Enough about my own books – here are some in the science fiction and fantasy genres that I have enjoyed recently:
Dan Fitzgerald’s Maer Cycle
This is a mature and compelling book. Initially I was drawn into the story by Carl, Finn and Sinnie, three friends, imaginatively created as individually believable characters for readers to care about. I expected that they would be the focus of the entire Maer cycle. But the books offer so much more, as access to differing POVs enables readers to learn more about the Maer culture, opening up new perspectives which change apparent enemies into individuals who have the potential to become friends and lovers. There is much for the contemporary world to learn from this thought-provoking and original fantasy.
The first book in this cycle showed how enemies are individuals too: ways in which they are alike, ways in which they differ. The second book doesn’t disappoint as readers come to better know characters such as Ujenn, Grisol and Dunil, originally met in book 1, and also new characters, especially Ayal and the fabulous (in the fullest sense of the word) Tcheen. I’ve missed out so many – to them I apologise. Each new mind takes life and, as the cast of characters widens, so too can a reader’s understanding of differing cultures and ways of being. It takes a special kind of writer to wield such a varied character list without any becoming ciphers along the way. The relationships that develop between unlikely and likely individuals are sympathetically handled and entirely believable.
The Place Below
Book three in the amazing Maer Cycle carries inclusivity to its ultimate, as Sasha (almost an anthropologist in a fantasy setting, but so much more) and Tcheen travel in search of Ka-lar stories and tombs, with Kuun’s tale eventually converging on theirs.It is difficult to say more without giving spoilers affecting this and earlier volumes. Please don’t miss any of these books, they are so worth reading!
Paralox by Joe Potter
A brilliant book from the realms of Orwellian fiction, Paralox is a gripping and frequently chilling reminder of the ultimate dangers of accepting a world-order that advocates totalitarian control (think Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot) as the only way forward: the free-thinking mind seen as the ultimate enemy of humankind.
The story begins slowly, with ideas (philosophical and political), and the speculative science behind inter-dimensional travel and the power of thought, gradually and intricately detailed in the opening chapters. The calm before the storm! Later the pace is breath-taking as the protagonists fight for survival, hindered at every turn by the manipulative machinations of a megalomaniac as he drags humankind toward destruction. With such a broad sweep of action, the author never forgets the supreme importance of portraying individual characters who live and grow as you read. Emmitt, Samantha and Sarah, together with the worlds they exist in, are so convincingly portrayed that from about the mid-point I could hardly bear to put the book down – desperate to know what would happen (physically and mentally) to fictional characters who had become very real to this reader.
There appear to be some typo’s but as a UK reader I’m never sure of the differences between UK and US English. In any event, they should be ignored. Once you are immersed in Paralox all else pales by comparison.
Finding Caleb By Lauren Rigby
Loved this book. The alternating first person POV (or rather I think they now call this version head-hopping) between the two main characters works brilliantly. Readers are aware of the traumatic events in the past that have triggered Caleb’s depression and nightmares. Mila’s ongoing suffering is sensitively and poignantly detailed, including the horrific abuse she is subjected to by the leader of the Vultures gang. If you have enjoyed The Sanctuary and New Haven (as I have) this book will definitely not disappoint. Mila and Caleb are such beautifully rounded characters: I felt that I got to know them as ‘real’ people. Nice too to encounter the (now older) characters from the earlier books.
The End of Dreams by Marcus Lee
A truly epic finale to a truly epic trilogy: difficult to write about without revealing spoilers galore! I loved the book and found it really difficult to put down. One of my favourite moments is when the sacred moonwood tree is brought to life for Shinsen and his Horselords…read the book for details!
As the denouement approaches, there is treachery, betrayal, greed, lust for power and for immortality. Set against this there is constancy, sacrifice and a bittersweet love (leavened with psychological realism in the form of teasing and laughter) summed up when one of the characters promises: “We live together, or we die together. In this world and the next, I’ll always choose to be by your side. Never forget it!” I won’t say who said this, or when.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book: so well-written
Sci-fi review coming up!
Sera Storme by Marcel Barker.
Marcel Barker has written a thrilling sci-fi adventure set in a dystopian universe. I literally couldn’t put it down. Sera Storme is a brilliant hero, striving to protect herself and her daughter, Lani, from a ruthless criminal enterprise. Sera is a bounty-hunter, hell-bent on making sufficient money to buy her way out of a debt the organisation is out to collect. Her usual partner, Sabian, is left in the dark until she needs him to stay in the background and protect Lani, while she battles to defeat a dangerous fugitive. Can’t say more without giving spoilers, but all the characters are really well-crafted, making you care what happens to Sera, Sabien and Lani and to the other characters who help them. A great story for lovers of SFF and strong female ‘leads’.
My book for today is probably in the speculative fiction genre:
The Sanctuary by Lauren Rigby
Drama and love in a dystopian world.
Lauren Rigby has created a grim reality in this dystopian, post the “final war,” world. I like the way the POV alternates between the two main characters. Necessary to avoid readers being alienated from one of these for what, without knowing his thoughts, might seem the darkest of betrayals. There is sex (never graphic) and violence, but the sympathetic portrayal of the characters (after the early chapters) draws readers in and makes them want everything to turn out well. Faint Lois Lowry vibe maybe? I look forward to the next in the series.
Marcus Lee’s Kings and Daemons
I loved this first book in Marcus Lee’s ‘The Gifted and the Cursed’ trilogy. Compelling world building and brilliantly original (and diverse) characters promise that this will develop into an excellent epic fantasy. Of the ‘gifted,’ Maya is the perfect hero from the beginning. Her growing relationship with Taran is so convincingly handled (including the teasing and laughter.) Other relationships are also a joy to watch develop: it’s difficult to say too much about the rest of the characters without including spoilers! Oh, apart from mention of the Witch King, leeching life and vigour from the land to renew his own – a worthy villain. This is a great read. Difficult to put down!
Today’s review in the epic fantasy genre is the second book in Marcus Lee’s trilogy:
Tristan’s Folly by Marcus Lee
The middle book in Marcus Lee’s ‘The Gifted and the Cursed’ trilogy lives up to the promise of Kings and Daemons. In book one, the Witch King was established as the unequivocal villain of the piece, yet with book two more complex shades of wickedness continue to emerge, with unlooked for betrayals and the knowledge that selfish greed and acquisitiveness are no less life-sapping than Daleth’s brand of evil. Parts of Tristan’s Folly will be upsetting for readers who have learned to care for the central characters. I won’t give any spoilers away, but readers have to hope that book three will offer truth and healing to those affected.