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Lord of the Isles
by David Drake
ISBN 0765354764 / 9780765354761 / 0-7653-5476-4
Publisher Tor Fantasy
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David Drake made his name in genre fiction with the "Hammer's Slammers" series of military SF about tough future mercenaries, launched in 1979. A versatile writer, he's also published well-received fantasies: Lord of the Isles opens a massive new saga of clashing swords and spells in an archipelago world. 1,000 years beforehand, potent sorcery won a war only for its backlash to sink the winning island. Now, with magic reaching another millennial peak of power, the world is endangered. Among the players are a king's ghost and two magicians who were present at the ancient disaster (one of them caused it), plus modern wizards, warriors and unknowing descendants of royalty. Drake skilfully juggles multiple storylines as his engaging characters meet a wild variety of danger: rising and vanishing lands, the reanimated dead (not only human dead), out-of-control sorcery, demons, riots, traps and other planes of reality including hell itself. The magic comes in several fascinating and often unpleasant flavours. Even likeable characters may die. This story reads well and halts at a satisfying moment of victory rather than a nail-biting cliffhanger. It doesn't quite achieve epic scale--clearly Drake is keeping major trump cards in reserve for the coming sequels. A promising start. --David Langford [via]