Fantasy Masterworks is a series of classics that deserve to be in print and kept there rather than languishing as OP titles. They were published monthly by Millennium which is an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, a UK publisher, whose other imprints include Dolphin, Orion Media, Phoenix and Victor Gollancz. Below you'll find the reviews we've done to date (with cover/title links to them) along with synopses of those titles yet to be reviewed (the covers are linked to larger versions). They are in reverse order of release with the newest ones on the left. It is a companion series for their SF Masterworks line.
|Orion Fantasy Masterworks|
"Si Morley is bored with his job as a commercial illustrator and his social life doesn't seem to be going anywhere. So, when he is approached by an affable ex-football star and told that he is just what the government is looking for to take part in a top-secret programme, he doesn't hesitate for too long. And so one day Si steps out of his twentiety-century, New York apartment and finds himself back in January 1882. There are no cars, no planes, no computers, no television and the word 'nuclear' appears in no dictionaries. For Si, it's very like Eden, somewhere he could find happiness. But has he really been back in time? The portfolio of tintype photographs and sketches that he brings back convince the government. But all Si wants is to return..."
reviewed by Lela Olszewski
McKillip writes in a poetic style that makes her books a delight to read and re-read. And that's only one reason to pick up this reprint of her classic trilogy about a student of magic in a world where wizardry is a dying art.
reviewed by William Thompson
Pairing a northern barbarian with an urbane, hedge wizard's acolyte, one could think perhaps of a no more unlikely couple, except the marriage of Mutt and Jeff, Stan and Oliver, proving once again "Three of a Perfect Pair." A keen mind in a berserker's body, Fafhrd became the brawn and calm to balance the Grey Mouser's creative if at times impulsive fancy. Of a larcenous turn, the two confederates match their differing if mutual skills to thievery and mercenary employment, usually with serio-comedic results. Written with verve and wit, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser became one of the most original and enduring teams to grace fantasy fiction.
Part of Moorcock's Eternal Champion multiverse, this book includes work previously published (in the mid-1960s) under the titles The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer. "Elric of Melniboné, the haunted, treacherous and doomed albino sorcerer-prince... in thrall to his soul-eating sword, Stormbringer, he is yet a hero whose bloody adventures and wanderings lead inexorably to his decisive intervention in the war between the forces of Law and Chaos." (Glad to see they're using the classic Whelan covers for these -- they were always the best depictions of Elric. I actually have a framed print of this one hanging over my desk. Very inspirational!)
"Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become king of Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as he wielded his mighty sword and dispatched his enemies to a bloody doom on the battlefields of the legendary Hyborian Age. Collected together for the first time anywhere in the world, in chronological order, are all Robert E. Howard's definitive stories of Conan, exactly as he wrote them, as fresh, atmospheric and vibrant today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines more than sixty years ago."
reviewed by Gabriel Chouinard
If you're looking for an alternative to Tolkien's overly-hyped pastoral Middle-earth saga, you could do much worse than to sit down with a copy of this classic novel. It is a perennial tale often overlooked by the average fantasy reader, who seems to prefer Big Fat Trilogies over slender (241 pages), old (originally published in 1924), single volumes. Oh, the shame! Because those readers are missing out on one of the loveliest fantastic tales of all time.
reviewed by Stephen M. Davis
This is a clever book, weaving together a number of faery tales in a novel that spans 1,000 years and moves from this world, to a world of imagination, to the land of Faery, and to Hell itself for a short time. The main character, Beauty, is half-Faery, and must find a way to avoid marriage, shipment to a nunnery, and a curse that states she will prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday, falling into a sleep for 100 years.
Martin is well-known today as a fantasy author (take his bestselling and ongoing epic A Song of Ice and Fire, for example). But this is Martin's 1982 novel that marked a shift in his writing from more clearcut SF toward the fantastical end of the spectrum. "The Fevre Dream was one of the finest steamboats ever built, the pride of its captain, Abner Marsh. But as it sails the length of the river, the rumours begin about Marsh's enigmatic partner, Joshua York. He eats only at midnight, and in the company of friends who are never seen during daylight hours; and a trail of terrible deeds along the shores follows in the Fevre Dream's wake."
reviewed by A.L. Sirois
Severian and his beloved companion, Dorcas, whom he has unwittingly brought back to life in the first book of The Book of the New Sun, are temporarily established in the northern city of Thrax. He is still seeking the Pelerines, the religious order to whom he must return the Claw of the Conciliator, the mysterious gem with which he has restored Dorcas's life. Once again, however, Severian's nature gets the better of him and he lets a client escape her fate. For this, he knows he will be killed because the ruler of Thrax himself had been the one to order the woman's death.
reviewed by Georges T. Dodds
Lud-in-the-Mist, situated at the confluence of the Dapple and the Dawl rivers, is the capital of the country of Dorimare, a land of sensible, prosperous, stodgy, conservative merchants. Some centuries ago a debauched, impulsive, hedonistic sometime poet, and worst of all fairy lore-loving aristocrat, Duke Aubrey, had been deposed by a growing merchant middle class. To the west of Dorimare, beyond the Debatable Hills and home to the source of the Dapple, is Fairyland -- the taboo, unmentionable source of all the worst things that can undermine an ordered society such as exists in Lud-in-the-Mist. Fairyland is also from whence are smuggled the unmentionable fairy fruit, which when eaten lead to exuberant, impulsive behaviour and a heightened sense of wonder. These are items so utterly taboo that merely naming them is considered the vilest of obscenities.
