Crusader: An Exciting Conclusion

Crusader by Sara Douglas is the sixth book in The Wayfarer Redemption series. By this time, the demons have come through the Stargate and wreaked havoc on Tencendor. All people and animals not affected by the demons have been taken to Sanctuary, but how long will they be safe there? Drago (now Dragonstar) must still have his ultimate showdown with Qeteb, the leader of the demons, while making sure the people remain safe.

Dragonstar can’t do it alone. Faraday and his other “angels” must face the other demons, and Axis, who still hates his second son, must help to make his way easier. Meanwhile, Wolfstar enlists the help of a traitor to scheme against them.

Read Crusader to find the surprising ending of this final conflict. As always, it will be an exciting journey with Sara Douglas at the helm. You won’t be sorry.

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – A Prequel Worth Watching

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a Netflix animated fantasy series, a prequel to the 1982 Jim Henson movie Dark Crystal, from Jim Henson Creature Shop. The story involves the creatures of the planet Thra, mainly the heroic Gelflings and the evil Skeksis overlords. The Skeksis guard the crystal which gives life to Thra, but what the Gelflings don’t know is that the Skeksis have been draining “essence” from the crystal to extend their own lives.

The series starts out with Gelfling Rian witnessing the Skeksis drain the essence from his friend to replenish the crystal. Unfortunately, since the Skeksis are treated like gods, Rian cannot get anyone to believe him. Luckily, two Gelflings from other classes (similar to tribes or castes), Deet and Brea, have made discoveries which lead them to the knowledge that the Skeksis are evil. The three meet up and go on a quest to (1) convince other people of what they know and (2) defeat the Skeksis.

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is delightful in the way only a production form the Jim Henson world can be. The puppets are very lifelike, with facial expressions that look so human you can’t help but emphasize with them. The voices include Mark Hamilton of Star Wars and Lara Headley of Game of Thrones, along with other well-known actors, which only makes it better.

Two caveats: (1) Although the series mostly kept me engaged, there was an occasional plot point which seemed much too obvious; (2) This show may be too dark for kids. I was shocked when a character saw his friend murdered in front of him in the first episode.

That being said, I enjoyed it a great deal. At times, the Skeksis are quite funny, and the Pollings, a third type of creature, are adorable, especially Hup, who joins the Gelflings on their journey. I highly recommend this show.

Stone of Farewell

Stone of Farewell is the second book in the series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams. At the beginning of the book, Simon and Binabek the troll are still in the land of the Qanuc but know that they cannot stay there much longer. They must leave and make the treacherous trip to the Stone of Farewell, though they do not know what they will find there. Meanwhile, the influence of the Storm King continues to spread winter throughout the land and try and stop Simon’s little band.

Elsewhere, Prince Josua struggles to make his way to a place of safety as do other people made homeless by the fight between Josua and his brother King Elias. In addition, the four surviving members of the League of the Scroll search for each other in order to complete their mission.

An epic unto itself, Stone of Farewell will engage you. Williams’ magnificent writing carries you along as the heroes meet obstacle after obstacle. Adventure, suspense, and humor combine to make this a truly wonderful book.

House of Leaves Leaves Me Cold

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski was on a list of 20 scariest books I recently found online. Many of them I had read and agreed to the assessment, so I decided to explore the rest of the list. House of Leaves is an unusual book, really two stories in one. The introduction tells of a man who discovered a chest full of writings by an old man who died under mysterious circumstances. The writings tell of a strange house where the inside is bigger than the outside.

The main part of the book chronicles this house and the writer’s explanations. There is a door in the house which should lead nowhere but instead leads to long corridors and labyrinths. Part of this story is told in simple narrative but other parts of it are an analysis of what may be happening in the house written as a scientific paper.

The second story is about the man who discovered the writings. While his take includes some of what he goes through assembling and interpreting the papers, most of it is about his exploits with drugs, sex, and halluciations. This section is shown in footnotes and written in a colloquial fashion.

My favorite part of the book was the narrative about the house and the people who lived there, but the rest of it was so tedious, I could not finish the book. I struggled to read 150 pages out of 528, not counting exhibits and appendices.

House of Leaves is certainly a unique book, in its writing style and composition, but I didn’t find it scary in the least and was not going to read another 378 pages to find out if it ever became scary. I would not recommend this book.

Better Than Us: Worth Seeing

Better Than Us is a Russian sci-fi show on Netflix. The show revolves around life-like robots known as “bots”. An unscrupulous man heading up the leading bot corporation has illegally imported what is known as an empathy bot, who is supposed to have real emotions and learn from her surroundings. Unfortunately, in the first few minutes after she is activated, she kills two people and escapes.

While wandering around the city, she meets a little girl and adopts her family. But this family is anything but perfect. The mother is trying to take the children to Australia to be with her boyfriend, while her husband Georgy works to keep the family together. Meanwhile, their teenage son has joined a violent group dedicated to ending bots in order to meet a girl. In addition, the businessman and the police are after Georgy.

There’s a lot of action and violence in this series but some tender moments as well. It’s well-done and very binge-worthy. Watch it if you can.

Noumenon Infinity: Quite a Journey

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J.  Lostetter is the story of a deep space mission to study a distant star. The mission consists of twelve generational ships, which use clone technology to perpetuate the crews.

However, at the last minute, the original Convoy 12 is scrapped and replaced with a convoy headed not for deep space but for the edges of the solar system. Their mission: to study Sub-Dimensional Travel. Unlike the other convoys, they have regular supply ships and are not involved in reproduction by clone technology. But an accident has them traveling further in both time and space than any other.

Noumenon Infinity follows Convoy 12 and deep-space Convoy 7 in their captivating adventures over thousands of years. Although their journeys are separate, they are interlocked, one discovering weird alien machines and the other meeting the aliens themselves.

There are a lot of surprises in this book. I am reminded of Heinlein and Clarke in these pages, along with some hint of Star Trek. But Lostetter puts her own twist to the story, giving us cause to wonder about the future of humanity. Some things never change and others change a great deal. Give it a read.

The Dragonbone Chair: A Winner From Tad Williams

The Dragonbone Chair is a fantasy novel by Tad Williams from the 1990’s, the first book in the series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. The book centers on a struggle between a new king and his brother, in which other rulers and nobles have chosen sides. It’s not an unusual story except for the fact that one of them is engaged in strange mystical goings-on led by an ancient race.

Much of the action centers on a kitchen boy named Simon. Though he is low on ambition and high on mischief, he gets thrown into a series of quests by simply doing the right thing. He is helped in these quests by Bibabek, a member of a dwarfish race referred to as trolls, who rides a wolf called Qantaqa. Simon also finds assistance from a different ancient race known for hating mortals, again by simply doing the right thing.

Tad Williams is an excellent writer that will keep you turning pages into the night. Although the plot is complex and his descriptions sometimes lengthy, this book will keep your attention. It is followed by Stone of Farewell, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

The Gray Wolf Throne: Entertainment For All

The Gray Wolf Throne is the third book in Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series. Princess Raisa ana’ Marianna has left the school at Ogden’s Ford where she hid after running away from a forced marriage the previous year. She must get home because her claim to the throne of the Fells is at stake, and possibly the line itself. But she is being pursued by assassins. Although her mother’s Captain of the Guard finds her to help her get home, her way is still not easy. Also trying to find her is Han Alister, one-time gang chief and now student in wizardry at Ogden’s Ford. He fell in love with Raisa when she was under the guise of Rebecca Morley and has no idea she is a princess.

Raisa’s main goals are to solidify her place as heir apparent, deal with conspiracies abounding in the capital, and find out who is trying to kill her. She is particularly distrustful of the wizard family Bayer, who seek power, and have tried to influence her mother and her sister.

Han is on his own journey. He wants to support the woman he loves, but can’t reconcile his love for Rebecca Morley with the royals he blames for his family’s death.

A real page-turner, The Gray Wolf Throne will keep you captivated. It’s A Game of Thrones for teens, but all will enjoy it.

Inkspell: A Delicious Romp

Inkspell is a young adult fantasy by Cornelia Funke. It is set both in our world and in Inkheart, a land of fiction created by author Fenoglio. In Funke’s previous book, Inkheart, Meggie and her father discovered that they had powers which allowed them to read people into and out of the book. Inkspell begins with Dustfinger, who is from the land of Inkheart, being read back into the book. He is a fire eater and is training an apprentice named Farid in the art of controlling fire. Farid, who was read from another book, is still very loyal to Dustfinger. When his mentor leaves him in our world, Farid seeks help from Meggie to find him. Looking for a adventure herself, she decides to accompany him and immediately regrets it.

Meanwhile, back in our world, her family is taken captive by some people from Inkheart who wish her father harm. Meggie must find Fenoglio (also caught in Inkheart) in order to return home, help Dustfinger battle an evil prince, and figure out how to help her father

Across two worlds, Meggie and her family battle Inkheart’s worst, some who wish harm for her and her friends and family, and others who merely want to take control of Inkheart. This is a delicious romp. I love Funke’s writing style and complicated plots. If you haven’t read Inkheart, don’t worry. There are plenty of references to the previous book, and even without them, Inkspell works well as a stand-alone book. You should pick it up today.

Dragonspell Will Bewitch You

Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul is a young adult fantasy novel. Kale is a 14-year-old ex-slave on her way to the big city of Vendala to develop her ability to find dragon eggs. Of course, as often happens in books of this sort, she never makes it there, but instead gets in trouble with some big, bad creatures, only to be rescued by some smaller creatures who know how to do these things. Then, still not having reached her goal, she is asked to go on a quest.

Dragonfall has seven high races (good guys) and seven low races (bad guys), which we must keep track of. The bad guys seem to differ by height, coloring and amount of hair, and type of clothing, though the good guys are much more diverse. It makes it a little tricky to keep everyone straight but doesn’t detract too much from the plot.

This is a fun book, Kale is a great character, naïve but capable and willing to learn. Her friends are sometimes helpful, sometimes obstacles, but you will enjoy them.

As Kale is 14, you won’t  be surprised that the book is probably best for 12- or 13-year-olds, but if you’re an adult with a lightness in your heart, you will enjoy it as well.