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Faery Lands Forlorn

Dave Duncan
Series: "A Man of His Word", vol. 3.  Sequel to:  Magic Casement; Followed by Perilous Seas and Emperor & Clown
Duncan continues to develop his fairly unique world and his entirely unique system of magic in the second volume of "A Man of His Word". The series as a whole is a romp through the richly-detailed world of Pandemia, and each volume is as chock-full of wonders, adventure and cliffhangers as the chapters in a Saturday-matinee adventure serial.

Beautiful (and, unusually for some books of this type, intelligent) Inos, rightful Queen of Krasnegar, and her great-aunt, Princess Kadolan (not nearly as fuddy duddy and scatterbrained as she often appears) have been magically spirited away to Zark (where the Djinns live -- the Arabian Nights come to life) and dropped will she nill she into the middle of a rather nasty and dangerous palace intrigue between the rightful (more or less, in Zark's "might makes right" culture) Sultan and the "Sultana" a powerful sorceress who has displaced him and rules him and his land through her sorcery, which has a strong sexual element -- her spell on him causes his merest touch to burn the flesh of anything female (except the sorceress herself) like red-hot iron.

Rasha, the sorceress, soi-disant "Sultana", hopes to use Inos in a political game among the Wardens, the four powerful sorcerors who control the world's sorcery under the Compact.

Inos, though apalled by the treatment and place of women in Zark, sets out to make an ally of Azak, the Sultan, in an attempt to thwart Rasha.

Meanwhile, Rap the faithful stableboy, Little Chicken, and the Gang (those who have read the previous book will understand that reference, a fuller explication would be a spoiler if you haven't read the previous book yet) find themselves in Faerie, where Much Is Not As It Seems, and Rap meets Captain Gathmore, a genuine berserker Jotunn (Norse/Viking) who will be important for the rest of the series.

Caught in a magical trap set for those who know Words of Power, Rap learns a little more both about the Words themselves and about magic and sorcery -- i always like the explanation that sorcery is permanent, magic fades sooner or later after the magician turns his attention away, but the end result is often the same -- a mage explains: "I could turn your head into an anvil. It would be a temporary anvil, but you'd be permanently dead."

Rap and Little Chicken manage to escape, join Gathmore's jotunn crew and escape Faerie.

Both Rap and Inos seem to be on their way to saving themselves and making progress toward saving the other -- but the book ends with disasterous reverses for both.

With two more books to go, all looks hopeless.

But, like all good serials, the next chapter will save us from this cliffhanger and give us even more more thrills, chills and adventure...

And, of course, another cliffhanger.