Ace / 320 pages / December 2000
Daniel Hood is a familiar name to many fantasy and mystery readers–enough fans to make his adventure series an unqualified success. Good thing, seeing as Hood shows no signs of writer’s block, no slowing down; the fifth adventure of Liam Rhenford and his dragon familiar Fanuilh is here. And there are more instalments on the way, even as we read.
Quaestor Rhenford is once again forced into the role of detective, this time to discover who wants to prevent him from delivering a life saving elixir to the ailing king, and why they are willing to kill to stop him. Those wizardly powers still haven’t manifested, so he’s going to have rely on his wits, his luck, and Fanuilh’s magical assistance. It may be that this time the combination won’t be enough to save to save the unique duo. Especially since his foes have managed to frame him for some high-profile murders and the gallows await.
Torquay, the setting for this race for time, is an amazing place to visit, and an easy place to die. Remnants of magic have left the kingdom with some wondrous landmarks, but they have done nothing to change the true nature of the city. The rich get richer and the poor get children get the grand opportunity to live in misery and die at an early age. And, in between, the law tries to keep the peace and maintain the status quo.
Rhenford is wily, street-wise, and loyal. Not much more about his personality comes out in this book. Although King’s Curse works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, reading the series from the beginning would provide some more development of the main character.
And, have no doubt that Rhenford is the protagonist here; Fanuilh serves primarily as a wall for his master to bounce off ideas. Hood does an exceptional job of not turning the dragon familiar into a cutesy sidekick or an evil demon barely under control. The dragon is a mystery, an “alien” creature, as it should be.
These are not the only interesting characters in King’s Curse. There is a relentless and complex head of police, a ruthless lieutenant, pirates, sailors, and aristocrats — an eye-opening cross-section of a society that just might have existed at some point in time, but the mirrors our own world remarkably well.
But, you probably want to know one thing: is it a good story? Indeed, it is. The fight scenes are furious and exhilarating with tricks that make the outcome uncertain. Rhenford and Fanuilh’s escapes are unique and breathtaking. The location is a very active, attractive backdrop. The whole, motley amalgam is a winner.