Friday, December 18, 2009

Three from Pyr Books

This Crooked Way
James Enge
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027843

After his failures and defeat (see BLOOD OF AMBROSE) enchanter Morlock Ambosius flees on his horse Velox; he hopes to buy time to regroup and try again. Instead a stone beast attacks the enchanter and his steed. Morlock survives, but Velox vanishes.

Morlock searches for his horse while heading to Sarkunden where he runs into the Sorcerer Slash who says to call him Charis before pleadings with Morlock to help him; the enchanter reluctantly agrees to do so. On his quest he meets new allies, who initially fear the legend, but as they get to know him befriend him.

This is an exciting fantasy that focuses on the meandering travels and dialogue of an exiled enchanter and the associates he meets on his crooked trek towards and into the Kirach Kund where the Khroi rule by killing outsiders. Those people the protagonist meets on his dangerous journey tell much of the tale as they relate their initial fear and dread of the aloof unflustered enchanter but become friends with him once they discover his human flaws make him more like them than the frightening superior being they expected to encounter. Thus his quest is clearly humanized by the secondary cast. Although the climax is relatively smaller and much diminished in comparison to the roar of THE BLOOD OF AMBROSE, fans will relish the second saga as the well written character driven THIS CROOKED WAY comes across as a deeper look into the lives of wizards, sorcerers, and one particular enchanter.
Harriet Klausner

Joel Shepherd
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027874

In the Kingdom of Lanayin, the monarch supports the newer Verenthane religion over the established Goeren-yai. This has increased the schism and caused widespread intolerance. Some people are especially caught between the old and new like Svaalverd style master bladeswoman Princess Sasha, who has blood from both sides.

To Sasha who fights from the heart, everyone seems to argue religion especially her mentor-teacher Kessligh Cronenverdt, her royal siblings and her neighbor Jared. However, it was the death of the king’s heir, her brother Krystof that has her seeking vengeance as closure is impossible. War is imminent as each religious faction wants to dominate; to her shock, principled idealist Sasha leads an army against her pragmatic father who struggles with the cause that will destroy his country especially when he knows neighboring nations foster the civil war that divides families.

Although the story line starts slows as the support cast define the realm through banter, humor and wit; fans will enjoy this entertaining coming of age saga. SASHA is a terrific lead character struggling with the hostilities while also being a cock-sure combatant. Ironically this sword and sorcery fable has few blood scenes and non-existent fantasy segues as the only possible (so far) paranormal element is the non-human Serrin who joins in the religious philosophical debates. Fans who appreciate a deep thought provoking thriller will enjoy Joel Shepherd strong look at social, cultural and religious divides that threaten to tear apart a nation that sounds so colorfully familiar. Harriet Klausner

James Barclay
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781591027829

The Raven mercenary band has no time to celebrate the victory over the Wytch Lords, who they banished with the DAWNTHIEF spell. Instead they have learned the spell tore a hole in the dimensional walls.

Deadly dragons have started to cause havoc so the Raven team must find answers fast to close the hole and destroy those creatures that have entered through the gap. Dimensional traveler Septern has left hints how to fix the growing gulf so the Raven seeks him at the same time the Wesmen barbarian horde invade the eastern lands on the ground while the dragons assault both sides from the sky.

There is plenty of action, both mundane and arcane, as NOONSHADE with its fantastic spin from DAWNTHIEF is a super fantasy. The sword and sorcery story line is fast-paced from the onset, but the key to James Barclay’s strong tale is the cast. The Raven team comes across as individuals instead of a Borg like collective though they fight as one. Although the villains are stereotypical of the genre, fans will enjoy this terrific thriller as the Raven learns the lesson of unintended consequences. Harriet Klausner

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