Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan

Eos, Oct., 1999.
Hardcover, 352 pages .
ISBN: 0380974614.
Ordering information:

Cover of Lord of the Fire Lands
by Dave Duncan When you see Dave Duncan's name on a book, you think of excitement, swashbuckling adventure and a rollicking good time. His second entry tale in the world of The King's Blades is all of those things, and more. The King's Blades are master swordsmen trained at the legendary school called Ironhall. When chosen by the King, each Blade undergoes a mysterious ritual in which he is bound until death to protect the person to whom he has been assigned. No one has ever refused to be bound when the King asked -- until now. Raider refuses King Ambrose himself because of a prior claim on his loyalties. At first sympathetic, King Ambrose binds young blade Wasp to Raider to assist him in a quest he must undertake. But things go awry, and soon Raider and Wasp are branded traitors and are on the run from the rest of the Blades. To find his heritage, Raider must journey to the Fire Lands with the loyal Wasp by his side. In the land of the Baels, they are ensconced in a totally different culture. The red-haired people have built an entire society on piracy. Raider and Wasp are soon up to their swords in royal intrigue, piracy and dark magic. Their experiences will change both their lives, and the fate of two countries.

The Lord of the Fire Lands is not a sequel to The Gilded Chain, the first book set in this fantasy world. Rather, it is a companion piece which throws a very different light on some of the characters and events in the first book. Duncan skillfully expands the fantasy world he has built. The Baels are a tempestuous and entertaining lot, and their addition adds much to the well-crafted fantasy world. But great swordfights and interesting background aren't all that you get. The story is also peopled with fascinating and complex characters who will hold your interest throughout this compelling tale. Don't miss it.

--Claire E. White

Memoranda by Jeffrey Ford

Eos, Oct., 1999.
Trade paperback, 230 pages.
ISBN: 0380802627.
Ordering information:

Cover of Memoranda
by Jeffrey Ford Author Jeffrey Ford burst on the fantasy scene with his World Fantasy Award-winning New York Times Notable Book, The Physiognomy. Memoranda is a sequel to The Physiognomy, the second book in a proposed trilogy. The Physiognomy introduced the evil genius Drachton Below, who created a marvelous place called the Well-Built City. Cley was a respected physiognomist, a practitioner of a wacky pseudo-science which judged people's fates by the shape of their faces and heads. Cley eventually helped lead a revolution against Drachton Below, and then went to live the simple life of a midwife and herbalist in a small town. But Drachton is far from dead, and is up to his old tricks again. When a deadly plague sent by Drachton visits Cley's community, Cley must go on a quest to find Drachton to save the town. When he arrives at the ruins of the Well-Built City, he discovers that Drachton himself has been accidentally felled by the sleeping plague. Helped by Below's demon adopted son, Misrix, Cley must travel into the Memory Palace in Drachton's own mind to find the cure for the deadly sleeping plague.

Jeffrey Ford continues the saga of physiognomist Cley in this endlessly fascinating, sometimes surreal story. The Memory Palace is an island floating above a sea of deadly mercury, in which the dreams of the sleeping Drachton are reflected. Cley meets desire, addiction, loneliness and near madness in his search. Ford is an inventive and talented writer, and he makes the sometimes vacillating and indecisive Cley seem more appealing than he perhaps should be. The Memory Palace is well-imagined, but it's Misrix the Demon who wants to be human that steals the show in this outing.

--Claire E. White

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