Friday, April 13, 2012

L: Lord of the White Hell, The Lion of Senet, & The Lost Painting

Lord of the White Hell by Ginn Hale
Genre: fantasy

Kiram is a mechanist prodigy, and the first of his people admitted to the prestigious Sagrada academy. Because he's not a native, he's bullied and ostracized, and also forced to room with a popular guy everyone else is afraid to sleep near - Javier Tornesal, whose family is powerful and rich, but cursed. Kiram is instantly attracted to Javier, and Javier seems to return the sentiment. But the relationship, acceptable in Kiram's land, is forbidden in Javier's, and it could get them killed - if the White Hell doesn't kill them first.

Stellar world-building, danger, adventure, forbidden love, and the pain of not belonging. Good stuff all round.

The Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon
Genre: fantasy

My favorite fantasy novel of all time: A brilliant mathematician calculated when the second sun would disappear, vital information for keeping the religious establishment in power. In the midst of war, he vanished without telling anyone when the Age of Darkness would begin. But High Priestess Belagren has found another gifted mathematician in seventeen-year-old Dirk Provin, and even though Dirk's mother is a political dissident who hates the High Priestess and everything she represents, Belagren's determined to have him.

This is probably my favorite fantasy of all time (oh, did I say that already?). It influenced my tastes so strongly that I no longer feel magic is a necessary element in fantasy, while I'm less likely to pick up a fantasy novel if it doesn't contain intrigue at high levels (politics or religion). I also love that “the fate of the world hangs in the balance” – and no one cares because they’re fighting to be in charge after the big catastrophe. Jennifer Fallon always takes tropes and turns them on their heads. Sometimes really upsetting people with her choices, as with the ending of her “Immortal Prince” series. But that’s a different discussion.
Dirk Provin is my favorite character under 30 (Alan from the Demon’s Lexicon books comes a close second, but we’re never in his POV, so I can’t count him.). Dirk is definitely a scholar (studying medicine) and not a warrior. He's also witty, brilliant, in serious trouble, and ten steps ahead of everyone, projecting confidence even when he's quailing inside (which makes the rare times he can't project confidence that much more powerful), thinking on his feet when things go wrong. If I recall correctly, Jennifer Fallon's premise for him was "How many bad things can a character do and still be sympathetic?" That surprised me, because there's obvious logic in all his decisions, and I was rooting for him the whole time. I've probably read this book once a year for the last ten years.
One more L book:

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr
Genre: literary? Suspense?

It’s about an Italian student and an art restorer tracking down a painting by my favorite Old Master artist, Caravaggio. Caravaggio, a 16th century painter, would have fit in quite well with some of our modern celebrities. When he wasn't annoying the religious establishment by painting the saints as uneducated bumpkins with dusty feet or using local, well-known prostitutes as his models for female religious icons, he was constantly breaking the law and getting into fights. Most of what we know of his life comes from criticisms written by contemporaries and a detailed police rap sheet.

He killed someone (over a tennis match or a girl, no one’s quite sure) and fled Rome, spending the rest of his life painting on the run (and making tons of money doing so). He was taken in by the Knights of Malta, until he pissed one of them off, and they started chasing him, too. Caravaggio was only 39 when he died (possibly from complications of being wounded by someone trying to kill him, though lead poisoning from his paints is also a likely culprit), but he left a lasting impact on the art world unmatched by many of the artists people can name.
The Cardsharps, just across town at the Kimbell Art Museum.
Caravaggio made genre paintings immensely popular at a time
when most paintings were religious or mythological in subject.
But the Church is where the money was, so most of his later
paintings were religious.

The book takes place in modern times and is more about the history of one of his paintings than about his own story. But I liked the book, and I love Caravaggio.

I've seen a handful of Caravaggios in person, and there's a luminous, storytelling quality to them that doesn't come across on the internet. This one is of an innocent boy being cheated by cardsharps. A large number of 16th and 17th century artists from all over Europe made their own versions of this painting.


  1. Haven't heard of these - thanks for the reviews.

  2. Love your L book reviews ! Thanks
    Follow & A to Z Visit

  3. I love the LORD OF THE WHITE HELL duology! I thoroughly recommend them for anyone who's looking for some more good fantasy. I finished the first one so late at night that it was more like the next day and felt desperate for the second one!