Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shannara Chronicles Reaches TV, Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter, The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson,The Last Dreamkeeper by Amber Benson and Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

I'm really excited for the new shows of 2016, particularly the new science fiction and fantasy shows that are based on books I've read.  The Shannara Chronicles looks very promising, based on the books by Terry Brooks (from Seattle).

The Shannara Chronicles on MTV
Seattle SF/fantasy authors turned out for the Shannara premiere: Peter
Orullian, Robin Hobb, Jason Hough, Greg Bear, Todd Lockwood, Terry
Brooks and Donald McQuinn.
The Shannara Chronicles, based on the epic fantasy series by Terry Brooks, premieres on MTV January 5. The
first season is 10 episodes, covering events from The Elfstones of
Shannara, which is now available as a tie-in edition (Del Rey, $15,
9781101965603). This is the first work in Brooks's 40-year career to be  
adapted for film or television. In addition to dozens of titles in the
Shannara Chronicles, Brooks is also the author of the Landover series
and several movie novelizations. The show's cast includes Austin Butler,
Poppy Drayton, Manu Bennett and John Rhys-Davies.

The Experience Music Project
(EMP) Museum in Seattle is screening the first two episodes of the
series, along with an exhibit of props from the show.

The Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter was an impulse buy after I'd seen  great reviews on Book Riot, Shelf Awareness and Goodreads. It just sounded like my kind of book, with a female protagonist who doesn't allow the historical oppression of women to keep her from using her gifts/talents/magic to help others. Though it has been compared to The Historian, I found myself feeling that the author had watched the movie "Ladyhawke" more than a few times. Here's the blurb:
Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her? A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.
 Though she's somewhat petite when we first encounter Mouse as a teenager, She is able to defend herself against unwanted advances, kidnapping, rape and torture and magical harm from evil child spirits quite handily with her talent for speaking magical spells. The voice within Mouse seems to come from someone or something else, as she can't always summon it when she needs it. Still, she heals very quickly herself, is rarely ill, can see people's souls in a kind of aura and can heal wounds that put the patient near death. She even discovers that she can "resurrect" small animals and people, if need be, though this gift isn't reliable. The only thing that seems to hold Mouse back is her fear of Gods retribution for usurping his right to bring people back from the dead and heal the blind or talk to wild animals so that they are calmed. Unfortunately, Mouse falls in love with the young king Ottakar, who can't marry a commoner, especially one raised by a priest in an Abbey. It seems that the young King uses Mouse, and when push comes to shove, he marries her off to a brutish second in command named Vok, who discovers she's pregnant with Ottakar's child and proceeds to abuse her in every way possible. Mouse somehow feels she deserves this treatment for her sins, though she doesn't, and even after her son is born, she allows him to break her bones and torture her because he can't perform. SPOILER: When Vok finally dies, it is a great moment in the novel, though it sends Mouse into a depression spiral that has her living in the woods like an animal for 15 years. She also discovers her mentor the priest has died and he tells her that her father is Satan, which also shocks and dismays her, and explains why she can't see her own soul aura.  Eventually, she pretends to be a monk so that she can observe and protect her husband and son on the battlefield.  This book is a real page-turner, and because the ending wasn't complete, I have hopes for a sequel. The prose is luminous and sincere, while the plot moves rapidly and full of surprises. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical tales of magic and fantasy.

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson was another book that I picked up due to a recommendation for readers who liked Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. Here's the blurb: When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les Genévriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the south of France. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive. But as verdant summer fades to golden autumn, the grand house's strange and troubling mysteries begin to unfold—and Eve now must uncover its every secret . . . before dark history can repeat itself.
 This is yet another novel that uses the "every other chapter is a different character" point of view. In most of the other books that use this device, the author puts the name of the character speaking at the chapter heading, so the reader will know. This book didn't do that, so it took me awhile each time I began a new chapter to figure out whether this was the old woman who used to own the farm speaking or the young woman, Eve, trying to come to terms with her reticent husband and his secrets. The Lantern was very well written in a French gothic style, and the plot was precise and flowed naturally. That said, I knew whodunit about halfway through the book. Still, it was a good read and smartly done, and the lush background of Provence reminded me of the novels of MJ Rose, particularly her "Collector of Dying Breaths." I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to those who love France, French history and Rebecca.
The Last Dreamkeeper by Amber Benson is an ARC given to me by Ace/Roc books as part of the Roc Star Readers Program. It is the sequel to the Witches of Echo Park, though I was able to understand the plot and characters without having read the first novel. Here is the blurb:
In the second Witches of Echo Park novel, one coven must keep the world in balance and stand against a rising darkness.
Lyse MacAllister did not step into an easy role when she took over as master of the Echo Park coven of witches after her great-aunt Eleanora’s death. As she begins to forge the bonds that will help her lead her sisters, she struggles to come to terms with her growing powers. And she soon faces a deadly new threat. A group of fanatics intent on bringing about the end of times has invaded the witches Council—but the Council is turning a blind eye to the danger growing in its midst.
Only one witch is prophesied to be able to stop the encroaching darkness. And if Lyse and her blood sisters are to have any chance at protecting all we know from being lost forever, they must keep her safe—no matter what the cost…
There was, for a group of women who are supposed to be a coven of like-minded witches, a lot of cattiness and mutual dislike and distrust among the women that left me somewhat frustrated with them as a whole. Also, though the book is supposed to be more about Lyse than the other characters, I felt that Lizbeth's story dominated more than a few times in the book, and I didn't like Lizbeth or her brother, Weir. Both characters were too one-dimensional, with Lizbeth being the "innocent mute who finds her voice as a woman" and Weir being her protector to a degree that seemed ridiculous. Arabelle and Daniella were much more well rounded characters, and Lyse seemed too fearful and inept to be the coven leader. There was also too much of the romantic notion that once a woman is in love, she loses all sense of self, self respect, common sense, etc. Even an older, experienced woman in the book comes unglued and totally trusts the wrong man because she was once in love with him. The ending is rather abrupt and frightening, so I assume there will be another book out this upcoming year to let readers know if the forces of evil triumph. The prose was decent, though it seemed slightly amateurish, and the plot is full of twists and turns that readers won't see coming. Though the overarching themes of religious persecution and untrustworthy men and women is a good one to explore, I'd give this novel a B-, and recommend it to those interested in modern-day witches and magic.
The Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is the third and final novel in the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series of YA novels. I've read the other two novels, and though I enjoyed the first one tremendously, the second novel, Hollow City, wasn't as well written as the first. So I came to Library of Souls with great trepidation. Fortunately, it's a real page-turner, with all sorts of exciting battles and loose ends that are all tied up neatly in the final chapter. Here's the blurb:
A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.
 The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
I have to say that the new character, Sharon (who is obviously a take on Charon, the boatman from Greek mythology who ferries the souls of the dead from earth to Hades) was hilarious and fascinating, particularly his 'gallows humor'  and devotion to commerce. The photos sprinkled throughout the novel are just as fascinating as the characters within, and I found myself wondering how much digital processing some of the photos went through to get them to be such perfect depictions of people and places in the book. They're creepy enough to be haunting, which is why I would not recommend this book to any kid younger than 14 (or a very mature 12/13). Rigg's prose is clear and thrilling, his characters phenomenal and the plot is a roller-coaster ride of mayhem and discovery. I'd give it an A, and recommend Library of Souls to anyone who has read the first two books in the trilogy.

No comments: