Archive for December, 2012

Once again I’m taking part in a Blog Publicity Tour – this time for Cephrael’s Hand by Melissa McPhail. I have read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. A review will be coming later on in the week. Here’s a short extract.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Cephrael’s Hand, a spellbinding epic fantasy by Melissa McPhail. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

 

Ean hugged the shadows as he tried to find his way back to le Comte’s estates. He feared they’d hurt his head worse than he thought, for the twisting alleys of the city disoriented him now. He was sure he’d passed the last street corner already once, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was walking in circles.

Trying to break the cycle, he turned into a long and shadowed alley, spotting a streetlamp at the other end. Abruptly a form reared out of the shadows. Ean reached for his sword—

“…Ean?”

The prince halted with his hand around the hilt. “Fynn?”

“Balls of Belloth!” Fynnlar crossed the distance in a rush and grabbed him by both shoulders, giving him a shake. “What are you doing out here, you wool-brained fool?”

“I might ask the same of you, cousin.” Pushing a hand to his throbbing head, Ean closed his eyes. He’d seen so much death since the last moon…so many lives lost, and for what? He couldn’t fathom the events that spun violently around him, only knowing they somehow had him caught in the whirlwind.

“Ean, are you unwell?”

“Hit my head pretty hard,” the prince murmured, lifting tired eyes to refocus on his cousin. “I’ll be all right.”

“Come on. We’d best keep moving.”

The prince shook off the numbness edging his thoughts and followed his cousin. Fog was rising from the river as they headed back toward le Comte’s villa, fat fingers sliding through the streets to leach the color from the night. They reached a corner, and Fynn paused and looked warily around.

“Fynn, what are we waiting fo—”

But the words stuck on Ean’s tongue, for he heard it then: a strange whispering, the whisk of silk across the rough edge of glass. The sound had prickly tentacles that pierced into the soft flesh of Ean’s inner ear and twisted there, making him cringe.

Something flew out of the shadows and Ean swung his head after it, straining to make out what he’d seen. “What in Tiern’aval was that?”

Grimly, Fynn held his sword before him. “A Wildling—a Whisper Lord.”

The whispering continued, tormenting, growing soundlessly louder until it shrieked inside Ean’s skull, shattering any hope of focus.

The Wildling shot out of the shadows again, and Ean forced his eyes to follow, to find him in the shadows where he hid.

There.

He saw him lurking against the wall, smiling around big white teeth. His leathery skin was pitch black , and his eyes were golden like the desert sands. The man locked gazes with him, and—

Suddenly they were nose to nose. Ean felt the heat of his breath in the same moment that the fiery sting of steel pierced his flesh.

Shade and darkness!

“Ean, he cut you!”

“I’m all right.” But Ean grimaced as he gingerly probed the wound. “Shadow take the abominable creature.” Fynn gave him a long look. “Be ready,” and he rushed to meet the Wildling.

The fight turned instantly vicious. Whisper Lord fought with long, stiletto daggers that speared like claws out of his gloves. His hands crisscrossed with amazing speed, never failing to find their mark on Fynn’s person, while his body twisted and spun. Fynn’s thrusts in turn only seemed to meet with the slashed silk of his garments. So fast did the Whisper Lord dart and cavort that Ean at first felt helpless to join in, for he could barely see the Wildling move until after it had happened, as if the sight had to bounce off the back of his eyes…as if he could only see the man’s reflection.

Then Ean found his focus and rushed to help Fynn.

The Whisper Lord marked him before he even got his blade around, a long swipe at the joining of neck and shoulder that burned bitterly. Ean realized that trying to use his sword alone would get him killed, so he pulled his dagger and dove in again. The Whisper Lord dodged like a jumping spider and managed in the same maneuver to slash a deep cut across Ean’s thigh, his daggers flashing first with the silver of steel and then dark with blood. Ean snarled a curse and staggered into the wall, teeth clenched against the pain, for the wound was angry and deep.

Abruptly Fynn threw himself backwards, himself narrowly avoiding a deadly thrust to his gut. Those spine-like blades sliced a chunk of flesh out of his side instead. The royal cousin clenched his teeth and held one hand to his midriff, using the other to pull himself out of reach.

