Tag Archives: HarperVoyager

Retro Review: The Watergivers trilogy

The Last Stormlord 

Glenda Larke

ISBN: 978 07322 89294

HarperVoyager (2009)

Watergivers #1

The cloudmaster is failing. The stormlords are few. Rainlords don’t have the power to bring the essential rain. The land could soon perish and civilisation as it is known is under threat. But from whom? Village boy Shale could be the saviour of the Scarpen lands, but who should he trust? And how does Terelle, with her unusual powers, fit in to the battle he faces?

Glenda Larke is a skilful world builder and in this new series, she creates an remarkable desert land where water is treasured and the waterless are the outcasts of society. Born waterless, both Shale and Terelle fight to be more than they were allotted in life, and in doing so, become embroiled in a fight for the very survival of their world.

As usual, Larke creates an intriguing cast of characters and a fascinating story that evolves and develops gradually, weaving a spell that envelopes the reader and makes the book almost impossible to put down. My biggest problem is now the long wait for book two, but I have no doubt the wait will be well worth it!

Stormlord Rising

Glenda Larke

HarperVoyager (2010)

ISBN: 978 0 7322 8930 0

Watergivers #2

Stormlord Rising is possibly the best Book Two of a series I have ever read. To be fair, I have read Book One, but I believe this one even does its own justice to a newcomer to the series. Larke manages to effectively start a new storline with Stormlord Rising that is enhanced by having read The Last Stormlord, but not reliant upon it.

With the invasion of Breccia City and Qanatend by the Reduner tribes, led by Sandmaster Davim, which wiped out almost all the rainlords of the Quartern, Jasper Bloodstone – risen from lowly beginnings – is the only remaining stormlord with enough power to bring rain to the region. Supported and manipulated in his flawed powers by the traitorous Taquar Sardonyx, Jasper slowly fights to free himself from the control of others, seeking any way possible to truly command his own destiny. His journey intersects with that of the waterpainter Terelle Grey, who fights her own fate, and the lives of the last remaining rainlords. But Taquar is not the only enemy; Sandmaster Davim is rabid in his hatred of the stormlords, and his heir – the Reduner chief Ravard – has his own agenda as well. Can Jasper possibly fight a war that has so many fronts?

This brief synopsis can scarcely do justice to Larke’s complex story. Written so fluidly that the intertwining plot threads weave seamlessly together as the pages progress, Stormlord Rising is a page turner of classic magnitude. The action leaps off the page, supported by characters so well-drawn you fall in love with them, but in the hands of an author not afraid to kill off her darlings, which is a heart-pounding combination!

I read this book in the bath, in bed, feeding the baby and in the wee hours. I simply could not put it down. While it’s a huge book, it was so well put together that the pages flew by and I can only hope there’s not too long to wait for Book Three!

Stormlord’s Exile

Glenda Larke

HarperVoyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8931-7

Watergivers #2

Glenda Larke has to be one of the best writers of fantasy Australia has produced. With a solid backlist of two great trilogies behind her, she has really hammered home her dominance with the Watergivers trilogy. Having set up a world that seems just a little too real with its water problems, but is nonetheless entirely alien, Larke populates it with both magical and mundane characters of wonderful diversity, then throws them into intense conflict. While her books are high fantasy of the fattest “fat fantasy” tradition, they draw you in so completely that the pages simply fly by.

It is difficult to review the third novel without spoiling the first two, as such significant character development occurs throughout the series. It’s also worth saying that I highly recommend this series be read in close progression. I wish I’d had the time to reread the first two before devouring the third, as although Larke does well to recap on past events within the narrative, it is a large caste and a broad canvas, so rolling through from beginning to end helps heighten the emotional investment in the story.

