And in the streets, the children screamed
Tomorrow's is Whitsun Ale Day in most of Northern England these days. Now this is, despite its name, not something you drink. but rather is a celebration that the Lord and Lady of the Manor do for their village with sports and competitions, Morris dancing, music, and, of course, socialising, eating and drinking, If you can join us 'morrow afternoon on the greensward back of the Green Man building, we will be doing a similar endeavour while listening to the in-house orchestra play through works of a more or less classical nature provided you think Simon Jeffes composed such works...
Now where was I before I got sidetracked? Ahhhhh, I was pondering the lyrics of 'American Pie', as I'm always been amazed how much meaning is packed into the eight or so minutes the song runs! You can get a really good conversation in our Pub by asking folks what they think about a given choice bit of a song, say Steeleye Span's 'Horkstow Grange', or a passage from a favourite novel like Christopher Fowler's The Victoria Vanishes -- which has lots of descriptions of London pubs in it! But to get a really good debate going in the Pub, ask around to see what literary series are the favourites of folks. For the detailed list of recommend series for your summer reading pleasure, see our Featured This Edition section!
So this edition we're looking at just novels that are part of series, preferably long series. Some series get reviewed in full this edition, such as Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart Victorian mystery series; some will require multiple reviews such as The Books of Magic that Neil Gaiman created; and some reviews are of just the latest novel in a series, like Turn Coat, which is the newest Dresden Files novel...
But even though we're focusing on books this edition, the music is never far from our minds and our hearts. To lose our music is to lose part of our soul -- as our passage from 'American Pie' reminds us, lost music is a lost dream, and a lost dream is the greatest loss of all...
I found him at the edge of the Wood, lying on last year's leaves like an offering -- his wings, great glorious black-feathered pinions, were crumpled on the ground. He lay there, broken and barely alive.
He was in pain, and fevered, muttering over and over about Heaven's gates and falling. I gave him water, and tried to ease his discomfort. He didn't resist, and soon seemed to become aware of his surroundings, and thanked me quite nicely for my trouble. His voice was very deep, very soft, yet echoed like trumpets in the distance.
I managed to get splints of sorts on his wings without hurting him too much more, make-shift things of stripped branches and plaited grass, but they served well enough. His hurts looked better than they had at first, and he said it was no matter -- he's not so easy to kill, and his wings would heal on their own in time. But I wanted to do something for him -- he seemed so sad.
I confess I've never seen such beauty on this earth, cold and terrible though it was. His face was so nearly perfect that it frightened me a little. Pain masked the smile that seemed carved into his lips. But it was his eyes -- dark and deep as the space between the stars, no pity there, but something, something hard and hopeless, eyes that looked for no redemption, no salvation. He laughed at me when I told him how beautiful he was, said he was nothing remarkable among his kind, and if I ever laid eyes upon his Lord I would know the difference, although it would likely mean my destruction.
He gave no name, merely said he is one who knows hidden things, that secrets are his domain. I asked about his home, and he finally told me a bit, about the songs they sing and the dances they dance, and I could almost hear the music as he spoke, but he said most of it was beyond what he could put into words -- it's unlike this world, and more than I could bear, were I somehow to come there. He'd found an oak leaf, still a little golden though it was last year's, and sat playing with it while he talked, watching it as he twirled it by the stem. He had a gracious manner, grave and generous, and I began to feel easier with him. And then he looked right at me.
Into me. Those eyes . . . to realize that someone is examining your soul is . . . it's not a feeling I can describe well, nor want to remember. I was like a bird facing a snake, eye to eye with damnation. Then just as suddenly, he let me go.
I saw the smile his pain had hidden -- all joy was in it, as though the world were new. 'You're a good man,' he said, which made me suddenly shy, when I hadn't been, before. 'Get you gone, now. I'm well enough, and I won't vouch for myself hereafter. I'm not one most of your kind would welcome, so be warned.' And he looked me in the eye once more. 'But then, things are seldom as we imagine them to be.' He turned and left me then, proud and sad, broken wings and beauty and the music of his voice, all of it gone.
I would follow him, if I knew where to go.
