REVIEW

The latest titles in the world of fantasy fiction

Terry Pratchett lives on in The Ankh-Morpork Archives: Volume One. By Stephen Briggs, Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby (Gollancz $59.99), it's a comprehensive hardback guide to Pratchett's Discworld capital of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett once joked at an ANU/Canberra Times event that the name derived from the citizens demanding more pork. If Pratchett were alive now he would surely be referencing pork barrelling.

Fantasy worlds abound in new fiction. Picture: Trevor Cole/Unsplash

Fantasy worlds abound in new fiction. Picture: Trevor Cole/Unsplash

The Ankh-Morpork Archives usefully gathers together the separate texts written by Pratchett and Stephen Briggs for the annual diaries of the Unseen University, Assassins Guild, Post Office and Thieves Guild. In this new lavish publication, with numerous full-page illustrations by Paul Kidby, the diary elements have been removed and the texts have been redesigned.

The 2020 BBC America TV series The Watch, based on Ankh-Morpork's police force, the City Watch, has already stirred up a lot of critical comment by Pratchett fans even before release, thus making The Ankh-Morpork Archives a necessary Pratchett reference vade mecum.

British author Tom Holt is a comic writer definitely in the Pratchett mould. An Orc on the Wild Side (Orbit $22.99) is a witty fantasy satire set in a world known as the Realm, not too distant from Tolkien's Middle Earth.

King Mordak, the goblin leader, had wanted to make goblin life better by creating female goblins but the first female goblin turns out to be stronger than her male counterparts and ructions begin, let alone having to deal with cynical dwarves and bureaucratic elves.

Mordak's life changes when the Realm is invaded by multi-verse manipulating humans from Fulham and Ealing seeking cheaper real estate, although they complain about the fact that they can't get Tunisian olives or Parmesan. Side stories, such as that of John the Lawyer, allows Holt into a critique of lawyers and billable hours, credit cards and real estate conveyancing. In a wider context, Holt's comic invention and punning provides an effective framework to satirise contemporary events and classic fantasy.

Shadows of the Short Days, by Alexander Dan Viljalmsson, (Gollancz. $32.99), is a dark genre mixing debut novel, whose setting has echoes of Pratchett's Unseen University but located in an alternative Reykjavik. One of the two main characters, Smundur, a sorcerer expelled from Svartiskli University for trying to access the forbidden magic source Galdur, has now descended into drug and alcohol abuse and wishes to wreak revenge on society. The other main character, Garn, another societal outsider, but more likeable, is a half-breed graffiti artist who infuses her artwork with a political agenda that she hopes will lead to revolution against the oppressive government. The line between magic and drugs is blurred as the stories' two characters come together in a dense narrative, which mixes tragedy and fantasy with a definitive Icelandic flavour.

Widows Welcome (Head of Zeus $32.99) by D. K. Fields, the pseudonym of Welsh authors David Towsey and Katherine Stansfield, is the first book in their 'Tales of Fenest' trilogy, which through an inflected Victorian setting, reflects our contemporary world of fake news or tall tales.

It is set in the Union of Realms where the outcomes of elections turn on stories told by storytellers. When one of the storytellers is found murdered with his lips sewn shut, young Detective Cora Gorderheim, is assigned to find out the murderer and why this message has been silenced. An unusual form of election rigging needs to be solved before political anarchy results.

Game of Thrones: A Guide to Westeros and Beyond - The Complete Series, by Myles McNutt (Michael Joseph $49.95) is a sumptuous colour-illustrated coffee table book, organised into two geographical sections, North and South. It contains numerous short essays on the leading characters, their Houses and thematic backgrounds, supported by numerous photographs, maps and timelines and constitutes a great reference companion for fans of the Game of Thrones series.

TV networks have been frantically looking to emulate the success of Game of Thrones. Netflix think they have found one in the TV series being made from the fantasy novels and games of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski which feature Geralt de Rivia, the Witcher. Only released in December, the first series quickly became one of the most popular Netflix productions of 2019.

The Witcher - The Last Wish (Gollancz $16 95) was not the first published book, but has been reissued to coincide with the TV series as its short stories provide the best introduction to the main characters, Yennefer of Vengerberg and Princess Ciri, and especially Geralt, sorcerer, swordsman and mutant, who fights injustice and monsters plaguing humanity, although we quickly learn that humanity can just be as monstrous.

Given some of the complexity and timeshifting of the first TV series, The Witcher - The Last Wish is an ideal source to begin following the series, influenced by East European folklore, which makes many old fantasy tropes become new.

This story Goblins, forests and fake news first appeared on The Canberra Times.