Monday, February 16, 2015

AWWC 2015: The Dagger's Path by Glenda Larke

I was lucky enough to be given this for my birthday and very pleased I was too. I had been waiting anxiously for it since I finished The Lascar's Dagger, the first book of The Forsaken Lands trilogy, in the middle of last year (my review of that is here).

Things are not going well with everything in turmoil. In Lowmeer Princess Mathilda is now the unwilling wife of the Regal. She is also a mother with a dreadful secret that puts both her and her child at risk and her attempts to protect them both lead her down an evermore dangerous path. Meanwhile, instead of Sorrel Redwing heading to the safety of the Pontifect's care, magic has forced her and her charge, baby Piper, on board a ship bound for the Spicerie and Summer Seas with the witan, Saker, and the Lascar, Ardhi. At the same time, the Pontifect's agent, proctor Gerelda Brantheld, has rescued Peri, a boy who has had an appalling loss but who has been granted a witchery that will be vital if they are ever to fight the on-coming danger of the army being recruited theoretically to protect Va but which is in fact corrupted by evil. There are whispers of sorcery and rumours that A'Va is stirring with devil-kin being born and the illness known as the Horned Death still breaking out and this is just in Ardrone and Lowmeer. The lands of the Summer Seas seem ripe for plundering and the Lowmian fleet is coming if they can evade the Ardronese privateers. Magic - good and bad - is everywhere. Added to this are the upheaval in Ardrone where religious conflict is being stirred up, the on-going tensions between Lowmeer and Ardrone with all its political ramifications and the machinations of Prime Valerian Fox, a religious leader with his own agenda. There is a lot happening but it is never confusing if frequently unexpected.

I found this book engrossing. It is full of cleverly detailed world building making it truly believable. The conflict between trading and colonising nations that see themselves as entitled to take what they want and the people they seek to exploit is one that we are all familiar with and this is one of the themes of this book. The Lowmians consider they are entitled to the spices and other treasures of the islands but their lack of understanding and respect for other beliefs and cultures and their failure to recognise the power of those beliefs precipitates much of what transpires. There are questions raised about the status of women, too - Princess Mathilda has effectively been sold off to secure a political settlement with Lowmeer -  but none of this is heavy handed preaching. It grows organically from the story where we see how things affect individuals and societies and the consequences that flow from them.

The author gives us a wide range of well rounded characters whose motivations, good or bad, are believable. People make mistakes, they do things for what they believe are good reasons (but sometimes they are mistaken) and they grow and change. Saker is a perfect example. His decision to use magic often seems the only one possible but his particular witchery means that the results can  conflict with everything he believes in and this leaves him questioning his choices. He's not the only one of course. Ardhi, the original owner of the dagger of the title, and Lord Juster, the Ardronese privateer, not to mention the heir to the Ardronese throne, Mathilda's brother, Prince Ryce, and the  women like the Pontifect, Gerelda Brantheld and Sorrel, all have to learn and adapt as those things dear to them come under threat.

Of the female characters, Sorrel is still one of my favourites. She is intelligent and questions everything even when forces beyond her control lead her away from her intended path. Strong and determined, she fights to protect her charge using her witchery instead of a sword. It's a pleasure to see strong older women like the Pontifect and Gerelda, too, playing a major part or in positions of power.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. In fact I'm eagerly waiting for the next book. If you missed The Lascar's Dagger, it and The Dagger's Path are available from various booksellers including Amazon. Both are published by Orbit with The Dagger's Path having been released in January 2015.

Glenda Larke's website is here and she is also on Facebook.



Friday, February 06, 2015

Bushfires


We are in the middle of the bushfire season here in Western Australia. They are a seasonal hazard when your forests are largely eucalyptus and summers are long, hot and dry. Add in nearly a week of violent electrical storms - this is not quite so normal. Storms do occur at this time of the year but for there to be so many and for such a long period is unusual - and you have lightning strikes igniting fires as well, unfortunately, as others started by arsonists. There's always a flurry of the latter towards the end of the summer school holidays when bored kids - mostly boys between 9 and 17, according to the police, with a fascination with fire and no comprehension of how destructive it can be - get into mischief. 

There have already been several serious fires on the outskirts of the city itself over the past three weeks but they are now out. Friends who were evacuated when their homes were under threat said they were quite terrifying but, with no fuel left, those areas, at least, should be safe for a while. It brought back memories of when I was a child and a night when my parents gathered my brother and me up out of bed as a fire bore down on where we lived. It stopped before it reached our place but I can still feel the heat ahead of it and see the flames racing towards us as if they were some giant monster devouring everything in front of them.

While those fires are done with, other parts of the state are not so lucky and are now under threat. There is a major fire burning in the heavily forested southern part of the state approximately 400 kilometres from us - towns have been evacuated and there has been stock and property loss - and another is threatening several towns in the farming areas around 170 kilometres south of here. 

With fires comes smoke and the prevailing winds are driving masses of it from both fires north to the city and beyond.







This is the view from just outside my back door across the large park in the valley around 8:00 AM. You can see blue sky and greenery but on the horizon an ominous pall of smoke is moving in. Even then the air reeked of smoke.




The two photos below were taken from slightly different angles around 11:50 AM. The blue sky has completely disappeared, blocked out by the smoke, which is hazing the neighbouring buildings and even the plants in the garden. 








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I would have taken more photos but the smoke was overwhelming and my eyes are still stinging nearly an hour later. But this is merely an inconvenience for most people here in the city and my heart goes out to those whose homes and livelihoods are under threat and to the animals caught up in the inferno.












Sunday, February 01, 2015

Living and Writing With Chronic Illness

I recently came across this post, "On Chronic Illness as a Beast " by Stephanie Gunn, where she talks about her own experience with chronic illness and links to posts by Terri Windling and Michelle Goldsmith on the same topic. I know many others in similar situations and, while I can understand why they may not want to talk about it - I have a chronic back injury and one thing I've learned is that very few people really want to know about it and the physical limitations it puts on me - maybe we should be more prepared to discuss such things.

The thing about invisible chronic illness is just that - it's invisible and so it doesn't register on others how much it affects us. A personal example: when I travel by air I get a wheelchair to move around the airport because it's very difficult for me to walk any distance if I'm also lugging bags. I can do it - slowly and with considerable difficulty - but there's a price in pain and mobility to be paid later. I feel embarrassed being wheeled around. After all, I can walk albeit slowly and it's not pleasant being dependent on others however kind they are but, if I don't use the wheelchair, I'm storing up a huge pain deficit to be dealt with later, one that I can't really afford especially if I'm travelling somewhere that I need to be able function well.

Have a read of these posts. I'd be interested to hear what you think.