Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Eos, January, 2003
Hardcover, 358 pages
ISBN: 0060278250
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 by Garth Nix The concluding book in the Old Kingdom trilogy, which began with Sabriel and Lirael, has at last arrived. When we last saw Lirael, the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, Lirael's magical companion the Disreputable Dog, Mogget the cat and Prince Sameth, they were surrounded by the Dead and trapped on the island where Prince Sameth and his parents, Queen Sabriel and King Touchstone, make their home. The Dead creature, Chlorr of the Mask, leads the legions of corpse who surround the island. To make matters worse, Chlorr is in league with the evil necromancer Hedge. Hedge has kidnapped and enslaved Sam's friend, Nicholas Sayre, and tricked him into digging up the Orannis, the Destroyer. And if the two halves of Orannis are rejoined, the world and all life will end. With the King and Queen away on a mission to the Old Kingdom to gain allies, it will be up to the young Lirael and her friends to stop Hedge and the Destroyer, before it is too late.

Garth Nix writes fantasies which have a breadth and depth that is unmatched. His cleverly imagined magical Old Kingdom, which borders the modern, technological, non-magical world, is full of surprises and rich with inventive ideas. The Charter Magic is fascinating, and the youthful characters are well-rounded. As much a coming of age novel as a first-rate fantasy, Abhorsen is supposed to end this excellent series. But the ending seems to leave the door open a crack for more adventures in the Old Kingdom, which would be eagerly received by readers both young and old.

--Claire E. White

A Forest of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

Warner Books, June, 2003
Hardcover, 478 pages
ISBN: 0446528714
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A Forest of Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson Building on the vast interstellar universe introduced in Hidden Empire, Kevin Anderson continues the saga of the gripping Seven Suns series. Unwittingly plunged into galactic war with the mysterious Hydrogues when they destroyed the gas giant homes of the powerful aliens, humanity is fighting for its very existence. The Hydrogues have ignored all the humans' efforts to explain that they did not know that the gas giants held intelligent life, and are systematically destroying human colonies. But the Hydrogues are not the only threat the humans face. The mysterious robots who claim not to remember what happened to the advanced race which created them, the Klikiss, have now shown their true faces. But there is some hope to be found in new allies. Two other ancient races of aliens have appeared: the water-based Wentals and the fiery Faeros, who both seem to despise the Hydrogues. Another seeming ally is the Illdirans, an advanced humanoid race, whose interests may not coincide with the humans. As the war progresses, it becomes clear that humanity will have to use all their ingenuity just to stay alive.

Although the scope of The Saga of the Seven Suns is epic, bestselling author Kevin Anderson follows the story from the perspectives of different, yet equally intriguing, characters: Prime Designate Jora'h, the heir to the Ildiran throne who vehemently opposes his father's plan for his people, Peter, the King of Old Earth, who is king in name only, but is determined to be more in order to help the Hansa alliance, Cesca Perron, the leader of the outlaw human Roamers who has to put her personal feelings aside in order to do her job, and many more. Anderson keeps the pace moving briskly and handles the multiple viewpoints will skill and ease. This is heart-pounding, exciting stuff, with exotic worlds, vivid characters and thought-provoking issues.

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones

Greenwillow Books, April, 2003
Hardcover, 464 pages
ISBN: 0060523182
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The Merlin Conspiracy
by Diana Wynne Jones Set in the same fantasy world as Deep Secret, The Merlin Conspiracy also involves adventures in the multiverse: a system of parallel earths which are managed by the Magids. The Magids balance the negative and positive magics between the worlds, so that the system remains intact. On the world of Blest, a parallel England where the King and his court constantly travel around the country to keep things in order, a conspiracy has succeeded in replacing the real court Merlin with a false one in a bid for massive power. Roddy, a young girl whose parents are both Court Wizards (her father is the court weatherman), partners with her friend Grundo and Nick, a young man from the regular Earth, in order to stop the plotters, which threatens the very fabric of the mulitverse with its unbalanced magic.

Nick, Grundo and Roddy make an excellent team, although they are from very different words. They all have inherent magical powers, but are just learning how to use them. Ms. Jones' magical systems and fantasy worlds are extraordinary and her writing style is inventive, agile and very, very funny. This is fantasy which will resonate with both adults and young readers alike.

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