Monthly Archives: November 2015

Sanctuary, by Lynn Abbey

sanctuaryWreathed in moonlight, incense, and memory, Molin recalled the days when Sanctuary had been a divine playground, swarming with gods, heroes, magicians, witches, priests, not to mention whole neighborhoods populated with the living dead.  He’d thought that was hell.  He’d never thought to see the day when he’d have welcomed the likes of Tempus, Ischade, or his own overly troublesome niece, Chenaya, with open arms.
-Molin Torchholder’s reflections on Sanctuary’s past…and present

Sanctuary is not a nice place.

There are cities that speak of wondrous things in fantasy books.  Tar Valon of Jordan’s Wheel of Time books.  Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings.  Palanthus in the Dragonlance books.  Incredible places all.  So if you think of how wonderful they are, and flip them upside down to be equally horrible, you’d have Sanctuary.  All right, perhaps I’m overstating things a bit.  Let me try this again.

Sanctuary is a city that has been abandoned by empires, wizards, and gods; if a type of crime exists, it has probably been committed in Sanctuary several dozen times.

As it turns out, it’s also a book; Lynn Abbey picks up many years after the Thieves’ World anthology series ended over ten years ago (my god, has it been that long?!).  As a result, most of the characters that fans of the anthology knew of are either dead, gone, or….?  One of the ones that has hung around, though, is Molin Torchholder, a high priest of the exiled god Vashanka.  Molin’s been around Sanctuary a long time, and in that time he’s seen it rise to almost-prosperity from its depths, and watched it sink right back down again-and worse.  The book starts out with Molin getting ambushed by a pair of cultists belonging to a group that he’d thought long gone-indeed, was in part responsible for getting rid of.  Unfortunately, the wound he takes in that ambush is a mortal one.  Molin’s not the kind to die quietly, though-and the arrival of a young man named Cauvin gives him a tool to try to finish off his mistake…and perhaps leave a legacy for the future.

Cauvin’s a scarred character himself; he’s survived the worst days of Sanctuary (and that’s saying quite a bit), and now lives as a sort of adopted son of a stoneworker.  His stepbrother, Bec, is very young, but far too inquisitive for his own good (and, thank god, no super genius; I was getting tired of books that had far too bright youths; Bec felt far more real to me because of it).  And the lady of Cauvin’s life isn’t exactly the cream of the crop, but shares a history with him during those dark days.  I had to feel for Cauvin while reading Sanctuary, because I can certainly understand his frustration dealing with Molin (hero of Sanctuary’s past, and even while dying he’s an arrogant guy).

In the process of serving Molin, we also get a bit of history behind Sanctuary.  Most of the events chronicled in the Thieves’ World series are glossed over, in favor of events that have occurred later.  That doesn’t mean, though, that we see no sign of the Sanctuary that was; long time readers will enjoy references to characters from the series, from Illyra the S’danzo seeress; Enas Yorl the immortal, shape-changing wizard who sought death; to those who had fairly direct contact with the gods they served, with power to show for it.  And there are a couple of cameo appearances….

When reading Sanctuary, I had to read it with two pairs of eyes.  The first pair were those of a fellow who had read all of the Thieves’ World books, including the various spin-offs at the time, and had enjoyed most of the stories therein.  The second pair were those of a fellow reading Sanctuary without having read that series.  I’d say that both pairs were satisfied.  I might have a little more regret that most of the characters I knew are long gone, but Abbey did a creditable job in drawing me back into Sanctuary.  I was also particularly happy to see that some questions are still not answered…perhaps in a future book?

I recommend this book highly for those who enjoy fantasy at the down-and-dirty level, where knights and wonder-workers don’t operate, and to anyone who enjoyed Thieves’ World in the past.

