My favourite Authors / Book Recommendations:
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Although I have outgrown her a bit, MZB still holds a special place in my heart. She is a writer who has helped to shape Fantasy and Sci Fi that we know today, and she, among other grand ladies of Sci Fi/Fantasy like C.L. Moore, has given women their place in the genre without reducing them to the clichés of the dumb warrioress or helpless victim to be rescued by the hero. However, MZB hasn't indulged in extreme feminist utopia, her heroines always being realistic, human beings that act in the parameters of their culture. It is hard to put her in any category, but I think the term Science Fantasy applies to many of her books.
She has by no means only written great books, some early ones are actually quite simple. But for me it is fascinating to follow the career of a writer, to see how her skills evolved over the decades. MZB is most widely known for her original interpretation of Arthurian Legend in the "Mists of Avalon" But the work that had most impact on the world of Fantasy and Sci Fi is her Darkover series. Apart from the numerous novels and short stories she wrote herself, there are many anthologies about the Planet under the Bloody Sun. Through her various anthologies and her own magazine she has brought many a talented writer to the light. Mercedes Lackey and Elizabeth Waters are just two names in the long list of well known writers that appeared in her collections of short stories, before anyone knew they would become successful on their own.
She has touched my life in many ways, because it was her books I avidly read throughout my teenage years. Funny enough, my choice to study Social Anthropology was partly due to a character in her book "The Ruins of Isis".
Darkover is a Planet under a Red Sun, that is ruled by a feudalistic telepatic caste, called the Comyn. They are the descendants of a group of Terran settlers whose starship had crashed on this strange planet.
Throughout the Ages of Chaos the Darkovans are dominated by the urge to breed stronger and stronger telepaths, to enhance their technology based on psi powers and developping terrible weapons, that almost destroy their civilisation. The contract initiated by Varzil the Good in the Time of the Hundred Kingdoms, will shape Darkovan life ever after, bringing relative peace to the people. An new era begins when the Terrans rediscover the planet they call Cottman IV. Now Darkover has to cope with the onslaught of a huge spacegoing Empire, that will eventually try to assimilate Darkovan culture.
I found this through a friend and I will be ever grateful to him ;-).
These books are simply awesome. The story is about two very different men, Alec, a youth of 16 and Seregil, as spy, thief and gambler, in short a nightrunner. The setting is good old fashioned Fantasy, magic, swordfights, flights and a great evil lurking over the world. That is however just the start of it, because Flewelling's characters are what make these books so outstanding. They are deep, flawed, and they grow with experience. They are very human, full of humour and sadness.
The love that slowly, tentatively grows between Alec and Seregil is sweet and beautifully developped, without ever trying to take the main stage. This is the way that gay love stories are done best in a Fantasy setting, without making it an issue, just showing that all that counts is love and respect. And these two are destined for each other.
Alec, who is from the North, is rescued by coincidence by Seregil, who sees something special in him and takes him on as an apprentice nightrunner. Seregil, who was investigating in the threat of a new war between his adopted home country, Skala, and their neighbour, Plenimar, is affected by an evil magic, and only with the help of Alec, does he reach Rhíminee, the capital of Skala.
Rhíminee provides a colorful setting for Seregil's nightrunner persona. The popular and ever-intriguing motive of the spy and thief in Fantasy is presented here in a most fascinating way. Seregil is a moody stubborn character, noble and refined, while at the same time pragmatic and dangerous, prone to grand gestures, but very reluctant to ever give insight into his feelings and mysterious past.
Alec on the other hand is sweet, honest, almost innocent and straightforward in his loyalty and love, providing a steadiness and stability that Seregil lacks.
The supporting characters are very appealing as well, and the world has a real grittiness about it.
The series is not a Trilogy, the first two are one story, while the 3rd is set two years after the end of "Stalking Darkness" and can be read as a standalone. But who would want to miss the other ones ;-)
|Luck in the Shadows||
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"The Tamir Triad"
Lynn's new book is out now in the US!
In "the Bone Dolls Twin", the first part of the "Tamir Triad", we come back to the world of Nightrunner but in an earlier time. It is the story of Queen Tamir, of Nysander's teacher Arkoniel and of a terrible deed that is committed by him and his mentor, in order to save the countries future. The book is very dark and quite different in style from the Nightrunner books, but written in the same gripping style. Lynn uses some thought-provoking themes and plays a wicked game with her characters. Intense as ever, a bit scary and very original. The difference in athmosphere that this new book shows demonstrates Lynn's great potential as a writer and storyteller. And uhmm, yes, she is a terribly nice lady as well *g*.
|The Bone Doll's Twin||
Not yet released
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I would label Mercedes Lackey as "young adult fantasy" - but I read them when I was around 22 and still liked them. Misty's best series, in my opinion are her Valdemar books. There are more than 20 of them. I recommend to read them roughly by the order they were published. The last Trilogy, Olwflight, etc. is a bit weak and maybe only for hardcore Misty Fans (or for fans of Firesong *g*), and "Brightly Burning" was terribly disappointing. Avoid that one! But do read the Last Herald Mage Trilogy, if you like sweet and angsty love and fantasy stories.
Valdemar is a small northern kingdom in the world of Velgarth. Its Heralds are the people who function as advisors to the king/queen, as supervisors of state affairs, messengers, ambassadors and caretakers of the kingdom. They ride circuit in the country, holding court in remote areas, spreading information and keeping an open ear for the needs of the people.
Heralds are Chosen by the Companions, sentient white, horselike creatures of magical origin. Between Herald and Companion exists a close mental bond. Companions communicate through mindspeech with their Chosen. Those Chosen come from all classes and are mostly Talented people, who have mindpowers, the gift of magic or other special skills.
Apart from the Heralds Collegium, there is also the Bardic and the Healer's Collegium, both talents being more or less magical as well.
The books span several eras, some take part in other countries of Velgarth, but there is always a connection to Valdemar. The best of the books, in my opinion, are the "Vanyel"books or the "Last Herald Mage"-Trilogy. Vanyel, the main character is a young man, who dreams of being a bard, but finds himself thrown into a role he never wanted, Chosen under the worst possible circumstances. He becomes one of the most powerful Herald Mages of Valdemar, his duty to his king and friend and to his country seeming to deny him the peace he so desperately craves. One day Vanyel finds, that Valdemar's Herald Mages one after another fall prey to an unknown foe. He alone can save Valdemar and prepare it for a future without Mages to protect the kingdom.
Vanyel is a wonderful tragic hero, a very intense character, for whom the reader can't help but care deeply. I cried my heart out, reading the books and Vanyel has had a special place in my heart ever since.
The American edition of the books all feature a beautiful cover illustration by Jody Lee (see picture on the left), a successful and very talented artist. For me, a good cover picture is very important, since a book should be more than just paper and ink, but a work of art.
For a bibliography of Mercedes Lackey's books click here
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Also top on the list, Kate Elliott is writing both Science Fiction and Fantasy. In her "Jaran" series she paints a magnificent picture of alien and not so alien cultures. This is Science Fiction for people that love good and convincing characters who move in a perfectly worked out world. Kate Elliott has put a lot of care in the Jaran culture, an astonishing example of a convincing matrilinear society, that has nothing to do with the clichés of matriarchy. The characters are real and 3-dimensional.
Earth has been conquered by an alien, humanoid race, the Chapalii. Their rule is not hard and earth is prospering, but the urge for freedom is there nevertheless.
Tess is the sister and heir of the man who led and lost the fight against the Chapalii, and who was suprisingly honoured with a dukedom. She journeys to the planet Rhui, where unexpected circumstances lead her to being deserted far from any known civilisation. Rhui is a restricted world, and it's peoples know nothing of Space travel.
She falls in love with Ilya, the war leader of a Jaran tribe, and from there unfolds a magnificent adventure, that sweeps the reader away, over the steppes and plains of Rhui and beyond.
Kate Eliott has also written a number of Fantasy novels, including "Crown of Stars", a four part series.
In these books she has taken the itinerant kings of the late Dark Ages as a model for her world. Again, she indulges in cultural detail, never letting the characters act outside of their world. All is woven into one perfect rug of power, intrigue, magic and love. It is more a historic novel than Fantasy in style and language.
The Jaran Novels:
The Crown of Stars Series:
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Lisanne is the author of the "Sholan Alliance" Series. The story deals with the meeting and merging of two species, humans from earth and it's colony Keiss and the Sholans, a feline/humanoid species with advanced space travel technologies.
Telepathy is a treasured and valued gift on Shola, whereas the humans have yet to cope with the reality of that ability.
All begins with Carrie, a human woman on the colony of Keiss, and Kusac, a Sholan telepath stranded on a reconaissance mission. Keiss is occupied by the Valtegans, a martial reptilian species.
Carrie and Kusac form a unique telepathic link, which is the start of a great change in both human and sholan cultures.
Focussing on telepathy, culture, and emotional interaction and not so much on technology, Lisanne's books are great reading. The Sholan culture is well worked out, the reader is drawn into the world of Shola and it's history, that unfolds before his eyes in a colourful tapestry.
It is absolutely necessary to read them in order, since it is pretty much one story packed in several books.
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Tanya writes modern and spirited fantasy with loveable characters. In most of her worlds people are what I call omnisexual, they don't have categories like we have, relationships are equally possible with both the opposite and the same sex.
My favourite are the "Quarter" Series. They are mostly about Bards, and I love bardic stuff and music in Fantasy, being a musician myself. We have a classical setting of modern Fantasy: a small kingdom, with a Capital that is the main location. Other kingdoms around it, who are mostly trouble. A Bardic Collegium. A royal house with very human royals. And the Bards, of course, who are the magicians of the country. Bardic talents come in four categories, talent for air, fire, water and earth. Some have only one, some have 2 or 3. Very few can "sing the four quarters". The idea is that all four elements are represented by the "kigh", spiritlike beings, that only the bards can see and influence by their songs.
The setting of the Quarter books is sometimes reminiscent of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar, but Huff's books are more mature.
Oh yes, and they all have cool Jodi Lee Covers as well ;-)
The Quarter Series:
Other Novels to be recommended:
Very modern Fantasy. Mostly female leads. Not polite, not epic, straight to the point. Gotta love it!! Mind ye I have not nearly read all the stuff she wrote.
Most recommendable is her new series "The Secret Texts". It is a good bit darker and deeper than the 3 loveable books about the sorceress Faya and her mates, which are the only other series I know.
The Secret Texts is about Kait, a young woman who is cursed by being a shapechanger. Her world is ruled by two powerful Houses whose only purpose is to extinguish the other. Belonging to one of these houses, she is a diplomat who soon finds herself outcast and thrown in the middle of events, that will forever change the face of her world. An Ancient caste of Sorcerers is plotting to come back from the void where they have dwelled for centuries. Ruthless, cruel, self-centered, they have already caused a terrible cataclysm in the past. Now they threaten to destroy the only hope of the world for eternal peace.
Kait and her shapechanger counterpart of the rival family are thrown together in a bond, that is part of their curse, too strong to resist. They and a group of peaceful magic-users stand up against the Evil that is overshadowing their country.
The Secret Texts:
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