Title: The Shattered Vigil (The Darkwater Saga #2) Author: Patrick W. Carr Format/Pages: Paperback/464 pages ISBN: 978-0764213472 Release Date: November 01, 2016 Publisher: Bethany House Publishers Genre: Fantasy Source: NetGalley My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ of 5… More
Author: Fred L. Holmes
Website: F.L. Holmes
Release Date: March 30, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ of 5 stars
This review is based on a digital copy I received from Author Fred. L. Holmes. It is an honest and voluntary review and the complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.
Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.
To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.
Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.
She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .
Synopsis via Goodreads
If you have read “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” or “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” then you will enjoy this tale. It is not based upon those stories but rather is influenced by them and seems to beg the question “but what if it was real?” “What if the lamp survived time and what would be its purpose?” I needed to know what happened with Hannah after she rubbed the lamp which is why I decided to read a book that is in the genre of middle grade fiction, not my usual choice but sometimes you just got to go outside your comfort zone. This is an exciting tale that involves action, adventure, and a few lessons woven throughout.
When I began to read this story I was intrigued from the start. The storyline starts out more along the lines of fantasy and there are a few supernatural elements that I was not expecting, then it quickly turns into an adventure full of action but still continuing with the fantasy elements which just become more fantastical as the story goes on. There is a bit of horror in this book that some parents may not appreciate for their children. Without giving anything away thing there is killing in this book with fairly descriptive wording and talk of people being hunted and murdered. It is not overly done but it is something that should be noted. There are some lessons to be garnered throughout this story, in particular loss, grief, depression, and appreciation for roles that a parent plays in the life of a child.
I found that the pacing was prefect and the transition from past, present, and the fantastical were seamless. While reading you will find yourself feeling that certain parts of the story don’t quite add up but by the end it will all make sense and definitely was not what you were expecting. What was hard for me to get past is just a few points that are acceptable in juvenile fiction but unrealistic to me. They mostly involve the mother’s reaction, attitude to the entire situation and the budding romance element that was introduced between Hannah and Ahmed. Overall this is a truly unique story that at the heart of it discusses grief and how it can lead to unhealthy situations and that everything is not as it seems.
*Thank you to Fred L. Holmes for this complimentary copy of The Ugly Teapot*
Editors: Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes
Release Date: November 01, 2016
Genre/Sub-Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ of 5 stars
This review is based on an eARC I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review and the advanced receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
In this dark and gritty collection—featuring short stories from Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rob Thurman—nothing is as simple as black and white, light and dark, good and evil..
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes it so easy to cross the line.
In #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, Molly Carpenter—Harry Dresden’s apprentice-turned-Winter Lady—must collect a tribute from a remote Fae colony and discovers that even if you’re a good girl, sometimes you have to be bad…
New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s Sleepover finds half-succubus Elsie Harrington kidnapped by a group of desperate teenage boys. Not for anything “weird.” They just need her to rescue a little girl from the boogeyman. No biggie.
In New York Times bestselling Kevin J. Anderson’s Eye of Newt, Zombie P.I. Dan Shamble’s latest client is a panicky lizard missing an eye who thinks someone wants him dead. But the truth is that someone only wants him for a very special dinner…
And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman’s infernally heroic Caliban Leandros takes a trip down memory lane as he deals wih some overdue—and nightmarish—vengeance involving some quite nasty Impossible Monsters .
ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BY
Tanya Huff * Kat Richardson * Jim C. Hines * Anton Strout * Lucy A. Snyder * Kristine Kathryn Rusch * Erik Scott de Bie *
Synopsis via Goodreads
Writing a review on a collection of short stories is something of a challenge. I am a huge Jim Butcher fan and to be able to read a short story from The Dresden Files featuring Molly was definitely a draw for me. Luckily there were ten other stories that were full of action and magical elements to keep me entertained throughout the rest of the book.
The story that had the greatest impact to me was Cold Case by Jim Butcher and not just because it was written by Jim Butcher. *smirk* It comes down to the fact that I have read every Dresden Files book and I am fully invested in the characters in that series and to see how things are progressing with Molly Carpenter in her new role as a Queen of Faerie was a treat for me. It also cemented my feelings that Mab is just awful, terrible, and dang if I am not feeling sorry for Molly after reading this story. It was a fantastical read that gave further insight into the workings of the Winter court and I just don’t know how much more I can take, lol, which means damn this was good!
