Shades of Sentience: The Hall of Lost Footsteps

HallofLostFootsteps-200x300The Hall of Lost Footsteps is a collection of short stories by Sara Douglass that also includes a short co-written with Angela Slatter (who I reviewed here), containing fifteen pieces of short fiction, six of those being based within The Axis Trilogy. These pieces are fantasy with a twinge of horror, a well-measured balance that keeps you unable to put the book down while transported to a completely different world.

What’s refreshing about Sara’s work is that her stories aren’t written with that forceful thrust, hoping to shock or disgust the reader. They’re written in a way that reminds me of a storyteller, passing down a tale through the generations – a sing-song lilt of well-thought prose. They state what’s happening, as though it is fact.

Personally, I would like to add that she’s the reason I discovered fantasy. A friend recommended BattleAxe and from there I was hooked. She’ll always have a special place on my bookshelf, and I found it hard to read this anthology because this is it – this is the last Sara Douglass work to be printed, when, as we do with our favourite authors all the time – I crave more.

This doesn’t disappoint, however.

©2011 Katharine Stubbs / Shades of Sentience. To read the full review by Katharine Stubbs on the SentientOnline website please click on this link.

Adelaide News: South Australian-born fantasy writer Sara Douglass dies of ovarian cancer

Best-selling Australian fantasy writer Sara Douglass has died, aged 54, from ovarian cancer.

HarperCollins publishing director Shona Martyn believed Douglass led the way for female fantasy writers.

“At the time that she was signed most fantasy writers around the world were men but Australian women particularly have become very significant fantasy writers and I think she gave confidence not only to a lot of female writers – she was very supportive of female writers – but also to a lot of readers …” Ms Martyn said.

Douglass, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, was the first Australian author signed to HarperCollins’ Voyager Fantasy list in 1995.

Her book, BattleAxe, sold almost one million copies in Australia alone, Ms Martyn said.

Penola-born Douglass published a number of fantasy series, including The Axis Trilogy, as well as stand-alone fiction, non-fiction and a collection of short stories.

On the Harper Voyager Facebook site today, Voyager publisher Stephanie Smith wrote: “Sara Douglass was an extraordinary woman and one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

“I cannot express the personal sorrow I feel at the loss of Sara from our lives. It was an honour and a joy to receive her new manuscripts and to work as her editor.

“Although an intensely private person, she was always generous with advice and encouragement to other writers and in her communication with everyone who visited her websites.”

Douglass’s fans have sent their condolences to her family and friends via the Facebook Sara Douglass Official Fan Page.

One fan wrote: “You gave me so many hours of enjoyment while I flew through your books to find out what happened next … you will be forever missed, but never forgotten.”

While another described Douglass as an amazing woman and author.

Douglass, whose birth name was Sara Warneke, moved to Adelaide when she was seven. She worked as a nurse then studied at Adelaide University, where she received a PhD in Early Modern English history.

She later moved to Cornelian Bay, Tasmania. Her mother also died from ovarian cancer and Douglass wrote about her own diagnosis on her blog.

©2011 Jennifer Chapman, AAP.

Once Upon A Bookshelf: The Betrayal of Arthur

betrayal-of-arthur-1999-coverThe Story

From the back of the book:

A prophecy of a golden age, a magic sword and a chosen one… This is the legend of King Arthur… or is it?

From the manuscripts of a twelfth-century English cleric to a New York bestseller, tales of King Arthur and his court permeate our world. But where did the stories start and how much is true? Were Guenevere and Lancelot traitors? Was Merlin a wise man or magician? And was King Arthur a great and glorious king or a tragic man doomed from conception?

Sara Douglass, a leading writer of fantasy, pierces the heart of this legend. A scholar and academic in medieval history, she explores the fascination, manipulation and permutations of this captivating myth that has intrigued the western world for centuries.

The Response

I will admit that I was worried about this book. It’s been sitting on the TBR for the past four years, and I was torn about whether I really wanted to read it. See, I have a love for the Arthurian mythos (well, for most of it, there are certain parts of the mythos *cough*Lancelot*cough* that I loath, but for the most part I love the legends)… and I was worried that this would make me loath all things Arthurian. But it was written by Sara Douglass, whose writing I adore, so it couldn’t lead me too astray into something I really hated, right?

So it was with much misgivings that I went into this book, and while it opened my eyes up to the true character of Arthur, it was certainly extremely informative and (surprisingly) enjoyable. HIGHLY enjoyable.

The Bottom Line

Highly recommended to people who are interested in learning more about Arthurian legends than just the story itself. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print, but it’s definitely worth the hunt for in second hand sources. I, personally, have drastically marked up my copy of this book and will be keeping it for a very long time to look back at when necessary.

©2011 Courtney Wilson / Once Upon A Bookshelf. To read the full review on the Once Upon A Bookshelf website please click on this link.

The Ranting Dragon: The Nameless Day

the-nameless-day-uk-editionThe Nameless Day is the first volume in Sara Douglass’s trilogy, The Crucible. While the author lists The Crucible as her favourite of all her series, many readers had mixed feelings about The Nameless Day upon its initial publication. Most of their concerns regarded the vastly different feel of this novel when compared to her previous works (such as the popular Axis Trilogy), and the unconventional choice of protagonist. Nevertheless, in my opinion, having read all three books in the series, I would still recommend The Nameless Day and consider it to be a highly worthwhile read. While it may not suit the tastes of all readers, The Crucible is probably the best historical fantasy series I have ever read, and one of the most intricately plotted and daring fantasy novels in general.

A little bit of everything (done well!)
Once again, Douglass showcases her admirable talent for seamlessly blending elements of different genres into a cohesive whole. The Nameless Day incorporates fantasy, history and romance, while also containing some particularly brutal and gory moments that would put most writers of modern horror to shame. Certain sections, especially at the beginning of the novel, are very dark and reminiscent of early Gothic works such as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, full of sinister clergy and malevolent secrets.

Why should you read this book?
By the end of the novel, much is still unclear and many questions remain to be resolved in the following books. However, those who can bear the suspense will be greatly rewarded by this daring and thought-provoking series and the many shocking and unexpected developments it encompasses. All in all, The Nameless Day is definitely worth a read for any fantasy fan who isn’t particularly averse to historical fiction and would like to try something a little more daring and challenging than just another Lord of the Rings clone. However, it does contain substantial violence and various depictions of religious figures behaving badly, which may be unpalatable to some individuals. Hence, you may be wise to refrain from lending it to, for instance, your fainthearted and devoutly Catholic grandmother.

©2011 Michelle / The Ranting Dragon. To read the full review on the The Ranting Dragon website please click on this link.