June 30, 2015

Kingdoms of the Night by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch

Title:  Kingdoms of the Night
Author:  Allan Cole & Chris Bunch
Pages:  481
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1995

Synopsis:  Amalric Antero, adventurer and confidant of kings, had grown old before his time. His discoveries had brought peace and countless riches to his beloved city of Orissa. But his wife, Omerye, had recently died; his sister, Rali, had disappeared some time ago while on a dangerous expedition; and his son--his only child--was a grave disappointment. All around him, Amalric saw his generation being carried away, and he, himself, was beginning to feel the cold fingers of death.

But then a mysterious figure intruded on his winter years. She claimed to be the great-granddaughter of Janos Greycloak, master-wizard and betrayer of Amalric's youth, and she had come to issue a challenge: The idyllic and magical land he and Janos had discovered had not been the Far Kingdoms. In fact, the real Far Kingdoms--the Kingdoms of the Night--had yet to be found, and only she knew where that realm of myth lay.

As she spoke, a veil was ripped from Amalric's eyes.

The people of Orissa believed--thanks to Amalric and Rali's discoveries--that they were living in a Golden Age, an age of many blessings that would never end. But Amalric now realized that dark forces threatened his beloved city. Several expeditions seeking to broaden Orissa's horizons had met with disaster. In fact, the boundaries of Orissa's "known world" had actually been shrinking. Areas he and Rali had opened had dropped off the map, back into legend and obscurity.

It looked as if the Kingdoms of the Night were all that stood between civilization and unimaginably evil powers from another world. But the strength of the Kingdoms was flagging. Unless chaos was to reign once more, Amalric must throw off his old man's robes and join Janela in her search for the Kingdoms of the Night.

And so Amalric set out once again across forbidden seas and a nightmare-blasted landscape, on an expedition haunted by betrayal and stalked by a rogue army, with little more than his wits and the magic of another Greycloak to aid him. For only if Amalric and Janela succeed in unraveling the secrets of the Old Ones and locking the door between realities can civilization's plunge into darkness be stopped...

Review:  Not as good as the last one.  Good, but not nearly as good.  My favorite character, Rali, is missing completely.  It had me hooked until the very end, which turned strange and a little unbelievable in my opinion.  I'm all for time travel and demons, but beating a demon by time travelling and then discovering that you can commit suicide and, with the help of spells, go to a much better place just didn't cut it for me.  Thankfully, the last book brings Rali (and maybe some sense) back to the series.

Rating:  5.5 / 10

June 20, 2015

The Warrior's Tale by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch

Title:  The Warrior's Tale
Author:  Allan Cole & Chris Bunch
Pages:  438
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1994
My prayers are saved for those who keep my blood in my skin, and that tight and whole about my bones.
Synopsis:  Captain Rali Emilie Antero came from an illustrious and wealthy trading family whose members included a wizard, long dead, and a famous adventurer, Amalric - very much alive and regaling rapt audiences with tales of his quest to the legendary Far Kingdoms. Much was expected of an Antero...

But Rali cared little for magic and magicians, and even less for journeying, particularly on the ocean. She was a soldier, committed to defending Orissa, the city of her birth, and to winning respect for her command, the elite, all-women Maranon Guard. Winning battles was no problem for the Guard; but there were too many jealous men who wanted the women warriors out of the way. So just when Rali should have been at home, resting on the laurels of her latest victory, she found herself assigned to lead a suicide mission: a seagoing odyssey in search of an evil master wizard - the last Archon of Lycanth - who had fled with a doomsday spell, a secret that could destroy all of civilization.

And so Rali Antero and her Maranon warriors set out to sea, with the wizard Gamelan, on an epic hunt for Orissa's most deadly enemy. It would be Rali's greatest challenge: a desperate pursuit, raging across the great Western Sea, past the barbaric caravan port of Jeypur, past Tiger Bay and the Lemon Coast, past even the Jasmine Islands, to the great fire reefs that marked the end of the world - and beyond, to places unmarked even in legend.

But only in the uncharted territories of her own soul -- and the heritage of the Anteros -- would Rali find the power to defeat the Archon and return to Orissa in triumph.
What would be best of all, I believe, is that she'd be her own woman; refuse to be anything but equal to any man in whatever life she chooses.
Review:  I loved this book.  Passionately.  I read the last 1/3 in one sitting.  It is slam full of strong female characters.  Rali, the Captain of the Maranon Guard, in particular.  But there are so many others I loved including:  Polillo, the axe-wielding woman with a giant's strength; Corais, the woman who gave her life to save Rali; and Ismet, an older warrior who is the heart of the Maranon.  Even Xia, the princess, kicked butt.

Sure, they are all lesbians, every last one of them, but it was so very refreshing to have an entire cast of strong female characters that I didn't mind a bit.  In fact, it just added to my glee at their lack of care for what society thinks.  It was so refreshing to find a book that unabashedly says that women are equal to (and sometimes better than) their male counterparts.  Couple that with a great story, and I was hooked.

The action didn't stop.  The scenic lands were inspiring.  The demons and evil Archon were scary.  This book had everything from cannibalistic demons to sea battles to love scenes.  It was so far and away better than it's prequel, and many other Fantasy books that I've read, that I'd give it 13 stars if I could.

Rating:  10 / 10

June 13, 2015

The Far Kingdoms by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch

Title:  The Far Kingdoms
Author:  Allan Cole & Chris Bunch
Pages:  426
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1993

Synopsis:  The Far Kingdoms...a place of bright sunlight surrounded by dark, deadly wilderness. A place where the princes and magicians were kind and wise beyond all imagination. A place where wine and song were always sweet, every purse was fat with gold, and every heart at ease. The Far Kingdoms...said to lie in the distant east, across the straits of the Narrow Sea, beyond the benighted Pepper Coast, in uncharted territory. The Far Kingdoms...a place no one could reach even if it were real --- which surely it wasn't.

Young, pampered Amalric Antero cared only for real places and possible dreams.  But then he met Janos Greycloak, a dashing soldier who dabbled in forbidden magic and who carried on him proof of riches and mysteries beyond imagination.  And suddenly Amalric found himself setting out on the adventure of a lifetime, a daring and perilous quest through unknown lands peopled by nightmares, to see the ultimate in fables....The Far Kingdoms!

Review:  Interesting people and places, along with plenty of adventure, all are within the pages of this book.  I enjoyed the story quite a bit and plan to start the second book immediately.  It's not breaking any new ground exactly, but it is a fine tale.  I do wish some of the speeches weren't quite so overdone (and some of the accents too!) but other than that, a solid story.

Rating:  7 / 10
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