This is an omnibus edition of the Harold Shea tales, being The Incomplete Enchanter (1941), The Castle of Iron (1941), The Wall of Serpents (1953) and The Green Magician (1954). "The Mathematics of Magic: the greatest discovery of the ages... at least, that's what Professor Harold Shea thought. With the proper equations he could instantly transport himself and his friend Reed Chalmers to other times, to visit the wondrous lands of ancient legend. But Shea's magic did not always work -- at least, not quite as he expected."
reviewed by Rodger Turner
Thomas Abbey is the lonely child of a famous movie actor. Grown up, he's a prep school English teacher who is fascinated by the work of Marshall France, a legendary author of children's books. France had retreated from the world and hidden himself away in tiny Galen, Missouri before dying of a heart attack at age 44. Tom Abbey meets a fellow France aficionado, Saxony Gardner, while browsing a bookstore and finding a rare title he covets but that she's reserved. He mentions a desire to write a France biography and Saxony offers to help by doing research. Thus begins a relationship that is as sweet and tempestous as one could imagine.
reviewed by Georges T. Dodds
To many people the character of Conan is the one they know from two films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; for others Conan is the barbarian character of comic book fame; for others still the literary character written of by a host of modern would-be sword and sorcery authors. Presented in this collection are the original unadulterated Robert E. Howard Conan tales, directly from the pages of Weird Tales and original manuscripts.
reviewed by Sean Wright
Ashlyme feels compelled to rescue Audsley King from the plague zone, returning her back to the High City where he feels she belongs. Indeed, his admiration for the artist is so great that he's even willing to share his studio with her, although she doesn't know it. In fact, she doesn't know that he has planned to abduct her, an absurdist plot hatched by a struggling astronomer, Buffo. But the tension is notched up a level when The Grand Cairo, a powerful yet nasty dwarf with a history of violence, commissions Ashlyme to paint his portrait and invites himself to be part of the rescue team.
reviewed by Steve Lazarowitz
Corwin, unaware of his heritage, wakes up on the shadow Earth, completely unable to remember anything, except that he'd been in a horrible car accident that wasn't an accident at all. Worse yet, someone was keeping him sedated and incommunicado for motives that weren't likely pure. Though handicapped by amnesia, Corwin finds himself in a game where he doesn't know the stakes, but he knows they're high enough to kill for.
The next title is this winner of the 1981 World Fantasy Award, from the author of The Deep, Engine Summer and Ægypt. "Edgewood is many houses, all put inside each other, or across each other. Edgewood is filled with mystery and enchantment: the further in you go, the bigger it gets. This is where Daily Alice Drinkwater lives; this is where Smoky Barnable comes, under strict orders from Daily, to wed her. But on arriving at her family home, having followed her instructions, he finds himself drawn into a world of magical strangeness..."
reviewed by Peter D. Tillman
Here's a handsome new omnibus edition of four classic fantasies: The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga and Rhialto the Marvelous. This series spans much of the author's career, from his first published book (The Dying Earth, 1950, a collection of six stories from the 40s) through the 1984 collection Rhialto the Marvelous.
reviewed by Georges T. Dodds
This is a unique masterpiece of heroic fantasy. It is like nothing published in fantasy today and few works could compare to it in its time or since. At its publication even Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was compared to the benchmark of Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, and these comparisons haven't always gone in Tolkien's favour. Besides its lush Shakespearean English, and its sources in Homeric and Norse epics, it was probably the first fantasy work to include appendices on historical time lines in the imaginary world. One reason such a work as Eddison's couldn't possibly be created today is that, as pointed out by others elsewhere, nobody today receives the broad Classical educations that the great British fantasists like William Morris, H. Rider Haggard, Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, Mervyn Peake and E.R. Eddison did.
reviewed by Rich Horton
The author is widely regarded as a seminal 20th-century writer of fantasy, the originator of many of the tropes we see in story after story, and a master stylist. However, he is not all that widely read any more. Well, this new collection would seem to be intended to reach all readers and to set Dunsany's record straight. The best stories in this book are excellent, written in lovely prose that is indeed ornate, but to good effect, often rounded off with an ironic barb, stuffed with lush images, and suffused with the odour of regret.
reviewed by A.L. Sirois
Combining The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, this is hefty work with precious little padding. Anyone familiar with Gene Wolfe's work knows what to expect -- strange doings, complex and troubled characters, no guarantees of happy endings for anyone, images and events that stick in the mind long after the book is put down, and a command of the language beyond the ability of 90% of writers working today in or out of the SF field.
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