Ed Pendragon review of The Wizard’s Son

“On the face of it, this narrative strand of applied magics is almost incidental to the human tale of a troubled young man who wants to know the truth about his origins, wants to experience and experiment with life while resisting parental constraints, and acts at times as willfully as any spoilt brat. Knowing that this novel is part of a series and that there is more to be revealed makes it easier to complete this heavy-on-details story of what can be an unsympathetic protagonist.”
The Wizard’s Son, review by Ed Pendragon, LibraryThing, May 15, 2011

Jubercat review of Maiden in Light

“The story begins with Laurel, who has never felt comfortable or accepted in her home town of New York, being called for by her Uncle Redmantyl to join him at Wizardes Cliff and become a magical apprentice. Laurel is happy to leave New York, and her adventures at her uncle’s home as she learns the ways of magic and makes friends with the other apprentices make for a delightful and charming read. Things change when she is sent back to New York on a mission for her uncle.”
Maiden in Light, review by Jubercat, LibraryThing, May 8, 2011

Maiden in Light in a bookstore

For a limited time only in Pittsburgh, you can find Maiden in Light and other Wapshott titles at Fleeting Pages bookstore.

Fleeting Pages Bookstore will be open from May 7 until June 7, 2011 at the former Borders in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Location: 5986 Penn Circle South, Pittsburgh, PA.
Fleeting Pages Bookstore, FleetingPages, April 22, 2011

If you’ve ever wanted to find Wapshott titles in a bookstore and you’re in or near Pittsburgh, well, this is your chance from May 7 to June 7.

Please cross-post and spread the word. It’s one thing to have a bookstore; it’s another to have customers.

Maiden in Light is now on sale

Where to buy: 10% off with this code: EMZTQAQB at this online store; Amazon, eligible for free shipping; eReaders: ePub; Kindle; And More!


Click on image for larger version

Back cover verbiage:

“From the top of the gate, Alys smiled down. There was no evidence of evil, yet Laurel felt it. That absence of living energy concealed something grotesque. She shuddered when she met those night eyes, repulsed as she might be by a dead mouse accidentally trod underfoot or a cold, scaly water-thing brushing against her body in a stream. Her nerves thrilled with danger. She’d seen this girl before, watching and smiling secretly. She’d sensed this presence months ago, though she hadn’t understood until now what it was. This was why she had come to New York…”

When Laurel Windswift enters an apprenticeship under her uncle, the great wizard Lord Redmantyl, she sees only the delights that her magic can bring. But her desire for more knowledge brings her too soon into the dark secrets that all magicians of power share, and forces her to take up a wizard’s duties of night vigils against monstrous and inhuman forces before she is ready. When Laurel returns to her home city to investigate a small magical anomaly for her uncle, this maiden of light meets a child of darkness, and must undertake a task too terrible to perform.

On an alternate earth filled with wonder and danger, the wizard’s niece must make a decision that will affect the rest of her life. As she struggles with the unbearable obligations of a magician, she also faces the ostracism of the merchant families who cast her out as a child, her aunt’s matchmaking efforts, and finding an unexpected love.

The Wizard’s Son in retail

For a limited time people in the Pittsburgh area can find The Wizard’s Son and other Wapshott titles at Fleeting Pages bookstore.

Fleeting Pages Bookstore will be open from May 7 until June 7, 2011 at the former Borders in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Loscation: 5986 Penn Circle South, Pittsburgh, PA.
Fleeting Pages Bookstore, FleetingPages, April 22, 2011

If you’ve ever wanted to find Wapshott titles in a bookstore and you’re in or near Pittsburgh, well, this is your chance from May 7 to June 7.

Please cross-post and spread the word. It’s one thing to have a bookstore; it’s another to have customers.

Film Review: The Ghost Train

This DVD came up as recommended on Netflix after I rented The Cat and the Canary, but it’s really not an Old Dark House movie as such. Old Dark Railway Station would be a more accurate description, although the story occurs during the usual dark and stormy night.

The Ghost Train was filmed during World War II, and it is a movie about the hardships and privations faced by ordinary British people during the Blitz. When a group of railway passengers on their way to Cornwall miss their connection and are forced to spend the night in a little rail station in the middle of nowhere during a storm, that’s only the beginning of their problems. One of their number is a painfully unfunny music hall comedian named Tommy Gander, who makes every effort to cheer up his fellow passengers; his fellow passengers make every effort not to toss him onto the railway, although one of them does throw out Tommy’s phonograph to put an end to his singing. Before he leaves for the night, the dour station master also warns this hapless group that the station is haunted by a ghostly train that runs past on an abandoned rail line and brings death to anyone unfortunate enough to hear or see it. Trapped between these horrible two fates–deadly ghost train versus sitting up all night with Tommy Gander–the plucky Brits make some tea and settle down to face the worst.

There are two or three nicely atmospheric moments in this movie: the station master tells the tale of the horrible crash that brought the ghost train into being; the sound of echoing footsteps on the train platform, which on investigation turn out to be this same station master, who then falls down dead; a young woman, not one of the passengers, shows up specifically to see the train and, as she tells the group about it in tones of rising hysteria, lights appear far down the tracks and the group hears the distant rumble of a train approaching…

Unfortunately, between these spooky little bits, one has to put up with a lot of tedious comedy.

Four star Amazon review

“Some books are fantasy and other books are novels placed in a fantasy setting. This first novel by Kathryn Ramage is indeed set in a wondrous, rich and beautiful fantasy setting.”

~&~

“The characters are realistic and well done, with deep and well crafted emotions and conflicts. There’s romance, loss, love, reconciliation, anger, and much more.”

~&~

“And yes, the Father is a great and powerful wizard (he reminds me a bit of Elric), and Orlan, his son (the protagonist) has great magical potential. We see part of Orlans magical training, and a few instances where his father wields his magical power.

“But- there’s no dragons slain, no princess rescued, no epic battle scenes, no worlds saved from a Dark Lord. Thus, this may be a very good book for those tired of the ‘same-old, same-old’ and who would like a good novel that has a fantasy setting.”
A novel about a boy growing up- in a fantasy setting, by Wulfstan, April 18, 2011

The Cat and the Canary

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve taken a recent interest in recreations of old-style film genres. A Dark and Stormy Night, which is a spoof and loving recreation of the Old Dark House movies of the 1920s and 30s, has led me to seek out as many of these movies as I can find.

I’ve started out with the 1928 silent version of The Cat and the Canary. On viewing, it’s immediately apparent that this is the movie that A Dark and Stormy Night follows most closely. The Cat and the Canary begins with an old man dying and leaving his will to be read twenty years after his death. His surviving potential heirs–one elderly aunt and five cousins, most of whom must’ve been children at the time of their uncle’s death–show up at his spooky-looking house in the middle of the night for this reading of the will, and are greeted by a dour housekeeper who could give Mrs. Danvers some hints on how to be creepy. Everything is left to one niece, Annabella, but the family lawyer has a second document in a sealed envelope containing the name of an alternate heir if Annabella is deemed insane by a doctor’s examination. Before this second envelope can be opened, however, the lawyer is murdered and the envelope disappears with him. There are secret panels all over the place, and a mysterious hand emerges from the draperies over the heiress’s bed. Oh, and there’s a murderous lunatic escaped from a nearby asylum running around either outside or inside the house.

As the above description suggests, The Cat and the Canary‘s plotting and stage elements introduce several haunted house and murder mystery tropes that would be reused by everyone from Agatha Christie to Scooby Doo until they became standard genre cliches. I’d never seen this film before, but it felt like I’d seen parts of it a dozen times.

In spite of being recycled to death, The Cat and the Canary remains extremely entertaining for a film over 80 years old. It’s a fast-moving story, and features some imaginative and interesting imagery: The opening scene shows the old man sitting in his wheelchair before the silhouette of his multi-towered house, which then dissolves into a collection of enormous medicine bottles, then a group of bad-tempered cats surround this ill and elderly “canary.” A clock’s inner workings striking the chimes at midnight are superimposed over the reading of the will. When a painting of the old man falls suddenly off the wall, the reactions of the family are shown from the falling painting’s point of view.

The movie also seems surprisingly “talky” for a silent film. Title cards are not overused, and the actors appear to be speaking their actual lines so that the viewer can often follow what they’re saying without seeing an accompanying text. When Annabella describes how her diamond necklace–part of her inheritance–was snatched from her by the aforementioned hand emerging from the bed draperies, her agitated gestures and her family’s dubious looks tell us all we need to know about the situation. The mystery and spooky-house elements of the story are balanced by comic relief, mostly provided by the fussy aunt and one nebbishy cousin who is sweet on Annabella. While not all the comedy still works well, the filmmakers also have a little fun with the title cards they do use. When someone speaks of GHOSTS, the word appears in a large and wavy font. When the aunt swears at her nephew, the screen fills with the sort of expletive-deleted characters ones sees in comic strips.

Why are Laurel and her family so overfair? (Maiden In Light version)

While the family’s overly fair appearance is a literary device to make them instantly recognizable as related, in Maiden in Light, it also gives them an aura of being truly strange and exotic people.

Lord Ambris’s encounter with Laurel in the first chapter of this story not only foreshadows his introduction to the rest of her family, but also suggests that the staid and dutiful nobleman has touched upon a magical experience, with just a hint of romance. While he lives in a world where magicians exist, they aren’t the sort of people one encounters in ordinary circumstances. But here is this extraordinary girl. When Ambris meets Laurel’s aunt Kaiese and young cousins later that same day, their fair coloring tells him that the four are related. While the lady and her daughters are not overtly magical themselves, their relationship to the wizard Redmantyl, whom Ambris knows slightly, makes them all the more intriguing to him.

When he leaves New York, the experience stays with Ambris. Although many years pass before he sees Laurel again after this first, brief encounter, he does not forget her.