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A modern town in a magic world

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Mar 9, 2013: What would happen, if your hometown was magically transported to another world? The citizens of Dunsmith, British Columbia get to find that out for themselves in this novel, a sequel to "Children of the Halo". The Dunsmith transplants have successfully defended themselves against an aggressor and formed alliances, but now "The Empire Strikes Back"!

Multiple plotlines immediately branch out from the point of view of different characters, some from Dunsmith and some native to this new realm. With each character, there’s backstory to be caught up on, and this all takes a bit of getting into. The large number of characters (not everyone in the town is mentioned, but we do keep abreast of the main movers and shakers) is especially difficult for the new reader. I assume this isn’t a problem for those who have read "Children of the Halo". The author has started putting together an "encyclopaedia Pactlandia" of nations and characters, which should help. It’s certainly an intricately imagined world, with distinct genres of magic (Geomages, Psimages, etc), complex politics (more than the usual feudal Kings), and unique fauna, some of whom are sentient (eg. the velociraptor-like Featherclaws).

In general, I like this story. There certainly are some interesting plotlines emerging, which I expect will all be knitted together at some point. There is one in particular that I am emotionally connecting with. However, I do seem to have trouble getting caught up in the flow of the story, in some chapters more than others. I noticed that the main characters that we are following all seem to be young single people, which feels a bit unbalanced, since a whole town was transported. Details are there, and yet I sometimes have trouble visualizing this world, and feeling the strangeness the transplanted people must be experiencing. Actually, the chapters that have worked the best for me are those written from the point of view of Pactlandians or Featherclaws observing and trying to figure out the newcomers.I like seeing aspects of our culture through the eyes of the inhabitants of the magical realm. Rumours of modern technology tend to initially be met with as much disbelief as magic would be in our world: "Stories of ships that cut through water faster than the wind blows also surfaced. Little boxes with which they could trap people to perform for their entertainment. Voices stolen from singers and placed inside circular discs, to be called upon whenever the mood struck."

Please note, Donna Sirianni’s 2008 review was written on a previous draft of this novel, and "The Liar’s Law" has since been revised and resubmitted. The technical problems Sirianni noted have been cleaned up, although a few of her comments about the effect of exposition and multiple plotlines/characters may still stand. But don’t be put off, as this series has a lot to offer for fans of otherworld fantasy. If the concept sounds interesting to you, my recommendation is to first sample the well-received "Children of the Halo", and if you are hooked, then eventually you will enter "The Liar’s Law" already invested in the people and fate of Pactland and its New Canadian Territories. Finally, I want to mention that the author, E.J. Spurrel, has written a thoughtful series of blog posts on the "A to Z for Indie Writers"; so far we have "Analytics" to "Reviews".

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