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One Knight Only, by Peter David

oneknightonlyWhat’s Bob?  Our Bob?
Right.  Bob Kellerman.  Your head speechwriter.
What about him?  Is he all right?
Not at the moment, no.  Did you tell him that you were going to toss the text of the State of the Union address and just ‘wing it’?
I might have done.
That would be the speech he’s been working on twenty-four/seven for the past month?
That’s as may be, but why?  I was just joking.  He must have known that.
Sir, you know Bob.  He takes everything literally.  He’s been lying on the couch in his office for the last hour with an ice pack, moaning that his life is pointless.
-President Arthur Penn and Chief of Staff Ron Cordoba

A little over a year ago (as of this writing), I put up a review of Peter David’s book, Knight Life.  At the time, I mentioned that I was certainly hoping that a sequel would happen (as was rumored).

It happened.

One Knight Only picks up quite some time after the events in Knight Life.  For starters, Gwen D. Queen is now Gwen Penn, Arthur’s wife (and in case you missed Knight Life, understand that Arthur Penn was once Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons).  Arthur himself is now the President of the United States, thanks in part to very good publicity after a terrible event in New York City when he was mayor.  Merlin, who had always been by Arthur in the past, is now a small statue in a corner of the Rose Garden after coming up second-best in an altercation that is explained in more detail as the book continues.

As the story opens, Arthur is getting ready to make his State of the Union speech; part of it involves announcing a treaty with the country of Trans-Sabal, the last country that had been willing to give sanctuary to the terrorist behind the events in NYC (a man named Arnim Sandoval)-as well as making a few off-the-cuff comments.  However, tragedy strikes as Gwen is struck down by an assassin, leaving Arthur to make some hard choices as to what to do next.  In the meantime, the knight Percival is working for his king as a presidential aide who goes where he feels he’s needed-and while he’s in South America, he comes upon a man named Joshua, who’s older than he looks (and he’s not young anymore); not the Joshua you may be thinking of, but someone who has been touched by the Holy Grail.  Percival finds himself wishing to see it again-and perhaps in finding it again, understand what fate may await him in the future.

And in a way, what Percival finds leads in to a significant portion of this book:  something that will bring his king to another who thinks of himself as a High King-and one whose age makes Arthur look like a tot.

Where to start?  Well, there’s a number of good things about this book.  I loved the loophole in the U. S. Constitution that Arthur used to justify a Presidential run to himself and a couple of select others (still shaky, obviously, but he did have some help from Merlin).  I didn’t see the true identity of the High King coming, and that’s always a pleasant surprise (and I won’t ruin it here).  And the general attitudes of Arthur have carried over from the first book, a blend of righteousness and a hint of arrogance; well, he is a king, after all, and still having a little trouble with the idea of representative government.  But he’s still trying to do the right thing.  I also really enjoyed the role of the characters who are not a version of the Arthurian mythos, but are just everyday folks doing their jobs and being friends-from Ron Cordoba, the White House Chief of Staff who knows who Arthur is, to Nellie Porter, who attends to Gwen, and is a pretty sharp cookie.  And I can’t neglect Miss Basil, who isn’t quite who-or what-she seems; and she is most definitely not nice.

I expect that some folks might have a little trouble with the NYC event.  While it isn’t exactly 9/11 (and there’s no evidence that this has occurred in the setting of this book), it’s close enough in general atmosphere that some folks might find it very uncomfortable.  Plus, the general attitude of Arnim Sandoval is awfully close to what we see a lot of in the news of late.  Keep in mind, though, that Peter David’s never shied away from “uncomfortable” in writing his books, not only in these books but in his Star Trek books and his Sir Apropos books.  Also keep in mind that he’s also got a very interesting sense of poetic justice in his books.

One Knight Only doesn’t have the same feel as Knight Life, mostly because the first book had been about Arthur finding his place in the present day, and this one is about Arthur actually doing something in the present day.  He’s more in a position to change the world and make it a better place (in his point of view, of course), and one cannot doubt that he’s highly motivated to save his wife and take a personal sort of vengeance upon the author of his troubles.  While it’s not exactly what I’d want to see in a President in real life, it makes for entertaining fiction.  And there’s a couple of interesting consequences that could leave the door open to a third book if he wants to write it.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Categories: Knight Life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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