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James Barclay
Victor Gollancz Millennium, 496 pages

Fred Gambino
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. The first novel in his series, Chronicles of the Raven, is titled Dawnthief.

James Barclay Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Excerpt: Noonshade

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Truly excellent fantasy is rare. Truly excellent heroic fantasy is rarer still. Discovering a new author who writes truly excellent heroic fantasy is perhaps the rarest gem of all.

James Barclay, with his Chronicles of the Raven, is such a find. His first novel, Dawnthief, introduced us to the Raven, a band of near legendary (and aging) mercenaries. A diverse assortment of fighters, mages and rogues, the Raven become entangled in the sorcerous mysteries of an apocalyptic spell called Dawnthief. Dawnthief is a grand tale of shifting alliances, deceit, hidden agendas and, ultimately, the salvation of the Raven's world of Balia.

For Noonshade, the Raven discover that the Dawnthief spell contains its own deceit and was, perhaps, not entirely understood before it was cast. The casting of Dawnthief has ripped a hole between dimensions and, instead of saving Balia, has sown the seeds of certain doom. The rip has drawn the attention of dragon broods who would destroy Balia. The Raven must work with the Kaan brood, protectors of the Balia dimension, to repair the damage done and save Balia. Dragons, barbarian hordes, sorcerers, demonic summonings, shape-shifters, and the threat of worldwide devastation are all tossed into the mix as the tale unfolds.

It is an epic tale and Barclay tells it with a mastery that is astonishing for only a second novel. The dialogue is fast-paced and well-written. The plot has multiple layers and multiple story lines. The characterization is rich and detailed. Individual characters have their own lives and struggles beyond the central story. Yet, at no time does the tale bog down under the weight of the details.

As an added bonus, the Chronicles of the Raven are just that, a series of tales. This means that we can expect to see more of the Raven and more of James Barclay. In fact the next installment is due in 2001, if you can survive the wait.

If you haven't read Dawnthief, do so; if you have, pick up Noonshade and rejoice in that rare discovery: terrific fantasy from a great new author.

Copyright © 2000 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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