by Ian Graham
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
400 pages; ISBN: 0441011357
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Ace, April 2004, $14.00, 400 pp.
He is a slothful thief who does not care that he is homeless, smells like a pig and has a beer belly so huge that it bounces. Ballas has no friends and kills without mercy. In a tavern he steals the purse of a store mason but is caught and beaten almost to death. A priest takes him into his home and when he is well asks him to perform an errand at the museum.
Ballas spots an artifact consisting of a big blue stone surrounded by red ones that brighten up a room when a light is put under it. He steals it hoping to sell it to a collector. Instead the church, which rules the kingdom of Druine, wants him dead. The chief hunter is from a magical race of mages long thought gone. Ballas leaves dead bodies in his wake and forces reluctant allies to help him find the mystical city of Belthiran over the unexplored Garsbracks Mountains because he knows he can never return to Druine.
This is not the typical fantasy novel because Ballas is an antagonist with very few redeeming qualities. Those he does have he does his best to sublimate preferring to treat other people as if they were things to be discarded when he has no use for them. Readers can’t helped but be drawn to this character in spite of themselves because of a fascination with such a nasty soul or because he has the raw potential to do good deeds in spite of himself. Ian Graham has plenty of talent and the courage to write a book that is totally different than any recent work in the fantasy genre.
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