Cover art by Michael Mariano and Rick Turner
These might be the last fantasy books by Jane Louise Curry I hadn’t read, and I’m a little sad about that, I’ve enjoyed many of her books. While separate stories, they’re closely connected and best read together.
The viewpoint characters are small men and women of the Tiddi people, a wandering group who cover a regular yearly circuit through part of the land of Astarlind. Several young Tiddi get swept up in unexpected serious trouble with Men, wolves, ice giants, magicians, and a large cast of people and (sometimes) talking animals. Magic stones from ancient times have surfaced, and an hidden evil presence is seeking them, sending his goblins and other dire creatures to find them. Runner, Fith and Cat, the young Tiddi, become part of a mission to destroy an evil outpost in a northern ice-bound land in the first book, and another mission to uncover the hidden evil and missing magic stones in the second.
These books are highly derivative of Tolkien, which is good in some ways, bad in others. For one thing there’s a deep back story giving events resonance, but Curry does not explain it as well as Tolkien, probably because there isn’t room. Second, some characters keep reminding the reader of Tolkien’s: the Tiddi of Hobbits, Lek the conjuror of Gandalf, and so on, but they aren’t as memorable or well-rounded in my opinion. Yet, there is an epic feel to the books that I liked, and lots of imaginative ideas.
Both books are full of exciting adventures and good characters who traverse an interesting and diverse land, and I did enjoy reading them, but I wouldn’t put them among Curry’s best work. Still, recommended.