Fantasy

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Read: Sourcery

Pratchett’s Discworld novel number five – Sourcery – features again Rincewind and (my favorite) Death, together with his three fellow horse-riders of the Apocralypse, the apocryphal apocalypse.

The story is nice and everything. It’s just apt to kill some time on a train trip. The most remarkable thing about this novel, however, is Pratchett’s extensive use of footnotes. There are 25 footnotes in total. There were some footnotes in his earlier novels, too. Yet, here he really establishes the footnote in his work as a literary device that provides a departure from the main narrative, tells a different story altogether, and provides meta-commentaries on the plot – a comic relief from an already comic novel.

Read: The Magician's Apprentice

Only in 2007 I stumbled upon Trudi Canavan’s debut series The Black Magician trilogy featuring a young girl with a natural talent for magic. I liked this series a lot. Yet, I did not touch Canavan’s second trilogy Age of the Five. I do not really know why. The Magician’s Apprentice, however, drew my attention again as it is a prequel to The Black Magician trilogy.

Canavan either has a very good editor or is just a great writer. The book’s 750 pages are being read in no time (I have just read the paperback). The plot has some similarities with that of the original trilogy. The most obvious is, of course, the main character being again a young girl with a natural talent for magic. Nevertheless, the story is not only sufficiently original it is so intriguing that I had to lend the book to my fiancee who happened to catch a glimpse of just a few pages.

I am already looking forward to the sequel, The Traitor Spy trilogy.

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Read: The Magicians

Every once in a while I get on a little book buying spree. Either because I am in London at Waterstones and had enough time to leaf through a number of books or because I just saw something in a store and decided to buy it later on the net. In that case I start to work through a list that may be a littler bit longer. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was on my most recent book wish list… I only later found out that it is also on the Best Books of 2009 list of several newspapers.

Does it belong on such a list? Yeah, maybe.

The book is divided in several “sub-books” that are considerably different in content and atmosphere, reflecting the different stages of the protagonist’s personal pursuit of happiness. While the first part is a little bit like Harry Potter for grown-ups – the slightly depressed and manic “hero” gets to a magic college – the second part feels like a LARP gone bad.

I like Grossman’s nerdy, non-positive, dirty, bleak, and yet romantic picture of the world. His protagonists are no heroes, they are not infallible. Their quest is not motivated by a noble moral and they are taken for a ride. And even the happy end has a sad undertone.

The Magicians is thus at least on my personal Good Books of 2009 list.

Read: Mort

Pratchett created a wonderful character: Death. You just have to love every encounter with this guy. Each dialog sparkles with this unique dry sense of humor that is one of the reasons I like Pratchett’s work.

Death appears in almost all Discworld novels. Mort, however, is the first book in which Death is one of the main characters and has more “page time” than otherwise.

Mort is definitely one of my favorite Discworld novels.

Read: A Knight of the Word

I read Terry Brooks’ Landover series some years ago – more like a decade ago actually. I liked the witty humor, the cross over from the real world to the fantasy realm that reminded me a little bit of Rick Cook’s Wizardry series that I just loved. Then I read Running with the Demon that was … different.

A Knight of the Word continues what began in Running with the Demon. It is a rather dark fantasy novel in which fairy creatures populate our world. A world in which the ultimate struggle between good and evil is causing a lot of collateral damage among the unsuspecting “normal” people.

En passant Brooks dedicates his novel to a worthy cause as the backdrop of the story deals with a fight to end homelessness.

This is all fine. The novel is tantalizing, the unveiling of the real evil is not too obvious. Brooks focuses on just a few characters, he builds the plot slowly and allows for sufficient space and time to depict the emotional distress his protagonists have to endure. All very skillful. Yet, I am still a bit upset. I am upset because I just learned that the Word and Void trilogy is not just a that: a trilogy. It is a part of Brooks’ Shannara series. And I do not like the idea to stop after finishing the third novel of the Word and Void trilogy when it is a just small part of a much larger work. The problem is, I did not want to start yet another series that will take forever to finish.

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Read: Equal Rites

Pratchett’s third Discworld novel, Equal Rites, is delightfully distinct from the first two novels, especially from the second that tried a little too hard to be funny.

First, it’s plot is driven by a completely new cast, introducing the magical professions. Second, it addresses – in its own particular way – a pressing societal problem, gender differences and discrimination in the professional world starting with vocational choice and training. Third, the rhetoric changed. It is now more subtle, inducing every once in a while a quiet chuckle. Even the pace and structure changed. The story line is more linear, different plot elements build on each other and are more interwoven than before.

I consider this the real take-off of the Discworld series. From now on, Pratchett successfully published most years two or even more Discworld novels. Only recently he slowed down a bit.

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