The Venusian Gambit Succeeds on All Fronts

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The Venusian Gambit brings the Daedalus series to a satisfying, yet bitter-sweet conclusion. Parting is such sweet sorrow particularly from a series of which I’ve been *blush* a raving fan-boy from the beginning. I am, however, heartened by the fact that Michael Martinez will sail on to new writing horizons. Right now, he’s having a little fun with a story built around the Pathfinder Game, about which more here.

Most of what I loved about this book are what I’ve loved about all of the books in the series, so I won’t tread over ground covered in my review of The Daedalus Incident and review of The Enceladus Crisis. In this review, I’ll focus on some new elements to the series The Venusian Gambit brings. (Amazon has a nice description of the plot.) Note: there are spoilers below for the previous two books in this post. Not going into detail over old ground doesn’t lessen or detract from what I’ve previously said, but I’ll simply summarize what I love most about these books. There are plenty of books with cleverly inspired plots and the idea of these two timelines coming together is brilliant. But the proof of the pudding is the eating and the greatness of a book is in the writing. Execution is everything. In this series, the ideas are fleshed out and live in dialog and pacing, story arc and character. It takes that initial plot line and allows us to live it. We have a sense of the duty and honor that pervade the lives on H.M.S Victory (and the Royal Navy) and (most of) those in the JSC. Not that there aren’t disagreements (and even times when one feels betrayed by what another thought honorable), but the willingness to seek out the best for King (and Queen) and country, even for the known worlds, wins out. Not that the books are morality tales, they are drama filled with hopes, loss, sacrifice, greed and love. We have villains and big damn heroes.

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Michael J. Martinez | Photo by Anna Martinez

In this final chapter of the series, we have an opportunity to know the characters and worlds more deeply even as we are introduced to new players. We see Philip, the son of Anne, dowager Countess St. Germain and Elizabeth, the daughter of (now) Lord Admiral Weatherby as young adults and interesting in their own right. We also see known characters in new roles and witness the consistency of character but also how the roles bring out some features of them. One of my favorite aspects of The Venusian Gambit is that the timelines come together at about the mid-point of the book rather than the end. The players (mostly) know each other, so we have an opportunity to see them interact in a more robust and familiar way. Because Mr. Martinez has a larger canvas on which to play out the interaction of the worlds, and not just the people but the technology, we are able to have a little fun with the characters’ reactions to each and find more appreciation for the benefits of both worlds.

Kristen Kalbli & Bernard Clark

Kristen Kalbli & Bernard Clark

You might be a little surprised at the lateness of this review, given I’m such a fan and it was released in early May. I waited for the Audible book to become available because I love the narration so much. The two narrators, Kristen Kalbli & Bernard Clark, perform the future and past timelines, respectively, then swap chapters as the timelines come together. It’s brilliantly done. It’s amazing how much one associates characters with the narrator’s approach to voicing them. I’ve come to know General Maria Diaz through Ms. Kalbli’s voice. When Mr. Clark takes over, his approach is, understandably, starkly different. It took a bit of adjustment. Both are great, but different. As with all of the series, I highly recommend the audiobook, if you go for such things. These are great narrators with a clever scheme of having them in different roles.

What I loved about The Venusian Gambit

  • A deeper dive into the combined worlds, people and technology
  • New characters or ones with expanded roles and depth such as Philip and Elizabeth.
  • Deeper understanding of previously introduced characters in new roles
  • Everything I loved about the whole series

***Warning – spoilers***

What I was less fond of in The Venusian Gambit

  • The defeat of Althotas and the relatively controlled, slow collapsing of the worlds were both a bit convenient. It was still a strong ending with sacrifice, battle, cultural barriers to overcome and heavy loss. So this is, at most, a light preference, but there you have it.

Once again, I cannot recommend the Daedalus series and The Venusian Gambit in particular, highly enough. A well-written adventure over sea and space on a grand scale amongst many cultures and worlds with fascinating characters, the best of whom exhibit exceptional honor. What’s not to love?

The Rebirths of Tao – Wesley Chu

J. T. Frazier:

Nice review of Rebirths of Tao – Wesley Chu (sadly still on my TBR list but changing that soon) Loved the other two, Lives of Tao & Deaths of Tao.

Originally posted on Bookish:

20765775What is the best thing about Wesley Chu?  He makes reading a story about a parasitic alien race, plotting to terraform the earth, funny and riveting.  He could have gone for frightening but Chu made his aliens lovable.  They have, after all, been around since the dinosaurs, inhabiting a large assortment of creatures, across evolution until they found the human race.  Through humans, they found intelligent creatures, or I should say intelligent enough creatures, they could use to realize their dreams. A dream of making the earth a nice soupy mess for aliens to live in.  It’s unfortunate that it will be unlivable for humans.  As a human this sounds terribly wrong, but they were here before us.  They are smarter than us and as a famous Genjix leader, Zoras, would say, “…humans to aliens are like ants to humans.  You wouldn’t be concerned if you crushed an ant beneath your…

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Limitless – Man’s Continuing Desire to Be God as Embodied by Faust

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Photo | Darby Frazier

We hear it all of the time – “Push past your limits”, “Reach for the stars” and the little more grounded “Be all you can be” (which means be more than you are now). Much of speculative fiction features “Post-Humans” with capabilities beyond the more mundanely human. From time immemorial, we have sought to be God or, at the very least, have some capabilities reserved for God. While we are called to do all for God’s glory and “give our utmost for his highest,” this is often an excuse to be discontented with what God has given us and our inherently being – not God. This is the heart of sin, whether it’s Adam and Eve wanting the knowledge of good and evil or Nebuchadnezzar wanting God’s glory for himself. In more recent times, we’ve seen this played out by Bradley Cooper in Limitless, where he portrays a person who gains capabilities men normally don’t have through a special drug. For a time, he was literally the talk of the party. He was charming, smart, and his capabilities seem nearly limitless. He, in fact, is a modern-day Faust, albeit one who stumbled upon his path to glory. If, as the Westminster Divines have it, man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, then the path to becoming limitless is in stark contrast to that for which we are designed. Students at Cary Christian School have taken the opportunity to use Faust as a way to portray the destructive nature of self-focus and self-glory.

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The journey to use Faust as a tool to bring this message home began back in 2013, led primarily by Logan Frazier and Julianna Hoover along with Caroline and Chandler Cearley. That journey has led through an initial adaptation of Goethe’s Faust to a streamlined adaptation for the North Carolina Theater Conference (NCTC) competition in Greensboro which received numerous awards including Excellence in Script Adaptation, Stage Combat, Physicalization, as well as Excellence in Acting to Matthew Cooker and Logan Frazer, and Outstanding Student Design in Directing for Caroline Cearley; this production included Matthew Coker, Caroline Cearley, Guy Frazier, Logan Frazier, Thomas Frazier, Juliana Hoover, Collin Lipscomb, Kate Pippin and Derek J. Wertz. It was later performed in the fall of 2014 at Cary Christian School to much acclaim. Now, with the core team augmented by a number new members, they are adopting it for film. Most members of the cast and crew are either alumni of Cary Christian School or faculty. The Cary Christian school board was kind enough to provide seed money for this adventure, along with other fundraising efforts, a focused fundraising effort is being made to take new scenes for the film and present them on the Cary Christian stage July 9 – July 10 at 7:30.

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The play encapsulates Faust’s seemingly inevitable fall from Professor to damned. He portrays his desire as a noble pursuit of knowledge, but it is, in fact, seeking to become limitless, to become God. In doing so, he begins to see people as a tool for his own desires, most especially Gretchen. She is used as a distraction by Mephistopheles and as a plaything by Faust. She too falls hard, but is not wholly lost. In this process, however, Faust completely loses himself and becomes a tool of Mephistopheles. A familiar enough tale, but one told poignantly through movement, emotion, and words. One especially moving scene is when the veil is pulled back and we see Mephistopheles as the puppet-master over the marionettes of Faust and Gretchen. Whilst Faust fancies himself growing greater, he is indeed subjugating himself to the devil. Gretchen comes to the brink of insanity but in the end, the reconciling arms of God enfold her into his family and himself. The hubris of pursuing our own glory and desires is nothing less than a stunning mimicry of Lucifer’s rebellion. We are unwilling to submit ourselves to God and his providence, but rather desire to place ourselves on his throne. This may be done in the guise of being all that we can be, of being the best person but it is nonetheless truly desire to be the one in charge and perfect in our own eyes.

Robert Stansberry and Janelle Hamo developing her song,

Robert Stansberry and Janelle Hamo developing her song, “Cognizance,” for the fundraiser and film

So why yet another production of Faust (it has been done, in a number of formats, many times over the years)? This production is contemporary and accessible while maintaining a timeless approach and message. It is a way to both warn on the dangers of self-seeking while simultaneously reminding us, via Gretchen’s story, of the grace of God. This is no mere morality tale, however. This is drama. This production pulls you into the drive of Faust and reminds you of your own drive. You enter into Gretchen’s self-loathing and pain; her heartbreak (and loss of mind) at what she has done. Pain and pathos, hope and despair and the enduring human condition (until that second Advent) are woven not only through the story but through these actors. It is in the warp and woof of their movements and voices, in the baring of souls on stage and before the camera that puts flesh on this story. This message is brought home to head and heart in this production.

