Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fantastic Fantasy Finds (In Which I Pick a Fantasy Book You Might not Know About but Should)

The Time of the Dark (1982)
The Walls of Air
The Armies of Daylight
by Barbara Hambly

   In California, one night, Gil, a young graduate student in Medieval history and a young biker named Rudy encounter a wizard who tells them that the infant he has with him is the heir to a kingdom in another world. They think he's crazy.
   Then the Dark, the horrifying creatures the wizard, Ingold, is fleeing, find him. As he escapes between the worlds, Gil and Rudy are swept into a brutal, Medieval realm of warring nations, kings and queens, and the Dark, swarms of sentient, slithering creatures that drain their victims of blood and only stir at night.
   Darwath isn't a generic otherworld; it's a fully realized planet, vividly detailed. The various nations are uneasy with each other, and when the Dark becomes a serious threat and the kingdom must retreat into a massive, windowless block of stone called the Keep of Dare, tensions between the religious leaders and the wizards come to a head.
   Trapped in this other realm, Gil has discovered she has a capacity for bloodshed and joins the Guard and begins wielding a sword. Rudy finds that he has a wizard's powers and has to learn how to control them. (Shapeshifting into a bug native to Earth to hide from vicious White Raiders, the enemy spots the unusual insect right away and capture him. Ingold wryly asks if Rudy has ever seen such a bug while in Darwath.) The rapport between the characters is cinema-worthy and one can only hope the ones you come to care about don't meet a gruesome end.
   In a world as scary and wondrous and chaotic as Westeros, Rudy and Gil fight against insane odds to survive. Setting contemporary characters in such a world creates a page-turning tension. I mean, really, how would you deal with being plunged into another universe? I'd be curled up in a state of catatonic shock.
   If you're looking for something to sate your Game of Thrones appetite, this series will more than satisfy it.

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