The Elenium


It’s always a little scary to read books that I loved when I was younger since my tastes now are so different. That said, even though I never liked The Elenium as much as The Belgariad: Volume One, I sure did like it a lot when it first came out. So when I saw it at my local Barnes and Noble, I thought I’d give it a try.

Wish I hadn’t.
It’s not terrible, but it’s really nothing more than a travelogue with characters having witty banter as they kill people or threaten to kill people. The characters themselves were amusing enough, archetypal all, but with little growth or character development beyond their archetypal nature. I will say sometimes The Elenium was laugh out loud funny, which is an attribute missing from many epic fantasies being written today. The series had a lightness of tone that sometimes redeemed the otherwise interminable traveling.
Nonetheless, all the clever characters, witty banter, and humor just weren’t enough. It was a dull read despite the new episode of action or intrigue seeming to occur every twenty to fifty pages. There just wasn’t any sense of danger or challenge. I was also depressed by the underlying racism of the world Edding’s created – such as such race is known for their stupidity, religious zealotry, etc – wore thin the first two times I read about them. I don’t remember it from my first time with the series, but there it was like a giant slug on a cake.

Slow burn success

A post from the wonderful Janny Wurts about the history of sales in fantasy and expectations of success. A useful reminder in today’s world, which seems to be all about instant gratification.

The Unrecognized Trajectory of Slow Burn Success by Janny Wurts

BTW if you haven’t read Janny’s Empire series with Raymond Feist, you’re missing out on a great trilogy. Sadly, it’s not yet in ebook format. 


Inside Out & Back Again


My wife suggested I give this sweet, lovely book a try. It’s different from anything that I usually read since it is essentially a story written in blank verse. I read it over a period of a week – five minutes here, 10 minutes there.

The book is an quick, easy read, but by easy I don’t mean simple. It was a poignant, bittersweet walk down memory lane, especially for those of us who are immigrants to America. So many of Ha’s experiences and impressions resonated with those from my own childhood. The simultaneous alienation and hopeful desire to be a part of America – all of it  struck a chord.

The writing is crisp-no wasted words-and with a few pithy sentences Lai was able to create a multitude of characters and breathe life into them; everyone from the cowboy to Missss Wasshington. It’s a lesson for all of us who write.

If I have a criticism it’s that the story  ended too quickly. I want to know what else happens to Ha and her family. Hopefully, the author will let us know in later volumes.


The Red Wolf Conspiracy – couldn’t get rid of my review, could I?

US (Del Rey) Mass Market Paperback



I picked up The Red Wolf Conspiracy in a used bookstore in Asheville, NC because of nothing more than guilt. My wife and I had spent so much time – almost an hour – browsing the store’s collection that I felt bad for the owner that we weren’t buying anything. The only reason I chose Red Wolf was because a few readers I knew liked it so well, but at the time, I had minimal hopes for the book. A talking rat?  A young boy called a ‘tarboy’?  Sounded silly and unappealing.


The reason I remember the circumstances so well is because of how wrong I turned out to be (it is known to happen on occasion 😉 ). The Red Wolf Conspiracy turned out to be the first book of a series that didn’t get nearly enough acclaim when it was first published.


I thought this entire series was terrific. Is it YA?  Sure, if you want to categorize is it as such, but that doesn’t mean it lacks depth, either emotionally or in terms of the world building. It certainly isn’t grimdark, but that doesn’t mean the characters are all white hats. In fact, I found the characters to be the best part of the novel. They were vivid and real with great flaws but greater strengths. They were so interesting, and many had a fascinating weirdness about them. Some reminded of Stark from Farscape: an absolute loon, who was nevertheless strong and fearless at times and cowardly in a humorous way at others. What really struck me about the books, though, was how fun they were to read.  I can’t put my finger on exactly why I felt that way. Perhaps it was because the characters were young and fearless, always running from one end of the vast ship to the other, and always on the brink of disaster  Sometimes they even fell into the hot mess, but they never let their setbacks get them down, at least not for long. Their tragedies didn’t end up defining them.  At least in the first book.

Here’s an excellent synopsis and review of the book at SFFWorld.