Sunday, October 09, 2011
It's not often you come across a new Fantasy that has the combination of a great plot, thoughtful, exciting characters and brilliantly conceived magic, all presented with lucid and stylish prose. Trail of Deceit by Ken Enderby and Greg Rickards is one of these rare and wonderful novels. It is the kind of story that deserves to have its own cult following. I already miss the characters that have come alive in the telling. Five very different individuals form an unlikely partnership to quest for Talaraia, an ancient and sacred relic lost long ago, possessing powers thought to enable communication with the gods.
The novel opens with the death of a man forced into a flooding river by the magical power of a cruel and ruthless enemy. In the stunning prologue we are thrust into the heart of the mystery, witness to a death through the eyes of both the murderer and his victim.
"Every secret kept by this man belonged to the spellcaster now. Those secrets – and tonight's death – were pledges of bloodshed to come, but that death had been deserved. The guilt for what lay ahead would be the victim's."
The chill reality that somewhere in the story someone will die in this heartless way creates instant tension, as we take the journey with the main characters and many interesting minor characters.
We travel with Troran, the experienced yet ethical military leader, the beautiful Lady Virdyn, privileged by wealth and status yet desperate to test her magic in difficult circumstances, Lord Kaiyl, the self-important spellcaster and ruler of a vast but near bankrupt estate, and the Respected Airu, a retired priestess and healer who is keeper of the expedition’s secrets. By finding Talaraia and returning the throne to its rightful owner, each hopes for some form of life-changing reward - personal, financial, religious or magical.
Two items inspire their quest into the wilds. One is a conventional scroll found buried in a Temple library. The other is an ancient artefact called a layered panorama – a box that displays an illusion which transports the viewer into a cityscape where untold wonders await. Sabotage from an elusive opponent dogs the expedition from the outset – threats, theft, arrest, even a deadly poisoning – anything to thwart their endeavours. Even departing the city becomes a struggle.
As the story unfolds, the reader becomes like a spy or confidant, privy to more than any one partner reveals to the other. The tension builds as we wonder when the key elements of the tale will converge. Will the partners ever learn to trust each other? Who amongst these adventurers will be doomed and who will triumph?
Trail of Deceit is set in a superbly detailed alternative world. It is a mystery and a romance, with some delightfully funny moments. Above all, though, it is an adventure for our times, for the expedition leaves behind the West, where a familiar, green ecosystem has been imposed upon the indigenous and antagonistic red flora, and journeys East into lands where alien creatures hold sway. Devotion to the gods and trust in their magic makes our characters feel superior, but as they get nearer their destination their magic is challenged by something dark and alien. In the ensuing crisis the characters must face a test of their self-worth and of what it is they truly value.
The cover of the novel depicts a creature gifted to Troran in the opening chapter, partly reconstructed using magic. At first sight it simply looks evil, but on closer scrutiny it becomes clear that the creature is winking at the reader. This unsettling image was brilliantly conceived by Nick Stathopolous, the award winning Sydney artist, well-known in speculative fiction circles.
The power of this novel is all the greater because of the partnership between the two authors, Ken Enderby and Greg Rickards. Ironically, the prologue described earlier was the last thing ever written by Greg, who passed away suddenly and tragically at the age of forty-nine. This vibrant and resonant story still begged to be told, so Ken continued the work, both as a tribute to his friend and as a channel for the wonders they imagined together. Trail of Deceit is entirely unique and, as such, deserves a special place on any bookshelf.
- Reviewed by Margi Curtis
THE TRAIL OF DECEIT by Ken Enderby and Greg Rickards is a Distant Realms Pty Ltd publication. Distributed by Dennis Jones and Associates, it is available in all good Australian bookstores. Or you can buy it as an e-book from: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Trail-of-Deceit/book-1GIjvsm_okOtjDyca4JReQ/page1.html
Monday, August 08, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
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Saturday, May 28, 2011
Melbourne's speculative fiction and pop culture convention, Continuum 7 - Changing Consciousness, is set to feature a number of events for fans and practitioners of http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifspeculative poetry. The festival is held 10 to 13 June 2011.
Check out their website, http://continuum.org.au/, for all information and bookings.
As an Australian fantasy poetry publisher, P'rea Press will hold panels, a workshop, and offer sales of books at the convention. Events of interest to poetry lovers:
A poetry panel: What Rhymes With Corpse?, panelists Kyla Ward, Talie Helene, Earl Livings, Danny Lovecraft
10am Saturday 11 June 2011.
A poetry workshop: Searchers After Weird Poetry Haunt Strange, Far Places: A Fantasy Poetry Workshop, conducted by Danny Lovecraft
10am Monday 13 June 2011 & Danny Lovecraft will be doing a reading: 3.20pm Sunday 12 June 2011.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Collects this author's pioneering essays and reviews concerning the California Romantic poets and other writers of weird fiction and poetry.
