I always think I don’t enjoy fantasy as well as some other irreverent works. It may be from a youthful attempt to read The Lord of the Rings, which gave me an impression of the genre as stuffy and serious. However, when I look at my reading habits, I observe that there are some fantasies I enjoy very well. Humorous series such as The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony and The Myth Adventures of Robert Aspirin, the poignant urban fantasy of Charles De Lint, and of course, my beloved Terry Pratchett. So perhaps, it’s simply the stuffiness I don’t care for!
Last month, I shared with you the work of a talented group of individuals called The Eclective. Although I had known Ms. Emma Jameson for years, I was unfamiliar with the other authors included in The Haunted Collection. Having very much enjoyed “Empty Vessel”, I was pleased to hear from Mr. M. Edward McNally, with a suggestion that I read one of his full length novels for review. Always hungry for good books, I agreed.
The Sable City, according to Amazon, is “The desperate search for the exiled heir of her Trade House leads Matilda Lanai across a war-torn continent and to the gates of the Sable City, where centuries ago dark magic almost destroyed the world. Along with a sinister sorceress, a broken-hearted samurai, and a miscreant mercenary long on charm but lousy with a crossbow, Tilda must brave the demon-infested ruins. Only then can she find John Deskata, who may not want to be found at all.”
Such a short description can hardly do this densely populated novel justice. I doubt that I can either, but I do intend to try. This is, indeed, very serious fantasy, although McNally slips in quite a bit of heart and humor. The author creates characters as well as anyone I have ever read, and I may have mentioned how important that is to me. One of the reasons we accept a world that is mostly unfamiliar to us is that the people we meet we get to know fairly well, and they are people, for the most part, to whom the reader can relate. McNally says The Sable City is “basically a character piece about Tilda Lanai, trying to hold down a job, help out her friends, and survive the day-to-day.” Matilda Lanai is a descendant of a long line of kick-ass fantasy women, but is hardly a caricature. By the end of the book she feels more like an old friend. We don’t know anyone so well as Tilda, but all of the characters we meet are fully realized, and realistic. It’s why the fantasy works so well, because totally believable characters are there to believe the totally unbelievable events. I met people I loved, and people I hated, just as we do in life, and was gratified when many of the adventurers became friends.
The mythical city of Vod’ Adia is a character in and of itself, a mysterious place cut off from its world except for one month every 99 years. It is fabled to be a place of fabulous wealth, and incredible danger. I will tell you that the adventurers reach the Sable City, but I won’t spoil what happens to them there. I will say that after about a chapter of this work, I heaved a sigh of total contentment, and settled in for the epic journey. The best part is that there is more to discover. I look greatly forward to reading #2 Death of a Kingdom, #3 The Wind from Miilark, and #4 Devil Town. The series is called The Norothian Cycle. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I consider The Sable City to be completely Heavenly!