FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
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Clarke, Susanna
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Cunningham, Elaine
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DeMatteis, J. M.
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Dixon, Chuck
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Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
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Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
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King, William
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Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
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McCaffrey, Anne
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Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
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Moench, Doug
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Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
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Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
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Reed, Brian
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Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
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Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
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Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
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Truman, Tim
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van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
Windham, Ryder
Wolverton, Dave
Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
Yeovil, Jack
Zahn, Timothy
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Still to come
Reviewing Literature
The Books of Janny Wurts

Author of the successful Cycle of Fire trilogy and the Wars of Light and Shadow series, Wurts often paints the covers for and illustrates her own works.  She lives with her husband in Florida.
Average Review Score: 4.6 out of 5 (7 books)

The Curse Of The Mistwraith
The Wars of Light and Shadow book one.  When I read this book, I was astonished that I'd not heard of it before.  Wurts presents a deep, epic and well-written fantasy story that far outstrips many of her contemporaries (Jordan, I'm looking at you!).  The story is about two half-brothers, princes from kingdoms sworn to emnity.  Together they are forced into a gate between worlds and eventually find themselves on Athera, a world blanketed by the sentient cloud of the Mistwraith, where their powers of Light and Shadow are prophesied to bring sunshine once more.  The story of their quest, with the help of the brilliantly realised Fellowship Sorcerers, would be great on it's own.  But Wurts goes beyond that by having the defeated Mistwraith lash out with the curse of the title, which condemns Lysaer and Arithon to life-long emnity, to the point of insanity.  I only have two gripes about this book and the first is simply that it has one of the daftest titles in fantasy history.  The second, much larger, problem is Lysaer.  It would have been better and more poignant if Wurts had made both princes likable, but everytime Lysaer starts to seem like a nice guy, he does something incredibly (and pointlessly) obnoxious.  He's impossible to like and yet the other characters all take to him in a second, stretching the believability of the story.
5 out of 5
'The Wars of Light and Shadow were fought during the third age of Athera, the most troubled and strife-filled era recorded in all of history.'
The Ships Of Merior
The second book of the Wars of Light and Shadow.  Arithon's quiet life as the apprentice Masterbard is thrown into turmoil and the Mistwraith's curse begins it's work anew.  Lysaer gathers a vast army to hunt down and destroy his half brother.  Wurts' trademark extensive use of vocabulary is in evidence here, as ever, which is good or bad depending on your viewpoint (personally, I enjoy the chance to take the old vocab out for a bit of excercise).  The story is a good one, with Arithon battling against public opinion and time in order to find a safe haven from his brother's insane crusade.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes about Arithon's time in Merior, which show why he's impossible not to like.  However, the flip side of that coin is once again Lysaer, who is totally repugnant and yet portrayed as having irresistible charm.
4 out of 5
'On the morning the Fellowship sorcerer who had crowned the King at Ostermere fared northward on the old disused road, the five years of peace precariously reestablished since the carnage that followed the Mistwraith's defeat as yet showed no sign of breaking.'
Warhost Of Vastmark
The Wars of Light and Shadow book three.  Fleeing Merior, Arithon sets up operations in the rugged terrain of Vastmark as Lysaer's warhost continues to hunt him.  The author once again writes a good story of the half-brothers' opposing plots, intermingling the affairs of the power-hungry Koriathain and the increasingly likeable Fellowship.  In fact, let's talk about the Fellowship for a moment.  I would say that they are the best element of Wurts' series, being of irrefutable moral fibre, incredible power and, best of all, mischievous wit.  Alright, Asandir is pretty much Gandalf the Grey, but is that such a bad thing?  I enjoyed the devastating conclusion to this book, with it's visually evocative battle scene.  However, the best element of the book is Dakar.  Whereas up until now he has merely been an irritant, always complaining, in this book his character truly develops as he sees how wasted his life has been and he finally becomes unlikely friends with Arithon.  I was pleased to see that it's not just Dakar who wakes up to the fact that Lysaer's a nutter, so does Lysaer's own wife, among others.
5 out of 5
'Sethvir of Althain soaked in his hip bath those rare times when he suffered glum spirits.'
Fugitive Prince
