TURNS AND CHANCES by JULIET E MCKENNA
EBook, 102 pages, Wizard’s Tower
Juliet McKenna’s long out-of-print novella “Turns and Chances” has been given a new lease of life in this e-book edition, which features the striking original artwork of the PS publishing version, by Trowbridge-based Wizard’s Tower Press.
The book is set in the world of the “Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution”, at a slightly earlier point along the timeline, but you don’t need to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one (although I would recommend them highly if you like smart, thoughtful fantasy with heart and punch.) Unusually for High Fantasy, the novella doesn’t focus on the deeds of Kings and mages, but centres on a conspiracy hatched by what George RR Martin would refer to as the “smallfolk”; a blacksmith’s apprentice, a priest, a heartbroken tavern maid, a lord’s mistress, a housewife and her son…
The story is passed from character to character with the smoothness of a relay baton as the conspiracy deepens. It is a conspiracy to bring about peace, to protect the sons of the smallfolk of Lescar from dying on the battlefield at the whim of their ducal masters. The multiple, switching points of view, which could have been overpowering in such a thin novel, are handled deftly and confidently, investing the reader in the fate of characters even after only spending a few pages with them. And the post-battle scenes, while poignant, do not shy away from gruesome detail. The reader also gets a real sense of depth, of the world stretching away beyond the narrow confines of these pages, both in time and space. It’s an impressive achievement.
This is an ideal taster of McKenna’s work for those who haven’t read the “Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution” (Blood in the Water, Irons in the Fire, and Banners in the Wind) or the earlier “Tales of Einarrin”, and an additional treat from those that have read the full-length novels and hunger for more.