Fantasy/SF Book ReviewsThe Internet Writing Journal, March 2006
The Awakened City by Victoria StraussEos, March, 2006
Hardcover, 464 pages
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After the shocking events narrated in The Burning Land, the Empire of Arsace faces an uncertain future. The Brethren of the First Temple of the Gods are determined to retain their hold on the society as the religious leaders of the land. After destroying the renegade sorcerers of Refuge, they believed that the rivals are all dead. But the powerful Ravar, who is the most skilled Shaper to be born in generations, survived the destruction of his beloved Refuge, and is now consumed with hatred and a longing for vengeance against the Brethren. His epic plans for revenge are put in motion when he declares that he is the Next Messenger. The Next Messenger is the herald who prepares the way for the return of the now-sleeping God Ârata. Ravar has another obsession: the beautiful Axane whom he grew up with in Refuge. Ravar kidnapped Axane, but then let her go. Ravar once again kidnaps Axane, who is now a mother living with her husband Gyalo Amdo Samchen, the former Aratist monk and talented Shaper who everyone believes is dead. Gyalo sets out to rescue Axane, who is traveling with Ravar and his fanatical followers towards the city of Baushpar for a final confrontation with the Brethren. Gyalo is horrified by Ravar's plans and is desperate to save his wife and child. But he has another problem: it's starting to look like Gyalo himself may be the real Next Messenger. And that's a path that he has no desire whatsoever to follow.
In this stunning conclusion to the story began in The Burning Land, Victoria Strauss combines a vastly entertaining action adventure with a moving story of two powerful men and their epic clash in a society that is dominated by a fanatical and oppressive religion. Ms. Strauss skillfully creates a fantastic and realistic world peopled by fascinating characters who struggle with questions about faith, destiny and finding one's place in the world.
--Claire E. White
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (Star Wars) by James LucenoDel Rey, November, 2006
Hardcover, 336 pages
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After the events chronicled in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, fans have been wondering what Darth Vader did next after his transformation from Anakin Skywalker into a cyborg-human Sith Lord. James Luceno picks up during the last days of the Clone Wars, when the new Darth Vader must come to terms with his new life and his overwhelming desire for revenge against those he feel wronged him in his previous life. The transformation of Anakin into the Emperor's chief assassin is not an easy one, but he finds his focus when he begins to hunt down and kill the remaining few Jedi Knights. On the Outer Rim world of Murkhana, Jedi Masters Roan Shryne and Bol Chatak and Padawan Olee Starstone are some of the few Jedi Knights remaining alive. When their clone allies suddenly turn against them, they are forced to go on the run in a world that has suddenly turned viciously hostile to all Jedi. And the newly-minted Lord Vader will not rest until they are all dead. James Luceno keeps the action moving and ties up several loose ends from the film, making this a must-read for Star Wars fans.
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