The Emperor’s Edge
The Emperor’s Edge is a book that sneaks up on you. It begins with Amaranthe Lokdon, one of very few female enforcers working for the Emperor. She gets into trouble with her superior covering for her somewhat ne’er do well partner. We are expecting a swords and sorcery police procedural and from first looks a pretty good one. She comes to the notice of the Emperor, and the powers behind the young Emperor decide to set her up by sending her off to kill the most efficient assassin of their day. This is when the book really starts to get interesting and leaves the police procedural behind.
Amaranthe learns that it is no possible to be loyal to her Emperor and remain an enforcer. She puts together a very unlikely ragtag group of people, including the assassin she was sent to kill and set out to stop the people who threaten the Emperor and the country she serves.
The characters are well drawn, and what is more they learn and grow during the course of the book. The plot is suitably twisted and we get to enjoy her antics as she avoids people on all sides trying to kill her. This book looks to be the first of a series and I hope the following books live up to the standard Buroker has set with this first one.
The Map to Everywhere
Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis
Little, Brown and Company
Nobody remembers Fin. Even if he is standing right in front of them. Friendships are very hard, but it makes thieving much simpler. Marril loves adventure, so she is horrified when she learns that her mother is sick and they’ve decided to live in one spot.
A slip of paper on an errant breeze brings the two together. Marril is the only person who remembers Fin, who struggles with the need for friendship. The unlikely pair sail the Pirate Stream with a cranky wizard and a young looking Captain looking for the pieces of the Map to Everywhere.
The Map to Everywhere is a delight. From the wonderfully almost gibberish names to the diverse and creative adventures to the blossoming friendship between Fin and Marril, the story carries us along. The plot is much more complex than I expected with some very neat twists and turns and a remarkably different way of looking at prophecy.
The book promises to be the first in a series and I’ll be looking out for the next one. I recommend this book to people of all ages who like great adventure stories.
The Earl of Brass
Fox Collie Publishing
We meet Eilan Sorrell as he goes down in an airship crash on the way home from the Negev. He loses an arm in the crash and very nearly his life. While the doctors are able to save him, he fears that he will have no purpose. He has refused to become a dilettante heir and has always worked on archeological digs. Eilan’s interests set him at political odds with most of his family.
Hadley is the name of the woman who crafts Eilan’s artificial arm. The arm is the last work of her brother George and she unreasonably dislikes Eilan for that reason. When she discovers her brother’s notes about how to make a functional artificial limb, Eilan is the best candidate for the job.
I like the book in spite of some technical issues. There is a bit of head hopping, but it isn’t severe enough to push me out of an engaging story. The author also tries a little too hard for my taste to say something with her book, but again, it stays in service to the story and thus forgivable. The characters of Eilan and Hadley are very well drawn, and even the bit parts stay away from predictable caricatures.
I recommend The Earl of Brass to lovers of steampunk and adventure stories.
The Silver Rings
Brattle Publishing Group
Twins Celia and Alice decide to escape their stepmother. They have very different ideas of where would be a good place to escape to with one preferring the city and the other the wilderness. Their very hands off fairy godmother suggests they split up and gives them each a silver ring to help them keep track of their sister. She also gives them lizard skins as disguises. The rings will turn red if one of the sisters is in trouble. It doesn’t take long and we are off on a romp.
The book is written very tongue and cheek so there is as much fun for the adult as for the younger reader. This is a great book for reading out loud, especially if one is prone to doing different voices while reading. The illustrations are fun and complement the story.
I like that sisters are so different in temperament, though they are identical twins. They are also independent and smart, dealing with life on their own terms. This book is fun and well written. It winks at a large number of fairy tales, some of them not terribly well known. Half of the fun is recognizing another story being hinted at.
I would recommend the book for people of all ages who like a good story .
The Garden Plot
Alibi – Random House
Pru is an English Gardener from Texas. She has given herself a year to find a full time position as a head gardener before she must return to Texas and pick up her old job and her old life. She is nearing the end of the year at the start of the book. (We are reminded of her situation through an assortment of delightful rejection letters.) While she is waiting for the head gardener position, she has been working as a contract gardener for a variety of people.
The Wilson’s hire her to fix up their back yard for them and in the process she finds some Roman mosaic. That is exciting enough, but the next day she discovers a body lying on the mosaic. The police come and particularly Detective Inspector Pearse.
The Garden Plot is part mystery, part romance and part whimsy and all thoroughly enjoyable. Pru is refreshing as a fifty something woman who has set herself a goal and is determined to achieve the goal by her standard. The D.I. Pearse is not over done. He is a police man through and through, but leavened with wit, compassion and an interest in badgers.
The other characters that wander through the story are written to be well rounded and interesting, and they populate the story to give it flavour and just the right amount of chaos.
I recommend The Garden Plot for mystery lovers and garden lovers alike.
Faelorehn – Book One of the Otherword Trilogy
Jenna Elizabeth Johnson
Meghan lives with her adoptive family in California and goes to a private high school with her best friends. She has to deal with the usual high school bullies, but other than that, her life is pretty good.
Well, except for the unexplained visions of things that don’t exist, and the recurring nightmare of being abandoned in L.A. as a toddler, and the fact that some of those things from her visions are showing up in reality with a desire to kill her.
Fortunately Cade also shows up and Meghan starts getting some answers to questions she’s asked all her life.
Faolorehn is a well written book and Meghan is an interesting character. My problem with the book is that it doesn’t really start until it is almost over. We spend the largest part of the book watching Meghan go through her almost normal life. I found it a long wait before the real action starts; unless one is really interested in high school drama and teen angst about not fitting in.
