Month: July 2015

Elizabeth Bear: New Amsterdam Series

Here be a list of some nifty vampire novels:

  1. New Amsterdam
  2. Seven for a Secret
  3. The White City
  4. Ad Eternum
  5. Garrett Investigates

Elizabeth Bear does vampires and steampunk. Enough said.

Okay, I’ll say more. The series consists of several novels and one collection of novellas, following generally the same set of protagonists. Aside from being alternative history whodunnits, they play with the idea of what the immortality of a vampire means in the context of friendship and love with mortals. One of the main draws to me in the series definitely was the way in which Ms. Bear gives some of these themes more than the usual lip service.

The series jumps around in time a bit, and we get to see the same protagonists in several periods along their lives, and as the world changes around them. The narrative choices are well done, although I have to admit that the series leaves me wanting more, and there certainly is plenty material in the world and set of characters for countless more books. Bear’s web site suggests none are planned, but doesn’t exclude the possibility.

There is tragedy, but overall the stories are light enough to remain enjoyable. The prose is throughout competent, although not amazingly exceptional, the pacing is nice and the characters are interesting. Overall this was a pretty refreshing series, so I’ll give it four out of five.

Posted by Toivo Voll

Lynn Flewelling: Nightrunner Series

I’ve been working my way through Lynn Flewelling’s Nigthrunner series, so far:

  1. Luck in the Shadows
  2. Stalking Darkness
  3. Traitor’s Moon
  4. Glimpses
  5. Shadows Return
  6. The White Road
  7. Casket of Souls
  8. Shards Of Time (Reading)

I didn’t see Glimpses listed in the Amazon list of books (and I’m again completely baffled as to why the publisher, author or Amazon won’t clearly mark the order of books in a series), and I skipped Shadows Return based on reviews which suggested it was just too heavy on misery and torture for my tastes.

Warning, mild spoilers ahead.

The series is your typically tropy high fantasy setting; there’s a good kingdom with good rulers, and noble wizards, and magic, and brave warriors and all the other goodies. What was mentioned from the outset in the series was that the two romantically involved main characters are both male, but I’d say the whole romance and relationship aspect is done so well that it really doesn’t matter. They deal with it for the first couple of books, then decide they’re OK and have a perfectly fine and healthy relationship past that, which to me is wonderful.

At one point in one of the first books, though, there’s a brief sexual encounter which, at least to modern sensibilities, crosses over to the Bill Cosby side of the fence, but that is never really explored, and left me bothered a bit.

The protagonists are on the scouting / thieving side of things, which I tend to like. Overall, the cast of characters is interesting, and while there is no amazing depth to any of them, they’re serviceable. There’s also a slightly longer than usual timescale, and over the seven books the series follows, for example, some children growing up and establishing themselves.

The writing’s a bit uneven within and between the books. At times it seems like the author couldn’t quite figure out what she wanted to do, and never really went back and cleaned up the style of narrative she had produced. The vocabulary has a lot of gems when referring to specific items and things, but is otherwise pretty decent. Overall a pleasant read, though it can get a bit dark at times.

The books stand on their own plot-wise within a larger story arc, although you really do want to read the series in order, as picking up a later book would leave out a lot of backstory and character development.

In summary, a nice entertainment fantasy series to be enjoyed with a bowl of popcorn. Three out of five.

Posted by Toivo Voll