From our reviewers: Sci-fi and fantasy

Last updated 22:00 10/02/2014

Sci-fi and fantasy reviews:

A Necklace of Souls
By R L Stedman (HarperCollins, RRP $25)

Reviewed by Maree Field

Dana is a princess in the hidden Kingdom of the Rose, a sheltered, magical land that allows no war or disease to penetrate its borders.

Protected by the Guardian - always a woman of the royal family who pays a terrible price - the kingdom is eternally at peace.

However, Dana is special. Not just a princess, or the heir to the Guardian, Dana dreams true dreams of events and people who have set their sights on the hidden kingdom. Working with Will, the humble baker's assistant and N'tombe, her tutor, can Dana save everything that she loves?

A Necklace of Souls is the first novel by R L Stedman and it's a pretty enjoyable read. It's a Young Adult fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist, and there can never be too many of those.

Dana is very much a teenage girl as well - she's self- absorbed and temperamental, which is always good to see, even though it makes Dana as a character slightly annoying.

Will is your quintessential Nice Boy who comes into his own by virtue of learning how to fight and of course he falls in love with the princess. What's really refreshing is there's no third party in sight, so no love triangle.

The world- building of the kingdom is strong and you get a sense of history and of impending danger when the land's borders are threatened.

The action in the book moves along at a pretty speedy pace, but it never feels rushed. It feels pretty balanced, and it's the kind of book I would have liked to pick up when I was a teen reader.

Blood Brothers
By Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

As a young novice monk in a Buddhist monastery, Tao's life is simple, ordered and inward looking. All that changes when Kai enters his life. Kai is a young dragon whose arrival spells disruption and adventure for Tao, whom he has sought out because he believes they are linked. On their perilous journey of discovery the two learn to trust each other and develop a real friendship. Set in early 4th-century China, the story is an engaging tale with a great mixture of fact and fiction. Wilkinson has written a number of stories and has four others in the Dragon Keeper series. Tao is a descendant of Ping, the dragon keeper of the original book.

Crystal Venom
By Steve Wheeler (HarperCollins, RRP $30)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

This is the second in the "Fury of Aces" series by New Zealand writer Steve Wheeler.

The crew of Basalt are continuing their adventures. Their success so far has brought both blessings and curses. Popularity and fortune vie with jealousy and the pressure of further success.

As seen in book one, a new and potentially widespread concern to the human sphere is the octopoid. The team - human and ACEs - are to continue in search of more evidence of the octopoid. However, first they are detailed to find and destroy biological weapons being manufactured by the survivors of a devastating planetary war some 30 years before.

Action, science fiction, imagination and political intrigue abound as various forces vie for control.

Having read the first in the series I was able to get up to speed with the terminology and the major concept in this futureverse. If it is all new territory or you have forgotten, there are glossaries and appendices galore.

The story framework has grown on me and the plotting and writing are both enjoyable.

I do find the super futuristic equipment and morphing technologies hard to swallow but if sci-fi is your thing, then this may be for you.

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