Finally, the bankers get a fantasy that doesn’t involve our pension funds.
Inaugurating a new series, prolific fantasy novelist Abraham (A Shadow in Summer, 2006, etc.) draws deeply from the treasure vault of genre conventions and tosses some aside. Almost all fantasy, Abraham has observed, derives from J.R.R. Tolkien and the faux-medieval-European worlds he created. This effort is something different, even approaching science fiction in its imaginative geography, and with a strange sort of anthropology to boot—one of the first people we meet, for instance, is an exemplar of “the thirteen races of humanity” and she has fearsome tusks to match her gigantic fingers, a sort of Tolkienesque dwarf in reverse. This ain’t your grandpa’s Tolkien, either, to judge by some of the dialogue: “Who the fuck are you?” asks a sailor, to which Strider—beg pardon, Marcus, his figurative cousin—replies, “The man telling you that’s enough.” It’s as if Clint Eastwood went to Narnia, which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad Hollywood pitch. But the setup isn’t quite as macho as all that, for in the gathering storm of Forces of Evil versus good guys, it’s a young girl, Cithrin the half-Cinnae, who’s entrusted with the secrets of the bank—and we’re not talking just any old double-entry bookkeeping either. But even the fattest wallet doesn’t stand up to a double-edged broadsword, and there things get interesting. All the makings of a standard fantasy are there: an improbable band battles seemingly insurmountable odds to save humankind and restore someone’s birthright, evil comes close to triumphing, the darkness descends and then... But Abraham avoids the excesses of formula, and if the back-and-forth is sometimes a little flat (“My Lord Issandrian forgets that this is not the first violence that your disagreements with House Kalliam have spawned”), the story moves along at a nice clip.
Will truth and justice prevail? Stay tuned. A pleasure for Abraham’s legion of fans.