Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier
Fantasy – Blackthorn and Grim, #1 of ?
I fished out the rusty nail from under my pallet and scratched another mark on the wall. Tomorrow was midsummer, not that a person could tell rain from shine in this cesspit. I’d been here a year. A whole year of filth and abuse and being shoved back down the moment I lifted myself so much as an inch. Tomorrow, at last, I’d get my chance to speak out. Tomorrow I would tell my story.
An imprisoned former healer, Blackthorn makes a bargain with a stranger that she will return to her old profession for 7 years, during which she will give help to anyone who asks for it and only use her gifts for good. In exchange, he helps her escape. With a fellow prisoner, her strong and silent cell-mate Grim, she settles near the village of Winterfalls… but Blackthorn and Grim are left bitter and traumatized by their pasts, and the two of them struggle to rebuild their lives. When Prince Oran and asks for their help in a delicate matter, Blackthorn is unable to turn him down.
Dreamer’s Pool seems very thoughtful and slow at first, which is why I was completely caught off guard when I realized, somewhere along the way, that the plot had taken off like a bat out of hell and I was completely hooked. I started it in an afternoon, had trouble putting it down so that I could go eat supper, eschewed a delicious homemade dessert afterwards so that I could get back to reading, and finished it later that evening. I was completely drawn in by the writing and hopelessly addicted to the plot.
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Review: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
Historical Fantasy – Standalone
“A man might desire something for a moment, while a larger part of him rejects it. You’ll need to learn to judge people by their actions, not their thoughts.”
A lonely man commissions a disgraced rabbi to create him a perfect wife, a clay Golem who will be always obedient. When her husband and master dies en route from Poland to America at the end of the 19th century, she is left alone and directionless in a new and unfamiliar world.
Imprisoned in a flask, a Jinni is freed to discover he is far from his home in the Syrian Desert, and bound to a physical form in the mortal world. As he adjusts to his new life, and his new home in New York City, he meets the Golem. This is the story of their friendship as they both try to figure out what they want out of their lives, and how they fit into their new communities.
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Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is: DISGUISES
Hiding in plain site? Put on a disguise. Often used to sneak into the evil lair. For best results brain a guard and steal his; no one is tracking these things.
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Review: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Urban fantasy – Standalone
“I was afraid you’d turn into one of those literary types who say books can change the world when they’re feeling good about themselves and it’s only a book when anybody challenges them… You can speak casually about burning the Alf Yeom for the same reason you’d be horrified if I suggested burning the Satanic Verses—because you have reactions, not convictions.”
A young hacker, going by the nickname Alif, finds himself the target of an authoritarian government when he creates a highly desirable and dangerous computer program, able to identify people via keystroke patterns. The political and the technological collide with the spiritual and fantastical when Alif is given an ancient book of tales (the Alf Yeom) told by the jinn, creatures out of Arabian mythology who turn out to be not so mythological. It transpires that the Alf Yeom contains a key of some kind, and it is up to Alif and his allies to try and keep both the Alf Yeom and his program out of the wrong hands.
G. Willow Wilson is best known right now for being the writer behind the new and very popular comic series featuring Kamala Khan, a young American Muslim woman, taking up the mantle of superhero Ms. Marvel. I am not much of a comics reader, but having heard such good stuff about Wilson, I still very much wanted to read her writing. Picking up her debut novel seemed the perfect way to do this, and for some extra motivation it was also the book of the month for March at the Mary Sue Regulars Book Club.
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Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Fantasy/Historical Fiction – Standalone
“Palaces have always fascinated me, even a gloom-filled structure like my father’s that was a fitting carapace for his vengeful obsession. For isn’t that what our homes are ultimately, our fantasies made corporeal, our secret selves exposed? The converse is also true: we grow to become that which we live within. That was one of the reasons why I longed to escape my father’s walls.”
The Palace of Illusions is retelling of the Mahabharata that focuses on the story of Panchaali, daughter of King Draupad: the princess born of fire, who married five husbands, and whose insatiable desire for vengeance would start a brutal, catastrophic war. I have never read the Mahabharata, which means that I cannot speak to how successful The Palace of Illusions is as a retelling or the ways it interacts with or enhances the original epic. As a further disclaimer, I bring no knowledge or insight on the Sanskrit epics, Hinduism, or Indian history in general, to my reading of the story. I can only speak about the potential experience to others for whom this might be their introduction to the Mahabharata and to this time and place in history—and I would say, it is a wonderful introduction.
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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Fantasy/Mythology – Standalone
“Hadn’t I been faithful? Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation – almost the compulsion – to do otherwise? And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been?”
I want to start this review by noting that Librarything.com suggested this book is often tagged ‘children’s stories’. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S STORY! Seriously! Who is giving this to children to read?! Do you want to scar your children for life???
Now that we have that out of the way… The Penelopiad is the story of Homer’s epic the Odyssey, retold from the point of view of his doting wife, Penelope. After the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus’ travels home are constantly waylaid. As he spends years adventuring around the Mediterranean, at home Penelope waits for him, hearing tales of his heroics and fending off increasingly insistent suitors who hope to acquire Odysseus’ land and wealth.
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