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The Wanderer's Tale
David Bilsborough
Tor, 448 pages

The Wanderer's Tale
David Bilsborough
David Bilsborough was born in Malvern, England, the hills of which inspired him to create the world of Lindormyn. The Wanderer's Tale is the first of many Annals set in that world. He lives abroad, where he teaches English as a second language. He has also written A Fire in the North, which will conclude the story.

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A review by Tammy Moore

The Wanderer's Tale starts in Vaagenfjord Maw, the final battle in an epic war between good and evil. Scathur, servant of the Rawgr and General of his armies, fulfils one last request for his dark master, a request that taints the victory of the Pel-Adan forces for centuries to come. Five hundred years later, there are still those who fear that the Rawgr will return and they have the ear of powerful men. Peladane Nibulis Wintus, son of the Warlord Artibulus Wintus, plans to lead a band of warriors across the arctic wastes to the Rawgr's lair and there slay it, before it can get its claws into the world again. However, his campaign runs afoul of scepticism amongst his warriors and, instead of the great army he envisaged, a rag-tag band of eight set out from Nordwas: three warring priests, a deformed warrior, a wanderer, Nibulis himself, his squire Gapp and his old friend Methuselech. Their only guide to the Rawgr's icy lair is an old journal and there are many dangerous, fey infested miles for them to cover before they get there. With bandits, giants and demonic, unnatural beasts hunting them, if they are to have any hope of succeeding in their quest then they can trust nothing and no-one, not even each other.

It's a promising enough premise. People say that the quest is an over-used fantasy trope, but that's because it works so well and it is possible to make it interesting. Despite David Bilsborough's obvious talent as a writer, however, he never quite managed to convince me that his characters were "real." His world-building skills are admirable, the novel is full of interesting cultures and creatures that he outlines in elegant detail, and he is a talented writer. There were whole passages where I was caught up in events, but then either the narrator's voice would intrude or something would happen to jar me out of the novel. There were frequently little things that just made me think the author had either not done enough research and editing, or, more damningly, that he didn't respect the readers all that much. Things like Gapp thinking something was "cool" or that a horse would flee into a dark cave and down a dark tunnel under the mountain (or that, if it did, it wouldn't break both its legs). The narrator's voice was also intrusive, making asides about events and interrupting the flow of the story, and I never forgot for a moment that I was being told a story.

That said, David Bilsborough has created a brilliant and detailed world with an interesting mythology that isn't just elves and dwarves and ents, oh my. His fey are alien and occasionally repulsive and the mythology he is creating is clever and has a great deal of promise. There are flashes of brilliance in his writing and in his characterisation. Unfortunately, they just never lasted long enough to really draw me into the story that was being told. Perhaps he will have found his footing in the sequel.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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