Thursday, November 26, 2015

The King's Justice: Two Novellas - Stephen R. Donaldson

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm always thankful for a new book by Stephen R. Donaldson, and I liked this one well enough that I'm giving it a place on my annual holiday book list.

The King's Justice is the first of two novellas in this book. The fellow on the cover is Black, the protagonist. As the story opens, it's clear he's on a mission for his king. It's also clear, as he approaches the village of Settle's Crossways, that he has the power to encourage people to help him and give him information they might otherwise have kept to themselves. And information is what Black is after, for an evil has wormed its way into the fabric of Settle's Crossways, and it's Black's job to set things right for the king -- no matter what it takes.

This story is written in present tense -- a departure from Donaldson's other work, but it's necessary, I think, for the theme of the story. Black lives his life in the present. He doesn't think about his life before he was employed by the king -- or what was done to him so he could do this job -- and he certainly doesn't think about the future. 

Some Goodreads reviewers have complained about the gore in this story. There's one tough scene, and it's mild compared to the GAP books (and very mild compared to some battle scenes I've read by other fantasy authors).

The second novella is The Augur's Gambit, and I've been waiting to hear the ending of this story ever since I heard Donaldson read the beginning few pages at the World Fantasy Convention last year. Our hero here is Mayhew Gordian, hieronomer to the queen of Indemnie, Inimica Phlegathon deVry the Fourth. And his plight is a gordian knot indeed, for he learns that his queen has proposed marriage to each of her barons, including the married ones, in an effort to discover which of them is plotting against her. But that's not all. Besides Indemnie's internal intrigue, another power threatens the island nation from across the sea. Gordian has read the entrails countless times, but he does not know the outcome of either dilemma. And he's beset by a personal problem, as well -- his attraction to the queen's daughter, Excrucia Phlegathon deVry. (Yes, that's right -- the love interest is named Excrucia.)

The story seems much in the model of Donaldson's Mordant's Need series -- high fantasy, with an inscrutable ruler, grasping barons, and at least one unexpected plot twist. I enjoyed those, and I enjoyed this story, as well.

I'd recommend any of Donaldson's books, of course. But if you're new to his writing, this volume is a good way to sample his style before committing to a series.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Inspirational Quotes for Writers (Nightfire Inspiration Series) - Deborah Carney

My holiday shopping guide posts worked well enough last year that I've decided to do them again. First up is Inspirational Quotes for Writers.

The author has selected a number of inspirational quotes from a file her late son kept, and paired them with her own photography and artwork. It's a short book -- the whole thing is only 40 pages long, and most of each page is taken up with the artwork -- but even so, the layout gets monotonous. I wish the author had sometimes put the quotes above the artwork, or to one side, or made the photos halftone with the quote on top.

Most of the quotes aren't writing-related, despite the book's title. So while you may not get a story idea out of any of them, you may at least find something there to think about.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shattered (Chronicles of White World Book 3) - M. Terry Green

Shattered is a worthy end volume to M. Terry Green's dystopian sci-fi trilogy.

When we last left Thirteen, Cord, and little Miyu, they had liberated a slavers' ship and were heading for Helado, the city-on-a-volcanic-island where Thirteen hoped to find and rescue her sister at last. Hot on their heels was Helado's navy, headed by Prince Céfiro, who has sworn to win his father's favor by bringing in the Ghost -- the pirate who preys on Helado's most profitable industry by attacking slaving ships and setting the slaves free.

Cord has no interest in going to Helado, for reasons he is trying to keep secret. But he knows where Thirteen's sister is, and Thirteen has demanded that he take her to her. So when the navy catches up to them at last, he does the one thing he knows will reunite the sisters.

To tell you what he does would be a major spoiler. Suffice it to say that Green provides her readers with more than our fair share of twists and turns. Thirteen, Cord, and Miyu are affecting and engaging characters, and I couldn't stop reading until I reached the final page. If you're a fan of dystopian sci-fi, I highly recommend the entire Chronicles of White World series.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Earthquake Doll - Candace Williams

The Earthquake Doll is the sort of deceptively simple story that you keep thinking about, long after you've reached the end of the book.

It's 1952 in Japan. The victorious Americans have never left, and in fact are about to begin using Japan as a base of operations for the Korean War. Japan's traditional ways clash with modern American customs, and the Japanese are trying to make sense of it all.

Among those navigating this brave, new world is 16-year-old Miyoko. Her uncle has found her a position as a maid in the home of an American officer, and her mother and her mother's sister are arranging a marriage for her, even though she is too young to get married by traditional standards. And then Miyoko's cousin dies, and the foundation of her world really begins to shake. Somehow, she must find a way out of her dilemma without disgracing either herself or her family.

Williams is an excellent storyteller. I found myself rooting for Miyoko the whole way through the story. In addition, the author does her best to explain the Japanese words in the book, to the point of linking them to the glossary that she has helpfully included.

I'd recommend The Earthquake Doll to anyone with an interest in postwar Japan, Japanese culture, or fine storytelling.