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Book Review: Elantris

Book Name: Elantris
Author: Brandon Sanderson
First Published: 2005

Brandon Sanderson was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1975. His general schooling began at Brigham Young University as an English major after completing a two-year LDS mission to Seoul, South Korea in 1997. While working on his graduate degree, he became an editor for the semi-pro speculative fiction magazine Leading Edge. Sanderson gained his Masters in creative writing in 2005.

In 2006, Sanderson married Emily Bushman, also an English major and teacher, who also serves as his business manager. They have three children and currently reside in American Fork, Utah. Sanderson continues to teach creative writing at Brigham Young University in addition to his work as a full-time science fiction author.

You can catch Brandon Sanderson with his writing buddies Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and web cartoonist Howard Tayler on their weekly podcast Writing Excuses. It is filled with writing tips and good humor jokes for aspiring authors.

Sanderson’s first novel is Elantris, published by Tor Books in 2005. It met with positive reviews and showcased the author’s ability to create unique magic systems for his stories. He followed it with his famous Mistborn fantasy trilogy.

In 2007, Robert Jordan, the author of the Wheel of Time, died and his famous series was left unfinished. Jordan’s editor and widow, Harriet McDougal, selected Sanderson to finish her husband’s final book and to give closure to millions of Wheel of Time fans worldwide. Under Sanderson’s care, the final book became three and each met with great success on the New York Times bestseller lists. It also propelled Sanderson into the limelight. Since then, most of Sanderson’s novels land on the NYT bestseller lists, proving him to be a highly successful author of his generation. Many books, novellas, and short stories are pouring from this prolific author’s pen even today.

“To live is to have worries and uncertainties. Keep them inside, and they will destroy you for certain–leaving behind a person so callused that emotion can find no root in his heart.”
― Brandon Sanderson, Elantris

Elantris was the capital of the nation of Arelon. A shiny and radiant city filled with benevolent demigods who use their magic to the benefit of humankind, the parent race from which they spring. A decade ago, their magic failed without warning. The powerful Elantrians became leper-like cripples that cling to the shadows of their dark, crumbling city. Elantris is shunned and feared by all, no one understanding the disaster that befell its people.

With the fall of Elantris, a new capital is built nearby. Peopled by ordinary humans, Kae is a city with the poor, religious fanatics, and the upper class with imperial ambitions. Princess Sarene of Teod is sent by her people to marry with Crown Prince Raoden of Arelon. She has never met him, but via letters, she has grown fond of him and hopes for love in her arranged marriage to him. However, when she arrives at Kae, she discovers that the prince is dead.

As Raoden’s widow, Sarene remains at Kae and uses her influence to help the poor and counter the threat posed by the fanatic Hrathen of Fjordell. This high priest wishes to convert all of Arelon to his religion and then claim the kingdom for his emperor and god.

There is a secret that neither Sarene or Hrathen know. Prince Raoden is not dead. He has been sent to Elantris by his own father when he was struck by the Elantris transformation, known as the “Shaod”, that once would have turned him into a demigod. Now, he is a powerless wretch exiled to the dirty streets of the fallen city. There, much as Serene works with the poor of Kae, Raoden works to help the fallen former demigods of Elantris. As he continues his work to provide comfort and aid, a series of events leads him to learn more about the disaster that befell the former capital of Arelon and might reveal the secret to the magic of Elantris itself.

Elantris Book CoverElantris is the first novel that I have read by author Brandon Sanderson. When he was selected to continue the Wheel of Time series, I was a little nervous. I am a huge fan of the Wheel of Time and was disheartened by the loss of author Robert Jordan. Could anyone truly fill this man’s shoes and complete his magnum opus? To placate my fears, I purchased Elantris and gave Sanderson a trial read. My fears about the Wheel of Time dissolved and now I have a new favorite author to enjoy.

The book showcases what have become signatures in Sanderson’s writing. Incredible world building, complex and unique magic systems, combined with likable characters. There are a few weaknesses in his first novel, the ending is anti-climactic and there are a few plot-holes that are left unresolved. Even so, I can whole-heartedly recommend Elantris as a book to add to your reading list. If you love epic fantasy with strong female characters, great pacing, and beautiful world building, I urge you to give Brandon Sanderson a try. There is a good reason why he is constantly topping the New York Times bestseller lists.

Book Review: A Spell for Chameleon

Book Name: A Spell for Chameleon
Author: Piers Anthony
First Published: 1977
August Derleth Award Winner 1978

Piers Anthony was a British immigrant who came to America with his parents at the tender age of six years. He was not a happy child, being bullied at school with parents that divorced. Anthony met his wife, Carol while both were attending Goddard College in Vermont. After several odd jobs, Anthony joined the army in order to support his pregnant wife. In the military, he became an editor and cartoonist for the battalion newspaper. During his time in the army, he became a naturalized US citizen. After a two-year tour of duty, he became a teacher at the Admiral Farragut Academy in Florida before he switched careers and became a full-time author.

During his start as a writer, Anthony and his wife made a bargain. If he could sell a piece of writing in one year, she would continue in her efforts to support the family. If he could not, he would give up writing forever. At the end of his first year, he did manage to get a short story published and the rest, as they say, is history.

Piers Anthony has gone on to write several series of books and has gained much success as a fantasy and science fiction author. His Xanth series, which spans 30 books, continues to be written with a new book added to the series almost every year.

“Now it was done. He was free of Xanth forever. Free to make his own life, without being ridiculed or mothered or tempted. Free to be himself. Bink put his face in his hands and cried.” ― Piers Anthony, A Spell for Chameleon

A Spell for Chameleon begins with the introduction of a young man named Bink. He has a problem. In a land where every human has a magical talent, he is one of the unfortunate few who does not. If a human of Xanth does not display a talent by their eighteenth birthday, they are thrown into exile into the non-magical realms, our world. Bink undertakes one last quest to discover if he has magic. To visit the Good Magician Humfrey, whose magical talent is that of information. If Humfrey can discover his talent, Bink can remain in Xanth and marry his sweetheart, Sabrina.

The quest takes Bink into the heart of the magical realm. He faces many dangers, but always at the last minute a coincidence saves his life. He meets several people along the way. A pair of Centaurs, Crombie the Soldier, and three young women. The first woman is Wynne, a stupid but beautiful girl and the second is Dee, an average girl without an apparent magical talent just like Bink. The final woman is Iris the sorceress who power is that of illusion. Iris is powerful enough to rule Xanth in her own right, but because she is female she was denied the throne and instead the Storm King rules.

Iris saves Bink from an illusion trap and makes him an offer. She will provide Bink with the illusion of powerful magic, allowing him to overthrow the Storm King and remain in Xanth. Then they would marry and Iris would rule as Queen. Bink turns her down and continues on his journey. He wants to marry Sabrina and does not trust the sorceress, fearing he would become her slave.

At last, Bink arrives at Magician Humfrey’s castle. He is tested by three challenges to gain entry. Humfrey determines that Bink not only has magic, but it is of magician-caliber. However, some power prevents the magician from determining what that magic is. He sends Bink home with a note stating that Bink has magic and should not be placed in exile.

Bink returns to North Village to show the note to the Storm King, but due to the King’s rivalry with Humfrey, the king ignores the note and orders Bink into exile. He crosses the magical shield that separates Xanth from Mundania (our world), leaving his parents and Sabrina behind forever. On the other side of the magical barrier, Bink is captured by the Evil Magician Trent, who had been exiled from Xanth twenty years previous for his attempt to overthrow the Storm King and rule in his place. Trent wishes to know where the source of magic is in Xanth so he can toss a magic nullifying potion on it and allow his troops through the magical barrier. Bink refuses to help Trent and is thrown into the pit with Fanchon, an ugly woman, but one with a superior intelligence.

What Bink does not realize is that he has met Fanchon before. She is known as Chameleon, a woman who changes appearance and intelligence with the phases of the moon. Wynne and Dee were the other two phases of the three that Chameleon morphs into. Chameleon is in love with Bink and had followed him to Humfrey’s castle. The good magician advised her to go to Mundania where the lack of magic would allow her to settle into her middle phase of Dee. On learning that Bink was to be exiled, she thought that perhaps they could create a life together. For no man has ever wanted her due to her extreme shifts, but as average woman Dee in Mundania, she feels that she might have a last chance for happiness.

Bink and Fanchon escape to sea, due to Fanchon’s incredible intelligence, but are pursued by Trent’s men. Eventually, Bink, Trent, and Fanchon are all swept back into Xanth via a whirlpool but Trent’s forces are left behind. The three get to know one another and Bink discovers that he likes Trent and finds that his time in Mundania has matured the young hothead that tried to take over the kingdom.

