Ace Books 1995 (Maxwell Macmillan Canada 1993) When Shielder's Mark breaks the ancient spell of the Ghostwood, he becomes a celebrated hero. Then the real trouble begins. He arrives at the king's court to claim his prize according to the ancient law: whatever he asks for, the crown will give. When Mark asks for the hand of the king's youngest daughter, the strong-willed Gail, he also receives a Duke's title, estate and a Keep of his own. Sure, it's in an almost uninhabited area close to the Ghostwood, but he was raised as a nobody's son and this is a life very different from what he has prepared for. Together with Gail and her lady-in-waiting, Lissa, Mark and his only friend in court, the bookly Valerian who is helplessly in love with Lissa, travels to Borders - and find a new trouble haunting the kingdom. The magic once bound by the Ghostwood spell is now free - and Mark has to be the hero once more.
While clearly within the boundaries of traditional high fantasy, this is also a work of great originality. We have all heard stories about young men who become heroes, win the princess and half the kingdom. But what if the princess' doesn't want to have sex for a couple of years because of the risk of getting pregnant? And the keep is a ruin, more or less, and the estate uninhabited? And almost everyone intrigues to get the young duke out of the way for their own ambitions? And what if his heroic deed is the immediate reason for a threat to the whole kingdom?
This is one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read, and I've read quite a few. A small size master piece. Most other fantasy authors seem to need several thousand pages to finish their great story, but Stewart has created a spell-binding story less than 300 pages long. A waste of a good idea? No, a great way of showing that high fantasy doesn't always need the epic size. It always hurt to put down an excellent book with no hope there will soon be a sequel in the shops, but this book is probably better now than it would have been as the first book in a series. And we can still wait for new master pieces from this great story teller.
Books by the same author:
Sean Stewart Home Page (fan/author page)
© Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.