tagged Contemporary Fantasy Music

Sonant by A. Sparrow

Sonant is a modern fantasy novel self-published by A. Sparrow, available for free at Smashwords. I needed a bit to get into it, but after a while it became a pageturner I couldn't put down (despite editing flaws). The general atmosphere reminded me a bit of Stephen King books, but a bit less dark.

The official blurb:

Something strange lurks in a bell jar in the music room of wealthy eccentric, Aaron Levine, feeding on the sounds his mercenaries create. Bassist Aerie Walker, lured back into performance after a failed odyssey in professional jazz, finds herself involved with this band of musical alchemists as a Deliverance Ministry attempts to exorcize the demons perceived to dwell in Aaron's abode.

The viewpoint characters are Aerie, above-mentioned bassist, who is struggling with depression and finding a paying job; John, stay-at-home stepdad and neighbour of that bands usual "stage", who has some trouble understanding why his wife considers bad music "devil's work"; and Donnie, the priest that ends up, at John's wife's insistence, trying to get rid of the demons that must be behind that unholy noise from the house across the street.

The book keeps the question which side is right - has Aerie been drawn into Bad Things, or is the religious faction hysteric? - open for a long time, and in my opinion even at the resolution doesn't reduce either to cardboard-cutouts. Things that I found really fun to read were the pragmatic attitudes of most of the "exorcists" to their holy-magical job, and the interaction between Aerie and her bandmates; generally there's a neat cast of secondary characters with personality in this book.

I had the feeling it let up a bit towards the end; mostly a romantic subplot I'm not sure was supposed to be absurd and funny, or taken seriously. Anyway, romance doesn't take up much of the book.

Suspense and mystery, mundane problems, and the occasional scene of comic relief made for a very nice mix.

On the not-so-good front: The book should have had someone else proofreading. I noticed missing quotation marks, comma mistakes, dropped words, or the kind of mistakes you get when you have two possible versions of a sentence in your mind and write down a combination of both. However, this wasn't so common and bad that the "I want to know what happens next!" factor didn't pull me through.
Formatting was neat for the most part; one page or so towards the end had a slightly bigger fontsize, and there was an empty page before each chapter heading.

Being not a music buff myself I have no idea if the parts of the book talking about music and instruments sound well done to someone who is familiar with the subject. Apart from the very start, I did not find them distracting or in the way of the story despite my unfamiliarity.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to re-read this, and would pick up a sequel if it happened.

Available for free at Smashwords

Blog tags: Ebooks Reviews Novels
tagged Fantasy

The Sharing Knife series

The Sharing Knife is a series of four books by Lois McMaster Bujold, which from what I've seen is more "love it or hate it" than the rest of her work, so, just some info to help people decide if it sounds interesting.

Let's look at the blurb of the first volume, for an impression:

Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family's farm. But en route to the city she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers nomadic soldier-sorcerers from the northern woodlands. Feared necromancers armed with mysterious knives made of human bone they wage a secret ongoing war against the scourge of the "malices", immortal entities that draw the life out of their victims, enslaving human and animal alike. It is Dag—a Lakewalker patroller weighed down by past sorrows and onerous present responsibilities—who must come to Fawn's aid when she is taken captive by a malice. They prevail at a devastating cost—unexpectedly binding their fates as they embark upon a remarkable journey into danger and delight, prejudice and partnership . . . and perhaps even love.

This gives a decent impression of Lakewalkers seen from Farmer eyes. I don't think the "feared" and "mysterious" bits hold hold up from reader side, since Dag is also a viewpoint character.

This is not a story about monster-hunting. It's a romance that starts with Dag saving Fawn from a monster, but that's over in the first quarter or so of the book. The rest is them falling for each other Dag introducing Fawn to the joys of sex, and cultures clashing, a lot of the latter as Dag tries to win his future in-laws over. Good if you like romance, not good if you don't, and start the book expecting mostly adventure with a little romance added.

There is also some potential squick involved... Dag and Fawn fall hard for each other, but, well, Dag... we're talking about a man falling for a girl who's a third his age, and the first appreciative mental comment on the shape of her breasts from him comes when he interrupts some bandit attempting to rape her. In addition, as a Lakewalker he has "groundsense" that Fawn as a Farmer doesn't, which includes that he always has a pretty good idea what she feels, leaving her with rather less mental privacy than he has.

All things considered, Dag comes out this side of decent, and he cares deeply about Fawn, and she falls hard for him, too, but some things I try not to dwell on too much.

The focus of the series shifts in later volumes, particularly in the third and fourth books, which include Dag and Fawn dealing with a life neither of them was prepared for, and trying to tackle the big problem of that world by talking to people.

It's slow-paced and focuses on people and their interactions, with a big side of culture clash. Violent threats are usually a surprise rather than long prepared for; there is no "big bad" that our protagonists overcome with epic heroics. I love that. I've seen reviews complain that the "the world would be better if people just talked to each other more"-approach was naive, but I loved it. Changing the world one opinion at a time, by talking, is a nice change from hack and slash.

I got the first book of this series "warned" by negative reviews and halfway expecting to hate it. It involved more sex than I'm used to, but I enjoyed the humour and other parts of the book so much I was very glad I couldd get the ebook version of the rest of the series (particularly since it really is the first half of a story that got too long for one book), without having to wait for shipping. For me, definitely something for the list of things to re-read.

Blog tags: Reviews Books Novels
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