I was not familiar with a few of the writers in this collection. Sad I know, but now I am and WoW! is all I can say. There is a great sampling of supernaturals so without being a spoiler here is some of what you can expect: Fae, succubi, bogeymen, genie, vampire, empath, ghost, half-dead, zombie, amphibian, twin-soul warriors, and many other supernatural beings. Each story in this book is unique and has its own flavor. Some I enjoyed more than others but I can appreciate every one of them for their creativity and uniqueness. For fans of urban fantasy this is a truly must have collection.
*Thank you to ROC & NetGalley for this eARC of Shadowed Souls*
September was another good month for me! I read many books in genre’s that I would normally not read and I enjoyed the expansion of my horizons for the most part. Below you will find a few mini-reviews on books that I think you would enjoy reading or at least give you something to think about if you are choosing to read it.
“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”
Four Stars! Don’t you just love that quote? I loved it! I read this book for the book reading challenge and I did not go into it thinking that I would enjoy it as much as I did. The story grew on me as it went on and there were a few emotional highs and lows, lots of humor, and overall it was just an adorable story. I highly recommend!
Two Stars. This was a cute story but it was entirely predictable from the start to the end. It was very hard for me to enjoy. It did have a satisfying ending and could be attractive to readers who enjoy cutesy romantic reads.
Four Stars for this one. Oh my this was such an entertaining story! I love the story, there was so much humor in it. The main character Fortune is written in such a witty way and I also enjoyed the deputy very much. The Sinful Ladies are a hoot.
As far as the mystery went there was a boat load of misdirections with an absolute “who done it?” type of feel. The author did a great job with a red herring and although the storyline was over the top it was an enjoyable read. Great series starter! I did not think I was going to enjoy this story as much as I did and I am looking forward to continuing the series.
Four Stars! This was a super cute start to a series! It had many great one-liners. I liked how the author handled the whole skeleton as a part of the family. There was a great amount of humor and great dialogue in this book. It kept me entertained through the entire story. The mystery was unique and written very well. Great Read!!!
Two stars. I read this for a book challenge, needed a book with “hand basket” in text of the story. Erotica novels are usually not for me. This story just did not have enough of a plot or character development to make it interesting.
Four Stars! This was another musician book read for the challenge but not for the genre of music, lol, but for the title word of “mine.” It was an easy read loaded with sexy times and a little humor. Jumped around a lot and sub plots were left undone (at least in this story, maybe it continues in the next one?). Won’t be continuing with the series but I did read it in one sitting because it kept me engaged.
Four Stars! I loved this newest installment in this series! I think the addition of Beep is super cute. There was as many twists and turns as I would come to expect in a Charley Davidson novel and I found Reyes to be a completely charming character this time around. In the end my heart was ripped out for Charlie and I hope that their time on sacred ground is therapeutic for her and that they are able to bring justice for her family member in the next book.
Three Stars. I was so eager for to read this book, it seemed like a cool concept. I liked it but I wish that the characters had been set up differently. Criminy Stain is supposedly a wicked man but he was not at all. If you are going to call someone wicked then let his character be wicked before turning him into a love struck fool. Just not enough of a backstory for me to convince me of his wickedness. So the image that the author was trying to paint him in did not match up for me. As a character I really did like him. Tish as a character was also not very convincing. She wakes up in a new world thinking she is dreaming.I get that she wouldn’t be too worried but as time goes on and she is realizing that she is indeed in another world I don’t feel that her passion for all that she loves on Earth is real. She lacks the passion about getting back, she talks the talk but I just do not feel that as written that her desire to go back comes through.
Sang as a world is a bit dark and disgusting but it is at the very least interesting. The plot is very cool and I liked the characters in this story. I do not think I will reading on in this series though.
Well that is the end of my September 2016 mini-reviews. Stay tuned for my October monthly wrap-up!
Author: Amanda Siegrist
Website: A. Siegrist
Release Date: April 20, 2016
Publisher: Amanda Siegrist
Genre/Sub-Genre: Romance/Romantic Suspense
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This review is based on a digital copy I received from Author Amanda Siegrist. It is an honest and voluntary review and the complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
Sheriff Logan Caldwell just wants to keep his beloved county safe, yet feels like he fails when a father kills his own daughter. Open and close case. Nothing more for him to do but start his vacation like he originally planned before that tragedy swallowed him whole. He never imagined the day would get worse when he finds a woman in his cabin. She’s dirty and bruised with blood all over her body. She has no memory—of anything. He failed the little girl, but he won’t fail this woman. He swears he’ll find out who hurt her, keep her safe, and help her gain her memory back. Only problem is, he just might fall in love with her at the same time.
Synopsis via Goodreads
***There are very mild spoilers in this review and I just wanted you to know this up front. 🙂***
The start of this story will have you holding your breath! I was sucked in from page one! There is a darkness and a suspenseful thread woven throughout this storyline. I loved, loved, loved the mystery element. It was as if I was running through the woods with the woman who became known as “Doni.” Definitely had a psychological thriller feel to it. I feel like the Author did a great job giving you a peek into what Doni was terrified of and then being able to explain her amnesia in a way that was reasonable.
Shortly after the start of the book the romance angle comes in to play. The romance is a bit off for me in the begining. On one side I am like “seriously, how can she just be so blasé about her safety??” He was a strange man and she was just so trusting! On the other side then I have to remember that she has amnesia and she is not necessarily capable of good judgement calls. As the story progresses I felt that the pet names Sherriff Logan had for Doni was a bit over the top. I get that he could not help his attraction to her but her reaction to him was almost unhealthy. It was just hard for me to reconcile. With that said as the story went on the romance became much sweeter and with a twist of events at the end I felt that the relationship between healthier.
What could have made the mystery better for me? Honestly not much but it would have been great if there had been a portion of the story that was given from the point of view of the person responsible for the torture of “Doni.” Their prey escaped, how did that sit with them? What was going on through the mind of the abuser, did they look for her? Was there a sadistic pleasure that they took in kidnapping her or was it personal? I wish that I could have been privy to that point of view. It would have just taken the mystery potion of this story over the top.
The entire cast of characters are just wonderful. Sheriff Logan and his family are well developed and work well together to bring charm and a real thrill of the hunt to the story. I also really enjoyed the Sheriff’s staff. They are hilarious and a great addition to the storyline.
There were many red herrings woven throughout this story and I loved it. There was enough reasonable doubt that almost any character could have been the culprit. I read this book in one sitting and I recommend to anyone looking for a captivating romantic suspense novel.
*Thank you to Author Amanda Siegrist for this complimentary copy of Escaping Memories*
Author: Jane Blythe
Website: J. Blythe
Release Date: January 09, 2016
Publisher: Bear Spots Publications
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ of 5 stars
This review is based on a digital copy I received from Author Jane Blythe. It is an honest and voluntary review and the complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
Annabelle Englewood slaughters her family while they sleep.
Or so it seems to Detective Xavier Montague when he and his partner arrive at her house to find her sleeping peacefully, her family all dead.
But then another family and another are murdered, again with one family member left alive, and it becomes clear that Annabelle is simply a pawn in a vicious killer’s game.
Intrigued by Annabelle, the first woman Xavier has been attracted to since his divorce, when he comes face to face with the killer he will be forced to make the ultimate choice, a life and death decision, that could let a psychotic murderer walk free.
Synopsis via Goodreads
***This review comes with a warning: There are some graphic quotes from the novel and the faint at heart or squeamish may want to skip this review***
Sick, twisted, and fantastically horrific with a splash of romance! This is a psychological thriller full of suspense, horror and red herrings that will keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat! From the moment I started reading I was just sucked in! I knew that I loved this book during the beginning when I thought that I was reading from the point of view of a killer when it was actually Detective Xavier Montague, ha ha ha, once it is made plain who the character was you see the entire scene in a different light! My feeling was one of “Oh, you! You got me on that one.” I just loved it!! Now let’s get to the good stuff.
“Deep gashes crossed their necks, nearly separating their heads from their bodies. Blood drenched the sheets and puddled around the bed. There were black holes where their eyes used to be. Inside their gaping mouths, they were missing most of their tongues. Their hands had been removed and were now resting on top of their owners’ stomachs, each cradling an eyeball, the tongues resting in between each pair.”
