Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘epic fantasy

New Review Up at SBR, and my Writing Journey Continueth…

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Folks, before I forget, go read my review of Deborah J. Ross’s epic fantasy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. (You’ll be glad you did.)

Why did I want to start with that? Well, it’s rare to see a strong, yet quiet and scholarly woman as the heroine of an epic fantasy. Yet Tsorreh, heroine of THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD, is exactly that — and I loved reading about her.

In fact, I enjoyed reading about her so much that I delayed reviewing THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD for several months. I was afraid I would not do justice to it, because when you reduce the plot to its bare bones, it sounds like many other epic fantasy novels.

But it’s nothing like them. It isn’t predictable (except that Tsorreh’s son Zevaron is young, impetuous, and you want to kick some sense into him, but isn’t that the way of younglings everywhere?). It’s quite spiritual. And the writing, editing, and presentation of Tsorreh’s journey is so good that I wasn’t sure anything I said would come close to matching it.

I don’t often feel quite this overawed by fiction, mind. (Not even by someone with the stature and longevity of Deborah J. Ross in the field of science fiction and fantasy.) In fact, me feeling like this is quite rare…and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Anyway, I’ve now reviewed it over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), and I even wrote a review (a different one, earlier this evening) over at Amazon. I think very highly of this book, and I hope that if you like my work and trust in what I say, you’ll give it a try. (Trust me — it’s different. And it’s even better than my words have made it out to be.)

Now, as for my writing journey?

Most of you know that I’m going to put out my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s Columba Chronicles again. (They were briefly available in 2010 and into 2011 via E-Quill Publishing in Australia.) But I realized on my re-reads that there was more that needed to be added.

It’s kind of like what I’ve tried to do with Michael’s military science fiction. I know there is more to the story. I try to add it, and remain faithful to Michael’s words; then, as I feel more confident, I write in Michael’s milieu and do what I think he’d do if he were still alive. (Or at least what I want to do, because I believe he’d trust me enough to know what that is.)

So right now, I plan to write a story about Cat, Columba’s husband the shapechanger. (We find out about Cat and his unusual courtship of Columba in the “Columba and the Cat” novella, available now.) I’ve called this “The Quest for Columba,” and I’m even mentioning it in the “coming soon” part of all of the novellas currently out there (including the two earliest, “A Dark and Stormy Night,” and “On Westmount Station“).

You see, I figure Cat’s story is vital to understanding why he went after Columba in the first place. Michael only hints at it. But I know how he worked, and I think he would’ve written about it if he’d only had time.

There also was another story on the way that Michael did not get a chance to finish called “Columba and the Cromlech.” I have tried a few times over the past several years to get into that. My problem was always that I didn’t completely get where Cat was coming from, and because of that, I only could write Columba. (And my version of Columba was always a little more in-your-face than Michael’s.)

However, once I finish “The Quest for Columba,” I think I will again turn my attention to “Columba and the Cromlech,” and will have a much better idea as to where that story is going.

That being said, my version of the second story Michael wrote, “Columba and the Crossing,” will be different than the version E-Quill Publishing put out in 2010. I’m adding in more romance, as I think it’s needed — Michael left a lot in subtext, and I think at least some of it needs to be brought out.

Furthermore, I’ve gotten much better at matching Michael’s writing style even though it’s a thousand times different than mine. And because of that, I feel far more confident in adding my own touches. I knew my husband very well, and I believe that he would want me to do this — since he’s not able to bring these stories to their complete fruition, I believe he’d trust me enough to add what I know must be there.

Maybe this sounds strange to you. Perhaps it is strange. I haven’t a clue as to how other writers do this, though I’ve read what Brandon Sanderson said about his collaboration with Robert Jordan (facilitated by his widow the editor), I’ve read what Ursula Jones said about collaborating with her sister Diana Wynne Jones after the latter passed away, and I’ve done my best to figure out what these authors did and why they did it after the fact.

But no one has collaborated with their deceased spouse when neither of them was well-known. That means there’s no road map to what I’m doing, and no one can give me much in the way of advice other than “Trust yourself” or “You’re a better writer than you think” or even “Michael trusted you, so why can’t you believe in yourself more than this?”

All of these things are good to hear, mind. (Don’t get me wrong about this.) And I have listened.

Still, this is my path. I chose it years ago after Michael unexpectedly passed on. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I said I would find a way — and I am.

I only hope that readers will enjoy what I’m doing, and know that there’s a method to my madness. Because I really believe that Michael would be trying to do exactly what I’m doing…even though I can’t prove it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

Just Reviewed Lackey and Mallory’s “Crown of Vengeance” at SBR

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Folks, if you are looking for a compelling epic fantasy that’s never boring, features a fine, yet flawed, heroine and a subtext that heroines need love, too (yet can rarely find it), you will really adore Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s newest novel, CROWN OF VENGEANCE.  Set in their world of Jer-a-Kaliel deep in the misty past, they tell the story of the great Elven Queen Vieliessar Farcarinon . . . and how the myths and legends that have arisen in the centuries upon centuries since her adventures are both more and less than what she actually was.

