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A Quest of Heroes: Book #1 in the Sorcerer's Ring
A Quest of Heroes: Book #1 in the Sorcerer's Ring
by Morgan Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.99
30 used & new from $2.97

89 of 111 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is what people who don't like the genre probably think all fantasy novels are like, July 22, 2014
A thoroughly generic assembly of tired fantasy tropes played straight without a trace of irony or originality, including but not limited to:

-A good kingdom endangered by an evil empire on the other side of a physical and magical barrier.
-A prophesied Chosen One (complete with magic sword that needs to be lifted) whose identity is painfully obvious.
-The ignorant farmboy hero who desperately wants to be special and badass (and whose value is overlooked by his dull relatives).
-The "spunky" teenage princess rebelling against her authoritarian mother but loved by her understanding father.
-Love at first sight between the above two characters.
-The collection of super-helpful friends and unpleasant bullies in the organization the protagonist joins.
-The supposedly wise magician who speaks in cryptic utterances and natters on about destiny.

The appallingly cliched plot aside, the book is also poorly written. It makes far too much use of superlatives in describing things (e.g. characters being "the most beautiful person" or "the biggest man" the protagonist has ever seen), continually drops in redundant descriptions or information that could be shown rather than repeatedly told, and can't decide whether the characters are speaking Ye Olde Standarde Fantasye Englishe or Generic American Highschool-Speak. The plot happens at breakneck speed, our hero going in the space of seemingly a few days back and forth between anonymous peasant, mysterious magic-wielder, honorary-royal squire, feted hero of the day, unhappy military pariah, boyfriend to the heir to the throne, ignored Cassandra and prisoner. Finally, it doesn't seem to have a consistent target audience - the simplistic, seen-it-a-million-times plot and black-and-white characterization suggest perhaps a pre-teen audience (assuming the author has a low opinion of 10-12-year-olds' intelligence, reading ability and genre savvinesss). However, the book also has occasional vague flashes of Song of Ice and Fire-style "grittiness" which might be expected to deter paranoid parents from giving it to their precious impressionable offspring, like alcoholism, brothels and gay characters (evil ones, of course).

In short: a total mess, the kind of thing that gives the fantasy genre a bad reputation. Avoid except as something to point and laugh at (this book is available for free in e-book format, presumably to promote the numerous sequels).
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2015 2:07 AM PDT

The Lions of Al-Rassan
The Lions of Al-Rassan
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
66 used & new from $0.01

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Kay's best work, April 16, 2002
With The Lions of Al-Rassan, the latest in his collection of fantastical alternate histories (the others being Tigana, A Song For Arbonne [which I have yet to read] and the Sailing To Sarantium/Lord of Emperors duology), Guy Gavriel Kay seems to have got stuck in a rut. Elements of the increasingly familiar formula include:
a) At least one main character who is superior to every other human being in the world in just about every respect (attractiveness, skill in battle, intelligence, tolerance, insight...)
b) The obligatory and unnecessary (plotwise) graphic sex scene
c) At least one semi-random and out-of-the-blue pairing off of previously unmatched characters, usually at the end
In Lions, Kay also takes his fondness for melodrama to the extreme. There is far too much use of narrative devices like ramming home points with run-on descriptive sentences that come to a sort of crescendo, dropping bombshells on the reader at the end of a chapter, and hiding information to keep the reader guessing who just got messily killed.
I also have to agree with other readers who said that the setting wasn't properly developed - we heard lots about the vanished glories of Al-Rassan, but never saw them, which left nothing much to mourn for. The provinces of the Palm and the city of Sarantium (settings for earlier books) seemed much more real.
Lions does have some points in its favour. I liked the theme of individuals having to cope with the realities of conflict and their divided loyalties (even if they were excessively perfect individuals when compared with the unthinking soldiers and/or bloodthirsty maniacs who made up most of the rest of the cast), and Kay's take on Christianity, Islam and Judaism (developed further from Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors) was intriguing in both its similarities and differences to the real world. The political intrigues and the inevitability of the central conflict were also quite interesting.
On the whole, though, I would advise potential readers to leave Lions and try some of Kay's other work. It put me off reading A Song for Arbonne in case it was more of the same (I may still try it in case it's better) - don't let it put you off reading Tigana, which in my opinion is Kay's best work to date.

