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

 LAST UPDATE 3/30/19

The Ring of Allaire by Susan Dexter, Del Rey, 1981 

The apprentice to a murdered wizard sets out to find a magical horse and the rightful heir to Calandra and convince them both to accompany him on a quest to waken the enchanted woman Allaire, who is destined to be queen but who has been abducted by the evil Nimir. He finds the rightful heir – except there’s a catch, a magical intelligent horse and cat, and wakens the sleeping beauty after defeating an ice dragon. But things are not what they appear to be. Mostly well done but there are sudden changes in tone that are jarring. 3/30/19

Warautumn by Tom Deitz, Avon, 2002  

Fourth and final volume in a series, and also Deitz’s final book. All of the characters are well scattered and some of the magical artifacts on which they depend have also been lost. The civil war is growing more severe, aided by a cult of renegade priests. There is a good deal of wandering around and the two armies that have been facing each other for several hundred pages are still not engaged. Their leaders finally agree to single combat, but the king returns from the wilderness to kill the rebel leader – rather treacherously as a matter of fact – and then free his seat of power from the usurpers.  Deitz could plot well, but he had an apparently incurable urge to provide unnecessary detail in large quantities. 3/27/19

Summerblood by Tom Deitz, Avon, 2001

The third book in this series takes a slightly different turn. The nation of Eron is now apparently safe from its bellicose neighbor, but a rogue element within the priest class has decided that possession of the magical gems gives the king too much power. A bunch of new characters are introduced and the story diverges into multiple directions as each of them has his or her own mission to complete. The king is rather ineffectual despite his power, the rebels rather illogical in some of their assumptions, and there is more detail than was really necessary or even welcome. Surprisingly little happens in quite a long novel, which ends with the king held captive by a religious cult, his sister a prisoner in a neighboring country, and a civil war on the brink of exploding, which sets the stage for the final book in the series. 3/23/19

Fallen Angel by David B. Riley, Hadrosaur, 2019, $10.95, ISBN 978-1-885093-86-8

This is a mashup of SF, fantasy, and horror themes, not to be taken entirely seriously. The title refers to the protagonist, who is actually a kind of risen angel since she comes to Earth from Hell during the Civil War and joins General Grant's army. There is also a sibling with an even more jaded taste - in the devouring sense - in humans, as well as the discovery that Wells' Martians are planning to conquer the Earth. A little bit of everything you see. At first it appears that all has turned out for the best but after the Civil War ends, our heroine is  looking for a new purpose in life when she discovers that her sister has teamed up with the Martians and some other unlikely allies and Earth and humanity are once again in dire jeopardy. Amusing and fast paced, but don't expect any realism. 3/14/19

Springwar by Tom Deitz, Avon, 2000

Second of four books. Possession of a magical gem stone is the object of pretty much all of the characters in the novel, although the king of one nation is also determined to conquer his neighbor. His self-exiled son has returned with important information about the enemy, and a woman of that nation who has fallen in love with him. The possessor of the stone has been presumed dead by some of the other parties, but he survived the ambush at the end of the first book. The power of the gems is not entirely understood and they are unable to defeat an invading army from a neighboring country, whose own king dies while experimenting with one of the gems. One of his generals seizes power. Surprisingly, the villains are defeated and the heroes rewarded at the end of the novel, which also includes the end of the war, even though there are two more titles to follow. 3/4/19

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, Grove, 2019, $26, ISBN 978-0-8021-2903-1

This historical fantasy is set about the time when the last of the Moors were expelled from what is now Spain. While negotiations are underway, a Muslim concubine whose friend, a mapmaker, has magical powers makes the acquaintance of one of the new rulers of the area, only to discover that the friend is working with the Inquisition and views magic as invariably the work of the devil. The consequences should be obvious. So the two friends have to go on the lam, traveling across Spain in quest of a place of refuge that might not even exist. Beautifully written and a nice evocation of that historical time and place, with just enough fantasy to make things unpredictable. 3/2/19

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd, Scholastic, 2019, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-338118490

Young adult fantasy has become increasingly contemporary in its social concerns, and that's true of this one set in a fantasy mining town where the class system is rigid as well as gender roles. Boys are miners and girls are servants to the aristocratic cast. The female protagonist decides to compete in a magical competition, the prize of which will be enough money to lift her family out of poverty. But if she loses, it could mean the loss of her life as well. And naturally she uncovers the secret that underpins the entire system, and by doing so throws both the system and herself into peril. Not badly done and definitely not slowly paced. 3/2/19

Bloodwinter by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1999

First in a four volume series. This was the author’s most ambitious and most successful series despite its familiarity. In a typical fantasy world, a plague has left rival countries depleted of resources to pursue their incessant warfare. The king of one of these sends three people to harvest gems for a ceremonial purpose – a married couple and the man who raped the wife before the marriage. The husband finds a jewel that has various magical properties, which attracts the interest of a cult, the religious cast, and his rival. Elsewhere one of the sons of the other king has inadvertently killed his father’s favorite and has gone into exile. He is captured by the other country’s soldiers and learns secrets about their defenses which he hopes to trade for a pardon. The cult members have apparently killed the husband at the end of this volume, but of course we know he has actually survived. Not bad, although like all of the author’s previous novels, it is bloated with unnecessary and generally uninteresting detail. 2/26/19

A Walk in the Wolf Wood by Mary Stewart, Crest, 1980 

A fantasy novel for younger readers. Two children are on a picnic in Germany when they are suddenly transported back through time to the 14th Century. They encounter a nobleman who offended a sorcerer and has been turned into a werewolf. They help him to escape the curse and restore his social position before returning to the present. The prose is unusually erudite for a children's book and the politics more complex. Lightweight for adults but probably quite good for its target audience.2/19/19

