Tagged: fantasy fiction

Unexpected Party

Cooperating with Grace: The Luck of Bilbo Baggins

“Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal.” When Gandalf tells the dwarves in The Hobbit that he has chosen Bilbo Baggins as their lucky number, Tolkien has introduced his readers to one of the most important themes of all of his works. This theme that begins with the story of Bilbo Baggins comes to full fruition in The Lord of the...

Rivendell, detail by J.R.R. Tolkien

At the Last Homely House The Hobbit Becomes a Classic

I’ve just finished chapter four of The Hobbit, “Over Hill and Under Hill,” for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and for me this is where the story really begins to pick up (Minor spoilers of the first four chapters ahead). I especially love the book’s opening opening chapter, in which the story feels like a tale told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, with its authorial intrusions: …what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits needs some description nowadays… Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what...

The Hobbit - Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition

There and Back Again – Rereading The Hobbit

Today is the first day of Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and I’m happy to be rereading The Hobbit during the month of February. As I’ve written elsewhere, The Hobbit has been a part of my life since my early teens, and I’ve always enjoyed revisiting The Shire and accompanying Bilbo on his adventures. A wonderful gift of Providence has me rereading The Hobbit at the age of 50, precisely the age of Bilbo Baggins when his adventures begin. Bringing a Walking Stick Like many, I used to think of The...

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

“You Peking weaklings call these things flies?” he yelled. “Back in Soochow we have flies so big that we clip their wings, hitch them to plows, and use them for oxen!” It would be hard to find a more original fantasy series than The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Set in “an ancient China that never was,” the series is a delicious concoction of Chinese mythology, detective fiction, epic fantasy quests, and ghost stories, sprinkled with generous helpings of ribald humor and...

Conan Ace Paperback Covers

Classics Club Book #5: Conan – The Definitive Collection by Robert E. Howard

I first read the stories of Conan the Barbarian over thirty years ago, in the Lancer/Ace paperback versions that included stories by his creator Robert E. Howard as well as new tales by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. The Lancer/Ace editions presented the Conan stories in the order of the fictional barbarian’s life, and traced his progress from thief to king. For my Classics Challenge, I wanted to read only the original stories by Howard, and in the order they were first published, so I chose...

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

The performer is of course not a sorcerer at all, but an actor who plays the part of a sorcerer and who wishes the audience to believe, if only temporarily, that he is in contact with darker powers. The audience, meantime, knows that what they are seeing is not true sorcery, but they suppress the knowledge and acquiesce to the selfsame wish as the performer’s. The greater the performer’s skill at maintaining the illusion, the better at this deceptive sorcery he is judged to be. — The Prestige,...

The Crown Conspiracy

The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan

I picked up The Crown Conspiracy on the Kindle for ninety-nine cents because I was looking for a fun, light-hearted fantasy novel. I was not disappointed. I would describe it as a lighter Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser, more akin to books by David Eddings, Terry Brooks, or Katherine Kurtz. You know the kind I mean, stories where the characters talk like us but wear period costumes and use magic. I know that some fantasy readers turn their noses up at such novels, but sometimes I just want...

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

‘In olden time,’ said Hugi, ‘richt after the Fall, nigh everything were Chaos, see ye. But step by step ’tis been driven back. The longest step was when the Saviour lived on earth, for then naught o’ darkness could stand…’ Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of those classic heroic fantasy novels that satisfies on almost every level. Published originally in 1953 and expanded in 1961, it tells the story of Holger Carlsen, an engineer from Denmark who is suddenly transported from a World War II battlefield...

The House on the Borderland

Classics Club Book #2: The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland is an eerie novel that ultimately leaves many questions unanswered. Written in 1908, it is often cited as an influence on writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Terry Pratchett, and it is listed in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, edited by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock. It also becomes my second finished book in the Classics Club Challenge. I really wanted this book to be good. The beginning starts off promising: two men on a fishing holiday in a remote part of Ireland discover...

Tolkien Relaxing Under a Tree

Leaf by Niggle: One of Tolkien’s Most Overlooked Works

Today is J.R.R. Tolkien’s 120th birthday. Known, of course, mainly for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, one of his most under appreciated works is a gem of a short story called “Leaf by Niggle.” This simple story is a beautiful allegory for the creative life and for the transition into eternal life. Similar to C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, “Leaf by Niggle” is much more subtle. It is also deeply spiritual and rooted in a solid Catholic theology of art and afterlife. “Leaf by Niggle” complements...

The Knight

My Reaction to The Knight by Gene Wolfe

I finished Gene Wolfe’s The Knight today. My Wolfe gene must be missing, because I don’t get it. I understand that his books are often obscure on a first reading, and that this is just the first of a two-book series, but nothing in the book really moved me. Some of the scenes were beautifully written, and I liked the main character, Able of the High Heart, but the story left me flat. It just didn’t seem worth the effort. I thought I’d search the web for other...

The Knight

First Impressions of The Knight by Gene Wolfe

I don’t often understand Gene Wolfe’s books, but I’m always captivated by his characters. Wolfe is one of those authors whose books leave me feeling a bit like an alien abductee who’s been returned to his home: I know something important just happened, I just don’t quite know what it was. Fortunately, The Knight seems more accessible to me than other Wolfe novels I’ve read (which, admittedly, haven’t been many). And Wolfe still has the power to create compelling, likeable characters. Like Severian in The Book of the...

Fred Saberhagen

Berserker Death: RIP Fred Saberhagen

Fred Saberhagen , one of my favorite science fiction writers, passed away from cancer on June 29, 2007 at the age of 77. Saberhagen is probably best-known as the author of the Berserker series, a set of science fiction stories about humanity’s war against self-repairing killing machines that roam the universe with the sole purpose of eliminating all life. Saberhagen used his Berserker stories to explore what it meant to be human, and several of them were based on works of literature such as Poe’s “Masque of the...

Lord Darcy

Lord Darcy: Sherlock Holmes Meets Jonathan Strange

If you, like me, find the Harry Dresden series not to your taste, but like the idea of a magic-wielding detective, you might enjoy the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett. Mix together Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Strange, and add in a little alternate history, and you have an idea of what the Lord Darcy stories are all about. What if Richard Lionheart didn’t die, and what if the Protestant Reformation never happened? Garrett imagines an alternate history where in the twentieth century the Plantagenet dynasty still rules,...

Storm Front

Harry Dresden Book One: Not for Me

I finished Storm Front: Book One of the Harry Dresden Files, and it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped it would be, but it was still quite entertaining. In brief: What I liked: The setting: I particularly liked Harry’s house and office, and his idea about magic affecting complex machines The film noir elements combined with traditional wizard-lore Butcher’s conception of magic and how it works: a little Latin, a staff, some magical symbols, all the things traditionally associated with users of magic The action scenes...