Ship of Destiny

Rarely, very rarely, you come across a special series. Something so fascinating, something that draws you in and won't let go, something that makes you miss your bedtime night after night. Seldom do we encounter such novels. But there are some series we wish would never end (Please don't ever mention this to Robert Jordan!!!). The quality of the work is such that we wish it could go on and on. . .

The Liveship Traders trilogy is one such series. Simply put, it is brilliant. Not since Guy Gavriel Kay's The Sarantine Mosaic have I been so moved by a fantasy work.

Congratulations, Mrs. Hobb.:-) This wonderful trilogy is fantasy on the grandest scale. With The Farseer trilogy, the bar had been set rather high. But seemingly effortlessly, you have surpassed yourself. And people claim that The Tawny Man series is even better. I would be inclined to doubt such claims. But for some reason, I'm persuaded that if I did, I would once again be proven wrong!

There is very little I could add that I haven't said before. The Liveship Traders was an extraordinary saga. Hobb shows once more the depth of her imagination. Innovative, compelling, imeginative; this trilogy is a major work of fantasy fiction.

Ship of Destiny brings this saga to a triumphant conclusion. As she did in Assassin's Quest, Hobb leaves the door open for countless possible future events. I have a feeling that we may get a glimpse of them in The Tawny Man series, but I'm not certain. If that's not the case, I don't believe readers would be too disappointed to return to Bingtown, the Pirate Isles, etc, in a future series.:-)

Once again, the characterizations are superb. And with the revelations pertaining to several key characters, Ship of Destiny lifts this trilogy to another level. Character growth is again predominant in the tale.

The large role played by the female characters, and the fact that we see the events happening through their eyes and POVs, all of this brings an interesting perspective to the entire series. Yet again, the emancipation of women holds central stage.

Hobb has truly become a master when it comes to characterizations. And the manner with which she manages to capture every emotion is definitely unreal. The deep, involved humanity that I mentioned in my previous review applies to this one as well. And Mrs. Hobb doesn't shy away from difficult scenes and how they affect the lives of her characters. The rape scene is ample proof of that. . .

And speaking of characters, Kennit has to be one of the most interesting characters ever created! All his secrets are finally revealed in this volume, and expect the unexpected.

So many different factors made Ship of Destiny has good as it was that it is hard to enumerate them all. Truly, the multi-layered epic delivered on every level. The Elderlings' secrets, the sea serpents, the conspiracy against the Satrap, the future of Bingtown, the secrets of the Rain Wilds, Paragon's buried secrets, Malta and Reyn's relationship, Etta's destiny, Amber's strange foretellings, and the list goes on and on. For those who haven't yet read this series, I don't want to include spoilers in this review. You will have to discover all about Althea, Wintrow, Brashen and company!;-)

Believe me. It doesn't get much better than this! And to think that I initially had reservations about reading this series. The Liveship Traders deserves a place of honor in any fantasy collection. Indeed, it comes with the highest possible recommendation.:-)

The final verdict: 9/10

I wasn't going to include this little anecdote, but what the heck!?! Last summer, I stopped for 5 nights in Budapest, Hungary. It was one of the last stops in my grand European adventure. I was staying at the worst dump ever: the Station Guesthouse. There I met a guy from Detroit who, it just so happens, was reading Mad Ship. I began to tell him how I had loved The Farseer, but couldn't bring myself to read The Liveship Traders. Wide-eyed, he stared incredulously at me, obviously taken aback by my statement. With good reason, I now know.

"Are you kidding me, man!?! Hobb's the shit!" he replied caustically. From there, the conversation sort of took a turn for the worst.

Well, a decade ago, being referred to as the shit would not have been considered much in terms of praise. But to those who comprise Generation X (he must have been 18 or 19), it is the greatest compliment one can receive.
Hence, as odd as it sounds and with all due respect, Mrs. Hobb, you ARE the shit!;-) You will definitely never see this quote on the cover of one of your future novels, but it's true! There is no denying it!

I am looking forward to reading The Tawny Man. For those who are interested, you can check Robin Hobb's website at


Hi guys!
For a while now, I have realized that some of you were nice enough to add a link to this weblog on your own blog or website. Thanks a bunch for that!:-) I would love to return the favor and add a couple of links to this baby. But the problem is that I have no idea how to do that.

You see, I use a computer every day. But to my shame, I'm quite ignorant about the whole thing. Please keep in mind that you are dealing with a guy who barely found the porn when the internet came out!!!;-) In fact, I chose the weblog format because all I needed to do was to write my posts and the system took care of the rest!

So if anyone knows how to do this, please let me know. And I'll gladly add some links to my blog!


Around the world

Traveling is a passion of mine. One of my biggest passions.:-) No doubt about it. Every time a friend introduces me to someone new, they will remind that person that I'm that well-traveled guy they told them about. Inevitably, the first few minutes of every new conversation mostly concern traveling. Where have I been? What have I preferred? What's the best place to visit? What's the most beautiful city? Yada yada yada!;-)

For so many people traveling is perceived as a luxury. That is the greatest misconception about traveling. Just as it is with nearly everything else, the choices you ultimately make will have repercussions on your wallet and bank account. I'm not saying that you must forgo all comforts in order to travel on the cheap. That's all right if you want to travel on a shoestring budget. However, millions of people have discovered that budget traveling makes for a wonderful experience. You just need to plan and prepare accordingly...

