Book Review: The Adams Gambit: A Thieftaker Novella by D. B. Jackson (four stars)

Book Review: The Adams Gambit: A Thieftaker Novella by D. B. Jackson (four stars)

“You’re a good man, Kaille. Sometimes I fear you’re too good.”

Excellent historical fiction novella. With a side of the mystical.  Jackson continues to develop Ethan Kaille into a nexus for the unraveling threads of British hegemony in Boston in the 1770s. Players on the great stage of American independence have walk-on parts in this thieftaker tale.

“One grows accustomed to such attention after a time.” “No,” Warren said, “one really doesn’t.”

Characters are varied and well-developed. Ensemble players from the series return and new characters appear. Despite everyone’s agnosticism toward the Salem trials a century before, witches and conjurers abound. And they’re real.

“She won’t be happy with me.” “Well, it wouldn’t be morning in Boston if Sephira Pryce wasn’t unhappy with you over something.”

Quibble: a round trip to Philadelphia would be the stuff of weeks if not months. Travel in general is too fast and too easy. Except when it fits the plot to not be.

“All’s calm just now, but I believe that’s an illusion.”

Book Review: Tales of the Thieftaker D. B. Jackson (four stars)

Book Review: Tales of the Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles #0.5) by D. B. Jackson (four stars)

“That’s probably more than we deserve.” “What we deserve and what befalls us are seldom one and the same.”

Better than average anthology of shorter stories. Many explore Ethan Kaille’s history, but “The Ruby Blade” is an essential background story for Thieftaker readers. “The Witch of Dedham” is poignant. All are standalone tales therefore necessitating much repetition of backstory.

“We don’t call ourselves witches. We’re conjurers, spellmakers, spellers even. Preachers rail against witchery as a tool of the devil. I don’t believe there’s evil in what I do.”

Eighteenth-century Boston and seafaring details enhance credibility. Anachronistic public displays of affection and “living in sin” which would have been as bad as witchcraft in that day, but mild to modern sensibilities.

“And I couldn’t stand to be relegated to such a place.” “And that’s your problem. You see a place. I see a life. There’s a difference.” “Dear God, I don’t know whether to weep or vomit.”

Book Review: Legacies by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Three Stars)

Book Review: Legacies (Corean Chronicles #1) by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Three Stars)

“Don’t you feel trapped? It doesn’t matter what we feel. It doesn’t matter what we want.” “That’s life. Someone always wants what someone else has. If you don’t fight for it, you lose what you have. If you do, some people die and lose anyway.”

Formulaic, but well done. Here is a master of epic fantasy starting a new series. World- and character-building two generations of fans love.

“…The brave, the craven, those who do not care, will all look back, in awe, and fail to see, whether rich, or poor, or young or old and frail, what was, what is, and what is yet to be…”

Heavy on stage directions and over-telling, but enjoyable nonetheless. It’s all too easy; never get a sense of existential crisis.

“What else could I say? What did you say?” “Same thing. I also told them you were part of the attack.” “That…and a bullet…will get them the same grave.” “You and I know that, but you’ve got a reputation.” 

Book Review: Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip (Three Stars)


Book Review: Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle Master #2) by Patricia A. McKillip

(Three Stars)

“There is an instinct in me to trust you blindly. Beyond reason, and beyond hope.”

Moderns whine the former dearth of recognized female authors and lead characters in speculative fiction. Like most generalizations that’s generally wrong. This book is a case in point. Published in 1977, it features a mostly female protagonist and supporting cast. Sadly, but understandably, the series male hero … (Oops, that’d be telling.)

“I know that silence … sometimes I think it’s a silence of living, then at other times, it changes to a silence of waiting.”

Simple, direct storytelling. Great impact. Hate to think how Robert Jordan would Continue reading

Book Review: “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinkser (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinkser

(Four Stars)

“Would you like to learn real magic?” The boy snorts. “There’s no such thing.”

Excellent short story. As with the best of any genre, it is compact and forceful. Little fluff; lots of misdirection.

“The Guild is for magicians who feel the need to compete with each other. The Palace trains magicians who feel compelled to compete against themselves.” It’s perhaps the truest thing I’ll ever tell him.

Read it at one sitting; it’s short enough. Let yourself go to the power and flow of the narrator. It increases the final impact.

“Is magic only a trick I haven’t figured out yet?”

(2019 Hugo Short Story Award finalist. Published in Lightspeed magazine. January 2018)

Book Review: Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (Five Stars)


Book Review: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan

Five Stars

“Some things are unimaginable right up until you are looking at them, and even then, you might not want to believe. Love is that way, so is death.”

If anything, better than the first book, Age of Myths. Superficially Sullivan is not an epic fantasy writer like Rothfuss or Tolkien, but he weaves an excellent story amid afresh, if derivative world. Part of the fun is his tongue-in-cheek homages to classic fantasy.

“I hated my brothers. Dead for three years and they’re still trying to kill me.”

Satisfying conclusion with appropriate hooks into the next stories. Well done. Leavened with humor. Not so much as the Riyria stores, but enough. Waited for second volume for magic school, hooray! And the training was organic, taking the reader inside Continue reading

Happy Solar Eclipse Day

ecl-pd-01-hires image

Today many millions of you will see a total eclipse. For many it’ll be the only total solar eclipse you ever see. Enjoy.

The younger among you will have the opportunity to see three total solar eclipses over the next thirty years. Enjoy.

While solar eclipses happen every eighteen months, supposedly total eclipses repeat for a given spot on earth average only every 375 years. We’re about to blow that theory out of the water. The 2017, 2024 and 2045 eclipses will give Americans lots of opportunities to see an eclipse. Since the 2024 north-south route bisects the other two (which are essentially parallel east-west), folks in two areas may see two eclipses without leaving home. Enjoy.

If you happen to be in the eclipsed area, don’t just look at the sun. (Don’t look at the sun at all without special eye protection.) Look around. As the eclipse gathers and fades the light will change. It’s like sunrise or sunset, but will look significantly different. Enjoy.

Here’s why: As the sun sets or rises it passes through more of the atmosphere, shifting the observed colors toward the red. During an eclipse, there’s no such shift. The colors stay true, but saturate. It’ll look like an over-Photoshopped pictures. It’ll look like magic.


Reading for Pleasure

A friend recently called reading a “fictional dream.” I totally agree. I liken it to the writer casting a spell upon the mind of the reader, which the reader welcomes.

Incongruities or just plain dullness can break the spell. (In science fiction, it’s most often crappy science. In fantasy, it’s often internal inconsistencies.) Then, no matter how good the setup or the storytelling, it’s hard to stay engaged.

Verisimilitude (following the thinking of Karl Popper) is critical at that point, making possible what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” While the suspension takes place in the reader’s mind, it is the responsibility of the writer to maintain the “spell” not waking the reader from the “dream.” J. R. R. Tolkien called it an “enchantment” which “produces a secondary world into which both designer and spectator can enter.” As distinguished from “magic” which “produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World” (from his essay “On Fairy Stories”).

I want to lose myself in the story. I want, for a short time, to be transported to a different time or place and be totally involved in the story.

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis