Last night, I stayed up until nearly midnight to finish this book. Because the other book I read this week ... well, to paraphrase a friend of mine, my reaction was "meh." Meaning I wouldn't waste my time talking about it, much less boring you with it. I mean, yeah, I like the author, but this was an early work of hers and not up to par with her recent stuff.
This week's book is a group-authored novella (80 pages), BUT WHO WOULD BE DUMB ENOUGH TO EVEN TRY IT?, offered by Marcher Lord Press. What makes it interesting is that it is a "shared universe" book. Meaning literature by committee. But don't run in fear -- that made the book interesting, not a gray, soggy cardboard landscape that so much else of "art by committee" offers.
As the intrepid publisher, Jeff Gerke, explains in the introduction, it all started with a picture. A picture he wanted to create. One of those enlightenment moments where people are puzzling over a problem and someone walking by makes a comment that turns the floodlights on, so to speak, and everyone's faces say, "Oh, yeah, of course." Well, that's my paraphrase of his explanation, anyway.
So after he created this image -- you gotta at least look for the story so you can see the picture -- he realized that it needed a story to go with it. So he turned to his stable of equally intrepid Marcher Lord Press authors. They must have had a fun old time coming up with maps and histories, magical rules, characters and backgrounds and the plot, because only when you have fun with all the prep work can a story hang together so well. And it works. Although I do have a couple questions that I'm really, really, really hoping will be answered by another story to follow up on our band of heroes. (Oh, Jeff .... hint, hint!)
The story? Your basic evil despot condemned to an eternity in a magical fortress, who is working his way around the spells and guardians and getting ready to break out of his prison. Then along comes our band of heroes -- they don't realize they're heroes yet, because all they see is the magical talisman inside the fortress that will make them incredibly rich. If they can get it out of the fortress without having their souls and bodies destroyed ala the opening-the-ark scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Because guess what? The talisman is what keeps the evil despot IN the fortress.
Like they say, the journey is everything, so I'm not going to tell you who and how. Get the story and read it. Like me, you'll have some questions, and a hankering for the next adventure.