Category Archives: Fantasy

Mindset

It was in that moment she just knew. 

Their eyes met across the smoke tinged bar and she blinked hard trying to stop his face blurring as the acrid scent of alcohol, sweat and the gents stung her eyes.  She watched his callous face swim in her vision and imagined herself touching him, stroking him, holding him as she once had. Then the crowds surged and his face was lost in a sea of slurring bodies, desperate for toxins to complete the tortured travesty of their lives.

She turned, walking towards the scarred and swollen door, keeping the strangers out and the occupants in.  The oblique and only portal of the bar, framed by a sweat-greased lintel bearing an equally soiled solitary tankard.   A swift jerk on the creaking handle edged the door inward enough to let her slide out into the frosty night air.  Her breath froze in an instant as she let out the breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding and she felt her shoulders sag as tense muscles finally relaxed.  Standing there for a moment she closed her eyes and looked round the deserted street, seeing only the reflection of the moon on the iced pavement and the flutter of leaves and discarded papers on the slick road.  She felt alone, isolated, for a moment bereft and turned her head slightly back towards the fetid bar.  To company, to familiarity, to where she’d once been.

“Oi, shut the door love, it’s fucking freezing out there!” a voice shouted from the depths of the bar, followed by jeering laughter and the odd whistle.

“Dozy bitch, what the fuck is she doing?”

“Maybe she figured she’d need someone to warm her back up when she comes in”

“Naa, birds like that don’t think!”

She thrust her arm behind her without turning towards the howls of laughter and grasped the icy handle pulling with everything she had at the door, dragging furrows in the floorboards as it resisted the unusual treatment and screeched towards its housing.  With a final lurch, she stumbled forwards and slammed the door with an echoing crack that broke the night air like a rifle shot and then she stood, breathing hard, listening to the remnants of her life before sit in dumb disbelief as the single glass on the shelf rolled gently back and forth in the aftermath of the quake only to roll softly off the edge and shatter into greasy shards on the floor.

She straightened and pulled up her hood, shoving her hands deep in her pockets and turning to walk resolutely back down the shining, glacial street.  As the shouting started she let go of her breath and smiled.


Face Paining

It was a day for singing and sadness, a day for open hearts and censored thoughts, a day to celebrate the life he has not mourn the living he left out. It was not a day for honesty.

The rain sluiced down the windscreen onto the black bonnet, drumming a tattoo on the roof of the Cadillac and muffling the sounds of Sophie’s quiet sobs from the back. Dave shifted awkwardly in his seat as he tried to gather her more fully into his arms but her limp figure just seemed to slide from his grasp at every turn, leaking back onto the black leather seats as if to immerse herself more fully in the noir of her misery.

“Come on, love” he cajoled. “We’re here to celebrate Alan’s life and he wouldn’t have wanted to see you in this state now would he?” The second the words left his mouth, Dave wished he could suck them back in and erase them from existence, but it was too late.

“What?” Sophie’s head whipped around with a muscular power belying her previous slackness. “You hadn’t spoken to Alan in weeks before he died!  How can you dare to presume to know what he would and wouldn’t have wanted?!”  The previously muffled sobs now started to escalate into tearing cries akin to the wrenching apart of rusted metal as Sophie worked herself further and further into her state of hysteria

“How could you?  You know all he wanted was to be friends and if only you’d have talked to him perhaps none of this would have happened! I’m not sure you should even be here today.  If the tables were turned I’d be too horrified to show my face at his funeral. You… you…” This thought was clearly too much for even Sophie’s melodramas to finish and instead she dissolved into loud, hiccupping wails that startled the group of mourners making their way past the end of the car under their umbrellas.

Dave sighed and once again shifted in his seat waiting for Sophie’s display to finish.  His head was starting to ache and in all honesty he was beginning to wonder why he had agreed to attend the funeral. Wiping his hand over his face he heard the rasping stubble of the last three days and felt the sleepless night’s grit in his eyes and thought over the possibility of escaping the confines of the vehicle and Sophie’s amateur dramatics into the cool embrace of the October rainfall.  For just a moment he entertained the thought of leaving all this behind him and making a break for it through the peaceful graveyard to his left.

Suddenly Sophie’s flaccidity seemed to return in full force and she flung herself artistically onto his lap and howled into chest with a ferocity that made the driver, studiously ignoring his passengers until this point, jump in his seat and turn to the back seat with a look half shock, half ill-concealed disgust plastered on his face.

It was too much.  This was really all too much for Dave to take. He took one look at the driver’s exasperated expression and couldn’t help the noise that came out.  Sophie slowly lifted her head and turned to look at him in disbelief, but the view of her makeup strewn, puffy-eyed, slack mouthed, wobbly-lipped indignation was the last straw.  He could feel it creeping up his chest and overpowering his conscience sense and there was nothing he could do to stop its onset.

