Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

Genre: Fantasy

Year of publication: 1998

Rating: ♥

This was on a list of gay/lesbian mysteries I found, and I’m not sure why. As far as I could tell, the characters are all very hetero, though it’s possible I missed something, because I didn’t read the last half of the book very closely.

Summary: Claire is a Keeper, charged with containing and sealing magical anomalies. On a dark and stormy night, Claire and her talking cat, Austin, stumble into a ramshackle B&B to take shelter. In the morning, Claire discovers that the owner has disappeared and left the inn, along with the attractive assistant/groundskeeper Dean McIssac, to her. Together, Claire and Dean discover a sleeping woman in room 6, and a hole to Hell in the basement.

While this sounds like a promising setup, the delivery falls short. I felt like I couldn’t get into the swing of the language, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was missing something or it was just bad. I’d read some glowing reviews of this book and the others in its series, so I was surprised at how bad it was.

I think I would have liked this book a lot more when I was younger — like 12 or 13. At my current, more advanced age, I found the writing too full of mistakes, and the humor too forced. I felt the book tried very hard to be clever, and failed.

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The Quartered Sea by Tanya Huff

Genre: Fantasy

Year of Publication: 1999

Rating: ♥♥♥

Summary: This is the last book in the Four Quarters series, but as each book has a different set of main characters, it’s not as important to have read the other books in the series (which I haven’t). In a fantasy world, bards have varying degrees of power related to the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. It’s rare for a bard to be able to only “sing,” or control, one “quarter,” or element. Benedikt can only sing water, but he is extremely powerful. However, he feels like he is handicapped by his inability to sing air — as every other bard can — and thus is an outsider among the other bards. When the queen of the land asks for a bard to volunteer for a dangerous exploratory expedition, Benedikt eagerly presents himself. Unfortunately, the ship sinks in a storm and Benedikt finds himself the sole survivor, stranded in a strange land with strange and sometimes savage customs. Apparently, the bard gift is unheard of there, and so he finds himself a pawn in a power struggle between two rival siblings, each of whom might just as easily kill him as protect him.

Thoughts: Decent writing and a fairly well-crafted fantasy world, as well as some nicely fleshed-out characters, made this an entertaining read. The main weakness was a victim of the plot — the action moved around too much. About 1/3 of the way through the book, the main character is transplanted to an entirely new environment, and the cast of supporting characters pretty much changes completely, as the action moves from Benedikt’s homeland to strange shores. There’s not enough time to get to know or care about the supporting characters, and the main character is, honestly, difficult to like. He’s basically a whiny bitch most of the time.

The romance was also pretty weak. The main love interest, Bannon, only meets Benedikt a few times, and they do little more than exchange a few words. Bannon is absent for most of the book and barely knows Benedikt, and yet we are supposed to believe that he crossed an uncharted ocean to rescue a dude he talked to twice? Maybe if you’ve read the other books in the series and already know Bannon as a character, this all makes sense. It’s not that I didn’t like the characters or the story — I did; it was just frustrating that there wasn’t more to it.