Of the more than ten thousand books we've reviewed over the years, we've looked at more series than scarcely bears thinking about, which is why we decided that our Featured This Edition look-see, as befits our focus on series this time, would be a look at series we're recommending for your summer reading.
Camille Alexa has our first choice -- 'The unapologetic full-tilt action of Tobias Buckell's Xenowealth series was tons of fun. Things built rather slowly in Crystal Rain, but like the down slope of a roller coaster, the second half of the book was go, go, go. I could barely catch a breath through all of Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose took dirigible zombie space invasion about as far as it could go. What's next?'
Donna Bird picked the Joe Sandiland series -- 'Barbara Cleverly's series about Joe Sandilands, a London-based police officer and World War I veteran who spends time doing investigative work in India, was one of Donna’s first forays into the world of historical mystery series. Of the sixth and to date final novel in this series, Tug of War, Donna wrote, 'he novel is fast-paced and entertaining, but never breezy’ with an 'eminently satisfying but not at all predictable’ ending.'
J.S.S. Boyce says of Neal Asher's Polity series, 'What's not to love? Asher has revitalized space opera -- all the high-octane interstellar battles and alien lords we fondly recall are still present, but extrapolated very believably from now. This is fully modern, decidedly hard sci-fi on the cutting edge; there's no trace of misplaced 1950s nostalgia. In a universe half a millenium removed from us, we see the triumph of machine intelligence, aliens both hostile and ambivalent, and most all of the social problems we're dealing with now, joined by a slew of new ones. Never repetitive and always leaves you wanting more -- I'd say that's how to write a series.'
For a great English mystery series with a winning combination of ghosts and folk music, Cat Eldridge recommends Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballads series. He notes that 'The first in the series, The Weaver and the Factory Maid, sets up the premise of the series very nicely -- ghosts are very real and many, many folk can experience their presence with that awareness being anything from being very, very cold on a hot midsummer's day for no reason at all to seeing visions of the ghosts in their own time complete with smell, sound, and even touch being quite real.'
Oh, and do check out the first novel of Grabien’s new series, Rock and Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery, as the second novel, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is out this fall!
Deborah Grabien's not much for most present-era scifi/fantasy, but she does have two that make her quite happy: Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, began as a radio love affair in 1980 or thereabouts, every Thursday night on the BBC. And Laura Anne Gilman's Retrievers series has a nicely intricate ongoing storyline and characters who have a habit of poking you when you're thinking about something else entirely.
April Gutierrez has multiple series to recommend...
Part old-fashioned gumshoe detective story, part urban fantasy (complete with wizards, fairy queens and magic) and entirely entertaining, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files mixes together humor, action and engaging characters to paint an alternate world where magic is real, the good guys don't always wear white and Harry Dresden is your go-to man if you're in magical trouble. A look at the first novel, Storm Front, is here.
The Dark Tower series is not only the crowning achievement of Stephen King's long and illustrious career, it's the lynch-pin to many of his other works. King's sweeping tale of the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, relic of another place and time, touches upon many of his other books, often in subtle ways. Roland and his companions' journey to the Dark Tower is an enthralling, emotional read, a superb fantasy series from a master of horror.
April also thinks we would be remiss if we did not mention a few of our favourite Vertigo comic series. First up is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Entire books have been written about this amazing series, so she’ll only comment here that its blend of history, mythology and the DC universe, rendered in comic form, is unparalleled. And then there's Bill Willingham&rsquo';s marvelous modern fairy tale update Fables. Willingham's narrative of fairy tale characters hiding in New York and waging a war against an ancient foe is clever, bold and so very witty. Last, but certainly not least is the Hellblazer series, featuring stories penned by Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, and even one by Gaiman. John Constantine is not necessarily an upstanding gentleman, but he means well, and the frequently dark stories he inhabits are full of sardonic wit and social commentary.
Michael Jones loves the fiction of Simon R. Green so his recommendation is not surprising -- 'How does one describe the Nightside series? It's an insane mashup combining every urban fantasy and hardboiled detective trope imaginable. Simon Green essentially tosses all of these wacky, weird, disturbing, exaggerated, exciting and disparate elements into a blender, and adds some secret British blend of herbs and spices, before topping it all off with whipped cream and a cherry.
