Monday, February 20, 2006

Minion – L. A. Banks

Fallon Nuit is a master vampire who had a seat on the vampire council but when he went rogue he was banished into eternal darkness. Through a series of accidents Fallon was able, with the help of the evil Egyptian deities known as Amanthra, to free himself and make several second- generation vampires that his rescuers can inhabit. Fallon's goal is total control of the vampire territories on Earth and the death of the slayer.
Street smart Damali Richards is making a name for herself and her group as a singer for Spoken Word. She is also the slayer protected by seven Guardians who battle the creatures of the night including the Amanthra vampires. As she is nearing her twenty-first birthday, she is coming into the full use of her considerable power and both Fallon and the vampire council want her stopped. There is only one person who can get close enough to her to achieve this objective, but she is also the only woman he ever cared about. It will be interesting to see if he will sacrifice his humanity for untold power and riches.
Minion is the first book in a five book series that will appeal to fans of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Executioner novels. L.A. Banks has written an urban fantasy novel that deals with several social issues in a manner that is both educational and entertaining. The character that is the most intriguing is the man who will be either the Slayer's savior or doomslayer which is why readers will want to read Awakening, book two. The sixth book, The Damed, will be coming out soon.

The Castle of Otranto, A Gothic Story - Horace Walpole

This work is considered the first gothic novel in the English language; its supernatural happenings and mysterious ambiance were widely emulated in the genre. First published pseudonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades. In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the second edition, 'to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the modern'. He gives us a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole's own favorite among his numerous works. His friend, the poet Thomas Gray, wrote that he and his family, having read Otranto, were now 'afraid to go to bed o'nights'. The novel is here reprinted from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press. Many people will say that the book is predictable and barely worth reading. I disagree completely. It is packed full from page one with action, intrigue and the supernatural. It is the epitome of a gothic novel.

Wieland; or the Transformation: An American Tale - Charles Brockden Brown

Wieland, his first novel, tells the story of a religious fanatic who builds a temple in the seclusion of his own farm, but then is struck dead, apparently by spontaneous combustion. Several years later, his children, in turn, begin to hear voices around the family property, voices which alternately seem to be commanding good or evil and which at times imitate denizens of the farm. Are the voices somehow connected to a mysterious visitor who has begun hanging around? Are they commands from God? From demons? Suffice it to say things get pretty dicey before we find out the truth.
This is a terrific creepy story which obviously influenced the course of American fiction. Brown develops an interesting serious theme of the role that reason can play in combating superstition and religious mania, but keeps the action cranking and the mood deliciously gloomy. The language is certainly not modern but it is accessible and generally understandable. It's a novel that should be better known and more widely read, if not for historical reasons then just because it's great fun.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Son of a Witch - Gregory Maguire

When a Witch dies—not as a crone, withered and incapable, but as a woman in her prime, at the height of her passion and prowess—too much is left unsaid. What might have happened had Elphaba lived? Of her campaigns in defense of the Animals, of her appetite for justice, of her talent for magic itself, what good might have come? If every death is a tragedy, the death of a woman in her prime keenly bereaves the whole world.
Ten years after the publication of Wicked, bestselling novelist Gregory Maguire returns to the land of Oz to follow the story of Liir, the adolescent boy left hiding in the shadows of the castle when Dorothy did in the Witch.
A decade after the Witch has melted away, the young man Liir is discovered bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully. Shattered in spirit as well as in form, he is tended by the mysterious Candle, a foundling in her own right, until failed campaigns of his childhood bear late, unexpected fruit.
Liir is only one part of the world that Elphaba left behind. As a boy hardly in his teens, he is asked to help the needy in ways in which he may be unskilled. Is he Elphaba’s son? Has he power of his own? Can he liberate Princess Nastoya into a dignified death? Can he locate his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in shackles under the Wizard’s protection? Can he survive in an Oz little improved since the death of the Wicked Witch of the West? Can he learn to fly?
In Son of a Witch, Gregory Maguire suggests that the magic we locate in distant, improbable places like Oz is no greater than the magic inherent in any hard life lived fully, son of a witch or no.