By Shaun Farrell
New York Times bestselling author Greg Keyes claims that James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose is written with “great intelligence and wit. . . . This isn’t the same old thing: this is delightful fantasy written for smart readers.” I’ve heard that said about novels before, but Blood of Ambrose is the first novel I’ve read in which said claim not only proved true, but was an understatement. Simply put, Blood of Ambrose is a fine novel and an absolute must-read for both the fantasy die hard and the fantasy skeptic.
Young Lathmar VII doesn’t want to be king. His grandmother, the ancient and powerful Ambrosia Viviana, is Lathmar’s only remaining connection to the thrown since Lord Urdhven killed Lathmar’s parents, and she isn’t about to let Urdhven remake the Ontilian Empire into his own image.
But when Urdhven accuses Viviana of witchcraft and establishes a mock-trail, one that will lead to Vivian’s execution, she has no choice but to summon the Crooked Man, her powerful and mysterious brother, Morlock. Saving Viviana from Urdhven’s scheme is but the first step, however, in their long battle against the man who would destroy their civilization. For Urdhven draws power from another, from an evil that hides in shadow and dines on the souls of men.
James Enge writes Blood of Ambrose with a subtle elegance that disguises his extraordinary narrative skill. The humor is natural and unforced. The characterization rings true, even under the revelation of shocking realities. The horror is never glorified, and it is all the more horrific for it. And the plot grows with organic grace. You won’t find any quests here, nor the usual clichés or trappings of epic fantasy. No, these pages drip the unexpected, and they will make you laugh and scream and cry and thirst for more.
Simple put, Blood of Ambrose is a powerful and fun stand alone novel. No cliffhangers. No commitment to three or five or twelve book arcs. Savor it. Read it slowly, and prepare your table for This Crooked Way.