Key of Light, by Nora Roberts

I don’t very often review romance novels, drug but I was out of town all weekend and this was the only book I read in four days. (My apologies for how late it is.) In any case, information pills it’s a paranormal/fantasy romance, decease so I’m claiming it. Nora Roberts, as a lot of people know, is one of the dominant forces in romance novels. She’s written a little bit of everything (except, I think, historicals) — suspense, fantasy, sf, southern, northern, eastern, western, etc. She’s famed for her strong storytelling and excellent dialogue. Her online persona is also a genuinely nice person, as evidenced by the boards at Dear Author and the Smart B*tches (see sidebar for links).

In this book 1 of 3, Malory Price is an art dealer/gallery manager in small-town Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, she and the boss’s new wife have issues, and she’s on the verge of losing her job when she gets invited to a reception at an amazing historical house in the area. When she gets there, only two other people — both women — have been invited. She, Dana, and Zoe were invited specifically by the couple who has rented the house because they are linked. The three of them are the only women alive who have a chance of finding three specific keys which can save three women from the fairy-tale hell they’ve been trapped in. This is literal, not metaphorical: actual physical keys to unlock the box that contains their souls, or something like that, so the young women can be awakened like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, there are a few things working against her, primarily lack of information and, oh yeah, the guy who put them there in the first place . . . Continue reading Key of Light, by Nora Roberts

The Rope Trick, by Lloyd Alexander

The recently-deceased Lloyd Alexander, illness of the Chronicles of Prydain fame, life was actually an American author. I’d always assumed he was British, but he was from Pennsylvania and was born just before the Great Depression. He wrote dozens of books, mostly children’s and YA fantasy. The Chronicles of Prydain were vaguely based on Welsh mythology; many of his books contain elements of mythology from the British Isles, which is probably what led me to believe he was English. In any case, he published novels until his death (two weeks after his wife passed away); this novel was from 2002.

Lidi is a magician, of the stage and sleight-of-hand variety. Her father was, too; he taught her the majority of what she knows. However, he told her she would never be a real magician until she knew the Rope Trick, and there was only one man in the world who could teach it to her: Ferramondo. While she is searching for him, though, Lidi has been traveling as a show; her stage manager is a man named Jericho, and they travel in a wagon. After an aborted show in an inn, a small girl follows Lidi home. Her name is Daniella, and she wants to join Lidi and get away from the abusive innkeeper. Shortly after Daniella (who proves to be a savant about numbers and even mild future-telling) joins the troop, a man on the run named Julian joins as well. Can Lidi find Ferramondo and keep Daniella and Julian safe? Continue reading The Rope Trick, by Lloyd Alexander

Switchers, by Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson, rx of recently-reviewed The New Policeman fame, has, as I noted in the other review, written quite a few other books. Switchers is, obviously, one of them. Like The New Policeman, it’s got fantasy elements, and it’s set in Ireland. Unlike The New Policeman, though, it’s set in Dublin, and has a more urban and cosmopolitan feel to it. I didn’t think the specific Irish identity of the book was quite as necessary. Nevertheless, it’s set there. Ms. Thompson is of course Irish herself, and has a strong interest in the preservation of the language and the culture of Ireland.

Tess is a thirteen-year-old student in Dublin; her family moves a lot, due to her father’s (unnamed) job, but they have a good amount of money. She doesn’t really have any friends, and that’s mostly OK with her, because she has a secret: she can shapeshift into animals, and has been able to do so since she was seven or eight. One day, after school, a boy follows her around, asks her name, and is generally annoying — mostly because he intimates that he knows her secret. Does he? At the same time, the UN has been noticing that the weather is getting much colder — blizzards and freezing temperatures are moving into temperate regions at much earlier times in the year. What’s causing this? Continue reading Switchers, by Kate Thompson

The Wizard Test, by Hilari Bell

This is Book 3 in my “Hilari Bell Is Not A Teeny-Bopper” Penance. Hilari Bell is still a librarian and certainly not a teenybopper. I’ve reviewed two of her books prior to this, sales The Goblin Wood and The Prophecy. Apparently in the near future, she’s writing sequels to The Goblin Wood, and she has also started a duet of books about a shapeshifter, in a near-future YA SF setting. I’m excited about both, although we won’t be seeing them for quite a while.