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The Faust Film, is a ministry tool and independent production telling the story of a man and his propensity to be discontented with God’s grace and to do anything to gratify his urge for possessing omnipotence (all power) and omniscience (all knowledge). The CCS Board has generously awarded us the 2015 Founder’s Grant for the production of the film, and now the team is looking for your contribution to help is increase the quality of the film and the reach of our ministry:

All proceeds will go towards equipment, locations, and props needed for the film. At 7:30 p.m. on the evenings of July 9th and 10th you will be able to see two of the NEW (not seen in the play version) scripted scenes acted out on stage, in addition to one of these scenes as it will appear in the film. The film is being directed by Chandler Cearley, a CCS alumnus studying Film at UNCSA. Actors include CCS graduates Logan Frazier and Juliana Hoover, CCS faculty member Robert Stansberry, and actor TJ Broadhurst. Graduates Micaelah Scott and Janelle Hamo have created concept art and original music for the film.

Admission will be $15 per person. The admittance will be paid by cash or check at the door. Please note that the film does contain some dark themes, and may not be appropriate for young children.

Please register for tickets using the following links.

Thursday –> http://conta.cc/1BzJLiW

Friday –> http://conta.cc/1TMF5fO

Keep current on The Faust Movie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Banner Artwork – Micaelah Scott, banner photo – Darby Frazier

[Full disclosure: My son, Logan, is part of the film production. My daughter, Darby, is the production’s still photographer]

Shannen Nicole’s Earthy, Fluid, Genre-bending Debut Album ‘Captive’

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Shannen Nicole

Shannen Nicole

Shannen Nicole encapsulates the four elements in her performance on her new album Captive being released 7-7-15.  Throughout the album there is an earthy, grounded quality to her voice; rather than being a disembodied, ethereal sound, hers is clear but with rich timbre. When the strings come in during “Stay” it’s as if her voice comes in on the wind imploring her lover to stay with her. She brings fiery words of condemnation in “Wicked Lullaby.” Her voice flows on the smooth water of a melodic river in “Sensitive” and comes in crashing wave after wave of heartbreak in “She Knows It.” In other words, singer/songwriter Shannen Nicole brings it all, even a bit of a bluesy vibe to the ballad “Captive.”

Shannen Nicole Publicity Pic Field

Ms. Nicole summarizes her own album well:

She stares back at him, enthrawled by his clueless smile
Foolish she is, a damsel in distress
Waiting to be saved by the ever-promising night.
But, he told me he cared, he told me of my eyes
He left me captive with no disguise.
It was once upon a lie, a misfortune to once upon a time
A story regarding her sensitive fears.
She knows it, she knows of her fragile feelings
Yet, the lonely heart she possesses beats erratically
She begs them to stay
As he sings her his wicked lullaby.
Choices haunting her to sleep
Choices guiding her mistique
At 2am finally balancing the key to her own harmony.

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For full review: http://musicsnake.com/shannen-nicole-captive-album-review/

Adam Roberts’s Brilliant Jack Glass, where Authenticity and Subterfuge Mix to Make a Great Scifi Cocktail

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Jack Glass is an intriguing science-fiction novel where the science is so inextricably woven within the story that sometimes you forget that it’s there. This story is a futuristic Roman empire where the empire is the solar system, the Ulanov’s are Caesar and the disparity amongst rich and poor is starker than that of Palermo Viejo and Villa 31 of Buenos Aires; villas miserias indeed. The vast majority of the population of the solar system live in bubbles that inadequately provide sustenance while failing to protect inhabitants from UV. Adam Roberts’ gift of world creation lies in the very air one breathes. His fleshing out of the idea of living most of your life in low to zero-g and coming to earth is palpably believable. By the time I was deeply immersed in the time on earth, I felt the constant, almost unbearable weight of gravity. The on-going effort just to breathe, let alone move, was mine. I was exhausted at how unyielding and relentless gravity is, the unbearable brightness of the sun and the viscous nature of the air itself. Pulling multiple g’s during ship acceleration or simply dealing with movement in zero g was equally well described. The farcical nature of hyperdrive (or Warp, for the Trekkies) is well analyzed while looking at faster than light travel. Great science, reflected through its practical use and woven into the story is a hallmark of Mr. Roberts’ writing in this novel. All this brilliance pales in comparison with his understanding of people, both individually and societally. The interplay of politics and people, what drives us individually and as groups, is beautifully played out and drives the narrative. That’s not to say there aren’t fights, chases, cool spacecraft and general action and mayhem. However, from the moment prisoners are left to fare for themselves on an asteroid to examining the lives of one of the most powerful families, people and their interactions are what matter.

Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts

The story is basically broken down into three main parts: the time spent on an asteroid by seven criminals, the time spent with a wealthy family getting used to gravity on earth and preparing for a birthday celebration whilst solving a murder mystery and time spent on the lam running from Lex Ulanova, the law within the solar system. Each period has a distinctly different rhythm to it along with a different set of players, but the thread of a crusade runs through them all. Do let me warn you, however, there are some particularly nasty things that occur on the asteroid amongst the prisoners and we get a lovely description of all the floating blood and gore from some zero-g fights. Jack Glass is not for the faint of heart; despite its being a great book, it may not be for everyone. Nicely enough, it does not revel in all things gruesome nor does it wallow in the details of death.

What are some of the things I love about Jack Glass?

  • Mr. Roberts makes you really believe his world. I feel as if I’ve visited those bubbles, the earth and rode in the Red Rum. It all seems so natural and real while it is, in fact, quite alien.
  • I believe in his people. While there are unique and special features about some of them, and they certainly have an environment I have never experienced, yet I can identify with their struggles, challenges, and efforts. They live very different lives and have very different talents, yet they are flesh and blood.
  • I love his writing. His dialog fits well within the overall story and characters. His narrative has movement while simultaneously providing lots of detail which allow you to become fully immersed in the world the story and the people. His phrasing is great but always subservient to the story itself. It never brings attention to itself allowing, instead, the characters and the world to flow out of them.
  • To say that Jack Glass has interesting characters is akin to saying Star Wars has interesting special effects. These characters are often way out there, while others are absolutely accessible to us. These are people we understand.
  • One of my favorite lines of the book was a chapter beginning with: “This is what happened. Pay attention.” Now that’s some big brass ones for an author to tell his reader to wake up and actually follow now. Got to love that sense of, ahem, confidence.

What are some of the things of which I’m less fond?

  • Without invoking the specter of spoilers, there is a rather unconvincing love story. Part of this has to do with things not being as they appear numerous times throughout the book, so you’re on your guard and more skeptical than you might be in other books. I’m partly skeptical that the proclaimed love is real. Also, my gut reaction while reading about said love was: “Seriously?”
  • While Mr. Roberts has a true ending and he brings it together relatively well, he clearly leaves an opening for future books in a series. That’s fine and maybe it’s indicative of how much I love the book that I feel a little like “Hey, didn’t we just get started? There’s so much left to this story, to character development and to the relationships that I really want to live into it just a little bit longer and can’t quite come to grips with it ending.”

Would I recommend Jack Glass? Absolutely, to any adult with the warnings given previously. Would I read a sequel to Jack Glass? Absolutely. Will I read more of Adam Roberts’ books? Absolutely, in fact, it’s likely to be his Campbell nominee, Bête. I highly commend Jack Glass your reading pleasure. I think you’ll find it fruitful reading not only for the simple enjoyment of it and it’s ability to pull you out yourself for the time that your reading and living in this provocative world, but also for insight into honest reflection and conversation. Within all the subterfuge, within this complex world of politics and relationships, there is authenticity. Jack Glass pushes Diana to look at a thing for what it truly is; this seems to be highly prized by Jack even when he’s misleading others. Indeed for one 16-year-old girl, much of this novel is getting her to the point of being able to do just that.

Kindle Paperwhite 3 – Brilliant resolution at no additional cost with a June 30th release date

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Courtesy Amazon.com

Coming in, somewhat under the radar, Amazon is upgrading the Paperwhite to a brilliant reading experience. The upgrades are full-on focused on making the reading experience great. As I’ve argued elsewhere, e-Ink readers are night-and-day better for reading than tablets, including the Kindle Fire and iPad. Mostly this has to do with eye strain (no more than reading a well-lit paper book), but also they’re distraction free (no email reminders or tweets coming in).  Well, that experience is getting even better, the resolution on the Paperwhite is going up to 300 dpi (sharp), which is the same as the top of line Kindle Voyage, but for $80 less! Not only that, they’re tuning the typography to make it a better reading experience by adding a font tuned for e-Ink, Bookerly and tuning the typesetting.

