This book grabs your attention on the first page and never lets it go: “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love” (unnamed narrator, p.1). The narrator of the novel may at first seem beyond redemption: he’s a drug addicted, porn producer who pursues vices at every corner until he is brutally maimed by fire in a car accident. The book follows his slow and painful recovery in the burn ward and the people he meets along the way including the beguiling and mysterious sculptress, Marianne Engels, who claims that they were lovers in medieval Germany, when she as a nun and he was a mercenary. The author seamlessly weaves other tragic tales of love – parental love, unrequited love, self-love – throughout the narrative and introduces us to captivating characters from around the world – Japan, Iceland, England, and Italy. While this novel falls squarely within the historical fiction genre, it also touches upon the idea of time as circular, amorphous and includes magical, mystical and surreal elements. I heartily recommend this novel to all readers passionate about deeply drawn characters, multicultural themes, and page-turning prose that you just can’t put down! (Submitted by Andrea)
I had just about given up on heroic fantasy. Then, I discovered Kings of the Wyld, a fresh and lively standalone adventure that is gripping, funny, and occasionally brutal. The plot is familiar. Circumstances force a former mercenary band of heroes to reform for one last quest. But the mixture of classic high fantasy tropes from Tolkien, the grittiness of Joe Abercrombie (without the pessimism), and the light satirical touch and humour of Terry Pratchett, give this story an engaging vigour.
In the end, it’s a very human story with sympathetic, likeable characters, especially the main protagonist Clay Cooper. He is an affable man who would like to put his violent past behind him and enjoy a peaceful life with his family. But of course, fate is not done with him yet. He must rise to the occasion one more time, and persuade his erstwhile companions to join him. Along the way they face every sort of magical and monstrous creature in the fantastic bestiary, and face some mighty foes in battle. They must rediscover the power of friendship and family, and what it means to be a hero.
Recommended for lovers of heroic fantasy or anyone who likes a rousing adventure and doesn’t mind a certain amount of graphic violence. (Submitted by Jim)
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This Dark Endeavour is a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am always a bit skeptic about prequels that are written a century or more after the initial novel. Yet, this book is a pleasant surprise: it is believable (as if indeed it is the real pre-story to Frankenstein). This Dark Endeavour is like a triple-flavoured ice-cream. The novel literally has lots of layers: history, science, magic, love, integrity – just to name a few. All of these subjects are covered deeply enough to create a sense of realism, but not too deep to instill a sense of boredom. Kenneth Oppel does a marvelous job depicting 18th century Europe: I submerged into it head and toes! There is never a dull moment; the novel is always moving forward. There are three main characters: Victor and Konrad Frankenstein (twin brothers) and their cousin Elizabeth. The three of them grew up together and were happy playmates until they reached their adolescent years. Very soon, they learn too many things at once: love and friendship don’t always go together, jealousy knows no boundaries, passion and duty are often on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and there is never a good or smart way to outwit death… (Submitted by Mariya)
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