“Master has presented Dobby with clothes! Dobby is free!

This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn we’re travelling through the tropes of fantasy again and this time we’re delving into elves:

‘ELVES claims to have been the first people in Fantasyland. They are called the Elder Race. They did not evolve like humans, but sprang into being just as they are now.’

Well, I’m going to admit that I really thought this was going to be a doddle – then I got myself all tangled up in the difference between fae and elves and couldn’t decide if I could have certain examples that I’d chosen or whether they’d count of not! (Doh!!)

Anyways, the two obvious ones: LoTR – there are a LOT of elves in this book to say the least.  Harry Potter – need I mention Dobby!  Really??

My books this week:

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett – I can’t decide if this is cheating or not because I’m still not sure if I can count these as elves.  I tend to think of them as brownies!  Basically I just don’t know if they count but I love the book so it’s going on the list!

The Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs – Bone Crossed has a snow elf!  Can’t remember much about the snow elf to be honest – but still, it’s an elf, right?

Puck from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. He is definitely described an an elf so I’m feeling good about this one!

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint – when I read this book I described the little critters as fey – however, they had very much a brownie feel, and the way that they had to be left gifts of clothing and the like was definitely similar to tales of elves – remember Dobby, not to mention the Elves and the Shoemaker!  I think I rest my case…

My last isn’t a book but if I didn’t mention this, well, it would be unforgivable – Link – from The Legend of Zelda.  He has pointy ears, his weapon of choice is a bow and arrow and he dresses like a woodland type person. Elf!

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan (book 2 of Lady Trent’s memoirs)

The Tropic of Serpents is book No.2 of Lady Trent’s memoirs by Marie Brennan.  I really enjoyed the Natural History of Dragons and so was very much looking forward to this one – and it doesn’t disappoint.

I’m enjoying this series in so many ways.  It’s fantasy.  It has dragons.  I enjoy watching Lady Trent developing into her role as natural historian and intrepid adventurer and I love the story telling voice and the era it depicts which has this wonderful faux Victorian quality to it.

The story starts off Virtually as Isabella is about to embark on her next adventure – a journey to Eriga where she will be investigating Swamp Wyrms amongst other species.  This is a difficult journey to negotiate, not only are there the politics to manoeuvre around, not to mention the even more outdated restrictions placed on females, the place itself has plenty of dangers to boot.

Isabella, still in the bad books in her homeland of Scairland where gossip runs amok and most of it concerns her exploits and previous travels, gets off to a bad start by providing shelter and sanctuary to a young runaway heiress who wishes to break free of the restraints of her family and the necessity of marriage.  Of course Isabella gives this young lady a place on board and smuggles her off to Eriga.  Let the gossip and accusations commence!  From there Isabella’s plans are thwarted slightly not to mention delayed considerably when she is, on arrival, invited to stay at the Palace – an invitation that is impossible to refuse without causing offence and potential problems.  Eventually however, she sets off, having been slightly strong armed into a mission that was not her original intention, into the Green Hell where she will be adopted by the Moulish people and have many obstacles to overcome in her quest.  I won’t go further into the plot.

To be honest, I think I liked this even more than the first if that’s possible.  I really enjoyed the first, even though I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but, for me, in this novel Isabella really comes into her own.  She proves beyond doubt that she’s prepared to put up with all kinds of hardship, not to mention, insects, intense weather and personal challenges.  I thought her experiences in the jungle were fascinating and I loved the descriptions and detail – particularly concerning the way the Moulish lived.  I just think it’s an amazingly well done adventure story.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have any although I think that the characterisation (apart from Isabella’s development) could have been a little more focused on.  But, having said that, Isabella really does develop beautifully in this story.  She’s faced with a number of self realisations.  She stands up for herself and others.  She learns her own personal boundaries and comes to terms with how she feels about her own son.  The whole scene with the Moulish driving out bad spirits was fantastic.  So, maybe a bit more character development for her companions – but I wouldn’t say this was an issue really.  I would also mention that if you’re expecting dragons to be swooping through the sky breathing fire and causing chaos you might be disappointed.  This story is more than just a focus on the dragons.  It’s a natural history after all and so whilst Isabella loved all things draconian she is also making a study of the history of development and evolution whilst taking in the habitat and all within the restraints of what is acceptable to the Moulish people who actually worship the Swamp Wyrms.

Overall I think this is beautifully done.  The writing is simply evocative.  The character Isabella is wonderful.  I loved the era in which it’s set and the style of the memoir.

If you haven’t already picked up, I enjoyed this very much and would definitely recommend it to others.  I think if you love alternate historic settings, fiery headstrong young females who refuse to be pigeon holed and are determined to follow their own desires, adventures with life and death situations that seem almost insurmountable and a few dragons thrown in for good measure then this will be for you.  If you’re expecting something of a Victorian bodice ripper where hench and slightly villainous gentlemen come to the aid of the damsel in distress, save her from the dragon whilst sweeping her off her feet and stealing her, ahem, virtue, then, you may be in the wrong place with this book.

There are no stilting romances, no bossy men telling Isabella what she can and can’t do for the sake of propriety and no swords and sorcery.  A natural historian, doing her thing in the deepest, darkest jungle and striving for recognition for her efforts along the way.

