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Beyond the Pale
Book One of The Last Rune

Mark Anthony
Bantam Spectra, 527 pages


Art: Stephen Youll
Beyond the Pale, Book One of The Last Rune
Mark Anthony
After spending his childhood summers in a Colorado ghost town, Mark Anthony was trained as a palaeoanthropologist. He wrote Beyond the Pale to explore the idea that reason and wonder need not exist in conflict. He lives and writes in Colorado where he is currently at work on the The Keep of Fire, the second book of The Last Rune.

Mark Anthony Website
ISFDB Bibliography
The Last Rune Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

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They say never judge a book by its cover. True enough -- many's the book I've read where I've been lured in by the cover and lived to regret it. Beyond the Pale has a glorious Steven Youll cover. Guess what? It deserves that cover. Even the back cover blurb is accurate! Feel free to be lured in.

Beyond the Pale is a novel about people drawn from our world into another and it begins typically enough: the heroes feel out of place in their lives, strange things begin happening around them, and before you can say "wardrobe," they've left this reality behind. Yes, a typical beginning (and when I say wardrobe, I mean it. Whether intentional or not, the transference scene is very pleasantly evocative of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), but hardly typical characters.

Right from the beginning, it's easy to feel for the heroes. Travis Wilder is rootless saloon-keeper in a small Colorado mountain town. Grace Beckett is an intense resident in the ER of a Denver hospital. They don't actually meet each other until well into the book, so the reader gets to know them individually before their lives cross. Both are painted with exceptional attention to detail. Grace, for example, is secretly pleased when she arrives home from a shift at the hospital to find that her last remaining plant has succumbed to neglect and she won't have to care for it anymore -- a mark of the intensity with which she throws herself into her work.

The same attention to detail is abundantly evident throughout the novel. The Colorado town of Castle City, the wintry forests of Fal Threndur, and the great castle of Calavere spring to vivid life. Lesser characters are alive, not just two-dimensional props. They are individuals and it really matters to the reader what happens to them. I don't want to give too much away (because there are some great twists as the novel approaches its climax), but when the moment of crisis comes and the blond knight Beltan is in danger, if you're like me, you're going to want to stop reading just so that nothing bad happens to him!

And believe me, the possibility that something bad could happen to a major character is real. Anthony has the talent of putting his characters in danger in such a way that it really is dangerous. The tension in Beyond the Pale has a definite edge.

You'll get the feeling from this review, that the characters are strongest thing going for this novel. On the one hand, that's true. These are great characters and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, The Keep of Fire, so I can find out what happens to them and how they fit into the grand story that Mark Anthony is creating. But just because the characters are so good doesn't mean that the rest of the book is weak.

This is a good, strong story, enhanced by the characters. The world is interesting, its magics intriguing, and its politics complex. It's clear that a lot of thought and work went into the writing of this book. And if you shy away from buying the first book of a new series because you hate waiting for the next to come out, don't worry. One of the many good things about Beyond the Pale is that it comes to a satisfying conclusion while still leaving you wanting more. The main strings of the plot are tied neatly together, but with a teasing fringe lingering behind like bait on a hook.

Trust the cover. Pick up this book and don't put it down until you've finished.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).


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