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Voidfarer: A Tale of the Moonworlds Saga by Sean McMullen
Review by Sam Lubell
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765314371
Date: 07 February, 2006 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

With that opening, many writers would continue a book about the team's search for the Empress. Instead, McMullen has H.G. Wells' Martians invade. Okay, they're not called that. The invaders are from the moon of Lupan, where magic is less plentiful, making them super-sorcerers in the more magic-rich environment of Danolarian's world. But they ride giant tripods and shoot heat beams. Danolarian and his team, with the help of his sweetheart Lavenci, who is herself a sorcerer, defeat one of the invaders and make their way to the city of Alberin, to rally the forces of their world against the invaders, only to learn that the regent had just killed all the magic users for miles around in a campaign against sorcery. There is some lovely political irony as Danolarian tries to explain what is going on without contradicting the regent's version of the truth, proving that he was a Washington DC spin-doctor in another life.

Meanwhile, on a more domestic note, Lavenci has been cursed with inability to have any man touch her save the Pelmore, who turns out to be an attempted murderer, until seven years after his death. But Pelmore somehow escapes his execution. Naturally, Danolarian tries to find him. The book takes ample advantage of the comedy inherent in Danolarian being more nervous about these domestic problems - and meeting his would-be mother-in-law - than about the alien threat. One character asks him, "The Lupanians are closing in to annihilate us, the city is in total chaos, civilization is about to fall on its face, we are all liable to wind up on some alien menu before the week is out, yet you are going home with a girl who wants to introduce you to her mother?" He replies, "Well, yes. We must keep our priorities in perspective."

And the book has more surprises than the reader might think. One character, seemingly comic relief, turns out to be engaged in a sinister plot and then the very characteristic that made this character comic relief gets turned around. Another character's true identity completely reverses the archetype of the commoner who does not know he is the rightful heir to the throne. And then there's a twist at the end that should not be given away... Let's just say that H.G. Wells wrote more than one famous science fiction novel.

Voidfarer is the third novel in Sean McMullen's Moonworlds fantasy series. Although a few of the major characters here made brief appearances in the earlier books (and a few of the other books' major characters appear as minor ones here), the book stands alone quite well. But readers would be cheating themselves of a rare treat if they did not read at least the first book, the spectacular Voyage of the Shadow Moon. Voidfarer is not quite as good as Shadow Moon; then again, few books are. It has a less epic feel than its predecessors, which literally destroyed entire continents, but may be more human in its concerns and is certainly funnier. Voidfarer is still far above the typical fantasy novel and science fiction fans who do not like fantasy will find it well worth reading just for the twists on H.G. Wells. Highly recommended.

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