They meet up with Sorceress Iris once more and this time, Iris offers herself to Trent, hoping that they would become the next King and Queen of Xanth. Bink tries to stop them by challenging Trent to a duel of magic. During the duel, Bink’s particular form of magic is revealed. In a final thrust of using physical force against Bink, Chameleon puts herself in front of the man she loves and saves his life. This stops the duel and the group bands together once more in order to save Chameleon’s life.

Will Chameleon live and win Bink’s heart over that of his old flame Sabrina? Will Trent and Iris overthrow the Storm King and rule Xanth together? Will Trent find the source of magic and be able to destroy it to allow his troops into the magical realm? You will need to read the book to find out.

A Spell For Chameleon Book Cover

I first read A Spell For Chameleon when I was very young and the book was first in print. I was delighted by the world building, a magical land where groan-worthy puns were alive in a fantastical natural environment.

I loved the three main characters: Chameleon, Bink, and Trent. Each was quirky, intelligent and straightforward. I was fascinated by Chameleon and the concept of a woman who changed with the phase of the moon and by Bink, a young and handsome man with refreshing flaws that made him likable. Trent, while portrayed as “evil” also was relatable and in the end, I found myself rooting for both him and Iris.

The novel is a first of a very long series of Xanth novels, of which Mr. Anthony seems to produce a new one once a year for the most part. I have not read the entire series because I feel the quality of the books begins to deteriorate after the fourth or fifth book. The first three are fun and worth the read if you enjoy fantasy novels. This one and its sequel, The Source of Magic, are my two favorites. I feel that both books are worth looking into, but I would not necessarily give them to children due to the sexual overtones of the stories and the sexism that is portrayed as “normal behavior”. The sexism does make the novel somewhat dated, but I would not necessarily skip the book for that issue. Xanth is a world that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.

Early Xanth Series:
A Spell for Chameleon
The Source of Magic
Castle Roogna
Centaur Aisle
Ogre, Ogre

Book Review: Flowers for Algernon

Book Name: Flowers For Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes
First Published: 1966
Hugo Award for best short story (1960)
Joint Nebula Award (1966)
Nominated for Hugo Award as novel (1967) Lost to Heinlein’s Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Daniel Keyes first job as a teenager was to join the U.S. Maritime Service as a ship purser. When he left the sea, he continued his schooling and gained a B.A. in psychology and then a Master’s in English and American Literature from Brooklyn College in New York. Keyes became a teacher for the New York City public school system and taught English and creative writing. Later he would go on to teach creative writing at Wayne State University in Ohio and become a professor emeritus there in 2000. His original university, Brooklyn College, also awarded him its “Distinguished Alumnus Medal of Honor.” Keyes was elected the SFWA Author Emeritus in 2000 for making a significant contribution to science fiction and fantasy, primarily as a result of Flowers for Algernon.

Keyes died in his home in 2014 at the age of 86. It was due to complications from pneumonia. He is survived by his two daughters, Leslie and Hillary, his wife Aurea Georgina Vazquez having died the year before.

His writing career began a few weeks after his graduation from Brooklyn College. Keyes was hired by Magazine Management, a publishing company owned by Martin Goodman. Since he had some experience with science fiction, he eventually became the editor of the pulp magazine Marvel Science Stories, a precursor of the now famous Marvel Comics. When Goodman discontinued the pulps in favor of paperback novels and men’s adventure magazines, Keyes was moved to Atlas to become an associate editor under Stan Lee. In 1952, Keyes was one of several staff writers (officially known as editors) who wrote for the comics. He had two science fiction stories published in Journey into Unknown Worlds along with art from Basil Wolverton.

Flowers for Algernon began as a story proposal for the comics, entitled Brainstorm, but Keyes felt that this story had more depth and was more literary based than comic based. Instead, he wrote it as a full short story and it was published in 1959 by The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He won the Hugo Award for this short story. In a few years, he would expand the short into his first full-length novel to publish in 1966. The novel has since been adapted into several movies, including the famous version “Charly” that gave Cliff Robertson the academy award for best actor. The novel was nominated for a Hugo and it won a Nebula Award.

Keyes published additional books: The Fifth Sally, The Minds of Billy Milligan, The Touch, Unveiling Claudia, and the memoir Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey.

Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.
— Plato, The Republic

Charlie Gordon, a thirty-something man, suffers from phenylketonuria and has a modest IQ of 68. He works as a janitor at a bakery which allows him enough money to afford an apartment and stay out of the state institution. Charlie has ambition. He takes courses to learn to read and write at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults. His teacher is young and attractive Alice Kinnian.

Two medical researchers look for a human subject to test a new surgical technique to raise biological intelligence. The first experiments performed on a mouse were successful enough that they felt it was time to take the next step in their studies with a human. Based on a recommendation from Miss Kinnian, Charlie is chosen to be that test subject based on his motivation to improve his condition.

Charlie’s operation is a success, much like that of the mouse Algernon. His IQ soars to 185 and his dream of understanding the world around him as a normal human becomes a reality. As the months pass, life changes dramatically for Charlie. His relationships take on new meaning as he realizes the guys at the bakery “liked” him because he was a butt for their jokes. Now they fear him and demand that he be fired from his job. The scientists who performed the surgery think of him as another test subject, more a mouse than a human. Charlie confronts them with anger at a cocktail party. He also begins a romance with Alice Kinnian, but due to lack of intimacy with her, he rebels and starts a purely physical relationship with another woman, Fay.

When not dousing his soul with alcohol, Charlie continues his mentor’s research. This includes observations of the mouse Algernon, who he keeps at his apartment much like a pet. He discovers a flaw in the scientist’s research. When Algernon begins to behave in an erratic manner, losing his intelligence and then dies, Charlie realizes that he may suffer the same fate as the mouse.

Charlie attempts to mend his broken relationships with his parents and sister. He discovers that his mother suffers from dementia and his sister Norma is caring for her. Norma had hated Charlie as they were growing up, but now has new compassion for him. She asks Charlie to remain with her and their mother, but Charlie declines. Instead, he offers money to help with their mother’s care.

The process inverts and Charlie begins the decline back to a man of special needs. Fay becomes afraid of Charlie’s new condition and leaves him even as Alice returns. But will Charlie be able to accept Alice Kinnian into his life now that he is no longer a lauded genius?

Flowers for Algernon Book Cover.jpgLike many school children, Flowers for Algernon was required reading in my high school English class. It is a powerful book that left a lasting impression on me. I was made aware that science fiction did not need to be “pulp” to be part of the genre. There is room for sci-fi to be literary and comment on the human condition.

The novel has gone on to sell over 5 million copies worldwide. It has inspired many television and movie adaptations, the most famous of which is Charly starring Cliff Robertson who won an Oscar for the title role. It has become a story that is now a part of the pop-culture and has been included in many high school curriculum plans.

Yet, there is still controversy surrounding the novel. Some critics of the book find it to be sexually explicit and irreligious. Consequently, the book is occasionally removed from the shelves of schools and put onto “banned book” lists.

I view the book as a statement of how the physically and mentally challenged are viewed in the world. I am proud how far their treatment and place in society has come. There was a time not all that long ago when such children and adults were locked away in institutions or treated with derision when kept with their families. Today, I feel that much of this stigma has been removed and that people are treated with more dignity and understanding.

And what of the idea of augmenting human intelligence that plays a pivotal role in the novel? When Daniel Keyes was asked when he thought such a process might come to pass, his reply was “Perhaps in 30 years.” Science fiction may very well become science fact in our lifetime.

Book Review: The Island Stallion Races

Book Name: The Island Stallion Races
Author: Walter Farley
First Published: 1955

Walter Farley was born in 1915 in Syracuse, New York. His uncle was a professional horseman and took the young Walter under his wing. He taught him about horses and training methods that were used on the world racing tracks. Walter spent a great deal of time with his uncle at the Belmont Race Track and stables. Many of his future novels would be set in this racing complex.

Farley was a high school student at Erasmus Hall High in Brooklyn when he began to write the first Black Stallion novel. As he continued his education at Columbia College, he completed and published The Black Stallion in 1941 when he was still an undergrad at the university. The book was a success and Farley was ready to write sequels, but World War II intervened. He was forced to set his stories about Alec Ramsey and the Black aside and instead worked for the US Army magazine Yank for the next five years. It would not be until the end of the war that Farley could return to his first love, writing about horses and the racing world. Altogether, Farley would write 21 novels about his beloved horses and would become renown as a young adult author.

Farley and his wife Rosemary had four children whom they raised on a farm in Pennsylvania and later in a beach house in Florida. The love for horses was passed on to his children and in one, his son Steve, the love of writing.

In 1989, Walter Farley was honored by the Library in Venice, Florida by the creation of the Walter Farley Literary Landmark in it’s children’s wing. Soon after, Farley died of cancer in 1989. He would not see the completion of the Young Black Stallion book or the start of production of the television series The Adventures of the Black Stallion.

There was also a famous Francis Ford Coppola film The Black Stallion, which features some of the most beautiful cinematography featuring an Arabian steed, a beach and a boy taming the heart of a horse. It stars Mickey Rooney as the old trainer and is well worth looking into as a family-friendly film everyone can love.

“His mane was like a crest, mounting, then falling low. His neck was long and slender, and arched to the small, savagely beautiful head. The head was that of the wildest of all wild creatures- a stallion born wild- and it was beautiful, savage, splendid. A stallion with a wonderful physical perfection that matched his savage, ruthless spirit.”
― Walter Farley

The Island Stallion Races is an unusual offering by Walter Farley, his only science fiction novel. The story returns us to Azul Island, a tropical paradise with a hidden secret: Inside the ancient walls of this extinct volcano is tucked away the last outpost of the Spanish conquistadors where the descendants of their powerful steeds still roam. Young Steve Duncan and his scholarly friend Pitch have discovered the secret of Azul Island and Steve has befriended the mighty stallion Flame who guards his herd and keeps them safe.

Pitch is called away while the pair study the ruins left by the Spaniards on the island and Steve is delighted to have more time with his favorite horse, a fire red steed that he longs to race so he can show off Flame’s speed and grace to the world. Alas, it is not to be. Flame has no pedigree or papers. He is barred from racetracks due to this defect.

Enter a pair of supposed “Eastern American Business Men” who are anything but. Jay and Flick arrive on the island via unconventional means: An intergalactic spaceship. They have unusual talents such as transforming into birds when they wish. Their mission is to watch over the invisible spaceship that has been parked on the remote island while their colleagues Victor and Julian are off studying human culture.

Jay would like to do more than simply study humanity. He has watched the beautiful horses of Azul Island for a long time and is interested in experiencing horse racing for himself. He concocts a plan to take Flame and Steve to Havana, Cuba via their invisible spaceship and enter the Island Stallion in the Grand International horse race.

Does the Island stallion have what it takes to beat the best race horses on the planet? Will Steve overcome his fear of the aliens in order to pursue his dream of being Flame’s rider in a major racing event? Will Jay the intergalactic alien get away with his reckless behavior or will his comrades leave him behind when it is time for them to depart Earth?

You’ll have to read the adventure to find out.

The Island Stallion Races Book CoverOne of my favorite series, when I was a pre-teen were the Black Stallion novels by Walter Farley. I had quite the crush on young Alec Ramsey and identified with his love of horses since I had a similar love for my own horse at that age. The Black Stallion novels are quite famous.  The series is being continued by Farley’s son Steve Farley to this day.

There is a second series of books written by Farley featuring another mighty horse. There are only five novels in the series about Flame the Island Stallion and his rider, Steve Duncan.  Each one a well written YA adventure featuring a beautiful steed and the boy who loves him.

Although the Island Stallion books were written at the same time as the Black Stallion books, I put off reading them. I loved the Black and Alec so much, I felt a sense of youthful disloyalty to read about this other horse. Much to my surprise, when I finally gave in to my curiosity, I found that I enjoyed these books as much, if not more than the original Black Stallion books.

Azul Island, a walled paradise tucked away in the tropics and home to the beautiful equine descendants of the conquistador warhorses tickled my fancy with delight. Then, there was a second easter egg. The Island Stallion Races featured aliens from another world and their nefarious mission: horseracing! To my disappointment, the author never continued his science fiction ideas and this single offering is his only sci-fi novel. The storyline was enough to make this particular Walter Farley book one of my favorites. (Sorry Alec)

I would love to see the Island Stallion stories made into movies as the Black Stallion books were. The stories are every bit as compelling as the more famous works by Walter Farley. If you are looking for science fiction in an unexpected place, give The Island Stallion Races a try. It is a family-friendly book that will make you and your horse-loving child smile.

The Island Stallion Series:

The Island Stallion (1948)
The Island Stallion’s Fury (1951)
The Island Stallion Races (1955)
The Black Stallion and Flame (1960)
The Black Stallion Challenged (1964)

Book Review: The Mirror of Her Dreams

Book Name: The Mirror of Her Dreams
Author: Stephan R. Donaldson
First Published: 1986

Stephen R. Donaldson was born in 1947. He spent much of his youth in India due to his father’s work as an orthopedic surgeon in that country. He attended the Kodaikanal International School. Later, he would gain a bachelor’s degree from The College of Wooster and a Master’s from Kent State. He currently lives in New Mexico.

