Five places I do not want to go for a destination wedding

5. Mordor from Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

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Since the bestselling travelogue and memoir Lord of the Rings came out, Mordor’s reputation has quickly skyrocketed from obscure natural orc reserve known only to the truly dedicated, to a must-go travel destination found on nearly every bucket list.

Well known for its stable weather patterns, battle reenactments, nightly light shows, and bubbling volcano-heated hot springs, Mordor provides a dramatic backdrop to a couple looking for a picturesque setting for their wedding.  Barad-dûr, known as the Dark Tower to the locals, boasts the area’s highest vantage point and is a natural go-to spot for a photo-op. For an even better view, charter an eagle flight for the afternoon.

Couples looking for the adventure of travel with the trappings of civilization will enjoy the comfort of big-name hotels and wealth of direct flights to Mordor. Applying for a marriage license is easy; present proof of citizenship, your length of stay, and marital status. A local goblin clerk can process your request overnight.

 

4. Shayol Ghul from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

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Credit: The Last Battle / Aradani Studios

For those looking for the scenic drama of Mordor without the lines, Shayol Ghul is an excellent choice. Located at the core of the Blasted Lands and inaccessible by land due to the vast expanse of the Great Blight, Shayol Ghul has remained accessible only through a small airline, specialized to take on the local weather. That said, the layer of fog and constant lightning across the Blasted Lands is perfect for couples looking to enjoy a night club atmosphere. Continue reading

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Top Five: Literary Wizards

Who doesn’t want to be a wizard? In that secret little place in our hearts – the place that still thinks the admissions letter from Hogwarts might come in the mail at any moment – there’s an undying dream that one day we might discover that we can wield magic. And while we’re waiting for our powers to kick in, we consume everything there is to know about our comrades in books about magical escapades. Wizards abound in literature right now, making reading a magical event indeed.

We bring you the Canary collection of top wizards in literature.

Honorable Mention:

Septimus Heap, from the Magik series by Angie Sage

Something about this young wizard is so intriguing. It may be Sage’s straightforward writing style, but the no-nonsense, always-ready-to-do-right and eager-to-prove Septimus is just so dang endearing. The reading level is fairly low – I’d say a precocious fifth grader could tackle the books just fine – and he is a great introduction to the wizarding world. Continue reading

Top Five: Vampires and Werewolves

Happy Halloween, Canaries! It’s that time of year, and I bring you some fun werewolf and vampire stories. But this isn’t a top five of Anne Rice or Bram Stoker style classics. Here are those fun, action-packed, oft-time creepy, sometimes-romantic vampire and werewolf novels that might have slipped under your reading radar. Let’s start with the honorable mentions….

Honorable Halloween Mentions:

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade was turned into a vampire in the year something-hundreds and then bound by a voodoo witch to serve the US President. Now he is a Secret Service agent, protecting the US against demons, witches, Frankenstein’s monsters and aliens.

This is a series written as if to be turned into a TV show, but it wins an honorable mention for the following excerpt:

“I thought vampires were sex gods with the ladies.”

Cade looked  at him. “What gave you that idea?”

“Uh, late night TV mostly…”

“Humans are our food. Do you want to have sex with a cow?”

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Years ago, Elena was bitten by someone she trusted. Now she’s a werewolf that lives in the city and refuses to have anything to do with her pack. Sitting squarely in the paranormal romance genre, this book stands out from the masses for the way it weaves together Elena’s struggle to come to grips with the fact that she will never be human enough for the human world she lives in.

The Sight by David Clement-Davies

While not a “werewolf” story per se, The Sight follows a pack of sentient wolves in the forests of Transylvania. Larka is born with the Sight–a trait that sets her apart from the other wolves and a trait she shares with Morgra, a wolf hell-bent on destroying Larka and her pack.

The novel combines prophecy, magic, and some heartbreaking adventure and creates what I can only call a Wolf Epic.

And now for the Top Five:

5. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Having almost nothing in common with the 2007 movie of the same title, this YA novel follows Vivian, a young werewolf who is trying to deal with the death of her father, the confusion in her family, and a lone wolf trying to take over the pack. When she sees the very human Aiden sketching werewolves in his notebook  at school, she’s sure that she’s found someone who will finally understand her.

This novel sets itself apart from the many paranormal YA novels with their heavy handed romance plots; Klause takes a sober look at the divide that separates Vivian and Aiden. Sometimes, thinking you’re in love just isn’t enough.

4. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is the perfect addition to your shelf. Hambly brings the characters and the chilly London atmosphere to life.

