Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

The Sword of Angels by John Marco

DAW, September, 2005
Hardcover, 688 pages
ISBN: 075640259X
Ordering information:

The Sword of Angels
by John Marco The powerful Akari people are long dead, but their spirits live on in Grimhold, where they can fuse with certain damaged or ill humans to help them in their lives. One of the most powerful of the usually benevolent and wise Akari was the truly evil sorcerer Kahldris, whose ancient and malevolent spirit is now bound into the Devil's Armor, worn by the one-armed Baron Thorin Glass. The Baron was seduced by Kahldris with visions of helping the less fortunate, but the truth quickly becomes clear: Kahldris has enslaved the Baron and he longs for blood -- lots of it. Years ago, Kahldris' brother Malator knew that the day would come when Kahldris and the wielder of the Devil's Armor would have to be defeated, so he created the equally powerful Sword of Angels. The Sword has been lost, but Lukien the Bronze Knight has had a vision of how to find the Sword. So he sets on a journey to the Kingdom of Serpents, kept alive only by the amulet he wears that contains another powerful Akari spirit, Amaraz. But time is running out: Kahldris is impatient to have his revenge against the world, although the Baron's only son Aric is desperately trying to get the local rulers to unite against the demon who has ensorcelled his father.

Meanwhile in the city of Jador, Gilwyn Toms has left King Lorn the Wicked (who is not quite so wicked as one might think from his name) as substitute regent for the defenseless nation. King Lorn has accepted the task of training the rightful ruler White-Eye, who is now blind because her Akari spirit is gone. White-Eye is terrified of being blind, but her people need her to be strong. But she can learn much from Lorn about defending her people and fighting personal and public battles.

John Marco handles the fascinating multiple storylines with ease. The characters have depth and color and the exotic locales are richly detailed, making for a memorable and compelling world. The most moving of the storylines is that of Baron Thorin Glass, who has succumbed to the lure of the Devil's Armor. Marco portrays Thorin as a deeply conflicted, essentially good man, who struggles mightily even as he succumbs to the power of the evil Akari spirit Kahldris who will not rest until he has taken total possession of Thorin's body and soul. This is epic fantasy at its best. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

Magic Street by Orson Scott Card

Del Rey, June, 2005
Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 0345416899
Ordering information:

Magic Street
by Orson Scott Card In the middle-class African-American neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, things take a turn towards the twilight zone when one night a mysterious boy is born to a professor and his wife. The problem is, the wife wasn't pregnant before the mysterious Bag Man showed up, and minutes afterward she doesn't remember a thing that happened. The Bag Man takes the baby away in a plastic bag where he is found by two young boys. One boy tries to hurt the silent infant, but the other, Cecil "Ceese" Tucker carefully guards the child from a gorgeous woman in black leather who urges him to hurl the baby to his death. But he resists, and the child is adopted by a kind-hearted nurse who lives next door to Ceese. As the baby (now named Mack Street) grows up, it becomes clear that he has special powers. Mack knows all the desires of everyone in the neighborhood, and those desires are increasingly coming literally true -- with disastrous results for the inhabitants. When a gorgeous "motorcycle-riding hoochie mama" moves into the neighborhood, and Mack discovers an invisible house on the street that leads right into Fairyland, things go from weird to downright dangerous for the denizens of Baldwin Hills, who get caught up in a struggle among the immortal Queen Titania and King Oberon.

Challenged by a black friend who wanted to know why he never wrote any black heroes, Orson Scott Card set out to create a black urban fantasy with not one, but three interesting and fully-realized black heroes. Inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the novel is peopled with memorable characters: the appealing and good-hearted Mack, the responsible Ceese, the trickster Puck, and the seductive and manipulative Queen Titania. Magic Streetis a unique blend of magic, myth and fantasy wrapped up in a moving coming of age story: Card fans might be a bit surprised at the setting, but they'll soon see that Card works his magic in whatever he writes.

--Claire E. White

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