The Wars of Light and Shadow book four, but the first book of the Alliance of Light subseries.  I've only ever read two books more than once ('Dracula' and 'The Hobbit') and only then because they were the first books I ever read and had forgotten what happened in them.  I find it nearly impossible to reread passages that I've already been over and that was the feeling I got when reading this book.  Arithon runs, plots and hides.  Dakar complains.  Lysaer acts like a loon and gathers supporters because of it.  The first two thirds of this book, although well written, are pretty much the same things we read in books 2 and 3.  The exceptions to this are the scenes involving the Koriathain and the Fellowship, but they are too few and far between to make up for the shortcomings (although the scene where the Fellowship sit in judgement of Lysaer almost does).  The last third of the book is a definite improvement, particularly when Arithon, Dakar and Felirin find themselves trapped in the dream of a long-dead dragon, but lacking a dramatic climax as seen in the previous books, it's too little too late.  Wurts also undoes some of the progress made in 'Warhost Of Vastmark'.  Dakar seems largely to have reverted to his original state and Lysaer (I'd have to say my least favourite fantasy character ever) is up to his old tricks again.  At one point the Koriani Lirenda sees Lysaer for the psycho he really is (when he murders a shipful of his own men) and a chapter later it's all she can do to stop herself from bowing in worship.  I'm sorry, but it's just too hard to believe, I don't care how much charisma he's got.
3 out of 5
'Strong arms closed and locked around Elaira's slim shoulders.'
Grand Conspiracy
The fifth book of the Wars of Light and Shadow and the second in the Alliance of Light subseries.  This novel is leaps and bounds better than 'Fugitive Prince'.  Set over the course of seventeen years, it tells of the Koriani plot to ensnare Arithon through his compassion, whilst Lysaer continues to establish his dominance across the continent of Paravia.  Lysaer is portrayed much better here too; I particularly enjoyed the addition of Raiett Raven, a clever new ally of Lysaer's who nonetheless sees through the facade of Divinity to the megalomaniac behind.  Morriel Prime really outdoes herself here too, when her petty need to overthrow the Fellowship of Seven leads her to commit an act that send the entire continent into peril.  The Fellowship are far more involved now too, as they desperately struggle to hold the world together despite the Koriani and the Mistwraith's curse.  There's a great scene in which the Sorcerers finally have the right to intervene against Lysaer's army and find a rather inventive means of defeating the warhost; waking up trees.  Wurts also treats us to our first glance at Davien the Betrayer, who I'm sure will play a bigger part in subsequent books.  The longterm plotting throughout the book is brought to a wonderfully dramatic and touching climax that leaves you feeling that the book was time and money well invested.
5 out of 5
'The hard frost came to the downs of Araethura early, and the rains at their cusp laced crusts of ice through the peat stacks under the sheds.'
Peril's Gate
The sixth books of the Wars of Light and Shadow and the third in the Alliance of Light subseries.  Throughout the previous books Arithon has always had a sidekick of some type to share in his (mis)adventures.  However, here Wurts has Arithon fleeing across a harsh and wild landscape all alone, bereft of any help.  Constrained by their efforts to secure the destabilised Grimwards and to prevent the Mistwraith's escape from Rockfell Peak, the Fellowship is unable to act in the Shadow Master's defence.  However, unlikely and unpredictable aid comes to Arithon in the form of Davien the Betrayer.  The various personalities of the Fellowship have always been this series' strongest element and somehow, with Davien, Wurts manages to create yet another immensely compelling but completely individual Master Sorcerer.  Davien is a rogue who takes gambles and works to a design that even his peers cannot fathom.  This book's main event, however, is Arithon's journey through Kewar Tunnel and the Maze of Davien, wherein his is forced to confront his guilt and compassion head on.  If he comes through his ordeal, the barriers to his mage talent may be broken, if he fails he will be driven insane and die.  Another triumph, even though because of it's intricate nature it took me a whole month to read (not easy to put down and then pick up again).
5 out of 5
'The storm settled over the Eltair coast just after the advent of nightfall.'
Traitor's Knot
The seventh Wars of Light and Shadow novel and the fourth in the Alliance of Light subseries.  With this book Wurts turns a corner and begins to advance her epic series towards some sort of resolution.  All the author's expected quality of language is here, as is her talent for creating tension.  However, it is the development of her two main characters that proves this book's best element.  For the entire series Lysaer has been utterly insufferable but now he is balanced by Sulfin Evend, who has reluctantly accepted Fellowship backing, who knows the truth of Lysaer's cursed madness and whose bonds of friendship to the Prince may prove to be the insufferable git's redemption.  Then there's Arithon who, after his experience in Kewar Tunnel, has put aside his habit of running away and being all sorrowful.  The Master of Shadow, once again empowered as a master sorcerer, begins a proactive campaign to break the Alliance of Light's stranglehold over the people of Athera.  Something that proves both positive and negative is the role of necromancers in the book.  The clear-cut evil of the necromancers provides an enemy for both Lysaer and Arithon to turn their power against and allows for a far more rounded novel than most of the previous ones.  However, Wurts overplays the hand a little by referencing necromancy in almost every conversation, as if by repetition she can cover the fact that this supposedly all-encompassing evil was only mentioned very briefly anywhere else in the series.  Nevertheless, this is another excellent book even though, once again, it took me longer to read than a novel of this length should have done (due to the difficultly of delving in and out of the text).
5 out of 5
'Inside the Kittiwake, randiest of the dock-side taverns in Shipsport, two hunted men were unlikely to find the space for anonymous privacy.'

If you liked Wurts:

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