With spring on the way, the perfect time to see all the wonders that Europe has to offer, I've decided to write an article on budget traveling. It might provide those who are planning their own adventures a couple of ideas and tips. And it might also convince a few of those who have always wanted to travel that they can do so without going bankrupt.

Who am I to write about this, you ask? Well, I've been in 25 different countries in the last 5 years. I've traveled with trendy tour operators, with Contiki, on my own in 2 or 3-star hotels, and I've backpacked my way through most of Europe. Having done all that, and moreover having done it in different manners, I'm persuaded that I'm experienced enough to write this thing!;-) From a 5-star hotel in Rome, to a crappy dump in Budapest, I've done it all!!!

So where have I been? That's always the first question people ask me. Canada, the USA, Greece, Turkey, England, Italy, the Vatican, France, Monaco, Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, Morocco, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

I've spent as little as one afternoon (Gibraltar) and as much as 3 weeks or more in each respective country. Last summer I spent 100 days traveling around Europe, stopping in 14 countries along the way. But habitually, I can only afford to stay between 2 or 3 weeks.

How can you afford to travel like this? People have been asking me this for the last 5 years. Well, tell yourself that the price tag attached to any adventure will largely depend on what comforts and luxuries you can and cannot do without.

If you want your cake and eat it too, you'll have to do business with tour operators such as Insight Vacations, Globus and Cosmos. It's going to cost you a lot of money, that's for sure. But if you have money, what the heck, right? Keep in mind that by doing so, you will be spending more than 2 weeks with senior citizens who are retired. I have nothing against them, mind you. But don't expect to have a lot of companions tagging along with you when you want to check out that club in Athens or Florence. My very first traveling experience was with such a group. All were really nice to me. But never again, I vowed!;-) When you're part of a Contiki tour, we refer to those groups as "Antiki."

Okay, so let's talk about Contiki. This is a tour operator dedicated to the 18 to 35's crowd. They are often imitated, but never equalled! They offer a very broad range of tours, both Superior and Budget. Contiki is the perfect way to travel if you've never been abroad before. The groups are comprised of English-speaking guys and gals from all over the world. It's a wonderful way to travel and meet new friends from around the globe.

The greatest thing about Contiki is that they take away the "planning" element which appears to be so daunting to so many would-be travelers. The tour operator takes care of transportation, hotel reservations, a number of meals, etc, and you always have a tour manager to give you a hand. This is ideal for students or those who have no time to spend weeks on planning a trip. You just select your tour, et voilà!:-) You just need to worry about what you'll be doing with your free time!

I've been on 5 different Contiki tours in the past: Spotlight on Greece, with the Golden Fleece cruise of the Greek Isles and Turkey; Simply Italy; Best of France; and Spain and Portugal. I now have friends all around the globe and some of my favourites memories associated with traveling are from those tours.:-)

Being part of a Contiki tour is more costly than doing the very same itinerary on your own. But you have no hotel to book, no reservations to confirm, no search for a place to stay when you reach a new city, no trains to catch, no waiting in line at the train station in order to buy a mandatory reservation for a fast train, etc. Hence, if you are looking for a no-hassle type of vacation, Contiki is designed for you! Check out their website at, where you can peruse their tours and order a brochure.

Contiki's main drawback is that you don't always get to do your own thing. But if you want to make the most of a region in a short period of time, they remain the best option.

Of course, the cheapest way to travel is to do it on your own. By acting thus, you get your own personalized itinerary, sure. But you also get all the hassle which traveling like that implies. Regardless of that, it's still the sort of traveling which often offers adventures that are the most rewarding.:-)

Plane ticket: Yes, you can wait for sales, but they don't always come on time. If you are eligible, get your hands on an ISIC card (International Student Card). For a mere 15$, it will allow you to save between 100$ and 200$ on your flight alone. Plus, it intitles you to a vast number of discounts on museums, attractions, accomodation, etc. It usually pays for itself before you even leave home.

The best tool to plan any trip is, without the shadow of a doubt, a Lonely Planet guide. You can also check their website,, where you will find a lively community. In these guides, you have all the information required to plan and budget your adventure. Your LP guide contains info on everything, from how to get there, what's to see and do, dangers you must worry about, where to stay, what to eat, where to go out, etc. With candid reviews and plenty of advice, it makes everything a bit easier for you, especially at the planning stage of a trip.

Use your LP guide to see if it's a good thing for you to buy a railpass. Everyone buys them, thinking that they are saving a bundle. But that, my friends, is a myth!;-) Truth be told, most pay a lot more for their railpass than it would it would have cost them to buy regular second class tickets. All in all, a railpass is usually a good purchase only if you plan on traveling long distances with each segment (Paris to Barcelona, for example), or if you wish to travel a majority of your segments on high speed train such as the TGV, etc.

A good way to save on accomodation is to register on websites such as It allows you to get in contact with people in the cities you are planning to visit and get a free place to stay. I used their service to a place in Antwerp, Belgium, and it was a nice experience.