Dave leant his head back in the seat and roared with laughter.  The kind of laugh that leaves you feeling weak and trembling after it’s arrived.  His body shook with the sudden mirth that overtook him and tears started to course down his cheeks unchecked as he pushed Sophie away and reached for the door handle.  This seemed to shake her from her incredulity and spur her to action

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing you selfish bastard?  Today is about Alan and you think this is acceptable?  You clearly have issues you need to sort out but right now, I’m telling you to get your shit together and think of Alan!  Shut that door, get back in the car, get yourself together and walk me up to that fucking graveside or…”

“Or what Sophie? You’ll do what exactly..?” Dave left the question hanging in the echo of his final chuckle and stared into the face he once thought he loved. “You’ll do what?”

They stayed locked in the stare for a long time before colour gradually started to flood Sophie’s face, barely visible beneath the cake of makeup on her skin but the flicker of her eyes down towards her now twisting uncertain hands was all the confirmation he needed.

“No, I didn’t think so,” Dave said quietly. He turned in his seat and pulled the door open.  The grey sky and greasy rain greeted him as he stepped from the vehicle and straightened up, stretching as he went.  He stood for a moment; face turned to the clouds and listened to the muffled sounds of the world beyond the black Cadillac and all it held. Without a backwards glance, he walked away, through the peace of the gravestones.

 


Maria V. Snyder: A return I was so much waiting for I decided to review it.

Yep, i know.  So far I’ve not been a big reviewer of… well, anything!  But this changed over Christmas when Maria Snyder’s latest book came out.  After the previous two sci-fi ones which were really not my cup of tea I’m afraid I was to say the least, a little on edge.  So I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the latest of her nine books to date.

A Touch of Power (An Avry Kazan Novel) by Maria V Snyder  

A Touch of Power - Maria V. Snyder

Having read Maria V. Snyder’s Yelana Zaltana series in 2009 and following it eagerly with her next two series as soon as they became available, I was looking forward to the latest novel with something akin to fearful apprehension.  It wasn’t that the second two series hadn’t been good; it’s just that her first had set a bench mark and the rest had unfortunately fallen a little short.  It was with this in mind that I started the first of the Avry Kazan novels.

In the land of the 15 Realms, A Touch of Power tells the story of healer, Avry Kazan, three years after the man-made plague has decimated the population.  It has left the few remaining healers shouldering the responsibility for starting the atrocity, fearful of discovery and scattered.  Avry’s story begins with her dilemma between the urge to help those who need her and her desire to survive.  Choosing to help the people who condemn her, she is sentenced to death and it is only because of her rescue by the fiery Kerrick and his band of unlikely champions that Avry is saved.  However, soon after the daring escape Avry is given another choice; return to her life on the run with no end in sight but that at the hands of the people who hold her responsible, or help Kerrick and his friends save a Prince from death, a man said to be able to unite the lands and save the people from the tyranny of others.  Not one to draw away from duty, the choice should be simple but for two matters.  Firstly Avry knows that to heal the prince she must give up her own life for his and secondly, she is also one of the only people left who knows that the prince might just be the one who condemned the worlds to the plague from the start.

From the moment I opened the pages and submerged myself into the 15 realms I found the book almost impossible to put down.  The slowly building story wraps itself around you, drawing you deep into its intricate characters and beautifully described lands as a Death Lily would into its exotic and often fatal clasp.  The world is complex and the lands numerous but Snyder using her flowing style and magic to introduce each new piece as a part of the elaborate whole.  It is this creation of a land that not only invites the reader in, but gives them a place to be in it and see the story unfold from the very midst of the action.  The characters emerging from the land add colour and vibrancy to a single story thread comprising a recipe of every individual tale.  There are those who take up less back story but by the middle of the book, their individual characters are still leaving you rooting for their survival throughout the series.

Snyder’s skilful style tempers the sometimes abrasive traits of the main characters with those of supporting roles that gradually come to the fore.  It is a difficult balance to achieve but she has managed this throughout the story with a balance of, not good and evil, but good intentions and intentions for the greater good.

It seems as though Snyder has used all her previous series to work out the best parts to use in this first book.  There are similarities in her heroine’s traits of intelligence, skill and power behind the scenes.  Of course mixed in there must be a stubborn streak and tenacity to execute the equal parts daring and dangerous plan, as well as a self-sacrificing nature.  However, Avry breaks from the mould by also being susceptible to seduction in more ways than one and her capitulation at points enhances the tension of the narrative.

A speciality of all the nine books written by Maria Snyder is the development of the romance throughout the narrative, which is complimented by the appearance of the initially seen archetypal anti-hero.  In addition to the classic situation of not noticing what is right before your eyes, this style of romance is the catalyst for a slowly igniting, but once lit, passionate romance that flows in harmony with the unfolding plot lines.  The individuality of the characters makes this romance their own and though the similarities are definitely there, when it works this well; why on earth change it?

A Touch of Power was a long awaited return to fantasy for Snyder and this book shows why this will to my mind, always be her forte.  For me, the worst part of the book is knowing it took me less than two days to finish and now I have two years to wait to read the next instalment.  Which as bad points go, will by no means stop me recommending this to fantasy readers everywhere and re-reading it several times while I await 2013 for Snyder’s next offering with fearless anticipation.