Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fantasy for the Twenty-First Century

The Cost of Haven: Book 1 of the Great CitiesThe Cost of Haven: Book 1 of the Great Cities by F.F. McCulligan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A disgraced knight; a merchant of dubious virtue; an athletic butler; and a mysterious, silent royal guard. These are among the central characters in this engrossing tale of danger, treachery, and war among humans, dragons, and the undead.

When Deagan Wingrat--oops, Sir Deagan Wingrat--is summoned to his lord's castle he knows it's not a good sign, and he also knows he lacks the temperament needed to mollify an angry ruler. He knows he's done something serious, but it takes us a while to learn what to think of his crime, an oathbreaking so serious that it costs him his knighthood and his beloved war horse. Out of a job and out of the social system that has shaped his entire life, Deagan is at a loss for what to do. As the reader might expect, trouble finds him soon enough, placing his life at risk but also offering a chance at rewards he never allowed himself to expect.

The Cost of Haven is the first volume of a planned fantasy trilogy, set in a world in which formerly prosperous feudal cities are in danger, trading parties are attacked by zombie-like fighters, and in which old loyalties can no longer be trusted. As the central characters try to defend against the rotters, though, it appears that they are acting under some kind of supernatural direction, but how and from whom? The campaign by Deagan and his comrades to defeat the rotters leads to pitched battles, searches for secret passages, and difficult physical and psychological challenges.

The characters and their relationships are well drawn; the adventure is complicated enough to demand the reader's attention and to leave open the possibility of real danger to the main characters; and the plot has enough unexpected twists to keep even a fantasy veteran (not that I'm anything close to that) interested. The author moves skillfully between different times, different settings, and different points of view without losing the reader: as you figure things out you appreciate your accomplishment as you enjoy the unfolding plot.

You should buy and read this, not just to support my son the author, but also because it's a good book.


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