Another good way to save money on accomodation is to stay in a hostel. Yes, some are dumps. But doing a good research in your LP guide and on the web for confirmation should permit you to almost always find nice and comfortable places to stay at. The Circus in Berlin, the Guesthouse in Lausanne, the Euro Youth Hotel in Munich, the Wombat's in Vienna, and the International Youth Hotel in Salzburg are all perfect examples of terrific hostels which only cost about 20$ to 25$ a night. Keep in mind that what you save on accomodation can be spent on sightseeing and other fun experiences.;-)

Food is another factor. If you select accomodation with kitchen facilities, you'll save a bundle on restaurants' bills!

A good source of information on every facet of traveling is Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine. You can also check their website

So why is such an article on this blog? Well, most fantasy readers like history and mythology. Traveling gives you the opportunity to see firsthand what you've been reading about and what you've been seeing on television for years. Imagine yourself at the summit of the Acropolis, standing before the Parthenon; standing inside the Colosseum in Rome; walking around Stonehenge; standing before the pyramids in Cairo; the list is endless...:-)

Too often people say that they'll do it next year, or the one after that. But in the end, most never will. My aunt dies of cancer last year. She was in top shape one week, and died a few weeks later. It goes without saying that her death shook the family to its core. And it made me change my perspective concerning life. Now I know that tomorrow may never come. So if there is something you desire, don't wait. Do it now. Now is the time to travel, if traveling is something you have always dreamed of. You can get that car another year, etc. But traveling is an experience that will remain close to your heart for the rest of your life...:-)

We'll have to wait and see how people react to this article. If there is interest, perhaps I will be writing other travel-oriented pieces in the future. Gods knows there is countless things to talk about! I will leave you now with a little bit of traveling wisdom: «There are no strangers; only friends that you haven't met yet.»

Have a great weekend,


P. S. To the Americans who are reading this, please heed this warning. When traveling, never, under any circumstances, enter in a beer-drinking contest with an Aussie, a German, a Canadian, a Belgian or a Scandinavian. Believe me, it's for your own good. First of all, you cannot win. Get that through your heads!!! What passes for beer in the USA is considered lemonade in many countries. Plus, with the advent of the digital camera, a headache and a wounded pride may not be the only consequences of your actions!!!;-) Some people could have blackmail material pertaining to you for years to go. One day I'll have to tell you about that guy in Interlaken, Switzerland. He didn't listen and he paid the price. The 2 Aussies who beat him at that contest are probably still laughing about it in Sydney!!!:-)

New York Times Bestsellers

From now on, I will be tracking those novels which appear in the NYT bestseller list, both in the fantasy and science fiction genres. So check it out every week to know what's going on!;-)

February 8th 2005

In hardcover format, Terry Goodkind's Chainfire drops one spot to number 7. This last volume of The Sword of Truth series has been hanging in the Top 10 for 7 straight weeks now. Read my post "Things that make you go hmmm" to learn how I feel about this!

Luceno's Star Wars: Labyrinth of Evil debuts at number 9.

McCaffrey's Dragonsblood debuts at number 16, which means that it is a runner-up and not a "true" NYT bestseller.

King's Song of Susannah is still hanging in there at number 34, down 3 spots. As incredibly as it sounds, this Stephen King's novel has been on the NYT bestseller list for 45 straight weeks now!

Return next week for more information. . .

Mad Ship

It was with great pleasure and many expectations that I returned to The Liveship Traders series. And once again, Robin Hobb doesn't disappoint! Far from it, she manages to raise this adventure to a new level!:-)

After reading Mad Ship, I can now claim with certainty that Ship of Magic was a vast introduction to a somewhat complex weave of interesting plots and subplots. This is quite all right, since this is how I love my fantasy novels!

However, once more I must warn people who are more one-plot oriented that this series might not be for them. Also, the story is told from several characters' POVs. I know that some people find that annoying. They say that it affects the pace of the story. But I believe that it's actually much more interesting to be exposed to different perspectives. It allows us to perceive events that are occurring from distinct angles. So the fact that Hobb jumps from character to character, making us see the world and events through their eyes, was not for me something which was to the detriment of the novel.

And speaking of characters, Hobb proves once again that her characterizations are of the first order. One reviewer one said that The Farseer trilogy possessed a deep, involved humanity, or some such praise. Well, the same can be said of The Liveship Traders.

But as great as the characterizations are, it's the fact that you see the characters grow which is very satisfying. It's a testimony to Hobb's talent. Reacting to what befalls them, all the main characters alter their perspectives and show signs of personal growth. To use the expression "three-dimensional" appear to be, to some extent at least, an understatement.

Robin Hobb's prose flows seamlessly, making reading this book quite a treat. Wonderfully written is the only compliment that comes to mind.;-) Although I have to point out that some characters use too perfect a language, sometimes making you shake your head because it doesn't ring quite true. Kennit is a perfect example of that. The man is a pirate, yet he possesses a vocabulary that puts most scholars to shame!

I have often heard women complaining about the fact that there are so few fantasy novels written by women with strong and believable female characters. Well ladies, if that is the case, then this series is for you. The Vestrit family, which is at the heart of this story, offers us the POVs of 4 different female characters that span 3 generations. And I simply love how the author makes us see events through their eyes, letting us discover more about their mindsets and philosophies. There is definitely a gap between the different generations, and it's neat to see how Hobb juggles with that.

Again, this trilogy continues to be the most innovative fantasy series I have read in years. And the high sea elements, which so concerned me before I decided to give Ship of Magic a chance, continue to make this wonderful tale unique. Mad Ship is as richly detailed as its predecessor. And Hobb's evident knowledge of the sea adds a certain flavor that you cannot find anywhere else.

Mad Ship follows the adventures of all the characters which were introduced in Ship of Magic. Hence, we learn a lot more of Althea and Brashen's plan. Aided by the mysterious Amber, they will attempt what appears to be impossible. Wintrow is still torn between his vocation and life aboard the Liveship. Captain Kennit continues to try to fulfill what he believes to be his destiny. Much to Ronica and Keffria Vestrit's chagrin, Malta may have no choice but to marry the youngest son of a powerful Rain Wild Traders' family. And deep in the Rain Wild, ancient secrets found in a buried Elderling city reveal the biggest secret of them all. And the sea serpent are desperately searching for the elusive She Who Remembers. For if they cannot find her, their entire race may soon face extinction.

Not only do we learn more about the Rain Wild and the secrets of the Liveships in Mad Ship, but we are finally introduced to the Satrap. But all is not well in Jamaillia City. It appears that a number of nobles are conspiring with Chalced to have the young ruler assassinated. And one of the Satrap's Companions of his Heart shows much interest in Bingtown.

So as you can see, there are several plots and subplots filling this volume. And unlike the previous ending, there is some plot resolution at the end of this one. With the promise of many more things to come, of course!;-)

Once more, I could not put this book down. I recommend this series to anyone who is looking for something well written, with great characterizations, and unusual settings. The exotic locations and the high seas make this series quite special.:-)

Read it!!! Period!;-) There is no doubt about it: Robin Hobb is part of the elite of fantasy fiction authors.

The final verdict: 9/10

Tad Williams Interview

Hey hey!!!
Just before I went to bed last night, I received terrific news! Indeed, New York Times bestselling author Tad Williams graciously accepted to do an interview with me!:-) Now how great is that!?!

The interview and a review of his lastest offering, Shadowmarch, will be published in GRYPHONWOOD ( in a future issue. And depending on the number of questions and answers we get, a more complete version of the interview with Mr. Williams may appear in this blog. So stay tuned for more.

I've posted on, asking people to submit questions they would like to ask Tad Williams. In a little while, I will sort through them all and choose the best ones. Feel free to submit your questions to me directly.

I'll give you more details as I go along. Take care and be good,


Very special thanks to you, the readers...:-)

Hi there!
At lunch time last Saturday, I decided to add a web counter to this blog. I was curious to know just how many people actually visited the weblog, how many people actually went out of their way to read what I had to say.

I was aware that my traffic had undoubtedly increased of late. I've been posting regularly on, as well as on and Robin Hobb's Newsgroup, albeit a little less regularly. Hence, I knew that some members of the communities found on those message boards were probably coming over to sneak a peak at what I was doing. Since most of my posts on attracted between 100 and 200 views, I figured that at least a small percentage of those viewers clicked on the link, even if it was just out of curiosity.

Well, the web counter proved one thing: there is a lot more people than I ever would have believed who are checking things out over here!;-) I have had 170 visitors since the counter was turned on, which is outrageously more than I ever thought possible. And it's not only the number of hits; it's where they are coming from! I was shocked and a little overwhelmed. I mean, Canada and the USA I can understand, although I would not have expected to attract people from the East Coast all the way to Alaska. But Brasil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Isles, Singapour, Japan, the Czech Republic, Sweden, the UK, and the rest of Europe!!!! WOW!!! I don't know what to say...

I started this blog a little over a month ago. Mainly for the fun of it, with no aspiration for it to ever truly grow to such an extent. But now I realize that a lot of people are tuning in and reading my reviews and articles. I have to admit that it means a lot to me, since I wasn't even aware that I had an audience!;-)

Now that I know that you're keeping an eye on things, I will do my best to keep up what is hopefully the good work!:-) Stay tuned because my review of Robin Hobb's Mad Ship should appear in these parts in a day or two.

Also, I always welcome your interest and your comments. So please feel free to leave me a note, if the mood strikes you!:-) Now that I know that I do have a somewhat vast number of readers, I will be happy to read your thoughts on my reviews and articles.

Thanks again for being here!;-)


Close but no cigar. . .

Hi there!:-)
As promised, here is the list of the runner-ups, those series that almost made it to "La crème de la crème." All of them are great series in their own right, and make for very good reads! I think that there are a few surprises, for some of these series are not as well known. In any event, I strongly recommend them, one and all. So if you are currently looking for something to read, you know what to do!;-)

THE RECLUCE SAGE by L. E. Modesitt, jr.

- The Magic of Recluce (1991)
- The Towers of the Sunset (1992)
- The Magical Engineer (1994)
- The Order War (1995)
- The Death of Chaos (1995)
- Fall of Angels (1996)
- The Chaos Balance (1997)
- The White Order (1998)
- The Colors of Chaos (1999)
- Magi'i of Cyador (2000)
- Scion of Cyador (2000)
- Wellspring of Chaos (2004)
- Ordermaster (2005)

***L. E. Modesitt, jr. has a cult following, and I'm a proud member of that cult! Many believe that this series should have established this author as one of the very best the fantasy genre has to offer. But the problem is that he is not mainstream. Hence, he remains one of fantasy's best kept secrets.

