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

 LAST UPDATE  6/24/22

City of Wonder by E. Charles Vivian, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1922) 

This is a pretty standard lost world novel, with three adventurers trying to locate a legendary city. They succeed, obviously, despite the ghosts of Lemurians and a woman who commands a squad of bellicose apes. Unfortunately the quality of the story declines sharply when they reach the lost civilization – which is the remain of Atlantis – and get involved in a war between factions. Oddly, the author thinks they should be allowed their secrecy so that they will be spared the evils of the outside world, like war, which they just had. 6/24/22

Death of an Adept by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Ace, 1996   

Final volume in the Adept series. Sinclair’s nemesis, Raeburn, has reorganized and plans one final attempt to summon a demon. This time he kidnaps Sinclair and hopes that sacrificing a magician of his stature will do the trick. Sinclair’s friends naturally try to rescue him. He himself uses his powers to appeal for help to mysterious entities, and they grant his wish. The villain is finally dispatched. The convenience with which the good guys get supernatural help in the nick of time, and several instances of those frustratingly unhelpful prophecies and visions really spoiled this whole series for me. 6/11/22

Dagger Magic by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Ace, 1995 

Fourth in the Adept series. A German submarine from World War II is discovered in a sea cave by a group of monks who constitute a black magic lodge, as opposed to the lodge led by our hero. Initially unrelated, a section of highway is the scene of several mysterious accidents which are eventually traced to a bitter woman who is unknowingly astrally projecting her rage and causing the mishaps. The two strains of the story eventually converge as the monks join forces with an old enemy from the earlier books and our band of heroes discover the location of the submarine and arrange for it to be sunk before the evil monks can gain access to the occult and mundane treasures that it carries. Not bad, but a bit slow. 6/8/22

The Light in the Sky by Herbert Clock & Eric Boetzel, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1929)

A lost world novel. Our hero is kidnapped by a mysterious woman who takes him to an underground world where the Aztecs retreated to escape the Spaniards. Except they might be Atlanteans as well. In the cavern, they found the Fountain of Youth and the high priest established a firm rule over his people, who were now all immortal. This allowed them to develop superscience, although the secret to his power is in fact a supernatural being. When the latter menaces surface world, the high priest decides to sacrifice his own people. Turgid, confusing, boring, and horribly dated. 5/30/22

The Templar Treasure by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Ace, 1992 

Third in the Adept series. Two thieves steal the Seal of Solomon and pursue a magical scepter. Together these will allow them to plunder an arcane treasure trove once protected by the Knights Templar. Our magician hero and his friends have to figure out where the treasure is located and get there in time to prevent the bad guys from releasing an ancient demon. They succeed, of course, after a very slow moving story that is filled with historical references and elaborate ceremonies. Not nearly up to the quality level of the first two books in the series. 5/28/22

The Lodge of the Lynx by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Ace, 1992 

Second in the Adept series. Sir Adam Sinclair and his occult allies now realize that they face a plot masterminded by the Lodge of the Lynx, black magicians who seek world domination. The Lodge continues to seek out mystical artifacts, but now they know who is thwarting them. Three attempts to assassinate Sinclair all fail and in the final confrontation, the head of the Lodge faces off against Sinclair and dies. But his assistant, who has been the primary mover in the first two books, escapes to fight another battle. The ease with which magical events are covered up struck me as a bit over the top, but otherwise a pretty good contemporary fantasy. 5/23/22

The Adept by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Ace, 1991 

First in a five volume series. Sir Adam Sinclair has had a  long string of lives in which he guards the world from malignant occult forces. In our present, he meets an artist who paints the future and enlists him in an investigation of a series of thefts of objects with magical properties. They eventually battle and destroy a team from the Lodge of the Lynx, a cabal of sorcerers who seek to rule the world. Although the immediate threat is eliminated and the objects retrieved, the Lodge is still active and will be their antagonists for the rest of the series. Pacing is much better than in Kurtz’s solo novels. 5/20/22

The Enchanted Stone by Charles Lewis Hind, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1898) 

A mysterious Arab is determined to recover a gem stone that has fallen into British hands and which has great significance for him and his followers. A dreary story of intrigue and mild adventure follows. The stone has some vague magical properties which are only revealed when it is exposed to direct sunlight. Not a lost world novel, although it is labeled as such. Nor is it science fiction. 5/17/22

