Fourth World (Missing Link, book 1), by Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson is the author of The New Policeman and Switchers, stuff both of which I have (obviously) reviewed before. When she was a child, more about and even into her adult years, thumb she spent a good deal of time with horses, first riding and then training. After deciding that she needed more human interaction, she tried law school and then went on several trips to India, volunteering in various capacities. All this athleticism gave her a love of hiking, and her current residence in County Galway (Ireland) gives her much opportunity to indulge it.

Fourth World, also called just The Missing Link, is set in Ireland and Scotland during an economically troubled time. There are gas and food shortages, and this causes problems for our main characters, who are Christie (who is nonetheless a boy) and his stepbrother, Danny. Danny is considered a special-needs child; he doesn’t do terribly well in school, what with remembering things and fitting in to society, and his temper is uncertain. Christie is pretty good at managing him, though, until Danny gets it into his head that his mother, a scientist, is not only alive, but wants to see him. They leave — essentially running away — to go find her, Christie following to keep Danny out of trouble. Continue reading Fourth World (Missing Link, book 1), by Kate Thompson

Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch is probably best known for writing the novel Psycho, hygiene that would eventually become the most famous Hitchcock thriller of all time, cardiology but he also wrote a lot of other novels, side effects stories, essays, and other forms. He was a protege of H. P. Lovecraft, probably one of the greatest horror writers of the century, and also wrote science fiction, fantasy, and crime novels. He also wrote a handful of scripts for Star Trek (the Original Series) in the sixties. For a short period of time, he was involved with making campaign spectacles — balloons and the whole shtick — for a political candidate in Wisconsin. He was born in 1917 to a family of German-Jewish descent, and passed away in 1994.

Many of Mr. Bloch’s early stories were only published in pulp and other transitory magazines, and they have not been collected. Therefore, Subterranean Press has been putting out volumes of what they call The Reader’s Bloch, of which this is volume 2. The stories in this volume are slightly more science-fiction-y, rather than crime stories, and it includes such titles as “Never Trust a Demon,” “The Last Plea,” “The Strange Island of Dr. Nork,” “Skeleton in the Closet,” “The Bat is My Brother,” “The Hound of Pedro,” “Iron Mask,” “The Red Swimmer,” “Curse of the House,” “Pink Elephants,” “Unheavenly Twin,” “Tooth or Consequences,” “The Tchen Lam’s Vengeance,” “Satan’s Servants,” and “Fairy Tale.” Continue reading Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George

Jessica Day George lives in Salt Lake City; she attended Brigham Young University and has a degree in humanities and comparative literature. She’s also associated with a husband, pill a son, pills and a five-pound Maltese named Pippin who appears as a character in this book. She says that her entire life has revolved around books — although she has studied significant amounts of foreign languages (eight years of German and four of Old Norse, buy to read the old sagas in the original language) and knits, plays viola and piano, and even took a class in pottery, all of it and all of her jobs was just to fill in the time while she wasn’t actively writing, reading, or waiting to be published.

Dragon Slippers starts with a common trope, at least after Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons: the maiden given to a dragon on purpose so that someone will rescue her. And, as is common with that trope, the maiden (Creel) rescues herself — in that way where the dragon didn’t want to eat her anyway. The dragon gives her a pair of shoes out of his collection, and Creel goes off to King’s Seat, the capital (obviously), to try to ply her trade of sewing and embroidery. On the way she meets a dragon named Shandas, and they become friends. Once she’s in the city, she gets a job at an impressive shop, but makes an enemy in the foreign princess who is to marry the crown prince. How will that work out? Continue reading Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George

The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones

Do I need to say anything to introduce Diana Wynne Jones anymore? I’ve reviewed a good deal of her books prior to this, store including (but not limited to) The Pinhoe Egg, page Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, cost The Dark Lord of Derkholm, and its sequel, The Year of the Griffin. She’s British; I think her son even publishes books occasionally. She’s been publishing children’s fantasy since J. K. Rowling was in grammar school, and her stories typically include wizards, witches, humor, and traveling between alternate universes.

This novel is not exempt. There are two main characters, Nick and Roddy (Nichothodes and Arianrhod). Nick lives in something not entirely unlike our world, with his (adopted) father who writes mystery novels. Roddy lives in an alternate land where England is called Blest, and the king must constantly keep moving around the country to keep the magic strong. Roddy’s parents both work for the king, so she is part of the Royal Progress. Her best friend, Grundo, and she are sort of outcasts. In any case, Roddy and Grundo overhear something they should not, and realize that there is a conspiracy going on, at around the same time that Nick gets horribly lost, by accident, between worlds. Can they help each other and fix what’s going on? Continue reading The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones

Novelties & Souvenirs, by John Crowley

John Crowley is one of the rare f/sf authors who gets significant recognition from the mainstream press — in that way where Harold Bloom has a good opinion of him. His novel Little, healthful Big is probably the most well-known to spec-fic audiences; it’s essentially magic realism in the non-Latin-American way, order and won the World Fantasy Award. He’s also won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, purchase a second World Fantasy Award for one of the novellas in this collection, and a third one for lifetime achievement. Born in 1942 in Maine, he currently lives in New York City and writes, as well as working in the documentary film field and teaching at places as prestigious as Yale.

Novelties & Souvenirs collects all his short fiction through its publication in 2004; it was published by Harper Perennial. Four of the stories were originally published in a collection called Novelty, after one of its stories. Others were published in various formats, including a chapbook, a collection printed by Subterranean Press, Asimov’s, and a few other anthologies. The titles include “The Green Child,” “An Earthly Woman Sits and Sings,” “The Nightingale Sings at Night,” “Missolonghi 1824,” “The Reason for the Visit,” “Novelty,” “Gone,” “Antiquities,” “In Blue,” and “Great Work of Time.” They include retellings, dystopias, alternate histories, and most other kinds of speculative fiction. Continue reading Novelties & Souvenirs, by John Crowley

Mortal Love, by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand was born in 1957 and grew up in New York, pilule just outside of the city; she went to the Catholic University of America and studied drama and anthropology. Currenty she divides her time between Camden Town, London, and Maine, both of which are used as settings in this novel. Her other works include Waking the Moon, Glimmering, and Black Light, all of which I own but haven’t read in years. She has written movie novelizations as well as novels and short stories; she also seems to have co-authored a series of comic books for DC and some novels in the Star Wars universe.

Mortal Love follows several men and their intertwining encounters with a deadly but beautiful woman over the years. Radborne Comstock, an American painter, first meets her in an insane asylum out in rural England in the 1880s; his grandson Val(entine) sees her first in dreams and visions and is eventually medicated to stop his visions. Daniel Rowlands, an American living in contemporary London to write a book about Tristan and Isolde, meets her through a friend of his. Each develops an obsessive passion with her, and she indulges them, serving as a muse to each of them in various ways. Is she the same woman in all three times? And what is she searching for? Continue reading Mortal Love, by Elizabeth Hand

Clockwork, by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is the tremendously-successful, tuberculosis oft-controversial author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Born in 1946, he has been writing fiction since 1970 and a full-time author since 1996, which was when The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights, depending on which side of the pond one is on) was published. The trilogy has won various awards, and the first volume (so far) has been made into a movie, starring Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, and Derek Jacobi. This book I found for 99 cents in a bargain bin; it’s not related to his most famous works, but is a companion to a few other short ‘fairy tales’ he’s written.

