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Ben Blattberg is a freelance writer currently living in Texas. He blogs about movies and story structure at incremental-catastrophe.blogspot.com and makes jokes on Twitter @inCatastrophe.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the sequel to Wolfhound Century (reviewed here), while war approaches the city of Mirgorod, ex-Investigator Lom and Maroussia Shaumian search for the power to change the world, while totalitarian police chief Chazia discovers secret government research into a new weapon.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: More and deeper views into this alternate magical Russian/Soviet history; interesting side stories.
CONS: Central character Lom pales next to secondary characters; abrupt ending cries out for next volume.
BOTTOM LINE: An exciting sequel to a solid series — which will hopefully be wrapped up nicely in the third book.

Pity the fantasy author working on the middle book of a trilogy. Or don’t. But at least recognize the needle-threading necessary for a successful middle book: the author has to move the story forward, but not finish it; has to increase characters’ powers and the danger they face, but still leave some space for the final book; and has to build on the first book’s setting — but, boy, do readers get jaded with even the most inventive worlds. “Sure,” we might say to Peter Higgins, “your first book showed us a unique World War II-era Soviet fantasy world that was engrossing and strange — but what have you done for us recently?” Considering those prerequisites for a successful sequel, it seems like a minor miracle that Truth and Fear is as good as it is. In short, if you liked the first book, you will probably like this one, which continues most of the pleasures and minor faults of the first book.
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Ben Blattberg is a freelance writer currently living in Texas. He blogs about movies and story structure at incremental-catastrophe.blogspot.com and makes jokes on Twitter @inCatastrophe.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of eighteen fairy tale revisions, reinterpretations, and responses.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Shows the wide range of fairy tales with variety of excellent stories–from fairy tale adventure all the way to bleak fairy tale-style retelling of real-life tragedy; brief authors’ notes illuminate stories’ meaning, writing.
CONS: Some stories miss the mark; some stories depend on familiarity with the source fairy tale.
BOTTOM LINE: Solid anthology for fairy tale lovers and revisionists.

Fairy tales are rarely what we think they are. That’s the overall message I take from Paula Guran’s interesting, instructive, and thankfully spoiler-free introduction of Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales. As Guran notes, fairy tales are conservative lessons about the danger of transgression–unless they’re progressive and liberating tales of transgression. Fairy tales are misogynistic tales of witches and virgins–unless they’re feminist stories of wise women and the discovery of sex. Fairy tales are timeless–unless they’re tied to their particular time. And so on. Perhaps the one thing we can say for certain about fairy tales is that they contain some measure of magic, of wonder, of otherworldliness. And that’s a pretty loose foundation on which to build a genre.
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