Last night, I explained to Garry about house-elves. He isn’t a big reader of fantasy, as I am, so some of this stuff hasn’t gnawed at the edges of his consciousness.
I told him if we were to leave milk and cookies out, the little folk would come to our house. Overnight, while we sleep, they would clean, scrub, repair, and cook. Fix the roof. Clear the snow. When we got up the next morning, the coffee would be ready along with delicious, fresh baked goods.
He looked at me. I think he wasn’t sure if he had heard me. “Is this like, real anywhere? Has this actually happened somewhere?”
“No,” I said. “Only in folk tales and myth. And Harry Potter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? We could leave out milk, cookies, and an old pair of socks. Just in case.”
One eyebrow went up. “And something that already lives here would surely eat it. And Bonnie would abscond with the socks. Our kids would be sure to leave us something. Probably not fresh baked goods … or a clean house.”
Just for a second or two, I had him. Myth and magic live. So much better than reality, aren’t they?
I don’t have a bucket list. Until I saw the movie of the same name, the concept had never occurred to me. Most of the things I wanted to do, I’ve done. Except for the things no one can do …
That’s what’s on my secret list. The things I really want to do but I know aren’t real. But, in case they turn out to be real … here’s that list.
WAITING FOR THE MOTHER SHIP
Since I first read a science fiction story, saw “Forbidden Planet” and “The Red Planet Mars,” I’ve been waiting for the big ship to come and take me away. I have slightly modified this so that they will come and take both of us away. To wherever they went in “Cocoon.” Where we become young again. And where we can leave the mortgage, bills, and problems behind. But we can bring the dogs and they can be young, too.
MEETING THE ANCIENT ONE
Somewhere out there in the dark of night, there is an ancient vampire. So old, he is nearly made of stone. He remembers Egypt, perhaps even ages before that. He will offer me eternity in exchange for living in eternal night. Will I accept? I’ve only gotten as far as the offer. I have yet to determine my answer. I’m still thinking about it.
DISCOVERING MY POWERS
Magic is real and I can do it. I just never realized it until one day, in the kitchen, while mixing up a batch of my internationally renowned chili, I accidentally conjured a spell of enormous, overwhelming power. No longer a sickly senior citizen on a fixed income, I could rule the world. I’ll settle for living in peace. At the very least, I can probably make enough money to pay the bills and have something left over.
Money or not, magic would be the greatest adventure of all, would it not?
There it is, the time tunnel. It has been there the whole time and I never knew it. That’s the problem with having such a heavy bed. I can’t move it aside, so I didn’t see the wormhole. It’s a good one that will let me travel to other dimensions or any-when. Talk about adventure!
I promise not to try to change anything. I just want to go hang out in the past and watch. I’m sure Garry would be happy to join me. Does anyone have a couple of Babblefish they can spare?
While I’m waiting for these things to happen, I’m still hoping someone will invent a workable transporter. Because however unlikely it may be, nothing is entirely impossible.
This is a world where magic has been banned. Anyone displaying signs of ability to perform it is drowned, murdered … or worse (yes, there IS worse). Amidst the terror, a group of secret magic users discovers one another. Collectively, they have the talent to do amazing things, though the law forbids it. If they are caught, they will die and likely their entire family with them.
Unlike the author’s earlier writings, this series promises to be ongoing. Somewhat emotionally less intense, it is nonetheless breathtaking in its complexity and originality. Beautifully written. I consumed the book in two long evenings. Give me a week and I probably read it again. Carol Berg, all of whose books I have read as hard copies or on Kindle is — in my opinion — a very underrated fantasy author. She creates characters who, by happenstance, bad luck, politics or some bizarre law, have been beaten down to near nothingness, yet survive, find their power and are greater than before. You cannot steal or crush their greatness.
She hadn’t written anything in a few years and I have been hoping she would emerge with a new set of stories. She has.
Under the new name of Cate Glass, “An Illusion of Thieves” has the feeling of a (hopefully!) long series. A bit more upbeat than earlier works, the story is exciting and highly complex. For the entire book, it’s as if these folks are tiptoeing through a vast minefield where even a minor misstep would mean destruction for all. How many secret magickers live under the constant threat of terror of death and ruin? We can only guess, but I’m sure there are many and laws notwithstanding, many other secret practitioners exist on all levels of society.
If you have not read any other of Carol Berg’s books … well … given the state of our world, could there be a better time to start? She is a wonderful author and I highly recommend all of her books to anyone who enjoys these kinds of stories.