Ean dove at the creature with renewed determination, his battered head forgotten in his haste to keep the man away from Fynn. He wore a malicious grin as they battled, and his golden gaze was flecked and sparkling against his face of leathery pitch. As Ean’s strength failed, the Wildling grinned even broader and began to chant in a voice like sand, “Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal! Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!” Over and over while he pressed Ean on the retreat; gleefully, like a madman.

And then he made a sudden thrust, and Ean jumped to avoid the slashing daggers that barely missed his throat. He came down unevenly on his bad leg, and his knee buckled. Stumbling, he hissed a curse and the man bore down on him. A swipe of his hand, and three spiny daggers cut deeply across Ean’s back with their sharp fire. The Wildling’s other hand darted for his throat again, but the prince veered and twisted so the blades caught his chin and cheek instead. Ean rolled and thrust upward, but the Wildling merely laughed and arched out of his way; the weapon met only the whisper of silk.

Ean lay panting. His dagger seemed lost along with his will, and desperation could no longer drive him on.

The Whisper Lord advanced slowly wearing a grim smile. With the shrieking noise still accosting his skull and the loss of blood and nausea in his stomach, Ean felt only numb acceptance. Shaking, he lowered his head—

A tall form pushed past him, knocking Ean aside as it rushed to engage the Whisper Lord, driving the Wildling back and away, taking the battle out of Ean’s hands.

Ean fell onto his back, gasping as the last of his strength bled out of him, and lay watching his rescuer take offensive control.

The woman’s brown half-cloak floated behind her as she advanced with long, fast strides, forcing the Whisper Lord on the retreat beneath two short swords wielded in a flashing figure-eight.

The Wildling smiled no longer. Every thrust and swipe of his daggers was blocked by the woman’s whirling black blades. She matched him stride for stride, spinning when he spun, darting as he did, dodging as he lunged. They performed a ferocious, twisting dance of death where both knew the steps intimately and took them with ease.

As Ean watched, the Wildling slashed his daggered gloves in a motion that should’ve gutted the woman, but she flipped out of his reach, thrusting long as she landed. Her sword met with the flesh of his side, drawing a hiss as he jumped back. He glared malevolently at her and pressed one palm to his side.

“Merdanti,” he snarled, his golden eyes hot as they assessed her black blades.

Arching brows with a predatory smile, she twirled her blades and lunged for him again, and once more the dance began, the meeting of their deadly weapons a rhythmic beating that seemed in time with Ean’s still-racing heart.

And then—

Ean thought he must’ve dreamed it, his tortured mind inventing an impression for what clearly defied explanation. The woman and the Wildling seemed to shift and slow, their cloaks floating as if suspended on the wind. Then the woman launched out of her turn so quickly that Ean lost sight of her, only to spot her again as she stood squarely before her opponent, blades crossed. With naught but a grimace of effort, she chopped her short swords crosswise through the Wildling’s neck, removing his head completely. His body toppled to the stones at her feet, paying respects to her skill.

Silence hung in the street, a palpable blanket sewn of incredulity fringed with pain.

The woman lowered her dripping blades and leveled tawny eyes on the prince…

 

Cephrael Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael’s Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Cephrael’s Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Review – Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Posted: December 30, 2012 in Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

It’s always fun when you pick up a great read unexpectedly. I first saw this book on the Tor website, where they were offering the first five chapters for free. The concept seemed very fresh (although reminiscent of the Three Fates from Greek/Roman mythology – can’t go wrong with an age-old story) and intriguing so I picked up the free five chapter sample.

Before long I’d finished the first five chapters, and happily bought the full book. It really sucked me in. The premise of a girl who has the power to literally weave people’s life stories and that of her region proved as intriguing as my initial reaction and I really like where Albin seems to be taking this in the next book in the series. The characters were engaging enough, with about the depth you’d expect from a young adult novel. Adelice is no Arya Stark, but then again she’s no Bella Swan Cullen either. The novel is written purely from Adelice’s point of view, so she – and the reader – are never entirely sure which of the people she meets can be trusted. This increases the tension nicely.

