Terry Brooks: Wards of Faerie

Reviewed by Allison B.

During a time where science and magic are vying for primacy over the Four Lands, young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil discovers a diary that may lead to the missing Elfstones. Their powerful magic might turn the tide in a coming war, but the journey to recover them is full of dangers and secrets. The Elfstones have been missing from the world for centuries, and many have tried and failed to find them. What perils await the Druids on their search, no one knows. But they are willing to take the risk, and let others take the risk with them.

I haven’t picked up a book and been unable to put it down for a long while. I was unable to put Wards of Faerie down, however, and I was reminded why Terry Brooks is my favourite author. He has a way of spinning magic into his words that I love. His characters are very “human” (not necessarily literally, but you know what I mean), and I care about what happens to them. The story follows several main characters, and every time the perspective shifts, I think “Noooo! I want to know what happens to that character!” but then I get engrossed in the next one’s story. Brooks is a master at keeping you turning the pages.

I enjoyed being immersed in the world of Shannara once more. All the familiar names were there–the Ohmsfords, the Elessedils, the Leahs–and some new ones as well. I was excited when I heard Brooks was writing this book, because I have always wanted to learn more about the other Elfstones. The blue Elfstones are seeking stones used for guidance and protection; they have been useful in many a quest. What do the other Elfstones do, I wonder? What other colours are there? How were they lost when the blue Elfstones can find anything in the world? This series is going to answer those questions.

Wards of Faerie is only the beginning of the quest, and most of the story is spent introducing the characters and gathering the special group of druids, dwarves, humans, and elves who will take part in it. Yet there is never a dull moment, with assassins attacking Aphenglow, the prime minister plotting against the druids, the Ohmsfords escaping with their lives on an airship, and the druid-led team exploring an unknown land.

Brooks knows how to write fantasy at its best, and I recommend this book whether you have previously entered and loved the world of Shannara or not. It is a journey you won’t forget.

Check out Allison’s reviews at Sci-Fi / Fantasy Reviews and Geek Culture

Devon Monk: Dead Iron

Reviewed by Mike Kraus

Steampunk is one of the most exciting sub genres of fantasy fiction.  Generally, these novels are set in Victorian England in the late 1800’s.  Steampunk novels envision a time when when steam engines powered by burning wood and coal are the dominant energy source.  In these novels there are steam powered trains, airships, mechanical computers, and automatons.  Often there are elements of the occult, alchemy, dark magic, and supernatural powers and beings.

Monk transports the steampunk genre into the American West.  In her novel she combines the elements of steampunk and the Western.  In the main character Cedar Hunt, we have the outsider with a tortured past.  He has been burdened by an awful curse.  And he is a hired gun.  He is looked down upon by the people of the town.  Yet they go to him when they need someone or something to die.  His innate sense of honor forces him to undertake a dangerous mission that probably will cost him his life, without pay.

The railroad is soon to arrive in town.  It comes with strange machines, strange goings on, and strange beings.  The rail tycoon, Shard Lafel, has his own curse to deal with.  Within days he must orchestrate the deaths of a witch, a wolf, and a child.  If he is successful, he will control incredible evil power.

In the town there are other outcasts:  the odd orphan girl who can hear nature and devise machines, the three brothers who work in a mine and suddenly appear at the most opportune times, the witch who vowed her soul to the town’s only a black worker, and her husband who was killed three times yet wouldn’t stay dead.  Can all these outcasts with different powers find a way to defeat the evil that has invaded the town?

I really enjoyed this book.  It is the first in a series of novels which will explore the Old West through a steampunk lens.  I liked Monk’s writing style.  She skips back and forth between her characters and moves the plot forward.  The novel was a real page turner and I finished it too fast.  I am going to watch for the next books in the series.

If you would like to see more of my reviews, check out my blog at http://mikereads.blogspot.com