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

 LAST UPDATE 4/22/18

Ghost of the Wall by Jeff Mariotte, Ace, 2006 

Kral is a young Pict who clandestinely meets a young woman from one of the Aquilonian forts along their contested border. When an ambitious nobleman instigates an attack that wipes out most of Kral’s clan, he vows revenge, particularly since the noble has stolen a sacred crown with religious and supernatural significance. The young woman and her brother become his allies, more or less, on his quest to track down the villain, who has abandoned the area and is headed deep into Aquilonia. Fast moving and well told, although I was not convinced by the scene in which the siblings decide to join Kral on an obviously murderous quest. 4/22/18

The Boy Who Went Magic by A.P. Winter, Chicken House, 2018, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-338-21714-8

This book for younger readers is set in a world where magic has effectively been outlawed in favor of a calmer and more predictable existence. It is in fact generally believed that magic is no longer possible, although the young protagonist is one of those not entirely convinced that this is true. Eventually he and a very strange young girl are off on a quest that involves airships and wild adventures in strange lands, all while being pursued by a villain. Although written down a bit for its target readership, the adventures are well conceived and described. This would have been even better if it had aimed for slightly more sophisticated readers but even as it is, it held my attention. 4/20/18

The Silent Enemy by Richard A. Knaak, Ace, 2006 

Third and final adventure of Nermesa Klandes. There is another plot to kill Conan and our hero must rise to the occasion once again. Two neighboring kingdoms are on the attack and some of his own people are planning to assassinate him, using a drug to force our hero to carry out the plot. But he is made of sterner stuff than they anticipate. Like its predecessor, there are too many captures and escapes for my taste, but otherwise the writing is solid. 4/19/18

Verdict on Crimson Fields by M.C. Planck, Pyr, 2018, $18, ISBN978-1-63388-437-3

Fourth in a series in which an engineer from our world has adventures in a magical realm. In the first three books, he has proven himself to be a powerful military leader and strategic thinker, so much so in fact that the king he serves is beginning to see him as a rival and a threat. I'm surprised that this does not happen in a lot more fantasy novels than it actually does, since it seems to me a logical outcome. And naturally the fear becomes reality, but not until after our hero has dealt with witches, druids, wizards, and demons. Fast paced, entertainingly written, and with a few small surprises along the way. One of the better written of this type of fantasy series. 4/17/18

The Eye of Charon by Richard A. Knaak, Ace, 2006 

The second adventure of Nermesa Klandes, who is now a member of the personal guard of King Conan of Aquilonia. He is assigned to help guard a caravan and investigate a series of attacks, but is almost killed a few days after they set out during a raid. He encounters a spectral figure which conjures an army of small attackers out of foliage. After various adventures he discovers that one of the nobles is using a magical artifact to control a powerful sorcerer. He plans to seize the throne of Aquilonia. Our hero gets captured and escapes a few too many times for my taste, but eventually the sorcerer kills his temporary master before Nermesa outwits and kills him.  4/16/18

The Mayfair Mystery by Frank Richardson, Collins, 2017 (originally published in 1907)

Although packaged as a mystery this is really a fantasy. No crime is committed during the course of the book. The mystery involves a beautiful woman who appears in London society without antecedents and the periodic disappearance of a prominent doctor, who can cure most diseases by one hypnotic session in his office. The explanation is that he can project himself into an unconscious patient and take over their bodies. Although he is supposed to be a good person, he never shows any regret at having permanently erased the personality of the woman whose body he is using. I also found it hard to believe that no one noticed that the two houses the doctor owns are back to back, facilitating a secret passage, nor do I believe that an aggressively unattractive young woman could become the most beautiful woman in London simply by changing her clothing. The author is best known as a satirist and for inventing the term “face-fungus” to describe beards. 4/15/18

The Fairies of Sadieville by Alex Bledsoe, Tor, 2018, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-8336-5