What's so keen about the Nightside? Anything goes. Anything. In the secret heart of London, where it's always 3 AM and usually raining, there are no limits and no boundaries. Angels, demons, time travellers, comic book heroes, pulp adventurers, saints, sinners, killers, androids, cavemen, thinly-veiled homages to a hundred other sources ... it's all there. And sooner or later there's going to be a messy fight, and it'll all end in tears. The Nightside is the perfect springboard for someone with as varied a resume and as wide a scope as Green. Though we usually see it through the eyes of John Taylor, a hardboiled P.I. tough enough to stare down God Himself (I hear that's in an upcoming book, right before he beats Chuck Norris in arm-wrestling), several other stories set in the Nightside and featuring other narrators prove its versatility as a storytelling device.
The Nightside series is what happens when John Constantine and Harry Dresden get drunk and tell tall tales. The Nightside series is where genre cliches go to get mugged. The Nightside series will beat up your sparkly vampires, alpha male werewolf studmuffins, sex-crazed faerie princesses, and magical orphaned schoolboys. The Nightside series is not impressed by you. The Nightside series stole your lolcat's cheeseburger. It is a shamelessly guilty pleasure made of inexplicable awesoness, and I'll never be allowed to write one of these again.'
For an English mystery series of a decidedly bent sense of humour, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie highly recommends Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels in which the 'real' world of Detective Thursday Next intersects with hilarious results with the also very real world of the literary universe where such such beings as the Cheshire Cat and the cast of Jane Austen novels are all too real. The first novel, The Eyre Affair, is reviewed here.
He also recommends Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series with its two ancient coppers, weird murders, and detailed look at a London which you likely will never encounter. Full Dark House, the first novel in the series, is reviewed thisaway.
Sharyn McCrumb's The Ballad Novels gets picked by Jack Merry who notes 'This series of novels is a fascinating but uneven look at the mountain culture as filtered through the perceptions of an author that perhaps has a belief in an Appalachian culture that never was as cohesive as she believes it was. Be that as it may, this series is well worth your time to check out, and my time to tell you about. It's of special interest to any descendent of Scotch Irish settlers in that region.'
When the question was posed to Robert M. Tilendis, he didn't hesitate for an instant -- "Elizabeth Bear's The Promethean Age. The first two novels, Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water, bring us the story of the latest stage of an ongoing war between the Prometheans, sworn to stamp out influence of the Fae, and the Courts of Faerie, who are fighting for survival. The two novels of The Stratford Man take us back to the beginnings of the war during the time of Elizabeth and James of England. It's all a heady mix of myth, folklore, history, and pop culture wrapped in compelling story of war, love, and betrayal.
Matthew Winslow recommends Kage Baker's The Company series. Matthew writes, 'I can still remember exactly where I was when I first encountered Joseph and Mendoza in 'Noble Mold', Kage's first published story. I was immediately hooked with the fascinating cyborg operatives and their relationship with the Company that gave them life. No matter what my financial situation, I always made sure I had enough on hand to purchase each book as it came out. My one big regret is that the series is now over, although I'm working at re-reading the series for a third time.'
Elizabeth Vail says 'her favourite series so far has to be Liz Williams' Detective Inspector Chen series. Each novel has been consistently fascinating -- remaining consistent to the characters while finding some new way to integrate science-fiction, horror, mythology, and comedy into a potent mix.' You can read our review of the first novel, Snake Agent, here.
And now for our reviews...
Donna Bird gives a rundown of Jacqueline Winspear’s series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator who operates in England between the World Wars and has some interesting traits that set her apart from the rest of the pack.
Faith J. Cormier looks at Son of the Sword, the first entry in J. Ardian Lee’s series starring Dylan Matheson. After touching an enchanted sword, Dylan is transported ages back to the time of his ancestors. The sword has chosen him to be his clan’s savior, but Dylan just wants to get back home. Will he, or is his destiny unavoidable?