These days — since my eyes are not quite what they were — I prefer audiobooks. I listened to this the day after it was released. All of her previous books I read first in print, either on Kindle or as a hard copy … and later as audiobooks.
Carol Berg’s (Cate Glass) books are not like other fantasy novels. Her characters are not typical fantasy characters. Her stories aren’t long quests to save the world from a dark lord or prince. They are profoundly personal, deep, and sometimes, heartbreaking … yet good in the end, great events. You’ll meet dragons, lords, prisoners, sorcerers and many more. If you’ve been looking for something new — Cate Glass’s new book is a fine start, after which, you can joyfully dig into Carol Berg’s earlier series.
You will not be disappointed.
NOTE: As part two of this prompt — which is prompting me to review this book which I meant to do before now! — I’m including another review of a book by the same author. The secret word is DRAGONS.
After years of waiting, the book finally came available as an Audiobook. Since I have the book on Kindle, Audible.com let me buy the audiobook for just $4.49 I was delighted. A steal!
Narrated by Claire Christie and Jeremy Arthur, I was reminded again at how much more I get from an audiobook than from print. I think it’s because I read so fast. When I listen, the pace is that of human speech, perhaps slightly slower than standard talk. I absorb more of the story and I give my aging eyes a well-earned rest.
The dual narration works well. Aiden and Lara having their own voices and perspectives.
Song of the Beast is a standalone book. I wish it were a series. I have it on good authority that another story (short story — not an entire book) will be coming out based in the same world, though not featuring the same characters. I would prefer more books, but I will settle for whatever I can get. If Carol Berg writes it, I will read it. I think she’s brilliant and not nearly as well-appreciated as she deserves.
I came to love her fabulous dragons.
I found the story’s characters well-drawn and three-dimensional. Many relationships are between different species because, unlike her other books, not all characters are human. The relationships are logical extensions of the cultures from which they come. The slightly abrasive relationships between different peoples are fundamental.
The main character — Aidan McAllister has been imprisoned and tortured. His beautiful voice has been silenced, his hands brutally destroyed. His music, which offered solace and hopes to war-torn Elyria, is gone. The god in whom he never lost faith and nurtured him and his music since he was a child seems to have abandoned him.
Yet no one has yet told him what his crime was. He has no idea what earned him such punishment. He has emerged from prison a broken man, battered beyond endurance, wanting nothing more than peace and safety … and the end of pain. Having lost himself, he must find his way back to himself, remember who he was because that’s the key to what happened to him, what is happening to the world and the dragons. There is, of course, a beautiful woman.
Through it all, Aiden remains a gentle soul in a cruel world, a man to whom violence is abhorrent no matter what was done to him. He’s neither vengeful nor mean-spirited. Music is his magic.
I wish there were a sequel to this book. I wanted to know what happened next, how this society evolves. The book left me with lots of questions. It isn’t a cliff hanger — not exactly — but it didn’t seem quite finished to me. There’s plenty of room for more stories as this world realigns and reconstructs itself in the wake of a new understanding of dragons.
I liked the book so much I was sorry it ended. I never want any of Carol Berg’s books to end.
Song of the Dragon is available via Audible download, on Kindle, and as a paperback. It was originally available in hardcover and I have that, too. Next up, Rai Kirah in audio! I have the first volume and this month will get another.
I really missed Jim Butcher and Harry Dresden. I missed Harry, the only wizard listed in Chicago’s telephone book. I miss his huge furry dog Mouse. And his gigantic cat. I miss his magical Chicago and the strange island in the middle of Lake Michigan.
The only new writing he has put out in recent years is a collection of short stories, which I bought and read. And then, I began the entire series from the beginning, books one through 15 because I live in hope that someday, he will decide to write one last book about Harry Dresden. Just one more.
I am a Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher fan, so there’s no way for me to discuss any of these books with even a semblance of neutrality. If you also love the series, the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher … I’m with you.
In the next to last Dresden book, “Ghost Story,” Harry was neither entirely alive nor quite dead. It was a difficult excursion for Harry’s fans. I liked it well enough, though it was different from any previous Harry Dresden adventure. I was sure it was an important bridge to the next phase of Harry’s world and I was right.
“Cold Days” is more satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized (as usual), I’m consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has, after all, already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline. “Cold Days” brings Harry back — alive, this time. He is different. Changed, less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren’t going away.
Jim Butcher is brilliant.
He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. Nothing is superfluous. It’s all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of the full picture to be revealed in a subsequent installment.
