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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Prisoner in the Oak - Mists of Avalon Book 4 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Morgaine grows older and finds herself without allies among her kin and even among those in Avalon. While Morgaine, now Lady of the Lake, believes that Arthur should return the Holy Regalia of Avalon to its rightful place because he has turned his back on Avalon, Kevin the Harper, and current Merlin, disagrees. He believes that the world is changing and that the holy items should remain in the real world, instead of disappearing into the Mists along with Avalon.

Morgaine plots as Viviane once did ways to bend the world to her will. If she could not only displace Arthur but replace him with a man of her choosing, she could prevent Avalon from disappearing into the mists by bringing the old ways back. Plan after plan is ruined, until unexpectedly Arthur's companions scatter in quest of finding the Holy Grail that disappeared.

What will become of the High King Arthur and his Kingdom? And what of Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar's forbidden love? And will Morgaine ever gain control of the sacred isle?

Those who know the tale of King Arthur and Camelot know what to expect, but because the tale is told from the point of view of the many women in the saga there is a different flavor to the events. Each time I read this I come away with a different understanding of not only the events but of the characters due to my own life experiences. Morgaine's determination to bring right to the world even as the world fights. Kevin's desire to keep the true faith among the people, even if it is tainted by misunderstanding. Gwenhwyfar's intense love constantly warring with her desire to be honorable. And Morgause's desire to bring about the best future for her sons.

Purists will object to Bradley's interpretation, but those who want to see things from a different perspective will find this an insightful and enjoyable read.

Books in the Series:
Mistress of Magic - Book 1
The High Queen - Book 2
The King Stag - Book 3

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Ruby Circle - Richelle Mead

The forbidden romance between Sydney the human alchemist and Adrian the vampire is a hot topic of gossip. While Adrian was able to secure safety for them within the confines of Queen Vasalisa's rule, they are trapped within its grounds. Used to a transient lifestyle thrust upon her by her previous Alchemist lifestyle, staying within grounds is slowly killing Sydney and placing strain on her relationship with Adrian.

Their boring life won't last for long though. Jill makes an appearance to Adrian in his dreams and Sydney receives veiled clues as to where she may be and what her fate will be. But is their friend really in trouble or is it another plot by the Alchemists to recapture Sydney to "rehabilitate" her and bring her back into the fold?

I was originally excited to hear Mead was going to have a series follow Sydney, as she was a character in the Vampire Academy series that piqued my interest. The best part of this series has been the character development for both Sydney and Adrian as characters; however, the overall quality of the series has gone down with each novel. The magic system which originally started out requiring components for non-vampires required no elements by this final book. Sydney and Adrian's relationship growth ended as soon as they got married. And unless Mead intends to do another series after this one, she left loose ends concerning dhampir fertility and the anti-striggoi vaccine.

Mead began employing the swapping point of view between Sydney and Adrian in the previous book and it's just never felt right to me. And with this final book it was worse than any of the previous ones due to a lot of telling and little showing. Events felt summarized and rushed. Many parts that should have been action-oriented or emotional didn't have a lot of feeling.

I'm disappointed by the novel itself and the majority of the series. For those who are curious about Sydney's further adventures it is worthwhile, but it is otherwise a mediocre addition to the Vampire Academy world.

Books in the series:
The Indigo Spell
The Fiery Heart
Silver Shadows

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff - Christopher Moore

While many people are familiar with Jesus from his adventures in the Bible, they only know a portion of his life. Levi, known as Biff, is brought back from his death to write the definitive history of Jesus, including the years he had disappeared into the desert. After all, what better person to write this additional chapter than Jesus', or Joshua as they used to call him, best friend?

Just like any child, Joshua was prone to little acts of wickedness. Knowing his real father is the one in heaven, he's constantly at odds with his earthly father, Joseph. And with his budding powers, bringing lizards back to life and turning water to wine is only the beginning of mischief.

Despite his childish outbursts, Joshua is still a good boy at heart. He continues to seek counsel of his Father in heaven; although, he confides in Biff alone that he never receives an answer. And when his childhood love gets betrothed, Joshua can't stand the idea and runs away with one goal in mind: to find the Magi, just like they found him.

He learns many lessons from the Magi, each of which specialized in certain forms of discipline. With their help he is finally able to discover what he wants to bring back to Jerusalem as the Savior of his people. But many more adventures await him as he spreads the good word and gathers disciples. And he shows courage and determination that his followers can never comprehend when he surrenders himself to the will of the Pharisees.

Moore's creative retelling of the Jesus' story includes references to culture, history, and apocrypha, which makes it a special treat for those who are well-read. But anybody who reads this book would also need a broad sense of humor toward religion in general, as Joshua and Biff not only grew up with Judaism, but also explore Buddhism, Hinduism, philosophy, and mysticism. Biff, the narrator, also has a healthy sense of humor when it comes to sex and doesn't spare vulgarity in his word usage.

This is the second time I've read this novel and I'm just as moved as I was the first time. Knowing Jesus, Joshua, all the way through his life gives me a sense of truly knowing him. Not just the sacred parts in the Bible, but the every day parts of him. The flawed parts that I, as a human being, can relate to. Just like the first time, I found tears streaming down my cheeks as Biff comes to terms with the death of his dearest friend. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everybody, I find it a fantastic read.

Recommended Reading:
God Knows - Joseph Heller

Recommended Viewing:
The Life of Brian

Monday, March 16, 2015

I've been busy lately and haven't been able to update. Sorry to my readers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The King Stag - Mists of Avalon Book 3 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Gwenhwyfar remains hopeful that her piousness will gain her favor in the eyes of God so she can have a child. When Gwenhwyfar of Arthur's secret child, she blackmails him into confessing to the priests, making him a slave to Christianity. Vivienne sees Arthur's actions as a betrayal of Avalon and moves to bid him to renew his vows to the Old People, who have supported him and made him High King.

Despite Morgaine's warning, Elaine insists that Morgaine cast a spell so she can entrap Lancelot. It is all worth it, until Morgaine returns to Elaine to demand the toll that was promised to her in exchange.

Morgaine lives life married to an old king for many years before she finally decides to return to Avalon to take her rightful place. That is, if she can manage to return to that sacred place cut off from the world. After years of hiding among the rest of the soldiers Morgaine's son, Gwydion, (Mordred) now appears ready to take the stage.

Tension continues to build in the third part of this extraordinary retelling of King Arthur's Court. The fall of King Arthur and his Court of Companions is not too far away.

Books in the Series:
Mistress of Magic - Book 1
The High Queen - Book 2
The Prisoner of the Oak - Book 4