Book Review: The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / July 8, 2005

This is the fourth novel of the twenty-book series about the Napoleonic-era exploits of British naval captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon, and intelligence officer, Stephen Maturin. Or rather, as one reader wrote to me, it is the fourth part of one huge, wandering novel in twenty parts.

Book Review: The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / July 5, 2005

The Newbery-Medal winning author of many novel-length books of fantasy, for youth and adults, as well as “fairy tale novelizations” like Spindle’s End, has struck again with this collection of four fairy tales elaborated with warmth, sensitivity, and compelling characters, and interesting new twists. In “The Stolen Princess,” we learn what happens in the last kingdom before the borders of Fairyland (or Faerie Land), where newborn boys sometimes disappear from their cradles, and the most beautiful girls vanish on their seventeenth birthdays, and now the only princess in that kingdom seems doomed to vanish like all the others, never to return. What will her parents and their adoring subjects do? What happens when the borders of reality are challenged?

Book Review: Magic Kingdom For Sale–Sold!
Book Reviews / June 22, 2005

The author of the acclaimed fantasy novels Running with the Demon and A Knight of the Word, as well as the best-selling Shannara series, is one of the authors most often recommended by your feedback. I have been hesitant to follow this recommendation, for two main reasons. First, it sounds like he’s already popular enough without my help. And second, he has written a lot of thickish books and, believe it or not, I’m a slow reader. I was afraid that once I got hooked on Brooks, I wouldn’t be able to read anything else for about 2 months. And that would be such a drag when I’m already in the middle of a months-long commitment to Patrick O’Brian’s novels. But I decided to sample just one of his books, in between O’Brians, and to read the rest of the series some other time. So I chose this book, the first in the (shorter) “Magic Kingdom of Landover” series.

Book Review: The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
Book Reviews / June 22, 2005

The sequel to The Princess and the Goblin begins with a taste of the sort of disappointment that, in real-life stories, often follows the “happily ever after” ending. Curdie, the miner’s son, no longer has the Princess Irene to protect or the goblins and their bizarre creatures to fight against. He doesn’’t whistle or sing any more, he no longer spends much time looking at beautiful animals and plants, he is not such a good son to his parents, and he has stopped believing in the magic that he had a brush with in his previous adventure.

Book Review: The Golden Key by George MacDonald
Book Reviews / June 22, 2005

A boy named Mossy hears tell of a golden key that can be found at the end of the rainbow. One evening at sunset, he crosses into fairyland and finds that key—only to become involved in a much longer quest, to find the lock that it opens. A girl named Tangle runs away from her sad home and is adopted by a fairy grandmother, who is served by feathered fish that swim through the air. Years pass in moments, characters age backwards and forwards, and a young couple—now together, now separate—seeks out the meaning of the mysteries that gather around them—time, love, life, death…

Book Review: H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / June 16, 2005

I am occasionally criticized for focusing my readings (and writings) too narrowly, and not posting enough reviews of adult novels. Well, here’s an adult novel for you, definitely. There is so much historical research behind these books, they should be required reading for history majors. Like a veritable Sybill Trelawney, O’Brian “channels” the style of speaking, the political situation, the social attitudes, and the intricate details of ship-to-ship warfare in the British Navy of the wee years of the 19th century. He even makes you feel like listening to music by composers rarely heard today (such as Corelli, Hummel, and especially Boccerini). If someone printed a set of CDs called “Music from the Aubrey-Maturin novels” I would buy it before you could say “Beat to quarters!”

Book Review: Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / June 3, 2005

This is the second book in the series that began with Master and Commander. It continues to follow the, at times, strained friendship between a brash young Royal Navy officer named Jack Aubrey and the physician, ship’s surgeon, naturalist, and sometime spy named Stephen Maturin