Top 10 Heroes

1. Axis Rivkahson SunSoar

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Axis is the epitome of a fantasy hero – strong, brave, willing to do anything to protect his loved ones and his country/land, surprised and humble about his heroics and of course very handsome with a mane of golden hair, strong features and a muscular form. He was the first hero I thought of when compiling this list because he was the first hero I read about that really made me go “wow, what can’t this guy do?”. Before reading the Axis trilogy (also called the Wayfarer trilogy) I had only encountered the “unlikely hero” (as seen farther down this list) and this was the first really meaty, adult fantasy series I read where the hero knew he had to step up and fulfil his duties. While there were moments in the series where Axis didn’t want to be the saviour of all the land (fair enough) ultimately he stepped up to the plate and lived his destiny. After all he was the subject of a prophecy – why fight it? 😛

Axis on the cover of Enchanter, the second book in the series (he’s the non-female one in the back rocking yellow :))

2. Torkyn Gynt

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

Tor is another classic handsome/brave/strong hero but unlike Axis he must hide the main thing that makes him heroic – his Sentient powers (telepathic and related powers of the mind) – because they are forbidden. Because of this he has a level of caution and humility about him paired with the ego of a man with vast abilities. He embraces his destiny (as The One – an individual destined to defeat the mighty Orlac, a powerful sentient who is close to breaking free of his imprisonment) quite readily and goes to some pretty extreme measures (such as being stoned to death and nearly dying another half-dozen or so times) to fulfil it as well as to save and/or protect his one true love Alyssa. He also manages to attract a bevy of gorgeous ladies (when he is not with Alyssa of course); use his wit and cunning to get out of some sticky situations and come up with some great one-liners.

Tor cutting a fine heroic silhouette on the cover of Betrayal, first book of the trilogy

3. Lyra Belacqua AKA Lyra Silvertongue AND Will Parry

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

I couldn’t choose between these two pre-pubescent heroes as they are equally heroic in the last two books of His Dark Materials (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) so I thought I’d cheat and choose both 😛 Through several dimensions Lyra and Will face endless perils from soul-eating Specters to Harpies in the Underworld, to deadly Angels as well as several full-grown adults trying to kill them and take what the possess. In the process Lyra almost has her daemon (an animal companion that every person in her dimension has and are deeply connected to) taken from her; Will looses two fingers and is forced to kill a man; and they both must die to enter the Underworld. Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of 12-year-olds but throughout it all they are brave and determined to do what is right – go Lyra and Will!

Lyra and Will on an old cover of The Subtle Knife

4. Bilbo Baggins

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Bilbo had to be included in this list as he is the ultimate reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to travel with a bunch of dwarves to face a dragon miles from his home just because a wizard tricked him into it. He’d much prefer to stay in his cozy hobbit  hole, enjoying plentiful teas throughout the day. But despite his reluctance he still goes and survives giant spiders, a creepy cave-dwelling riddle master and a dragon to get the job done, and return triumphant. I can’t wait to see the upcoming movie 🙂

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

5. Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

I know HP related stuff pops up a lot in these Top

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Plentiful Finds and What a Coincidence!

Hello all!

I’ve had a couple of crazy weeks lately, leading up to the end of the semester and working as well, but on the upside my recent work at Central library and starting casual work at Joondalup has resulted in some extra money which is always nice 🙂

This extra cash burning a hole in my pocket has allowed me to start my Xmas shopping and, as is to be expected, I have bought myself quite a few books – and pretty exciting and cheap ones at that!

The books I have found are (yes, alphabetical order and all!):

Title: Ares Express
Author: Ian McDonald
Country of Origin: UK
Genre: Science Fiction

 

 

 

Title: Boneshaker
Author: Cherie Priest
Country of Origin: USA
Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk-zombie-airship Adventure ;P

 

 

 

Title: Bye, Beautiful
Author: Julia Lawrinson
Country of Origin: Australia
Genre: Australiana/Literary/Young Adult

 

 

 

Title: The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Genre: Historical/Literary

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of these were op-shop finds and so cost under 10 bucks each, and I’m quite pleased with the variety of genres I have found 🙂

On top of the op-shop finds I also purchased a book that I have been waiting for since the beginning of time (or at least it feels like that) – the newest book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, The Sending!

I am outrageously ecstatic about finally getting my hands on this book, because as I have said before I have been hanging out for it since I finished the last one (Feb 2009!) and the release date has changed so many times since then.

In other reading news, I finished Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood last night and straight away chose another book off my Library book to-read pile using my usual process and out of the 9 books on the pile I happened to end up on this book:

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

I’ve wanted to read this for a while, and I did borrow it from Joondalup after a uni friend and Bookbagger recommended it, but recently it had to go back because someone else had requested it and I re-borrowed it from Maylands.

The reason choosing this book was a bit of a funny coincidence is that last week I saw that the friend/Bookbagger who recommended it in the first place (you know who you are ;P)  is currently reading it as well! Maybe we can share little Horatio Lyle tidbits with each other 🙂

Well, that’s all for now. I am closing my recent poll tomorrow so if you want to have your say get in fast! At the ‘mo the theme in the lead is Obscure books/recommended books which will consist of the following two Top 10 posts: Top 10 books I’ve read that no one seems to have heard of and Top 10 books I think everyone should read. It’s a pretty fun one so I’m happy it’s winning, but there’s some other great ones in the poll too so I wouldn’t mind a sudden landslide ;P

Top 10 Fantasy Series’

This month for my Top 10s I thought I’d honour one of my favourite genres: Fantasy. So first I will be chronicling my Top 10 Fantasy Series’ and then tomorrow will be the Top 10 Fantasy Realms 🙂 May all you heroes, villains, maidens, witches and wizards enjoy!

1. Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

I bought the Axis trilogy (which consists of Battleaxe; Enchanter and Starman) at the annual Cat Haven fête when I was 15, for 50 cents a piece! They were in a box of bric-a-brac and at the time I had never heard of Sara Douglass (a prominent Australian fantasy writer) but I was interested in starting a nice meaty fantasy series and at 50 cents each how could I lose? I took book 1 – Battleaxe – to one of the school camps my school held every term and the first chapter blew me away. So much so that I couldn’t sleep and instead recounted the whole thing to one of my best friends who was in the bunk next to me and we even talked about it the next day over dodgy camp breakfast (this may have been because the chapter described the violent birth of the demonic baddy of the series and we were joking that it was just like the birth of another friend of ours, but still).
The series follows a young man called Axis (surprise, surprise) and his journey to find and kill his polar opposite, Gorgrael the Destroyer as it is prophesied. Along the way he also seeks to find his “true love”, Faraday who has been forced into marrying Axis’ cruel half-brother; and is trained by the Icarii, a wise long-lived race of winged people. Because the Axis Trilogy was the first adult fantasy series I read, it is the benchmark I measure all others by, and it’s a mighty series to live up to as all three books were nominated for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards and Enchanter and StarMan both won the award in their respective
years. If you’re a fan of classic fantasy or are looking for a place to start in this sometimes daunting genre, then the Axis Trilogy is a quality read to look for, filled with all the important fantasy elements: a brave hero; a creepy bad guy; epic battles; tragic love stories; large-scale magical events and a well-formed world.

The one that started it all - and at 50c!

2. Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh 

I talked about this series a bit when I did my Top 10 Animal Characters, especially the trials I went through to find the second two books: Revenge and Destiny and there was no doubt that they would be on this list. The series is classic fantasy (battles of good and evil; magic powers etc. etc.) but is also a little different. Fiona McIntosh doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of (imagined) life in the Trinity Trilogy, with some truly horrific things happening to key characters throughout, and this was one of the aspects of this series I really loved, because fantasy novels can sometimes succumb to nicely wrapped up “happily-ever-afters” where all the main characters are alive and happy, which is a little hollow. Like the Axis Trilogy the main theme of this series is a journey leading to the predestined fate of a main character, but unlike the Axis Trilogy the hero, Tor, is not the only focus and his love interest, Alyssa, is often given just as much page time. The Trinity Trilogy also has a bit more humor in it that the Axis Trilogy which was quite a serious affair, and it is really needed it to balance out the darker parts.

A quality trilogy

3. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready 

I read this series pretty recently, starting with Eyes of Crow in late 2009, then Voice of Crow midway through 2010 and ending with The Reawakened early this year, and they have been some of the most enjoyable reads of those years. I initially borrowed Eyes of Crow from the library and had no idea it was the first of a series as the other books weren’t mentioned anywhere on or in the book and it worked very well as a stand alone. Then I was looking for a different book one day and spotted the spine of Voice of Crow – it must have been out when I borrowed the first book so I didn’t see it, and it was one of the most exciting library discoveries I’ve ever had! Amazingly, Voice of Crow was just as good as it’s predecessor – filled with the same intricate mythology, complex characters and relationships as well as a neat blend of humor and drama – in fact, it may have been even better. Unfortunately the library didn’t have the third and final book, but that didn’t stop me – I just found it and bought it on Amazon 🙂
This series is a refreshing detour from the traditional medieval-swords-and-maidans style of fantasy, so if you like some elements of the fantasy genre but are a bit sick of all those epic battles and dragon stuff, then this series could be for you. I especially loved the take on Native American culture and mythology, revolving around Spirit Animals. Great stuff.

