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

 LAST UPDATE  1/14/22

The Starless Crown by James Rollins, Tor, 2022, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-250-81677-1

After more than a decade of thrillers and supernatural novels, Rollins returns to epic fantasy with this, the very long beginning of a new series. The setting is a kind of alternate Earth that has stopped rotating, has magic, and is caught in a kind of Dark Age. There are four major protagonists, the most important of whom is a not very feisty young woman who has a vision of an apocalyptic end of the world, one that can be avoided. The powers that be want to suppress her warning. The other three are a prince with no prospects, a thief who has been betrayed by his friends, and a knight of no particularly outstanding talents. The three men will, of course, be drawn into the young woman's quest to save the world. Technology exists in this world, and a good chunk of it consists of battles between enormous airships. There is in fact quite a bit of what we might call science fiction mixed in with the fantasy. The plot involves a great deal of action and violence, but it is somewhat hobbled by the necessity to introduce the world and the major characters in some detail. In fact, the characters are developed rather more fully than is common in works of this sort. I had to take a couple of breaks from this and read something else, but I was always drawn back. It uses a lot of the usual tropes, but has enough new twists to be occasionally surprising. I will read the sequels when they appear. 1/14/22

Jamaica Blue Magic by Kathleen Moffre-Spoor & Ryk E. Spoor, Ring of Fire Press, 2020 

The hero of the first book in this series has just managed to derail the evil plans of a gang of vampires and he is off on vacation to Jamaica. But the evil plans are not done, just diverted. And he has other enemies as well, some from his past, including a demon. With a new array of allies, he is off to battle this new menace, but this time hampered by a curse that has made him more vulnerable than ever. Rather more focused than its predecessor, and somewhat less apocalyptic. The characters are slightly uneven. Some are quite well drawn, others never rise above being caricatures. If you haven’t read a few too many urban fantasies already, this series – only 2 volumes at present – this may tickle your fancy. Quite violent though. 1/11/22

High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz, Ballantine, 1973 

The two threats posed in the first two books are both eliminated in the third. After some occasionally boring technical discussions, the conservative church leaders either surrender and restore their loyalty to the throne or agree to withdraw from public life. This allows the king and his advisers to turn toward the aggressive army on their border, whose leader has recently suborned one of their aristocrats and placed the defensive line in jeopardy. They agree to a magical duel to resolve the issue, but the bad king plans to cheat in various ways, each of which is thwarted. His ultimate defeat, however, is because one of his chief advisers is secretly loyal to the other side. This comes out of nowhere. The turncoat poisons the villains and the battle never takes place. Yet more people are revealed to be secretly Deryni. Although quite readable, some of the gimmicks have at this point been used too often. 1/10/22

French Roast Apocalypse by Kathleen Moffre-Spoor & Ryk E. Spoor, Ring of Fire Press, 2021 

I haven’t read much urban fantasy in the last couple of years, having thoroughly overdosed on it. This is the first in a series that is typical of that genre, although a bit cluttered plotwise. The protagonist is an ex-monster hunter, now a revenant, who operates a coffee house that is a kind of halfway house for reformed monsters. He also keeps his hand in his old profession as well. He is also looking for his vanished wife. The main opposition in this one, however, is a gang of vampires who have used dark magic to destroy a large portion of Paris and who plan further depredations as part of their plan to gather power. There is also a danger to the entire race of fae and some other subplots. Amusing and entertaining but there are a few too many plot elements for the story to proceed as smoothly as it should. 1/4/22

Deryni Checkmate by Katherine Kurtz, Ballantine, 1972 

The church is still opposed to Deryni magic and the leadership is determined to remove Morgan from power over his duchy, even if that means cutting off the entire population from access to the church. A small rebellion complicates matters, and overall a war with a neighboring kingdom seems inevitable and imminent. Mostly political maneuvering and court intrigue, with the mysterious figure of Saint Camber appearing briefly to stir the pot. The villains are less powerful than in the first book and there is considerably less action. The plotting is much better, however, and the characters begin to take on some individuality. 1/2/22