Juliet E McKenna is a UK author born in 1965 who, she says, was influenced at a young age by reading folk tales and Greek myths. This grew over the years until she started table top and live action role playing at university and began the creation of new games and role play events, which, she says, taught her what makes a good novel.
The first of her novels was The Thief’s Gamble, following the fortunes of the thief Livak, which then lead to a further four Tales of Einarrin. The same world is used for the Aldebrishin Compass and the Lescari Revolution series but follow different characters, and another series set in the world of Einarrin is currently being written, The Hadrumel Crisis. The first book of this is due to be published in 2011.
As well as writing new books, Juliet is also an organiser of The Write Fantastic initiative, which was launched in 2005 by a group of fantasy authors, including herself, with the aim of promoting the fantasy genre. The initiative holds a range of events throughout the UK, discussing themes and influences in fantasy fiction.
This is one of the first fantasy novels I remember reading and it has stayed with me ever since. For a debut, it’s amazing. The story sweeps you up immediately, led by the strong female lead of Livak who has a quick wit and dubious morals, making a living through occasional housebreaking, but mostly through fixing games of runes and fleecing the unwary. With no knowledge or experience of wizards or magic, we learn through her about wizards and elemental magic as she gets pulled deeper into the mystery of who these blonde murders are who appear and disappear and can affect people’s minds. McKenna is clearly somebody who knows how to craft a story, and how to leave you wanting more at the end of it. I highly recommend.
Again, this is very strongly written, weaving a rich tapestry of the different peoples of the lands of Einarinn. The islands Ryshad is taken to have vastly different views regarding gender roles in society, how to conduct business, and views on magic use and omens, making this not just a continuation of the story begun in the first novel, but a book which could be read by itself.
These different people, differentiated mainly by hair colour, clearly reflect the tensions that exist in our world between different racial groups, but I think it’s been woven into the story very well, forming a strong entry point for the ice islanders to once again make a move to control Einarinn’s populations, but also emphasising the need for different groups to see past the differences and work together. This is a strong moral point that although used in many fantasy stories, has been crafted in this series I feel with a great amount of skill.
In the fourth of Juliet E McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series we are back with the chosen man Ryshad, elevated from a sworn man as a reward for his earlier investigations into the ice island wizards. This is set in the same time period as the third book, so whilst his love Livak is travelling to the forest and mountain communities to find out about aetheric magic, this follows Ryshad as he follows his lord to the summer solstice festival, where the great houses come together to celebrate, as well as plot and scheme.
A thundering climax to Juliet E McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series, The Assassin’s Edge, the fifth and final novel, goes all out as Livak and her friends make a final mission to the Ice Islands to put a stop to the aetheric mage Ilkehan.
The Archmage rules the island of wizards, enforcing a ban on the use ofmagecraft in warfare. But there is a rumour of rogue wizardry abroad, its adepts not subject to the Archmage s edicts. The Emperor of Tormalin is offering them his protectionwhile corsairs are raiding the coasts and merchants are begging for magical aid. The world of Lescar faces a terrifying change andepochdefying adventure. The Archmage rules the island of wizards. From here he enforces the Edicts of the Council of Wizardry. Foremost is the ban on magecraft in warfare. But there is a rumour of rogue wizardry in Lescar s recent civil war. There s the rise of Artifice, its adepts not subject to the Archmage s edicts. Now the Emperor of Tormalin is offering them his protection. There are corsairs raiding the Caladhrian Coast, enslaving villagers and devastating trade. Barons and merchants beg for magical aid. But all help has been refused. This is no comfort to Lady Zurenne whose husband has been murdered by corsairs. Now a man she doesn t even know stands as guardian over her and her daughters. Corrain, former captain and now slave, knows that man is a rogue wizard, selling his skills to the corsairs. If Corrain can escape, he ll see justice done. Unless Jilseth, magewoman and Archmage s confidante, can catch the renegade first, before the full extent of his villainy is revealed. If that happens, at a time when wizardry faces so many other challenges, the scandal could have dire consequences indeed!
"I began this uncertainly; it is evident that reading the earlier novels is a key factor in retaining the attention - particularly as a browse on the author's website reveals some characters have previously appeared; I ended understanding why the author has a place within the pantheon of British fantasy authors. This isn't (despite my comment above) Brent Weeks. It's not Feist, not Eddings. I could draw a parallel to Fiona McIntosh - both authors spend considerable wordage on telling us what characters are thinking in order to justify actions which can be detrimental to the pace any good high fantasy requires - or David Drake's excellent Lord of the Isles but I think McKenna exhibits traits from many previous great fantasy authors pulled together in threads that make her eminently accessible to fantasy readers."