Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Birthgrave – An Adult ‘Coming of Age’ Novel – Dark, Haunting Adventure

The Birthgrave (Birthgrave, #1)The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee
S.E. Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haunting Release: The Birthgrave is a coming of age novel of (and by) a female goddess. Tanith Lee’s debut novel is adult oriented, dark fantasy. This one is epic, dosed with poetic horror and battle, and features lots of risky writing (entertaining). The 2015 reprint comes with a haunting introduction written in January, just months before her May death coinciding with the paperback release in the US.

The female narrator quests to free her body/soul from a curse; although suffering from amnesia as she awakens from an active volcano, she learns that she is a goddess among humans… and she knows her ancestors are all mysteriously gone. She is alone, powerful, and yet ignorant and weak. There is plenty of rough sexual encounters, not gratuitous but written more dispassionately than romantically – and seems to toy with the stereotypes of the genre. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s introduction is short yet insightful and touches on this interplay:
Most women in science fiction write from a man’s viewpoint. In most human societies, adventures have been structured for men. Women who wish to write of adventure have had to accept, willy-nilly, this limitation. There seems an unspoken assumption in science fiction that science fiction is usually read by men, or, if it is read by women, it is read by those women who are bored with feminine concerns and wish to escape into the world of fantasy where they can change their internal viewpoint and gender and share the adventurous world of men…

…Here is a woman writer whose protagonist is a woman—yet from the very first she takes her destiny in her own hands, neither slave nor chattel. Her adventures are her own. She is not dragged into them by the men in her life, nor served up to the victor as a sexual reward after the battle. For the first time since C. L. Moore’s warrior-woman, Jirel of Joiry, we see the woman-adventurer in her own right. But this book is not an enormous allegory of women’s liberation, nor an elaborate piece of special pleading. It’s just a big delightful feast of excitement and adventure—Introduction by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Expect Ambitious, Risky Writing that Works Most of the Time: This is a first-person-perspective for 450pages! The content is full of adult psychology and complex mystery, written by a 22yr old! And it is her debut novel! How is that for pioneering? Most of the time, the risk taking pays off. The perspective works as it should, and it was easy to forget (even 400 pages in) that I still did not know “her” proper name---but by then I knew “her” so well a name was not needed. She unfolds a mystery with perfect pacing with periodic ghostly encounters and déjà vu moments. There is plenty of commentary about gender roles across barbaric and civilized cultures, though it steered away from being political commentary thankfully. Tanith Lee’s gift for poetic language is stunning. The book is saturated with efficient characterizations, like the two below:
If I broke into a run to escape them, would they too run to keep up? My eyes grew strange, and everywhere I looked, I seemed to see the glitter of the Knife of Easy Dying. Die, and let them follow me to death if they would. But I was still too new to life to let it go.

…Darak had called them to some council then, on the low hill beyond the houses. Yes, that would be it. A little king on a little throne, lording it because his subjects were smaller than even his smallness.
Avoiding spoilers, I must still note that there is a sudden encounter very late in the novel that seems to shift the genre out of its dark-fantasy-epic mold. Given the 1975 wording and delivery, it would be easy to over emphasize this section. Diehard genre readers feeling sucker-punched may have to sigh or trust my review that ultimately the milieu is consistent. In short order, the story rights its trajectory in a consistent manner.

I really enjoyed reading this experiential novel and am saddened to learn of Tanith Lee’s death. Thankfully, she was a prolific writer and wrote a large library of weird, dark fantasy… which I look forward to delving into. The Birthgrave begins a trilogy; the sequel is Vazkor, Son of Vazkor, and the finale is Quest for the White Witch. The releases come with new covers from artist Bastien Lecouffe Deharme.

The Birthgrave (Birthgrave, #1) by Tanith Lee Vazkor, Son of Vazkor (Birthgrave, #2) by Tanith Lee Quest for the White Witch (Birthgrave, #3) by Tanith Lee
The Birthgrave (Birthgrave, #1) by Tanith Lee Shadowfire book #2 coming

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Releases and We Are All Legends - Sept-Oct 2015 Groupreads

All Swordsmen (women) and Sorcerers (Sorceresses), please join the Goodreads.com Sword & Sorcery group read in September and October as we tackle: 

1) New Releases (for this genre, anything published after 2000 suffices) 

2) We Are All Legends  

New Release DISCUSSION link  /    We Are All Legends DISCUSSION link

Banner Credits (left to right):
We Are All Legends by Darrell Schweitzer, interior art by Stephen Fabian 1981
Seven Princes by John R. Fultz, cover art by Richard Anderson 2011
King of The Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury, coverart by 2015 Daniel Kamarudin
Stealer of Flesh by William King, cover art by unknown (2013)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lord Lysis is fighting in GdM's Battle-Off; please support grimdark heroes!

