SFF 3: Linda Haldeman, Somtow Sucharitkul, Trudi Canavan

SFF; Or,

Speculative Fiction found

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.

The Last of Elvinwood (1978)

By Linda Haldeman / ISFDB / First published by Doubleday / Avon, 1980 printing

This delightful novel was one of my finds at the local library’s bookstore (others here). My interest was piqued first by the sensuous fairy-tale-esque art by Elizabeth Malczynski (a major improvement on the original Doubleday hardcover, which suggested merely a boring forest), and further excited by the author’s name, which suggested some relation to Joe Haldeman (author of The Forever War). It doesn’t appear, however, that there is anything but surnominal resemblance between these two Haldemans, unless one of Joe’s relative wrote under a pseudonym for their first name. Still, Linda Haldeman wrote three fantasy novels between 1978 and 1981, all of which were underlauded in their time but are remembered for their wit and attachments to Shakespearean and Christian tradition in the English style; there is more than a trace of Lord Dunsany and others canonized by the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series mixed with the scent of these old pages.

An enchanted banquet deep in the forest

Two surprise guests appear at a fairy feat one cold, rainy night: Oberon, the noble King of Fairies, and Ian James, one of the human kind, an actor who had picked up a chestnut—and vanished into their utterly charming, sometimes exasperating world.

Ian’s blunder almost costs him his life, but Oberon spares him in return for a sacred pledge to save their dwindling race by finding a willing mortal bride for the last fairy prince.

The daring scheme calls for the magic of the oldest and most powerful wizard of them all—and for a fairy to enter the perilous world of man.

Mompen, the lastborn of Elvinwood, bravely volunteers.

Cover art by Elizabeth Malczynski.

Utopia Hunters (1984)

By Somtow Sucharitkul / ISFDB / Bantam, 1984 first edition

Somtow Sucharitkul, better known now as S.P. Somtow, is one of those oddities of late-20th-century SF who has always remained on my periphery. The Thai expat is a beloved if obscure figure to many in SFF today, so I was pleased to find this story collection (or fix-up novel; it’s unclear) at the library. Not only is the cover charming with its utopian frissoning of rainbows that protect and expose a vaguely “Asian” castle, but the conception of a universe-wide, almost Catholic search for “false” or heretical utopias, described as a successor to Dune, is more than enough to catch my interest—as a former Catholic and as a utopian. There also was apparently only one edition of this book, so although it’s not exactly rare, its not a common find!

UTOPIA HUNTERS is the history of the Inquest as seen through the yes of a young woman who becomes a central figure in its evolution. Jenjen, a young lightweaver from the world of Essnodras, is summoned by the Inquestor Ton Elloran to fashion a great lightsculpture commemorating the Inquest’s crusade against false utopias. Caught in a great game played with billions of lives, she learns to see in her life, her art, and in the great sweep of history itself, the terrible shadow that threatens the Inquest—and the light that lies beyond that darkness.

Cover art by Richard Courtney.

The Magicians’ Guild (2001)

The Black Magician Trilogy 1

By Trudi Canavan / ISFDB / Wikipedia / First published by Voyager (AUS) / Eos, 2004 edition

Another find from the local library’s bookstore, this is a fairly prosaic one as far as some things featured in this series so far go, since it’s a relatively recent book in a contemporary fantasy trilogy that has many of the hallmarks of Doorstop Fantasy (minus a few hundred pages). Still, Australian author Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy had been on my list for awhile, so it was a providential find and a good deal for 50 cents. The cover art (for the US edition I have) is your basic D&D-inspired fantasy art and doesn’t do much to explain the story, though it suggests at the least that the castle (the guild?) is the enemy of the heroes in the foreground. We’ll see.

“We should expect this young woman to be more powerful than our average novice, possibly even more powerful than the average magician.”

This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work—until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders . . . and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.

What the Magicians’ Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.

Cover and interior art by Matt Stawicki.


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