“Oxford professor James Ahser, once an agent for the British government, is forced to help the vampires of Edwardian London, who are being destroyed one by one through exposure to sunlight as they lie sleeping in their coffins.” (From Publishers Weekly)

3. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

The first installment of the Morganville Vampires series, this YA novel took me by surprise.  The pace of plot is relentless, but it never leaves the characters behind to wallow in their own personal stories.

Claire is a sixteen year old in her first semester at a university in Morganville and dreams of transferring out to MIT. But Morganville isn’t just a small backwater town and leaving is a whole lot harder that moving in.

“Run first,” Shane said. “Mourn later.”
It was the perfect motto for Morganville.

2. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

When I first saw this book on the shelves in ’03, I couldn’t believe my eyes. McKinley? Writing a vampire romance novel? Oh me of little faith. McKinley could rewrite the phone book and make it enthralling.

A cook at the local bakery, Sunshine has a boyfriend, and wonderful friends and family. But her life turns upside down when she goes off to find some quiet time by the lake…

“They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion-within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.” (Amazon book description)

McKinley’s keen ear for style and attention to character detail brings this story to life in a way that I haven’t seen for a long long time.

1. Agyar by Steven Brust

In a word, creepy.

But I am not going to tell you about the plot, because this is a book best served cold, without preamble. So check it out!

What are your favorite vampire or werewolf reads? 

Top Five: Fantasy Assassins

Oh assassin protagonists. These are the characters that have all the bad ass action skills of heroes, and none of the pesky hangups about killing people. They’re fun, unfriendly, and can be found hanging out in the local assassin guilds.

We bring you the Canary collection of top fantasy assassin protagonists.

 

Honorable mentions:

Lale from The Assassins of Tamurin by S. D. Tower

Trained from birth to be an assassin and bound by magic to make sure she doesn’t forget it, Lale is sent off on her first mission to seduce the local Sun Lord and wreck havoc in his kingdom.  Taking romantic angst to a whole new level, Lale discovers that her long lost identical twin was the Sun Lord’s first wife, and goes on to kill a lot of people.

Smith from The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker

An artist in the world of assassins, Smith gets by with a lack of formal training and a singular talent for leaving dead bodies in his wake. When Smith goes on the road to Salesh as a caravan leader to avoid a blood feud, he finds demons, more bodies, and insurance claims instead. And this is before a magical item grafts itself to his hand.

Havelock Vetinari from the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

Before he was everyone’s favorite Discworld tyrant, Vetinari started his long and illustrious career in the Assassin’s Guild, where he minored in Blending in with the Walls. Though he takes over the smoggy city of Ankh-Morpork at a relatively young age and his enemies have a way of disappearing, Vetinari just misses the Top Five list. He has yet to be a protagonists in his very own book.

 

Top Five Fantasy Assassins:

5. Hugh The Hand from Dragon Wing by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

A character that will eventually be ousted from the series by the godlike figures of his companions, Hugh makes his mark in Dragon Wing by getting killed several times. And yet, he still doggedly tries to fulfill his assignment and slit the throat of a snobby little kid named Bane.


4. 
FitzChivalry Farseer from the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb

Like almost every coming-of-age assassin, Fitz’s life is filled with adolescent longing and a heavy helping of emotional and physical abuse stretching off into six books. Fitz serves loyally, using his assassin skills and a form of highly forbidden magic–and gets shoved off the bridge (or into a dungeon) each and every time for his troubles. The moral of the story? Nothing good ever comes of having a name like FitzChivalry.

 

3. Artemis Entreri, from A Lot Of Books by RA Salvatore

Appearing first in the Icewind Dale trilogy, this ultimate killing machine goes on to get his own series. Though human, he has faced pretty much every immortal and semi-immortal enemy thrown at him with the ease of a lvl 99 D&D character. And unlike the rest of the assassins on the list, Entreti actively (and often successfully) avoids any kind of emotional commitments–and for good reason. The one time he does fall for a girl, she tries to kill him when he suggests they move in together.

 

2. Samalander from Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward

Sam is, by some criteria, a very well-adjusted guy. True, he never knew his father and his soul is being slowly consumed by shadow magic, but he really loves his job. When his career advancement is halted by the cosmic triumph of Good over Evil, he goes on a quest to do something about it.

1. Vlad Taltos from the Vlad the Assassin series by Steven Brust

Raised in a world of Dragaera where humans are the downtrodden minority, Vlad is not content to be a third-class citizen. He sets himself up as an assassin, instead. Take one wise-mouth familiar, one unobtrusive secretary, a soul-eating weapon, and Vlad’s peculiar skill for problem-solving, and he’s set to take on the world–and kill a few Dragareans while he’s at it.


What about you? Do you have a favorite fantasy assassin?