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Deborah J. Ross has commented on (20) products.

Eon 01 Rise of the Dragoneye by Alison Goodman
Eon 01 Rise of the Dragoneye

Deborah J. Ross, February 11, 2013

This is one of those books that young people and some adults will love. It hits many of the emotional tones that are just right, and it's a page-turner. Set in a world that is an amalgam of China and Japan, with a few other Asian influences, it's got dragons, disguises, palace intrigue, and a heroine disguised as a boy and who has extraordinary abilities but must accept who she is in order to use them. In other words, it's a coming-of-age story. In a non-Western world. With dragons.

Based on the Chinese zodiac, the dragons rotate in ascendancy, each bonded to and controlled by a "Dragoneye." This is such a demanding, energy-draining relationship that Dragoneyes age prematurely and there's an elaborate system of apprenticeship to make sure the next in line for each dragon is properly trained. Eona, masquerading as the boy Eon, is one such candidate. Girls, of course, are not allowed to become Dragoneyes, so her master has disguised her so that his own fortunes will rise if she becomes the apprentice.

If this sounds "familiar but with a difference," it is, and here I think some adult readers may find the book less enjoyable because of its predictability. It's a long book, and if the world and characters are appealing, there's a special delight in spending many pages immersed in it.

For me, the most satisfying part of the book was the character of Lady Dela, a transgendered woman in the Imperial court. She's sympathetically portrayed as a person who accepts herself and is self-confident, resourceful, and adept at court politics. More than that, our heroine needs Dela's intelligence and knowledge to prevail.
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The Glass Butterfly by Louise Marley
The Glass Butterfly

Deborah J. Ross, October 12, 2012

There's a special delight in picking up a new Louise Marley novel, akin to expecting the unexpected. Who else could write about Mozart's musical genius transmitted by a vampire's bite, or time travel to discover the mystery of Clara Schumann's passionate romance with Brahms? Music, as the jaded, time-worn vampires in Mozart's Blood know all too well, is the one joy that transcends the years, perhaps because it cannot exist outside of time.

Music, particularly the glorious operas of Puccini, is an abiding love of Victoria Lake, and the one thing she must renounce if her identity is to remain hidden as she goes on the run from a psychopathic killer. But music cannot be extricated from the soul, and Puccini's own life -- as seen through a servant girl -- soon begins unfolding in Victoria's dreams. It's never entirely clear whether this is a purely psychological phenomenon or whether there is some fantastical element, some bond or message across time. Are the lives of the two women parallel in the deadly risks they each face? Does music have the magical power to cross time as well as space? Or is this all happening in the highly-stressed mind of a woman who has already survived one attempted murder? It doesn't matter, because the metaphors and images and emotional responses are real, no matter how them come to us. Bottom line: an extraordinary book by a master storyteller. If you don't already love Puccini's operas, you will.
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The Mountain's Call by Caitlin Brennan
The Mountain's Call

Deborah J. Ross, October 12, 2012

Under her various pen names, Judith Tarr has long been one of my favorite authors, particularly when she writes about horses. This book is full of horse-magic, the usual kind because they're so marvelous and the special kind created by the "white gods" of Aurelia as they Dance the patterns of the world. One moment they're ordinary "fat white ponies," but don't let that fool you. We all know their wisdom and power run far, far deeper. I especially loved how their motives and values are not always clear -- they truly are mysterious as well as magical.


In this world, the stability of the realm is maintained by a meticulously executed equestrian Dance, very much akin to the performances of the Lippizan horses of the Spanish Riding Academy of Vienna. The riders train all their lives for ii, in partnership with the magnificent white stallions. Historically, only boys have been Called (as in the title of the book) to the riding school, so when our heroine Valeria shows up, and then bonds with a young stallion of exceptional power, the reactions range from bewilderment to outright hostility. She then becomes a prime target for recruitment into a plot to usurp the throne and the very fabric of the kingdom. Suffice it to say, divided loyalties, not to mention schemes and betrayals ensue. Because the book appears under the "Luna" imprint of Harlequin Books, there is of course a love story. Actually, depending on how you look at it, more than one. But fantasy readers won't be disappointed, as the story, the first part of three, is anything but formulaic with its independent, earthy heroine, two dashing lovers, and of course the magical white horses. This one definitely belongs on the bookshelf of every fantasy reader and horse lover.
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Love on the Run by Katharine Kerr
Love on the Run

Deborah J. Ross, August 4, 2012

Love on the Run is the fourth Nola O'Grady adventure and, as they say, the plot thickens. From the first, these books have stood in my mind above the usual urban fantasy by the complexity of the world building. Nola is a paranormal investigator for the Apocalyse Squad, a branch of a super-secret agency; her sweetheart, Israeli Interpol agent Ari, is by no means mundane, and her large extended family is variously gifted and not always on the right side of the law on this and several other Earths. The multiplicity of parallel worlds remind me strongly of some of my favorite early Andre Norton science fiction novels, particularly the radioactive, gang-ridden version of San Francisco and the wet Venus with a single moon, home to intelligent, psychic squids. With each book, the universe has gotten larger, as new alternate worlds, new characters, species, and tensions have been introduced. Kerr is far too imaginative and thoughtful a writer to ignore the interwoven connections, implications, and nuances of even a "simple" story. As a result, each book elaborates established elements and introduces new ones. Now the threads are coming together, and we see the connections between Nola's eating disorder, Ari's childhood in a seriously warped New Age kibbutz, or why the Peacock Angel is a force of evil in one dimension but a power for good in another. The result kicks the story impact up exponentially. "Love On The Run" is the perfect title because the romance, although present and continuing to develop, has to take place in moments snatched while dealing with one escalating crisis after another.
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Inheritance Trilogy #01: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin
Inheritance Trilogy #01: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Deborah J. Ross, June 22, 2012

Despite all the fuss over this debut fantasy novel, it took me a while to pick it up. I'm not sure what I can usefully add to what has already been said, except to say that the praise is richly deserved. There's a bit of a bobble at the very opening, for me, at least, but that is undoubtedly a matter of taste and it doesn't last long. Very cool stuff about a castle that's a whole city, byzantine schemes and some very unpleasant, ruthless people, a few enslaved and therefore resentful gods, a heroine on the track of her mother's killer, and occasional moments of stunning compassion. Very shortly, I was immersed and looking forward to more by Jemisin
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