Dayven is a Guardian-in-training; he’s almost fourteen, and on one’s fourteenth birthday, in his world, one is given one’s destiny. Dayven has always known that he wanted to be a Guardian, but his supervisor suspects he has magical talent. He goes to the wizard school to be tested, and it turns out that yes, he does have the ability. Of course, this makes him incredibly angry. Wizards, as everyone knows, are treasonous, honorless jerks. Dayven’s grandmother was a wizard, and she betrayed her country! However, the lord (of whose Guardians he wanted to join) asks him to at least pretend to be a wizard apprentice to make sure the wizards are loyal. If he does this, and with honor, he will win his Guardianship. Can he? Continue reading The Wizard Test, by Hilari Bell

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken is a big name in children’s literature; she also wrote a handful of adult novels before her death in 2004. A good deal of her children’s (middle-grade) novels fall into the Wolves sequence, anesthetist of which this is the first; it was originally published in 1963. Several of her adult novels are continuations or retellings of Jane Austen’s works, patient including a completion of The Watsons, order and Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen’s Emma. Her father, Conrad Aiken, was a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize; apparently she came by her writing talent honestly.

Bonnie is the daughter of Sir Willoughby, the lord of Willoughby Chase. His wife, Bonnie’s mother, is doing poorly, and the doctor has recommended a voyage at sea. Consequently, Sir Willoughby has sent away for a distant relation to be Bonnie’s guardian while they are away. At the same time, Lady Willoughby’s sister, who had guardianship of a deceased third sibling’s child, has been doing poorly as well and has asked if Sir Willoughby could take over the guardianship of the child (a girl, named Sylvia). Sir Willoughby agrees, and Bonnie (who is a very . . . active child) is excited. However, the governess (Miss Slighcarp) shows up a day early, before Sylvia even gets there, and turns out to be a very mean individual. That, of course, could be dealt with, except after Bonnie’s parents leave, she takes over the house, starts selling things, and becomes even more of a horror. Can Bonnie and Sylvia stop her? Continue reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan

I’d actually read this book a few years ago, ask but when looking for something short enough that I could finish it Sunday afternoon, ed I decided this fit the bill. Sherryl Jordan is from New Zealand; she’s written several novels, web most prominently Winter of Fire, Secret Sacrament, and this one. She also writes picture books; she actually started her career as an illustrator. As far as I can tell, about eight of her books are available in the U.S. Several were shortlisted for awards, primarily in her home country.

In a medieval, slightly fantastic world, Marnie has just gotten married, to save her family, to the second son of the local lord. He’s much older than her; she was completely unprepared for the realities of marriage, and when he dies two days later, she’s only a little sorry. They had moved a day away from their families to a little seaside town called Torcurra; now Marnie is a widow, and friendless. Only the priest (Father Brannan) and the local madman pay any attention to her, and due to a combination of a genuinely nice nature and a lack of other people around, she figures out that he isn’t actually mad, he’s deaf. She starts making a sort of sign language to communicate with him, and between that and her husband’s untimely death, the locals aren’t too fond of her. And then her dead husband’s brother comes sniffing around . . . Continue reading The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan

Once a Princess (Sasharia en Garde, book 1), by Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is the author of The Trouble with Kings, page published earlier this year by Samhain Publishing; she has also written Crown Duel, order the Wren books, and a couple books about Inda, in addition to a couple published by Norilana Books. Other than the Wren books, the majority of her work is set on Sartorias-deles, a planet accessible to earth through a World Gate (a large amount of magic). This novel (available in e-form here; in print form in about a year) is one of two that come together; the second (Twice a Prince) is due on July 22, 2008.

Sasha is, yes, actually a princess — although at the moment she’s living in Southern California, attending graduate school, and waiting tables. Her mother was married to a prince of Khanerenth, which is a country on Sartorias-deles; it’s on the other side of a magical World Gate. Unfortunately, a Bad Man took over their country, and Sasha and her mother were forced to flee. Sasha’s father asked them to hide on Earth. However, one day, when Sasha’s around twenty-five, some people come to kidnap her to the other world — and, unlike many past attempts, they succeed. Now, of course, Sasha has been thrown back into the world of danger that she escaped fifteen years ago, and her mother has no idea where she is. Will Sasha survive? Continue reading Once a Princess (Sasharia en Garde, book 1), by Sherwood Smith

The Swan Maiden, by Heather Tomlinson

I found this book at the library, help and I don’t really know whether I would have picked it up or not, treat except that the Ink Mage gave it a mostly favorable review. I don’t know anything about Ms. Tomlinson; the internet tells me that she has a degree in French from Wellesley and she currently lives in a 48-foot sailboat named Adventure with her husband and her three cats. She has two more books coming out: Aurelie, later this year, and Toads and Diamonds, which just sold.

The Swan Maiden is set in a semi-medieval Provence. Doucette, the main character, is the youngest of three sisters; she is the only one of the three who isn’t a Swan Maiden, and she cannot do magic. One day she discovers that her parents have been lying to her the entire time: she is a Swan Maiden, and she has a swanskin they were hiding from her. She reclaims it, and decides to train in magic. Simultaneously, she falls in love with an attractive shepherd; for a member of the peasant class, he is not without resources, but in comparison to Doucette’s family (which is nobility), he’s poor. How will all that work out? Why did her parents lie to her? What does it mean for her sisters? Continue reading The Swan Maiden, by Heather Tomlinson

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, by Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine is the Newbery Honor winning author of Ella Enchanted, treat and also the author of Fairest and Ever. She lives in Brewster, NY, with her husband and an Airedale named Baxter. This novel was released as a part of the Disney Fairies franchise; there is also a sequel, called Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand.

Prilla is a brand-new fairy; she still hasn’t figured out what her talent is. She is in the process of being introduced to everyone on the island (in hopes that she will find her talent) when there is a hurricane, and Mother Dove’s egg is smashed. Only the heat of the dragon — which can only be obtained by trading with him — can save the egg, and save Neverneverland at the same time. Prilla and a couple other fairies are sent on a quest. Will they be able to accomplish everything? Will they fix the egg? And will Prilla ever find out what her talent is? Continue reading Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, by Gail Carson Levine

Colman, by Monica Furlong

A long time ago, cheap in a galaxy far, hemorrhoids far away, there was an eleven-year-old named Stephanie who had just read Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, and was looking for other children’s fantasy. Unfortunately, the year was 1993 (or 4) and Harry Potter hadn’t hit yet. Publishers were loath to publish fantasy for children. Of course, she had the classics, but she wanted more. Then she found a couple books that had been published recently, by a woman named Monica Furlong: Juniper and Wise Child. She read those a few times and enjoyed them quite a bit. Fifteen (or fourteen) years later, she found out that they were books 1 and 2 of a trilogy, and the third one had been published in 2004, just after the author passed away. The realization that she was old enough for fourteen or fifteen years to pass in between reading books frightened her a bit, but she read Colman, the conclusion of the trilogy, and decided to review it.

Juniper is a doran, a witch; she’s also the daughter of King Mark of Cornwall. Wise Child is her apprentice. Colman is a friend of Wise Child’s; Finbar is Wise Child’s father, and Cormac is a leper who Juniper healed. Those are the main players in the story so far. A very bad woman took over Cornwall and killed the king and queen; Juniper (Ninnoc)’s brother is still alive, and the group wants to help him take the country back. Unfortunately, they have very little idea of where to start, since so many things are being controlled by the bad woman and her knight-husband. What do they do? Magic, of course. Continue reading Colman, by Monica Furlong