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This Crooked Way
James Enge
Pyr, 412 pages

This Crooked Way
James Enge
James Enge's fiction has appeared in Black Gate, Flashing Swords, and everydayfiction.com. He is an instructor of classical languages at a Midwestern university.

James Enge Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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This Crooked Way is the second installment in the Ambrose books by James Enge. It takes up the action directly following the conclusion of Blood of Ambrose and, as the title implies, this novel focuses solely on Morlock Ambrosius (his most defining characteristic is his crooked back). Enge really doesn't continue upon or touch upon the action of the first book, so it's not absolutely necessary to have read Blood of Ambrose to enjoy This Crooked Way. However, having read Blood of Ambrose will certainly help readers to understand various dynamics of the book that may otherwise be lost, such as Morlock's power(s), his status and reputation in his world and the volatile, cat-and-mouse relationship between him and his father. However, I think readers will find that This Crooked Way works just fine all by itself, which is a rarity and a curiosity for the second novel in a series.

James Enge begins his story with Morlock on the road exploring his new found pseudo-exile by the recently-crowned fledgling emperor. James Enge has changed up his narrative style for This Crooked Way. The novel unfolds like a series of vignettes or short stories rather than a straight-forward narration with each section of the novel written from a different character's perspective that Morlock meets along his journey. As another added treat, Enge has added literary interludes that are told from the point of view of the Khroi. They are three-headed, hive-minded, insect-like creatures that play an important role throughout the novel. The connecting plot that runs throughout the various stories of This Crooked Way concerns Morlock's quest to break an anti-death spell cast on his mother by his unscrupulous, arch-nemesis father, Merlin. This spell has divided her essence into three parts, all of which have to be reunited so that her soul can finally come to rest. Along the way Morlock solves many problems and the tales he creates while uniting the various parts during his journeys comprise James Enge's final product, which when it's all said and done, works extremely well.

James Enge has shown a considerable amount of imagination in his writing of This Crooked Way. His decision to structure the book using this uncommon method of narration that I described above is certainly not anything groundbreaking for an author, but it was refreshing and impressive. Not only does it work exceedingly well as a vehicle to tell Enge's story, but it shows, that at a very early stage in his career Enge isn't afraid to take a risk. It appears that Enge isn't going to be just another fantasy author churning out volume after volume of rote fantasy written in the same sing-song style he knows he can be successful with. He is willing to take a chance and grow as an author and he deserves to be praised for it. His choice of narrative style provides the reader with several interesting looks at how Morlock appears to the other people in his world, which in turn provide us with further insight into his character's legendary status. Furthermore, This Crooked Way has more than enough in it to keep readers entertained throughout. All the stories contained within the novel have something to keep readers intrigued and it looks like James Enge is creating a very dark and entertaining universe in which to write his Ambrose novels. His magic system contains elements of science, logic and manufacturing all combined together and gives This Crooked Way some very intriguing and believable supernatural aspects. Overall, This Crooked Way is a success. I wouldn't say James Enge is writing the best fantasy series ever with the Ambrose series, but it is a smart and entertaining read. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to recommend This Crooked Way to my friends and James Enge is certainly an author I would keep my eye on in the future.

Copyright © 2010 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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