This is in a similar vein to The Hunger Games, and if you enjoyed that, you will certainly enjoy this. It’s well worth reading

I gave Crewel five stars out of five

So on my day off work this week I took a trip to Plattsburgh NY to purchase a Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve wanted one ever since Jeff Bezos presented the project launch back in early September, but they are not available to ship to Canada. I’ve been keeping an eye on Bestbuy.com for stock information and when they came in stock last week I decided to go ahead and purchase one.

The bad
When I first got it home, my initial reaction was, well, it’s nice, but not overwhelmingly so. I had been keen to see the new UI, but was exceptionally frustrated to know that as I had the cheaper special offers version there was only room for THREE books on the home screen in the new Cover View. THREE!!! Three!!! The rest of the space is taken up by Amazon advertising. That is ridiculous. Fortunately a quick Google search helped somewhat. Hint:

From Home screen go to Settings -> Device Options -> Personalise Your Kindle and turn off Recommended Content. This will give you an extra three books on your home screen. Having said that, it is lovely to have book covers as a home screen rather than just lines of text.

In this iteration, Amazon has dropped the physical home button – presumably to save space. It has been replaced by a virtual home button at the top left of the screen. I assure you I didn’t realise how much I used that button until it disappeared. I really hope Amazon brings it back.

You should be aware that in this version of the Kindle, Amazon has dropped support for text to speech and audiobooks. This is not a deal breaker for me as I listen to my Audible content on my iPhone. However, if audio support is important to you, the Kindle Paperwhite is not for you.

It has also halved the storage capacity of the device from 4Gb to 2Gb. My free space has dropped from 2348Mb free on my Kindle Touch to 717Mb free on the Paperwhite. However as the average ebook is only about a quarter to half an Mb, I have enough room left for a while. On my Kobo Glo I have 1129 Mb left.

The good
In my use of the device so far, the new capacitive touch screen is responsive, although currently page turns on the Kindle Touch and Kobo Glo are noticeably faster than on the new Kindle Paperwhite. The Paperwhite is currently busy indexing all my books, so I anticipate this will speed up significantly once this is completed.

As with all Kindle products, the setup was exceptionally easy. It found and connected to my home wifi network with no problem, and as soon as I entered my Amazon account details all my content was available to me.

I like the way they’ve separated Cloud content from Device content. As the storage space has been significantly reduced, it’s clear Amazon is pushing you to their Cloud. As I’m not yet nearing the limit of my device storage it’s not such a big deal for me.

The new “time to read” function is quite fun. The book I’m currently reading at the moment, Cephrael’s Hand by Melissa McPhail, doesn’t have chapter divisions, so it can’t tell me about the chapter, but it’s been interesting to see how much time I have left in the book. I haven’t finished it yet, so not sure how accurate it is at this point.

The frakking GORGEOUS
The screen. What can I say about the screen? It is GORGEOUS. Here are two photos comparing it to the Kindle Touch and the Kobo Glo, although I don’t think they do it justice.

Kindle Touch vs Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Touch vs Kindle Paperwhite

Kobo Glo vs Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Glo

I have the light setting to 11 of 22 for moderate lighting conditions and it really doesn’t look as though there is a light on at all, it just lightens the screen and heightens the contrast beautifully. There is some minor shading at the bottom where the LEDs are, but it is barely noticeable to me (I know some people are sensitive to this) and certainly didn’t detract from reading.

The new fonts are also beautiful. Normally, I don’t bother too much with fonts, concentrating more on the content than the packaging, but the new ones are simply stunning.

Although the Kindle Touch’s screen and contrast are also good, I’d compare this to reading a cheap mass market paperback (Touch) compared to a high quality hardback (Kindle Paperwhite).

I use my ereader on a daily basis, so this is a worthwhile upgrade for me, and if you were to upgrade, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.

