Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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The Grand Design by John Marco

Bantam Spectra, April 2000
Trade Paperback, 592 pages
ISBN: 0553380222
Ordering information:

The Grand Design
by John Marco King Richius Vantran is living in exile with his wife and daughter in the land of Lucel-Lor. After the death of Emperor Arkus, the country exploded in civil war and there is no other safe place to live for the war hero and displaced monarch of Aramoor. But Count Renato Biagio, who is determined to oust the current Emperor of Nar, Bishop Herrick, has other plans for his enemy Richius whom he blames for the death of Emperor Arkus, who was like a father to Biagio. Biagio, plotting from his home island of Crote, sends spies to kidnap Richius' daughter. Meanwhile, Richius has gone to help the seafaring nation of Liss in its vendetta against Biagio, and Bishop Herrick is busy fighting various wars to ensure that he remains the Emperor and spiritual leader of the world. But the grand design of the cunning and machiavellian Count Biagio is soon to ensnare all of the players in this titanic struggle for power. Who will remain standing after the wars and political maneuverings, and at what personal cost?

This is the second entry in the Tyrants and Kings series, which began with The Jackal of Nar. Unlike many middle books in a trilogy fantasy series, this one may actually outshine the first book -- no easy feat. Count Renato Biagio really comes into his own in this book. He is a powerfully mesmerizing character. Capable of incredibly evil acts, he is nevertheless a brilliant strategist and can be surprisingly compassionate. In fact, it's a bit horrifying to find that for all his cruelty, you may actually be rooting for Biagio to win at times (at least, when he's not torturing someone). But all of John Marco's characters are complex. The evil villains are never all bad, and the heroes certainly have flaws, which makes for rich and interesting characters with believable motivations. The pacing is excellent and the action never lets up from the first page to the surprising ending. Marco just gets better and better; his work is refreshingly original and stacks up against the best in the epic fantasy genre. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

Atlantis Rising: The True Story of a Submerged Land Yesterday and Today by Robert Sullivan, Drawings by Glenn Wolff

Simon and Schuster, 1999.
Hardcover, 95 pages.
ISBN: 0684855240.
Ordering information:

Cover of Atlantis Rising: The True Story of a Submerged Land Yesterday and Today
by Robert Sullivan, Drawings by Glenn Wolff Atlantis: no other name conjures up such a romantic image as the lost culture which many believe made its home on the island of Santorini. Robert Sullivan, author of Flight of the Reindeer, turns his journalistic and investigative talents to the mystery of Atlantis. Sullivan, while looking for a new subject for his next book, meets a sort of "deep throat" in the form of the mysterious guide Atwater, who leads Sullivan to the truth: that the Atlanteans survived the terrible cataclysm which destroyed their world, and that they devolved into underwater creatures which roam our seas today helping people. With tongue firmly in cheek, Sullivan takes us on his "scientific" journey including to the historic meeting between two scuba divers with the Atlanteans (who by now look a bit like manatees). Sullivan describes how even modern day celebrities, such as Clive Cussler and Senator Ted Kennedy are working behind the scenes to assist the Atlanteans, and gives marvelous anecdotes about the Atlanteans activities (they totally disrupted the set of the film Waterworld which they mistook for a prelude to a war on the oceans.)

Atlantis Rising is a wonderful "reference" book which reads like a really good episode of National Geographic. You can almost believe in the beneficent Atlanteans, who are kind and helpful. The illustrations of talented artist Glenn Wolff are integral to the story and are beautifully rendered. This is a wonderful and well-imagined book which lovers of the myth of Atlantis are sure to enjoy.

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