Here’s a look at Bookerly:

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Courtesy Amazon.com

While I use Palatino, I’m definitely going to do some experimenting here.

This provides a little foretaste to the typesetting changes:

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Courtesy Amazon.com

Apparently these changes will also help changing font sizes flow through the book layout more smoothly. This will be nice as I typically read at a relatively small font but up it a bit when my eyes are tired.

It may be that these changes will come later than June 30th, but, if the past is any indication, Amazon will put the updates soon thereafter. Speaking of past indicators, it’s likely that the Voyage will receive these updates; it’s less clear if current generation Paperwhites (and below) will receive them since their resolutions may not be able to take advantage of them. We’ll have to wait and see.

So, it you’re contemplating getting a Kindle, this is the one to get if you can swing the $120. The base Kindle still does a more than adequate job of rendering books, but just not quite at this level. If you’re thinking about a Voyage, it’s no longer worth the difference, in my opinion, unless you have lots of disposable cash. Now that the Paperwhite is on par with the Voyage, it’s the one to get. If you are thinking about getting a tablet like a Kindle Fire to use primarily as a reading device while doing some surfing, email and video, I highly encourage you to get a dedicated e-Ink reader; the $80 version would be better for reading than a tablet. You still get all of the features we’ve come to know and love – highlights and notes saved to the cloud, Whispersync across devices, so if you read on your tablet (or borrow a child’s Kindle ’cause you left yours at work – just sayin’ it’s possible), you can pick up where you left and if you listened to it on Audible in the car, you can pick up in on the same page as you listened. Finally, if you still love paper, God bless you and keep on reading!

Fabulous new vocal jazz album showcasing collaboration between David Benoit and Jane Monheit Reviewed

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Like two bubbly streams of smooth jazz, two Grammy-nominated greats, pianist/composer/arranger David Benoit and vocalist Jane Monheit, collaborate on 2 in Love, an album that runs the gamut through Latin beat, ballad, Broadway, and more. They’re precisely paired so that Mr. Benoit’s deft, smooth touch on the keys and Ms. Monheit’s silky singing unerringly hit their target. It’s all too easy, with smooth jazz, to allow one note to slide into the next; not so here. Despite Ms. Monheit’s ability to smoothly transition between words, her enunciation allows us to hear all of the lyrics. Similarly, Mr. Benoit’s smooth blending of chords never lets us lose sight (or sound) of individual notes. I’ve come to this album as a fan of Jane Monheit; I’m coming away as a fan of both.

For full review: http://musicsnake.com/david-benoit-ft-jane-monheit-2-love-album-review/

A sneak peek into Barcelona Nights:

Halie Loren’s honeyed voice blends new with jazz standards in her fabulous new album Butterfly Blue

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Halie Loren’s Butterfly Blue strikes a perfect balance of classic and original jazz songs. The new blends with the old and the old is made new in Ms. Loren’s renditions of them. Much of the original work is Ms. Loren’s own, including “Yellow Bird”, “Butterfly”, and “Danger in Loving You” (joined by Larry Wayne Clark). Daniel Gallo, playing guitar on the album) contributed a couple as well in “Blue” and “After the Fall.”

The band is an integral part of this album and include: Piano & Organ: Matt Treder, Guitars: William Seiji Marsh & Daniel Gallo, Bass: Mark Schneider, Drums: Brian West, Horns: David Larsen (saxophones, clarinet), Joe Freuen (trombone), Dana Heitman (trumpet), Rob Birdwell (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Cello: Katherine Dudney. I don’t normally list out the band members in a vocal review, but this would be a very different album without the level of play these folks provide. It’s tight, focused and always supportive of the vocals.
For full review http://musicsnake.com/halie-loren-butterfly-blue-track-by-track-album-review/

Review – Authenticity and Energy Give Life to Of Monsters and Men’s Beneath The Skin

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Beneath the Skin perfectly epitomizes what Of Monsters and Men seem to be about: energy and authenticity. Even in the most reflective, relatively quiet songs such as “Hunger” and “Human,” there is a drive threaded the music. It is not only taking you on a journey, there is life in the melody. And the music is a journey, where OMAM remains authentic to who they are and their own sound. While their lyrics typically lead in a direction, there is enough openness in them that you can apply them to your life and experience. OMAM doesn’t seem to be moved by the pull of studios, managers or critics. They remain rooted in their sound and in their tie to landscape, the physical here and now. Their authenticity breaths through their melody, lyrics and vocal approach. This album embodies that direct sound that reaches into your heart and soul and connects.

