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Born of Fantasy Commoner | joined 29 October 2004 | 8 posts


Anyone read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? posted 29 October 2004 in Literature DiscussionAnyone read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

American Gods is in my opinion one of the best stand alone novels to come out in fantasy in the last 10 years or so. Neil Gaiman, succesful Sandman run in comics (Vertigo) was no fluke. One of teh few writers of any genre I can honestly say neevr fails to do superior worl. Coraline, Neverwhere, and Stardust testements to his continued and what seem unending excellence. view post


The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant posted 29 October 2004 in Literature DiscussionThe Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

Huge Donaldson fan, the Chroncials of Thomas Covenant is one of the best fantasy series out, especially i nreference to when it was written. the new series starting with Runes of the Earth, continues the saga (just read it last week). Thier is a absolutely HUGE cliffhanger at the end of the novel. As far as quality of the Third Chronicles, I will say that prior fans of Donaldson will feel right at home, however this series won't earn him new fans from his past detractors. Huge, huge clifhanger, can't wait for the second instalment:) view post


Review of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Ainulindale (me)


There is an often overused word one will find if one reads enough book reviews, a word I as well am often guilty of using. A word, that loses its very definition because so commonly misused in describing novels. In this case, the word is brandished on so many other works, that to categorize this novel under the same word that aptly describes it, is actually insulting to this novel. The word is “brilliant”, the author is Neil Gaiman, the novel is Neverwhere, and it is truly brilliant.
Any reader familiar with Gaiman’s novels including Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, Coraline, and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett) and his monumental run in the comic book industry with the title Sandman under DC’s Vertigo imprint, in my opinion one of the greatest series in the industry’s history, should not be surprised. These efforts in my opinion make Gaiman a necessary inclusion to any responsible debate pertaining to who is currently the best writer in speculative fiction.
In the pages of Neverwhere, Gaiman first takes us to contemporary London, where he introduces us to Richard Mayhew, a man like so many others, a man that all of us know, or perhaps are. He lives in an apartment, works at a stable job, is engaged to a girl he feels he loves, shares a round of drinks with his friends after the job, and in all these experiences he has both positive and negative trials and experiences, that culminate what can be described simply as everyday normal life, or the daily grind depending on the day. On one such normal day, after work he and his fiancée, Jessica, are rushing to an important dinner meeting with Jessica’s employer, and on the sidewalk they find a collapsed, injured girl. Jessica, in a rush and already late, insists for Richard to ignore the injured girl and says, “Someone else will help her”. Seeing Richard’s reaction she compromises and proposes they call an ambulance, when the injured girl wakes up and pleads “no hospital please, they will find me”. Richard, decides to take her up to her apartment, and meet Jessica at the restaurant afterward, much against the behest of Jessica, who, infuriated calls off their engagement that moment. Richard’s decision to help the girl made at the moment, changes Richard’s very reality, or more aptly his perception of reality. The girl, he learns, is named Door, and she is an inhabitant of a plane of reality that exists parallel with the real world called London Below, a magical world, filled with denizens of all sorts. A world unperceived by the population of proper London, or London Above. Unaware of this at the time, he aids Door by leading a friend of hers, Marquis de Carabas to her and watches her leave his life. Richard begins to learn that his chance meeting with Door has somehow affected his world. Nobody remembers him some do no even see him, including Jessica and his fellow employees. This prompts Richard to search out Door for answers. With assistance from some citizens of London Below, he is lead to the wonderous “floating market”. The Floating Market is a place where the many factions of the population of London Below flock to trade wares and services, a market that is never in the same place twice, and whose consumers and vendors alike abide to a truce when in attendance. It is here where Richard again finds Door, along with Marquis de Carabas, auditioning a bodyguard Door will need to aid her in a task. Her task is one of personal vengeance, she seeks an Angel, Islington, a friend of her father who was murdered, along with the rest of her family by a duo that caused the injuries to her that left her bloodied on the sidewalk where Richard found her. The duo, 2 professional killers, and 2 of the truly great, fun, villainous, creations to grace the pages of speculative fiction. They are Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, 2 sadistic, efficient, killers for hire, and known to be the best at what they do. Mr. Croup, aptly describes the duo himself in this memorable quote when talking to their current employer, “Sir. Might I, with due respect remind you that Mr. Vandemar and myself burned down the city of Troy? We brought the Black Plague to Flanders. We have assassinated a dozen kings, five popes, half a hundred heroes and two accredited gods.” This duo is one of the most memorable in fantasy in my opinion, and their appearances are worth the cover price alone. Door, feeling guilty of Richard’s plight caused by his aiding her allows him to join her, Carabas, and the newly recruited body guard, a woman named Hunter, whose past exploits we find have made her a near legend in regards to her prowess and skill in battle, in search for Islington. The quest is the meat of the novel. Along the way the companions are shadowed by the deadly Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar under orders from their mysterious employer. They experience a trial by monks, give battle to a legendary beast that inhabits the sewers, all while traversing a magical, dark landscape Gaiman creates for us, full of both magnificent and deadly residents that “fell through the cracks” of London Above. In this undertaking one of the members of the party will die, one will betray them, one will find themselves, and one will redeem her family, as Gaiman literally takes us to the gateway of Hell itself (well close enough <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->.
Neverwhere is in my opinion an instant classic, TRULY brilliant. Gaiman weaves a masterful story with fairy tale roots. London Below literally comes alive, often funny, often dark, often mesmerizing, never to be put down. The conclusion is eventful and satisfying, offering a great climax, and not only successfully concludes the group’s quest but also in elation to the individual character’s present, personal, journeys. I sincerely hope Gaiman graces us with a sequel, as the opportunity is left to do so. The characters are just that memorable. On the back cover of the novel is a quote by Peter Straub, “Gaiman is a Master…Nobody in his field is better than this.” I find it very difficult to refute the statement, my final grade for Neverwhere is a very strong 9.


