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Friday, October 31, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for MaryJanice Davidson with a review of Undead and Unwary, the 13th novel in her QUEEN BETSY (UNDEAD) SERIES

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, October 30, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Shona Husk with a review of To Love a King, the third novel in her COURT OF ANNWYN SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Eileen Wilks with a review of Unbinding, the 11th novel in her WORLD OF THE LUPI SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beth Bernobich: ÉIREANN SERIES

Author:  Beth Bernobich
Series:  ÉIREANN 
Plot Type: Fantasy with a hint of Steampunk     
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality3; Humor—2 
Publisher:  Tor  
          The Time Roads (10/2014)   
     I’m going to break one of my long-standing rules here and give you the overview provided by Macmillan.

     Here (in green) is Macmillan's overview of this world: Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man's benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.

     In essence, this series is set in an alternate Europe in the years leading up to what—in our real world—was World War I (1897-1914). In this mythology, England is not a powerful world empire ruled over by Queen Victoria. Instead, the queen of Ireland—called by its ancient name, Éire—rules over Anglia (England and Wales), while Alba (Scotland) is an independent country. European countries generally correspond to the real ones of pre-World War I, but are called by slightly different names (for example, France is called Frankonia).

     Although each story has just a few main characters, there are many supporting characters, most of whom have unpronounceable Irish names. Here is a checklist to which you can refer. (Unfortunately, the publisher does not provide a glossary or character list.)  

Áine Lasairíona Devereaux: The young queen of Éire, the lead character in the book. She takes the throne after her father's death, which occurs early in the first story. 

Commander Aidrean Ó Deághaidh: Áine's trusted bodyguard and personal confidante whom she trusts completely. In the first story, Aidrean has a major crush on Áine (and vice versa), but that changes when Breandan Ó Cuilinn enters the picture. Aidrean is the lead character in the third story and plays a supporting role in the first, second, and fourth stories.

Doctor Breandan Ó Cuilinn: A renowned scientist who is experimenting with time travel, particularly with fractures in time. He and Áine become lovers in the first story, but then he does something momentous that keeps them apart until the end of book 4.

Doctors Síomón and Gwen Madóc (brother and sister): They are also time-travel scientists, but their experiments have taken them onto dangerous time travel roads. They play leading roles in the second story and supporting roles in the fourth story.

Coilín Mac Liam: Áine's secretary

Members of the Queen's Council: Their roles become increasingly important in the third and fourth stories. Some are revealed to be traitors.

   > Lord Mac Gioll: Minister of War; eldest of the queen's councilors; (comparable to U.S. Secretary of Secretary of Defense). He dies partway through the book.

   > Lord Ó Tíghearnaigh: the new Minister of War (in the fourth story)

   > Lord Ó Cadhla: Minister of State; the councilor Áine trusts the most (comparable to U.S. Secretary of State). 

   > Lord: Ó Bruicléigh: attached to the committee for Economic Affairs

   > Lord Alastar De Paor: in charge of internal intelligence (comparable to the head of the FBI)

   > Lord Greagoir Ó Luain: head of economics and finance (comparable to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury)

   > Lord Ó Breislin: the queen's advisor on foreign intelligence (comparable to  the head of the CIA)

   > Commander Abraham: heads up the Queen's Constabulary (comparable to the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff)

      The councilors play supporting roles in most of the stories and are particularly important in the final tale.

               THE STORY               
     Here are Macmillan’s brief summaries of the four stories (in green) that are braided together to tell the full tale:

“The Golden Octopus”: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown's goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom. This story provides much of the world-building information and sets up the time-travel theme. Here, we get glimpses of the political unrest in Europe and the rebellion that is building among the Anglians, who want their independence. Various dissident groups are popping up all over Europe, impeding diplomatic relations among the countries. The story moves along quite nicely until the end, when the time travel element pops up in earnest.  Murders occur, an airship explodes, and—Voila!—the murders  never happened.  At this point, my understanding of events began to slip because the author doesn't provide a comprehensible explanation of how the shifting time lines work. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "The Golden Octopus."

“A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange”: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire's mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future...and Síomón must figure out a way to get there. This story is the most ambiguous and (for me, anyway) the most frustrating one, mostly because it delves deeply into the time travel element. As a result, it is the most woo-woo of them all, especially in the final scenes. I wish I could say that all eventually becomes clear, but that didn't happen for me. The author apparently assumes that the reader will decipher the operational process of the time roads through context. Unfortunately, she doesn’t provide enough explanatory material and that results in confusion on the part of the reader.      

“Ars Memoriae”: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game…. (This story was originally published as a stand-alone in 2009.) Much of this story takes place in Montenegro, which (in our real world) was a kingdom in southeastern Europe in the early years of the 20th century, then became part of Yugoslavia until 2006, and is now a parliamentary republic with great diversity in the ethnicity, languages, and religious beliefs of its citizens.) The story plays out as a foreign intrigue drama with the queen's spymaster going undercover in Montenegro to discover the identity of a spy within the Queen's Council of Lords.

“The Time Roads”: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation. The fourth tale ties everything together as the time roads play an integral part in saving Éire and its allies from certain disaster—literally rewriting the history books. Various dissident groups turn new scientific research about time travel towards the creation of weapons of war. As they use this knowledge to fracture time and disrupt memories, the time roads become a powerful weapon that could lead to the destruction of Europe. 

     The strongest elements in this novel are the deeply developed world-building, and the rich sense of place. The weakest elements are the character development and the explanation of the time roads. It's really unfortunate that the author doesn't do a better job explaining the time travel mythology because that is the key element on which the series is based. I didn't feel much of a connection with any of the characters, mostly because they seemed like types rather than individuals: the courageous, solitary queen; the handsome, damaged, queen-and-country warrior; the beautiful, brave female dissident; the oh-so-corrupt councilors (all men, by the way); the quirky, rumpled scientists—they all seemed to have been pulled out of other authors' books. 

     This book ends with an unfinished, but hopeful, view of Éire's future. I'm intrigued enough with the world-building that I'm looking forward to the next installment.  I do have to say that this one is not for everyone. The only thing "paranormal" about it is the time travel element, and that is flawed in its presentation. What's refreshing is to find a steampunk novel that isn't set in Victorian London. The idea that Ireland—not England—controls Great Britain is an inventive hook that will keep me reading.