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Once Walked with Gods
James Barclay
Gollancz, 368 pages

Once Walked with Gods
James Barclay
James Barclay was born in 1965. He was brought up in Felixstowe, Suffolk, and attended college in Sheffield before training to be an actor. He was an extra in the film, Onegin, but his screen appearance ended up on the cutting room floor. He works in London as an advertising and promotions manager for an investment house.

James Barclay Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Nightchild
SF Site Interview: James Barclay
SF Site Interview: James Barclay
SF Site Review: Noonshade
SF Site Excerpt: Noonshade

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

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For most of the last thousand years, the different threads or clans of elves have lived in harmony and equality under the guidance of Takaar. But ten years ago, Takaar fled to Calaius from a battle with the demonic Garonin (humans), saving the lives of many elves, but leaving thousands to be slaughtered. The past ten years have brought strife among the threads, and Sildaan, of the Ynissul thread, has aligned herself with humans to bring back the old ways with the Ynissul thread in charge. Katyett, the arch of the TaiGethen, skilled Ynissul warriors, still believe in harmony and will try to protect their home from humans at any cost. The Al-Arynaar, an army of Yniss with members from all threads, has allied with the TaiGethen to protect their cities and rain forest from the humans. While the Al-Arynaar and the TaiGethen, who work in cells of three, are skilled with fists and blades, the humans have magic which can vaporize an elf in an instant. Auum, another TaiGethen, believes that Takaar himself is the only one who can hold the elven race together, and he sets out to bring he who Once Walked with Gods back from his exile.

So begins James Barclay's Once Walked with Gods, the first in a trilogy. Those familiar with Barclay will recognize Auum. The action in Once Walked with Gods takes place thousands of years prior to the The Chronicles of The Raven books. It's not necessary to have read the Raven books to enjoy this one, and in fact, this is my first introduction to Barclay. I plan to continue reading this series but also to track down the Raven books.

Elves might bring to mind the cute creatures from Tolkien, but these elves are more like humans in their capacity for fighting, looking out for oneself and treachery. There are some nasty characters in amongst the good guys. The story has a bit of a slow start and the timeline is at first a bit confusing as to what happened 10 years ago and what happened 1,000 years ago, but once acclimated, the reader is pulled into this tale, filled with action, betrayals, ambition and treachery. At the heart of the story is the civil unrest amongst the elves and their combined hatred of the humans. While the priest, Sildaan, has allied herself with the humans, to bring the Ynissul back in charge, the orders came from higher up the hierarchy, but Katyett and Pelyn don't yet know the source. Barclay excels in his action scenes and has a masterful flare for character-driven plots and dialogue as well. Barclay gives insight into the elven race and while he doesn't exactly leave readers hanging, he definitely gives ideas as to what will come next in The Rise of the TaiGethen, the second book in this trilogy, due out in 2011.

Copyright © 2010 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.


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