Fantasy Novels - Various Authors

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The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane

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Okay, letís get this straightÖ I knew this was a feline fantasy novel, but nobody mentioned thereíd be dinosaurs in this book! Fortunately, by the time I realized there were Iíd already become so thoroughly engrossed that it didnít matter. In the universe Duane created, wizardry exists in many different forms and species. One of these species is a cat. Rhiow seems to be an ordinary housecat to her owners, but she is much more than that. The leader of a group of wizard-cats, they are responsible for maintaining the portals in Grand Central Station (yes, in New York!) that enable wizards of all species to commute from place to place and world to world.

When someone, or something, begins to tamper with the gates, it becomes Rhiowís problem to solve. The resolution involves leading her team into some very dangerous and downright mystical situations. Cats may have nine lives, but their confrontation with the Lone Power may cost them every one!

A bit of research reveals that Duane originally created this universe in a series of 3 or 4 young adult novels. Some of those characters appear as cameos in this novel. I donít think this novel is classified as young adult, although I didnít find too much that would be considered objectionable. Duane gets a bit technical with some of her terminology regarding the gate structures. Additionally, the mysticism and pseudo-religious aspects might be a bit confusing, especially to younger readers. In addition, although the link between cats and dinosaurs is a bit hard to swallow, Duane does manage to pull it off. This book kept my attention, even with some of the offbeat ideas. The characterization is well done. Itís possible for the reader to see the cats from both the human and feline perspective, as well as presenting an amusing "cats-eye" viewpoint of the human world. Duaneís cats are every bit as talented and intelligent as most cat lovers tend to believe. She had me taking a second look at my own cat and wondering what she really does do all day!

Reviewed by Diane

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Batman: No Manís Land by Greg Rucka

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OK, OKÖ I can hear all of you yellingÖ Batman!?! In a novel? Isnít he a comic book character? Thatís kidís stuff isnít it? Biff, pow, socko, zowie! Well, hold onto your cowl folksÖ this is not your fatherís Batman!

I first became a Batman fan during the 1960ís when I was reading the comic books and watching the campy TV show staring Adam West. However, in the 1980ís, Batman turned into a rather dark, troubled, sinister figureÖ first in the comics and then in the movies. Batman is a character that adults can appreciate now. Formerly relegated to comics and the movies (the last movie installment being so lousy that the death knell of the Batman movies has probably sounded), Batman now has his own novel courtesy of DC comics and Greg Rucka. Rucka has written a few other novels and has been a contributing writer to DC comics, including working on the Batman series. His considerable Batman expertise shows as he creates a dark, dreary Gotham City under siege and protected by our troubled hero.

Gotham City, a major US island metropolis, has been a cesspool of crime and corruption for the entire ten years Batman has been defending its citizens. Now a massive earthquake devastates the city leaving many buildings crumbled and many people homeless. The US government sees this as a prime opportunity to rid itself of this embarrassing eyesore. The congress votes to declare Gotham a NML (no manís land) zone and cut it off from the rest of civilization. Citizens who can evacuate do, but many are unable or unwilling to move. Commissioner Gordon and a handful of Gotham City police remain behind to attempt to maintain order when all the bridges and tunnels to Gotham are destroyed.

Naturally, insane criminals such as Penguin, Joker and Two-Face (as well as a host of other lesser thugs) see this as a prime opportunity to take over portions of the city. As citizens fight for survival in a city without electricity or outside commerce, they must also resist the efforts of the criminals to enslave them. Never was Batman more sorely needed than he is now. However, no one has seen Batman for months. Wayne Manor lies in ruins from the earthquake. Will Batman ever rise again from the ashes to defend his fair city?

Rucka develops an engaging premise for his first Batman novel. The story is believable (although strangely reminiscent of Escape from New York) and there is plenty of action. Batman and his colleagues defend the populace primarily through martial arts as opposed to overwhelming scientific gadgetry. This makes the characters seem very human and believable. The characterization is above average and the very dark character of Batman is thoroughly explored. Batman is brooding and troubled during his continuing struggle to defend the city he loves. Therefore, he appears less like a super hero and more like a tortured common man. It is very easy to empathize with him and he becomes a likable character rather than an idol to be worshipped. There are no parts of the book that dragÖ the action is non-stop.