It appears that this will be the last novel about the Tufa. This series should not have been something I liked because the subject matter is one I generally find uninteresting. Despite my predilections, I found myself increasingly interested in the series as it progressed and I'm mildly sorry to see it go, although I look forward to seeing what the author will do next. The Tufa are a magical people, not quite human, who live in Appalachia, and at times the series has reminded me of some of the best work of Manly Wade Wellman. In this final visit, the discovery of a piece of very old movie film leads the protagonist to the discovery that magic and fairies are not fantasy after all. This leads all concerned to a major crisis and a painful decision, which I won't describe because it would be a spoiler. Bledsoe has made his mythical people so plausible that they feel genuinely real. It's always a pleasant surprise to have my prejudices about a story type overwhelmed by a  fine writer and this is one of the best examples. 4/14/18

The God in the Moon by Richard A. Knaak, Ace, 2006   

First volume in a trilogy set in the world of Conan the Barbarian. Conan is currently king of Aquilonia. Nermesa is the son of an aristocratic family who decides to prove himself in the military. He is sent to the uneasy border with the Picts where, through luck as well as skill, he manages to capture a famous bandit. But things do not go smoothly. There are traitors among the army and the bandit escapes. Although he is eventually killed, his sister takes over and is even more determined to kill Nermesa, and she also controls the giant whom the Picts believe is the god who lives in the moon. Pretty good, and the story is complete in itself. 4/12/18

Songs of Victory by Loren L. Coleman, Ace, 2005

Final volume in a trilogy. The Cimmerians are still quarreling among themselves, the evil Vanir are still gathering their strength for an invasion, and our hero remains an outcast in large part because he is believed to be a half breed. There are multiple threats this time. A wizard raises an army of the undead, an old enemy suborns one of our hero’s closest comrades, a prominent Cimmerian is considering joining the invaders, and so on. There is nothing at all new to the form or to the series and I found it rather disappointing. It even fails to tie up some loose ends. 4/8/18

The Night Dahlia by R.S. Belcher, Tor, 2018, $18.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-9012-7

There have been lots of novels and series set in alternate versions of our world where fantastic creatures exist and are taken for granted - vampires, werewolves, fairies, and so on. Sometimes they're meant to be funny, some times they are gritty and "realistic." This series, which started with Nightwise, falls into the latter category. The protagonist is Latham Ballard, an investigator who in this case is hired by a member of a kind of fairy Mafia to find his daughter, who has been missing for some time. But this case turns out to be more complex and lengthy than even he expected, taking him to various places around the world before he discovers the truth. The prose is really excellent and the story had me almost from the first page. I really liked the previous book but this one is even better. I hope there's more to come. 4/7/18

The Call by Peader O’Guilin, Scholastic, 2018, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-338-16070-3  v1123-4

The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin, Scholastic, 2018, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-338-04562-8

Two young adult fantasies with a dark cast. I struggled to enjoy the first one when I read it a couple of years ago. The premise is that teens can be summarily transported to an alternate reality that is much less pleasant than our own. While the author did a good job in differentiating and varying the characters, I didn't like any of them particularly and I thought the end was rushed. The fact that ot was written in present tense did not help matters. The sequel is marginally better and I was able to empathize somewhat with the protagonists, although once again it is written in present tense. Now there are problems in the original world because it is believed that some individuals are collaborating with the evil forces. Anyone who manages to escape abduction is suspect, and that leads to a whole different kind of adventure. Extra points to the author for creating a fairly original world and an interesting plot set therein. 4/5/18

Cimmerian Rage by Loren L. Coleman, Ace, 2005

Although Grimnir and his raiders have been driven back, they are merely regrouping and the attacks continue along the entire frontier. Most of this middle volume in the trilogy involves random skirmishes and peripheral adventures as Grimnir sends a henchman to track down his enemy and Kern has to decide whether or not to appeal to Aquilonia for help. The Cimmerians, as usual, are quarreling among themselves and are not realistically planning for the war to come. Other than an encounter with a giant spider, this was even more routine than its predecessor. 4/3/18

After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard, Thomas Dunne, 2017, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06090-7 

Sequel to Carter and Lovecraft. At the end of that book, the protagonists had inadvertently changed reality and now find themselves in a world where Germany concentrated on Russia and won World War II. There is a German-American scientific project going on, but something is decidedly wrong. There is clearly a hidden agenda and there are organizations within organizations to confuse our heroes, who find themselves providing security for a project supported by ugly sea creatures, a secret cult within the German government, and other entities. This was great fun from beginning to end, and there is clearly more to come in at least one more volume. Mixes horror, science fiction, and fantasy and makes it all work. 4/2/18

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