Image modified with permission from Raymond Swanland for GdM.

"Lysis carved into their ranks with Ferrus Eviscamir, its blade slicing only their bones, invisible to metal and flesh and incapable of being parried or blocked...." 
Grimdark Magazine's Battle-Off competition has begun (Aug 2015), and excerpts are rolling in. Please support your fellow Grimdark authors!  Short (<1000 word) entries of epic grim fantasy await your feedback and voting! Please support me and other grimdark authors. The list of entries is just being populated now on Grimdark Magazine's website.

Lords of Dyscrasia's excerpt is battling...

Please support Lord Lysis! (Read & Vote)

Praise for Lords of Dyscrasia:
Black Gate Review of Lords of Dyscrasia - "Lindberg is the real deal, a gifted writer with a strong command of language, and a soaring talent that stretches beyond the verbal: he illustrates his novel with his own wild and weird and excellent drawings. If you like action-packed dark fantasy with bizarre settings, an original premise and clever twist, then add this one to your Must Read List." - Joe Bonadonna, Black Gate contributor and Author, 2015 

ForeWord Clarion Reviews, 5 Stars for Lords of Dyscrasia! "...Outside of the works of Poe and Lovecraft, there are few, if any, novels comparable to [Lords of Dyscrasia]... Beowulf comes to mind both for its epic quality and bloody action... The pace is nearly breathless... Lindberg, who also created more than 50 illustrations and the cover for this book, makes the majority of current popular fantasy fiction read like recipes by comparison. Lords of Dyscrasia is highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart., 2011

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chip Shop Horrors – a dose of entertaining, murderous gluttony

Chip Shop HorrorsChip Shop Horrors by Ian Whates
S.E rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chip Shop Horrors – a dose of entertaining, murderous gluttony. Like carry-out food, Chip Shop is quick, tasty, and unhealthy (antagonists and protagonists would agree if they remained in condition to provide feedback). The food fare matches the menu; you are promised horror related to eating and the food industry, and you’ll get it ready-to-go, rolled up in bloody wax paper.

For the US readers, let’s define a Chip Shop (aka Chippy): that’s UK lingo for a carry-out dinner (food truck perhaps) that sells fried fish, potatoes, and other foods. Jan Steward’s Foreword’s is bite-size and worth excerpting here to convey the scope:
“We have a strange relationship with food. There are carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, vegans, fruitarians and people who don’t eat carbs, not to mention those who only eat raw food or avoid dairy, sugar or fat completely. Of course, there are those who can’t afford to eat, can’t find food even if they could afford it or are forced to go without so others can survive. Did I just compare first world life style choices with starvation and the results of famine in other parts of the world? Maybe–but then I did say we have a strange relationship with food.

In many countries now we pay other people to do our cooking for us, with the emphasis on speed and variety, ease and value for money. Except behind that façade there are whole industries of unease, of turkeys kicked like footballs, of people working hand to mouth, of distaste and disgust. Occasionally that discomfort rises to the surface, the drive for profit and effortless combining to produce horrors we work hard to turn our eyes from. In this anthology we explore some of that unease, whether it’s food coming from other worlds or even galaxies, servings of people, sauces to die for or customers who we’d probably not want to think to hard about, these stories will uncover your disgust and your discomfort. But beware, some of these characters are artists, others are demented, yet all are at the heart of what we call fast food.
I hope you never look at a chip shop the same way again." (Jan Steward 2015)

Chip Shop Horrors - Menu
1. Whatsa Mata? by Ian Whates
2. Oi, Oi! Saveloy! by Matthew Sylvester
3. Maria Laxara by Chris Amies
4. The best tasting fish and chips in the county by Greg Smith
5. Discomfort food by Phil Sloman
6. Family secrets by E J Davies
7. Dinner and discontent by Paul Gleed
8. Shut In by David Thomas Moore
9. Salt insult by Shane Porteous
10. Fit for work by Stewart Hotston

The first three have sci-fi/otherworldy elements, with a tribute to the infamous “George Forman grill”, hungry aliens, and otherworldy Maria Laxara (phantom island). Three of the remaining seven plumb the lure of eating the homeless or abject; expect lots of meat pies served from street vendors, with queues (lines) of the hungry, poor, or evil salivating over secret recipes. The food industry has plenty of down-and-out employees and employers, and this collection explores all angles. Porteous kindly breaks the dreary trend with a humorous conflict, and the last adventure is criminal. My favorites were Solman’s Discomfort food and Thomas Moore’s Shut In, since they featured insane characters with splendid, weird styles: these both brought their food to life, so hamburgers and pizza took on character-status in their own right.

Chip Shop Horror is a solid collection recommended for horror fans…or those suspicious of fast-food

View all my reviews