▸ fantasy

Read: The Ambassador's Mission

There is never too much of a good thing. And so authors tend to write sequels to their successful works. Better yet, they announce multi-volume sequels, series rather. After all, what is an effective means for generating profits in the film industry should also work in print.

Canavan consequently is writing on her second Black Magician trilogy. The first volume is already in paperback: The Ambassador’s Mission. Now, it is some two decades of the war (Don’t mention the war.) the original cast of the Black Magician trilogy has assumed new roles; still you recognize them very well. Unfortunately this may already hint at a weakness this novel has: You have to recognize the characters, you have to know their history, you have to know a lot about the world, the setting this novel uses. Unless you know all this several things will leave you dumbfounded. For instance, though it is made very clear that a Black Magician is something special, you are not really told why and what all this higher magic is. Central as it is for the story, you have to know this in advance.

Luckily, I did read all the sequels. Thus, I was able to enjoy the novel that while being tied in with the earlier story plots of the previous novels brings a new perspective (oh, the perspectives change quite often) and a plot of its own, several of them actually. Hence, I am waiting for volume two… (the hardcover is already out, I am waiting for the paperback.)

Read: Guards! Guards!

Another lengthy trip means another Terry Pratchett novel to pass the time (at the gate and on the plane) reading. And Pratchett’s comic fantasies are exactly what the doctor recommends… to get into the right, good mood for a vacation.

Guards! Guards! is the first full length feature of the Discworld’s City Watch. It is the first detailed description of the inner workings of Ankh-Morpork and its political arrangement. And, accidentally, it was the first Pratchett novel that I actually bought myself, back then when I still read my books in the German translation.

Already the way the City is run makes the novel well worth reading it. The Patrician is just such a brilliant character.

Incidentally, there is again an annotation available. Some of the finer details may be easily missed otherwise.

Read: Pyramids

Terry Pratchett’s novels are all just hilariously funny (at least the ones I have read so far). That is why I like to read them; especially on long trips or on the train to the office. They brighten my mood and sometimes they may even be instructive in one way or another. Pyramids definitely has instructive elements. It is a blend of physics, philosophy, politics, and ancient history. There are references to ancient Egypt (obviously), Greek, and Rome sprinkled with references to modern culture.

The references are so plentiful that – I have to admit – I most certainly did not “get” everything. Luckily, others already (ok, the book is some twenty years old) provide some annotations

Read: Gates of Creation

Farmer’s second World of Tiers novel, The gates of Creation, is a bit of a disappointment. Its brevity and, admittedly, its innovative ideas for a number of artificial universes / planets that do not adhere to the common understanding of what planets are or should be speak in its favor. The novel’s characters are, however, underdeveloped, without personality and easily exchangeable. Without the first World of Tiers novel this novel’s protagonist would remain a total enigma.

This is quite a pity. There are a some good ideas that could be hammered out in more detail. However, whenever there is an opportunity for adventure and character development Farmer skips ahead advancing the rather weak plot. The few twist and turns do not help to make this whole sad and sorry little book more interesting. Instead, they feel like a last effort in showing some story telling skills. Famer’s Riverworld series is definitely his better work.

Read: The Maker of Universes

After the imaginative Riverworld series it was only a matter of time for me picking up another Farmer novel. The World of Tiers series seems to be rather closely related as, again, there is an artificial world, some alien überlords playing gods and a bunch of underlings gifted (?) with relative immortality. They can get killed, though they will not die of old age or illness.

Considering when Maker of Universes was written, Farmer sure shows some imagination and original ideas – at least others who came later (like Stargate) seem to have borrowed from him. Compared to more modern works Maker of Universes is short. Too short actually, part of the story advances so fast that you wonder what happened in between, when the protagonist learned something that he should not yet know, that the reader did not know so far. Despite this discrepancy between length of the novel and progress of the story this first novel in the World of tiers series will certainly not be the last one that I read.

Read: A Princess of Landover

After almost 15 years Terry Brooks wrote a new installment of his Landover Series that started with Magic Kingdom for Sale / Sold. A Series that – back then – I liked very much. The series, or at least this novel, is not really aimed at adults. It is much “lighter” than, for instance, any of the Word/Void novels. The plot is rather simple and obvious. Yet, it is still a page turner and I enjoyed reading it. Indeed, I enjoyed it much more than the “adult” Angel Fire East.

Read: The Gathering Storm

It was quite sad news when a friend of mine told me about Robert Jordan’s death in 2007. I started to read the Wheel of Time series in the mid-nineties, then it was the German translations that were split up in two or three books for each of the original books. Since each of these shorter books costs about as much as one of the originals I soon switched to the original English version. International book imports just became affordable and I discovered my preference for original versions of books and movies… So I started over. And now, a decade later the series was about to suddenly end without a conclusion. Sad news, indeed.

So it was quite good news when the publisher Tor Books announced that their will be a conclusion nevertheless. Jordan had left enough material so that another author could take over the task to write the concluding volume. A kind of licensed fan-fic. And it is certainly better than most fan-fic I know. Brandon Sanderson – I had never read anything by him before – did a great job. Though he did not try to imitate Jordan – thank you! – his style keeps true to the spirit of the series. There is less of the Tolkienesque descriptions of the environment, there is definitely a faster pace than in the other installments. This faster pace may, of course, be due to the looming conclusion of the series. Yet, finally some loose ends are tied up. This is rather satisfying. Jordan seemed not to be able to round off any of the many sub-plots. There was always another twist that prolonged the story.

As I was not following any of the discussions and (p)reviews when the imminent publication of The Gathering Storm finally was announced – I did not want to spoil my own reading experience of the book – I was rather surprised when I learned that this last book is not the last book. There will be another two installments of the Wheel of Time series coauthored by Sanderson as there was too much material to cover it in just one book. And indeed, The Gathering Storm does not leave the impression that Sanderson needed to pad the story.

Read: Angel Fire East

With Angel Fire East Terry Brooks continues his rather dark pre-apocalyptic fantasy series of The Word and The Void, a kind of prequel to his Shannara cash cow. It tells basically of the same characters and the same struggle as the two novels that came before: Running with the Demon and A Knight of the Word. While there was a significant development of characters in the first two installments, no such thing happens here. Also, the female protagonist’s commendable community service pales against the worthy cause that was the center piece to which Brooks directed the readers’ attention in A Knight of the Word.

Though still a work that provides some diversion and, yes, entertains it is all too skillful and leaves an impression of mass production. Indeed Brooks seems to re-cycle ideas from his other contract work. Angel Fire East ends with an understanding that there will be a child born of magic, a savior to The Word who will bring balance to the Force. The same year Angel Fire East was published, 1999, Terry Brooks published the novelization of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as well. And this joint theme is just too much of a coincidence.

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.