Since I read The Realms of Tartarus in the ’70s, I’ve been impressed with Brian Stableford. While he’s published dozens of books, including fairly recent ones, I’ve always thought that he was under-appreciated, or at least under-acknowledged. Despite all those books, he somehow hasn’t made it into the front ranks of known SFF writers, and I wish he would.
This book is a fun, light-hearted fantasy of the kind that many people try and fail to write. Stableford, from whom I would not have expected such a thing, gets it right all the way – much as Sean Stewart later did with Nobody’s Son, and John Morressy partly did with his Kedrigern series. This is intelligent, romantic fantasy that pokes fun at the hoary tropes of epic quests and fairy tales while still staying true to them. It’s a good, easy read that, despite going pretty much where you think it will, is fun to follow all along the way. I recommend it for anyone who’s maybe had a bit too much of A Song of Ice and Fire, and recalls when not every fantasy had to include gory dismemberment.