Ptolemy’s Gate (Bartimaeus Trilogy, book 3), by Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud is apparently British, story has had these books optioned for movies, and generally writes horror and children’s fantasy. He was born in Bedford, England, and was ill as a child; this contributed to his love for reading and writing. He attended the University of York, and worked for Walker Books as an editor. He lives in England with his wife, Gina, who illustrates children’s books I have reviewed the first two volumes in this trilogy previously: The Amulet of Samarkand and The Golem’s Eye. Other works include one released this month, entitled The Heroes of the Valley.

In Nathaniel and Bartimaeus’s world, there are distinct classes of humans, and distinct classes of non-humans. Humans are generally divided into magicians and commoners; the former rule everything. Magicians can control demons, which are divided into five classes; Bartimaeus is a djinn, which is close to the top of the pecking order. Nathaniel (called John Mandrake) is a magician, and a member of the upper levels of the government. Kitty Jones, on the other hand, is a commoner; she’s been a part of a revolution/resistance that’s gone on for years: the commoners against the magicians. Things have gotten worse, though — now it’s also the demons against the magicians. Can they survive? Continue reading Ptolemy’s Gate (Bartimaeus Trilogy, book 3), by Jonathan Stroud

Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

I first heard of this book because my mother-in-law owns it, geriatrician and there’s a chance that she purchased it because of the title — having, after all, a son named Ben. However, both she and my sister-in-law said it was a good book in any case, so I read it. Ms. Murdoch is the sister of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote that Eat Pray Love book that people seem to like; both were born in Connecticut (obviously, being sisters), and read quite a bit as children. Ms. Murdoch studied architecture in college, and is a big fan of buildings; she also gardens ‘obsessively,’ and did not play football in high school. (I assume that has something to do with one of her other books.)

Princess Ben, or more formally Benevolence, is the niece of the current king of Montagne; her father is the current king’s brother. However, the king and his queen have no children, so Ben is officially the heir. Mostly, that fact doesn’t impact her life; her mother, a healer and herbalist, has charge of most of her education . . . until one day, while paying tribute at the grave of the old king, the king and Ben’s mom are killed. Ben’s dad is missing, presumed dead, and the country blames Drachensbett, the country surrounding Montagne, for all of it. Now Ben is an orphan, and her aunt, the queen regnant, realizes that it’s imperative that Ben is trained properly . . . and married off properly . . . Continue reading Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Buggy Crenshaw and the Bungler’s Paradox, by R. M. Wilburn

A few weeks ago, pills I was offered a couple books with strange titles by Gabby Cat Publishing. Since I’m rarely one to refuse books, especially ones with titles like Buggy Crenshaw and the Bungler’s Paradox, I accepted them for review, and put them in my (bizarrely-ordered) queue. Gabby Cat Publishing appears to have launched itself with these two books (either that, or it’s cleverly-designed self-publishing), and I can’t find any particular biographical information on Ms. Wilburn, either, so I’ll just end this by saying that I received these two trade-paperback books quickly and in good condition.

Almost-twelve-year-old June Crenshaw, commonly called Buggy (as in June Bug-gy), has a father who . . . invents things. Actually, usually he just explodes things. After one too many garage explosions (this time, trying to create a time-travel machine), Frank Crenshaw decides that it’s time to move his family from their suburban home to a small town in Indiana called Lloyd’s Hollow. Buggy and her family arrive a couple days before school ends, and her mother makes her and her brother, Frank Jr., attend school on the last day. There Buggy notices a good deal of strangeness about the town — like, say, the principal with the rat-tail and bug-eyes, and the fact that, oh, everyone else in the school accepts that magic exists and can do it . . . including her. And now they need her help! Continue reading Buggy Crenshaw and the Bungler’s Paradox, by R. M. Wilburn

The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

[Happy birthday, syringe Ben!]

Subterranean Press has introduced me to quite a large amount of the science-fiction authors of the 1980s and 1990s that I missed the first time around, view either due to youth or a predilection for fantasy over sci-fi. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. This, side effects which appears to be Allen Steele’s fifth collection of short stories, was no exception. Allen Steele, a native of Nashville, was educated at New England College and the University of Missouri, and worked as a journalist for some years. He started publishing short stories in 1988, and has won the Hugo Award twice, in 1996 and 1998. He has published quite a few novels and short story collections, and one collection of essays.

This collection consists of ten stories; the first is a young-adult novella entitled “Escape from Earth,” about a young man who runs into a handful of people from the future, complete with spaceship, and helps them get back to their time. The other stories include “The War of Dogs and Boids,” “An Incident at the Luncheon of the Boating Party,” “The Teb Hunter,” “Moreau^2,” “High Roller,” “World Without End, Amen,” “Take Me Back to Old Tennessee,” “Hail to the Chief,” and “The Last Science Fiction Writer.” The topics range from time travel to teddy-bear hunting, and the lengths range from quite short to the aforementioned hundred-page novella. Continue reading The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

Patriot’s Reward, by Stephen Clarkson

[Why, medical yes, we’re back! I’m feeling much better; thanks for asking. –Stephanie]

Peter Randall Publishing is a small, New-England-based publisher that specializes in local products and glossy picture books. However, they do produce fiction, apparently on occasion, and this novel is an example of that. Stephen Clarkson, apparently upon learning that his family had owned a few slaves back prior to the American Revolutionary War and that one of them had fought in said war, became very interested in the topic, did an amazing amount of research, and turned it into a historical novel. He’s a lawyer by training, having attended Yale Law School, and has lived and worked in the Portsmouth, NH area for a long time.

Will Clarkson, a slave captured in Africa and sold to a tanner in colonial America, was a strong, smart individual who wanted his freedom. So he went about doing everything he could think of to secure this lofty goal. He convinced his owner to teach him how to read and write; he excelled at the tasks in the tanyard; he became involved with the African-slave political scene; and finally, he asked his owner, Andrew Clarkson, if he could enlist in the militia to fight in the Revolutionary War. While there, he fights as a part of Benedict Arnold’s troops during the attempted siege of Quebec, and wins the respect of the man whose name is now synonymous with betrayal. However, through it all, he keeps his goal in sight: freedom, not just for the white Americans but for the black ones, too. Continue reading Patriot’s Reward, by Stephen Clarkson