Imager (Imager Portfolio #1)

0765360071.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Imager begins the journey of Rhennthyl on the path first of an artist and later as a Imager, a practitioner of mental magic, in the first of a trilogy as well as a whole series of books by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.  The flowing narrative slowly built up the city of L’Excelsis, the culture of the country of Solidar, the Solidar view of the world, religious system, and the practice of mental magic from Rhennthyl’s personal experience giving the reader an enjoyable read throughout the book.

Rhennthyl, or Rhenn for short, is the eldest son of a wool merchant who decidedly does not like business and instead becomes an artist’s apprentice, but while still a journeyman his art career ends with the death of his master when his talent for mental magic sends him to the Imagers on Imagisle.  The path of Rhenn’s discovery of how to use his magical talent and the sudden danger he soon finds himself is written through his own experience thus allowing the reader to learn along with Rhenn not only the magical system but the mystery of why assassins are after him.  Throughout the book Rhenn most not only focus on his magical training and the dangerous situations he finds himself in, but also his family and personal relationships that many times conflict.

There are many enjoyable things about this book, as mentioned before the reader learns along with Rhenn about the magical system and it’s uses as well as the greater world.  The interesting small details are very well written to add to the depth of the world, but this detailing also hurts it as well.  While Modesitt gives details in fashion and food, he neglects to give meaning to particular names that everyone in Solidar knows but readers do not like for instant who are Pharsi, tuadins, and the like that seem to be ethnicities or regional titles of individuals.  While it could be said that the seemingly formulaic aspect of the book is a negative, if well written it doesn’t matter.  The amount of assassination attempts on Rhenn and the suddenly plot resolution, or seeming resolution, does hurt the overall story but not enough to make me want to see more.

Overall, I enjoyed this my first reading of a L.E. Modesitt book.  Even with the gripes I had, it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in seeing what twists and turns Rhenn’s life and career take in the next two books of the trilogy following his life as an Imager.

The Outstretched Shadow (Obsidian #1)

0765341417.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Outstretched Shadow is a mixture of excellent plot and mind-numbing exposition that is makes for a maddening read for anyone making it through the book.  Authors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory collaborated in creating interesting and worth-reading characters as well as burying them with pages of padding.

The book revolves around Kellen, the disgruntled son of the Arch-Mage ruler of his home city.  Finding life in the city stifling and the rule of Mages like himself based on a lie, Kellen yearns to do something else and finds the Three Books of Wild Magic, outlawed by the Mage practitioners of High Magick.  After his father finds the Books, Kellen welcomes banishment but almost loses his life without the help of the unicorn Shalkan.  Once free of the city, Kellen starts his study in earnest of Wild Magic with the help from his previously unknown sister, but his father’s greed results in both of them running for their lives into Elven country only to find themselves in the middle of a drought, which is the opening move in a new war launched by the Great Enemy, the Endarkened.

The overall plot and the characters were very interesting, however Lackey & Mallory buried it under unnecessary padding that blogged down the pace of the book.  Kellen’s worry and philosophical thoughts about Wild Magic was where the padding was most visible.  While this inner struggle was necessary, the amount of time and the repetition of the same paragraphs was a discredit to the authors and undermined the trust of the reader.  If Lackey & Mallory had been given a descent editor, the book would have been 100-150 pages shorter and much better for it.

The Outstretched Shadow is overall an okay book that unfortunately could have been really good, the protagonists and antagonists are well written creating the basis for a enjoyable series.  However, the unnecessary padding of the book could result in discouraging readers from even finishing the book.

The Jedi Doth Return (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part The Sixth

159474713x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The wonderful combination of Elizabethan theater and the Galaxy Far, Far Away returns in William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher.  Combining his love of the classic trilogy, in particular the concluding installment of the original trilogy, and the Bard, Doescher his  crossover adaptation series by bringing forth the triumphant of Episode VI with iambic pentameter, prose, haiku, and quatrains.

Doescher is out front in noting that The Return of the Jedi was his favorite installment of the original trilogy and it can be seen in his excellent translation of film dialogue to late 16th century English with the soliloquies, speeches, and asides that add depth to all the characters Star Wars fans have come to love.  The addition of new major and secondary characters to the overall story are given lines to better understand their inner thoughts, in particular Emperor Palpatine the ultimate villain of the film and trilogy.  As a result of this approached a better understanding new and previous seen characters is given to the reader than as a film viewer.  Like The Empire Striketh Back, Doescher breaks away from iambic pentameter for several characters, but in particular the Ewoks who’s language is said in quatrains.  The inner feelings of Han and Leia are furthered towards her ultimate coming together while Leia and Luke’s sibling acknowledgement is given greater depth than given in the film.  Like his previous book Doescher used the Chorus less than he did in his first book, instead having characters detail the action like Shakespeare did in his plays.  The key and favorite scenes of the film are given their own Shakespearean spin that brings a smile to the reader’s face.

In a 159 pages, Doescher brings the epic saga of the redemption Anakin Skywalker as seen in Episode VI to the Elizabethan stage with amazing results.  If you’re a Star Wars fan you’ve got to get your hands on this book.

Star Wars

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Hogwarts #4)

429dcf00ad0ebd5592b415a5741444341587343Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but the first since finishing Deathly Hallows and first time reading it critically. I’ve tailored this review in the following in mind: the intended audience for the book (much younger than myself) and it’s place in the series.

Goblet of Fire is nearly double the length of it’s immediate predecessor and the first book in which Rowlings expounded upon numerous details.  Given the advancing plot and more mature content than previous volumes, Rowlings still retained her brilliant wording even while giving up brevity and slowing the book’s pace so that various details could be given their due. The immediate history of the Wizarding World, particularly in the direct aftermath of Voldemort’s fall is a central theme that Rowlings emphasizes especially as Voldemort returns to power.  Beyond covering Harry participating in the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort’s return, Rowlings develops character relationships and character development that both add to and (unfortunately) take away from the whole narrative.

Goblet of Fire returns to the overall story’s primary theme of the first two books, Voldemort plotting to return but this time succeeding setting up the overall story’s next phases.  Since this book is the middle of the series, it is full of transitions that Harry encounters both magical and not.  Time devoted to Harry’s time in Muggle world continues to be lessen and his time in the Wizarding World before returning to Hogwarts, and he discovers that his new World is more than Britain as he attends the Quiddich World Cup and then interacts with international students at Hogwarts.  Important characters, important magical objects, and other important facts are sprinkled into the narrative even before Harry’s return to Hogwarts but the astute reader will notice their importance as events unfold.  The deepening plot and maturing content in addition to the evil rising ending of the book finally sweeps away the “innocence” vibe earlier books had.  Goblet of Fire is where darkness creeps into Harry’s story and it’ll only get darker.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the hinge book of the series, the overall story will never be as “light” as the earlier books and is about to get “dark” as the series continues.  Rowlings expands her descriptions and adds new story lines for characters adding to the book’s length while still keeping a good pace throughout.  However the additions, while overall good, do  not mesh well in Rowlings first attempt and as a result the book suffers a tad.  But no matter the little flaws, this fourth installment of the Harry Potter series is still a good read.

Harry Potter