The Eddon family have lived in Southmarch castle and ruling the Marchlands for centuries. Now they are scattered because Hendon Tolly took the throne forcing the twin co-regents Barrick and Briony to escape if they want to live. Southmarch is at war with the Qar (fairy folks) because since the usurpers took over they persecuted the fairy and forced them to erect a Mantle curtain and settle on their own lands. In the middle of the battle, the Qar stop fighting because a greater foe is marching to conquer Shadowmarch.
Both Tolly and the ruler of all the conquered lands in the south, the Autarch of Xis Sulepis, know that the Sleeping Gods are located deep below the Funderling Town where the group of small dwarf like creatures lives. The pair plans to attack the realm of the Gods and use a magic ritual to make one of the gods their slave. Brionye is safely staying with the Prince of Syan Eneas who loves her and vows to help her get home. When they arrive Eneas and his men fight to gain control of the throne that rightfully belongs to Briony. All parties interested in waking the Gods and those who oppose collide as Briony and her Syanese allies take the fight to those loyal to Tolly.
Shadowheart is a grand epic finish to a great grand fantasy saga that like its three predecessors is filled with action, but character driven as the audience anticipates the climatic ending. Tad Williams has not let us down as he springs one shocker after another to a spellbound audience. Barrick is more Qar than human because of a ritual to save his life although he fights on the side of the humans who want to restore Shadowmarch to its previous glory. Briony has come a long way from the youth foolishly challenging Tolly to a duel as her inner strength remains powerful but matured with experience. All the major subplots come together as apocalypse now has converged on Shadowmarch. Harriet Klausner
In 1992 in Lake Geneva, Gabriel Rackett sends a letter to Jasmine as he has no prospects, a sad commentary for someone nearing forty years old. He once showed promise as a novelist until the alcohol took it toll. However, he thinks back to 1968 when the Cardinals ran all over the National league.
In Louisville, he was thirteen playing baseball with his two best friends being Gino Robinson and Joey Hardy near the home of elderly lunatic Miss Vivian when her adult son Trajan Bell moved in with her. Curious about the newcomer, Gino tosses Joey’s glove into the yard; Gabe sneaks in to retrieve the mitt and meets Trajan. Later that same summer, as Joey befriends Beatles’ fans and Gino shop guys, Gabe feels alone except for Trajan and soon Jasmine.
As he creeps towards middle age while a bored college teacher, Gabe knows he failed at work, family, and life. Everything changes, just as it did when he went into Miss Vivian’s yard to get the glove; he obtains a strange manuscript written by Trajan. Gabe begins a trek home past and present with the dark “stigmata” imprinted on the palm of his hand from when as a teen he touched an incline put in the yard by Trajan.
This convoluted thriller is not an easy read yet grips the audience with a need to know who Trajan Bell is and what if anything did he do to Gabe. The story line includes eerie works besides Giacco Piano by Mr. Bell such as “Second Ephesians” and “The Isle Is Filled with Noyses” that add to the strangeness of the well written story line by adding more questions to the mystery of Trajan. With Gabe’s letters to Jasmine enabling the audience to look deeper at him, fans will wonder if he lost his mind when he was thirteen, as the ghosts that haunt him as he nears forty are either psychological or real. This is a memorable and unforgettable book.
Spectra (Ballantine), $7.99
Echo City is a theocracy in which the Church is the government with both run by the Marcellan family with an iron fist. Political opposition is forbidden with dissenters punished by exile or death.
Peer Nadawa is caught speaking against the leadership so is sent to reside with criminals living in Skulk Canton; she will not be allowed back as she knows too much. Bordering the Skulk is a poisoned desert The Boneyard. There Peer observes a man crossing the forbidden waste; she believes it is a sign that the end of days for Echo City is upon us. She tells the sickly stranger that his coming has been expected. Additionally Peer finds her former lover Gorham who betrayed her leading a rebel force. She puts aside her personal feelings to go with the newcomer to meet the genetic scientist Nadielle underneath the city where her lab experiments are conducted. However, Peer knows an ancient essence is rising from way under the city; this beast must be stopped before it destroys Echo City as this legend has been passed down throughout history.
Tim Lebbon is knows for his ability to merge elements of fantasy and horror together inside of riveting thrillers (see The Chamber of Ten). His current amalgam story line is action-packed from the beginning even as Mr. Lebbon establishes the critical realistic Echo City’s culture especially the rules of order. The characters are fully developed particularly the heroine, her betrayer, the geneticist and an odd person at the top of the spires; the stranger is kept as an enigma purposely adding to the suspense and sense of foreboding. Readers will appreciate this strong tale. Harriet Klausner