If Rucka writes another Batman book, I will be flying into the store to grab my copy. Biff, pow, socko, zowieÖ this book is a clear home run!

Reviewed by Alan

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Dragonís Winter by Elizabeth A. Lynn

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Sadly, this is one of those books that starts out well, but never lives up to its promise. All the key fantasy elements are here: dragons, magic, royalty, werecreatures and much more. Unfortunately, Lynn doesnít seem to be able to make up her mind about what direction to take her story in, or even which characters she really wants to focus on.

The basic plot line surrounds twin sons born to the Dragon-King. Their birth is both traumatic and tragic. Only one of the boys, Karadur Atani, is born with the legendary dragonblood and the otherís resentment festers and grows, hidden throughout their childhood. As the moment of Karadurís change from human to dragon approaches, his twin, Tenjiro, successfully plots to keep his brother from his heritage and disappears, taking one of Karadurís closest companions with him.

As the worst winter in memory grips the land, rumors spread of a wizard and the return of an evil thought to be long gone. As Karadur prepares for war, the author begins to concentrate on a side plot involving a romance between a stranger named Wolf and a townswoman. But, almost as soon as the reader is drawn into this plot, Lynn drops it to follow another. The rest of the book tends to proceed in this jerky fashion. I found it very hard to care about the characters once I knew that the author would pick them up and drop them at will. There were also some rather disturbing torture sequences that I felt were a bit too realistic, not to mention lengthy, for my taste. The book does eventually come to something that vaguely resembles a conclusion, but leaves the door wide open for a sequel, not that Iíll be looking for it. If you can tolerate the disjointed sequences and enjoy some grisly battles with graphic and violent descriptions, then this book might be for you. But, if you want something that has a well-paced plot with characters that you can care about, you may as well pass this book by.

Reviewed by Diane

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The Golden Queen by Dave Wolverton

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I suspect that this book is one of those that readers will either thoroughly enjoy or end up scratching their heads over. Wolverton has taken a mish-mosh of ideas and thrown them all together into one action-filled plot. Mysterious strangers appear in a quiet, rural land and enlist the help of Gallen OíDay, an independent and handsome bodyguard for wealthy travelers. Gallen is accompanied by his friend and fellow bodyguard, Orick. Not all that unusual, except that Orick is a black bear with a very strong religious streak. But, considering the mysterious strangers are Everynne, the cloned queen of the universe and her protector, Lord Veriasse, and they are running from the insect-like dronons, maybe having a friend that is a black bear isnít so strange after all.

What begins as a simple request to guard Everynne and Lord Veriasse to their destination quickly becomes a dangerous and thrilling adventure. Gallen is attacked and nearly killed while escorting a local merchant. While he is gone, the town and hotel housing Everynne and Lord Veriasse are attacked by the dronon. Gallenís sweetheart, Maggie Flynn, also becomes swept up in the narrow escape. Unbeknownst to Gallen, Orick and Maggie, their world is not the only world. When Everynne and Lord Veriasse use a key to leap to another world, they follow to escape their attackers and lend assistance to the queen. They quickly find that world-hopping is a very dangerous business. Pursued by the dronon and trying to blend into new cultures they are completely unfamiliar with, Gallen, Maggie and Orick have their hands full.

Despite the rather odd conglomeration of characters, Wolverton has written a fast-paced, swashbuckler type of story. His main characters are well drawn and likeable. The good guys are definitely good guys and thereís not much to like about the bad guys. I found the final climactic battle sequence to be a bit far-fetched, but then so much of this novel was unusual that it didnít seem to matter too much. Wolverton leaves the path wide open for the sequel, although Iím not sure if this book was planned to be a trilogy or if it just evolved. If your tolerance level for the weird and unusual is higher than average, you may find this book to be to your liking.

Reviewed by Diane

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