Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Review of The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker



It’s dangerous to play god …

     I loved the original volume of The Golem and the Jinni, but I read it some six years ago, so I reread it before beginning this sequel.  As I did so, I realized that there was a lot left hanging at the end, especially where Sophia’s story was concerned.  The sequel tied up most of that and it didn’t disappoint.

I believe these books could be characterized as urban fantasy, since the turn-of-the-20th-century city of New York plays a huge role; the city comes across as a living, breathing entity, described in lyrical terms.  The amount of research that the author must have had to do makes me tired just to contemplate. 

It’s interesting to analyze the depictions of the non-human characters.  For me, the Golem comes alive more fully than the Jinni does, probably because we’re more familiar with creatures made of the prime elements of Earth and Water than with those made of Air and Fire.  And Chava Levy has several advantages that Ahmad lacks; she lost her master before her character was formed and so acquired the ability to read all human minds, and she was mentored by a truly compassionate and deep-thinking Rabbi at the start of her life.  Ahmad was already ancient when he was thrust into an alien society that had no interest for him, and it seems that the jinn are self-centered from their inception.  Developing the ability to form friendships is nearly an impossibility for a jinni.  It makes sense that Chava would adapt more easily to the human condition than the Jinni would.

Then there is the poignant story of the other golem.  Chava had the benefit of being created for a master who wanted an intelligent and curious female mate, and while Yehudah Schaalman is the major villain of the piece, he is nevertheless quite skilled at what he does, and he did a pretty good job of creating a golem who could pass for human.  Rabbi Altschul, on the other hand, wanted a killing machine who might be able to avenge the pogroms underway in Europe at the time; furthermore he dies before the golem was finished and it was activated before it was complete.  Poor Yossele!  He is such a pathetic character – the end of the book made me sad, although the conclusion is basically hopeful and positive.

I immediately thought of one of my most favorite lines in all of fantasy literature.  It’s from “The Island of the Mighty,” by Evangeline Walton, and it occurs at the very end of Chapter 8.  The Welsh god Gwydion has created a woman out of flowers as a mate for his son Llew, who has been cursed to never lie with a human woman.  But Blodeuwedd turns out to be as empty and transitory as the flowers she was made from and she betrays her mate, so … “Gwydion rode on alone toward Dinodig, going forth, after the fashion of all orthodox gods, to damn the creature he had fashioned ill …”

Be very careful what you do when you play at being god.

5 stars to this book – highly recommended.

Find my review of the first volume here: http://termitespeaker.blogspot.com/2013/07/becoming-human-golem-and-jinni-by.html 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Two More Five-Star Reviews of The Buried Ship at the End of the World

Title page drawing: Is'a'pai'a Gold-Seeker and its helper Krai'zei
By Shebat Legion on February 6, 2016
There are very few authors who have moved me. Lorinda J Taylor is one of them. To take a story and raise it to the level of excellence as Ms. Taylor has done is applause worthy. The best comparison that I can make, should someone ask, is Frank Herbert's Dune meets Richard Adam's Watership Down but that describes the story not at all. I will not even attempt to describe the plot. It would be doing future readers of the series an injustice, for this is a story so unique, so well written, so truly astounding in its character development and story arch, that to attempt a synopsis is daunting. This is a future classic and I cannot praise the works of Lorinda J. Taylor enough. Five stars.

See Shebat Legion's books at this Amazon link.

By John E. Clifford on March 11, 2016
Even epics have to come to an end. The adventures of Huge-head and his companions is no exception, alas. So, after they are separated from Huge-head and his Rembrancer, his companions continue their quest to its fated conclusion and their story is cleverly reconstructed here' There is an inevitable decline with the tale that focuses on the second generation, as it were, and the telling at a remove by a less gifted Remembrancer. But there is still much action -- though markedly less violence, as the group has learned peaceful ways -- and humor and marvels galore. So, while we are sad to leave this story, it does end satisfactorily for all concerned, with all the prophecy explained at last and everyone in the right place. This is a fitting conclusion to a great series, all that could have been hoped for and wisely blocked from the temptation to go on.

Buy all Lorinda J. Taylor's books here:
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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Read an E-Book Week (March 6-12) - Special Prices on Smashwords

I've made all my books 50% off on Smashwords
for the period of March 6-12.

The purchase page will give you a discount coupon to use when paying. 
Imagine getting both volumes of The Termite Queen for only $3.00! 
-- or all seven volumes of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head for only $7.00!
Or if you're not ready to commit to the series, 
get started with v.1 The War of the Stolen Mother for only $1.50.  

See all my books at 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

First Review of Buried Ship - 5 Star!

 Thanks to Christopher Graham (The Story Reading Ape)!

Reading this last book of a series, about a group of characters I've grown close to, was a bitter/sweet experience.
Bitter because it's the last time I'll join in with their new adventures.
Sweet because I met new characters, discovered one character who was lost and found out how all the loose ends were neatly tied up by the author.
I was also reminded of some myths / legends I'd forgotten about.
The highest accolade I can give this author is - I will definitely be re-reading the series from the start again, probably more than once, so I can learn more about the characters, the legends the stories are based upon and so I can yet again enjoy the work of a Master Storyteller.

