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Australian SF & Fantasy Highlights: November 2009

Hearts Blood - Beauty and the Beast gets a working over

NOVEMBER’S BEST AUSTRALIAN FANTASY

HEARTS BLOOD – Juliet Marillier

NZ born author Juliet Marillier has achieved a huge international audience with her elegant historical fantasy novels. Like some of her previous series, Heart’s Blood takes inspiration from a traditional fairy tale. In this case it’s Beauty and the Beast – and no, you can forget that saccharine sweet Disney version, this is a story with a lot more guts to it.

Set in 12th Century Ireland as the Anglo-Norman Lords are manoeuvring to wrest control from the High Kings and their chieftains, Heart’s Blood centres on the Western settlement of Whistling Tor. Caitrin, a young woman fleeing a life of mental and physical abuse, seeks shelter in the village and learns of its cursed history. For nearly a hundred years the Tor has been haunted by an uncanny host of beings that whisper from the mist and lure victims away from safety.

In the crumbling fortress on the Tor the reviled Chieftain, Anluan, secludes himself away, disfigured from a palsy in his youth and convinced of his own uselessness. Taking work as a scribe in the fortress, Caitrin gradually  uncovers the secrets of Whistling Tor and begins to fall in love with Anluan. The bitter sweet romance between these two beats at the heart of this atmospheric and twisted fairy/ghost story.

Another mesmerising story from Marillier with an even more interesting lead character in Caitrin, a girl far more independent and inspiring than the Beauty of the fairy tale, but less idealised than some of Marillier’s past heroines.

Mirror Space - The Sentients of Orion Book 3

NOVEMBER’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION

MIRROR SPACE –  Marianne de Pierres

The third and penultimate book in the ingeniously constructed The Sentients of Orion space opera series, Mirror Space is choreographed perfectly to set up the world shattering finale in Transformation Space.

Each book in The Sentients of Orion has improved on the one before it as the scope and connections between the different story strands begin to be revealed. The major focus is the pilot Mira, denied her birthright as the captain of the biozoon Insignia, looking desperately for help to save her home planet of Araldis from the Saqr invasion. She has enlisted the help of the mercenary Rast while Trin and the other survivors on Araldis, continue to search for a safe haven.

And, constantly in the background  Tekton competes against the galaxy’s cleverest minds to win the honour of becoming the initiate of Sole, the God entity. This intriguing plot line has bubbled away behind the scenes for the entire series and I am fascinated to see how it will turn out.

Mirror Space is a brilliant continuation of The Sentients of Orion series, lifting it once again to a new level. Can’t wait for Transformation Space.

The Genius Wars - A brilliant conclusion to a wonderful Sydney-based trilogy

NOVEMBER’S BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

THE GENIUS WARS – Catherine Jinks

The Genius Wars is the exciting and entirely satisfying conclusion to the wonderfully original and fiendishly clever Evil Genius series by Catherine Jinks.

Cadel is finally enjoying a normal life with caring foster parents, a place at university and the freedom to go where he pleases without constant surveillance. Prosper English may have escaped from gaol but he has gone underground for nine months and it appears that as long as Cadel keeps his nose out of his business, Prosper will return the favour.

But when Prosper reveals himself again, appearing in CCTV footage around Sydney, Cadel is pulled unwillingly back into hiding. And then, as strange accidents begin to endanger the lives of his closest friends, Cadel realises Prosper has not forgotten about him at all. He alone knows Prosper well enough to be able to stop him and he’ll need to call on all his training as an evil genius to  guess what he’s up to – if only the police would stop treating him like a kid!

I devoured both the first two books in this series and my only disappointment in reading The Genius Wars is that this appears to be the final instalment. Catherine Jinks has outdone herself with the technical wizardry and cunning machinations in this book and, as always, the characterisation of Cadel, Sonja and their friends is an absolute joy to read. Plus, I always love the Sydney setting but the scenes in UNSW were an absolute bonus for an old alumni like me.

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Categorised in: All Posts, Australian Literature, Book Reviews, Fiction, SF & Fantasy

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About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at richard@fictionetal.com.au
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