Monthly Archives: May 2012

Review #35 Princess of Wands by John Ringo

Over the next few days, I will  try to catch up on reviews for all the books I read while recovering from whiplash. I am actually reading book #46 right now.

American author John Ringo is far better known for his military fiction and political thrillers than this quirky paperback that appeared in 2006. The cover artwork of a woman in jeans with a Japanese katana (sword) fighting some scaly beast was intriguing enough to get me to flip it over at the bookstore. The back copy about this homemaker drawn into the supernatural was clever enough to make me buy it and the ensuing tales of mayhem, magic, wry humour and Faith ensured it a permanent place on my basement bookshelves.

Princess of Wands is actually three books in one. Book One, The Almadu Sanction, explains how a seemingly normal Soccer Mom, Barbara Everette, decides to take a break from her family for a weekend to restore her sanity and discovers that she is actually a Believer who can help battle against the evil that is lurking in the Bayous beyond New Orleans. Book Two, The Necromancy Option, is Barbara’s first team mission to root out the evil that lurks at a Sci-FI/Fantasy convention (anyone who has ever been to a Con will find themselves laughing out loud on several occasions) and Book Three, Broken Sabbath, is a short but satisfying romp into how this Christian warrior manages to protect her family without truly revealing what she has been up to on the side.

Reading Misfit and the Chronicles of Nick books reminded me that I owned this novel, so I dug it out for another read. The quirky humour, spine-tingling action and nonjudgmental way that the main character professes her faith combine into a blend of mystery, fantasy, action and religious tolerance that I found as captivating on the second reading as I did on the first. While browsing the web to write this review, I was delighted to discover that a sequel, The Queen of Wands, is due to be released this summer! Not only will I be able to include it in my CBRIV challenge this year, I will also be able to add it to my library.

For those of you who would like to read this tale for FREE, it is available in a variety of formats from Baen Books on their site through this link. I noticed that the cover artwork has been modified from the version of Barbara that appears on my paperback copy… but hopefully the stories remain the same. Enjoy!

Paperback format, 408 pages, published in 2006 by Baen Books

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Review #34 Mulengro by Charles de Lint

One of the things that I am enjoying most about this Cannonball Read IV challenge is how it lets me track my reading patterns. I tend to go in themes or off on tangents. My current thread of reading books about demons, demigods and other things that might go bump in the night reminded me of something in an older tale by Charles de Lint. I scurried down to my bookcases in the basement to reread this incredible tale of the supernatural and Gypsy culture penned by one of Canada’s best fantasy authors in the mid-eighties.

Mulengro is a tale of dark magic set in Canada’s capital city and into the Ontario countryside. A series of murders is baffling the police and haunting the Romany community. The police think that a serial killer is on the loose but the Gypsies know better. Something is stalking them and any who get in the way. Their name for this darkness is He Who Walks With Ghosts….Mulengro.

Charles de Lint is a masterful and descriptive writer whose tales helped create the Urban Fantasy genre. This is not a tale of magic in a far off kingdom, but rather what is revealed to be around us and among us if we only have eyes to see. In the case of this dark tale, we might wish that we could be kept safe from the evil that lurks beyond what our rational brains can comprehend. The story is riveting and brilliantly told. The characters are strong, believable and so engaging that you mourn deeply when some of them do not survive. The author provides a sensitive and engrossing look into the secretive Romany culture and language which adds depth to this tale of modern magic.

If you haven’t read this classic example of Charles de Lint’s storytelling, hunt Mulengro down at your local library, used bookstore or online!

Paperback format, 351 pages, published in 1985 by Ace Fantasy

ISBN-13: 978-0940841598

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Review #33 Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Invincible is the second book in the Chronicles of Nick YA series written by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Like the first one, it is a wonderful romp into the Dark-Hunter world that Kenyon created, without the overtly detailed romance scenes that made her adult novels so popular.  Nick Gautier survived the zombie attacks in the first novel and is slowly adapting to the idea that the world as he knew it is not all that it seems.  While his fortunes may be turning around, the new football coach has a dark side that is far more sinister than anyone   realizes and the powers of darkness are still intent on getting him to give in to an Evil destiny which could destroy the world.  The future doesn’t have to be set in stone, but can the advice from “Cousin Ambrose” be trusted?  Will those closest to him keep him from turning into a monster to rival his father or betray him in the end?

Sherrilyn Kenyon knows how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat and laughing out loud at the same time!  The main character in this novel is so endearing and so full of teenage boy attitude that you don’t know whether to hug him or hit him at times.  His ability to struggle with what is thrown at him and the strange powers that he is developing gives readers hope that they can face challenges in their own lives with half as much determination and tenacity.  Despite incredible odds, Nick manages to find solutions that allow him to triumph in his own unique way, set against the rich, intricate backdrop of Kenyon’s Dark Hunter world. I found myself begrudging the times I had to put this book down for such mundane things as cooking supper and taking care of other household chores.  I inhaled Invincible in a day and after reading the shocking last few sentences, I knew that there was NO WAY I could wait for the third book to come out in paperback… so it was added to the basket on my very next trip to the bookstore!

Paperback format, 420 pages, published in 2011 by St. Martin’s Griffin

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Review #32 Misfit by Jon Skovron

It’s not often that I read a book which I enjoy as much as it also baffles me.  Misfit almost defies being categorized, despite being found in the YA section of major bookstores.  The cover art and jacket wording were unusual and eye-catching enough to grad the attention of my oldest daughter during our recent bookstore binge, but the subject matter was touchy enough that she checked with me first. Part Paranormal and Horror, part religion and history yet a wholly satisfying tale of a young woman coming of age, Misfit deals with the conflict experienced by a 16 year old Catholic-school student, Jael Thompson, who learns that her mother was considered a God to some and a demoness to others.  Learning how to cope as a half-breed while one of the fiends of Hell is… well.. Hell Bent on your destruction… proves to be a bit of more of a challenge than the everyday life of a teenager should hold.

Having inhaled the book in a day but the timing of it being during Holy Week (while I was still in a lot of pain from the whiplash’’), I found myself somewhat puzzled as to how I was going to rate this book.  I can see how the very subject matter and point of view might insult, intimidate or offend a certain segment of Christian readers, but some of the questions that are raised in this book are actually very important ones for young people to ask themselves; What do I believe in?  Is Evil done in the name of Good all right? Is there a wider world out there?

Many authors, from C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle to Phillip Pullman, George Lucas and J.K Rowling have caused readers to explore their own faith systems before and the delicate, precarious balance between Light and Dark.  Jon Skovron does so in his own way which is as unusual as it is unique.  Though this story could stand on its own, there were certainly enough loose threads and intriguing plot twists to hint at the possibility of a sequel.  Reading this just after Infinity gave me an unusual chance to compare and contrast the two stories and their Demon overtones. The female character in Misfit, though certainly enjoyable, lacks some of the optimism and gutsy strength  that permeates the Chronicles of Nick series and its main character.  Misfit is an intriguing insight into the more rigid dogma of Catholicism from one person’s perspective and the mayhem that ensues when things go suddenly awry.

Hardcover format, 362 pages, published in 2011 by Amulet Books

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