Intriguing and fascinating, exploring mature themes, with an elaborate and intelligent system of magic and technology, a necessary balance between order and chaos, and worldbuilding that is top notch, it is a delight to travel through the different eras of Recluce throughout the different volumes of this series.

Because The Magic of Recluce is a bit slow to get into gear and because it is the first chapter in a two-book cycle, I would suggest that newcomers begin by reading The Towers of the Sunset, which takes place a few centuries prior to the events chronicled in the first volume.


- Assasin's Apprentice (1995)
- Royal Assassin (1996)
- Assassin's Quest (1997)

***Hmmm. . . After all that's been said about this series, I wonder what I could possibly add. . . Suffice to say that if you haven't read this wonderful trilogy, stop whatever you are presently doing and go get it!:-)

Richly detailed, with characterizations of the first order, intriguing plots and subplots, spellbinding worldbuilding, this series has it all. Highly recommended.


- Black Sun Rising (1991)
- When True Night Falls (1993)
- Crown of Shadows (1995)

***Oh my God, this is another brilliant one! This is an excellent blend of dark fantasy, horror and science fiction. Dark, complex, totally engrossing, this series is so different than everything that's out there. And C. S. Friedman is a superb and subtle storyteller. Hard to put down. . .


- The Lost King (1990)
- King's Test (1991)
- King's Sacrifice (1991)
- Ghost Legion (1993)

***Galactic fantasy at its very best! Dazzling, this one shines more brightly than all the others! With an engaging cast of characters, this is the sort of series you wish there could be more of. . .:-)

THE GAP SERIES by Stephen R. Donaldson

- The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story (1991)
- The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge (1991)
- The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises (1992)
- The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order (1994)
- The Gap into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die (1996)

***This dark, complex, violent and intricately detailled science fiction epic lives up to Donaldson's potential and reputation. Much darker in vision than the Covenant books, this one is totally captivating. Although not for everyone. . .

OTHERLAND by Tad Williams

- City of Golden Shadow (1996)
- River of Blue Fire (1998)
- Mountain of Black Glass (1999)
- Sea of Silver Light (2001)

***This series is unique. Nothing compares to it, and it's well nigh impossible to put a label on it. Part fantasy, part scifi, part techno thriller, this virtual reality adventure will keep you coming back for more!:-)


- Shadow of a Dark Queen (1994)
- Rise of the Merchant Prince (1995)
- Rage of a Demon King (1997)
- Shards of a Broken Crown (1998)

***With his immense popularity firmly established following The Riftwar Saga, Feist could have played it safe and do it all over again. But instead, he took the road less traveled and came up with a very satisfying sequel. Return to the world and the characters that have fascinated millions of readers worldwide. But expect more than a few bumps and surprises along the way. . .;-)

My first "official" gig!

Hi there!
It's been a while, I know. Unfortunately, my computer was TKOed by a virus for a few days. But we are now back in business!

Just wanted to let you know that I am now the "official" fantasy book reviewer for a magazine title GRYPHONWOOD. It's an indenpendent magazine which is printed in hard copy and is also available free of charge on the web. Check it out at

They publish short stories and all sorts of stuff. So if you think you have something they might like, check out their website.

The editors discovered this blog when I started posting on And obviously they liked what they saw, because they asked me if I would be interested in becoming their book reviewer. What the heck!?! Why not, I told them! Could be a lot of fun!!!;-)

So not only will I be posting a couple of reviews in their next issue (March 2005), but I also did an interview with David B. Coe. You can find the reviews of all three volumes of The LonTobyn Chronicle elsewhere on this blog. You'll see, it's very informative and was a lot of fun to do. Hopefully I can find other authors to interview for future issues.

Okay, so that's about it for now. My next post will probably be the list of runner-ups to my "La crème de la crème" posts!

Ship of Magic

In keeping with my promise to do something about all those unread books that populate the shelves of my loft, especially those which have been waiting for my attention for some time now, I elected to start Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy. Yes, to my shame it was still just sitting there, all three volumes purchased in hardcover format upon their release. Hey, what can I say!?! Graduating from Law School, passing the Bar, and trying to maintain some semblance of social life take their toll on you...;-) Can you believe that I have an Advance Reading Copy of George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones!?! And no, it's definitely not for sale!!!:-)

I have to admit that I initially had reservations concerning Ship of Magic. Of course, I had read The Farseer trilogy and absolutely loved it, even with its anti-climatic ending. So I was no stranger to Hobb's work. But this series appeared to be so different. The cover blurb is particularly uninspiring. Bantam Spectra's marketing people really let one slip...

At first, it looked as if it would be a rousing seafaring story, with a lot of action and filled with stereotypes. Hence, I had definite doubts pertaining to this fantasy on the high seas... Well, I should have known better!:-) Hobb's tale draws you in, catching hold and not letting go. I simply could not put it down, which is the mark of a wonderful storyteller!

