First up, The Door into Fire by Diane Duane, a fantasy story which is my book four for Carl's Once Upon a Time V challenge.
Herewiss is a prince of the Brightwood, a small part of the Middle Kingdoms. He is the first male in centuries to have the power of the flame, that is, it's within him but he's unable to find a focus to channel the power through and thus, completely unable to use it. His closest friend is Freelorn, who should have taken the throne of Arlen when his father died but had it snatched from him. His life consists of trying to find ways to get his rightful throne back and getting into various scrapes that Herewiss has to rescue him from with the basic magic that he does possess.
Herewiss is en route to another such rescue when he discovers that out in the desert area known as The Waste is a place of immense power with possible doorways into other worlds or dimensions. Herewiss saves a Fire elemental from certain death and together with Freelorn and his companions sets off to investigate this source of power in the hope that it might hold the key to both Herewiss's and Freelorn's problems.
Great fun this one. A book very much in the traditional vein of epic fantasy with plenty of magic, journeying to far lands and war looming; not to mention - naturally - a map at the beginning. (Gotta have me a map!) It's book one of Diane Duane's Tale of the Five series, the author being well known, I believe, for her Star Trek and 'Young Wizard' series. I liked it a lot. The relationship between Herewiss and the elemental, Sunspark, was the most fun as the latter tries to understand the weirdness that is humankind. There is mixed sexuality in this book too, an acceptance of bi-sexuality that might not be to the taste of all - but nothing that's explicit. Overall, a fun read. I own book two as well and will read that as and when. Depending on how I find that one, I may or may not continue on to the end of the series (there are three books.)
Next up, Clerical Errors by D.M. Greenwood - a crime yarn.
A jobless young Australian, Julia Smith, gets a position as a secretary in the cathedral offices in Medewich in East Anglia. She's not terribly well qualified and is, quite frankly, daunted by most of the staff, expecially one Canon Wheeler who is arrogant and a bully. Her first day could hardly have a worse start when she is second on the scene after the decapitated head of a local vicar, Paul Gray, is found in the cathedral by a cleaner.
Julia is taken under the wing of Deaconess Theodora Braithwaite and administrator, Ian Caretaker and together they try to solve the mystery. It seems secrets are everywhere and the police have come up against the wall of silence that is the Anglican church protecting its own. Canon Wheeler is a constant bullying presence but what kind of mysterious shenanigans was Paul Gray mixed up in? What is the significance of the stolen church candles? When a second murder occurs things become very dangerous for the group of friends and it's a race against time to solve the crime before one of them is killed.
This is the first book in the Theodora Braithwaite series of books by D.M. Greenwood. She's a little known author from East Anglia who wrote nine books in this series between 1991 and 1999 and nothing else. Apparently she did actually work in the diocese of Rochester so knows her stuff and it shows. Attention to detail is very precise and I learnt a fair bit about the workings of the church. I liked the way in which she depicted the clergy as every bit as full of failings as the rest of us and intransigence a way of life for many of them. At first this book seems as though it might be a cosy mystery but in reality it's not at all. The setting is rather lovely but there are dark doings, nastiness and spite and it makes for quite compulsive reading.
I first read about this series on Geranium Cat's blog. I'm not churchy at all but I do enjoy the odd ecclesiastical mystery so reserved it from my library. Annoyingly they don't have book two in the series so I will probably download it onto my Kindle to read at some stage. A promising series.