For full review: http://musicsnake.com/of-monsters-and-men-beneath-the-skin-album-review

The Master Magician, an endearing, enchanting culmination of The Paper Magician Series

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CharlieHolmberg

Charlie N. Holmberg

Charlie Holmberg is a masterful literary tight-rope walker; she has written that fine line between fierce vs. frenetic, endearing vs. cloying, inventive vs. a show-off and clear headed vs. cold-hearted. The main protagonist is an almost ideal character in that she doesn’t come off as a constructed character at all. She is clear-headed, except when it comes to her own safety. She is brilliant except for some moments of her own relationships. She is brave, physically and emotionally, but not (usually) brash. She is not perfect, thank goodness. She can be impatient. Her feisty temper can flare; it is all too easy to push her buttons. She is less self-focused than Katniss or Bella, more aware than Triss or Clary and less annoying than Hermione (at least at the beginning of the HP series). She has heart, grit, and talent. In short, the perfect protagonist (made better by not being perfect). I really like Emery as well, but he leans a little too much toward the perfect side; of course, this comes from the perspective of a guy who knows he doesn’t live up to anything like Magician Thane. Ms. Holmberg draws their relationship and the series to a delightful culmination in The Master Magician.

[Note: there are spoilers for those that haven’t read The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician below. Read those books – and reviews :) – prior to this book and post.]

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The genius of the series isn’t surprising twists and turns (although the first two books provide plenty of those), but rather the growth of Ceony from a recent graduate and early apprentice to a full magician and the growth of her relationship with Emery Thane. She grows in confidence without ever becoming flippant as she sees her capabilities used under pressure. She dances enchantingly between confidence and arrogance. When pushed to follow lessons that she mastered early in her apprenticeship, she holds her own: “If I did not feel confident in my knowledge of Folding, I would not be making the preparations for my magician’s test. No, I don’t believe I need a ledger.” Yet when she learns that she is to test under a new magician, she feels some slight panic: “She pressed a palm to her forehead. “I have more studying to do than I thought. I’m doomed. I . . . I need to get dressed.”

[Light spoilers below]

We have seen her care and concern for others, especially Emery, in her desire and willingness to risk her life for their safety. Her most telling moment of growth, however, is in her confrontation with her sister, Zina. After her sister attempted to humiliate Ceony in pubic: “I heard our parents talking, that’s what,” she said. “Criminy, Ceony, it’s like shagging the principal. Isn’t he a divorcé, too?” Scalding heat permeated Ceony’s skin, reddening her like a tomato,” and with many other pressing matters to manage, Ceony takes the time to track her down and not only talk to her, but listen as well: “I’m [Zine] sick of being second-rate, Ceony!” Zina said, loud enough to earn a few glances from passersby …. she continued. “Compared, overlooked. If one daughter can become a magician, then certainly another can do something equally great” As Ceony pulls out of her the desire to do art and pitch in to help, Zina responds: “I don’t want handouts.” “Then sell something and pay me back. Accept a little help from your family, Zina. I doubt you want to spend the rest of your life inside a saloon next to someone who manhandles women.”  and finally cuts through more arguments with a hug. Ceony has grown beyond button-pushed reactions, beyond being goaded into a fight over Zina’s surface presentation and responds to her heart. Now that’s a kind of life-sustaining heroism we could all do well to model.

While there are a number of great lessons to pull from the series, these are not morality tales, but fun and intriguing reads. They’re relatively short (around 225 pages each) novels that are set in an alternate Edwardian England peopled with Magicians of various materials and other captivating characters with challenges and adventure lurking around every corner.

Amy McFadden

Amy McFadden

As is my wont, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions of the book. Amy McFadden conveys the care and confidence of Emery, the pragmatism of Mg. Patrice Aviosky and the awkward infatuation of Bennet Cooper. Immersed within the spell of her voice, you can easily visualize Bennet’s shyness, puppy-dog look, and melancholic knowledge that he isn’t really making any headway with Ceony. Her male voices are great, she keeps consistent, perfect inflection within each character and always keeps the attention on the story, not her narration. Absolutely spot-on.  If you like audiobooks, this is one you’ll want to get.

While this is a YA (historical fiction of the magical variety) novel, don’t let that stop you. It’s a great story for YA and above. I commend The Master Magician (and the entire Paper Magician series) to your reading (and listening pleasure).

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