In this fantasy debut, a man with everything going wrong in his everyday life finds himself transported to a magical realm on the brink of cataclysm.
Math whiz and former derivatives broker Bartholomew Waxman of Vancouver, British Columbia, is jobless. He’s hit bottom after living the high life and cheating on his now-ex-wife, Barb. Desperate to pay the rent on his firetrap apartment, Bart decides to interview for a job at fast-food restaurant Burger Buddha. Manager Tony Threebears hires him, but after the interview, Bart suffers a strange out-of-body experience. Meanwhile, in the realm of Drageverden, two magical schools prepare for war. The benign Zhin and the malevolent Han have displaced a race of dragons called the Uktena. Algarth Willowbrow, the last living ZhinFantha (wizard-warrior) of the Sitting Six, dwells in the spell-fortified fortress of Phandomer’s Rock. One day, he’s attacked by evil wizard Grailborn, who’s broken a crystal branch from the enchanted Forest of Chakshsist for the purpose. Algarth, however, is a worthy foe who can balance positive and negative magics into a singular force. As their fight begins, Bart journeys into a place called the Between, where he must choose between the void—ending his life—or a destiny revolving around the Key of Life, which can bring peace to Drageverden. In this smashingly good debut, Lindley treads as closely as possible to a parody of the fantasy genre while also retaining an epic feel. Humor abounds, as when Bart “delivered himself like a death-row inmate to the front counter” of Burger Buddha. Later, he has an exceptionally hard time making it to the battlefield; in the Between, he matches wits with the Guardian of the Gate, whose rules result in Bart’s experiencing numerous violent “deaths”—delaying his arrival in Drageverden. Lindley intriguingly draws on Native American culture with antlered serpents called the Uktena; also, Tony knows from reservation life that sometimes people just need a second chance. The annihilation of the village of Driish, meanwhile, will prove to readers that anything can happen in this chaotic, inventive opening to a series.
A hilarious tale that has fun with fantasy tropes while also living up to their grandeur.