Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

The Glasswrights' Apprentice by Mindy L. Klasky

Roc, July 2000
Paperback, 336 pages
ISBN: 0451457897
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The Glasswrights' Apprentice
by Mindy L. Klasky Rani Trader has grown up in a kingdom which strictly adheres to the caste system. Moving up from the merchant class to, say, the nobility is considered an impossibility: birthright is everything in the country of Morenia. Rani's parents want her to succeed, so they give up everything they can in order to buy her a lowly position in the prestigious Glasswrights' Guild. The Guild is responsible for building the beautiful stained glass windows in major buildings and creating all things beautiful made of glass. When Rani is in the wrong place at the wrong time, she is falsely accused of assisting in the terrible assassination of the Crown Prince. Her Guild destroyed by the vengeful and brokenhearted king, Rani goes on the run, determined to prove her innocence. Her adventures will take her within many different castes in this society -- even into the Royal Palace itself. But danger is never far behind, and Rani may not be able to escape the deadly plotting and intrigue which surround the palace.

The Glasswrights' Apprentice is an exhilarating new fantasy from attorney turned novelist Mindy L. Klasky. Rani Trader is only 13, but this story will appeal to both the adult and the young adult market. The insight into the glassmaking process is quite interesting, as are the colorful and vivid characters which Rani meets during her journey. Rani herself is complex and quite brave, especially when her entire world is turned upside down. Her journey from the stalls of a merchant to the gilded palace is full of breathless adventure, near escapes and real emotion. Rani Trader deserves to have her story continued in another book -- she's only 13, after all, and there's bound to be much more to her story than we've heard so far.

Hero in the Shadows by David Gemmell

Del Ray, March 2000.
Hardcover, 385 pages.
ISBN: 0345432231.
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Cover of Hero in the Shadows
by David Gemmell Throughout the lands of the Drenai, he is known as as Waylander the Slayer or simply The Grey Man. The assassin/hero has an unusually long life, but he is beginning to feel the weight of the years and of his past deeds. Immensely wealthy, he lacks for nothing. His great estate by the sea is the scene of great entertainments, although he really doesn't care much for society, spending his days dreaming of his murdered wife and son. When an ancient evil awakes and is preparing to invade his world, Waylander must once again take up arms. He is assisted by an unlikely group of comrades in arms: Kysumu, the rajnee swordsman; Yu Yu Liang, a humble ditch digger with dreams of glory and a magical sword, a kitchen maid who is exceptionally gifted with throwing knives, and a priestess who is much more than she seems.

David Gemmell is a master of the moody and atmospheric fantasy adventure. The Grey Man is attractively enigmatic; his pain, though well-hidden, is palpable. The fight scenes are especially well-done -- no one would want to be anywhere near the Grey Man when he has his crossbow with him. With adventure, magic and true emotion, Hero in the Shadows is another wonderful gift from the talented David Gemmell.

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay

HarperPrism, March 2000.
Hardcover, 531 pages.
ISBN: 0061051217.
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Cover of Lord of Emperors
by Guy Gavriel Kay After Sailing to Sarantium, Guy Gavriel Kay follows with this second entry in his Sarantine Mosaic series. The series is set in a fantasy world which closely resembles the Eastern Roman Empire when it was evolving into the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Justinian and his Empress Theodora ruled absolutely during that time period, and there is a division among historians as to what kind of people they were. Kay gives us his version, and a fascinating one it is.

The Sarantine Mosaic loosely follows the story of the brilliant but socially inept mosaicist Crispin, who is in the capital city of Sarantium (a fictionalized version of Constantinople) to create a masterpiece in the Emperor's chapel. Crispin isn't to be left to his art for long. There is murder, betrayal, intrigue and war brewing all around him, and his life is inextricably intertwined with powerful women: the Empress, the displaced Queen Gisele of Antae, and the enigmatic Styliane, the wife of the Emperor's most trusted general. If you enjoyed I, Claudius, you will absolutely adore Lord of Emperors. With lyrical prose that is Kay's hallmark and his deft handling of numerous subplots and characters, he expertly and with great emotion portrays life in the Roman Empire -- from the roar of the crowds at the chariot races to the behind the throne plotting of the future of an empire. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

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