Two Crowns for America by Katherine Kurtz, Bantam, 1996   

The Freemasons are secretly, and magically, trying to shape the outcome of the American Revolution to their liking, but they don’t entirely succeed. George Washington is the central character, though not the protagonist. There are lots of very detailed Masonic rituals – Kurtz did like her ceremonies – but as usual they are just padding and contribute little to the story. There are some interesting sections, but I generally disliked this one, which I think is by far her weakest novel despite the interesting premise. 5/14/22

St Patrick’s Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz, Ace, 2001

An uncharacteristic novel from this author, a mildly humorous contemporary urban fantasy. The gargoyles of Dublin are all actually modified angels and one of them, Padraig, is investigating what seems like an ordinary theft, but which morphs into something much more dangerous. With an unlikely human partner, he has to visit an ancient castle where a demon is threatening to break through into the world of men, and the two of them have to thwart the evil. They do, of course. A charming book, quite my favorite of her novels, but soon after this she stopped writing. 5/11/22

Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz, Ballanine, 1983 

Hitler is using occult forces to prepare an invasion force to cross the English Channel. A secret society of witches and warlocks in England is determined to stop him by setting up a benevolent protective force. They are hampered by mundane as well as magical sabotage, the skepticism of government officials, and other difficulties, while they use magic to explore the past where Sir Francis Drake used magic to destroy the Spanish Armada. Nice idea, generally well handled, but about a hundred pages too long. 5/8/22

The Deryni Archives by Katherine Kurtz, Del Rey, 1986 

This collects most of the shorter Deryni stories, which are really just elaborations of events that took place in the novels, introducing some new details but nothing particularly surprising. The best in the collection is one in which we discover the motivation of a young man who gave up a promising future on his own in order to become personal aid to another. The least interesting is one which seems to consist solely of a description of a particular magical ceremony which otherwise has no connection to the series and which the author admits has no actual plot.  5/5/22

The Temple and the Crown by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Aspect, 2001 

The second half of the duology about the Scottish rebellion covers several years and is considerably better than its predecessor. The evil Order of the Black Swan wants to eliminate the Knights Templar. It has already gained some control over France, England, and the Papacy, and if it can secure certain magical artifacts, the whole world might be within their grasp. But our Templar heroes are determined to thwart them and to ensure that the artifacts are protected in a friendly Scotland ruled by Robert Bruce. Quite long and occasionally slow moving, but generally vry entertaining. 5/1/22

The Temple and the Stone by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris, Aspect, 1998  

First half of a duology set in 13th Century Scotland. The Highlander rebellion is the backdrop for this story of the Knights Templar seeking a new headquarters and finding themselves in the middle of a battle involving non-Christian occult entities who were once worshipped by the Picts. A magical stone indicates that the true king of Scotland – caught up in a rebellion after the extinction of the royal line led to English intervention – exists on an occult plane, although he has not been crowned. Nor will he, in the real world, but he will sacrifice himself so that Robert Bruce becomes the heir apparent. The story ends abruptly and is completed in the second volume. 4/26/22

King Kelson’s Bride by Katherine Kurtz, Ace, 2000 

This is labeled a standalone but it is really the fourth volume in the final trilogy. The king of a neighboring kingdom dies and the heir is a squire to King Kelson. The journey to bring him home is the main plot – his uncles want him dead so that they can wield the power in their kingdom- although Kelson’s frequently frustrating effort to find himself a bride and produce a direct heir is wrapped around the other events in the story. A bit too long, I thought, but for the most part this was one of the best books in the series.  4/14/22

Magic Times Three by Lyndon Hardy, Bartizan, 2019

Double Magic by Lyndon Hardy, Bartizan, 2019 

Back in the 1980s, Ballantine published three very innovative fantasy novels by this author, with an interesting system of magic. Recently he has started extending that series, and these are the fifth and sixth installments. They have gone off in a very different direction. Actually they’ve gone off in several different directions. The first one is mostly about parallel universe and time travel, with a kind of spy story woven in and magic wrapped around everything. The second feels more like science fiction. The entire galaxy is in danger and our heroes must use spaceships if they are to save the day. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t magic as well. Not quite as good as the original trilogy but this series have continued to be entertaining. 4/11/22

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