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.00
253 used & new from $0.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read, August 14, 2001
I thoroughly enjoyed this, having picked it up to find out what all the fuss (both positive and negative) was about . It has a well-crafted world, interesting characters and a story that keeps you turning its 800-odd pages. At its heart is a traditional young-heroes-go-forth-into-the-world plot, set against a deeper and fascinating cosmology of fate, recurring events and an endless war against evil. This story is fleshed out with detailed descriptions and small incidents which help to develop the setting.
The Wheel of Time series is sometimes held up as an example of stereotypical good-vs-evil magic-laden fantasy. In some ways this is correct (one or two characters suspiciously resemble ones from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and the whole concept of a hero popping up from some remote farming village is certainly not new), but in other ways it isn't. The line between good and evil in the books is sometimes fuzzy - there are some obviously evil characters and creatures, but few or no clear 'good guys' - most characters have some sort of humanly selfish motivation.
Another thing I like about Jordan's world is the nature of magic in it. The idea of male and female halves to magic is intriguing.
The book's faults lie mainly in areas where it conforms too strongly to stereotypes. The idea of so many people destined for greatness appearing in one little village is rather absurd (if there's an explanation, I haven't found it yet, and I'm on the fifth book at the moment). The ending seems a little abrupt and over-spectacular, too.
I'd also agree with others that the book can seem overlong at times, with slightly too much time devoted to travelling about, particularly given the shortness of the climax. This isn't too great a problem though in my opinion, the story still maintained my interest throughout.
On the whole, I'm really enjoying the Wheel of Time (only 4 1/2 more books to go then however many have still to be written!).
PS: Thanks go to the author for that very helpful glossary!

Dragon Half [VHS]
Dragon Half [VHS]
Offered by aokmovies2
Price: $1.25
8 used & new from $1.25

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I, Keith, loved this!, June 25, 2001
This review is from: Dragon Half [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Dragon Half has to be one of the silliest and funniest things I've ever seen. In fact it's not entirely unlike a Japanese animated Monty Python! It mocks the conventions of both anime and the fantasy genre (a villain character walks in surrounded by smoke, with a caption pointing to it saying 'Dry Ice' and in another shot you can see a bucket of dry ice behind him; the hilariously inept Damuramu (sp?) comes back after his supposed death as 'Mecha-Damuramu'! Priceless!).
The plot, such as there is, centres around Mink, the half-human half-dragon of the title, who goes on a quest to get a potion to make her fully human to win the attention of the pop singer/dragonslayer Dick Saucer. Or something like that. ;) There's also a bald king who's annoyed with Mink's dad for marrying the dragon he was meant to kill, the king's sorceress daughter who is half slime and president of the Dick Saucer fan club, the previously mentioned Damuramu, who is sent by the king to kill Mink, and much, much more.
The story abounds with colourful incidents, insane dialogue, scantily clad women, gratuitous explosions, and ridiculous violence. The animation style changes constantly, going more cartoony when things are particularly crazy, at other times becoming more realistic anime.

Dark Tide II: Ruin (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 3)
Dark Tide II: Ruin (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 3)
by Michael A. Stackpole
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
235 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as its predecessor, if not better, June 11, 2001
The excellent New Jedi Order series continues with the second of Michael Stackpole's Dark Tide books. The Yuuzhan Vong have begun overrunning New Republic worlds on the edge of the galaxy, although the bureaucrats who run the Republic have finally acknowledged the threat. An infiltration mission led by the Jedi Corran Horn uncovers a possible weakness (fortunately not some stupid all-powerful deus ex machina) of the invaders, which leads to a massive battle over the planet Ithor. Meanwhile, Leia Organa Solo negociates with the remnants of the old Empire to bring them into the war on the Republic's side and a rogue Jedi seeks an alternative, forbidden method of striking back.
I was most impressed with many aspects of the book. Stackpole continues to brilliantly portray both space and ground combat, while at the same time not sacrificing character interest. Special tribute should definitely be paid to Elegos A'Kla, the alien senator who goes to try to negociate peace with the Yuuzhan Vong, even though he knows it may well mean his death. The characterisation of the Solo kids remains excellent as well, particularly Jaina (mainly because she seems more self-assured than her brothers and therefore is less annoying). Admiral Pellaeon of Timothy Zahn fame makes a welcome return, as pragmatic as ever. Of the new characters that appear in Ruin, I thought Jagged Fel (son of Stackpole's Baron Soontir Fel) was a good addition to the cast - I particularly liked his standing up to the New Republic politicians. Too bad he seems to have vanished in more recent books. The subplot with Daeshara'cor may seem superfluous, but it does actually have a point - how far should the New Republic go to protect itself? Would the Empire, less fettered by bureaucracy and grey-area ethics, do better against the Yuuzhan Vong?
The ending (as mentioned by another reviewer) was indeed downbeat, but it fit well with the generally gritty and realistic tone of the New Jedi Order series, reminding the reader that in real life, sometimes all the Boy's Own heroics in the world (or galaxy, in this case) can't save the day.

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke
DVD ~ Hayao Miyazaki
Price: $12.67
59 used & new from $6.56

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, insightful and moving, June 9, 2001
This review is from: Princess Mononoke (DVD)
I loved this film. I saw it having seen little or no anime before, and was most impressed. The visuals are absolutely stunning at times and the characters expressively drawn. Not only that, but it has a well-crafted story which bravely avoids the trap of a cliched 'Hollywood' ending where the 'bad guys' get beaten and the 'good guys' kiss and live happily ever after. The characters and factions in the story are much less black and white than pretty much all animation (and live action for that matter) that I've seen. All 'sides' in the central conflict of nature versus technology have legitimate motivations, and all of them also have something to learn. The ending is quite ambiguous (perhaps leaving room for a sequel?), leaving behind the moral that conflicting points of view can exist together without one having to destroy the other.
I only had a couple of gripes. Firstly, I thought the two central characters could have done with a bit more meaningful dialogue to develop them and their relationship. This may be a symptom of the second problem, which was that the English adaptation of the script was a little disappointing. I've only seen the film in English (I'd like to see it in the original Japanese with subtitles, which is possible with the DVD), and I thought the 90s American voices jarred somewhat with the mythic Japanese setting. Some of the voices fitted the characters quite well (Gillian Anderson's character, for example) but others just seemed out of place, like the warrior monk who sounded like Hank off King of the Hill!
However, overall I enjoyed the film very much and appreciated its lessons. It addresses contemporary issues without detracting from its status as an exciting mythic tale.

Dark Tide I: Onslaught (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 2)
Dark Tide I: Onslaught (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 2)
by Michael A. Stackpole
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.98
257 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, May 17, 2001
Loved it. One of my favourite Star Wars novels to date, I think, and definitely superior to Vector Prime. I may actually go back and read some of Stackpole's Rogue Squadron books now, I enjoyed this so much.
The two main things that stood out about this book were character development (the conversation between Mara and Anakin is a good example of the fascinating ongoing plotline about the nature of the Force, and the depiction of drunken, grieving Han Solo was positively frightening) and the excellent combat scenes (I guess the author's had a lot of practice at those!). Not getting much of the Yuuzhan Vong's perspective was odd at first, but I think it's justifiable - it makes them more of a faceless and mysterious foe, and, quite frankly, how often do you need to hear them thinking 'Death to the infidels!' now that we know their motivations from reading Vector Prime. The little coda at the end gives interesting new insights into their society without revealing too much.
On another note, the part where Jaina became a member of Rogue Squadron was oddly moving...I suppose it rammed home how far the expanded Star Wars universe has come. Only a few years ago I read about her being born, now she's grown up.
I only have one gripe - the little 'gotcha!' bit towards the end. You'll see what I mean if you read the book, which I heartily recommend.