As always, Hobb shows an extraordinary talent for characterization. This is a novel filled with well developed characters, all of them with much depth. And she hints at a lot of things to come. However, this is not a book based on a lot of action. But if you enjoy convoluted plots and countless subplots, then this will be quite a treat!:-)

The Liveship Traders encompass all that is traditional. But now, due to a corrupt ruler to the south, they must contend with a new breed of traders, bringing new commercial ideas and slavery in their wake, to the detriment of those who have toiled for generations to achieve success. The Old Traders are desperately attempting to retain their rightful position in Bingtown, and to keep their secret covenant with the exotic and mysterious Rain Wild Traders, who possess arcane knowledge and powers. Social issues such as slavery, servitude and the emancipation of women also occupy an important place in the storyline. And at the heart of the tale lie the Liveships. These vessels made of wizardwood can become sentient beings after a number of generations.

This is probably the most innovative fantasy I've read in years. The addition of unusual fantasy concepts such as pirates and sea serpents also brings a new dimension to this series.

In a genre where veritable originality is hard to come by, Hobb has created a world that really captures the imagination. It is a delight to follow Althea, feisty female heroine bereft of her rightful inheritance for the ostensible good of the family; Wintrow, a young man torn from his vocation to become a priest of Sa to live a life he never wanted; Captain Kennit, a pirate who would rise above all the others to rule the uncharted Pirate Isles and who desires to capture a Liveship for himself, something which has never been done before; Maulkin, Sessura and Shreever, enigmatic sea serpents who are desperately looking for She Who Remembers before they forget that they have to be reborn and become Masters again; Paragon, a Liveship that went mad, or so it is believed; Malta, a young woman who may have unwittingly courted the son of one of the most powerful Rain Wild Traders' families, and the list goes on and on...:-)

The only negative aspect of this book is the fact that it's, in essence, a very long introduction to what will be quite a story. Which means that there is basically no resolution at the end, only more questions. So if you're a one-plot kind of reader, you may resent this novel.

But if you enjoy multi-layered storylines, this one is definitely for you. Ship of Magic stands on its own, brilliant and refreshing, in a sea (no pun intended!) of weak and lackluster fantasy series.

Highly recommended. Will be hard to put down!:-) If I could sum it all up with one word, it would have to be "unique." If you are looking for something special, something different, this one comes with the highest possible recommendation.

Final verdict: 9/10

La crème de la crème (part 2)

Okay, so here are those series I believe no fantasy fan can do without. . .:-)

THE DUNE SAGE by Frank Herbert

- Dune (1965)
- Dune Messiah (1969)
- Children of Dune (1976)
- God Emperor of Dune (1981)
- Heretics of Dune (1984)
- Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)

***Unique. The monument of science fiction.


The Fionavar Tapestry

- The Summer Tree (1984)
- The Wandering Fire (1986)
- The Darkest Road (1986)

- Tigana (1990)

- A Song for Arbonne (1992)

- The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995)

The Sarantine Mosaic

- Sailing to Sarantium (1998)
- Lord of Emperors (2000)

- The Last Light of the Sun (2004)

***A storyteller on the grandest scale and fantasy's best kept secret. How, after such an illustrious career and so many magnificent novels, this author is not more popular is beyond me. He is renowned the world over, and yet has never appeared on the NYT Bestseller List. . .

Those who have read his books all agree: He just might be the best fantasy writer in the world today. The way that man can blend history and fantasy is simply unbelievable! If you only read one book this year, make it one of his!;-)

DRAGONLANCE by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman


- Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984)
- Dragons of Winter Night (1985)
- Dragons of Spring Dawning (1985)


- Time of the Twins (1986)
- War of the Twins (1986)
- War of the Twins (1986)

- The Second Generation (1994)

- Dragons of Summer Flame (1995)

***The original series. Forget about the War of Souls trilogy, which was of very poor quality compared to its predecessors. But the originals were responsible for an entire new generation of people falling in love with the fantasy genre. Yours truly included!;-) Twenty million people worldwide cannot be wrong! As memorable a cast of characters as can be.

So this is it, folks!:-) The list of my all-time favourites is now out! In the next one, I will include the runner-ups, those who almost qualified to "La crème de la crème."

Until then, take care and be good, all of you,


Things that make you go hmmm...

The week it was relased, Terry Goodkind's latest installment of the Sword of Truth series, Chainfire, debuted at number 3 on the New York Times Bestseller List. The following week, it managed to remain in the Top 5 by dropping to number 5. And now, somehow Chainfire is still holding on at number 6. . .

No author has been more criticized in the last few years than Terry Goodkind, and that for multiple reasons. His capital offense has been to milk his popularity, squeezing as much juice as he can from his legions of fans, by putting out books that have little or nothing to do with the main storyline of the series. Stone of Tears, the series' second volume demonstrated that Goodkind appeared to possess an immense potential. It's a pity that he has never again lived up to what a lot of people saw in him. Every book he's released since has been a lackluster affair.

His tendency to preach, to impose his philosophical and political views throughout his novels, again and again and again, has put off a lot of people and antagonized hordes of others. Fans grew discontented with the Sword of Truth series, not without good reasons. The quality of his work has diminished in dramatic fashion, and it's shocking to see that although his popularity has been waning of late, his latest book scored so high on the NYT list. Of course, the schedule does help a lot, with no other big name releasing a fantasy novel at the same period of time. . .