This afternoon I saw The Hobbit and it’s really been bugging the heck out of me why Peter Jackson is padding out The Hobbit so much with the additional material. The whole Hobbit narrative – Bilbo’s adventure There and Back Again, which is a sweet adventure tale in which the threats Bilbo faces are mainly physical (goblins, orcs, spiders all try to kill and/or eat him) and how his character develops – really jarred for me with the whole Necromancer, Morgul blade metaphysical menace.

But now I think I get it. Peter Jackson isn’t making another trilogy. He’s doing the next three movies in a six-movie set, which just happen to be set before the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. It appears he is aiming for a cohesive narrative throughout the three Hobbit movies and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I will reserve judgement until the last movie to say if he is any more successful than George Lucas with his dreadful prequels to the Star Wars movies. Just please no more 10 minute chase scenes of Radagast the Brown in a sled pulled by freaking BUNNIES!!! Aarrgh.

One thing that did really detract from the movie was that too many of the action scenes were near replicas of scenes from the LotR trilogy. Escape from the goblin cave? Like the bridge at Khazad Dhum. Gandalf stuck on top of a high place with no hope of escape? Catch a friendly fluttery creature and send it for the eagles. Overbalancing rocks bridging a gap separating the members of our Company? Check. This is highlighted by Howard Shore’s almost identical scoring of the relevant scenes.

Where The Hobbit does excel though is in the character moments. It is a fantastic casting choice of Martin Freeman as our friendly everyman Hobbit adventurer Bilbo Baggins. He expertly handles Bilbo’s lighter comedic moments as well as his more serious ones, notably the riddle scene with Andy Serkis’s Gollum and the scene towards the end where he explains to the dwarves that he returned to help them get their home back. Sadly it doesn’t appear that he is going to get the award recognition for it.

I also really enjoyed Ken Stott’s Balin and Aiden Turner’s Kili. The strong cast is a hopeful sign for Jackson’s being able to pull off the cohesive six movie deal, but again I will wait until the third part to say.

On the 8th of January, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, will be released. It has been completed by Brandon Sanderson who was tasked with the commission after Robert Jordan's untimely passing. This is the third such book written by Sanderson.

I should preface this entry by noting that, while I am a big fan of the series, I am not a superfan who has analysed each and every word. I should also note that there may be some minor spoilers here based on the already published prologue and first chapters of the book, and also from Tor's "Memories of Light" snippets. I'm also assuming you have read all of the preceding books!

As at the end of Towers of Midnight, the Last Battle is imminent. I believe the LB will be fought on three levels: the physical, in the dream world Tel'aran'rhiod and with the One Power. This matches up well with the unique skills of our six heroes. For the physical we have Mat Cauthon, with the skills and knowledge of the best generals of the Age, Elayne with her political power as Queen of Andor and Cairhien. For Tel'aran'rhiod we have Egwene, the first Dreamer in many centuries and Perrin, Wolfbrother with extensive experience in the Wolf Dream. For the One Power we have Rand and Nynaeve, two of the strongest channellers of the Age. I am expecting the forces of the light to be under attack in all three areas. We have already seen hordes of Trollocs begin to attack and Taim has been preparing the Dreadlords to fight with the One Power for the dark side. We have not seen the dark side achieve much in Tel'aran'rhiod yet, but I imagine that will come; moreover, Perrin's nemesis Slayer lurks there still. There are still multiple prophecies left to be fulfilled, and while I hope we see their fulfilment, I hope Team Jordan also has a few surprises up its sleeve. I will try to gather my thoughts by character.

Rand
Rand has a Date with Fate at Shayol Ghul. Prior to this, he has to win the support of Team Light for his decision to break the Seals to the Dark One's prison. One thing to which I am looking forward is the conference at the Fields of Merrilor. One of the major gripes of the series is that the characters don't communicate vital information. I would hope that this conference will allow for good information sharing. That is a major advantage of Team Light; they actually trust and like one another. This is contrasted with the backstabbing and treachery of the Forsaken amongst one another. In this same vein, I believe that Team Light's ability to form circles will give them a decided edge over Team Dark. I hope that the spilt in Team Light to destroy or not to destroy the Seals will not last too long. It is also a tempting target for any Team Dark assault… Rand must also try to broker a deal with the Seanchan – the Dragon's Peace referred to in Aviendha's future vision. One aspect I'm keen to see unfold is the discrepancy between the Randland and Seanchan prophecies about whether Rand will bow to the Empress or vice versa. I feel that will be key plot point, but I have no clue how this will be resolved. RaFO as Robert Jordan used to say.

