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                                  cover Originality -- What a Concept!
Magic Casement

Dave Duncan
Whether or not you like it, most of the fantasy published these days is more-or-less directly derivative of Tolkein... unless it's Dark Fantasy, and then Stephen King is a common prototype.

Well, meet Dave Duncan.

Dave Duncan plays by Dave Duncan's rules.

The only other book/series that i can recall that gave me as much fun watching an entirely new (to me, anyway) system and practise of magic revealed just at the right pace to move the story along quickly but not bog it down in Expository Lumps was Edward Eager's "Half Magic" and its sequels/related books (which you ought to check out, too).

Duncan's system of magic for this series (which i won't go into detail about because, while it's imminently understandable and elegantly simple, the gradual revelation of its elegant simplicity and power is part of the appeal of these books) is one of those "why didn't *I* think of something like that? " ideas.

While this magical system and the implications of its working are the major driving engine of the series as a whole, the driving engine of the story that makes it wonderful and compellingly readable is the relationship between Rap and Inos -- the stableboy and the beautiful princess. I've never before seen a better or more touching portrayal of two young people so deeply in love with each other and yet so totally clueless as to what they think themselves, much less what the other thinks.

On the other hand, i've read very few adventure romps that satisfy so thoroughly as this series, either.

Duncan has obviously put a lot of effort into working out his world of Pandemia (this becomes even more obvious in the sequel series, "A Handful of Men"), its races, its politics and its geography. And we see a *lot* of that geography in the course of this series -- these books will give you saddle sores and blisters on your feet just to read.

Even beyond the nations and the countries and the politics, Duncan has assembled a cast -- a veritable horde -- of characters, almost all of whom seem to be concerned in some way or other with stableboy Rap and Princess (of a Very Small city-state) inosolan. Particularly interesting and Important are the goblin Little Chicken, the minstrel Jalon, Dr Sagorn the scholar, Darad, and Andor the cavalier, not to mention various Gods who take a direct and meddlesome interest in human affairs...

Admittedly, this book starts a bit slowly, but that's just Duncan winding up all the clockwork, setting all the dominoes in their rows and getting the pyrotechnic displays set up Just Right.

If you read as far as Page 100 or so -- the introduction of Darad is, i think, the turning point -- i do not think you will be able to put this book and its three companions down until the last page of Volume Four.

((I would also like to praise the beautiful covers by Don Maitz -- i saw the originals of two of them at the 1991 World SF Convention -- which are Simply Beautiful, and which, although on the surface simply four portraits of the same girl/young woman, all clearly relate to and comment on the action of the books they grace. And look for Maitz's signature, which is included in one or two at least as part of the design or decoration...))