After reading Faith of the Fallen, I simply chose to abandon Mr. Goodkind. I could not believe that someone could take advantage of his fans in such a manner. I bought the hardcover version of The Pillars of Creation for a mere 7$ during a liquidation sale. And from what I've heard from readers, I probably paid too much. But I wanted to keep the hardcover collection intact. . . I have not bought Naked Empire and have absolutely no intention to purchase Chainfire any time soon. Someone who so blatantly shows such disregard toward his fans doesn't deserve a single penny out of my pocket. As you can see from his latest book's position on the NYT list, my lack of contribution doesn't appear to hinder Mr. Goodkind's commercial success. If some people still wish to support him, regardless of the fact that he's taken advantage of them, so be it.

I've heard it said that Goodkind promised that the two next installments would complete The Sword of Truth series, which will weigh in at 11 books in total. In my opinion, that's about 6 books too much. . .

Let's see how he ends this thing. Perhaps, if we are lucky, he will again show just how much potential he does possess. I have never seen a series with so much promise fall so short. . . Let us hope that Goodkind can redeem himself by writing something that will live up to expectations. . .


Wow!!! Two different posts in a day!;-) Don't count on this happening too often! I just don't have the time to do that. . .

In order to offer a book review which is a bit more up-to-date, following Coe's trilogy I elected to read Shadowmarch, Tad Williams' latest novel. It marks the beginning of a new fantasy trilogy, his first in about a decade. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is one of my favourite series of all time, and his scifi/technological series Otherland captivated me as well. So I was more than eager to start this book. Expectations were high, I must admit. But given the quality of his previous works, that's as it should be.

The odd thing, however, is that there is absolutely no buzz pertaining to this novel. And based on the fact that Tad Williams is a New York Times bestselling author, that is weird indeed. I always keep track of national fantasy bestsellers on the Locus Magazine website. Strangely enough, I could not find a trace of Shadowmarch. It's almost as if it had not yet been released. . .

Okay, so if you've read anything by Williams, you are aware that everything he does is always vast in scope and in details. Shadowmarch is no exception to that rule.:-)

Tad Williams' worldbuilding in this novel is again above and beyond what is currently the norm in the fantasy genre. And the fact that Shadowmarch offers us only a glimpse of what appears to be an impressive new universe makes me eager to read the next two installments!

As was the case with his other series, Williams starts rather slowly once again. But where the novel is lacking in action, it certainly packs a powerful punch in other respects. I got the feeling that Shadowmarch is one big introduction. And in Tad Williams' style everything appears to be secrets buried under riddles wrapped in mysteries.:-)

The characterizations, which are always one of the author's strong points, are at times brilliant and at times lacking. That was a disappointment, I must admit. Williams is always a master at building up characters. He obviously has a lot more in store for us in the future volumes of the series. Indeed, we want to know more about Shaso, the master of arms of Southmarch; Captain Vansen; The God-Emperor Sulepis, Autarch of Xand; Qinnitan, a seemingly ordinary girl chosen to become one of the Autarch's wives; Chaven, the mysterious physician; Yasammez, Scourge of the Shivering Plain; the strange, nameless boy found just beyond the Shadowline by the Funderlings; the orphaned girl named Willow; the potboy Gil; and so many more.

But as I mentioned, at times the chracterizations are lacking. With the Funderlings, Chert and Opal and their brethren, Williams made several attempts at humor, which somehow wasn't really à propos. In some instances, it even kills the momentum of the book. But my biggest disappointment lies in the chracterization of the twins, Briony and Barrick. It's obvious that there is a lot more to both than meets the eye, especially with Barrick's strange curse. But the way both characters think, interact with others, talk, etc; none of it rings true. In a way, it's as if their scenes were written by another author.

The other major shortcoming of Shadowmarch is all the politicking that takes place. Williams is much better than most writers in certain aspects of writing fantasy. Political intrigues, however, is not one of them. And since a large part of the novel hinges precisely on that, it's a bit of a setback. Not everyone can do it like George R. R. Martin or Katherine Kurtz, after all.

But enough about the negative. There are a lot of positive things about this novel, which keeps you turning those pages. Much like the Sithi in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the Twilight People are not your typical happy-go-lucky elves. Somehow, Williams is the only writer who can bring the darker nature of the fairy folk in such a fashion.

Williams caps it all off with a very good ending that answers few questions. But it raises many more, which creates undeniable interest for the sequels. As the cover blurb indicates, Shadowmarch is a vast tale of magic, intrigue, terror, sacrifice and war.

And with the Qar, the Twilight People, now reaching beyond the Shadowline to reclaim their lost lands; with the Autarch of Xand looking to expand his vast empire to the north; with the king of Southmarch imprisoned in Hierosol, victim of betrayal; with Yasammez poised to destroy humankind; with a conspiracy attempting to kill the Eddon family, rulers of Southmarch Castle; with Qinnitan destined to become the mother of the Autarch's heir; with Prince Barrick plagued by a strange curse that will take him beyond; with all that and more, there is a lot to like about Shadowmarch.

The positive outweighs the negative by far. Anyway, this series will have to be judged as a whole, not just by its opening chapter.

Regardless of its shortcomings, I am convinced that Williams' fans will enjoy this new novel. They are used to the fact that he is a slow starter, even if the end promises a lot more to come. However, I am not certain that newcomers will get into this one as much. Hence, I would recommend that they read Williams' previous works before tackling this book. It would be a shame for them to base their opinion of such a good writer on the premise of Shadowmarch alone.

The final verdict: 7/10

Fall from Grace

Once upon a time, before Robert Jordan's titanic The Wheel of Time, before Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth, before George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, before Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Haydon, David Farland, as well as all those newcomers in the fantasy genre, an author used to dominate the genre.

The 80s are not very far behind, but to the new generation of fantasy fans it seems that it's a forgotten era. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. . .;-) Most new readers of the genre often have no idea concerning those writers who paved the way for Robert Jordan and all the current favorites.

In my opinion, the most shocking thing of all is not that those young men and women have not read anything written by such greats as Stephen R. Donaldson, Guy Gavriel Kay or Raymond E. Feist. No, what is more disturbing is the fact that most of them have never even heard of such brilliant authors.

An old proverb claims that what was once exalted can be cast down. Sadly, such appears to be the case with one of the best writers of the 80s and the 90s.

Between 1982 and 1997, David Eddings had an unbroken string of 15 New York Times bestsellers, 19 in total during his illustrious career. He has sold millions of copies of his books worldwide, and his works have been translated in more than a dozen languages.

His first two series, The Belgariad and The Malloreon, earned him much deserved acclaim. If you read my post "La crème de la crème," you are doubtless aware that I consider these 2 series to be the definitive work of fantasy fiction of the 80s.

At that period, it seemed that Eddings could do no wrong. Those 2 series were indubitably fantasy on a grand scale, such as it were back then. In today's market, Jordan's The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos are almost as long as single volumes as the entire series of The Belgariad was.

Still, those series had everything a fantasy fan could ask for. It was a wonderful and entertaining saga, filled with magic, adventure, mystery, Edding's unique sense of humor, political intrigues, etc. The worldbuilding was the very best in the market, and the characterizations were incredible. Moreover, the entire saga was absorbing.

In 1991, even with its anti-climatic ending, The Seeress of Kell reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list. He was the first fantasy author to accomplish such a feat. At that point, Eddings was on top of the world.

It was unjust of us to expect him to somehow be able to write another series that would move readers worldwide in such a fashion. But his previous works set the bar rather high, and as demanding fans we expected no less.

His next trilogy, The Elenium, managed to live up to expectations. It was new, different, but it was still Eddings. All three volumes were NYT bestsellers. The series' sequel, The Tamuli, another trilogy, seemed to hint that the author could be running out of ideas. But how could that be possible? We were talking about David Eddings, after all. . . Still, the three books were NYT bestsellers as well.

But at that period of time, the fantasy genre had seen the emergence of a bright new voice, Robert Jordan. And because of him, the market was changing. Since 1991, when The Wheel of Time's third volume The Dragon Reborn made it to the NYT bestseller list, Jordan began to dominate the genre. In 1994, when The Tamuli's ended with the release of The Hidden City, Jordan's saga was steamrolling over the competition. That year, Lord of Chaos brought the series to new heights.

Del Rey, Eddings' publisher, needed to do something. The former powerhouse of the fantasy genre had been beaten by Tor Books, Jordan's publisher. In an effort to satisfy a market that now demanded bigger and better novels, they asked David Eddings and Terry Brooks to produce longer yarns, in an attempt to reclaim some market shares.

Unfortunately, it was an effort that failed miserably. Eddings' Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress were lackluster efforts. At that point, it became apparent that Eddings appeared to be running on an empty tank. Since they were related to his first two classic series, the two books were NYT bestsellers, but they would prove to be Eddings' last.

A major change for these last two novels was the fact that his wife, Leigh, was now acknowledged author as well. They now wrote as a pair. I am acutely aware that she contributed in no small way to each of her husband's previous books. She was working behind the scenes, as many authors' spouses do, and that was best. The old saying claims that behind every great man stands a woman. I mean no disrespect, but I believe that she should have remained behind the scenes. Ever since they began to write as a pair, the quality of their work has diminished dramatically.

The Redemption of Althalus was released in 2000. It did well initially, because Eddings' name still carried some weight. But that rapidly faded. Readers and critics alike did not think much of the novel. That same year, Robert Jordan's Winter's Heart debuted at number one on the NYT bestseller list. Everyone had seen it coming for several years, but the new millenium signalled the changing of the guard.

David Eddings and his wife are now working on a new four-books series, The Dreamers. He is no longer under contract with Del Rey, after about 20 years with the former powerhouse. The first volume, The Elder Gods, was a runner-up on the NYT bestseller list, debuting at number 16. It shows that Eddings still has many fans out there. But the following week, the fans and the critics demolished the novel. The same thing happened with The Treasured One, the second volume of the series. And this time, the book did not even come close to appearing on any bestseller list.

Your fans have spoken, Mr. Eddings. And sadly, I am one of them. Are you listening???

You will always have my respect and admiration for writing two classic series: The Belgariad and The Malloreon.

Having said that, never would I have believed that after reaching such heights, you would one day write such inferior works. Having done so much for the genre, it is sad to see you find yourself in such a position.

What was once exalted can be cast down. . .