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"Strife Without Bitterness": Jo Walton's The Prize in the Game, by Christopher Cobb (5/26/03)
The Prize in the Game is an exceptional fantasy; it beautifully, poignantly captures the spirit of a life that is uncivilized but far from uncultured.
A New Generation of Heroes in Dragaera: Steven Brust's The Paths of the Dead, by Christopher Cobb (2/3/03)
Insofar as the world-building of fantasy is a game played for the game's own sake, Brust is a master player. Indeed, he sets himself world-building challenges that few fantasists would attempt.
Magic and Mystery: Barbara Hambly's Sisters of the Raven, by Christopher Cobb (10/21/02)
The human story of Sisters of the Raven has all the gripping suspense of a mystery-thriller. . . . But even as the break-neck plot leaps from one crisis to the next, Hambly is building around it and through it a fantasy world of exceptional beauty and complexity.
"Scrabble with God," Fiction with John M. Ford: The Unpredictable Pleasures of From the End of the Twentieth Century and The Last Hot Time, by Christopher Cobb (4/29/02)
Ford is an intensely exciting and surprising writer partly because of this paradox: he is both intensely aware of genre and utterly disrespectful of its social strictures.
"Bleeding one's life away from a thousand tiny wounds": Magic and Sacrifice in David Coe's Rules of Ascension, by Christopher Cobb (4/1/02)
Where do your loyalties lie? What are you willing to sacrifice for them? Would you sacrifice your life for anything? These are the driving questions behind Rules of Ascension.
Wild Life by Molly Gloss: Speculative Fiction in the Wilderness, by Christopher Cobb (1/28/02)
Charlotte constructs her own life right on the border between hard-headed feminist realism and heroic fantasy. Even if the novel had no plot of mystery and high drama at all, her personality would make of daily life a worthy adventure.
Marie Jakober's The Black Chalice: A Holy Grail Anti-Quest, by Christopher Cobb (12/17/01)
The Black Chalice's representation of the struggle between militant Christian piety and sensual pagan magic deserves comparison to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne. . . . The work's originality and its more profound attractions lie in the way the tale is told.
Friendship and Despair in an SF Mystery: C. J. Merle's Of Duty and Death, by Christopher Cobb (10/1/01)
This is a book to enjoy in a leisurely fashion, as the characters enjoy the pleasures they manage to find in the midst of their difficulties. The decisive moments of this novel arise as much during the interplay of conversation over dinner or during pillow-talk mixed with foreplay as they do during moments of action or official interrogation.
Two Novels of Speculative History: The Year the Cloud Fell by Kurt R. A. Giambastiani and Phoenix Fire by Tim O'Laughlin, by Christopher Cobb (8/20/01)
[T]hese novels, both first books for their authors, both set in America in the present or relatively recent past, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of speculative history.
Discovering the Earth in Earthsea: Ursula K. Le Guin's Tales from Earthsea, by Christopher Cobb (4/23/01)
These tales . . . make plain Le Guin's magnificent ability to join together the commonplace and the arcane, finding images that make this complex world whole.
Andy Duncan's Beluthahatchie and Other Stories: Where Folklore and Fantasy Meet, by Christopher Cobb (3/19/01)
Fantasist and folklorist, he takes premises that are not made up, or at least are not made up by Andy Duncan . . . and creates new and strange stories out of them, which nevertheless tell the truth about the way things happened.
Eagle Sage: Climax of David Coe's LonTobyn Chronicle, by Christopher Cobb (2/19/01)
Eagle Sage begins with Jaryd's discovery that war is coming. Having been without a familiar since his first hawk died, he gets much more than he expected, or wanted, when he binds to an eagle. An eagle binds to a mage only when the land is in great need, in time of war.
Playing with Archetypes, Archetypes at Play: Howard Waldrop's Dream Factories and Radio Pictures, by Christopher Cobb (1/29/01)
Waldrop treats the characters of movies as the property of our collective unconscious, a set of archetypes that he freely and outrageously re-imagines, showing us, in ways we could not have predicted, some of the meanings of our shared dreams.
Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling: A Celebration of Daily Life, by Christopher Cobb (1/1/01)
From its opening sentences onward, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling juxtaposes the grandeurs of space travel . . . with the vivid but subtle beauties of everyday life: its colors, smells, sounds, and tastes, its little rituals through which people order their lives and learn to touch one another.
Speculative Surfing: A Visit to Science-Fiction and Fantasy Webzines, by Christopher Cobb (12/4/00)
Semiprofessional publication has a proud history in the speculative fiction fan community, which has long produced "'zines" devoted to the genre. The advent of the world-wide web has spurred new creativity in the design and content of 'zines and enabled them to develop more sophisticated formats and to reach wider readerships than ever before.
From Tapestry to Mosaic: The Fantasy Novels of Guy Gavriel Kay, by Christopher Cobb and Mary Anne Mohanraj (11/13/00)
Guy Gavriel Kay, one of the major fantasy authors of our time, has achieved a rare combination of popular and critical acclaim . . . Kay's eight novels ask to be understood in relation to one another, as parts of a much larger imaginative project. . . .
'We must learn to bend, or we break': The Art of Living in Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantine Mosaic, by Christopher Cobb and Mary Anne Mohanraj (11/13/00)
All the interest of plot, character, culture, and moral theme that Kay creates for the reader of the Mosaic come together as beautifully as they do because Kay creates it all with an unwearying spirit of love for the spectacle of the world that he records.
Moments of Enchantment: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Thirteenth Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, by Christopher Cobb (10/16/00)
Through many different forms, the fantasy stories and poems in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror pursue the moment of enchantment. Readers who go along on these brief, exquisite vision quests may share in the capturing of that moment.
C. J. Merle's Of Honor and Treason, by Christopher Cobb (9/11/00)
Of Honor and Treason tells the story of the education of two beings, one human, one alien, as they come to understand their honor as unselfish love and as they struggle to uphold it in spite of corruption around them.