The Serpent Bride, by Sara Douglass

When Maximilian, King of Escator, finally finds an appropriate bride, he has some misgivings. Ishbel, his intended, hails from Serpent’s Nest, the home of the mysterious cult, The Coil. Indeed, Maximilian suspects that Ishbel is deeply involved with the Coil, though she professes merely to have been under their protection. Still, Maximilian knows he must marry Ishbel and, when he meets her, falls deeply in love with her. The marriage will not be an easy one, but it must take place.

Meanwhile, deep in the south, Isaiah, Tyrant of Isembaard, is massing an army, a massive invasion force to ride north. His generals believe that it is because he needs a victory to win their trust. But Isaiah, who is not all that he seems, knows that there is much more at stake than his rule over Isembaard.

Deep beneath Darkglass Mountain, something terrible is awakening, coming to the surface to destroy all life, all peace. Men who have been enemies and strangers must unite if the Lord of Elcho Falling is to restore any semblance of peace.

The Serpent Bride is the first in a new epic trilogy from Sara Douglass, best-selling author of previous titles including The Axis Trilogy, Threshold and Beyond the Hanging Wall. This new series brings together some of the characters of those earlier titles following a break of seven years. For those who have not read the earlier titles, The Serpent Bride does stand alone, though with so many viewpoint characters and changes in perspective it does take some concentration to keep track of who is who, especially in the case of some of the lesser characters.

This is an absorbing and intriguing fantasy read, with moments of hope and humour among some dark and challenging times. Readers will look forward to the second title in the trilogy to see where it goes next.

The Serpent Bride, by Sara Douglass
Voyager 2007

The Dragon Queens, by Traci Harding

Ashlee Devere, who readers first met in The Gene of Isis, a 19th century clairvoyant and adventurer has been summoned by the Sangreal Knighthood to authenticate a Sumerian Text taken from an archaeological dig. This begins a new adventure for her, her husband and her oldest son, which will change their lives irrevocably.

Tamar, the thirteen year old daughter od 21st century Mia Montrose, is reading Ashlee’s diaries for the first time, and at the same time is undergoing changes which are unexpected to her, but which have been foretold by others. Tamar’s destiny is to determine the fate of the whole world.

The Dragon Queens, the second title in the Mystique Trilogy, is told through the first person journalising of Tamar, Ashlee and Mia, each in their own time periods, and at times with the assistance of other women. This form of narration, along with the complex nature of the women’s quest, keeps the reader absorbed, with each new twist adding to the intrigue. There is much to absorb and process, and readers will be keen for the third and final instalment to see how the story resolves.

Intriguing fantasy.

The Dragon Queens, by Traci Harding
Voyager, 2007

Warrior, by Jennifer Fallon

Once Marla was a princess with no power – just a pawn in a male-dominated world. Now, though, she has become the power behind Hythria’s throne. But while she is playing her political game, Alija, the High Arrion of the Sorcerer’s Collective, is busily plotting her downfall.

There are other problems, too. Marla’s son, Damin, is being brought up in his uncle Mahkas’ house, but Mahkas is obsessed with his desire to see Damin marry his daughter. And Marla’s closest ally, Elezaar the Fool, is facing a crisis of his own.

Warrior is the second title in Jennifer Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles. Like the first, it is a well-woven complex fantasy tale, with plots and subplots woven tightly together to keep the reader absorbed from start to finish.

An enthralling read.

Warrior, by Jennifer Fallon
Voyager, 2005

Priestess of the White, by Trudi Canavan

When Auraya’s village, Oraylyn is in trouble, held ransom, her quick thinking finds a solution which is acceptable to all, and Oraylyn is saved. As a reward, Auraya is offered the chance to train as a Priestess. Time passes and Auraya is appointed by the gods to be one of the five guardians of the White. She has barely grown used to the idea when she is sent on a mission, as an ambassador trying to bring all the races of northern Ithania together, in line with the wishes of the gods.

But Auraya and the other chosen have many challenges ahead of them, not the least of which is the rise of a cult which seeks to claim power for themselves and to eradicate all non-believers.

Priestess of the White is the first in the new Priestess of the White series by Trudie Canavan, author of the much-acclaimed Black Magician Trilogy. This new offering is fast-paced and features an array of characters – human, animal and beast-like – which will draw the reader in and keep the pages turning.

Good stuff.

Priestess of the White, by Trudi Canavan
Voyager, 2005

Innocence Lost, by Karen Miller

Reviewed by Davina MacLeod

In Innocence LostKaren Miller has laid a feast before us once again.

If you have had the pleasure of reading Book 1 of the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology, The Innocent Mage, you may recall how palate cleansing that entree was. You may also remember that just as you were cosily tucking into the main course it was whipped from the table, so to speak.

Never fear, the craving will now be assuaged. The table is set, the main course has returned. We meet old friends like Asher, straight as ever, and Gar ever the royal, who does what he must to save the kingdom. Matt is still the gentle yet stolid Horsemaster, and Dathne starts letting go of some secrets at last, while keeping Asher flummoxed, but in love. You will enjoy a visit to Conroyd’s home where you join the lavish dinner , and you may cheer when you witness his hopes crumble.

Can Asher and Darran make peace, and keep it, when Gar begs them to? They do try. But what are Conroyd and Willer, the little weasel, hatching together? Will they manage to bring Asher down?

Don’t expect the expected when dessert is served. Although Miller has brought most of the same tantalizing ingredients to book 2, she adds a few more spicy tidbits to the mix in the same inviting manner as she did in book 1.

Get ready to tuck in. Innocence Lost is already in the shops.

Innocence Lost, by Karen Miller
Voyager, 2005

© Davina MacLeod 2005

About the Reviewer:
Davina writes Children’s Historical Fiction based in Melbourne. She has been editing fiction for eight years, and is a member of the Australian Society of Editors. Although she edits anything that can be put into print, Speculative Fiction is, for her, the most enjoyable.

Gene of Isis, by Traci Harding

In nineteenth century England, Ashlee Granville approaches her society debut with trepidation. When she enters the marriage market, she will be forced to hide her special talents – talents which she has worked all her life to develop. A powerful clairvoyant, Ashlee wants to travel and continue her studies. But those around Ashlee have other plans – and, it seems, she is destined to marry.

In 21st centruy Australia, Mia Montrose receives the phone call she has always dreamed of getting. A scholar with a Doctorate in Ancient Languages, she has been asked to join an archeological dig which promises to be the most exciting job of her career.

In the 13th century, Lillet du Lac, a Priestess protected by the Cathars, is entrusted with the transportation of a sacred treasure.

These three women have a connection that none of them could guess at – all bear the sacred Gene of Isis. And, despite the centuries that separate them, all three are guided by the same man. With his help and working together, they must overcome a foe none of them could have imagined.

Gene of Isis is the first book in the new Mystique trilogy by acclaimed fantasy author Traci Harding. Harding weaves the three tales together, creating three richly detailed and overlapping worlds. The three female characters are each unique and their male champion a nice blend of strength, good counsel and humour. Harding has combined historical fact, with real events from church history woven with a combination of theoretic altenatives and fantsay.

An absorbing read.

Gene of Isis, by Traci Harding
Voyager, 2005

Wolfblade, by Jennifer Fallon

Being a Hythrian princess gives Marla Wolfblade no power. She is just a bargaining chip – a body to be traded to the highest bidder, to provide her brother, the High Prince, with an heir. At the age of sixteen her marriage has been arranged, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

But Marla has more wit than anyone suspects and, with an unlikely aide – the dwarf Elezaar – her position slowly improves. Marla is determined to restore her family’s great name and real power. A fast learner, her astuteness surprises those who surround her.

But in a society where assassins walk freely and sorcerers plot for power, can one young princess really triumph and ensure the longevity of the Wolfblade line?

Wolfblade is a superb fantasy offering. The first in a planned trilogy, it is also a prequel to author Jennifer Fallon’s previous bestselling trilogy, The Demon Child.

Fallon creates a multi-layered and very believable society where politics and religion mingle, and the roles of every group in society are clearly defined. Plots and subplots are clear, but not predictable, and the reader is left satisifed but eager for the arrival of the next instalment in the trilogy.

An outstanding fantasy read.

Wolfblade; The Hythrun Chronicles Book One, by Jennifer Fallon
Voyager, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2004