Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: The Gray Wolf Throne

The Gray Wolf Throne
Seven Realms: Book 3

Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion, 2011

I enjoyed this installment of the Seven Realms series very much.  The pace was fast and exciting and the nuances of the characters continued to develop in interesting ways.  I particularly like the way that Chima is exploring the issue of Princess Raisa being pulled in all sorts of directions by both her friends and her enemies.  Chima has done a good job of showing how sometimes friends with agendas can be as challenging as enemies.

Raisa really grows into her own in this book, making decisions against the council of people around her – but not rashly.  She considers different opinions, makes her choice and stands for it, while trying to be diplomatic.  There are also some extremely satisfying moments, such as when she tells on particular suitor exactly what he can do with his arrogant and distasteful proposal.

The next volume The Crimson Crown is due out this October and I am excited to see where the story will go next.  I am hoping to get more of a sense of the wizards and their council as they are the group whom I understand the least and, perhaps, mistrust the most because of the Bayar family’s ambitions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Launch Party Preview: Mezze

Well, I may still be trying to edit the story for the Hynovian Launch Party in September, but the menu was easy!  The setting is sort of fantasy Byzantine/Mediterranean so I have made a mezze menu drawn on Greek, Turkish and Lebanese recipes.  Here is your preview... (Subject to change – depending on ingredients and time, etc.)  I  also might have henna tattoos - so make sure your costumes has short sleeves or isn't some priceless heirloom if you are interested in one.


Grilled Marinated Mushrooms with Tahini Sauce
Feta, Pine Nut and Walnut Balls
Kababs with Spiced Seitan, Summer Squash and Onions 
Herbed Lentil Salad 
Pita Bread
Feta-Lemon Spread
Artichoke and Marinated Mozzarella Salad
Cauliflower Salad
Braised Green Beans 
Chilled Melon
Dried Poached Apricots stuffed with Cream Cheese
Almond and Rose Baklava

And to drink:
Iced Mint Tea
Iced Spiced Grape Juice
Iced Lemonade with Mint and Rose Water

Of course if it’s freezing and pouring rain I may change some of those cold drinks and dishes to hot, but I’m hoping for a warm evening.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Exiled Queen

The Exiled Queen
Seven Realms: Book 2

Cinda Chima Williams
Hyperion, 2010

The Exiled Queen falls into the “school” or “training” type of fantasy story.  Harry Potter was primarily in that setting - other examples include the section on Roke in A Wizard of Earthsea; Kvothe’s time in the university in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear; Alanna’s training in Alanna: The First Adventure; and many others.  “School” is a setting that gives the author a chance to train and develop their young protagonist, showing the reader their character, creating their friendships and rivalries and shaping their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the elements of William’s version of this tale that was different and fresh was that many of the characters entering the school were already connected to each other through friendship, enmity, or other bonds.  In many ways, it was less about them making new connections, then about how their old connections developed and changed through the course of their schooling.

Princess Raisa, disguised as Rebecca Morely, has the opportunity to broaden her education into tactics, history of warfare and cultural studies that were not available to her in the Fells – or were not permitted her.  She also has the chance to make friends with her unwitting guards, led by Amon.  He is the only one who knows who she really the Princess-Heir.  Williams is not very subtle that these experiences are going to make her a better queen and leader – or I suspect that she is going to have some very loyal guards once her troop finds out who they have been guarding.

Across the river in another school Han Alastair and his friend Fire Dancer, both under clan sponsorship, study magic.  Given Han’s propensity to get himself into scrapes his is perhaps the more exciting side of the story – particularly because his bitter enemies and rivals the Bayar twins are studying in the same year. Additionally, the instructors at the Mage school frequently have an agenda of their own, and Han finds himself being recruited from all sides.  This is somewhat amusing, as the reader is aware that Han is a player who has devoted himself to his own agenda and may slip and slide around other promises if they interfere.  Anyone who knew something of his background should be more distrustful of a sweet smile of agreement from Han.

The Exiled Queen was a fun continuation of the Seven Realm’s series.  It comprises a time for all the characters to prepare for coming events: build friendships, get training, decide on loyalties and gain power.  Again the pace is quick and the story stays interesting.  The narrative ends on a note of uncertainty, pointing the reader toward the next installment: The Grey Wolf Throne.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Boasting in the Mead Hall

As I work on refining my identity as a writer with an eye on creating a writer’s platform, I find that it can be very difficult to choose the words to describe one’s self and one’s writing.  It’s easy to say why I like other authors – this one writes lyrical prose, that one explores the nobility of the human spirit without being trite.  Some of the things I admire in other authors are themes, styles and ideas I try to incorporate into my own writing.  But it’s hard to say that is what I do; that is what my writing is.

I think a part of this is that major religions of the world (from which even then non-religious have created parts of their code of conduct,) tend to view boasting as a vice.  Sure there is a difference between boasting and self-promotion, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is drawn.

So I am going to work on embracing a facet of my Anglo-Saxon heritage: the appropriate use of boasting as a positive indication of character, bravery and determination.

Besides slaying Grendel in a wrestling match – (Oh, you’ve already done that Beowulf – well, darn) – I am preparing to write a description of my writing, testing it on those who have read my work for accuracy and then... Let’s to the mead-hall and let the boasting begin.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: The Demon King

The Demon King
The Seven Realms: Book 1

Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion, New York, 2009

Chima’s YA fantasy novel was a fun and easy read – great for the bus ride to and from work.  It is the first in the Seven Realms series and does an excellent job of establishing the world of the Queen of the Fells and her contentious relationship with the Wizards who were once invaders to the land and the highland Clans from whose line the queens originally came and who were nearly destroyed by the invading wizards.  

The Demon King follows three main characters – Princess Raisa, the heir to the throne who is just coming of age, Hunt’s Alone/Han Alister a young ex-thief and street gang member, who discovers some startling things about his lineage and, to a lesser extent, Amon, son of the Queen’s captain-of-the-guards and childhood friend of Raisa.  The story follows the parallel discoveries the three characters make about their family secrets, the truth about old myths and legends and the way that their own lives are intertwined with each other and with the ancient story of Queen Hanalea who defeated the Demon King and created the NaĆ©ming which governs the relations of the Queen, the Wizards and the Clans.  

I enjoyed the clear prose, the crisp pace and the twists and turns of the story.  One minor gripe I had with it is that the time of Hanalea was a thousand years ago from when the story takes place, but if felt much more recent.  A thousand years of human history is a long, long time and cultures change a lot, even if they remember and still practice their old ways.  But other than that I enjoyed it very much.  While the novel was definitely the first in a series – the story arch is incomplete - it is still a satisfying tale and leaves me looking forward to continuing on with the next book The Exiled Queen.