My guess is that the second book will move much quicker and pull us deeper into the story that book one mostly hints at. The good news is that if the technical parts of the writing stay at the same calibre, Book Two will be a very good book.
I don’t want to say not to read the book, but I can’t completely recommend it either. If you are patient and have a high tolerance for teen stuff, the pay off at the end and the hints of what is to come will be worth the effort of reading the book.
Away & Away Publishing
Discovering Aberration is the story of Freddy Fitzgerald and his friend Professor Thaddeus Lumpen as they follow a map that the Professor acquired. Unfortunately, he acquired it in a less than discrete manner from a crime boss who was known for leaving bodies full of screws as signs of his displeasure. They immediately plan for an excursion with the hope of getting away clean before the notorious John-Joseph Heller catches up to them.
Things never go quite as planned and before they are off, they are just one of a veritable fleet of adventurers and have been joined by a student who is as adept as she is pretty. They sail in a modern steam vessel toward the island and a discovery that they all hope will change their lives.
I very much enjoyed the story of Discovering Aberration. The characters that start as stock figures developed quirks very quickly and become engaging and sympathetic as they do. There are some rough spots where the author leaps forward and back and switches narrative devices, but it is worth the effort to follow along to the end of the book. Like the best tales of its kind, the story is larger than a simple expedition to gain fame and fortune and we are treated to an opportunity to consider human hubris without the moral being pushed down our throats.
I would recommend the book to any who enjoy steampunk and Victorian style adventure.
Indigenous Poetics in Canada
Editor Neal McLeod
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
I asked to read this book because I fell in love with the title. The idea of tasting a different way of understanding poetic language grabbed my attention. Looking at the table of contents is a little disconcerting with articles entitled Achimo, Edgework: Indigenous Poetics as Re-Placement, Writer-Reader Reciprocity and the Pursuit of Alliance through Indigenous Poetry. The book delighted me with accessible writing and engaging subjects. The heavy sounding titles are a cover for a range of fascinating discussions about language, place and culture. I googled and bookmarked more than one book from the tastes I was offered in the text.
The subject of the book is language, and the thesis is that indigenous poetics deserve to be recognized and discussed based on the texts rather than settler (white) understandings of poetry and form. Authors speak of the importance of place and story. Some use the imagery of pictographs as a way of showing the dimension of time in indigenous story and language. There are interviews with indigenous poets of a range of nations, and a smattering of stories to whet the appetite to hear more.
Along with the discussion of language and poetry, there is the inevitable political reality of colonialism and how to respond to it. The politics are not ignored, but they aren’t allowed to overwhelm the discussion. Rather they become another layer on the stories that are being told. It is important to note that the stories are not myth stories as we are used to reading and dissecting in English Literature courses. The stories are living stories of living nations. If we are ever going to learn to live as neighbours, we need to learn to hear these stories.
I highly recommend this book for any who love language or have in interest in indigenous culture.
James John Loftus
Celtic Blood is an independent novel by James John Loftus. It tells the story of Morgund MacAedh in thirteenth century Scotland. The book begins with Seward, a viking, being washed ashore and the only one to survive the wreck of the ship he was on. He is adopted by the MacAedh clan where he grows into a fearsome warrior. Politics in those times are much more direct and a band of men attack the leader of the people who took him in and kill him. Seward escapes and then is faced with the challenge of protecting Morgund who is the MacAedh heir.
I had a challenging time at the beginning of the book trying to decide if James’ style was brilliance or just a refusal to follow the bounds of the English language. While there are times that description spins into something that is more poetry than prose, the sad truth is that I found myself wanting to hear more about the parts that he skims over and less about the things he describes in detail. The time and setting are given their due, but even well into the book I didn’t know the characters as people.
I also found the panegyric description got in the way of me just following the plot. I love beautiful description as much as the next reader, but I also love knowing what is happening that the description is attached to. Between the sentence fragments and dizzyingly quick point of view shifts, I couldn’t follow the story.
As much as I wanted to love this book. I can’t recommend it.
Brindle and Glass Publishing
Swarm follows Sandy as she and her partner Marvin and their friend Thomson struggle to survive on an island. The novel weaves from past to future to show Sandy’s story. On the island a mysterious girl is taking food from their already meagre stores. Marvin has no sympathy for the girl. They don’t have enough for themselves. Yet, Sandy dreams of being a mother. She desires the opportunity to do impossible mother and daughter things in a world that no longer exists.
The bees, the swarm of the title inhabit both parts of the novel and are a symbolic link to both what has gone wrong with the world and the possibility of hope. Swarm explores and all too likely scenario of economic collapse that leaves the largest part of the population hopeless.
Swarm reminded me of Margaret Attwood’s work in which everything carries weight. The story is built on the warp and woof of time and meaning. We feel Sandy’s desires and sometimes get impatient with her refusal to anchor her life in what is real rather than hopes that seem little more than a will-o-the-wisp. Then we see Marvin’s harshness and the way he’s been reduced by their subsistence living to focus only on what will help them survive and we hope that Sandy might succeed.
Between Sandy and Marvin, there is Thomson, a dying father figure, the inspiration to Marvin’s violence who rejected violence and yet refuses to reject either Marvin or Sandy. He is the one who forces a recognition of the value of death and it is no accident that he is also the bee keeper of the book.
Swarm is a challenging and occasionally a difficult read, but all the more valuable for that. It points to our present reluctance as a society to change. We are moving toward the brink, and Sandy’s story could be anyone’s story in a few years. The book is about not just the choices of a few characters, but the choices we’ve made as a species. I highly recommend it.