Tag Archives: Gollancz

Retro Review: Red Gloves / White Star

Red Gloves

Beth Vaughan

Gollancz (2008)

ISBN: 978 0575084001

Epic of Palins #1

The most disappointing part of this book was the back cover blurb. It didn’t do justice to the story inside the pages and was a bit of a turn off for the seasoned fantasy reader. Hence, this book languished on the “to be read” pile for some weeks before I finally picked it up, with no little trepidation. Fortunately, the story is far better than the cover implies, and it was easy to enjoy.

Under the guise of a fantasy novel, Vaughan has spun a romance, where the main story really seems to be the growing relationship between the emotionally and physically scarred mercenary, a woman known as Red Gloves, and the mage lord who lost his power and his people, Josiah.

For me, the evolving love story worked better than the fantasy elements, which were not as fresh or believable as I would have liked. This was punctuated by seeming anachronisms (or, perhaps, Americanisms) which didn’t fit the tone of the book (such as “sexy” and “mom”). The action and plot were serviceable but at times felt forced.

I did find the mystery of the title character’s red gloves unusual, and the way this was dealt with was interesting. But what I remember best about the story afterwards was definitely the romance. With the female character taking the dominant role in the pairing, and the male having the greater emotional investment initially, it makes a nice change from the usual fare in a medieval setting, without feeling forced. Josiah is sweetly endearing while still retaining his manliness, and Red Gloves comes to regain trust and femininity through her relationship with him.

The overarching plot of regaining a lost throne with an unlikely monarch is nothing new but, as I’ve said, was well written, with enough action, magic and interesting characters to maintain pace, and the engagement of the reader.

I recommend Red Gloves as a foray into fantasy by readers who usually forage in the historical romance shelves of bookstores; long time readers of the genre may not be as enamored but newcomers and part-time readers will enjoy.

White Star

Beth Vaughan

ISBN: 978 0 575 08424 7

Gollancz (2009)

Epic of Palins #2

White Star is the follow up fantasy romance to Red Gloves, Vaughn’s debut novel of 2008. Fantasy romance is not a phrase I have used before, but that’s completely how I felt reading this book. While Red Gloves had a romantic element to the story, the plot and magical parts of the story outweighed the romance so that it became much more usual fantasy fare. White Star has a different balance altogether.

The Lady High Priestess Evelyn is a healer, trained in many of the magical arts, but dedicated to serving others. Orrin Blackhart appears to be at the opposite end of the human spectrum, known as a murderer and mercenary of the darkest sort. When Evelyn’s goddess insists she save Blackhart from a death sentence, neither could be more astonished. And a bond begins to grow between them.

But there are other forces at work, and Evelyn finds herself out of favour and sent away from those she loves, while Blackhart is sentenced to rid the land of the zombie-like creatures left behind when his previous employer was killed. Even now, they are fated to work together to not only destroy the walking dead, but save the country from those working from within to tear it apart.

When I was reading White Star, I was frequently put in the mind of the historical romances I read as a teenager – overwhelming odds stacked against two protagonists, the clearly misunderstood dark hero, the somewhat naïve but still wonderfully endowed (with brains, I mean!) heroine, thrown together by forces outside themselves, seemingly incompatible but somehow turning out to be the other halves of each others’ souls… And while this book is well written, with a bit more polish than it’s also enjoyable debut predecessor Red Gloves, it almost felt like I was reading a romance under false pretences – it was a bit obvious.

I still enjoyed it, but hard core fantasists might choose something a little more edgy and a little less fluffy. However, for transition readers, or those new to fantasy, this might be just what you’re looking for!

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Retro Review: Graceling / Fire / Bitterblue

Graceling

Gollancz (2008)

ISBN: 9780575084629

This may be the first debut fantasy I’ve read that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Kristin Cashore has managed to create a fresh plot, interesting and endearing characters, and a rollicking and romantic read.

Katsa lives in a world where certain individuals have a Grace. Graced persons have a specialist skill at which they excel with little or no training or effort. Graces can be frivolous or highly useful, and a Graced person always has two different coloured eyes. In Katsa’s world, the Graced are not necessarily loved – they are different, sometimes feared, and do not fit easily into society. The king has first refusal on their service; if he chooses to hold them, the Graceling becomes part of the royal retinue, no matter their beginnings. If he does not want them, the Graceling must eke out their own way in the world. Continue reading

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Retro Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth series

Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Gollancz (2009)

ISBN: 9780575090859

Mary lives in an isolated world where fear is constant, and danger ever present. Her village is locked away from whatever else may be out there in the world, forever sequestered by the threat of the plague of “undead” that surround them outside the fences. The society Mary lives in is harsh, confining … and facing extinction.

Within a few chapters, Mary’s already fragile world is turned upside down – her mother dead, her village destroyed, and Mary on the run with her betrothed, beloved (they aren’t the same person), brother, and pregnant sister-in-law, fleeing into the unknown only because the threat behind them is more dire. Mary’s young life has been filled with pain and death, but at least she had always had the sanctuary of the village, and the “known”. 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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