Two unsuspecting office workers sojourn from modern times, upending a magical medieval world in this entertaining fantasy adventure.
When a melee of warriors and werewolves, accompanied by a small tornado, breaks out on a Boston street, mild-mannered call center rep Rick Frith and ill-behaved sales manager Stephen Prescott fall through a manhole into a space-time portal. They emerge in the Valley, a melting pot of medieval societies. Greek-like Heccan goat herders, German-esque Narician horsemen, Slavic-type shapeshifters and French-modeled Kerosian witches make their home there, all overshadowed by the encroaching empire of the Romanic Skyrran Council. Rick, a nerdy devotee of sword-and-sorcery fantasies, is thrilled until he realizes that his counterpart Stephen, a handsome, muscle-bound meathead who can actually heft a blade, cuts a far more heroic figure in the eyes of the Valley’s inhabitants. Pursued by the realm’s Byzantine political factions, who surmise that the duo somehow figure into a 1,284-year-old prophecy about The World Breaker, Rick and Stephen fall into the clutches of thuggish Narician chieftain Omma and devious Skyrran ambassador Ptereseus. In this first installment of his All Prophets are Liars series, Blais reworks the usual fantasy tropes into a sharp, funny culture clash. At sea in a grungily realistic, if slightly enchanted environment, Rick finds himself low man on the totem pole in a place that rudely violates all his romantic preconceptions about the feudal world. Meanwhile, Omma and Ptereseus ponder the baffling alchemy behind Rick’s zippered synthetic warm-up clothes, his walkman and Mortal Kombat II CD, which seem to have captured the very souls of the damned. Blais sets his fish-out-of-water story against a rich imaginary landscape teeming with arresting creations, including â€œit,” a nameless god fallen on such hard times that it must hitch rides on passing spiders to get about. The author, who has a master’s degree in medieval studies, expertly blends his authority of the age with a cunning knack for invention.
Charming, fanciful kickoff to a promising new series.