SFF 1: Robert C. Fleet, T.A. Barron, Sean Russell

SFF; Or,

Speculative Fiction found

Good Twitter-friend and collector/historian of “classic” sf extraordinaire “Joachim Boaz” (not his real name) inspired me to start posting my “acquisitions”; if you aren’t familiar with his curating, and if you want to learn more about the sf art in the 20th century, definitely follow him on Twitter (@SFRuminations) and take a look at his blog, Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations.

My focus in the Speculative Fiction Found imprint of my blog is on fantasy from the 1960s through early 2000s, though I post just about everything I buy that is vaguely within the realm of speculative fiction publishing. In addition, I occasionally post reviews when I have the time and link out to relative reviews I publish elsewhere.

This weekend in Toronto I stopped in at a local chain used bookstore, BMV Bookstores, which I think best compares to Half Price Books in the U.S. (maybe there are Canadian franchises of this?). It was a pretty good, run-of-the-mill used bookstore for a major city like Toronto. The SFF section and horrors sections were rather large, and there was a ton of comics, GNs, TPBs, and manga, too.

I was cautious with my money during this bookstore visit, since most of what I saw of interest was the kind of MMPB sff you can find just about anywhere, but I couldn’t help getting a few books I hadn’t heard of, covered in art that captivated me.

white horse, Dark Dragon (Ace 1993)

By Robert C. Fleet / ISFDB

I’d never heard of Fleet, but it appears in addition to this novel and another fantasy novel featuring a unicorn, Fleet is a screen writer and filmmaker. I’m curious why he went into fantasy for so short a time, and very interested to see what this book is like.

I’m all the more curious because this novel was the basis for a 1986/1987 children’s fantasy film of the same name staring Christopher Lloyd and known alternately as White Horse, Dark Dragon; Legend of the White Horse; and its Polish title Biały Smok. Fleet apparently wrote the novel in the mid-1980s, but it took forever to get published, so he turned it into a screenplay for the Polish-English production, before the novel was finally published in the early 1990s.


Jim Marlowe and his young son came to Central Europe on a routine scientific assignment: to study the environmental impact of a planned mining operation. But nothing in the mountains of Karistan is quite what it seems – from the village witch with her mysterious past to the intrigues of Jim’s employer.

And hidden in ageless caverns and towering hills is a myth come to life, an awesome inspiring legend that will change the lives of all who enter it’s domain…

Cover art by Den Bauvais

The Ancient One (Tor 1994)

The Heroic Adventures of Kate 2 / Originally published Philomel Books 1992

By T.A. Barron / ISFDB / Wikipedia

T.A. Barron is best known as an author of children’s/YA fantasy, and especially for his long-running Avalon/Merlin series begun in the 1990s. I hadn’t heard of him or The Ancient One before finding this novel in Toronto. Oddly, although it appears to be the second in a trilogy called The Heroic Adventures of Kate, there’s no acknowledgement of this (or other books by Barron) in the indicia of the Tor version I purchased.

I was drawn to the book because of its protagonist, a young girl named Kate; the location, rural forested Oregon; and the worldbuilding, which is an intrusion fantasy featuring a fantasy people based on the cultures of the indigenous PNW peoples (specifically Takelma, Coos, Yurok, Wiyot, Hupa, Karok, Coquille, and Tutuni). This is rare in fantasy, and I’m interested to see how its treated, though I’ll likely wait to read this one until I get the first book in the trilogy, Heartlight (1990).

When Kate travels to Blade, Oregon, to spend a quiet vacation with her Aunt Melanie, she has no idea of the adventures that lie ahead. Blade, Oregon is home of the magical Lost Crater, in which a grove of giant redwood trees has remained untouched for thousands of years. Now the ancient grove has become the center of a major dispute between those who wish to save this rare sanctuary and the local loggers who see Lost Crater as their last hope to rejuvenate their dying mill town. Caught up in the struggle, Kate feels compelled to learn more and decides to follow a trail into the crater, which, as legend has it, was made by the ancient Halami people believed to have once lived in the region. But for Kate, what starts out as a day’s discovery soon turns into a life’s journey. With the help of an ancient walking stick, Kate is thrust back in time five hundred years. Quickly befriended by a young Halami girl, Laioni, Kate learns that not much as changed in five centuries as she is caught in the middle of a battle for the same wilderness. Confronted by a myriad of strange and frightening creatures, including the trickster Kandeldandel and the evil Gashra, who is bend on destroying everything he cannot control, Kate must complete her quest and return to her own time. But to do so, she must not only discover the truth behind her own beliefs, but also unravel an ancient and wondrous riddle bearing the knowledge of life’s intricate and fragile balance.

Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet.

World Without End (DAW 1995)

Moontide and Magic Rise 1

By Sean Russell / ISFDB / Wikipedia

I know Canadian author Sean Russell best for his Initiate Brother “Asian” fantasy duology, and had not heard of the Moontide and Magic rise series, so it was a no-brainer for me given the novel’s description on the back cover. Also, it seems to be about a naturalist, and that’s not something you seem all that often, reminding me of the more recent Lady Trent novels by Marie Brennan.

I’m not crazy about the cover art, but it does interestingly feature a beautiful white hawk, a man holding a nice white flower, and what looks like…a Mayan temple? The art is by Braldt Bralds, who in addition to having such a cool name is also more recognized in the art world for his use of “contemporary realism,” and on the internet he’s best known for his cats. I’m not sure how many sff covers he did, but the art is certainly unique in its blend of a more art-world realism with mid-1990s fantasy art!

The Lost Secrets of the Mages

The Age of the Mages is over, and all the secrets of their magical arts are thought to be lost to the world. There are even those who suspect that the last of the great Mages spent their final years scrupulously eradicating all traces of their craft from the pages of history—insuring that their art will never be practiced again. It is the dawn of a new era: an age of reason, science, and exploration, and Tristam Flattery is one of its most promising young naturalists.

But when Tristam is summoned to the royal court of Farrland to try to revitalize a failing species of plant which seems to have mysterious, almost magical, medicinal properties—a plant without which, he is told, the aging king will surely die—he soon realizes that he has been drawn into the heart of a political struggle which spans generations, a conflict which threatens the very foundations of his civilization. And before long, Tristam is caught in the grip of a destiny which will lead him to the ends of the known world—on a voyage of discovery that has more to do with magic than with science….

Cover art by Braldt Bralds.

This post is published under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons license.

3 thoughts on “SFF 1: Robert C. Fleet, T.A. Barron, Sean Russell

  1. Thank you for the kind words – -and yes, there is nothing more fun than looking at the slow accumulation of books…. clogging shelves… clogging (and inspiring) minds… hah.

    As for an 80s fantasy series I’ve recently enjoyed, Colin Greenland Daybrea sequence comes to mind — I reviewed Daybreak on a Different Mountain (1984) recently.

    Have you read any of Sheri S. Tepper’s 80s fantasy sequences? They might fit the scope of this acquisition project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s hoping my partner gets a dope job so I don’t have to work anymore and can just read all the time.

      But until then…thanks, I think I’ve _heard_ of Colin Greenland, but haven’t read him. I’ve got a ton of fantasy from the period at home that I should put up, but it’s just a matter of needing the time. And I haven’t read Tepper, but got a few on my shelf, I think…? I’m particularly excited about this Fleet novel; it’s interesting when someone does one or two novels and then disappears from the scene.


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