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

 LAST UPDATE  3/8/23

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Grand Central, 2023

The latest Pendergast novel is mostly about his friend Constance who travels magically back to 1880 - making this a fantasy - in an effort to rescue her sister, who died in a work house. Unfortunately, the sister has been spirited away by the mysterious Dr. Leng, supposedly a doctor but really a serial killer. In the present Pendergast attempts to find a way to bring her back. In the past, she refuses to abandon her quest and puts herself in danger. There are several good scenes in the novel  - which is actually only half of the novel, ending in a cliffhanger. That said, I only marginally enjoyed, probably in part because it was not what I expected and had been looking forward to. The lack of a conclusion is also a negative. 3/8/23

Quest for the White Witch by Tanith Lee, DAW, 1978 

Final volume in a trilogy. Vazkor is a powerful sorcerer who sets out on a quest to find and kill his mother, an equally powerful sorceress. He has various adventures along the way and learns a good deal about himself before the final confrontation. The story is hampered by the breadth of his power he can cure wounds, control the weather, generated deadly bursts of force, restore youth, etc. This means that he is never really in danger. He is also arrogant and lacks affection, which makes him more of an anti-hero than anything else. Not one of my favorites by this author. 3/3/23

Vazkor, Son of Vazkor by Tanith Lee, DAW, 1978 

Sequel to The Birthgrave. The protagonist is the son of the superhuman female from the first book, although she substituted him for an ordinary infant and he grew up believing himself to be the son of a tribal chief, despite his unusual strength and recuperative powers. He is not a nice person. After various adventures, he discovers his true lineage, becomes outcast from his tribe, is briefly a tortured and then a pampered prisoner in one of the cities, is condemned to death but escapes, and ends the book casting off in a boat in search of new lands. Not nearly as powerful as its predecessor. 3/38/23

The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee, DAW, 1975

A woman wakes up under a volcano with amnesia. She is a survivor of a cruel elder race who once enslaved humanity although it is not entirely clear that they were not human themselves. She has healing powers and other magical abilities, including being able to recover from being dead and climb out of her grave. She has adventures with villagers, bandits, soldiers, and a chariot race before encountering another of her kind, who is seizing power over one group of cities in order to conquer several others. The world is an unpleasant one and the protagonist is not a particularly nice person, but the story has power in its language and its gradual portrayal of a somewhat atypical fantasy world. I never cared for the ending, which tries to rationalize everything, but the book is still powerful and gripping. 2/19/23

The Dragon Hoard by Tanith Lee, Tempo, 1971 

Tanith Lees debut novel was for children. Its a cute, somewhat silly, quest story drawn from familiar fairy tales. A young prince sets out to steal treasure from a fierce dragon. He gains allies along the way and succeeds despite efforts by a nasty sorceress to sabotage his efforts. The dragon is taking some personal time and does not appear in the story, so our heroes simply gather up the treasure and leave. An evil sorceress tries to interfere.  Fun but slight. 2/14/23

Dead Country by Max Gladstone, Tor, 2023, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-9591-7

I burned out on fantasy novels a while back, so I was surprised to discover this author had written so much during my lapse of interest. I read and enjoyed some of the earlier novels in the Craft series, but I felt as though I was coming to it for the first time. This appears to be the opening volume in the final arc. The protagonist has clearly had more than her share of adventure and danger already and deserves a rest, which obviously is not in the cards. When she meets a young girl on her way home to her father's funeral, she is caught up in yet another struggle against the forces of chaos. Gladstone has created a distinct fantasy world for this series, wirh an underlay of rampant capitalism. He has a deceptively light handed narrative style that leads one easily through sometimes complex situations. I should go back and fill in the books that I missed. 2/1/23

Its All in Your Mind by Robert Bloch, Curtis, 1971 

This was an expansion of the 1955 short story The Big Binge. A cloddish protagonist is exposed to an experimental machine, after which he can literally strip women naked by looking at them. He suppresses the power with alcohol, but that allows him to physically manifest his hallucinations. Further exposure, designed to cure him, just makes things worse. At one point he creates ten duplicates of himself and forms a football team. The comedy is rather forced and sometimes pretty juvenile. 1/6/23

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