable presence of a hidden symbol near each body, it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to prove a mundane connection between the murders where everyone else is pursuing a supernatural option…including his faithful partner, Dr. Watson.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu was an enjoyable homage to the great consulting detective, with all the conflicting theories, and daring disguises a reader might expect. I found the final rationale for the murders was very plausible, although Holmes’s capture and imprisonment location slightly less so. It was clear that author James G. Boswell had done significant amounts of research into the period to support the plot; I did find that Watson marvelling at scenes of Victorian London pulled me a little out of the character, as these scenes would have been commonplace for him. This tendency also somewhat impacted the pacing in the beginning of the read. Happily, it largely disappeared after the early scenes of the book, and aside from that, the technical side of the writing was very clean, which I always appreciate.

Royal Deception, Denae Christine

Royal Deception, Denae Christine

Royal Deception

Denae Christine’s Royal Deception is an epic fantasy of shape-shifters and assassins and royalty, told primarily from the view point of the sickly young Prince Symon of Arton. Animal shifters, the Gahim, are despised by the ruling class, executed, sold as slaves, or bound as little better than servants. Kept confined to the royal castle for much of his life, Prince Symon has few friends, and, partly raised by a bound Gahim tutor, is worrying the more extremist factions of the ruling class with his egalitarian bent, something which the neighbouring kingdom of Inurot makes continuing efforts to correct with attempts to assassinate him and eradicate his family.

The world of Royal Deception displays strong world-building and a detailed social structure for the various shifter species, added to a colourful cultural background set across several kingdoms. In Prince Symon, Denae Christine has created a character well able to elicit sympathy in younger readers, chafing under the heavy hand of his over-protective parents and possessed of a strong belief in justice. The plot is equally divided between the development of Symon and the political intrigue driving the assassination plots and violence that threaten his life and his kingdom. Certainly a recommended read for all the fans of fantasy out there.

The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster (The Glenaster Chronicles Book 1)

Esther Lanark was five when the first shadow of the Witch of Glenaster touched her remote village. By the time she reached her tenth year, rumours and ill fortune were flying on the wind, and stories of men with their eyes gouged out and the symbol of the Third Eye on their foreheads were becoming commonplace. Even when refugees began to pass through her village, Esther’s home remained untouched – until one night, disaster left Esther to find out exactly what she was willing to do for revenge.

The Witch of Glenaster is a young-adult fantasy with a refreshingly dark slant, and despite the inevitable help and protection rendered to the children by mysterious and competent strangers, the level of coincidence is kept to a plausible minimum. The world-building is detailed and solid, and author Jonathan Mills resists the urge to insert a magical last-minute save, which I deeply appreciated. I did find that after all the build-up, the finale fizzled out a little, but other than that, this is an eminently readable story. The characters have their own pasts, wants, and resentments, and the characterisation of Esther’s infant brother, largely non-vocal, demonstrates the author’s technical skill. While this may not be ideal bedtime reading, it’s certainly a worthwhile read for all ages of reader.

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