Fantasy Round 51: Blood of Ambrose
Merlin is not the hero.
Blood of Ambrose is the first in a series written by James Enge. It’s an amusing sword and sorcery tale, which hints at Arthurian legend without being beholden to it. It concerns the defense of Uther’s kingdom from a usurper trying to steal it away from his descendant, in an alternate fantasy-world. Merlin’s children are at the forefront.
It’s a fun romp, and worth reading if you don’t want to think too hard about the real world for a little while.
And now, I will think a little too hard about this book. The biggest spoiler is a bit at the end that doesn’t have a big impact on the main plot.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink Done Right
This book reminded me a bit of the Court of the Air, due to its blending of magic and technology or craftwork, and the presence of a large number of disparate elements. However, I think it handled it a bit better.
We have two fantastic races (dwarves and the Sunkillers) and… that’s it. And the Sunkillers were destroyed a long time ago, so there’s really only one, with their own cultural twist.
All of the magic is thematically consistent, nicely blending defunct scientific theories (such as those involving phlogiston) with concepts surrounding “tal,” the link between body and soul. This leads in a reasonable way to visions, zombies, undead, demons, numerous devices and magical illusions, and even an nearly steam-punk style magic-powered rideable spider-bot that can only be controlled by a highly proficient sorcerer.
Sure, the magic-powered spider-bot is weird, but it fits in its own strainge way. It runs on the same kind of magical power infused into crafted objects as the various spells and numerous illusions that are used. The core principles feel related, in a way that the Court of the Air’s multiplicity of magic systems and sentient species do not.
The only thing that doesn’t quite match is the odd cleverness of the crows…
Merlin is a Menace
The book ends on what seems like an obvious tease for the next novel.
Merlin, father of two of our magically-gifted (and estraged adult) protagonists walks into a cave, and chats up his wife, Nimue. Whom he has trapped in a block of ice. He reveals that he was ultimately behind all of the plot in the novel targeted at destroying his offspring. The purpose? To ensure that Nimue loves only him. He plans to leave her in the block of ice until she has forgotten that anyone else exists.
Despite the zombies, necromancy, and other terrible mind-control stuff that happens in the book, this is one of the most chilling scenes.
As difficult as I find it to personally understand how someone could become as self-centered as Merlin is, as focused as he is on gaining approval through any means necessary — even destroying his own children and damaging the mind of his wife over time… some real people are like that. Some people truly place so little value on others that they will seek their own ends at all costs.
So, I suppose I’m looking forward to seeing Merlin get taken down in the later books, and Nimue freed.
Because any other ultimate ending would just be depressing.