Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Retro Review: Shalador’s Lady (2010)

Anne Bishop

HarperVoyager (2010)

ISBN: 9780732290948

Black Jewels #8

A direct sequel to The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady continues the story of the incumbent Queen of the Territory of Dena Nehele, Lady Cassidy, as she attempts to heal the wounds of her land. Cassidy is still coming to terms with the fact that she might actually be a good Territory Queen when Theran – the last of the ruling family left, and the one who had petitioned for the new Queen in the first place – falls under the spell of a ghost from her past; Kermilla, the Queen who broke Cassidy’s first court. Theran is blinded by Kermilla’s looks and charm – he has never agreed with Cassidy’s methods, and believes Kermilla is the Queen he is looking for. However, the rest of Cassidy’s court disagrees, particularly Gray, Theran’s own cousin, who has fallen in love with Cassidy, and Ranon, second-in-command of her Master of the Guard. With the Sa Diablo family in quiet support of Cassidy, does Theran have a chance of overthrowing Cassidy’s court, and will it really be the best thing for his nation?

Anne Bishop is the mistress of dark fantasy – her Black Jewels novels are always engaging, intriguing, sexy and just a little bit fun. The characters jump off the page and into your heart as you become deeply involved in their lives. Bishop has interwoven her original characters (primarily the Sa Diablo family, including Saetan, Jaenelle, Daemon, Lucivar, among others) throughout the narrative of the later books, which is a great bonus for fans of the series, particularly as they play a genuine role, rather than being add-ons to the story, with the characters continuing to evolve.

Shalador’s Lady had me up until after midnight devouring pages; I simply could not put it down. I just had to know what happened next, and how things would turn out, and the writing simply draws you through the story. I can’t wait to see what Bishop does next in her Black Jewels world – I’ll be first in line for the next one!

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Retro Review: Pretty Monsters (2008)

Kelly Link (illustrated by Shaun Tan)

ISBN: 978 1 921656 36 1

Text Publishing (2008)

What a fabulous collection! There are so few single-author collections, particularly for younger readers, and it’s even rarer to find one of such quality. Kelly Link is a fantastic author and Pretty Monsters showcases her short stories to great effect. Not always for the faint-hearted, Link explores some of the darker side of speculative fiction, but in an engaging way that examines some interesting themes.

There are just five stories in this collection, and they are diverse in nature, but all equally compelling. The first is “Monster”, which starts out as a deceptively simple story about bullying at summer camp, and turns into something far more sinister. Next is “The Surfer”, which is a long piece examining a not-so-distant or unbelievable future when the flu is starting to hit humanity hard, but intertwined with a story of alien visitation – an interesting combination! This is followed by a true dark fantasy, “The Constable of Abal”, which sees a young girl, thrust into very strange circumstances, trying to find her way in life. The title story “Pretty Monsters” is another long one, but well worth it. Shying around elements of horror and paranormal fantasy, this is a very clever story that follows a group of girls on a rite of passage who get a whole lot more than they bargained for. The final story of the collection, “The Cinderella Game”, is one I read in the excellent Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling anthology Troll’s Eye View last year – it’s subtle creepiness is better suited to this book, for my mind, but the quality of story is undeniable, following a night with a stepbrother and stepsister who take play acting a little too far.

Recommend giving to those who are over Twilight, and want to get into something a bit more meaty, but without the commitment of big fat fantasy or horror novels!

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Retro Review: Wings of Wrath (2009)

Celia (CS) Friedman

Orbit (2009)

ISBN: 978 1 84149 533 0

The Magister Trilogy #2

Kamala is the only female Magister in a brotherhood of magicians – except that most of them don’t know she exists and has accessed the secret of their power. Outsiders don’t know the secrets of the Magisters, so Kamala is a massive threat to their supremacy, being not only a woman, but not being as constrained by the rules that bind the rest of them to keep their secrets. Kamala has secrets of her own, and is forced to keep her powers hidden under the guise of witchery, the only other option for a woman with her abilities. She has proven to herself and her master that she can hold her own as a Magister, but the events unfolding before her test her will and her own self-belief. Continue reading

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Retro Review: Tangled Webs (2008)

Anne Bishop

Harper Voyager (2008)

ISBN: 9780732286460

Black Jewels #6

Reading this book was an interesting experience. On one hand, my prior knowledge and pleasure of reading Anne Bishop’s work gave me a certain expectation of character and story. On the other, the style of Tangled Webs altered my expectations and left me feeling the novel was somewhat, well, under-done in some way. Not necessarily a bad way, but not entirely what I was expecting.

Tangled Webs takes us once again on a journey into Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels world. Bishop has ventured many times into the Realms of the Blood, a fascinating and intricate world that takes our deepest fears, clothes them in nightmares and cobwebs and dreams, and turns the dark unknown into a rich tapestry of intrigue and magic. Bishop’s world is powerfully and realistically drawn, her characters multi-faceted and challenging, and her writing is gorgeously reminiscent of fantasy masters such as Robin McKinley and is as sexy as today’s best romance authors. Which is why I have high expectations of her work. Continue reading

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Retro Review: The White Cat (2010)

Holly Black

The Curseworkers Book 1

Gollancz (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09671-4

Cassel is trying to live an ordinary life. He attends boarding school, gets good grades, and flies under the radar, even if he’s not, strictly speaking, following all the rules. But then he wakes up on the roof of his dorm and finds himself shunted back to his family. His very un-ordinary family. Cassel’s family are curse-workers, users of magic who are forced underground, into the crime world, by law. In a world very like ours, where one in 1000 people have a gift, or curse, to be able to work a form of magic, Cassel’s family blossoms with talent.

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