I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance. Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there fighting for justice, even when it seems he’s taken a wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad, though he is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions. He has always been a poor listener and this failure has cost him dearly.
He listens better these days.
Harry is changing and growing. He’s painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s not cocksure anymore. He has become more of a planner. He is less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. All to the good.
I’m sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I wish the series would go on forever, but Jim Butcher has said it will be 20 books and a trilogy. I’m not sure if the trilogy is part of the 20 books or in addition to it. I keep meaning to ask. Maybe I’ll just wait and see.
I hope — by now — the next installment of the Dresden Files is nearing publication. I’ll be waiting and ready to read when it comes around! Meanwhile, if you haven’t gotten to this one, don’t miss it. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.
I’m now finishing the last full book – Skin Game. I think there needs to be at least one more. Please Jim, one more. Just one. After that, I’ll stop begging.
He has his own website where you can find all his books. It’s called Jim Butcher. All his books are available at Amazon and everywhere they sell books, including Audiobooks.
“Captain,” as Tuvok stood tall and saluted Janeway. The tips of his pointy ears twitched slightly, one of the few tells of how intense his feelings were at this moment in time.
“Are the rest of the crew ready?” she asked him. She was asking him again, probably the dozenth time in the past hour, part of the reason Tuvok was getting … twitchy.
“Everyone is ready,” he assured her and wondered if she was really listening. He could see that she was more than a little excited. Her breathing was irregular and he could swear she was sweating right through her Starfleet uniform.
“I spoke to Paris and Tuvok. They think we can launch the shuttle craft and be on the surface in …” and she looked at her watch … “Under an hour.”
Chakotay had approached while they spoke and nodded his agreement. “I had Neelix pack special Voyager lunch packs for everyone. We added one of those purple “People Eater” drinks … with umbrellas. Let’s make this a real celebration.”
The planet below was big and blue and so earth-like as to bring tears to the eyes of many of the long-stranded crew. Not that any of them were willing to give up their endless trek through the Delta Quadrant to read Earth … but what could be the harm of a month … maybe two … on the rich surface of this beautiful planet. The air was right. It was bigger than earth, though the gravity wasn’t much different. Maybe a little bit, but no one cared.
It was a puzzle that no one lived on its surface. For any human-type species, it was ideal. Forests and oceans and mountains — and a sky as blue as a Robin’s Egg.
And thus, nearly the entire crew of voyager boarded their Shuttlecraft, lightly dressed in Starfleet’s casual best. They hit the surface with a quiet hissing sound and the party began. They spread their tepees in a spiral circle and built a fire at the heart. Twenty-fourth century technology made bathrooms and laundry facilities simple and efficient and these were located conveniently out of the way, but near enough in case too many people were drinking an over-abundance of tall purple drinks. With umbrellas.
They didn’t know about the radiation.
It wasn’t the type of radiation their sensors could ever register being half magical. Indeed, it was an ancient form of wizard technology, an effective version of pre-modern total destruction which had sunk Atlantis long before Earth’s modern “technical” revolution would again nearly accomplish the same task.
Humans are nothing if not inventive.
It would take more than a month before the crew realized that they had found their final resting place. But first, they were going to have one Hell of a party.
“Ready to launch?” asked Janeway.
“Ready!” announced Tuvok.
“Ready!” said Chakotay.
“Ready,” said they all announced with merriment they sailed forth to meet their doom.
I’m always surprise at how many people have not read these two novellas at all, or read them, but completely missed the point. Some readers apparently can’t see any connection between the two stories. They apparently believe the two novellas are in one volume “to fill up space.” Since this is among my favorite stories in science fiction, allow me to remind everyone how good Heinlein was in his prime..
Originally published by Doubleday in 1950, Heinlein’s point was that all technology is a based on our belief that it will work. As long as we believe in it, all is well. If or when we cease believing, it will cease working. Everything is magic.
The stories proceed from that axiom. Humans lose faith in technology. Magic jumps into the void left by vanished technology … and becomes technology. The difference between one and the other is effectively nonexistent.
I read these books at least 50 years ago. I hadn’t read them since, but remembered them. I bought them for Kindle and was glad to re-acquaint myself with them.
These were unique and original concepts when they were first introduced in the 1940s. They were still original 25 years later when I read them. They aren’t stale today, more than 60 years after the stories first publication.
The best science fiction is concept-driven. The ideas in these two novellas have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept: we believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.
“Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.” — Robert Heinlein
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