Well now, is that not a fantastic example of horror? It is a very detailed description that clearly shows me that the killer is unhinged but that there is a message in the madness, albeit a cryptic message. I love that! This is not a random killing. It is a well thought out slaying that is intended to be viewed. A killer’s calling card. Then I spend my time thinking about the message and what it could represent. Chilling!
“Bringing the tip of the blade to his arm, without a second’s hesitation, he made a light split in the skin. Watching with great awe as a trickle of blood oozed out, the fingers of his other hand dipping into it. Lifting his hand, he was enthralled once more by the beautiful sight of the blood that clung there.”
I love it when we get the point of view from the main villain. I want to know what they are thinking, what is motivating them. I was not disappointed in the least. This killer is a great character! Without giving away too much that I was able to figure out who the killer was, I was still able to watch as he descended further into his newly acquired enthrallments.
“Before he even registered what he was doing, he had stripped off all his clothes and was scooping up handfuls of blood, rubbing it all over himself until he was pretty much covered from head to toe. Dancing and springing across the carpet, he ripped open the curtains so the moonlight streamed through, illuminating him and the glorious blood.”
The lead detectives on this case are playing a case of catch-up as they try and figure out the motivation for the murders. As each murder occurs it is obvious that although there is a message being conveyed the killer is escalating and getting a perverse pleasure out of it. Detective Xavier Montague and his partner Kate Hannah are both nicely developed characters. Kate has a main role but is deferential to Xavier and is mostly there in a supporting role to him. The common sense in the face of madness. Xavier is the lead detective and is also the focus of the romance angle with Annabelle Englewood. Yes, there is a romance angle but it is not my favorite part of the story. Xavier has developed an attachment to Annabelle almost immediately and it is an intense focus that has him making all kinds of bad choices.
Annabelle is a main character in this story and although she considers herself weak and worthless she can go the distance and plays a pivotal role in this mystery. Her backstory is just wonderful. Honestly all the characters are well developed with great backstories. The romance angle from her perspective was not insta-love and that is nice.
Maybe you can tell that the romance angle was not my favorite part. I feel like a romance can be found in a thriller but for me Xavier’s character was so focused that it felt like he bordered on obsessive and unhealthy. It is all explained nicely and is not beyond the realm of reason but it just didn’t give me warm fuzzies in my heart. There are some points in the backstories of the characters that were not explained to my satisfaction or really necessary details for the story at hand. I would explain it more but that would also end up being a spoiler and we can’t have that. There is also a couple of characters that are developed but then they go off stage and we never hear from them again. What ever happened to them is my question? I did love everything else!
The ending was not “satisfying” but ended perfectly for a book that is going to be carried into a series. Seriously made me want to double check my door locks! Really well done and I enjoyed reading this immensely. I highly recommend you check it out.
*Thank you to Author Jane Blythe for this complimentary copy of One*
Title: The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet
Author: Victoria Stilwell
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ of 5 stars
This review is based on an ARC I received from NetGalley. It is an honest review and the advanced receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
World-renowned trainer and star of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog Victoria Stilwell reveals the secret language of dogs, allowing owners to recognize what their dogs are trying to say, then effectively communicate and change their dogs’ behavior for a better-behaved and happier pooch.
Victoria Stilwell is a well-loved and trusted name in America’s pet media, winning over audiences with her SuperNanny-like British mannerisms on her Animal Planet show, It’s Me or the Dog. In this book, Stilwell uses the latest research on canine language and behavior to reveal what your dog is really thinking–and saying–through its body language, expressions, and actions. Unlike other guides to understanding how dogs think, Stilwell takes it a step further, providing training tips for changing your dog’s behavior–as well as tips on communicating back to your dog. Filled with adorable full-color photographs and instructive line drawings, this insightful guide will make you a bona fide “dog whisperer.”
Synopsis via Goodreads
As a dog owner and lover, I of course had to get my hands on a copy of this book. My dogs are the best dogs but they are naughty at times and do some crazy behaviors so I though that this book sounded helpful. I was not disappointed.
This book focuses on understanding your dog by learning how they think and experience the world. You will also learn how to interpret your dog’s body language. I enjoyed this book immensely. Ms. Stilwell really does a fantastic job of introducing an idea then explaining it using research findings, scientific facts, and experience. It makes for an easy and thought provoking read. While reading this book, I would think about my dog’s behavior and found some the material relatable and then I would find out the “why” they act that way they do. Yay!
The pictures in this book are fabulous! Not only are they adorable but also included are illustrations that help you to truly understand the concept that is being explained. I am ever so glad that I read this book because although it did not answer all the behaviors I had hoped to learn about (my pound puppies are truly unique), I did walk away feeling that I better understood them and where their behaviors come from. Now I find myself watching them to see if they are using the left or right hemisphere of their brain and even writing that down makes me feel smarter. ☺️ If you are looking for a book to help you understand what your dog is communicating with their body language and how to better communicate back to them and/or train them positively, then look no further.
*Thank you to Ten Speed Press & NetGalley for this ARC of The Secret Language of Dogs*
Author: Ronelle Antoinette
Website: R. Antoinette
Release Date: July 01, 2016
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This review is based on a digital copy I received from Ronelle Antoinette. It is an honest and voluntary review and the complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
In Egalion’s Imperial court, there is splendor and luxury, but it’s also a realm of treachery. Cloak-and-dagger political maneuvering threatens to destroy the peace of two thousand years.
Battlemage Jex Xander has a mouth that gets him into trouble; while in contrast, Enari Namelum speaks not at all. Amidst the mounting chaos, passion and romance should be the last thing on their minds, but life and the Goddess seem to have other ideas.
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but at court you can’t tell one from the other…and they change at the flip of a coin.
Synopsis via Goodreads
The synopsis of this book gives you just a taste of what is to come and I mean that when I say just a taste. This is more than a romantic fantasy! The prose was well thought out and complex. As there is an Imperial Court and a political element to this story there are many characters involved. Many of those characters have backstories and developing that many backstories is informative and time consuming. There is a large reading portion committed to building the world, understanding how the Imperial Court works and the political games that are played. It makes for a very detailed, developed, and intriguing story that keeps you on edge from beginning to the end with some sweet romance in between.
Touching on romance, this is not a “warm fuzzies” typical romance. If you like your boys bad, then Jex Xander will make you swoon. He is a bedroom Casanova and has a penchant for his willingness to explore all forms of pleasure. There are Sexy Times in this story and a lot of heat! So I bet you are asking yourself “but Minx where is the romance in that?” The romance enters the story with the entrance of Enari Namelum. Jex and Enari have instant attraction that is felt on both sides but it was not insta-love which was best given Jex’s proclivities. It would have taken away from his overall character’s development to this point. He is not a character given to insta-love more of an insta-lust kind of guy.
The beginning is a bit difficult to get through due to unfamiliar titles and terms and there was not enough context given to readily understand those items. This story would be aided by adding a glossary of terms and titles, with that said once you make it through the beginning you are invested and have a pretty good understanding of who the key players are and the role they play. For me it bogged it down a bit and made it hard to fully engage in because there were supporting characters that added little value but that I had to keep track of anyhow.
I enjoyed that this was not your typical fantasy romance with its tropes and cardboard characters. It had an imaginative and unique storyline filled with court politics, intrigue, and many interesting sexy times. There is plenty of action and the pacing was spot on. There are plenty of twists, turns and surprises. The ending has a “whhaaat??” type of moment and leaves you ready for more, if any of that interests you, then you should consider giving this novel a try.
*Thank you to Ronelle Antoinette for this complimentary copy of Errant Spark*
Author: Scott Kauffman
Website: S. Kauffman
Release Date: December 23, 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing,LLC
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ of 5 stars
This review is based on a digital copy I received from Author Scott Kauffman. It is an honest review and the complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the Charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.
Synopsis via Goodreads
Set mostly during the Vietnam War era, this story follows Betsy at the start of her downward spiral that is brought on after the death of her cherished brother Nathan. I appreciate that the author truly set the scene in the beginning with pop-culture references and ideas from the seventies. It made it very clear the time setting and therefore easier to settle in to the story.
The heartbreak and grief of Betsy and her family feels raw, real, and honest. Following Betsy on her journey is well worth reading this book. The memories of her brother are endearing and I really enjoyed their relationship. It really helps cement your understanding into why she was had such a downward spiral after his death. Her time as a candy-striper was a bittersweet torment. It warmed my heart. Her role with the soldiers and their characters were written with respect, dignity and humor but it wrenched my heart to think that it is a reality for so many wounded warriors not just then but now.
The mystery for me was not really a mystery. For me a really good mystery element involves a true villain and it carries through the story and it is at the end where you get the big reveal. The “mysterious” patient is discovered just as quickly as who is responsible and that character is not a good villain. Just a bad person with selfish intent. Still a really emotional read that casts light on love, loss, and how helping others is truly a boon to the soul.
*Thank you to Author Scott Kauffman for this complimentary copy of Revenants*
Every author has their literary idol; Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is mine. I discovered her work in high school, when I would prowl the science fiction/fantasy shelves at the mall bookstore. I still have the paperback edition of The Wizard of Earthsea that I bought because I liked the cover featuring a dragon curled around the ruins of an island city. I can’t remember if I bought only Wizard that day and went back later to get The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, or if I went all in and purchased the whole trilogy at once. I do know I fell in love with Ged, the titular wizard, as soon as I began reading. So began a lifelong admiration for Le Guin’s work.
Le Guin’s first novel, Rocannon’s World, appeared in 1966. When it came out, she hid her gender behind her initials (U.K. Le Guin), and her earliest works featured a male protagonist because it was hard for women authors and female protagonists to “make it” in that white male–dominated era of science fiction/fantasy. Yet Le Guin started breaking conventions and toppling barriers early. The Earthsea novels started appearing in 1968, and most of the characters, including Ged, are not white. Neither is Genly Ai, the protagonist of The Left Hand of Darkness, a science fiction novel Le Guin published in 1969. That novel, which explored gender identity in an era when transgender people were mainly found in burlesque shows, became the first book authored by a woman to win the Hugo Award, one of science fiction and fantasy’s most prestigious honors.
But what do I love about Le Guin’s work? Do you ever read a novel and think to yourself, this author speaks truth—as in, he or she views the world through the same lens you do? I feel that kinship with Le Guin—the topics she writes about are ones I care about: courage, ethics, gender politics, the environment, power structures. Le Guin is also a damn good storyteller, who crafts her characters with empathy and shows the beauty in nuance and small gestures. She is a prolific writer whose work spans science fiction, dystopian fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, and children’s literature. One of my favorite books of all time is Always Coming Home, a lengthy fictional anthropologist’s collection of short stories, poems, ethnographic notes, and historical documents, all woven in and around a dystopian, post-apocalyptic novel about a young woman who leaves her mother’s peaceful tribe to live with her father’s warlike clan. Another favorite is The Dispossessed, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards and follows a scientist who is recruited from his anarchist/collectivist homeworld to work in a hyper-capitalist society on another planet. I’m currently rereading Left Hand of Darkness, which is still immensely relevant to today’s political climate. But the works I treasure most are Le Guin’s fantasies set in Earthsea.
The Books of Earthsea
Earthsea is a fantasy world where people live on hundreds of islands in a large archipelago. Magical abilities are not uncommon, though in Earthsea’s patriarchal society, only boys receive formal training at a mage school, while girls must learn only informally from their local village witch.
The Wizard of Earthsea follows Ged, an arrogant young goatherd with magical abilities as he is first apprenticed to a local mage and then sent off to study at the mage school. (Sound familiar? The first Earthsea book was written thirty years before Hogwarts existed. I don’t know much about J.K. Rowling’s influences, but as I think about Ged’s life story and Dumbledore’s, a lot of similarities crop up.) At school, Ged comes into conflict with another student and, goaded into a magical duel, he accidentally releases a deadly shadow creature that will haunt him throughout the rest of the book. The other boy dies in the accident and Ged is hurt physically and psychologically; it takes him several years to recover his magical abilities, his confidence, and his courage. Eventually he leaves school to start work as a village mage, but the evil spirit is waiting for him. At first he flees it, traveling all over Earthsea and meeting many unique peoples and dragons, but eventually he finds the courage to confront the shadow creature, turns around, and begins to hunt it.
