Here are three more great fantasies I read:
- Magic at Midnight — Could you pretend to be boring and self-absorbed if it would save someone you loved?
- The Adventures of Iric — Iric, Watchman of Marudal, City of Magic, is fascinating.
- A Hero is Born — less fantasy than fantastical, this is the stunning epic of China from the 1200’s to the reign of Genghis Khan
A note about my reviews: I only post reviews about books I liked so don’t be surprised to see lots of 4/5 and 5/5. If I don’t like the book, I won’t spend time writing about it.
by Ronel Janse van Vuuren
In Ronel Janse van Vuuren’s Magic at Midnight (2019), Amy has an unusual job. She takes care of a herd of Pegasi–cleans their stables, feeds them, befriends them, and keeps them safe. It’s hard work and takes all day every day but she likes the peace and quiet as well as the uninterrupted time with the Pegasi, some of which have become closer friends than any human she knows. Though she possesses magical powers, she never uses them to make her job faster or easier because part of what she gets from working with these amazing spirited almost-horses is the reality of a job well done for an important purpose.
That changes one day when she is called on to assist her country by donning the garb and the attitudes of a royal princess and competing for the hand of the prince. Though it is as far from her reality as anything she’s ever done and holds no interest, she agrees because if she doesn’t her Pegasi herd will be in danger. She is whisked off to a castle where she is scrubbed and shined, trained and teased, until she is prepared to join the rest of the princesses who are part of this competition.
That’s where it gets complicated. She thought wearing fancy dresses and pretending to be selfish and disinterested in anything but herself would be the hardest part of what she has been asked to do. Not even close.
This is a delightful, fun mix of Pretty Woman and Cinderella with its own clever twists and turns. It’s a quick read–ninety-eight pages, easily completed in a few days. I highly recommend it for those times you just want to escape reality and find a happily ever after ending.
by JM Williams
JM Williams’ The Adventures of Iric (November 2017) is the story of Iric, the newest Watchman of Marudal, City of Magic. Williams introduces the collection of twenty-four stories with an introduction to Iric and then, shares scenes from Iric’s life. Each is a stand-alone event (a bit like vignettes) but all connected by Iric and his growth as a Watchman. He solves each problem using sometimes his own innate moral paradigm and other times, his growing experience as a Watchman.
“The man looked ready to take out his anger on the surrounding crowd. Iric couldn’t let that happen. It was, in fact, his job to prevent it.”
“As a Watch recruit, he had been lectured and drilled endlessly on his duty to protect the public.”
One of my favorite events is when Iric sits with the widow of a fellow watchman and listens to her talk about her passed husband. Iric does this at first because it’s the right thing to do and then because it’s important.
“His sergeant—a bearish man named Vott—had taken Iric around town and forced him to learn the names of everyone he met.”
It is almost inconsequential that Iric’s world is filled with magic and wizards, that woven so deftly into the stories and Iric’s life, you have no problem believing it exists.
As I read the stories, I enjoyed traveling with Iric, learning from his calm acceptance of duty and earnestness to succeed and appreciating his ongoing personal and professional growth.
Williams has a peaceful, enticing way of putting words together such that they are easily accessible and engaging to the reader:
“With each strike he came closer to the cradle of the earth, that special place six feet down that so gracefully accepted the dead.”
Some of the twenty-four stories are:
- The Giant and the Cheese
- No Escape
- Dragon’s Tongue
- The Tree Sign
This is a highly entertaining and very satisfying read. It is recommended for anyone interested in fiction that transports the reader flawlessly to a world apart from their own.
by Jin Yong
A theme I like reading is how ordinary people rise to Herculean challenges and defend justice despite overwhelming odds. This is why I like westerns and thrillers where the common man becomes superhero in his quest for justice. That’s what caught my attention about Jin Yong’s A Hero is Born (MacMillon 2019), Book 1 in Legends of the Condor Heroes. The story, written in 1957 by the world’s best-selling Chinese-speaking author, is an epic series that when published in its original Chinese, counted its fans in the hundreds of millions. It spans decades of Chinese history, starting in 1200’s and continuing until Genghis Khan. It includes tough moral men, talented in the hand-to-hand fighting of the Far East, maybe assisted by the occasional magic. It is about love, loss, triumph, power, and overcoming.
It is a delight to read and unlike any other action or historic book you’ll ever read.
Why 4/5 instead of 5/5? I think despite the translator’s efforts, the story lost something in the translation. I am pretty sure if I read it in the original Chinese, it would be 6/5.
–received an ARC copy in return for my honest thoughts
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, The Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning