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The False House
James Stoddard
Warner Aspect, 416 pages

The False House
James Stoddard
James Stoddard has had fiction and articles published in such magazines as Amazing Stories and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. He is an instructor of music recording and engineering at a junior college in Texas. The High House was his first novel.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The High House
Lin Carter Tribute Page

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Pat Caven

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One of the brightest spots in fantasy publishing this year was the release in early 1999 of The High House by James Stoddard. This first novel was a delight to read, seeming unique in the glut of formulaic fantasy being churned out every year. With a tip of the hat to Lin Carter and C.S. Lewis, Stoddard crafts a wonderfully authentic nineteenth century world giving us the story of the magnificent Evenmere the House that spans the world, the boy that grows to rule it and the evil anarchists that would bring it down to chaos. It thrilled me. It transported me. It made me remember why I love reading this stuff.

Then I heard he was handing in a sequel. Hmmmm... Many years ago a friend of mine said he would never write any sequels to his novels because it would just be more of the same. The-further-adventures-of... I have always agreed with him. It always seems to happen to the books I really love. The sequel just fails to live up to the original. Some have been a great surprise (Robin Hobb's Royal Assassin) and others I gave up midway through (C.S. Friedman's When True Night Falls). The writing may still be there, but the story just doesn't hold me.

I can't say I was disappointed in The False House. It might not have left the impact on me that the first one did. That's not possible (you remember your first taste of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, not your second). It has all of the same magic of the first; lots of rousing action and enchanting description. And best of all, my one main criticism of the first was its lack of strong female characters. Something I actually forgave him as it suited the nineteenth century style of the book. But Stoddard has dealt with this in The False House by introducing two main female characters that fit in perfectly with the development of the others -- and the slightly more modern narrative voice.

The False House takes up where the last finished. Lord Carter and his brother discover that the High House is changing. The anarchists have stolen the foundation stone of the House and are using it to create a duplicate in the Outer Dark. A false House created out of bleakness and despair. And as it grows, so does the true House twist and alter, forcing Carter and his friends to seek the anarchists out on their home ground before even Creation is destroyed.

Sound impressive? The False House is. As impressive as the first, if just slightly less original.

Copyright © 2000 Pat Caven

Pat Caven was (and perhaps in some ways still is) a local bookseller. She has now wandered into the public domain.


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