Tag Archive: fantasy

Feb 01

Book Review – The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle

WHAT’S PLAYING: Robbie Robertson “Ghost Dance”

When three strange women (one black, one brown, one white) arrive at a wayside inn called The Gaff and Slasher, Karsh, the innkeeper, takes them in against his better judgment. Two of the women—Lal and Nyateneri—are searching for their former mentor, a powerful magician who has summoned them to save him from destruction and worse at the hands of his most powerful pupil, Arshadin. The third, Lukassa, is a village girl whom Lal resurrected after she drowned and whose childhood love, Tikat, pursues the three, intent on regaining her. When these blighted souls converge on the inn, life there is forever changed as powerful forces wage ungodly battle for possession of the magician’s soul.

I first came across The Innkeeper’s Song ten years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite fantasy novels. Beagle is a masterful stylist, his narrative full of wonderful, unexpected metaphors and fierce musicality. There is poetry in this book few writers can manage, full of things left unsaid and subtle inferences. All of this comes together to weave a compelling story that is impossible to put down.

Told from various points of view, The Innkeeper’s Song is a multi-faceted fantasy, not just one tale, but several woven together seamlessly, flowing in and out of stream-of-consciousness. Hard to fathom, I know, but it works brilliantly because Beagle is a master of characterization. There is never any doubt who is talking, even when the differences are subtle.

In elegant yet simple prose, Beagle plumbs the nature of life, death and love by illuminating the shifting relationships among the various major and minor players (including an irascible shape-changing fox) who people this affecting tale.

Favorite Line/Image: My name is Karsh. I am not a bad man.

I am not a particularly good one, either, though honest enough in my trade. Nor am I at all brave—if I were, I would be some kind of soldier or sailor. And if I could write even such a song as that nonsense about those three women which someone has put my name to, why, then I would be a songwriter, a bard, since I would certainly be fit for nothing else. But what I am fit for is what I am, everything I am. Karsh the innkeeper. Fat Karsh.

They talk foolishness about me now, since those women were here. Since that song. Now I am all mystery, a man from nowhere; now I am indeed supposed to have been a soldier, to have traveled the world, seen terrible things, done terrible things, changed my name and my life to hide from my past. Foolishness. I am Karsh the innkeeper, like my father, like his father, and the only other country I have ever seen is the farmland around Sharan-Zek, where I was born. But I have lived here for almost forty years, and run the Gaff and Slasher for thirty, and they know that, every one of them. Foolishness.

Bottom Line: A fantasy masterpiece that has withstood the test of time, The Innkeeper’s Song is not to be missed.

Coming up next: The Peculiar by Stephen Bachman

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2013/02/book-review-the-innkeepers-song-by-peter-s-beagle/

Mar 30

Book a Week Challenge (Late Edition) – Book 12

WHAT’S PLAYING: Moving Pictures “What About Me

This week’s book is Twelve by Jasper Kent.

 

 

This is the tale of Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, a Russian officer. It’s the autumn of 1812, and Napoleon’s army is advancing across Russia. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki – twelve mercenaries from the Carpathian Mountains, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that their new comrades are quite capable of fulfilling their promise. Because the Oprichniki are voordalak, – vampires – and they won’t just stop at killing the French.

Besides the vibrant and realistic setting, the best thing about this book was that all the main characters were very human, especially Aleksei. Even though I didn’t always like or approve of him, I still found myself empathizing with this flawed but decent man as he suffered through bouts of mental and physical hardship, self-loathing, love and loss.

I especially liked the vampires. Shabby, filthy, and disrespectful, the Oprichniki are not the stuff of paranormal romances. They are traditionally evil bad asses that must be hunted down and killed at all costs. A refreshing change from their modern-day, romantically inclined brethren.

Fair warning: be prepared to squirm. There are some genuinely gruesome moments in this book. (We are dealing with vampires, after all.) My biggest issue is that Aleksei’s self-absorbed narration tends to run long in places, slowing the pace to a painful crawl.

Still, I can’t deny that Twelve is a breath of fresh air and a great example of classic vampire horror.

Favorite Line/Image: Moscow was as full of life as a cadaver on the embalmer’s table. The fluids and chemicals that had been introduced into it’s veins can engorge it sufficiently to give it some vague semblance of the living creature that it once was, but they would never have the ability to provide the vital essence that once made that body a man. The image brought to my mind the Oprichniki. They passed themselves off physically as men, but I had never seen in any one of them a hint of the desires and loves and anguishes of living beings.

Did the French occupiers, I wondered, perceive themselves as parasites feasting on the corpse of a once-great city, or did they believe that they were the vanguard of a new wave of life that had revitalized al the rest of Europe and was now supplying the physical reality of the Enlightenment to Russia? I think that Bonaparte himself probably believed that, but I also think he was deluding himself.

What I Learned: JasperKent’s meticulous research and attention to detail adds a layer of richness and detail to this novel that makes it shine. Then there’s the heady combination of history, fantasy and folklore. Somehow, Kent managed to bring a sense of classic horror to something completely original.

Bottom Line: A dark and entertaining historical fantasy novel.

Coming Up Next: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/book-a-week-challenge-late-edition-book-12/