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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914

 LAST UPDATE  3/24/20

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, Del Rey, 1982

This was the first novel by David Eddings (who later acknowledged that wife Leigh had been his collaborator). It began the five volume series, The Belgariad. Garion is a young orphan raised on a farm who is obviously more than he seems. The "aunt" who raised him and a wandering storyteller clearly know a great deal about him which they are unwilling to divulge. Then he is uprooted for a chase across a fantasy world in quest of an unknown thief who has purloined an unknown object. It's a typical coming of age story in a typical fantasy realm, but Eddings was a better than average storyteller and not even his cliches bothered me. I vaguely recalled this series as being okay but unexceptional, and the first volume seems to me to be at the high end of okay. 3/24/20

A Carnival of Chimeras by Stephen Woodworth, Hippocampus, 2020, $20, ISBN 978-1-61498-287-6

I'm calling this fantasy, but it includes science fiction and horror among the stories gathered here. Woodworth's fiction covers a fairly wide range. It is accurate but possibly misleading to say that he frequently relies on staples of the three connected genres - fantasy, horror, and SF - because while his stories do include zombies, serial killers, Lovecraftian superbeings, nameless monsters, and voodoo magic, he almost always employs these devices in unexpected ways. His stories tend to be fairly short - there are eighteen of them here - but despite that one of his strong suits is deft characterization. The plots are varied enough that you probably won't like all of them, but will almost certainly enjoy most. I had only read a couple of these previously as they are primarily from relatively obscure sources. "The Hidden Track" and "The Colorless People" were probably my favorites, although I have a soft spot for "Scary Monsters."3/18/2-

Tongues of Fire by Algernon Blackwood, Stark House, 2020, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-944520-98-4

This is a slightly expanded version of a collection from 1924, and the stories are in general shorter than most of Blackwood's usual work. He had a tendency to verbosity that mars some of his work, but the only story here where it was a problem was "Malahide and Forden." Although many of the stories deal with the supernatural, I think this should more properly fall into the fantasy category. Some of the stories are actually just sketches. Blackwood is at his best when talking about the natural world, as he does in several of these. There aren't any lost classics, but the writing is intelligent and crafted. The mystical tone of most of his fiction is very much in evidence. 3/1-/2-

Tevinter Nights edited by Chris Bain, Patrick Weekes, Matthew Goldman, & Christopher Morgan, Tor, 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-=0-7653-3722-1

This is a collection of short stories related to the Dragon Age computer game series, which I have not played. I did watch some gameplay online to try to get a feel for it. My experience of game related fantasy fiction is that it is generally of interest primarily to people who play the game, and most of the time the authors are more connected to gaming than to fantasy fiction. That seems to be the case here as the authors were almost all completely unfamiliar to me. Such fiction is also rarely exceptional, in part I suspect because the authors are constrained by the rules of the game, and in part to the tendency to be more interested in replicating gameplay than in providing a good fantasy story. That is generally the case here although  few of the stories are actually pretty good and only a couple were actually boring. There are monsters, dark magic, and the usual trappings of high fantasy, with perhaps a somewhat darker tone than other games with the exception of Warhammer. Non-players may enjoy them as well but they are probably not the target audience. 3/3/20

The Compleat Traveler in Black by John Brunner, Bluejay, 1986

Five stories about the entity who is responsible for bringing order to chaos, told somewhat similarly to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories. “Imprint of Chaos” introduces the character, who teaches a city to rely on logic and their own minds rather than appeal to the gods. “Break the Doors of Hell” tells the story of a city that decided to forego order and hard work in favor of magic, and the doom that came to it. “The Wager Lost by Winning” involves the fate of a city whose rulers believe in a constant game of chance. “The Things That Are Gods” was the last written but not the last in the series.  “Dread Empire” brings the series to its end with the traveler having achieved his goal. Brunner wrote very little fantasy other than this. 2/14/20

Blind Voices by Tom Reamy, Berkley, 1978

The first and only novel by Tom Reamy was in part an homage to Circus of Dr. Lao (it even has a character named Finney) and Something Wicked This Way Comes. A carnival/freak show comes to a small town but several of the exhibits are real because the owner can manipulate matter on the molecular level and has been spawning monsters. A crisis brews when one of his proteges falls in love with a local girl and another commits murder, eventually leading to a psychic battle. Reamy supposedly had intended to revise this before submitting it but died first. I can’t imagine that he would have significantly improved such a great story. There is an attempt to rationalize this as science fiction but it's clearly a fantasy at heart. 1/21/20

San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories by Tom Reamy, Ace, 1983

I believe that, with one exception, this collects all of the short fiction by Reamy, who died tragically after only three years of writing. There is an unpublished story from The Last Dangerous Visions which may yet appear. Reamy was a highly regarded fanzine fan who made an immediate and striking effect on fantasy fiction. He was nominated for multiple awards and the title story from this collection, along with "Twilla", are certainly classics of the genre. Not that the other stories should be considered minor. His work frequently had a dark side - evil genies, malevolent children, etc., but he also displayed an impressive understanding of human personalities. I had not read this for years and it was long overdue. 1/17/20

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