Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Stepsister Scheme Review

Amber Stults

The latest fantasy series from Jim C. Hines features three princesses – Danielle (de Glas) Whiteshore, Ermillina Curtana and Talia Malak-el-Dashat.  The stories that circulate around Lorindar about Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are based on fact but the true tales do not have happily ever after endings.

This first book in the Princess Novels takes place several months after Danielle’s wedding to Prince Armand of Lorindar.  If one overlooks the pigeon attack against Danielle’s stepmother and stepsisters, the wedding was perfect.  The book reveals the stepsisters’ plan for revenge and sets up future adventures for the princesses.  The Little Mermaid and Little Red Riding Hood will appear in the next two novels.  For now, the princesses must travel to Fairytown to rescue Prince Armand and defeat the stepsisters, Charlotte and Stacia.

Each princess has traits that complement the trio.  Danielle believes the good in others will prevail, has unparalleled tenaciousness and can converse with animals.  Snow is flirtatious, a healer and a powerful mirror sorceress.  Talia is slow to trust but has unshakable loyalty and is a martial arts expert.  All three are quick witted, strong willed and analytical thinkers.  It’s no surprise a tagline for the series is “Do we look like we need to be rescued?”

An exhilarating read, Hines combines a detailed plotline with fully developed characters.  Upon rereading the first few chapters, I found cleverly hidden clues to explain how Stacia and Charlotte can suddenly wield magic.  The action takes place at breakneck speed and I found myself rereading some passages to fully appreciate the artistry behind the chosen words.

Hines includes humor and political intrigue with the action.  For instance, Lorindar’s Queen Beatrice and King Theodore have spies who work separately from each other.  Queen Bea, as the princesses call her, has saved the life of King Theodore many times and not always with his knowledge.  The politics between Lorindar and Fairytown can be problematic and provides another obstacle for the princesses to navigate in their search for Prince Armand.

The content of The Stepsister Scheme has a dark tone at times so don’t pick up this book expecting to read the adventures of Disney Princesses to younger children.  Though the messages of empowerment and female camaraderie are important it’s probably best to read this one for yourself before deciding whether or not your children should read it.  For now, I’m counting down the months until The Mermaid’s Madness is released.

WWW: Wake

When I lucked into an ARC of Robert J. Sawyer’s book “WWW: Wake” I knew exactly what to do with it. I lent it to the guy who first introduced me to Robert J. Sawyer’s work and asked him to review it for me. Wake is scheduled for release April 7, 2009.

Wake Review by Aaron Clifford

Wake, the first novel in the WWW (Wake, Watch, and Wonder) series by Robert J. Sawyer is exactly like the 1995 movie, Hackers. For many people this may seem like a ludicrous idea, comparing a high gloss techno teen angst movie with a novel crafted by a celebrated author and futurist, but for me the only thing that separates the two is time and perspective.

Let me explain.

When Hackers was released over ten years ago I was living a carefree life; revelling in the joys of an untamed internet, spending my free days off drinking Jolt Cola, rollerblading, and playing video games. It just so happens that Hackers was about a bunch of teens who spent their days rollerblading, drinking Jolt Cola, and… You get the idea. Needless to say I felt as if someone had somehow reached into my brain and slopped all of my favorite things onto the big screen. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Fast forward to present day and set Wake down in front of an older, slightly wiser, me and you will notice the same effect. Now I am interested in the internet and social networks, the ever growing influence of the Chinese market on Western business and technology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Wake takes all of these things and wraps them in the plausible and touching story of Caitlin, a blind girl who is given the opportunity to see for the first time.

The WWW (Wake, Watch, and Wonder) series is described on Sawyer’s blog as being “about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness, and the relationship humanity builds with this nascent global brain”. But “gaining consciousness” doesn’t really cover the feeling that Wake conveys, it felt more like I was witnessing a birth. Caitlin’s struggles to perceive an unfamiliar world are mirrored by the nascent intelligence of the internet. By the end of the first book in this trilogy I found myself not wondering if this could actually happen, but why it hadn’t already.

Reading Wake was like meeting the movie I used to get drunk with on the street thirteen years later to find that it is all grown up, doing well for itself, and has a lot more interesting things to say about the world we live in and the nature of intelligence. I can’t believe my luck.


Aaron Clifford is a writer who sees the world through pixellated panes. Almost every free moment is spent online as an avid blogger, independent game developer, and developer of web applications for writers. Aaron has written for Niteblade before (“Lady” in the June 2008 edition) and is also a two-time National Novel Writing Month winner.