Vector Prime (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 1)
Vector Prime (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, Book 1)
by R. A. Salvatore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.57
206 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better...., May 14, 2001
I'm somewhat schizophrenic in my attitude to this book. On the one hand, I think it stays very true to the characters and general feel of the Star Wars universe, and the Yuuzhan Vong are really cool villains, different to anything seen before in Star Wars. I like the characterisation of the Solo kids as 15/16 year olds, and the combat scenes are well done.
On the other hand, some bits of the book practically had me wincing in pain. Now, I know Star Wars is not 'hard' science fiction but there's just too much downright ridiculous stuff going on! It's implied but not stated that the Yuuzhan Vong travelled between galaxies *without* using hyperdrive. This means they travelled faster than light in normal space, which just isn't possible (it certainly doesn't sound like they took several million years for the trip, which they would have had to do if they went at sublight). And let's draw a veil over the idea of things with wings flying around in the vacuum of space.... As for the last-minute solution at the end, it's so poorly explained it's like something out of a 50s B-movie. Apart from the pseudoscience, I found a few of the situations and events very contrived.
However, I'm still planning to continue with the New Jedi Order series (the next two books are written by a different author, which may alleviate some of the problems I had with this one). Vector Prime has set the scene adequately for one heck of a war...

The Fall of Hyperion
The Fall of Hyperion
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
182 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect sequel, April 25, 2001
The Fall of Hyperion follows straight on from Hyperion, and does not disappoint those who were left gasping for more at the end of the first book.
Probably more action-y than its predecessor, Fall is filled with shocks, scares, surprises, horrific destruction and terror, and disturbing revelations. The opening pages help to further establish the nihilistic society of the Hegemony, where artists organise coordinated suicides on several planets at once and citizens try to travel to war zones to see what war looks like.
The Hyperion pilgrims' stories continue as they travel through space and even time, often with the assistance of the mysterious Shrike, which has become more of an ambiguous character - sometimes it is still a bloodthirsty killer, at others it seems to act as a sort of guide. Most of the questions posed in Hyperion are answered, together with some new ones.
My favourite part of the book (and possibly the entire series) is the jaw-droppingly shocking climax, in which those in the know make a desperate attempt to save humankind from the dangerous artificial intelligences who are the true villains of the story. How do you fight an enemy who controls every communication band and interplanetary gateway and whose location is a complete mystery? I won't give anything away, but the conclusion is brought about through a terrible yet necessary decision.
I personally would have been happy to see the series ended here, with most of the loose ends tied neatly up and only a few tantalizing mysteries left behind to puzzle over. This could have something to do with the fact that it's in Endymion, the third book, that continuity really does start to go straight out the window. Oh well, never mind.

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $5.08
156 used & new from $0.01

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly my favourite sci-fi ever, April 25, 2001
Hyperion is truly incredible. As well as being a science fiction version of the Canterbury Tales, it also sets out a breathtaking and at the same time chilling vision of what humanity's future might be like. It creates a spectacular and wonderfully detailed world where citizens step through farcaster portals to have lunch on another planet, mysterious artificial intelligences scheme and plot, so-called 'barbarian' Ousters migrate between the stars, and a terrifying demon-machine called the Shrike stalks the area around a set of mysterious artifacts which appear to be travelling back in time. This world is populated with all sorts of fascinating characters and cultures, such as an artificial recreation of the poet Keats, a girl doomed to age backwards and a planet of peaceful environmentalists crushed for daring to resist modernisation.
This first book of four, consisting almost exclusively of the stories told by seven pilgrims (a priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, a starship captain and a diplomat) as they travel across the planet Hyperion to meet the Shrike, is essentially a gigantic prologue which sets the scene for the tumultuous events of The Fall of Hyperion. It builds up a picture of the Hegemony (the 'established' human grouping) as what I take as being the author's idea of the inevitable product of today's Western civilisation, and establishes the background to the crisis that has brought the seven pilgrims together, which appears at first to be a simple war of aggression by the Ousters but turns out to have much deeper ramifications involving the AI TechnoCore, the Shrike and the future of humanity. The stories they tell also leave many unanswered questions and mysteries that will hopefully leave the reader running to find the second book. Each one is distinct - some horrific, some merely moving, all intriguing. I have to say that the Priest's Tale, the first to be told, will always be special because it left me thinking: 'Wow! Could this get any better?!' And best of all, because this is the first book, you don't have to grimace too much at the annoying continuity errors that increasingly crop up as the series progresses.
As I said, the book leaves many questions to be answered in the next one. However, the greatest mystery of Hyperion is not the unknown purpose of the Shrike or the sinister plans of the Core. No, the greatest mystery of Hyperion is: WHY DOESN'T THE CONSUL HAVE A NAME?! ;-)
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