Karl, the clockmaker’s apprentice, is on the last day of his apprenticeship, and that night he is expected to install the new piece of clockwork that he has made into the town’s famous clock. However, he’s at the pub, drinking and melancholy, because he has not finished his piece — in fact, he hasn’t even started one. That night, Fritz the town storyteller comes by with his new story, and starts to tell it, about a king who went on a trip with his son and another nobleman and who returned, dead, but with clockwork inside his body to make his arm move up and down. Then events from the story — which Fritz dreamed — start to be real. What is going on? Continue reading Clockwork, by Philip Pullman

Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier was born in New Zealand in 1948 and currently lives in Australia. She has eleven books published, information pills mostly for adults; this and its sequel, click Cybele’s Secret, are her contributions to the YA genre. Her educational history involves a bachelor’s degree in music, in (as far as I can tell) vocal performance; she has sung in operas and conducted choirs at various points in her life, as well as taught music on various levels. She has two dogs and a tri-colored (presumably calico) cat; currently she’s working on a novel entitled Heart’s Blood, but I do not know if it’s related to any of her other novels.

Wildwood Dancing is set in Transylvania, some years ago, in a rather remote part of the country. Jena and her four sisters are the daughters of a widowed trader; they live in a castle right on the edge of the wildwood. Many things are said to inhabit the wildwood; some are harmless and some not so. Some nine years ago, the sisters discovered that they could enter the land of the fey on the night of the full moon, and dance with the trolls and pixies and the royalty of fairyland all night. They’ve been doing it ever since, until one night, when the dark ones (vampires) come to the celebration, and Jena’s older sister Tati falls in love with one of them. Now she is pining away, and Jena’s cousin Cezar is threatening to cut down the forest. What can Jena do? Continue reading Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier

Gunpowder Empire, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is a renowned historian; he’s an expert in Byzantine history, ask and I’ve been told that there aren’t very many of those in the U.S., total. The title of his dissertation, produced at UCLA, is (according to Wikipedia) The Immediate Successors of Justinian: A Study of the Persian Problem and of Continuity and Change in Internal Secular Affairs in the Later Roman Empire During the Reigns of Justin II and Tiberius II Constantine (AD 565–582). (Yes, really.) He’s also a renowned alternate historian, and has written volumes upon volumes of alternate-history books which use different parts of his Byzantine knowledge (by which I both mean ‘of the Byzantine era’ and ‘labyrinthine’) to imbue his works with incredible historical accuracy.

Gunpowder Empire is set towards the end of the twenty-first century, mostly. Jeremy Soltero and his family live most of the year in southern California, where Jeremy and his sister Amanda attend school, but during the summers they live and work in one of the ‘alternates,’ an alternate reality where the Roman Empire still exists and things have not gotten significantly more technologically advanced than they were around 500 C.E. There, they trade things like straight razors and Swiss army knives for grain, which cannot be grown in the amounts needed in their normal reality. Everything is fine, until Jeremy’s mom gets sick and Jeremy’s dad has to take her back . . . and then the transportation and communication setup mysteriously stops working. Are Jeremy and his sister stuck in the alternate? Continue reading Gunpowder Empire, by Harry Turtledove

Twilight Child, by Sally Warner

Sally Warner, help born in New York City but raised in Connecticut and Pasadena, dosage California, surgery is an artist as well as a writer. She writes and illustrates her own books for younger readers, as well as one for the middle-grades (8-12 years old) group. She has also, in addition to being a professional writer, taught art education and has exhibited her drawings (primarily charcoal) across the country. This novel seems to be one of her two historical-set novels; the other is set during Victorian England and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t involve any fantasy at all. Other titles include It’s Only Temporary, A Long Time Ago Today, and How to be a Real Person: in Just One Day.

Eleni is the daughter of a fisherman in Swedish-held Finland; the Swedes are conscripting the Finns into the army to make them fight their wars. However, Eleni’s father is implicated in a rebellion and disappears; she and her mother go to work for different Swedish families as servants. Eleni was born at twilight, and specifically the twilight of the winter solstice, so she can speak to various supernatural creatures like brownies and trolls. Will she ever see her father again? Will she ever be able to live with her mother again? And, last but not least, will she ever see her childhood best friend/sweetheart Matias again? Continue reading Twilight Child, by Sally Warner