By: Neil Gaiman
With the movie out in theatres, I decided to check out the novel. My first reaction was on how thin the novel was; fantasy novels these days seem to come in what is called “door stoppers”. I mean, they’re normally huge. So you can imagine the surprise I felt upon picking up Stardust. It’s only ten chapters long and you can pretty much finish it in one evening (I did). Because of how short it is, there’s not much intricate detail into the environment of the Faerie lands. This isn’t a bad thing or anything; Gaiman gives you enough detail to paint an image in your head as to where Tristan and the star are going and the situations they encounter. The story is pretty straightforward and quite to the point but lovely all at the same time; Tristan’s adventure to find the star and bring it back across the wall is fantastical. Gaiman doesn’t go into every single battle he’s fought and every single one of the situations they come across on the road, but you get a sense that they’ve done a lot before reaching back to the Wall. And it’s enough, in my opinion, because the core of the story is very much there. There’s not a lot of books like this out there, so it’s a nice change. Definitely check this out if you’re looking for a quick but interesting read.
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The Blood Knight
By: Greg Keyes
The Blood Knight is the third book in Greg Keyes’s Kingdom of Thorns and Bone fantasy series (there are four books in this series). If you have never heard of this fantasy series, I definitely recommend it—it’s a unique series, the detail of the world in which this story takes place is just astonishing and the scope is amazing…Keyes has a knack for weaving all these intricate storylines and colourful characters together for this epic. It’s hard to summarize what this story is about…needless to say, it’s a real mix of politics, love, betrayal, mystery, suspense, war and shinecraft…the world of humans is changing with the reawakening of old forces and at the center of this story is the youngest daughter of the Royal family, Anne Dare. It’s a fairly dark fantasy in my opinion; the terror that these characters face are pretty dark and freaky in a way that I don’t think I’ve really come across in other fantasy series I’ve read, at least not at this level, which makes it even more engulfing. Book Three, The Blood Knight is action-packed from start to finish and the continuity is very much there (though I do hope that there will be some sort of appendix at the end of all this because I’ve been losing track of some of the lesser characters). There is a sense of the hefty risks attached to what’s going on getting even larger. I think this book wraps up much of the political problems that were laid down in book one, I guess to make way for the showdown with the more earth-shattering problems in this world. We do get some revelations, such as about the Sefry and we get to see more development in all of our characters, particularly Anne’s rise to becoming a truly queen-ly figure. The last few chapters were especially a kicker, which means the last book, The Born Queen (coming out in January 2008) will start right off the bat. All in all, a very enjoyable read to a very interesting fantasy series.
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The Children of Hurin
By: JRR Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)
Being the Tolkien fanatic I am, when I heard that The Children of Hurin was going to be released, I was beside myself. Granted, this story has shown up twice (well, when I was reading anyways) in The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales but seeing as Tolkien’s son Christopher had pieced the story together using all of his father’s notes, I figured it was going to be more fleshed out than the other two versions. And personally, I think it was more fleshed out and far more exciting to read than the previous versions.
For those of you who haven’t read either versions, this story is considered the longest of the “Lays of Beleriand”, stories from the First Age of Middle Earth. It focuses around the family of Hurin, a man who had descended from one of the three houses of Men (I hope I got that right, it’s been a while) and who challenged Melkor (who is even more sinister than Sauron) head-on. His defiance caused Melkor to place curse on all of Hurin’s family, particularly his children, that they may suffer all throughout their life. And his children—Hurin and Niniel—did suffer greatly. It’s a very tragic story; no matter what Turin did, he just could not escape Melkor’s curse.
There were certainly a lot of parts that I don’t remember having been in the story from the other versions, especially those involving Morwen and especially at the end, which I won’t mention of if you’ve never read any of the versions. What’s great about this story is that, although it is set in an earlier age of Middle Earth when none of the defining places we know from LOTR exist, it’s still relatively easy to follow and you don’t need to have read The Silmarillion to understand events that have happened before, really. But technicalities and chronology aside, the heart of the story is still as intact as it was in the other versions (maybe even more so than in the other versions—then again, I haven’t read the story for a few years now): the tragedy of Hurin’s family is very poignant and despite of Turin’s rash decisions and attitude and Morwen and Nienor’s stubbornness, you really feel for this family. I think that’s the key to this entire story: the tragedy of it all. Alan Lee’s illustrations spread throughout the hardcover edition is a plus; his artwork is always a pleasure to skim through and the images he contributed to this story really helps bring the story to life, really. Overall, this is a very enjoyable book to read (all bias aside) and well worth checking out.
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