Donaldson is best known for his long-running series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a fantasy about a man who suffered from leprosy and was called to an alternate world to save it. His stories are characterized by a sense of moral bleakness, complex psychological reasoning, and a fondness for arcane vocabulary. Mordant’s Need is a two-part series, a long novel that was broken up into two parts, and features a unique magic system and court intrigue that rivals the “Game of Thrones”.

The author’s stories show a wide range of influences, such as the operas of Richard Wagner, Mervyn Peake, C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The largest inspiration for The Mirror of Her Dreams must come from Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels, of which the author is known to be a big fan.

“The story of Terisa and Geraden began very much like a fable. She was a princess in a high tower. He was a hero come to rescue her. She was the only daughter of wealth and power. He was the seventh son of the lord of the seventh Care. She was beautiful from the auburn hair that crowned her head to the tips of her white toes. He was handsome and courageous. She was held prisoner by enchantment. He was a fearless breaker of enchantments. As in all the fables, they were made for each other.”
― Stephen R. Donaldson, The Mirror of Her Dreams

The Mirror of Her Dreams is the story of Terisa Morgan, a young woman that feels as if she is fading from existence and has doubts that she is real. To help her establish her own reality, she lines all the walls of her apartment with mirrors. By seeing her reflection, she assures herself that she is alive.

One night, Terisa has a dream where she is hounded by men on horseback. A young man steps in to protect her. The following night, she has a bout of fear that she is fading from the world. To counter this, she sits in front of one of her many mirrors. That is when the man from her dream crashes through the mirror before her. He is Geraden, a bumbling Apt who has failed to become an “Imager” after ten years of study. He comes from a mystical world called Mordant and is in search of a champion to save it. Geraden is convinced that Terisa is that champion, even though the girl is not quite what he was expecting to find. He pleads with her to come with him through the mirror to Mordant and Castle Orison.

Starting as an ordinary shy girl from New York City, Terisa transforms into the center of palace intrigue. The court of Mordant is divided about her. Some believe she is a powerful “Imager” because she was discovered in a room of mirrors and could see her own reflection without going mad. They view Terisa as a potential ally or threat. In Mordant, magic comes from mirrors. The mirrors show only one place and time and no one sees their reflection in them. The powerful “Imagers” use the magical mirrors to see into the future or parallel worlds. The other half of the court is convinced that she is just another mistake of Geraden’s and do not take her seriously.

Terisa must deal with the puppy-dog earnest Geraden, a senile King and his strong-willed daughters, a mad Adept, Geraden’s well-meaning brothers, and the factions of Imager masters that belong to guild known as the “Congery”. The threads of the story twists and turns and little is what it appears in Orison. There is a plot to depose the King, a rogue Imager sends magical creatures to cause destruction in the kingdom. It all is overwhelming to a doubting Terisa who can hardly make a decision of her own due to her debilitating passivity. Can she overcome her inner fears and become the champion of Mordant as her friend Geraden remains firmly convinced?
The Mirror of Her Dreams Book CoverI first read The Mirror of Her Dreams when it first came out in 1986. I blush to say it, but the striking cover of the girl looking into a mirror and a man gazing back at her from the glass caught my eye and intrigued me. I had read Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant books and was pleased to see that he had branched out into a new world.

What struck me first about the book was the unusual heroine, a girl that had been abused by her parents that she was passive enough that it could endanger her, even in our own world much less that of a fantasy realm. I found myself having sympathy for Terisa Morgan, although there were times when I wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up. Women today may have trouble with the passivity of this heroine for she is not a strong female and does tend to lean on the men around her.

The first half of the book does drag due to the long information dumps about Mordant’s past and world building description. I feel that the author might have found another way to convey this information. However, the court intrigues, the constant danger that Trisa and Geraden find themselves in did keep the story interesting enough for me to finish the book and then go on to its sequel. I also enjoyed the mild romance between these two characters.

Where the book shines is in the details of the Imagers and their guild the Congery. The magic system is rather unique, but has a strong basis in previous fantasies, with hints leaning toward Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Zelaney’s Prince Corwin of Amber.

There is much to like about this fantasy novel and its sequel, A Man Rides Through. While the first novel is a bit slow, the second is action packed and a very satisfying read. Be warned, The Mirror of Her Dreams ends in a cliffhanger, which at the time was hard on me since the second book did not come out for a year, but now both books are available. You will not have to wait a year to learn the conclusion of this tale as I did! Mordant’s Need has stayed with me down through the years and I view it as a solid classic of the fantasy genre.

Mordant’s Need

The Mirror of Her Dreams (1986)
A Man Rides Through (1987)