Book 2 of the “Tapestry” quartet continues with Max McDaniel’s second year at the Rowan Academy, a school for magically talented teens somewhere on the east coast of the U.S. I have already noted that Rowan has as much in common with Hogwarts as almost any school for magic. In this book, however, the apparent similarities between the two schools take a backseat to the intriguing differences between them. Not that we get to see much of what goes on in the classroom, this year. Max and his frail, vulnerable, yet super-sorcerous roommate David Menlo miss most of the school year between one perilous adventure overseas and another to the world of the Sidh (which I take to be something like Faerie), where they spend more time than passes in our world...Read More
In book 5 of the “Saga of Darren Shan,” a.k.a. “Cirque Du Freak”—or book 2 of the “Vampire Rites” trilogy, which is the second of four trilogies within the same—half-vampire Darren starts to look less like an eternally whiny teenage git and more like someone with the potential to be a hero. But it looks as if he may need to be drowned, roasted, sliced, and skewered along the way. As you would expect from the ending of Vampire Mountain, Darren must either pass five trials of physical courage, luck, and endurance—any of which could kill him—or, upon failing or wimping out, face execution by being dropped repeatedly into a pit of sharpened stakes. While none of the possible deaths offered by the randomly-drawn trials sounds much better than that, Darren opts to face fate on his feet.
But after seeing Darren survive his first three trials and growing more confident that he is going to make it through them all, ...Read More
If you haven’t read the first five “Thursday Next” fantasy-comedy-mystery-thrillers, or at least my reviews of them, I’m not sure how to begin to describe Book 6 to you. There’s just so much going on in them. Whether it is worth your while to find out what you’re missing, you may judge from a personal anecdote: While listening to Emily Gray reading the audio-book edition of this book during a car trip, I once had to pull over until I could regain my composure, I was laughing so hard. Only once, to be sure; but laughs of one size or another crowded thickly into this brainy, zany, complex, amazing book.
Some fans of Thursday Next may be disappointed to find out that the “real” Thursday barely appears in this installment...Read More
Fourscore years before Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, give or take a couple, this short story laid the foundation of English literature’s growing obsession with all things vampire. Based in part on an unfinished novel that Lord Byron conceived during the same evening of ghost-story-telling that inspired Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein, John William Polidori’s tale was long misattributed to Byron—indeed, it first appeared under his name in an 1819 issue of the New Monthly Magazine. After its true authorship was revealed, speculation ran rampant that the sinister character of Lord Ruthven was based on Lord Byron, prompting its author to append a disclaimer in which he praised Byron’s misunderstood character.
Together with two rather dry introductory essays—one about the origin of the story, the other about the background of vampires in Greek folkore—these documents add up to a slender 50 pages or so, frisking along the borders ...Read More
If a boxed set of Harry Potter were to fall through the looking-glass, what came out the other side might be a lot like the “Bartimaeus Trilogy,” of which this is Book 2. The fantasy world in this series is somewhat of a bizarro, backward-land version of Harry’s wizarding world, which forms a secret enclave within the present-day world of us ordinary muggles. In Bartimaeus’ world, the British empire is openly run by magicians, while the majority of the population—dismissively called “commoners”—toils in a condition not far above slavery. The press and the schools feed them a steady diet of pro-magician propaganda. The scales of justice are rigged in favor of the magicians. The security and police forces keep the people too frightened to rise up, including an elite squad of werewolves known as the Night Police—without even the ironic touch of a silent K...Read More
First, let’s get the confusing part out of the way. This is Book 4 of “The Saga of Darren Shan,” also known (at least in the U.S.) as “Cirque du Freak”—which happens to be the title of Book 1. Darren Shan is both the name of the narrator and main character in this 12-book series, and the pen-name of Anglo-Irish author Darren O’Shaughnessy, who in real life most likely isn’t a half-vampire like his in-book namesake. Since the 12 books in this saga are also divided into four trilogies, this book is also Book 1 of the second trilogy, titled Vampire Rites. I put this in italics, rather than in quotation marks, because (in my opinion) a single-volume edition of this trilogy would be less an omnibus than a single, complete novel. Of course, I base this only on my impression of reading Vampire Mountain...Read More
It’s the fifth and final “Fablehaven” adventure, and the world is coming to an end. More of the world’s magical game preserves are falling to the Society of the Evening Star, which is collecting the five hidden talismans needed to open the demon prison of Zzyzx. Young Kendra and Seth Sorenson, along with their family and friends, are charged with protecting these powerful objects, and the five “Eternals” who must die before the bad guys can turn the key in the lock. But after a death-defying visit to the Australian preserve where the last artifact is housed, Seth is taken prisoner by the so-called Sphinx—actually a centuries-old Ethiopian slave who rebelled against his masters and now holds most of the keys to Zzyzx...Read More
As most loiterers in library or bookstore children’s and young adult fantasy sections are aware, there’s a whole series of sequels to Peter Pan authored by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson—a series backed by Disney. What fewer readers know is that the owners of J. M. Barrie‘s original book and play commissioned only one sequel to Peter Pan: Geraldine McCaughrean‘s Peter Pan in Scarlet. In a similar way, Laurie R. King‘s “Mary Russell” mysteries and Carole Nelson Douglas‘ “Irene Adler” mysteries are successors to the Sherlock Holmes canon created by Arthur Conan Doyle. But no official Holmes sequel was ever sanctioned by the estate of Conan Doyle—until this 2011 book by the author of the “Alex Rider” adventures and the creator of the BBC detective series Foyle’s War...Read More
Subtitled “A Modern Faery’s Tale,” this companion-book to Tithe and Valiant brings back characters from the previous two books in a climactic tale of magic, romance, court intrigue, and hard-hitting action. Once again, the Bright and Night Courts of Faerie collide against the urban backdrop of New York City and its down-and-out New Jersey suburbs. Once again, a spotlight shines on the spine-chilling side of fey creatures—the child-stealing, pain-dealing, backstabbing, amoral side of beings that are just like sociopathic killers except that they are unnaturally beautiful, they can’t endure the touch of iron, and they cannot lie. Fun, right?
Kaye, who only lately found out that she is a pixie who swapped places with her human mother’s real child, figured that things would go smoothly once her boyfriend Roiben became king of the Unseelie (or Night) Court. But really, her troubles have just begun...Read More
Book 13 of (so far) 14 in “The Dresden Files” finds Harry Dresden—detective, wizard, guardian of all things Chicago—tasked with solving his own murder. It’s not easy, being dead. When you’re only a shade of your former self—an intangible, invisible, inaudible presence made up of memories, thoughts, and a pinch of will—there isn’t much you can do. Even with loads of raw magical power, you’re limited to spells that affect denizens of the spiritual world. Unless… well, there are a couple of exceptions. Having friends who can see (or at least hear) dead people, for example. Friends like “ectomancer” Mortimer Lundquist, who doesn’t even need a magically doctored walkie-talkie to converse with ghosts, and who is the first person who seems even remotely capable of helping Harry...Read More