Speaking as the author, I wouldn't mind reading the series again myself!  I think it will wear well!

Buy all my books here
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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Buried Ship at the End of the World Is about to Be Published!

Join me on Facebook on Saturday, January 30, 2016, for  an event -- TermiteWriter Launches The Buried Ship !
Expect special prices or giveaways on my earlier books, plus fun and good fellowship!

At last the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head is coming to an end.  A lot of loose ends were left hanging in v.6: Revenge of the Dead Enemy, and it was only right to compose a sequel volume to bring the Quest for the Golden Fungus to a satisfying conclusion.

Here is the Amazon description of the book:

While many of the participants in the Quest for the Golden Fungus have been lost, the Quest continues under the leadership of Is’a’pai’a Gold-Seeker.  Di’fa’kro’mi’s Scribe Chi’mo’a’tu, with the help of wandering Remembrancers and the Star-Brings, undertakes to compose the tale of the final adventures, with the Seer Da’sask’ni’a as the principal narrator. 

As the remaining Companions set forth on the last leg of their voyage, new additions to the company lead to both jubilation and tragedy.  Then they must dare the dangerous Wandering Rocks and the Closing Gate before sailing to the End of the World to find the Fungus.  After planting the reptile’s teeth and dealing with the results, Is’a’pai’a finally returns home to Hwai’ran’chet, bringing along a surprise addition to the company – a Sorcerer and Seer who may be far more dangerous than she appears.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Life of Hercules: Addendum - Four Twins

Last (really truly!) of a series. Here are the earlier posts:

I haven't done a mythology post since last May when I discussed the death of the Champion Hercules. Since then, I've written the seventh (sequel) volume to my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. It deals with the end of the Quest for the Golden Fungus, which takes place after the death of our own Champion Ki'shto'ba. Similarly, Hercules left the Quest for the Golden Fleece before it was finished.
In my post entitled In a Writing Funk I discussed the Medea problem, and then in a subsequent post Feeling More Upbeat I talked about my resolution of it.  So there is really only one rather obscure mythological subject that I use in my books that I have not investigated here on my blog. It involves the tale of the Four Twins.
In the series, I introduced my version of Castor and Polydeuces (called the Dioscuri, or Sons of Zeus) and mentioned them in my post Life of Hercules: Argonauts. The other pair of twins, Idas and Lynceus, who also sailed on the Argo with Jason, finally turn up in the sequel volume. The name Idas means simply "of Mt. Ida," so I named his equivalent Ki'ta'kwai'a, which means "of her (i.e. the Mother's) mountain." The name Lynceus means "sharp-eyed" (like a lynx, obviously), but I couldn't use that meaning because Shshi Warriors don't have eyes. But they do have a sense of smell, so I ramped up the olfactory sense in my Lynceus equivalent and named it Hai'tof'il'a, which means "smells keenly."
One member of both twins was supposed to be the offspring of a god and the other, of a human father. Polydeuces was considered the son of Zeus, and Idas, of Poseidon. Rather than get too involved in that sort of thing, I made both my sets of twins to be offspring of the Highest Mother's King.  Thus, Ti'a'toig'a and Ti'a'gwol'a are called the Shin'ki'no'hna (simply Offspring of the King) and Ki'ta'kwai'a and Hai'tof'il'a are called the Shin'no'no'gwai'zei (Offstring of the Sea [King]).
In Greek myth, the two sets of twins were bitter rivals. Castor and Polydeuces began it by stealing the two women that Idas and Lynceus were betrothed to.  Later they patched up their differences and went on a cattle raid together. In order to divide the spoils, Idas proposed an eating contest. They quartered a cow and determined that whoever should eat his quarter quickest would get the largest part of the spoils. But Idas cheated, bolting his own portion and then helping his brother consume his. They then drove the rest of the cattle away.
Castor and Polydeuces pursued them, seized the cattle, and then hid in a hollow tree to await the coming of their rivals. But the sharp-eyed Lynceus caught sight of them and as they rushed down, Idas threw his spear at the tree and transfixed Castor, killing him. Polydeuces rushed out and speared Lynceus, whereupon Zeus intervened and struck Idas dead with a thunderbolt.
This is all according to Robert Graves' Greek Myths. He presents some variants of this tale, but in all the versions, it is only Polydeuces who survives. He and his twin had been so close that he grieved mightily and prayed to Zeus not to let him outlive his brother. But it was not fated that he should die right away and was instead given immortality. This he refused unless his brother Castor could share it. Ultimately the image of the twins was set in the stars as the constellation Gemini, and they were made saviors of ship-wrecked sailors, with the power to bring favorable winds. Robert Graves further states: "In response to a sacrifice of white lambs offered on the prow of any ship, they will come hastening through the sky, followed by a train of sparrows."

To learn how I adapted all this in The Buried Ship at the End of the World, you will have to read the book (although it's best to start at the beginning of the series). The sequel is finished and formatted for publication, but I don't plan to publish it until early in 2016. I'll keep everyone informed!

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