Endgames by L.E. Modesitt Jr., Tor, 2019, $28.99, ISBN 978-1-250-29364-0

This is the twelfth book in the Imager series, which I think encompasses some of the author's best work. It's a fairly typical fantasy world but Modesitt has become an acknowledged master of the form and I am impressed by how consistently he has provided us with a steady stream of adventure stories that always seem to find some new features to keep us interested. My only complaint with his work is the frequent unpronounceable character names, which slows down we readers who subvocalize. That said, this time we follow the history of Solidar now that it has a new and rather youngish ruler who is facing a variety of challenges. His intentions are generally good. He wants the common people to share in the wealth for their own sake and not just to suppress social unrest. But naturally that means he has deadly enemies among those who stand to lose. The conflict is more political than physical this time, but it's still tense and engrossing. I wondered if the title meant this was the end of the series, but I think not. 2/17/19

Wordwright by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1993 

Third and final volume of a trilogy.  The magical power that has supported Welch county seems to have run out. Dillon, who directed the Luck, spends time trying to find a new source along with other projects, while his half sister returns, intent upon wresting the power or herself. Her efforts might destroy the very power she seeks to master.  Very talky, with little action, no real further development of the setting, and with a rather disappointingly low key ending, particularly given how long the buildup was. 2/12/19

The Ice Garden by Guy Jones, Chicken House, 2019, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-338-28533-8

The Potter's Boy by Tony Mitton, Scholastic, 2019, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-338-28539-0

Game of Stars by Sayantani Dasgupta, Scholastic, 2019, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-338-18573-7

Time for some fantasy aimed at younger readers. The first one is a rather quiet story about a lonely young girl who is allergic to the sun so that she only goes out at night. On one such excursion she finds a magical spot which eventually leads her to friendship, some mild adventure, and an awakened connection to other people. The second is a more conventional coming of age story about a boy in a primitive society who is bored by the mundane life that stretches ahead of him and becomes fascinated when he encounters a man who describes himself as part of a secret society of warriors who fight evil. So the boy leaves home to try to find them and become a warrior himself, having a series of light adventures before finding his destiny. The story is well told but unexceptional. The last title is the second in a series - I have not seen the first - and although the plot is a familiar one as well, it is the most interesting of the three. A young girl has her second series in an alternate reality that is patterned after Indian mythology. The protagonist is actually the daughter of a king in that realm, but they are not on good terms. The tone is very light - I actually think it would have been even better if taken a bit more seriously - but the setting and some of the details are marvelous. 2/5/19

Dreambuilder by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1992  

Middle volume of a trilogy about a family who has a magical control over luck – although they don’t seem to have an awful good luck for themselves. The heir does not want the position because of the restrictions that come with it. A new neighbor who is trying to build a small castle by herself is puzzled by the appearance of a man who makes quite obviously miraculous progress, though without her permission. One of the characters turns out to be an artificial construct and another can transform dreams into reality. There is good stuff here but it’s mostly in the last hundred pages and it was a bit of a struggle to get that far. 2/3/19

Soulsmith by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1991 

First volume in a trilogy. An orphan finds himself in the middle of a family feud, but this feud involves magic. The Welch family quite literally sells good luck to its clients, and one person is given the power to make all the decisions. But Matthew Welch disagrees with the person most likely to be his successor and takes magical steps to alter the situation. And rather coincidentally, the orphan turns out to be an unknown relative with arcane talents of his own. The basic story is quite good but the novel is horribly verbose, repeating information constantly and with entire sequences that do not contribute to the plot significantly. 1/31/19

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck, 1976  

Steinbeck’s final novel is a retelling of some of the Arthurian stories, including tales of Merlin, Morgan le Fay, Lancelot, Gawain, and others. He modernized the language somewhat but made few actual changes or enhancements to the original stories. So while this is well written, it is not really a significant addition to the canon, nor is it more interesting than the stories as told by any of several other writers. I’ve actually never been a fan of King Arthur and company, so this wasn’t exactly a slog but neither was it an undiluted pleasure. 1/25/19

The Demons in the Green by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1996 

The second and final Thunderbird O’Connor novel brings back the were-orcas, who now plan a major campaign of assassination within the surface world. The plot is thickened by the presence of two musicians who claims to be descended from Mayans and who have somehow awakened an ancient Mayan spirit with subsequent bad consequences for the future world in which the story is set. The first half is very slow moving with long descriptions of the world of the selkies and discussions about the mechanics and morality of shapeshifting. By the time the real story got underway, I was already thinking about what I was going to read next. 1/18/19

Above the Lower Sky by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1994 

This novel of were-orcas attacking drylanders is overly long, slow paced, and the acceptance of magic by various characters too implausible to be convincing. There is a war between dolphins and selkies on one side, and were-orcas on the other. Three people are somehow chosen by destiny to have a magical impact on the outcome, and the orcas make several attempts to kill them before that can happen. There is some interesting stuff here, but it is buried in rather slow moving intrigue. For some reason the book is set about thirty years in the future, although that seems to have no real impact on the plot. 1/8/19

Warstalker’s Track by Tom Deitz, Avon, 1999  

This was the final novel in the David Sullivan series. The ruler of Faerie has been overthrown and imprisoned and the rebels are planning to cause a major disaster in the world of men because of plans to build a resort on a mountain that impinges upon both realities. All of the various recurring characters team up to rescue the king, battle the aggressive fairies, and literally move an entire reality so that the source of the conflict will go away. One of the recurring characters dies – although death is not final for fairies – and the multiverse is reordered as the rebels are defeated and the previous king restored to his throne. 1/2/19