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This Rough Magic (Heirs of Alexandria) Hardcover – December 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Lusciously set in alternative-history 16th-century Venice, Corfu and sinister points northeast, this huge sequel to the authors' equally massive and magnetic Shadow of the Lion will appeal to adolescents of all ages. In this world, broken off from ours in A.D. 349 (when St. Hypatia saved the Alexandrian Library), Christian magic battles blackest sorcery, with a wild card-the old, old Mother Goddess still worshipped in Corfu's mountain caves-eventually entering the fray. On the human front, young Benito Valdosta, a roistering rascal and irresistible scamp, derring-dos into modern-man maturity, even snatching Maria, his early love, from the arms of Death himself. The convincing characters range from stalwart Vinland Vikings and conniving courtiers to sex-crazed jealous wives and a fatally shape-shifting shaman, not to mention sadistic King Emeric of Hungary and Emeric's lethal great-great-aunt Elizabeth, Countess Bartholdy, who's bathed into eternal youth by gallons of virgins' blood. All express themselves in stripped-down modern American idiom and whirl through breathless action, making for hours of old-fashioned reading fun. Who needs depth, when Lackey, Flint and Freer, as mixmasters of nearly every heard-of myth, hurtle through as compelling a romp as this?
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The continuation of the alternate-history fantasy begun in The Shadow of the Lion (2001) is just as vast and absorbing. The Valdosta brothers are now ensconced in the Venetian nobility, but young Benito is not adjusting well. He is exiled to the island of Corfu, where his beloved Maria has gone with her elderly husband and new baby. Meanwhile, the demon Chernobog, who is possessing the grand duke of Lithuania, has allied with the witch-king Emeric of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire to descend on Corfu, a notable site of ancient magic. The ensuing siege of Corfu takes up two-thirds of the book, and it is almost impossible to put it down while the tension remains high. Benito redeems himself, material and magical treachery nearly overthrows the islanders' resistance, characters who have become real to readers suffer and die (some of them richly deserving it), and Lackey and associates' areas of expertise, including naval history and classical mythology, are smoothly blended. Too long to be read in one sitting, but with few other "faults." Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Others will give you book reports and synopsis. I tell you this book, and the others in the series, will take you to strange places that will hauntingly remind you of people and places you met in history classes, or perhaps English Lit, or geography or mythology. If you are very fortunate it will be like revisiting beloved dreams.
I liked this book enough to buy it, and the rest of the series, twice. This way I have the original paperbacks and the new ebooks at my fingertips.
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer are a perfectly matched writing trio...and a tripod is the strongest seat. They seamlessly craft this rich, colorful, and highly complex story, filled with historical in-jokes (Eneko Lopez and his friends are the original seven members of the Jesuit order) and even a few Baen Barfly in-jokes ("It was enough to give Erik the mutters.")
Even the little, passing-through characters are very vividly realized, and are real people, not spearcarriers. Spiro, the Corfiote fisherman, for example, and his buddy, Taki the fisher captain, are human beings caught in the flash of the story's eye.
I'm halfway through my third read of this book, and it is holding my attention so well that I have been sneaking off to read another couple of pages all day long.
This is what alternate worlds fantasy should be. Kim Stanley Robinson, Harry Turtledove, and other practitioners, please take note. This is the reigning champion of the field.