In the King’s Service by Katherine Kurtz
A solid start to a trilogy, set in one of my favorite universes. I like some of the characters quite a bit: the King and Alric’s mother Alyce are solid. The relationships between the children of Corwyn are well drawn; I can easily imagine siblings having such relationships.
The plot is a slow boil; there’s a lot of low-key action, but no clear villain or overarching threat. It works, since the established books do a good job of illustrating the world (as it will be), and this book fits the pattern. There are some surprises (such as the Jessamy subplot), but most of the book’s events fit the world’s logic well enough to be “non-surprises”. The specific events that have to happen (because later books mention them) do happen– but usually in a natural seeming way. Over all, it’s not the book to introduce people to Gwynedd, but it’s a good book for people who already enjoy the world.
One More For The Road by Ray Bradbury
A collection of short stories. Many are fine- none were exceptional. Many of the main characters are writers, novelists, or have some similar profession. There may be an overt sense of the fantastic, but usually the stories are of the “slice of life” variety.
It may have been better than I’m remembering, but for me it was only an OK book. It wasn’t bad, but I doubt I’ll read it again. None of the stories screamed “must read again”. [For comparison: I really liked Fahrenheit 451, but didn’t think much of Dandelion Wine.]
Sorcery Rising & Wild Magic by Jude Fisher
I read these two novels and enjoyed them somewhat, but they’re not high on my list of books to recommend. I largely agree with this (from Books for a buck.com)–
Author Jude Fisher writes a frustrating combination of fabulous world-building with one-dimensional characters. Katla is a brat-tomboy. Her brother is a crazy coward. Her father is obsessed. Saro is a whiny baby. His brother is a cowardly bully. Growth comes slowly to these characters, especially as few of them are pursuing any particular goal (this makes for fine realism but disappointing reading). Of the major characters, only Aran Aranson seems to have a goal. On the other hand, Fisher’s world is fascinating with its different cultures, religions, and the strange trinity that created it and still plays an active force within it.
The world is sketched competently, though the dramatic north/south divide reminds me strongly of many other novels. The cultures in conflict should be in conflict, so that’s well done. The rise of magic plays out interestingly… but through such weak characters that it’s hard to care at times. Too many of the characters can be defined in a phrase- or two, if they have a cover motivation.
Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
A good book; a bit dated but still vibrant. The story seems straightforward, and it is. It’s punchy and short, doesn’t involve extensive “leveling up” play, but builds solid relationships among fantastic people. The “critters” are suitably human yet retain their alien nature Some things (like Holger’s fitness) seem too easy, but have been anticipated by the author.
All in all, a great fluffy read.