Monday, June 19, 2006

Beyond the Pale

Mark Anthony
Fiction, Fantasy

Full disclaimer: I happen to be an acquaintance of Mark's (he's a sweetie), and this is why I looked into this first book. However, I continued with the series on its own merits. You'll find a number of complaints on Amazon about its derivative tendencies, but in most of those cases the posters are mistaking certain parallels for pure derivation ('There's runes SEALING off a PRISON, so it MUST be derivative of Jordan!')

This first book starts off with the hoary old cliché of people from our world pulled into a fantasy world, where they must save the day, yadda yadda. However, there's a few differences right from the start, beginning with the fact that the protagonists are first threatened in our world by creatures from the other - or to be more exact, by creatures that have been directly influenced by that other world, but are from ours. Though this interesting development is not dealt with in this initial novel, one gets the sense that such crossovers are not entirely unheard of. And then there's Brother Cy's Apocalytic Traveling Salvation Show, a revival circus that has a more practical view of the darkness it's fighting than you might expect...

This is Anthony's first novel, and it shows in a few places. Certain Dark Secrets from the protagonist's pasts are telegraphed to the point where you just want them to get out and be dealt with, already. Sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted. The first time I read this book, it seemed to start off slow. The second time, I did not notice, because what had seemed to be a slow opening was actually fairly important in terms of character development. Overall, however, the book is well-written; to compare its flaws to the polished novels of veteran writers is unfair - but when it is done, Anthony's book actually comes off fairly well.

Anthony's first love is anthropology and old towns in the hills, and this book was his first attempt to display it. I recommend this book for people who enjoy fantasy on its own merits but not for those who dislike any fantasy series that hints of another; in epic fantasy, archetypes abound, and you will think you've read this before, even though it might surprise you.


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