Rand is also fated to die at Shayol Ghul. Several prophecies, Dreams and Viewings seem to indicate this. Rand/The Dragon is portrayed almost as a Christlike Redeemer figure, dying at Shayol Ghul. I believe that Rand will indeed die, but that in keeping with the theme and the foreshadowing of Nynaeve's Healing someone "three days dead" I don't believe he'll remain dead for good.  The Prophecies of the Dragon say Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.  I believe this could imply that Rand will be 13×13'd at Shayol Ghul and Alivia will have to kill him.   

In the mythology of the Wheel of Time, time is circular. in each turning, Aes Sedai drill through the Dark One's prison in search of a new power source and the Dragon has to reseal the Bore to reimprison the Dark One in his prison. As Robert Jordan chose to write about this particular turning, we can probably assume this one will be different. Rand has spoken of attempting to kill the Dark One this turning. At this point I have no clue how he intends to achieve that, although Callandor being used in a circle with Moiraine and Nynaeve would be a reasonable guess. 

Perrin
Perrin's main plot point seems to be with the Wolf Dream and dealing with Slayer. In the Great Hunt Min has a viewing about Perrin that twice he would have to be there for Rand or something bad would happen. The first was clearly his assistance in rescuing Rand from his kidnapping by the Tower Aes Sedai at the Battle of Dumai's Wells. From the Memories of Light spoiler series we have this quote: "We must spread the word to all of our allies," Amys said. "We must not use this weave." and "Nobody travels the Ways," Ituralde said, aghast. I believe the first refers to the weave for Traveling: Male channelers describe the forming of a gateway with saidin as "boring a hole in the Pattern" to the channeler's destination. Forming a gateway with saidar is done by creating a similarity in the Pattern, then stepping through the gateway to the channeler's destination. It could be they discover that Traveling damages the already frail Pattern and cannot risk using it again. One property of Tel'aran'rhiod is that it is possible to enter it in the flesh to move quickly from place to place. This is precedented in Egwene's journey to Salidar to become the Amyrlin Seat for the rebel Aes Sedai. It seems very possible that Rand will feel obliged to use Tel'aran'rhiod to travel to Shayol Ghul or somewhere else and will be in grave danger. This could very well be the second time that Perrin has to be there for Rand.

Mat
Mat seems to have a busy time ahead of him. He has to deliver Moraine to Rand, fetch and presumably blow the Horn of Valere and act as Team Light's General in Chief and according to the synopsis, meet with Tuon again. Nicola Foretold The great battle done, but the world not done with battle. The land divided by the return, and the guardians balance the servants. The future teeters on the edge of a blade. This would suggest that even after the Dark One is defeated, there will still be battle especially with the Seanchan. This seems to tie in with Aviendha's harsh vision of the future. One of the key turning points of that vision is the death of Tuon. "The edge of a blade" would fit in with Mat's learning of assassination plots against her in the rereleased excerpt from chapter 11 of A Memory of Light. I expect then that part of Mat's plot line in AMoL will be attempting to defeat the assassins.

Egwene
I think Egwene's storyline in AMoL will be connected to the Seanchan. She has had visions of being aided by a Seanchan, and now Eaganin has turned up in her entourage. Coincidence? I think not. I don't think Egwene will have anything to do with the Battle at Shayol Ghul but rather the Seanchan. She could have to try to work with the Seanchan to achieve the Dragon's Peace that so far Rand has failed to do. This would be a great character development for Egwene – ever since her imprisonment as a damane in The Great Hunt she has had an extreme hatred of the Seanchan. Overcoming that might be a greater challenge for her than undermining Elaida or fighting the Seanchan. As I mentioned above, her skill in Tel'aran'rhiod could well involve her working with Perrin to protect Rand in the World of Dreams.

Nynaeve
Nynaeve clearly has to go to Shayol Ghul with Rand. The cover art says so, so there! Presumably she is one of the two women who link with Rand to use Callandor. There has been too much foreshadowing of her Healing death for her not do undertake this in AMoL, and I believe it will be for Rand.

Elayne
I'm not sure what Elayne's role will be in AMoL other than to help convince the other rulers of Rand's plan at the Fields of Merrilor and use her political power to co-ordinate the defence against the physical threats of the Last Battle – the hordes of Trollocs etc. She also has to give birth to her twins, although I'm not certain that the timeline will go on that long. Elaida Foretold that someone in House Trakand will be key to winning the Last Battle, so either Gawyn or Elayne must play a critical role. I'm not certain what that might be though.

Moiraine
She will be the second woman to go with Rand to Shayol Ghul. She has to be the second woman to link with Rand to use Callandor. Whether or not this is enough to justify her description as "the woman without whom Rand would fail" and the "woman who will save the world" I'm not certain. Up until Gathering Storm I had thought it might be her role to bring Rand back from his self-imposed emotional exile, but that seems to have been accomplished by his epiphany on Dragonmount. I have no clue what other part she might play. I also have no clue on how Callandor will function as a key to winning the Last Battle.

Aviendha
Her major plot line has to be her attempt to prevent her vision of the Aiels' humiliation and destruction. Her initial thought is that that she needs to change the name of one of her kids as a start. I don't think she'll leave it at that. Of course she will need to have some alone time with Rand first to become pregnant in the first place… A second key point in the vision is the Aiel's not being committed to the Dragon's Peace. I imagine Aviendha will be instrumental in working with the Aiel to get their full commitment to their Car 'a Carn.

Demandred and the other Foresaken
Ah. Our old friend Demandred. He has been hiding in the background for all of the last few books and has generated much speculation as to his alias. I have no idea who he is hiding as, but I really hope he kicks some ass. Not that I'm on Team Dark, but given the incompetence of many of the other Forsaken and the long build up he'll need to really up the game to justify his existence. At this point, Team Light seems to be in a reasonably good position. Rand has got over his emotional issues, Egwene has reunited the split White Tower and purged many of the Black Ajah. Mat has rescued Moraine who is considered a key to winning the Last Battle. Team Light has plans to sit down and hold a conference to decide how to proceed. Of the Forsaken, only Demandred, M'Hael, Lanfear, Moghedien and Moridin are still alive and of whom Lanfear and Moghedien are under mind control and not able to act. I fully expect Demandred and Moghedien to come up with real and unexpected obstacles for Team Light in AMoL, although I'm a little concerned that there is already a lot to cover without new threats.

Taim and The Black Tower
This is another thread I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. This appears to be one of the big chinks in Team Light's armour. I still cannot believe they are unaware that Taim has turned it into a Dreadlord factory with the use of 13 Dreadlords channelling through 13 Myrddraal. I'm sure Pevara and Androl and their double Warder bond will play a big part in this. I am concerned for Logain based on the early release chapters of AMoL. He appears to have been 13×13'd and although Min has predicted future glory for him, that doesn't necessarily mean glory for Team Light… Also, Egwene once had a dream in which Logain steps over what she believes to be Rand's corpse, sits on a throne and laughs maniacally, while Rand's corpse collapses into leaves. This would tend to suggest that Logain will not work for Team Light. I fully anticipate the Battle for the Black Tower will take up a fair chunk of the first part of the book. Androl for head Asha'man anyone?

The Gollum Wlldcard aka Padan Fain
Padan Fain has been described by Robert Jordan as something new to this turning of the Wheel and has been likened to Gollum of The Lord of the Rings. Brandon Sanderson has personally assured Jason Denzel of Dragonmount that Fain will NOT bite off Rand's finger and fall into a fiery chasm. One thing that struck me about Aviendha's future vision is that her sons and daughters are described as permanently connected to the Source, and there is no mention of any taint for wielders of saidin. I believe that Fain's role will be to absorb the Dark One's backlash as the Dark One is destroyed or reimprisoned thereby preventing the taint from corrupting saidin and/or saidar and avoiding a new Breaking of the world. The evil of Mashadar's negating the Dark One's touch has been precedented by the Cleansing of saidin and also of the sealing of Rand's wounds.

