Saturday, 18 January 2020

Masters and Mages Trilogy

Masters and Mages Trilogy
Cold Iron,
Dark Forge
Bright Steel

            Miles Cameron is not an author I am familiar with, but he has a vast body of fantasy work, according to the fly-leaves of his books, that I have never heard of, so where have I been all my literary life?  Well, never mind – I have soldiered through this mighty trilogy, and lived to tell the tale.
            I have to say that I spent a fair bit of the first book trying to square Mr Cameron’s parallel fantasy world with the helpful map he provided in ‘Cold Iron’ (which is the name of a secret society of spies bent on saving the known world from destruction), with our European world in Medieval times (I have to know these things!), and have cleverly deduced that the action takes place around the Mediterranean, between Greece and Turkey, where lowly farm boy  Aranthur Timos is a scholarship student at the prestigious Studion in the great city of Megara.  He is reminded often of his lack of status by the other students but manages to survive because he is resourceful, naturally gifted with magic powers (which is why he is at the school) and a clever swordsman – he even spent his rent money on a mysterious old sword that he purchased at the market, never dreaming that it would save his life more than once - because it can talk. 
            And in return for becoming his arm of fire, the sword wants a favour, too:  to be freed from its metal prison, so that it once again may become a mighty Paladin. 
            Oh, there’s something for everyone here!  From Aranthur’s reluctant initiation into Cold Iron, to his blooding as a warrior in the war against The Pure, the terrifying hierarchy of powerful Mages so determined to control universal power that they manage to split the sky asunder, making a Dark Forge that grows bigger every day.  It is up to Aranthur and his loyal band of friends (and a supernatural lover) to defeat these ghouls so that the world can survive – all very well, thinks Aranthur as he wields Bright Steel, but he loathes killing, and he must do much of it on his reluctant path to be a Lightbringer, a Magos powered for good.

            Mr Cameron has a mighty imagination and a tremendous gift for writing thrilling, heart-stopping prose.  Poor old Aranthur is under attack on every second page, but as this is fantasy he wins each encounter – sometimes by the skin of his teeth, but he’s the larger-than-life hero, so it’s only fitting, and his mates deserve a special mention, too – a more motley band couldn’t be found anywhere else.  And there’s even a Chinese Dragon on the side of the good guys:  what more could one want!  FIVE STARS    


Sunday, 5 January 2020

The Last to See Me, by M. Dressler.

          This is a big story packed into a little volume.  Ms Dressler is writing a series entitled ‘The Last Ghost’, and Book One contains only 264 pages, but enough action to fill a book twice the size:  narrator Emma Rose Finnis is a very busy spirit!
            She died more than 100 years ago, and haunts a stately old home in a small tourist village in Northern California.  Benito used to be a timber town until the trees were all felled and the mills closed;  now, it bolsters its faltering economy by promoting itself as a charming tourist destination, a restful and scenic coastal break from San Francisco to the South.  The mansion Emma ‘occupies’ was the home of the Lambry family, the original timber barons and uncrowned royalty of the area;  now old Alice Lambry has died and her distant heirs, who have no interest in the property, want the place sold.
            So far, there has been scant interest – until local agent, ‘timid little Ellen DeWight’ (Emma likes her and hasn’t tried to scare her silly – yet.) brings Mr and Mrs Dane to visit.  He is a rich developer, interested only in the land and the house’s position;  his wife wants to gut the place, removing all the wonderful architectural features that make the property a treasure, but their whispered plans in the butler’s pantry enrage Emma so much that she locks them in, turns off the lights and starts filling the pantry with water.  There.  That will teach them a lesson!
            And it does.  They are almost in a state of collapse (Mrs Dane wet herself!), but Emma reckons without Mr Dane’s zeal and determination to close the deal:  he wants that property now more than ever, and hires a ‘ghost cleaner’, the very best, to get rid of her.
            Emma had this reader in an iron and ghostly grip as she recounts her tactics to outwit Philip Pratt, the man who states that he was born to eradicate ghosts, shades and phantoms.  He is absolutely committed to hunting down and sending Emma off to the local graveyard, where she rightly belongs:  she, naturally (or not) resists with all her supernatural might, and as the story progresses we learn the sad circumstances of Emma’s eighteen years of life, and her efforts to remain what she has always striven to be – a free spirit.
            Ms Dressler has given us a beautifully written, tightly plotted introduction to her series.  I could say I’m dying to read Book Two, but that doesn’t sound right – I’ll look forward to it, instead!  FIVE STARS