Monday, May 17, 2010

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

An enterprising fellow by the name of Mr Chesney has managed (with the help of a powerful demon) to subjugate the entire population of the magical world in which this story takes place. Each year, parties of pilgrims and tourists from our own modern, magic-less world must be escorted through the land and have specific experiences with evil soldiers, dragons, magical beasts and, of course, must have the opportunity to encounter and defeat the evil Dark Lord himself. A contract enforces dire consequences for the locals if the pilgrims don't get everything they paid for.

For the residents of his unnamed magical land, the yearly obligation to entertain these intruders is becoming more and more burdensome. They decide to take matters into their own hands with chaotic and entertaining results. This was a very funny twist on the stereotypical high fantasy novel - lots of parody and absurdity keeps the story from ever getting too serious.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

After reading "Under Heaven", I wanted some time to mull it over and so it was perfect that I had the latest Sophie Kinsella book waiting on my shelf. I know I can always count on Kinsella to deliver some fun reading material that isn't likely to crowd all other thoughts out of my head.

Twenties Girl features Lara Lington, whose life is rudely disrupted by the ghost of her recently-deceased aunt. Aunt Sadie's ghost is irritatingly persistent and for some reason Lara is the only one who can see her. Eventually Lara agrees to help track down a necklace that ghostly Sadie is obsessed with finding, a necklace which turns out to be a clue to a very big family secret.

Twenties Girl was classic Sophie Kinsella - a ditzy heroine who you spend most of the book wanting to shake, but you can't help liking; a budding romance; a fluffy but enjoyable story. I have to admit that this book took a little time to grow on me and wasn't as instantly enjoyable as some of Kinsella's other work, but I stuck with it and finally about 100 pages in I found myself laughing out loud and wondering what would happen next.

I'm looking forward to the next installment of the Shopaholic series which is due out later this year!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

I've never met a Guy Gavriel Kay book I didn't thoroughly enjoy (we'll ignore for now my disappointment with his previous book, Ysabel, which didn't quite do it for me - though I don't seem to have shared that here since I wasn't blogging much when I read it). Any new novel by Kay is a treat so I have been eagerly looking forward to Under Heaven.

Kay's books are difficult to label by genre - call them history laced with elements of fantasy, and his novels are so beautifully written that I think they could be enjoyed by any fan of literary fiction, even those who might not normally be drawn to fantasy or history. Under Heaven is a fine example of Kay's style - he takes a historical period and setting, researches it meticulously, then creates an absorbing and believable world which is somewhat like, but not quite the same as that time and place and fills it with complex and utterly fascinating characters and events. In this case we are treated to a story set in a China-like country called Kitai, which bears similarities to the Tang dynasty. Political intrigue, poetry, powerful (even dangerous) women, assassins, emperors and soldiers are all part of this marvellous tale.

Honestly, I don't know how many more superlatives I can come up with so I will just say that if any of what you've read so far interests you, I'd love for you to pick up this novel and read it and let me know what you thought.

(As a side note, I can't resist sharing that I have had the luck to win seats at an upcoming radio show here in Vancouver where Kay will be interviewed and possibly read from this book. I am so excited - I've been reading his novels since 1993 and will be beyond thrilled to sit in on the program! I will try to share a link to a podcast of the show once it becomes available in a few weeks' time.)