Cat Eldridge has been revisiting Simon Green’s Nightside series on audio, and Agents of Light and Darkness is his latest 'reread'. In it, series protagonist John Taylor is searching for Judas’s cup from The Last Supper, known as The Unholy Grail. But everybody wants it, and nobody wants anyone else to have it, so John can either find it or die and either will be fine.
Wizard for hire Harry Dresden is back for another adventure in Turn Coat, which made April Gutierrez happy as this 'is another solid, entertaining entry' in this Chicago-based series. Did I mention that assassins, a traitor in the circle of wizards known as the White Council, and various other things which go bump in the night are after Dresden? Just another day for him...
Lory Widmer Hess offers up a review of a really cool series which features a protagonist named Sally Lockhart who Lory says is a 'kick-ass female -- - a pistol-packing, checkbook-balancing, mystery-solving Victorian orphan!' Now that sounds like fun to read! This review nets Lory an Excellence in Writing Award.
In the first of his eight reviews this edition, Michael Jones looks at In Sins & Shadows, the first in Lyn Benedict's Shadows Inquiries series, P.I. Sylvie Lightner is hired by the God of Justice to find his missing lover. Everyone knows that meddling in the affairs of gods is a messy business; Will Sylvie survive the experience?
Spinning off from Mark del Franco's Connor Grey books comes a second series set in the world of the Convergence. In Skin Deep, you'll meet Laura Blackstone, who uses her powers of glamour to maintain numerous identities. But what happens when events cause her multiple lives to crossover and collide
Pyrokinetic vampire Mira struggles against those who would manipulate or destroy her as she returns for Dayhunter, the second installment of Jocelynn Drake's Nightwalker series. Who can she trust more -- her allies . . . or her enemies?
Next up is The Spy Who Haunted Me, Book Three of The Secret Histories, Simon Green returns to the shadowy world of supernatural espionage and adventure. This time, Eddie Drood's been tapped to compete against the world's best secret operatives, to see who will inherit the knowledge of a legendary secret agent. Find out what's really in Loch Ness, Area 51, and in the Siberian tundra.
In Nine Gates, the second book of Jane Lindskold's Chinese Zodiac-inspired Thirteen Orphans series, the titular characters deal with a host of dangers from all angles. Between the potential traitors in their midst, the otherworldly foes bent on stealing their powers, and more subtle hazards, the Orphans have their hands full.
In the third Crosspointe book, Diana Pharoah Francis' The Turning Tide, three friends are caught up in the struggle to protect their home from dangers within and without. But who will betray whom when politics, friendship, and love are at cross-purposes?
Con artist-turned-marketing manager Ciara Griffin returns for another installment of bloodsucking rock n' roll fun in Bad to the Bone, the second in the WVMP Radio series by Jeri Smith-Ready. The vampiric DJs of WVMP have gone public in order to hide in plain sight, but they still have plenty of problems, including a religious cult and a nosy reporter. Don't miss the debut of Dexter, the vampire dog! Michael earns an Excellence in Writing Award for this clever review.
Angel-turned-P.I. Remy Chandler returns for his second Apocalypse-preventing adventure in Thomas Sniegoski's Dancing on the Head of a Pin. Remy's seen it all, but can he handle the possibility of a jailbreak from Hell?
A really detailed graphic novel series featuring a English boy wizard with spectacles and an owl for a companion -- no, not that boy wizard ! -- grappling with demons, the fey, purple dinosaurs, and even John Constantine sounds cool, doesn't it? It takes three reviews (here, there, and thisaway) by Robert M. Tilendis to make sense of this series. These reviews earn Robert an Excellence in Writing Award.
Elizabeth Vail tells us this book far better than I could so hear her out -- 'Laini Taylor returns in excellent form with Dreamdark -- Silksinger, the sequel to her whimsical, yet profound, first book Dreamdark -- Blackbringer. In the previous book, Taylor established an intricate yet colourful world of faeries, imps, goblins, and devils, all of whom are creations of the seven Djinn, fire elementals who created the world by weaving the Tapestry of Creation.' Oh, ymmmm!
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to Father Time tell a tale, he'll try to answer your question!
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This version revised, 30 May at 12.00 GMT
Uploaded 30th May, 2009 10:15 pst LLS
archived 13th June, 2009 LLS