Before I discuss more of my typical “after-action report,” here’s the link to my review:

Now, back to the AAR.

See, Vieliessar is a very complex person.  She’s a mage.  She’s a fighter.  She’s a scholar.  She’s a wise and benevolent ruler.  But she starts out very much behind the eight ball, as her mother died giving birth to her, the rest of Vieliessar’s family has been killed due to infighting among the Hundred Noble Houses, and because of that infighting, Vieliessar barely knows anything about herself until age twelve or so.

Instead, she thinks she’s Varuthir, and no one special.  But she hopes to become an Elven knight anyway, and win glory on the battlefield, as that’s the best way for her to gain a name, and home, of her own.

At that point, she is instead sent to the Sanctuary of the Star — the place her mother gave birth, mind you — to become a perpetual servant.  The reason this happens is because the Hundred Houses want no one of Farcarinon left able to reclaim her birthright.  But because one petty, spiteful noble actually tells Vieliessar her real name and just a tad about her heritage, Vieliessar becomes both curious and angry as to why she’s been misled all this time.

The Sanctuary is a safe place for Vieliessar for a number of years.  She learns more about who she is by doing various things, including learning that servants are just as important as nobles, that the status of the Landbonds (serfs tied to the land, more or less — farmers) is far below their actual worth and value, and that she actually has magical talent.

Then, after she’s resigned herself to becoming Vieliessar Lightsister (sort of a combination of mage, cleric and scholar), she has to reinvent herself again due to factional infighting at the Sanctuary.  (Mind you, I didn’t have time to get into that in my review, plus I didn’t want to give too much away.  Read the rest of this AAR at your own risk!)  And she becomes a swordswoman.

At this point, she finds a few of her family’s old retainers — the few that were left alive after the destruction of House Farcarinon — and decides to go to war.

But she’s not going to war with the other nobles, even though they think she is due to her destiny as the “Child of the Prophecy.”  (I talk more of this in my review.)  Instead, she knows she must unite the noble houses behind her banner in order to fight the nasty, vicious, disgusting and evil Endarkened — blood mages of the worst sort, who don’t see themselves as evil but obviously are.

Note that Vieliessar does not know who the Endarkened are, much less what.  But she does know that some sort of monstrous evil has been prophesied.  She also knows that she’s sensed something really bad out there that doesn’t like Elves, and figures that this must be the evil that’s been prophesied.  (She’s right, too.)

Book one mostly discusses Vieliessar’s quest to unite the noble houses.  It’s an absorbing read so long as it’s fixed on Vieliessar’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations — and it’s even interesting when dealing with the petty, political one-upmanship seen in the various maneuvering of the noble houses as they try, in vain, to escape their eventual joint fate as vassals to Vieliessar.

Really, if you enjoy a good, solid epic fantasy, you will love this book.  And if you loved any of Lackey and Mallory’s previous six collaborative efforts, you will assuredly love this book . . . so what’s stopping you from first reading my review, then reading the book itself?  (Go pick up a copy today!  Further reviewer sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

Just Reviewed Dave Freer’s “Dog and Dragon” at SBR

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Folks, if you enjoy Dave Freer’s lighter efforts, you will enjoy DOG AND DRAGON, which I just reviewed at Shiny Book Review (SBR)  It’s a fine and funny sequel to DRAGON’S RING that’s charming in its way but isn’t up to the standard of DRAGON’S RING, mostly because one of the characters seems to have things happen way too easily for her — and partly because most sequels have difficulty living up to the previous book in the same universe/multiverse.

The main reason to read DOG AND DRAGON, though, is the humor.  Fionn the black, shapechanging dragon, and Dileas, a sheepdog, have some rather interesting adventures that amused me and kept me laughing at the oddest of moments.  (Mind, that’s just not possible for Meb, the other main character; she’s doing her best to save the benighted land of Lyonesse, and that’s just not something with much humorous potential.)

That’s why I say if you like Freer’s lighter books, you’ll really enjoy this.  But if you’re expecting a weightier read similar to this book’s prequel, DRAGON’S RING, you may end up feeling like me — glad you read the book, yes.  But a bit disappointed that DOG AND DRAGON, fine and funny though it is, wasn’t up to the previous book’s standard.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Just reviewed Jim C. Hines’ “Goblin Quest” at SBR

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Folks, as a writer of satirical urban fantasy, I know satirical fantasy when I see it.  Jim C. Hines’ first novel in his “Jig the Goblin” series, GOBLIN QUEST, is satirical epic fantasy of the highest order.  Jig’s quest sends up warriors, wizards, the whole nature of throwing a bunch of unrelated people together together on a quest in the first place (it probably wouldn’t work too well in real life), and even a bit about how Elven thieves probably are like thieves anywhere else — poor, broke souls who have no better options available (or at least feel like they don’t have anything better to look forward to).  And it’s a ripping good read with much else to recommend it, besides.  (And did I mention this was Hines’ debut novel?)

Anyway, please read my review of GOBLIN QUEST at Shiny Book Review (link follows):

Enjoy!  (I know I sure did.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm