A Gathering of Doorways, by Michael Jasper

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A little while back I received a review copy of A Gathering of Doorways [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by Michael Jasper.  Mike is someone I’ve known online almost since I started writing.  He’s a good guy, and a very good writer.  (See my reviews of The Wannoshay Cycle and his excellent collection Gunning for the Buddha.)

In Doorways, Gil and Melissa and their son Noah are trying to make a living on their new farm, despite the strange, toxic water slowly encroaching onto their land.  One of Jasper’s strengths is his characterization, making Melissa and Gil not shining fantasy heroes, but real people with real flaws.  Their marriage is already strained following the stillbirth of their second child, and then Noah wanders into the forest and disappears while Gil was supposed to be watching him.

Much as I wanted to see Gil and Melissa working together, that would be the easy route.  The anger and fear between husband and wife as they each try to find their son was painfully real.  As usual, Jasper’s cast of secondary characters were equally engaging, with their own flaws and hidden motives and conflicts.

Five-year-old Noah, on the other hand, never quite clicked for me.  It felt like Jasper was trying too hard to make him childlike, uses words like “kest” for quest, and following logid that didn’t quite ring true.  It felt like an adult trying to write a child instead of a real child, if that makes sense.

I liked the surreal Undercity, the nightmarish fairy tale world beneath the forest.  It’s disturbing as heck, treading that dark fantasy line between the fantastic and the horrific.  But I didn’t feel like I was seeing or learning enough about the Undercity to understand it.  For much of the book, it’s a vague danger.  I don’t understand how things work or what’s really at risk.

Eventually, we discover what’s going on in the Undercity — the power struggle, the reason the poisons are leaking out into the world above, and so on.  But I wanted to get more of that sooner.  Not the whole picture, perhaps, but I needed more to ground me in this world and make it real for me.

You can find more about the book at Jasper’s web site, or read a longer excerpt at BSCReview.

I’m not a big dark fantasy reader, and I suspect fans of that genre would enjoy the book.  If you’re less into the dark side of the genre, I’d probably steer you toward The Wannoshay Cycle first.  Jasper’s a good writer; I just don’t know if I was the right audience for Doorways.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Books Read

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Haven’t posted any book reviews lately.  Shame on me!  Must remedy this…

First up, The Secret History of Moscow [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] by Ekaterina Sedia.  From the synopsis:

“Galina is a young woman caught, like her contemporaries, in the seeming lawlessness of the new Russia. In the midst of this chaos, her sister Maria turns into a jackdaw and flies away - prompting Galina to join Yakov, a policeman investigating a rash of recent disappearances.”

If you’re looking for quick-paced, action-heavy fantasy, this probably isn’t the book for you.  If you’re looking for deep characterization and a much richer cultural background than your average American fantasy novel, I’d definitely recommend it.

Not a cheerful book, but I enjoyed it a lot, particularly the characters from Russian folklore.  I think the Celestial Cow was my favorite.  Sedia has a beautiful writing style, and it’s so refreshing to read something different.

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Next up, CodeSpell [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] by Kelly McCullough.  This is the third book about Ravirn, descendant of fates and magical hacker extraordinaire.  CodeSpell continues where the last book left off, with Raviern working to restore Necessity while trying to survive a new and powerful enemy.

These books are in many ways the yin to Sedia’s yang.  Short, fast, and fun.  I zip right through them, enjoying the ride immensely.  With that said, I didn’t think this one was quite as good as the previous book, Cybermancy.  Cybermancy felt like it had a clearer plot, and the issues surrounding Persephone made that book far more powerful to me.  In CodeSpell, I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in saving Necessity.

I did enjoy seeing Ravirn’s development. It was interesting to see McCullough show how his growth affected his relationships.  Zeus was fun to meet in this one, and of course I always enjoy Melchior the webgoblin.

If you like my goblin books, I think there’s a good chance you’d like this series.  And if you enjoyed the first two Ravirn books, go pick up CodeSpell.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in #4.

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Currently reading Michael Jasper’s book A Gathering of Doorways [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  Like much of Jasper’s work, this is a modern-day fantasy with a cast of vivid, flawed, gritty characters.  No pretty quests here.  Gil and Melissa are a farming couple whose marriage is already in trouble.  When their son Noah goes missing in the Undercity, they each set out to try to save him.

I’ll have more thoughts on this one later.  For now, I’m enjoying learning about the Undercity, though I wish I could have gotten more information earlier in the book.  The strained relationship between Gil and Melissa is painful, but believable.  I don’t think it’s my favorite Michael Jasper work (I’d probably reserve that for The Wannoshay Cycle), but I’m most of the way through and hoping to finish it up before heading to ConFusion.

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Your turn.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  And what else has everyone been reading lately?  Any recommendations for the rest of us?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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