(2007) Gail Martin, Solaris, £7.99 / US$7.99 / Can$9.99, pbk, 544 pp, ISBN 978-1-844-1-6468-4
This is a fantasy from the new SF & F imprint Solaris and The Summoner is also a debut novel from a new fantasy writer, so this offering is about as fresh as it comes. Having said that, The Summoner has its roots very firmly in the traditional sword and sorcery, and quest camps of fantasy.
Set in mystical world where materially things are very much medieval it differs from our Earth continuum in a mystical level in that the dead almost co-inhabit the world with the living. And so both ghosts and magicians abound. The main protagonist is one Prince Martris Drayke but his brother is out to inherit the throne from their father without all that tedious business of waiting for nature to take its course and the King die of old age. So the brother kills the King, a deed witnessed by Drayke. Fleeing for his life with just a small band of close friends, Drayke heads for a neighbouring country to rally allies. However he may need more than them and might even have to recruit a legion of the dead. Along the way, Daryke's small band faces robbers and mystical threats all the while keeping away from his brother's men who are searching for him. He has one ally though, his dead grandmother.
The story is told in episodic chunks and is sort of dungeons-and-dragony but then a fair bit of fantasy is given the breadth of fantasy icons the role-playing game dungeons and dragons employs. Having said that this does fit in to publishing house Solaris' background as a spin out company of the Games Workshop, so they will have links to a market very likely to enjoy The Summoner. As for the broader fantasy reader market, The Summoner will also appeal to those into sword-and-sorcery quest-type novels and so I am sure will do very well. The price is also very competitive. Here I am a little perplexed. The uncorrected proof copy we were sent is in a trade paperback format whereas the page count and price suggest a normal paperback format. So I am assuming Concatenation was sent a print-on-demand trade format publicity volume which is in effect a formatted printout of the manuscript which then edited will be re-formated into the standard paperback-sized books you will see in the bookshops. (If this is wrong then apologies.)
The Summoner is book one of the Necromancer Chronicles and there is certainly enough in Gail Martin's world to explore, hence sustain another couple of other books, even if the over-riding arc is a little predictable: protagonist threatened by opponent, protagonist meets girl, protagonist secures allies, protagonist overcomes opponent, protagonist and girl live happily ever after. Yet such basic elements do make for good reads and many fantasy fans and fantasy role games players will enjoy The Summoner hugely. The short and distinctly episodic plot chunks will also make this an excellent read for those having to make daily commuting journeys to and from work or, for everyone else, a bed-time book.
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