In Stormlord’s Exile Jasper/Shale is declared Cloudmaster, but his talents are still imperfect and he is stretched thin, even with the help of Terelle’s waterpainting, providing water to the Quartern. He needs more Stormlords, but short of breeding them, where can they come from? Even as Jasper struggles to keep his people alive and watered, there are still plots against him, and he is about to lose Terelle’s support, perhaps forever. In the Red Quarter, in the aftermath of Davim’s death, Ravard seeks to maintain the goal of returning to a time of random rain. But ex-Rainlord Kaneth, with the very able Ryka by his side, have a different vision for the future of the Reduner people, and this leads them, too, into conflict. Can peace, and even prosperity, ever come to the Quartern?

One of the most interesting things about this trilogy is the way Larke has diverged from a traditional fantasy setting, with medieval history at its heart. Instead, she has taken us to an arid world where every drop of water is precious, and the people are ruled not by monarchs, but by those with the power to control water. Her commentary on environmental issues in the “real world” are subtle but well drawn, and add even more depth to her storytelling.

For lovers of fantasy, I cannot recommend this highly enough. Well worth adding to your “to read” lists!

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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: The Fallen Moon trilogy

The Dark Griffin 

KJ Taylor

Harper Voyager (2009)

ISBN: 978 07322 88525

The Fallen Moon Book #1

KJ Taylor is a young author and The Dark Griffin is her first book. This combination (in my experience) frequently makes for a naively written book that I generally find easy to dismiss. From the first chapter though, The Dark Griffin engaged and intrigued me. Taylor has written a cohesive and powerful tale, peopled with deeply layered characters and set in the wonderful tapestry of a new fantasy world.

Arren Cardockson became a revered griffiner by luck alone – his Northern heritage marked him otherwise as outcast. From the chance that bought him his position, hard work and intelligence continued to improve his position in life. But there are those who fear what he might become, and who put every obstacle possible in his way, and herein lies the crux of the conflict in the story.

Cardockson is not the only protagonist the reader gets to know, however; the griffins themselves are captivating. While somewhat anthropomorphised, they still present an alien counterpoint to the human drama. Chief is the tale of the rogue griffin who becomes known as Darkheart; his story is fascinating and heartbreaking, and mirrors Arren’s own challenges, until their stories become entwined, by chance and choice both.

While I would not class The Dark Griffin as a young adult novel (the style and subject matter don’t really match the usual criteria), neither is it unsuitable for a secondary collection. There is death and violence throughout the book, and some intimations of sexual activity between adults, but not in a graphic or even overt manner. The writing is not too challenging for older teens, and I would recommend it for readers 14-plus.

Taylor has produced a wonderful new world to explore, and I have no doubt she will continue to draw in readers as her popularity grows. She is a shining new light in Australian fantasy, and I look forward to seeing where her star takes her.

The Griffin’s Flight

KJ Taylor

HarperVoyager (2010)

ISBN: 978 0 7322 8853 2

The Fallen Moon Book #2

 

Arren Cardockson is a wanted man after he brought down the ruling class of Eagleholm, effectively (if unwittingly) destroying the city and its government of griffiners. On the run with the wild griffin Darkheart (now named Skandar by Arren), he heads towards the North, the only place he can think of where he might find peace. But peace is not in Arren’s destiny – first coming across the strange woman Skade and joining her on her own strange quest in the hopes of redeeming his own curse, then being captured and enslaved, Arren crashes from crisis to crisis, embroiling himself ever deeper in a spiral of rage, fear and hate that has no visible way out.

I was disappointed by this book – I enjoyed the first one of the series so much and had really been looking forward to this. Unfortunately, the writing, characterisation and plot simply didn’t live up to the promise of the first novel. I was particularly frustrated by major changes in the character of Arren himself – the enormous difference between how he was written in The Dark Griffin and how he is shown here is simply too overt, and not sufficiently supported by the underpinning plot. Another small annoyance that kept jolting me out of the story were the names the author applied – with Skade and Skandar both in close contact with Arren (also called Arrenadd, which gets tough when the character of Arddryn is introduced), and Arren’s grandfather called Skandar and father Skandarson, it becomes confusing at times – I understand the reason for the convention (except for Skade – that really irritated), but it still aggravated me.

In my review of The Dark Griffin I noted that the book wasn’t really aimed at young adults – to some extent, this book fits the YA mould a little better. Sadly, the writing in The Griffin’s Flight doesn’t live up to the ideas and at over 600 pages, it’s hard work at times. I still like the premise, and the book isn’t bad, exactly;it just doesn’t meet the high expectations I had based on the first book – I wanted it to be even better, not a step down. So this is a lukewarm review from me, but one that is based on my own anticipation more than the flaws of the work (although I do think a stronger editorial hand would have immensely improved the book) – I’m certain other readers will still enjoy it!

The Griffin’s War

KJ Taylor

Harper Voyager (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-8854-9

The Fallen Moon Book #3

The dark griffin Skandar, along with the griffin/woman Skade, search to find Arrenadd, who is both saviour and destroyer. Plans for vengeance by those who survived the destruction of the griffin city dog the Northerners at every turn – who will survive the clash of two peoples?

I struggled with this book and I was very disappointed that I found it such hard work. I really enjoyed Taylor’s first book in this series, but the second and third have been a challenge. With book two, it was more that I was not as impressed as I had been with the first one, rather through any fault of the book itself, but this time, I think the story, characters and writing have really let the initial idea down. The complete reversal of characterisation really threw me for a loop, and this was never justified well enough to make it believable for me. The writing meanders and the action is poorly paced. The world building maintained its complexity, but was let down by a plot that simply did not, to me, make sense or live up to the expectations created by the first book.

It’s hard to me to give a bad review, particularly for an Australian fantasy series that showed such marvellous promise early on, but sadly, I can’t recommend the series based on the strength of one book. This just didn’t satisfy.

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Retro Review: The Undivided (2011)

Jennifer Fallon

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 9780732290849

Rift Runners#1

I had a very bad experience at the end of Jennifer Fallon’s last series (the Tide Lords) and was very reluctant to take on her new book, because of my extreme disappointment with how that quartet was finished. However, fellow ASif! reviewer Lorraine Cormack expressed her enjoyment of this new series, and I trust her judgment, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Psychic twins Rónán and Darragh were separated as small children by a rogue Druid – Rónán was thrown through a rift in reality to a world that appears to be pretty much modern day Earth as we know it, while Darragh was left behind to try to hold his rightful place as the Undivided, without his twin.

With no memory of living in a previous world, Rónán (called Ren in “our” reality) nevertheless feels he doesn’t quite fit in, and the strange wounds that frequently appear on his body don’t make his life any easier.

Without Rónán to help him hold power, Darragh is at the point where he will be replaced as Undivided, something that is not a simple deposing of power but will actually mean his, and Rónán’s, deaths. But Darragh has a plan to find his twin, and save them both – but who can he really trust, in this quest to restore the balance?

A fascinating mix of the “real world” and a believable alternate reality in which magic and faerie are realistically embedded, The Undivided is a rollercoaster of a read. Straying from traditional high fantasy tropes into something of a blend with urban fantasy, the young protagonists and their fight to survive in the strangeness of alternate world is engaging and exciting. There’s no doubting Fallon’s skill with a story, and I am glad I took up Lorraine’s recommendation here.

However, be warned – this is definitely book one of a series (it’s not clear how many books there will be), and while some plot points are wrapped up at the end of the novel, the overarching narrative is definitely left unfinished and you will need to read on. Book two is already out though, so hopefully not too long to wait for more!

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Retro Review: Wizard Squared (2010)

K.E. Mills

Harper Voyager (2010)

ISBN: 978 0 7322 8606 4

Rogue Agent #3

Gerald Dunwoody is in trouble again. Well, one version of Gerald is, although it’s not really the Gerald we know and love. That doesn’t mean he won’t have an impact on the “real” Gerald and his friends though, because if there’s one thing Gerald does well, it’s cause trouble on a grand scale – this time, in parallel worlds! When a “what if” scenario in a world similar yet slightly different to the one we’ve come to know in The Accidental Sorcerer and Witches Incorporated means the two worlds diverge, Gerald’s best friend, magical genius Monk Markham, finds himself in a struggle for the future of his world with the Gerald of another dimension. Continue reading

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