As I said, I fell in love with Ged when I first read this book. Though he starts out as an obnoxious, arrogant boy, his early comeuppance and slow struggle to regain his lost skills and confidence teaches him humility and the power of kindness and generosity, and eventually gives him the strength to defeat his enemy. His hero’s journey is exciting and moving, and it profoundly influenced my worldview.
The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in the series and for a long time was my favorite. Like Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs is a coming of age story, but this one features a girl named Tennar who is taken as a very young child to live in virtual slavery as a nun dedicated to the service of the Nameless Ones, which are very powerful but mostly dormant earth spirits. When she reaches her teens, Tennar is consecrated as a priestess and put in charge of an underground labyrinth used as both a treasure trove and an execution site for political prisoners. One day she discovers Ged sneaking around in the tunnels, looking for a powerful talisman that had been taken from his people centuries before. Tennar at first imprisons Ged for trespassing, with the intent of letting him starve to death, but her curiosity about this stranger leads her to show mercy. Ged opens her eyes to some truths about her world and the people around her, and together they decide to escape with the talisman.
The Farthest Shore was my least favorite of the first three books way back when I was a teenager, but when I reread the book as a mature adult a few years ago, it really spoke to me. This novel is another coming of age tale, in this case featuring Prince Arren, the teenage heir to the throne of Enlad. By this time, Ged has become the Archmage and headmaster of the mage school, and he’s concerned that magic seems to be fading from the world. Then Arren, who has no magical abilities, arrives to ask for Ged’s aid in quelling a strange illness that has been causing people all across Earthsea to lose their memories and go mad. The pair travel across the world, tracking the evildoer and eventually discover that he is a sorcerer who has used dark magic to make himself immortal, and the magic is siphoning all life out of Earthsea. Together, Arren and Ged must work together to stop him, but success will come at a tremendous cost. (Sound familiar? Remember I said there were a lot of similarities between Ged and Dumbledore.)
The fourth book, Tehanu, supplanted Tombs as my favorite when it came out in 1990, roughly 20 years after the original trilogy. Unlike the first three novels with their teenage protagonists, Tehanu’s central characters are mature adults facing the questions that come with middle age and family responsibilities. After decades apart, Ged and Tennar meet again when he retires to the village where Tennar has lived since she left the Kargad Lands. The pair join forces to rescue a severely abused child named Tehanu, and in the midst of a struggle to protect her, the seeds of love planted years before in Tombs finally blossom. Meanwhile, Tehanu begins to exhibit strange powers and becomes the target of a villainous sorcerer. Tennar and Ged, who has given up magic, must find a way to defeat the magician and protect the girl using only their wits.
Tales from Earthsea, the fifth book, is a collection of short stories that follows the history of the mage school, from the struggles of its founder in a world where magic is the tool of warlords and criminals; to early conflicts between male and female faculty members; the exclusion of women and girls from the school; to the arrival, shortly after Ged’s retirement, of a magically gifted girl who demands that school officials admit her.
The last book in the series, The Other Wind, picks up the story of a young adult Tehanu, when she and Tennar team up with Arren (now a young man and king of his realm) and Earthsea’s only female wizard, to help another wizard named Alder stop the dead from invading Earthsea. The group recruits a dragon to help them and goes to a sacred grove located near the mage school to uncover the true history of Earthsea and perform a rite to stop the dead from returning to life.
I love these books because they wrap some very big issues up in some beautifully written page-turning stories. Where Wizard has Ged come to grips with his own fragility and mortality—and find strength in those weaknesses—in Tombs, Tennar grapples with the moral dilemmas posed by different cultural definitions of justice and has to revive a suppressed conscience to find her moral center. The Farthest Shore and The Other Wind are about death, and life, and the yin and yang necessity of both—you can’t have one without the other. Tales From Earthsea contains stories about power structures, exploitation, and gender roles, with a strong message about how our bodies do not define our abilities. I also love these stories because in many of them, the primary conflict in the novel is resolved without bloodshed. That may sound strange coming from an author of a book about a warrior bent on revenge, but I hope readers of my work will see some of LeGuin’s influence. Even though our stories are nothing alike, she has certainly had a major impact on my life and my work.
My novel, A Wizard’s Forge, is available from all major book retailers.
Thank you Ms. Justice for your thoughts on your idol Ursula K. Le Guin and on The Earthsea books. I found your insights to be very honest and insightful into your love of this series.