Review brought to you by Ainulindale via:

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Review of Meditations on Middle Earth by Karen Haber posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of Meditations on Middle Earth by Karen Haber by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Ainulindale (me)



It is a near impossible task to pick up any fantasy novel, even if at random, or read about any author in the genre either in print or on the web, and not see some reference to the name JRR Tolkien. Regardless if proceeded by the words “in the mold of”, “like” “reminiscent of”, “in the tradition of”, or any anything of the like the name JRR Tolkien permeates consistently throughout the world of fantasy.
This novel, Meditations on Middle Earth is no exception, however this novel offers so much more. Although we see the name Tolkien, so often, the name synonymous with the genre it is easy to forget to even fans of fantasy why this is so, other then the marketing gimmicks, put forth by publishers, and reviewers alike to attach some credibility with a name that is beyond respite in fantasy. Meditations on Middle Earth, presented and edited by Karen Haber, offers a look into Tolkien’s true impact on the genre, his impact on the authors of today, both personally and professionally, the torch carriers of the tradition which is Tolkien’s legacy, the authors who we all enjoy today, who some make a habit residing on Best-Seller lists, who have names from themselves yet in this novel share with us the true significance of the name Tolkien. Meditations on Middle Earth shares the thoughts of a virtual who’s who in the industry including the thoughts of authors such as George R.R. Martin, Orson Scottt Card, Ursula Leguin, Raymond Feist, Terry Pratchett, Charles de Lint, Poul Anderson, Michael Swanwick, Esther M. Friesner, Robin Hobb, Diane Duane, Harry Turtledove, Lisa Goldstein, Douglas Anderson, reknowned editor Terri Windling, and the famous art duo the Hildebrandt brothers.
Mediations on Middle Earth’s introduction is written by George R.R. Martin in which he comments on the many subsequent fantasy novels that have followed leading up to today following in the Tolkien tradition in which he says “It is sometimes called Epic fantasy, sometimes High fantasy, but it ought to be called Tolkienesque fantasy.” Tolkiens impact on the publishing aspect for fantasy authors’ is touched on by Raymond Feist in which he says “He is the source of all wealth from which my bounty flows.”. Poul Anderson describes aptly on Tolkien’s offering to an untapped market of fantasy saying “the reading public has an unexpressed desire for pure fantasy. And then Tokien burst upon the publishing world. The rest is history.” Michael Swanick tells us a extremely sentimental story, about reading the novel to his son for the first time, and it brought back memories of his very own introduction to Tolkien when his sister sent him some paperbacks which included a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, in which he stayed up all night, skipped breakfast, and finished the book right before the bell in high school. Looking back he says of that moment “Even today when I am 3 times as old as I was then I can still hold my breath and hear the reverberations from that long eternal, night.” He goes on to say, “That reading made me a writer”, and “It showed me what literature could do and what could it do.” Harry Turtledove was so inspired by the work that years after reading it he wrote a 100,000 word draft for a post Rotk story set in the 4th age of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. A draft he still has today, which gave him respect for the amount of research Tolkien undertook to write the Lord of the Rings, a process that aided him in the writing of his very own novels. The influence on Terry Pratchett is best put by himself here “I can’t remember where I was when JFK was shot, but I can remember exactly, where and when I was when I first read JRR Tokien. It was New Years eve 1961”. Robin Hobb tells us her exact thoughts she had when she finished The Lord of the Rings, she describes them as “3 sensations”, they are as follows “one was the simple unbelievable void of it’s over, there is no more to read.” Her second sensation “And I have never encountered anything like this. I’ll never find anything this good again.” The third she said alarmed her, ‘in all my life I will never write anything as good as this. He’s done it; He’s achieved it. Is their any point in my trying?”
Meditations on Middle Earth is full of such insights, by these authors and the other’s I mentioned above. Not only insights on Tolkien and his impact, but the correlating histories of these authors themselves which are so interwoven with Tolkien’s impact on them personally. Each author has around 8 to 12 pages of insights, insights that I found of supreme interest, shedding some light on the name that in a century is as recognizable as it was in the last. Tolkien.
At first I thought it would be very hard to grade a work like this. It’s not a fantasy story, but perhaps it is some part of the story that is fantasy. Meditations on Middle Earth is a source of personal insight and emotion of he contributors of the novel. Some may disagree, however I find it very difficult to give less then a perfect score to the true thoughts and recollections of so many authors who so many enjoy today. Meditations on Earth is captivating, and a book to be cherished, not only by die hard Tolkienists or fantasy fans, but fans of literature itself. My final grade is a perfect 10, ending in a thought George R.R. Martin put best for both fans and authors “We should never forget that our journey began at Bag’s End, and we are all still walking in Bilbo’s footsteps.”


Review brought to you by Ainulindale via:

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Review of the Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of the Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Ainulindale (me)



Runes of the Earth is the first installment of a planned 4 book cycle entitled The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant that marks Stephen R. Donaldson return to both the “The Land” and the classic fantasy series that marked him as one of the genre’s very elite.
This novels picks up 10 years after Thomas Covenant’s death at the conclusion of the Second Chronicles. The focal character of the novel is one that is familiar to Donaldson fans, Linden Avery. At the onset of the novel, she is confronted by Roger Covenant (Thomas’s son), who kidnaps his mother from the medical center Linden is currently administering. In a series of events Roger kidnaps both his mother and Linden’s adopted son Jerimiah and escapes to “The Land”, where Linden also travels back to bearing the all important white-gold ring of Thomas Covenant.
Linden finds herself in a familiar land albeit centuries have passed since her last visit. During the course of these centuries she find that the past has been suppressed, along with the use of Earth Power by the familiar and once friendly Hauchai who now have deemed themselves Masters. Linden quickly learns that Lord Foul has her son, and along with Roger Covenant and his mother is once again threatening the integrity of the “Land” and befriends a half-mad character named Anele, who she learns was the former possessor of the Staff of Law, the very staff that Linden once possessed and used to cure the land on her prior visit to the Land. Learning from Anele that he lost the Staff centuries ago, Linden embarks to retrieve it, along with trying to gather aid to find her son.
Along the way Donaldson shows us that he has not lost his touch, exhibiting his mastery in depth and characterization, depicting Linden in the same way that made Thomas Covenant one of the most fully realized and dimensional characters in our genre. Fans can look forward to familiar, albeit time effected Haruchai, the glorious Ranyhm steeds, the ruthless ur-Viles, as well as introducing a fascinating character Esmer a being of awe inspiring and terrible power who due to his “balanced” nature not only aids Linden when no one else possibly can, but also is the cause of her gravest danger. Fans of Donaldson will feel right at home with this novel in terms of his trademark pacing, wonderful depiction of surroundings, and his ability to make us feel the emotions his characters. When one adds all these positives, to what is at the end of the novel one of the most tantalizing cliff-hanger’s I have ever read in any fantasy novel, you have simply what one expects from a master storyteller like Mr. Donaldson.
In my opinion The Runes of the Earth is not a viable starting point for fans being introduced to Donaldson’s work, but rather a poignant reminder for them to read the the preceding series to fully be able to enjoy in what in my opinion is Donaldson’s triumphant return to fantasy, a worthy addition to a series that is one of the true crowning achievements in the genre. My final grade for the Runes of the earth is a well-deserved 8.5.


Review brought to you by Ainulindale via:

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Review of Lone Drow by RA Salvatore posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of Lone Drow by RA Salvatore by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Dalerone

I want to start out this review with a little bit of respect to the man R.A. Salvatore. The first Drizzt series (Icewind Dale Trilogy) was great, I read it with fervor. The second Drizzt trilogy, The Dark Elf Trilogy, was more of an introspective journey. As a teenager, young man, this series lets you relate to the feelings of being alone and overwhelmed in the world.

Unfortunately we then moved into the next series Legacy of the Drow, Paths of Darkness, and Hunters Blade Series which I didn't find to be as comfortable. I mean they had our favorite characters, but something just wasn’t as fresh and new about them, also some things in these series just bother me. I am not a fan of characters dying and coming back to life. I don’t know but if George RR Martin can write a great story where the main characters can be killed off, then everyone can. Salvatore not only does this once, but twice and the second time we see it is in this book. I view the newer Salvatore books like I look at an old toy from the 80s. Yeah there is a bunch of better stuff out now, but the nostalgia factor brings me back to read these, and my respect for the superb writing of the earlier trilogy. Ok now enough of this banter, on to the review.

The Lone Drow is part of a very long series as stated above, and we see Drizzt in "Hunter" mode in this book. Hunter mode is where he falls back into his animalistic nature of just killing with little regard to his own safety or bodily limits. We have a few story lines to follow in this book. The Orc King who was imbued with some magic of the Orc God and Shamans, is trying to conquer Icewind Dale and surrounding areas with the help of the Troll King and Giants. There is a bit of conflict between these groups as one would expect, but King Obould Many-Arrows is extremely smart for an orc, and we all know this conflict should lead to a one on one fight between him and Drizzt at some point in the future. The Giants are pretty mad that this orc is so strong and smart so we have jealous Giant syndrome going around.

Now what does all of this have to do with Drizzt and his band of merry adventurers. Well we have a bunch of random dark elves that have come up from the underdark to get the giants/orcs/trolls together in the first place, for amusement and profit. Now I don’t know about you, but even this seems like a stretch for the dark elves. Especially since it means this little band of dark elves has to work together for so long. Then we have Drizzt starting to realize his feelings for Cattie-brie but they don’t even know the other is alive at this point as the band has become separated. In between all of this, we have another city of blacksmiths mad at Bruenors clan and trying to sabotage their furnaces and metal.

Overall it was a decent book, I gave it a solid 6 but nothing like the earlier series. If you have read the Drizzt books, it only makes sense to read this.


Review courtesy of Dalerone, via:


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Review of Dragon Precinct by Keith RA DeCandido posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of Dragon Precinct by Keith RA DeCandido by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Dacco


Ahem, yes, well, where to begin with this one… Basic flavor in a nutshell? I would have to go with mystery/crime solver sprinkled with fantasy-lite elements.

My biggest beef with this cross-genre book is that it doesn’t commit to either genre. Admittedly, the book is short and I think this an outgrowth of the author’s background in short story writing. When I sit down with a book having a cover, multiple chapters and being thicker than a dollars-worth of change in quarters, I’m expecting more of a meal than what I got here.

Where’s the expository writing? Where’s the character development? Actually, I’ll answer that one – The best character development is almost an afterthought plopped at the end of the book. I felt like maybe finally the author was going somewhere with his heroine, but I ran out of pages and this isn’t book 1 of a series, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective).

So, here’s an interesting thought on how the book wound up the way it did: Maybe the author was experimenting with skinnable novel writing. Skins are an internet-age way of only changing a program’s outer-most viewable traits, like colors, window borders etc. Apply this (admittedly stretched) analogy to this book and here’s what the skin ruleset might look like:

Begin with typical mystery novel set in 1950s Anytown, USA
a) Replace gumshoe detective with irritating Half-elf
b) Replace important (all human) delegation with Tolkien-esque band of adventurers – Huzzah !
c) Instead of naming police precincts by numbers, use cute fantasy-inspired names like Unicorn precinct (oooh) and Goblin precinct (ahhh)
d) Instead of detailed forensic evidence at crime scene, substitute poorly conceived magic “system” which inspires head scratching/shaking.
e) Let the good times roll.

Ok, so book-bashing aside, I’ll give the author credit for trying this cross-genre experiment. I’ll give the author credit for maintaining a consistent levity throughout the book and not taking the story too seriously (which would have made the effort laughable at that point). But unless the premise of the book really strikes your fancy, I gotta think you can find something better to read.


Review by Dacco via:

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Review of City of Ravens by Richard Baker posted 19 January 2005 in ReviewsReview of City of Ravens by Richard Baker by Born of Fantasy, Commoner

By Algorath


Not to rant or rave but I decided to start this review with my personal thoughts on Forgotten Realms. A great multi-author world created by Ed Greenwood, also creator of Dungeons and Dragons and a literary genius, in the late 70's, Forgotten Realms was a innovation in the Fantasy genre. Forgotten Realms novels compose most of my library, for a long time being some of the only books I read. When Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, Forgotten Realms original publishing company, I noticed a decrease in the story quality in the Forgotten Realms series. Not for any lack of exceptional authors, but because it seemed that the authors were trying to press every character and storyline to its limits just to sell books. A great example of this, previously mention by Dalerone in his Lone Drow review, are R.A. Salvatore’s current works with Drizzt Do’ Urden. Thought Salvatore is one of the most renowned fantasy authors, and in my opinion one of the greatest, after Wizards bought TSR it seemed that he was trying everything he could to create more Drizzt novels. Whether this is just bad timing on Wizards part, or their attempt to sell as many novels as possible, I was turned off from the Forgotten Realms world. Another example, from another amazing author Ed Greenwood, was the Elminster novels. Personally when a character is either made “invincible” or the same story line is repeated I begin to think twice about buying the author’s next book. Richard Baker on the other hand has given me a new fervor for the Forgotten Realms series. His creation of a character, Jack Ravenwild, in a city that aside from its notorious reputation is not brought up often in the Forgotten Realms novels, showed me that some authors under the Forgotten Realms name are still working to create great novels instead of milking what is already there. But anyway . . .

This book has probably been sitting on my shelf for months, and I have never found the opportunity to read it until now. So I figured hey, it’s been four years since the book came out, what better time than while there is nothing else on my reading list. The novel, part of the multi-author Forgotten Realms world, takes place in the notorious city of Raven’s Bluff, where crime is just another part of business. Jack Ravenwild, a local thief, with a reputation that not only gets him good jobs, but also a lot of unwanted attention is the Hero of this story. Unwillingly thrown into a world of deceit, treason, ancient underground tombs, and magic Jack has to decide what is more important, money or life. When Jack is employed by a fanatic warlord, he seems to upset the wrong people, slowly making his life a living hell, forcing his hand in many unwanted directions. Baker also introduces many different character types, ranging from thugs to nobles, into Jack’s misadventures, incorporating an excellent multi-faceted plot over the length of the novel. With twists and turns at every corner, I was enthralled, and had a hard time putting the book down at 3 AM.

If you have never read a Forgotten Realms novel, The City of Ravens, is definitely a good intro into the Realms. A separate story without any ties to other series in the Forgotten Realms world, there is no need to wonder who these people are or what the author is talking about in reference to places, or past story lines. This novel was not only continuously action-filled, sporting a good dose of magic, melee, and mayhem, but also will keep you guessing with its multi-plot storyline. Though I personally have never read anything in the Forgotten Realms series by Richard Baker before, he handles the characters and story very well. I don’t think I would continue the series with Temple Hill, but as a stand alone novel The City of Ravens was an excellent read. Final rating for this exciting novel, 7!


Review by Algorath via:


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