I also love that Brennan manages to address issues without necessarily banging on a drum about them and looks at issues not only of equality amongst females but also exclusion through social strata, disability and the necessity of awareness when it comes to other cultures.

I really need another new series… right?

b2bf5-toptentuesday2

Well, lets face it, good sense never got in the way of me buying new books.  So, even though I have Mount TBR and it’s threatening to topple any day and probably smother the dog, not to mention the butterfly effect if this little monster finally goes, this doesn’t stop me envying other people’s book purchases and coveting new shiny ones myself.  And, yes – sometimes my ‘ordering finger’ gets a little trigger happy – not to mention that ‘one click’ which is just ridiculously tempting!

So, over at The Broke and the Bookish this week the topic for Top Ten Tuesday is:- 

Top New Series I Want To Start (this includes those started fairly recently)

  1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – had this book for a while – I’m saving it for all the lovely sci-fi goodness that’s just kicking off round the blogging community about now.
  2. Generation V by Marie Brennan – tis the season for fangs after all!
  3. Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – I’ve started this series this year.  And, its awesome sauce already.  I kid you not.
  4. Sidekick by Auralee Wallace.  This was good fun, I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
  5. Bloodsong by Anthony Ryan – I’ve read the first and have the second waiting to be read.  Bloodsong is so good.
  6. Age of Iron by Angus Watson – I loved this book and can’t wait for the next instalment – which I believe won’t be too long (next Spring?)
  7. Red Rising by Pierce Brown – I really enjoyed this first in series.  It has a lot of promise and I’m excited for No.2
  8. City of Stairs by R J Bennett – Mr Bennett is such a talented author.  I’ve loved all his books and this one was seriously serious!  Epicly epic!
  9. The Copper Promise by Jen Williams – OMG – The Copper Cat.  This is all.  Read this book.
  10. The Broken Road by Teresa Frohock – deliciously creepy, only a novella – I want more from Ms Frohock please.

Look at all the pretty covers precious!

‘Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand…

Posted On 19 October 2014

Filed under Book Reviews
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… Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize your neighbourhood’  – or are they trick or treaters?  Yep, Halloween is but a stone’s throw away and so for the next few days I’m going to be ‘creeping’ and ‘vamping’ up my reading for the bewitching season.

So, break out the pumpkins and start the scary movie/book-athons.  As it’s that time of year I thought I’d have a last dash push to vamp and creep myself out. Nothing wrong with a few nightmares after all!  So, after I finish my current read – Dreamwalker (which is great – well, dragons don’t you know!) – I’m going to read all the nasty, scary books.  This is my plan (and turn away now if you’re easily freaked out because these covers are a bit damned scary well, the guy in the tee isn’t scary – it would be rude to say that – but, I’m guessing he’s a vampire, so…fang action).  Anyway: this is my plan (but I’m not gonna beat myself up if I don’t succeed!)

The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney

The Storyteller is a reimagining of Grim’s 12 Dancing Princesses.  For those not familiar with the original tale, every night the King locks his twelve daughters into their room and every morning when he releases them the princesses are not only exhausted but their dancing slippers have been worn through.  The king decrees that any champion who takes on the challenge and succeeds in uncovering the Princesses’ secret will not only be richly rewarded but will be free to choose the hand of whichever princess he so wishes.  Failure however will result in death – by decapitation.  Rounded up so bluntly like that you can’t help wondering why we read this as a nighttime fairytale to our children!

What I particularly liked about the story was that it adheres in format and style to the original but it manages to give the princesses more character (although given there are twelve they don’t all get equal time – otherwise this would be a very lengthy novel indeed!)  We’re also provided with a little back history into the King and the motives behind the locked door.  Is he protecting his daughters or is he in fact keeping them captive.  I think it also succeeds in making the princesses more likable.  Lets not forget that in the original tale they play a hand in quite a few champions losing their heads!  In this particular story they act quite responsibly towards these men – even though they are unwelcome visitors!  The main character of the story is Lyra.  All the girls not only look very similar but their names all start with the letter ‘A’ and so to assist with identifying each other they usually adopt the end of the name therefore Alyra becomes Lyra.  She’s a book worm who enjoys regaling her sisters with stories about castles and curses never totally putting together the fact that they’re living in their very own story!

I think the author succeeds in delivering a story that gives a bit more insight into these otherwise ‘anonymous’ princesses whilst at the same time giving them an interesting back story.  Plus managing to squeeze in a few more stories along the way.  I thought the change in tack for the last champion was a really good take.

In terms of criticisms I don’t really have anything at all other than I think this could have been shortened a little, simply to strengthen the tension a little.  I also think I could have handled a little bit more creepy darkness or more of a gothic feel but, that being said that would have changed the ‘feel’ of the book.  As it is this has more the feel of a mystery adventure and a race against time to work out a solution.

A lovely retelling of a favourite old tale.  Well written with Princesses that have a little more of a modern outlook.  Talking cats and fairy godmothers.  It will be interesting to go and read the first book by this author – The Wanderers – these books don’t have to be read in order but there is some overlapping of characters and I’d like to find out a little more about Tom.

In the interest of disclosure I have known the author in a blogging capacity for some time and was very happy to read and review The Storyteller.  The above is my own opinion.

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