First up, The Door into Fire by Diane Duane.
Herewiss is a prince of the Brightwood, a small part of the Middle Kingdoms. He is the first male in centuries to have the power of the flame, that is, it's within him but he's unable to find a focus to channel the power through and thus, completely unable to use it. His closest friend is Freelorn, who should have taken the throne of Arlen when his father died but had it snatched from him. His life consists of trying to find ways to get his rightful throne back and getting into various scrapes that Herewiss has to rescue him from with the basic magic that he does possess.
Herewiss is en route to another such rescue when he discovers that out in the desert area known as The Waste is a place of immense power with possible doorways into other worlds or dimensions. Herewiss saves a Fire elemental from certain death and together with Freelorn and his companions sets off to investigate this source of power in the hope that it might hold the key to both Herewiss's and Freelorn's problems.
Great fun this one. A book very much in the traditional vein of epic fantasy with plenty of magic, journeying to far lands and war looming; not to mention - naturally - a map at the beginning. (Gotta have me a map!) It's book one of Diane Duane's Tale of the Five series, the author being well known, I believe, for her Star Trek and 'Young Wizard' series. I liked it a lot. The relationship between Herewiss and the elemental, Sunspark, was the most fun as the latter tries to understand the weirdness that is humankind. I particularly liked the acceptance of bisexuality that runs through the book and the idea that it is possible to love more than one person at a time.
Overall, a fun read. I own book two as well and will read that as and when. Depending on how I find that one, I may or may not continue on to the end of the series (there are four books.)
Next up, Clerical Errors by D.M. Greenwood - a crime yarn.
A jobless young Australian, Julia Smith, gets a position as a secretary in the cathedral offices in Medewich in East Anglia. She's not terribly well qualified and is, quite frankly, daunted by most of the staff, expecially one Canon Wheeler who is arrogant and a bully. Her first day could hardly have a worse start when she is second on the scene after the decapitated head of a local vicar, Paul Gray, is found in the cathedral by a cleaner.
Julia is taken under the wing of Deaconess Theodora Braithwaite and administrator, Ian Caretaker and together they try to solve the mystery. It seems secrets are everywhere and the police have come up against the wall of silence that is the Anglican church protecting its own. Canon Wheeler is a constant bullying presence but what kind of mysterious shenanigans was Paul Gray mixed up in? What is the significance of the stolen church candles? When a second murder occurs things become very dangerous for the group of friends and it's a race against time to solve the crime before one of them is killed.
This is the first book in the Theodora Braithwaite series of books by D.M. Greenwood. She's a little known author from East Anglia who wrote nine books in this series between 1991 and 1999 and nothing else. Apparently she did actually work in the diocese of Rochester so knows her stuff and it shows. Attention to detail is very precise and I learnt a fair bit about the workings of the church. I liked the way in which she depicted the clergy as every bit as full of failings as the rest of us and intransigence a way of life for many of them. At first this book seems as though it might be a cosy mystery but in reality it's not at all. The setting is rather lovely but there are dark doings, nastiness and spite and it makes for quite compulsive reading.
I'm not churchy at all but I do enjoy the odd ecclesiastical mystery so reserved it from my library. Annoyingly they don't have book two in the series so I will probably download it onto my Kindle to read at some stage. A promising series.
Lastly, Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde.
Thursday Next, SpecOps agent for LiteraTec, is now very happily married to Landen Parke-Laine. Or at least she has been. Thursday was responsible for putting the evil Jack Schitt, from the Goliath corporation, into The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and leaving him there as punishment after the events of The Eyre Affair. Now the corporation, in the shape of Jack's brother, want him back. In order to do this they've 'eradicated' Landen and won't return him unless Thursday does what they want. History has been altered and Landen actually died when he was two in a drowning accident, whereas in reality he was saved by his father. But the portal book invented by her uncle has been destroyed and her uncle has retired so the way into books is no longer clear to Thursday.
And that's not the only problem Thursday has. Her father (a sort of time-travelling agent) visits her and tells her the world is going to end in two weeks and it's up to her to save it. Someone is out to kill her and that person's methods smack of Acheron Hades... but he's dead... isn't he? The people she works for even seem to have it in for her, despite her defeat of Hades. And worst of all she's now a celebrity and expected to do PR in the form of chat shows and public appearances.
Landen's eradication is her main priority though. Thursday's search for him takes her to a library - the biggest she has ever seen. It contains all the books ever written and all of those that will be written. And there she meets The Cheshire Cat who runs the library, and a group of special agents from books whose task it is to police the book world. Thursday finds herself apprenticed to Miss Havisham, from Great Expectations, not the frail old lady of the book but an old lady who likes fast cars and drives them like a crazy woman. Will Thursday be able to learn to book hop quickly enough to save Landen, before the world ends or before whoever is after her kills her?
Difficult to explain the plot of this one to be honest. So much going on and so many plot twists and turns. And I'm a bit hopeless at following time travel plots anyway. Regardless of all that, Lost in a Good Book is a worthy sequel to The Eyre Affair. To be honest, I think I liked it even more.
My favourite character was definitely Miss Havisham who went around in her wedding dress... and trainers... hates men, naturally, and loves fast cars. The world she inhabits is a fascinating one. The library is *huge* and made me drool quite frankly - it has to go down as one of the all-time amazing literary libraries!
There's much that's quirky and inventive about these books. A method of travel that takes you right through the centre of the earth. Mammoths brought back from extinction and trampling people's gardens on their annual migration through Swindon. Neanderthals also brought back from extinction, to do menial tasks, but feeling undervalued and looking for equality. A Kafka-like trial which made me realise that I don't want to read Kafka! LOL. I could go on and on... The books are pacey, unpredictable, funny, clever - unique in my opinion. A book lover's joy if you enjoy a bit of craziness. Not for everyone, but certainly for me.