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Moondark (Hertfordshire)

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Tempering of Men, The
Tempering of Men, The
by Sarah Monette
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.62

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sadly disappointing follow-up to a wonderful first book of the series, 4 Mar 2012
This review is from: Tempering of Men, The (Hardcover)
After the genius of the first book, `A Companion To Wolves', I was bitterly disappointed by the second. I couldn't see the point of the follow-up; it doesn't add anything, it only takes away. I found the first book so intriguing, so intense with atmosphere that it gave you a palpable sense of being there, of being sensitive to the sights and smells and tensions. This book loses all of that.

The wonderful Isolfr is still in the story, but a stage removed; the story is no longer told through him. Although some of the most interesting characters are here, Skjaldwulf, Vethulf and Grimolfr, neither one is made central to the continuing plot so you can't tell where your allegiances should lie. There's little suspense created to lead the plot along, so you find yourself not really caring what happens.

We meet some new creatures and new characters, and a new race of people - a kind of Roman civilisation - which started to be interesting, hopefully in the third book we'll come back to that.

There's little human interest in this book, due to the fact that it's not told through the thoughts and emotions of one person.

I'm hoping that the story IS gearing up for something worth waiting for, hopefully in the last / third book. If not it would have been better to have ended with book one, which was perfect in itself.

A Companion to Wolves
A Companion to Wolves
by Sarah Monette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book! Strange, wild, uncompromising and painfully intimate, 12 Feb 2012
An ancient, Scandinavian world where a new kind of tribe has evolved. One that offers protection - in a wintry, snow-covered landscape - from the rampaging bands of trolls and other ungodly beasts that stalk the outskirts of the village communities. A patrolling tribe with a difference though, made of the interdependent species of man and wolf. The wolves are the superior beast of the two, more powerful and with a heightened sense of duty and honour. Loyal to their own, guided by the codes of the wolf packs. The men who chose to live with them, who are chosen through an instinct as youths, bond in a kind of 'mind-merging', enabling man and wolf to understand and communicate with one another. A deep bond of mutual respect is created. It's a wild idea, but one that is formed so well as to be perfectly believable.

The story takes you into the brutal yet wonderfully sensory world of these wolves and men packs. With wolf-like senses you can smell their environment, learn their visual language and follow the communal heartbeat of the pack, alert and ever sensitive to threat. Equally the wolves' nature is to love and care deeply for their own. For this they would fight to the death.

The book explores the typical aspects of day to day life of tribesmen and warriors, as well as the less expected aspects of their sexual lives. All treated with absolute realism and an almost uncomfortable intimacy of emotion. You find yourself loving many of the characters, not least the protagonist, Isolfr, despite knowing that he is flawed, and should be a better person than he is.

I found myself lost in this strange but fantastic world; was thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. And, predictably, I was in pain when it ended...I almost howled!

I'm deeply respectful of the skill it took to pull this challenging idea off. It can't have been written with a wide audience in mind - it's VERY alternative and dependent on a broad-minded attitude! It seems brave but I am grateful that it was written. It's an incredible achievement. A beautiful book.

Angels of the Deep
Angels of the Deep
by Kirby Crow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A dark and glorious read!, 29 Jan 2012
This review is from: Angels of the Deep (Paperback)
If you're into angels, dark fantasy and alternative romance then this is the book for you. Don't think that this makes it a trivial, light read though. Elevating the genres of horror, high fantasy and gothic literature, the author makes a studied yet thrilling exploration into humanity and the divine, how evil and love dwell in both places.

From a small boy living in a small town, in love with the night sky - trying to capture the memories of each day's sunset - to the petty corruption of small town America, sifted through by a ramshackle collection of cops, we are shown the rank and seedy side of people's lives, and how we betray and damage one another.

Through the gritty detail of slow, urban lives we are shown glimmers of another realm - golden, divine, beautiful and apocalyptic. A world of angels, made real. Of Nephilim and the angels' war amongst their own kind.

I was particularly impressed with the authentic depiction of people and their lives. The descriptions are so detailed that people really step out of the page and the brilliant dialogue makes you believe these characters are real. You feel you know them. Kirby's characters are complex and unfathomable, yet fascinating and loveable. Their darkness makes you want to shine a light on them, show them what love is. The story at its simplest level is of healing and forgiveness. Its exploration takes you through dark, epic and divine realms yet is at its most powerful when brought down to earth, described through the relationship of two people.

I raced through this book, due to the fast-pace, interesting characters and intriguing glimpses into revelation. This is storytelling at its best, with beautiful, deep and poetic prose that spans the spectrum from light to darkness, horror to love. The author's style reminds me of a combination of Poppy Z Brite, Tanith Lee and Clive Barker, amongst other greats! If you like any of these writers, you will love this book.

Elfland (Tor Fantasy)
Elfland (Tor Fantasy)
by Freda Warrington
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Promised so much, delivered so little, 4 Sep 2011
Elfland (Tor Fantasy)

My low rating of this book pains me since my expectations were so high, given that I have been a fan of Freda Warrington for years. The concept promised so much and I felt that Freda was well positioned, given her wondrous Blackbird fantasy series as well as other fantasy tales, to deliver something truly magical. For all that `Elfland' is set in a land of a fae race of beings, there is little magic in it. I was ready to be taken into a world ruled by old magic, old belief systems, where spirits such as elves, faeries and elementals play a very real part in people's lives and fortunes. The story is set in the modern day where humans live alongside a fae race, but only on occasion do we see glimpses of the fairy world. The concentration on the mundane details of human daily life - which should only punctuate the magical, fairy world - overtakes it, and renders the sudden switches to `Elfland' rather unbelievable and slightly ridiculous.

Perhaps there is also an over reliance on the romantic aspect of the story, as other reviewers have suggested. However I am more than happy with romance in my fantasy, so was propelled along by this, only to be disappointed by the unreality of situations. Freda is normally fantastic at building characters you can understand and love, however I felt she didn't do justice to her characters in this book and many were one-dimensional and often predictable. She made you love the character of Jon - the beautiful, long-haired, poetic Wilder son - but his troubled story is never properly resolved which made me very annoyed and frustrated. I did love the character of Sam, but couldn't help but see very obvious similarities with a certain character in Buffy...he both looked and talked exactly like Spike (probably why I liked him, but still...!). I couldn't believe in the main character, Rosie, at all.

Another major irritation was where the drama of a situation is heavily built up, you're intrigued to know what's going to happen next... only to find that the story suddenly stops and skips several months or years!

Overall I got the impression that Freda wanted to do too much with this book, and ended up spreading herself too thinly. Either it should have been a saga about the lives of the Wilders; or an exploration of elves, fairies and old magic; or a modern day romance. In trying to be too much it didn't succeed on any of these levels for me.

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