The first novel-length fragment of Atlantean literature yet discovered and translated via the French by Donald Sidney-Fryer.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Leigh Blackmore, editor for Issue 5, presents another jammed packed edition of Midnight Echo as the magazine launches into it's third year. It's been well documented that this Issue has had some delays in getting to the virtual news-stands so the question becomes was the wait worth it? Let's have a look between the covers and make a call.
Festivities kick off with an interesting enough editorial from Leigh Blackmore in which he questions what can be done with horror, and explains his reasoning behind story selection for the Issue. One of the on going discussions around ScaryMinds circles is just what constitutes a horror outing, the changing visage of the genre, and to an extent are the old tropes worn out or do they still have some killing fields in them. Blackmore approaches similar ground and boldly states what he thinks, with of course the included stories (from a massive submission pile) backing up his view point. Special bonus here folks is the inclusion of last year's winners of the AHWA Short Story and Flash competition, and both are very memorable for differing reason. Leigh Blackmore lays down a good foundation for the Issue, well I enjoy a well written editorial at least, and it's on to the shake and bake of the action works themselves.
Guess most people are dialling into the magazine to get their read on with the story selection. Issue Five comes at us with eighteen short story or flash pieces that should get a nod of approval from the punters without too many problems. Included are of course Jason Fischer's award winning flash piece "Goggy", I can't praise this piece enough, it's quintessential flash while get a real chill happening. And Christopher Green's simply excellent "Letters Of The Once And Newly Dead", that blew away the AHWA Short Story judging panel in 2010. Issue Five is worth an investment on Green's entirely unique take on the zombie yarn alone.
Other stand-out stories in the Issue are Christopher Sequeira's Cthulhu Mythos inspired "Too Many Number 16's", with its Stephen-King style lead character, good mix of an urban cynical character with one of the traditional story threads right there. John Goodrich lays down the gore track with the amazing "God Of Chickens", like a good Harold Pinter outing it works but try figuring out exactly how! And for an entirely new twist on a horror standard, Rick Kennett's flash piece "On The Other Side" surprises with a superb twist that had me sitting up and taking notice.
I'm in danger of outliving my welcome here, but allow me to mention a few more highlights in the prose headlights and we'll move on. Jason Fischer has been kicking some goals on the short story front just recently, and "Hunting Rufus" continues a recent sub-genre trend of the killer kangaroo yarn. Absolutely loved this story with it's almost apocalyptic nod at the conclusion. And finally Felicity Dowker makes a welcome return to Midnight Echo with the wonderfully blood dripping "That Which We Create". Makes you wonder what sort of graffiti they have in Melbourne tunnels really. There's a hint of the Lovecraft in this story as well, though I would tend to put it outside the Mythos. Anyway, superb twist on the urban nightmare with victims that have you questioning whether or not they deserve their fates.
For the wine and cheese set there are also twenty four poems to get their teeth into. As stated elsewhere I'm not your go-to-guy with poetry, limited audience not many of whom actually read ScaryMinds, so have no idea. But worth mentioning for those who weigh their magazine purchasing on content quantity. Sorry if that sounds slightly cynical, but if you had to sit through undergraduate poetry you to would be reaching for either a loaded gun or a bottle of single malt. We need a poetry reviewer around these parts!
Issue five contains some pretty cool special features, that had me high fiving the imaginary corpses in the basement. Scott Wilson managed to get an interview with Jeff Lindsay, the Author behind the Dexter books, giving some insight to a Psycho killer writer and a hint of what we might expect in the future from Miami's one man vigilante unit. Another one for the wine and cheese team, artist Chris Mars is interviewed by Juliet Bathory. And to round things out we even get a graphic story from Mark Farrugia & Greg Chapman that pitches an ancient evil onto the battlefields of World War One. Anyone else starting to think that maybe there's something for everyone in what amounts to a sampler bag for horror?
The regular features add the necessary details to our experience. Sinister Reads once again highlights books, and in this case a couple of graphic novels, to keep your eye out for. A couple of titles there that I will be for sure adding to the reading queue. And we get Author and Artist bios for those wanting to explore individual contributors further.
Providing the final gloss to the magazine, Juliet Bathory and David Schembri continue the high level of artwork Midnight Echo has claimed right from the very first issue. On the visual front you are going to be having a lot of fun with the issue.
Okay so clearly I had a lot of fun with Issue Five, and to answer the question posed at the top of this review, yes very much worth the wait. If you want to score your own copy then browse on over to the AHWA shop and for a low $3.00 you can download a pdf of the magazine or for $11.00 you can order a print version.
ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...Nine Stars out of Ten
Leigh Blackmore almost delivers the perfect horror mag, less poetry more movie reviews!