What’s In A Name?: Tales from the Lost Horizon
By Michael Eging
A hearty band of elves led by Vondrall must confront the dangers lurking in the bowels of Thunderer Mountain to fulfill their king’s ill-advised promise to bring back a treasured gift. To achieve their quest, they must defeat the dragon whose only vulnerability lies in its name and stave off greedy rivals from the human realm. Can Vondrall and his band claim the dragon’s treasure and live to tell about it? The answer to this secret lies in the pages of Eging’s epic short story.
I very much enjoyed this short read. The story is rich in imagery and has a fair bit of humor. It’s a legend that would fit in well into his forthcoming “Song of Roland” fantasy series. It kindled my interest in reading more from the Lost Horizon and tales of Thunderer. I give this story five stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy.
What’s In A Name? is now available at:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” is the enchanting tale of two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are mortally bound to one another in a magic competition where the outcome preordains that only one of them will survive. Forced into a rivalry created by their mentors, the magicians Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. A.H_, who groom and equip their young protégés with magic abilities to use in a final confrontation, Celia and Marco find themselves inextricably in love. The enigmatic Night Circus that moves around the world from city to city and is only open to the public at night serves as the forum for this game to which the two young magicians are unwillingly a part.
Morgenstern has a gift for descriptive language that paints intricate images of the characters and scene settings. The story’s magical theme extends to the author’s writing as she slips in vague references and sleights of hand to describe the scene in unexpected ways. Her skillful use of point of view and second-person present tense makes the story all the more fanciful. Her prose is captivating. The author’s ability to migrate the story from different perspectives and places makes it all the more compelling, although it can be an exercise in patience keeping all the perspectives, characters, places, and dates straight.
The story has moments of greatness, from the formation of the circus and the untimely deaths of some of its actors to a fascinating, surprise conclusion. However, the narrative at times stagnates as Morgenstern devotes substantial space to painting scenes in such vivid detail that it detracts from the plot. One can spend pages trying to decipher which information is relevant to the story or is extraneous. It leaves the reader wondering why some details were included when they seemingly lead to dead ends. The storyline plods along so long that Morgenstern rushes to bring it to an uncharacteristically messy conclusion. The narrative’s fits, starts, stops, and pickups may leave readers with the impression that novel is not unlike a wood-fired, iron horse locomotive struggling to pull the Night Circus’ boxcars up a steep mountain pass en route to their next destination.
Morgenstern’s writing is indeed magical. For that I give “The Night Circus” four stars and recommend her novel to anyone with an interest in magic, the darker arts, or a great example of using allusion and imagery. The book won’t disappoint.
The Night Circus is now available at:
Beyond Hades by Luke Romyn
To call Luke Romyn’s “Beyond Hades” a thrill ride would be an understatement. His mashup of Greek mythology and science fiction took me to so many dimensions in such a hurry that the only metaphor I can come up with is riding a roller coaster. It’s quite a rush. When you close his book and the adventure is over, you may be left shaking your head and wondering, “What did I get myself into?”
The first book in the “Prometheus Wars” series (not to be confused with the recent Ridley Scott movie), “Hades” tells the story of Talbot Harrison, an archeologist who must step in to help the U.S. military close a portal to another dimension opened by his brother Thomas, an expert in Greek mythology who disappeared through the gateway, before the mythical creatures of Greek lore enter our world and destroy it. Backed by a military rendered ineffective against giant monsters unleashed upon the Earth, Talbot embarks on a journey through multiple dimensions, from Atlantis to Mount Olympus to Tartarus, to close the portal between dimensions before they merge into one and humanity perishes. Talbot falls in with Wes, an almost superhuman Australian Special Armed Services commando with a good aim, quick wit, and vulgar tongue. Together they fight to save the world before the monsters do them in.
The twists and turns in this story as it passes from dimension to dimension make for a ride that leaves the reader both enthralled and perplexed. The narrative left me in anticipation as it carried me through Romyn’s universe as I wondered what or where Talbot would go next. The heavy reliance on mythological creatures and name spellings I had never heard of – such as “Kharon” instead of the more common spelling Charon – left me confused at times. Eventually, I figured it out like a roller coaster rider when the car pulls into the station. Kudos to Romyn for doing his research and laying out a comprehensive, if not completely accurate, portrayal of Greek mythology. I’m looking forward to finding out if he did the same for Norse myths in the follow-up, “Slaves of Valhalla.”
Romyn’s thriller really is unbelievable with all of its fantastic imagery, but that’s not a criticism. It’s highly unlikely you will read about a garbage truck teleporter or a human putting Zeus in a chokehold in any other novel. Once you suspend belief, anything, including the transformation of Talbot from academic geek to warrior in mere days, is possible.
I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it with one caveat. If you’re looking for anything other than a nonstop adrenaline rush akin to watching a bloody action-packed video game, be sure to check your bag at the door.
Beyond Hades is now available at: