Book cover: The Time of the Dark - Barbara HamblyThis is traditional portal fantasy: two outsiders from our world are sucked into a conflict with an ancient, (literally) nebulous enemy in a parallel fantasy world. Darwath is losing the war, its King is dead, his heir a baby, and the political powers are at one another’s throats as they vie for control in spite of ongoing assaults. This first installment sets the scene and embeds the offworlders for (presumably) future glory.

The short version: some good character work (especially on the lead women), clear definition of 4 cultures on an alien world (1 alien) including different takes on gender and sexuality, and interesting ideas (cultural isolation, culture exchange, managing the impact of high tech on low tech society, and re-casting science as magic). On the down side, it's flabby, I couldn't help but feel it was lazy in the world-building, and it's overly simplistic in its conclusions. Ultimately entertaining but not stellar.

For those who can bear it:

Book cover: Blood and Iron by Elizabeth BearBlood and Iron is a slow ride that is quietly demanding. Elizabeth Bear makes no allowances for her reader’s familiarity with faerie tales or Irish pronunciation, weaving the implicit weight of her chosen myths into her own sharp tale of the war between Faerie and Man. If you don’t know what you’re missing, it may feel both surprising and sketchy; if you have long loved Irish myth and the Matter of Britain, you will probably get a good deal more out of it.

Yes, I’m procrastinating. Two posts in one day? What else could possibly be going on? I’ve got a document to draft by Tuesday, and I meant to have it finished by Thursday evening. It’s far from done, so I’m crossing off other bits of mental laundry so that tomorrow can be as productive as physically/mentally possible. Terrifyingly, it’s nearly 6 months since I last jotted notes here on my recent reading. In the meantime, I’ve finished 32 books (what can I say, the longer commute and the part-time work suit me down to the ground). As last time, links go to my commentary elsewhere online.

As some of you are aware, I’ve been lucky enough to have some extended time off this year, which inevitably means that I’ve been reading like the dedicated bookworm that I am. I’m likely to read as many books by the end of June as I’ve read in an entire year (during a lean year, anyway), and I’ve loved every minute. It’s been a couple of months since I last captured what I’ve thought of this mountain of material, so I wanted to do another recap – although I have had the time to be much, much better about logging reviews and ratings on my LibraryThing, which is increasingly becoming my main platform for all book-related activity.