Other Characters
There are so many other characters who will have a part to play. The Aiel Wise Ones, Lan, Cadsuane, Alivia, Galad, Gawyn. I have no idea though what part they will play. I guess I'll have to RaFO.

In Summary
There are strong hints to the way some story lines may play out but I believe Jordan and Sanderson will have a few surprises in store. I can't wait to read it (or actually, listen to it as I've pre-ordered it on Audible)

First of all, apologies for the delay in posting. It's been a busy few weeks on both a personal and work level, so I have not been able to post much. Anyway, here I am!

Some of the books I've read recently have led to some natural comparisons. Two of these are Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. These both have in common a theme of magic and mystery being hidden within books, a love of reading, and also a setting which couldn't be anywhere other than in the present day, within the last few years. There were references to the dot.com crash and Google and the Twilight series. Personally, that second point is something which irritated me. I feel it limits the books' durability.

While Libriomancer was more of a traditional good vs evil fantasy, Penumbra is more of a mystery in which the protagonist attempts to resolve an ages old mystery hidden within books. I found it a fresh and entertaining concept. I had a few issues with the magic system in Libriomancer. Brandon Sanderson, considered one of the better contemporary developers of magic systems, wrote a couple of essays on what he terms Sanderson's First Law in which he states that "An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic." and Sanderson's Second Law in which he states that "Limitations should be greater than the Power." In Libriomancer the magician can reach into books and literally pull out any magic artifacts mentioned there. The only limitations are that the item must be small enough to be drawn out of a book and that certain artefacts (Harry Potter's Elder Wand and Sauron's One Ring, for example) have been magically sealed away. I felt that this led to the ending's being rather a deus ex machina. Having said that, this was balanced by the fun I had picking out all the fantasy references. I still can't quite believe he went for "Sanguinarius Meyerii." (if you want to know, read the book!)

Two other books I read that lean themselves to comparison are The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer and The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. Both of these are young adult fantasy, and both of these adhere to many major fantasy tropes. Note: don't click on that link unless you have several hours to spare… Despite this, both books have engaging characters and interesting, if predictable, storylines. What lifted Land of Stories above other similar books was Colfer's witty and intelligent writing style. Many times I found myself giggling at a particularly pithy turn of phrase. In comparison Emerald Atlas seems almost join-the-dots dull. That's not to say I didn't actually enjoy it. I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, The Fire Chronicle, and feel the writing has improved considerably.

The final comparison I'd like to explore is not between two books, but of two authors who are sometimes compared; The Quebecoise Anne Robillard is sometimes described as the Quebecois Tolkien, and indeed in her bio on her website she acknowledges Tolkien's influence on her writing. Mme Robillard has become one of my favourite authors, and I had the pleasure recently of meeting her at the Montreal Salon du Livre at which .

My personal opinion is that she would be better described as the Quebecois George R.R. Martin (who was described by Time as the American Tolkien!) I believe this is a better comparison because it matches more closely the relative strengths and weaknesses of the authors concerned. Like many fantasy readers, I adore Tolkien and agree with popular opinion that he is the father of modern fantasy. His world building is second to none, however his character development, particularly that of female characters, is rather weak. Both Martin and Robillard have given us wonderful, memorable, three dimensional characters (Wellan, Kira, Tyrion, Arya).

They also favour character development over plot development. There are 12 tomes in Robillard's Chevaliers d'Emeraude (I'm on book nine), and currently five in A Song of Ice and Fire with at least another two to come, and plot development is slow compared to say Brandon Sanderson or Brent Weeks. This is balanced by wonderful character development and the fascination of seeing how they characters react to a situation in book five as compared to how they would have reacted in book one. For these reasons I consider Robillard more like Martin than Tolkien.

Let me know if you have any comments or any books you would like me to review.