R Stefoff

Books

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Smashwords book reviews by R Stefoff

  • The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year One on May 19, 2010

    I read these stories as they appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and I'm delighted to have them in this collection. BCS has been a terrific addition to fantasy publishing; I look forward to more years, and more anthologies, of great reading.
  • The Clavis (The Emperor's Library: Book Four) on March 23, 2012

    If you enjoyed the previous three books of Frederick Kirchhoff's series The Emperor's Library as much as I did, you'll rejoice at the appearance of a fourth. The Clavis is both a continuation of the sweeping fantasy story told in the earlier volumes and an adventurous, often witty novel that can be read on its own--the passing allusions to people and events from the earlier books may pique your curiosity, but they won't confuse you. The Clavis takes place many years after the events of the previous books, but it is linked to them by the long-lived character Jon and his curious powers and possessions. Set in the same world as the earlier volumes of The Emperor's Library, The Clavis introduces a new setting: the sprawling coastal city Tarnak, home of industrialists, technocrats, pirates, and a humble young tea salesman named Rel, whose kindnesses to a couple of very old men bring the world to the brink of disaster. Like its predecessors in the series, The Clavis is not your typical gay (or straight) epic fantasy. Cliches and stereotypes are nowhere to be found; villains and heroes are flawed, compelling human beings; and the adventure raises new questions even as it provides some long-awaited answers. Highly recommended.
  • The Chronophage (The Emperor's Library: Book Five) on Aug. 23, 2013

    In this fifth volume, Frederick Kirchhoff's fantasy series The Emperor's Library takes a new direction yet remains linked to the world-building and events of the previous books. Set in and around Gort, a city and state south of the imperial lands in which the earlier tales unfolded, The Chronophage is the story of Lim, a young man whose curiosity leads him into a dire and brutal misadventure . . . and then into an unexpected new life. Suspense arises from the fact that although the reader learns at the start that Lim was witness to, and was involved in, a mysterious and cataclysmic event that has just befallen Gort, only as Lim's story unfolds does the true nature of that anomaly emerge. Lim's sexual and romantic activities are part of the story as well, as he falls in love with one young man only to become physically involved with another. Temporal technology plays a part, too. How do the "kinetic sculptures" of the secretive craftsman Falke alter the flow of time? What will the ramifications be for those who experience altered time? And what are we to make of the eerie story Lim hears from the old woman Grillis, about a fateful place called Fessen . . . and the "Fessen leap" that the immense showman Larkos plans for his ultimate spectacle? Unlike the previous books in the Emperor's Library series, The Chronophage is told in the first person point of view. Lim and a few other major characters take turns recounting their versions of recent events to a questioner from the Empire. Readers of the fourth book in the series, The Clavis, will recognize that interrogator as Rel, no longer the young man who became entangled in the world-changing events of The Clavis but rather an old man trying to solve a mystery. Not too old, perhaps, for one more adventure. And although the central figure of the story is Lim, one of the delights of The Chronophage is that each of the characters whom Rel interviews speaks in his or her distinctive voice, and each contributes a unique perspective on the recent bizarre happenings. The result is a narrative of action, intrigue, and vivid weirdness, woven together from the narrative strands of different speakers and the penetrating questions of Rel, who saw his world transformed once and now wonders what additional surprises it holds.