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february 2018 - science fiction and fantasy


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Clive Heritage-Tilley: The Sorceress and the Postgraduate

Published by Matador 28th January 2018

When an Oxford University student decides to steal an intriguing object from the Pitt Rivers Museum to further his studies, he gets more than he bargained for.

It's 1497 and Albrecht Durer produces the four witches engraving. But there were really five women, not four, and they were sorceresses. All five were condemned to death, but it was decided that the youngest English girl, Constance, should be saved and the four sorceresses cast a spell to suspend her in time.

What ensues is a captivating story as the student with the help of his new assistant embark on an adventure of magic and mystery, in search for secrets locked in the history of time.

 

 

 

 

Walter S Judd & Graham A Judd: Flora of Middle Earth

Published by Oxford University Press 21st December 2017

The book considers the importance of plants in Tolkien's conception of Middle-earth. It develops the theme that Middle-earth is our own world - and will awaken the reader to the connection between the plants of Tolkien's legendarium and those growing in our gardens and local natural areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It also demonstrates the connection between the various plant communities of Middle-earth and the elven and human cultures that occupy them, including those environments degraded by warfare, industrialization or pollution. 

The heart of the book is an alphabetical listing, arranged by common names, of all of the plants mentioned in Tolkien's legendarium; for each of these plants the treatment will include: 1) common and scientific name, along with an indication of the family to which the plant belongs, 2) a brief quote from one of Tolkien's works in which the plant is referenced, 3) a discussion of the significance of the plant in the context of Tolkien's legendarium, 4) the etymology relating to both English common name and the scientific name, and where relevant, the name in one or more of the languages of Middle-earth, 5) a brief statement of the plant's distribution and ecology (along with mention of major species), 6) economic uses, both traditional and current, and 7) an easy-to-understand description of the plant. The book provides guidelines to the use of plant descriptions, and the few technical terms used are carefully defined. Many plants are illustrated by original artwork, in the style of a woodcut print. The description along with an identification key, when used with the illustrations, allow easy identification of each plant, adding to the reader's understanding and appreciation of Tolkien's works. A glossary of descriptive terms is also included.

 

This looked, at first glance, like another of Tolkien's character-based stories of Middle Earth, but it pretty soon dawned on me that it is a rather comprehensive encyclopedia of the myriad plants that grow in the world that JRRT created. Some plants, of course, we would be familiar with - crops, for example; but there is a fine selection of plants that we maybe know as something else but that proliferate in Middle Earth, and Walter and Graham Judd have done a sterling job of pulling together all of these plants and providing us with their origins, their details and their characteristics. This is a magnificent addition to the library of Middle Earth!

 

Saladin Ahmed et al: Star Wars - Canto Bight

Published by Century 5th December 2017

Soon to be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, welcome to the casino city of Canto Bight. A place where exotic aliens, captivating creatures, and other would-be high rollers are willing to risk everything to make their fortunes. Set across one fateful evening, these four original novellas explore the deception and danger of the lavish casino city. An honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable in a story by Saladin Ahmed. Dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival as told by Mira Grant. Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into the mad struggle for power among Canto Bight’s elite in a tale by Rae Carson. A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around, all he has to do is survive one wild night as told by John Jackson Miller. In Canto Bight, one is free to revel in excess, untouched from the problems of a galaxy once again descending into chaos and war. Dreams can become reality, but the stakes have never been higher―for there is a darkness obscured by all the glamour and luxury.

 

What better way to celebrate watching the next instalment in the Star Wars saga than to settle down with a collection of brilliant short stories about the casino city of Canto Bight which features in the film? There are stories by Star Wars veteran authors and by newcomers, and they are all superb and capture the essence of the Star Wars universe.

Daniel A Cohen: Coldmaker

Published by Harper Voyager 2nd November 2017

During the day, as the Sun blazes over his head, Micah leads the life of any Jadan slave, running errands through the city of Paphos at the mercy of the petty Nobles and ruthless taskmasters. But after the evening bells have tolled and all other Jadans sleep, Micah escapes into the night in search of scraps and broken objects, which once back inside his barracks he tinkers into treasures. However, when a mysterious masked Jadan publicly threatens Noble authority, a wave of rebellion ripples through the city. With Paphos plunged into turmoil, Micah’s secret is at risk of being exposed. And another, which has been waiting hundreds of years to be found, is also on the verge of discovery… The secret of Cold.

 

This may well turn out to be what the world we live in is waiting for, someone with the ability to control the temperature and alleviate the effects of global warming... A super piece of fantasy/SF that will get you thinking...

 

Mark Lawrence: Road Brothers

Published by Harper Voyager 2nd November 2017

A volume of short stories by the bestselling author of THE BROKEN EMPIRE series, Mark Lawrence. This is a collection of fourteen stories of murder, mayhem, pathos, and philosophy, all set in the world of the Broken Empire. Within these pages, you will find tales of men such as Red Kent, Sir Makin, Rike, Burlow and the Nuban, telling of their origins and the events that forged them. There is Jorg himself, striding the page as a child of six, as a teenage wanderer and as a young king. And then there is a tale about Prince Jalan Kendeth – liar, cheat, womaniser and coward. To the new reader, welcome to a lawless world where wit and sword are the most useful weapons, and danger lurks as much in candle-lit palaces as in dark alleys and dense woodland. To those who have already journeyed with Jorg, we hope you will enjoy renewing old acquaintances with your favourite characters.

 

Shades of Robert E Howard - short stories in the fantasy genre are now few and far between, and this anthology from Mark Lawrence is most welcome.

 

 

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.