Friday, 31 July 2009

Three more reviews

Still behind on reviews, mainly due to having our grandaughter here to stay and then being slightly unwell for a couple of days. So anyway, I'm going for three short ones again, two fantasies, one YA and one adult, and a crime anthology. First up, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

This is book two of Susan Cooper's 'Dark is Rising' series. Book one, which I read several weeks ago, was set in Cornwall and involved the Drew children as they followed the clues of a map to find a certain item. For book two the setting changes to the Thames valley and the Stanton family of nine children, the youngest of which is Will, aged eleven. It's just before Christmas and, after a heavy snow storm, Will leaves the house and finds himself in another century where nothing he is familiar with exists. Except the smithy and in there is Mr. Dawson the smith, telling him he's an Old One and in great danger. A white horse appears and takes Will to two doors in the nearby hills. He feels compelled to enter and meets Merriman an enigmatic wizardly sort, who confirms that Will is, in fact, the last of the Old Ones and it's his job to gather six signs to save his family and friends from The Dark. And even if he completes these tasks that will not, of course, be the end of it...

Simply delightful, while at the same time being genuinely creepy! I loved the very wintery setting to this one - it would make an excellent Christmas or winter read for anyone of any age as the writing is mature and not at all simplistic. I felt the writer knew children and the way they act and talk very well indeed. To be honest, all of the characters are very well rounded and feel real, particularly The Walker in the shape of an old tramp, who is menacing Will at the start. Terrific second book to this series, I have the third volume, Greenwitch, on order and can't wait to read it.

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Next up, The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills, which was a birthday gift.

Gerald Dunwoody is a third-grade wizard who got his qualifactions via a corresspondence course. As wizards go he's not exactly top of the heap and has ended up in a dead end job with a gov dept. checking code violations. And then he accidently blows up a factory, during which something odd happens with his magic powers. But he loses his job anyway and has to search for a new one. His high-flying friend, Monk Markham, points him towards an ad in a newspaper. It seems the king of neighbouring New Ottosland needs a new court magician - for some reason he can't keep one and has been through many in recent months. Gerald applies and is sent for. When he arrives with his luggage and talking 'bird' he meets the king's sister, Princess Melisande, an independant, very ordinary woman who it appears is actually running the country. Eventually, Gerald meets the king and receives a surprise. He is asked to do things a third grade wizard is not supposed to attempt, and shouldn't be able to do. But it seems he can. Things start to get out of hand as the, clearly unstable, king starts to make unreasonable demands. Why? What's he up to? And where did the sacked wizards actually go? On his quest to find some answers Gerald is in for some serious shocks and wishes more than once that he was back in his very boring old job.

Great fun. I really enjoyed this fantastical romp with it's mad royals, pompous gov. officials, and mystical creatures of which I can't say too much or it would spoil the plot. The book is pacey with a great deal of humour and Gerald is an excellent main character with his down to earth attitude and underdog demeanor. Until I was given this book I'd never heard of it or seen it in bookshops - which is a shame as I think fantasy fans would enjoy it. It's book one of three in a series called 'Rogue Agent' and I shall be hoping to catch book two, Witches Incorporated, in the library sometime.

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And last but not least, Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton.

I'm fairly sure I've already done a couple of posts about this anthology of Father Brown crime stories that I've been reading for ages, so I'll keep this brief. This particular anthology, which I found in a charity shop, includes stories from five of Chesterton's short story volumes about the detective cleric. Favourites include The Invisible Man, The Hammer of God, The Sign of the Broken Sword (which has one of the most atmospheric intros I've ever read), The Perishing of the Pendragons (a lovely Cornish story), The Blast of the Book and The Insoluble Problem. Those were my favourites but, to be honest, every story in the anthology was well written, clever, and very readable. I was very struck by Chesterton's gorgeous writing... so intelligent and amusing with skilful descriptions which set the mood and tone very effectively. I certainly plan to keep an eye out for complete editions of any of his Father Brown books or his novels of which I do actually own one: The Man who was Thursday. Highly recommend this author if you've never tried him.



Pic from http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/

14 comments:

Nymeth said...

I read The Dark is Rising around Christmas last year, which was just perfect :D I love the atmosphere, and this and The Grey King are my favourites in the series.

Also, I need to read more Father Brown!

Jeane said...

I never heard of K.E. Mills, but it looks like a really fun book. I'll have to keep my eyes out for it.

Darla D said...

I just started listening to the audio version of Over Sea Under Stone with my girls. I loved that series when I was little! The Mills looks like fun, so I've added it to my list, and I really do think I need to read some Father Brown, so I added that, too. Thanks! (I think.) :-)

Cath said...

Nymeth: yes, I realised as I read that now was not the best time of year to read this very wintery tale. Never mind, I loved it anyway.

Jeane: yes, The Accidental Sorcerer was quite a fun book and I hope you spot it somewhere.

Darla: an audio version of Over Sea, Under Stone sounds delightful! Sorry to be such a bad influence on your 'to get' list. LOL!

DesLily said...

well, good to hear you still like the Susan Cooper books (which are in my tbr pile) :o)

Also I have seen The Accidental Sorcerer around a little and toyed with putting it on my wish list.. I think now that I will put it on the list lol.. (gee thanks cath lol)

DesLily said...

crud.. now I know why it's not on the wish list.. it's only available in mass paperback.. "too small for me to read".. ah well, I hope book 2 is just as enjoyable!

libritouches said...

*nods* I've heard it said that The Dark Is Rising is best read around Midwinter, Will's birthday, so I'm holding off rereading the whole quintet until then. I'm glad to hear you're still enjoying it!

And interesting note about The Accidental Sorcerer is that it's available in bookstores here. That might not seem like a big deal, but I'm so used to finding loads of books I'm interested in (or would be interested in) in British stores that never make it to the Netherlands (even the big stores and big chains in the major cities) that I just had to comment on how bemused your note makes me!

Cath said...

Pat: shame about The Accidental Sorcerer not being out in hardback. I was kind of surprised about that.

Shanra: yeah, if I'd thought properly I would have started The Dark is Rising series later in the year so as to get to the second one around Christmas. Never mind.

It's nice that the Rogue Agent books are easily available in the Netherlands. They ought to be here. It's odd.

Booklogged said...

I'm so glad you left a comment on my blog so I could find your blog. I say that with a bit of reservation. I've only read one post so far and have 2 new books to add to my list (not to mention they are part of series, so there's really more.) I recently bought the Father Brown mysteries so was glad to read your glowing comments.

I recently read a cute children's book called The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut that alerted me to Chesterton. It's a cute little book you may enjoy.

Cath said...

Hi Booklogged, thanks for dropping by to tell me about that book about Chesterton. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy his Father Brown stories, I think you're in for a treat in fact. I just checked my county library list and they have heaps of books by him, including essays so I intend to try and get hold of some of them.

Robin said...

I just read the Dark is Rising Sequence and this book was my favorite in the series. Also, I've been curious about Father Brown for a long time, so I've moved it up higher on my list after reading your review.

Cath said...

Robin: I haven't read all the Dark is Rising sequence yet so can't say, but I suspect this will be one of my favs. But I also love the first one, set in Cornwall, as it took me back to my childhood.

Oh yes, you should definitely read some Father Brown. I was so pleasantly surprised by the stories.

Susan said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't read The Dark Is Rising series. I just finished OVER SEA, UNDER STONE and can't wait to start the next book. It makes Cornwall sound simply lovely (except for the nasty bad guys, of course)!

Cath said...

Susan, the author's depiction of Cornwall in the 1960s is absolutely spot on. Book 2 is a very wintery tale and I loved that one too. I'm now trying to get hold of book 3!