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Favorite fantasy authors: R. A. MacAvoy
After slogging through the next thousand pages of Stürm
und Drang from
Robert Jordan, it was an intense
relief to turn to the latest trilogy by R. A. MacAvoy.
Sometimes I get really bored with a lot of magical pyrotechnics---you
know, where Our Hero rounds the corner, confidently bearing his
Staff of Infinite Smiting, but oh no, it's a three-hundred-foot
tall Ballhog wielding the Shield of Endless Dispersal, and his
smiting attacks bounce right off! Ho hum.
Well, if you want people stories, try R. A. MacAvoy.
Technically, they are fantasy, but the fantastic elements are
subtle when they show at all. Sometimes living characters will
converse with the dead---but ghosts crop up in mainstream
fiction, too, and no one banishes those books to the F&SF
ghetto. Here are the works I've seen and loved:
- Tea with the Black Dragon was the work that
made her name in the field. A sort of hi-tech whodunit in
the context of a group of contemporary semi-pro traditional
musicians. One of the characters might be a legendary
Chinese dragon, but maybe not. Decide for yourself. I also
loved the sequel, Twisting the Rope.
- A Trio for Lute is a trilogy that was also
published separately as Damiano, Damiano's
Lute, and Raphael. The period is early
Renaissance and the protagonist is a musician from Italy who travels
across Europe in the time of the Black Death and encounters
other musics from as far away as Ireland. I love the scene
where Damiano commits a grievous breach of etiquette by
climbing a fence to get into a private yard because he has
never heard an Irish harp and just has to meet the player.
The emotions and events of this work are so intense that
they remind me of the work of
Evangeline Walton. Gripping.
There is some quite overt magic going on here, but as with
all her work, the human story takes center stage, not the flash.
- I think her latest trilogy, the only one commonly in print
at this writing, is her best work yet. The titles are
Lens of the World, King of the Dead,
and Belly of the Wolf. Marvelously effective yet
unintrusive writing style, a complete absence of magical
gadgetry, and an assortment of believable characters of all
types. How refreshing, in contrast to a lot F&SF
hack-and-slash, to meet a protagonist who is more interested
in making peace than starting wars, and who would rather
grow in his craft and enlightenment than lead a Movement.
MacAvoy's work is filled with believable characters, the kind
that remind me of people I've known. The dialogue and the
mechanics of her writing are clear, unobtrusive, and as real as a
mountain brook. If what you want is to be dazzled and stunned
and smashed and left for dead by the sheer force of the writing,
this ain't it. But if you like stories about people going
through the kinds of things that people often go through, I think
you'll like it.
Next: Favorite fantasy authors: Raymond Feist
See also: Shipman's reading list: fantasy and ``soft SF''
Previous: Favorite fantasy authors: Gene Wolfe
John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 1996/08/22 19:40:14