I'm so glad this wasn't a one off 🙂

4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman 

It took me years to get to this controversal but highly praised series, but I had wanted to read them since I was in my early teens. It was just after the movie The Golden Compass that I was finally prompted to read them, when my little bro got the box set for xmas and didn’t show much interest – swoop! I was surprised by how involved the story was for what is defined as a children’s series – and how violent! There has been a lot of criticism of this series, mainly claiming that it is anti-christian and promotes this to children. I can see how people could get this idea, as the Church in the world of His Dark Materials is a quite evil organisation and there is a secret plot to kill its version of God – “The Authority”, but I don’t think that they strive to condemn christianity to children or that children hate the church or God after reading them. It is a very deep but also very exciting and fun series, and I think anything that makes kids read is a good thing. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Controversy shontroversy

5. Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

I have shown my fangirl status when it comes to this series before and I will probably continue to sing its praises long after Isobelle Carmody (finally!) releases the last book. The Obernewtyn Chronicles is the longest series in this list so far with five books published and two more due. In the US and Canada book 5, The Stone Key was split into two volumes, The Stone Key and Wavesong, which I understand because the books got bigger and bigger and The Stone Key was around 1000 pages long and felt like a couple of books rolled into one, but it can be a bit confusing when looking for the books online.
There are a few elements that make this series really great, in my opinion. Firstly it is a classic children’s fantasy idea, with children/young adults who have special abilities rising up against the cruel adult rulers of The Land. Secondly, the books have  really poignant messages behind them – 1. that it doesn’t matter if you are different, everyone is special in their own way and can do great things; and 2. that we need to care for our environment, as the books are set in a post-apocalyptic future where much of The Land is poisoned.

The US/CA covers (last two are yet to be released)

6. Deltora Quest series’ (Deltora Quest; Deltora Shadowlands; Dragons of Deltora) by Emily Rodda 

I have included the three series’ by Emily Rodda that are set in Deltora because they are a continuation of the same story, with the same characters, and also I loved them all so much I couldn’t choose 🙂 I read the first Deltora Quest series (which consists of 8 short novels) several times over my tweens/early teens, often devouring whole books in a couple of hours. The series is about a young boy called Lief who is on a journey to complete the legendary Belt of Deltora with his gruff mentor, Barda and wild orphan girl Jasmine. Each book chronicles their travels to key areas of Deltora where the various gems that make up the belt can be found, and along the way there are a range of trials, battles and puzzles they have to solve. The best thing is, the reader also gets to solve the riddles and puzzles because they are introduced gradually as if you are right there with Lief, Barda and Jasmine and the books are filled with little pictures to help you along. The second series is three books long and follows Lief, Barda and Jasmine as they travel beneath Deltora to reunite the three pieces of an ancient pipe that suppresses the evil of the Shadowlands and was also really interactive and action-packed even tho it was a lot shorter. The whole Deltora saga then concludes with the Dragons of Deltora series, where the gang must track down the Four Sisters, creators of the evil Shadowlord, and kill them using the legendary Dragons of Deltora. Quality reading for even the most reluctant readers.

The 8 books in the original Deltora Quest series

7. Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda

The Rowan of Rin series is in a similar vein to the Deltora books (which is understandable as they’re both by Emily Rodda) but the Rowan books are a little more simple and each book is a stand alone story. They all revolve around Rowan, a quiet boy in the small village of Rin who herds the Bukshah, a kind of cattle native to the area, but who keeps getting caught up in vague prophecies foretold by the villages creepy recluse, Sheba. There are five books in the series: Rowan of Rin; Rowan and the Travellers; Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal; Rowan and the Zebak; and Rowan of the Bukshah and each of them follow a simple but effective path: the set-up, where everything in Rin is fine and dandy; something kind of odd starts to happen; Sheba makes a prophetic announcement that features Rowan in some way; Rowan and often other people of the village go on an epic journey to rectify the strange happenings which includes lots of puzzles and problem-solving; Rowan saves the day. Just like the Deltora books, this series is great fantastical fun for reluctant readers and has some hidden morals to boot. All the books have been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year, which I discussed in a recent post and Rowan of Rin won the year it was shortlisted.

Poor sweet Rowan - everything happens to him!

8. The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I also talked a bit about this series in a Top 10 because it’s a pretty memorable one. Unlike most fantasy series out there the “hero” of these books isn’t a strong young man but a scruffy little girl with no real skills at fighting (at least at first) who is slow to develop her latent powers. It is this gradual growth of the main character, and the layers of her powers and background that unravel through the books that really attracted me – it felt more natural than some examples of the genre. It’s a great series for young adults, especially those that love animals.

Wild magic = awesome 🙂

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling 

I really couldn’t have done a list of fantasy series’ without mentioning Harry Potter, even if I wasn’t a huge HP fan because there isn’t many fantasy series’ that have made as much of an impact on pop culture and children’s reading habits. There is a reason the Harry Potter books are among some of the highest selling books of all time – they may not be the most well-crafted novels but they are filled with action, emotion and magic of course! and that is a recipe for a hit (or series of hits) with the young set, and with plenty of adults too. I think I’ve read the first four books four or five times each (mostly while I was waiting for the last three to come out) and most likely I’ll read them all again, and again in my lifetime. There’s just something about the tale of an unwanted, underappreciated boy who finds out he’s a wizard and goes to a magical school that’s so enjoyable and addictive to read. HP forever! 🙂

Accio Harry Potter box set!

10. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Even ‘tho i’ve only read the first 6 of this 39 book strong series there is no way I could forget it because even in those 6 books I have fallen in love with Pratchett’s quirky writing style, the hilarious characters and the wonderful world on the Disc. Many people might find the sheer number of books in the series too daunting to dive into, but beleive me if you like quality fantasy that’s a bit tounge in cheek and oddball it’s worth it. And the good thing is, they mainly make sense as individual books so you don’t nessesarily have to read all of them or in order.  Of the once I’ve read I would recomend Mort the most, mainly because as I’ve said before I love Pratchett’s personification of Death 🙂

A Grim Reaper that's almost cuddly

Top 10 Animal Characters

1. Cloot

Trinity series  by Fiona McIntosh 

I bought the first book in the Trinity series, Betrayal, randomly at an op-shop years ago, because I thought it looked and sounded interesting. Once I started it I was totally hooked, but couldn’t find the second book, Revenge no matter how hard I looked and had actually read Betrayal several times before I finally found Revenge in a second-hand bookstore. The third book, Destiny, was even more of a battle and there was actually a gap of a couple of years between reading Revenge and Destiny, which is very confusing with a fantasy trilogy! One of the reasons I persevered was the quality of characters such as Cloot. Cloot was originally a crippled man who the hero of the books, Torkyn Gynt, rescues from a pack of men torturing him. When Tor and Cloot travel to the Heartwood, Tor finds out his true destiny and the significance of Cloot appearing in his life, and  Cloot is transformed into a Peregrine Falcon. Cloot is a great character both as a man and as a falcon (tho he’s much more majestic as a falcon). He’s like Tor’s conscience because he’s always at his side giving advice and stopping him from getting a big head or loosing his temper, especially because he can only talk inside Tor’s head. He also has some of the best one-liners!

Cloot in the flesh 🙂

2. Fiver

Watership Down  by Richard Adams

The character of Fiver was what drew me into Watership Down at the beginning. As a weird little kid I loved that he was the runt (the fifth in the litter) and that he ‘knew’ things that the other didn’t. I rooted for the little guy all the way through, and was thrilled whenever Hazel (the main character in the book and Fiver’s brother) stood up for Fiver or helped him go on and he grew stronger as the tale went on. Also to this day whenever I think of Watership Down I see Fiver’s poor little face from the very dramatic (and at the age I was, traumatic!) scene in the movie when he has a violent prophetic episode 😦 poor Fiver!

Oh Fiver, you adorable little weirdo 🙂

3. Warren

Rhubarb and The World According to Warren by Craig Silvey

Warren the golden lab provides a healthy dose of humour in Rhubarb, a book that could easily become depressing, and he must have been universally popular because shortly after Rhubarb Craig Silvey’s publishers produced a picture book all his own 🙂 I haven’t found The World According to Warren yet, but I’m sure it is very cute because Warren is such a unique character. For a guide-dog he’s kind of lazy and easily distracted, but his devotion and love for Eleanor is so clear from the start and he has a definite pride in his work.

I would love to see the world through his eyes

4. Horatio

Corinna Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood 

It was hard to pick a singular pet from this series as the books are filled with a host of colourful cat characters, from Belladonna the elegant companion to resident witch Meroe; to the insane ginger kitten, Lucifer who is quickly running out of nine lives; to the Mouse Police, Heckle and Jeckle who diligently catch vermin in the bakery in exchange for noms. But I just couldn’t go past Corinna’s tabby and white tom, Horatio, who quietly rules the whole lot of them, including all humans 🙂 Horatio is the quintessential princely cat. His perfect day would consist of waking to a dish of milk lovingly poured by his mistress, followed by a leisurely morning of snoozing and fur maintenance until his adoring public started to flow through the bakery, at which point he takes his place by the cash register to receive sufficient worship, and then ending by retiring to the roof as his mistress sips a G & T and strokes him to blissful slumber. Oh! and exquisite fish for dinner of course!

