In the second volume of a three-part series, Joe weaves an epic tale of vengeance, great battles, guardian giants, a prince of darkness and a brave knight from the underworld.
When Rhymes Ramose’s sister is killed, he vows to avenge her death by doing no less than wiping out the human race. Steeped in the storytelling tradition of ancient lore, the novel is told through layers: Capt. John Coiners tells Keith Black the story, which was told to Coiners by Treeon Littlewood, an immortal being. As it turns out, Keith Black, the pilot of the spaceship the Red Dragon, went in search of a replacement golden eagle—“an eagle with a head like a crow and…gold in colour”—after his son burned the first and was imprisoned for the crime. But the main thread of the novel follows the Black Knight, who was the former ruler of the underworld, though he’s just a highwayman now, and Thousand Boils, the Prince of Darkness, on their quest to Mount Kina in order to find the Fiddle of Doom, which has the power to capture an immortal’s soul—essential to defeating evil, murderous Rhymes Ramose. The plot, which relies too much on dialogue that’s often relayed without attribution, can be difficult to understand. On the ambitious, heroic journey, the strengths of the narrative can also be weaknesses: While Joe invents a large cast of interesting, unusual characters, they often appear with little context or explanation as to who or what they are. Likewise, Joe creates a dense mythology, little of which is explained. Set in a sketchy, confusing Earth-like world, the novel has real places next to mythical locales, spaceships mixing with ancient objects, and pop culture references mingling with Greek myths. Joe superbly creates a tense showdown of two powerful armies and harks back to medieval modes of storytelling, creating various songs and poems for characters to deliver in the prose. Yet, confined to genre conventions, the epic journey achieves only limited success.
A bold attempt at classic fantasy that fails at its heroic quest.