I imagine Horatio to look something like this 🙂

5. Hedwig

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Weirdly enough it wasn’t all the cool magic and flying on broomsticks and stuff I envied in the Harry Potter books or movies it was the fact that owls brought their mail!! If I was going to Hogwarts I totally would’ve gotten an owl rather than a toad or rat (didn’t work out so well for Ron!) or cat (even tho I love cats) because, come on, when else can you have an owl except when you’re a witch/wizard?! Hedwig is (was :() such a beautiful owl and even tho she couldn’t speak and wasn’t involved in much action, she played a very important part and is one of the most memorable parts of the books to me.

I want a goddamn owl!

6. Maruman

Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

Maruman is the grumpy, one-eyed and somewhat insane feline companion of Elspeth Gordie, the main character in the fabulous Obernewtyn Chronicles. From the first book (Obernewtyn) Maruman is by Elspeth’s side communicating with her telepathically and cryptically predicting her future. As the books go on it is also revealed that Maruman is the Moonwatcher and as such is destined to protect Elspeth on the dreamtrails. Maruman is a very ancient, often cantankerous and quite loony cat, and that is why I like him 🙂 I don’t think the Obernewtyn Chronicles would be the same without him. I am still waiting for the next  book in the series – The Sending – whose release keeps being delayed 😦 The latest date that has been announced is November 2011, but I’m not holding out hope that this is correct as there has been many dates announced before, but even still I will be waiting with bated breath until it is released.

Come on already!

7. The Doorman

The Messenger by Markus Zusak 

The Doorman is the faithful companion of Ed, the protagonist in The Messenger. He is a huge, old and smelly Rottweiler, German Shepard cross that enjoys a good long snooze and sharing a coffee with his master. The Doorman is the comic relief in The Messenger, providing Ed with perspective as he lives through some very strange happenings. He is non-judgemental and almost immobile most of the time but he has a quiet, unashamed dignity. He doesn’t care that he stinks to high heavens and is surprisingly unfazed when Ed’s mate has to kiss him after loosing a bet. But most of all he is a loving, loyal dog – the classic man’s best friend 🙂

A fine likeness of The Doorman

8. The Librarian

Discworld series by Terry Pratchett 

The Librarian is an interesting character to be on this list as when he is introduced in the first Discworld novel – The Colour of Magic – he is human, and only becomes an Orang Utan in the second book – The Light Fantastic – when the powerful magical book, the Octavo, erupted with a beam of magic. Despite being an Orang Utan the Librarian remains at his post caring for the unpredictable and sometimes volatile spell books at the Unseen University and actually finds that his new form is perfectly suited to climbing the high shelves. The Librarian’s vocabulary consists of the single syllable – Ook – (with the occasional Eek! at times of panic or anger) but it is amazing how many emotions or phrases can be conveyed in that syllable and most of the wizards at the University have no problem understanding him or are phased but the fact that an ape is running the library.

I would certainly welcome an Orang Utan Librarian 🙂

9. Gylfie

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky 

Gylfie was one of my favourite characters in book one of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series – The Capture – and in the movie. She has so much spunk and bravery for such a small and young owl and she always seems to know how to put the main character, Soren, in his place. She is very sharp and intelligent in both the books and movie as well as having a dry sense of humour, but she is not tolerant to jokes about her size and can be quite self-conscious. Plus, being an Elf Owl she is very adorable!

Gylfie in the movie - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

10. The Great A’Tuin

Discworld  series by Terry Pratchett

The Great A’Tuin, Sky Turtle, is much more than an animal character as she carries the whole Discworld (perched on four elephants) through space on the back of her shell. When the series begins it is made clear that the sex of the Great A’Tuin is not known but many adventurers and scientists have tried to discover it by venturing over the edge of the Disc, with unsuccessful results. However it is discovered that the Sky Turtle is female (or at least assumed so) at the end of The Light Fantastic when A’Tuin travels to the hatching site of her eggs which all contain little Sky Turtles with their own elephants and Disc. I personally think that having a Disc-shaped world on the back of four giant elephants who in turn stand on the shell of a gigantic turtle swimming through space, is one of the most unusual and creative ideas in literature and is a real testament to Terry Pratchett’s imagination.

"Great A'Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters."