Book: Blood of Ambrose
Author: James Enge
Genre: Sword and Sorcery
Release: April 21, 2009
Length: 401 pages (Paperback)
It may be that, with the recent passing of David Eddings, my mind is simply per-occupied with nostalgic memories of my favorite childhood reading, but in my opinion, Blood of Ambrose bares a remarkable resemblance to the series of the late David Eddings. Fans of both The Belgariad and The Malloreon will find the story as familiar as an old friend. Those who have never had the pleasure of reading Eddings’ popular series will find a fast-paced tale with little in the way of depth, but a great deal of adventure.
This novel is a great standalone fantasy novel for younger (teen / preteen) audiences and older fans of the late, great David Eddings.
Official: Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor’s brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana.
When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius—stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk.
As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.
UnOfficial: Enge’s debut novel follows the adventures of twelve year-old King Lathmar VII as he and his ancient ancestors, the children of the outcast Merlin, struggle to regain control of his kingdom following a coup orchestrated by his Uncle, the royal Protector. They must escape their own stronghold, outwit their own military forces, face down the usurper, and survive the legions of the undead threatening to supplant their entire population in order to restore their family’s reign.
I’m not the biggest fan of the sword and sorcery genre. It’s where I “cut my teeth” as a kid, so to speak, but I’ve long since felt as if I’ve outgrown the escapism offered by such classics as Conan and Dragon Lance, despite still being an avid fantasy fan. From time to time, though, I like to use the genre as a form of pallet cleanser to give me a break from the increasingly predictable forms of contemporary and urban fantasy that pervade the sales charts these day.
It was in that spirit that I first picked up Blood of Ambrose earlier this week, and I was delighted to discover what a nostalgic window on my childhood it was. It I was immediately struck by how similar it was to some of my favorite childhood series from David Eddings. When, less than a week after picking up the book, David Eddings died, I was shocked by the coincidence, but comforted that I had found such a worthy successor for my time.
Enge doesn’t just follow in Eddings footsteps, though. Enge improves on Edding’s storytelling technique by compressing his tale down into a single volume, a feat Eddings never accomplished, despite his famous complaints that his first series would have been more effective as a trilogy than as a pentalogy. You’ll find no arduous journeys in this novel. Nor will you find protracted textual montages of time passing. Instead, Enge pass time at a gait, moving from one incident to the next seamlessly, without the the lengthy filler of other fantasy series.
The standalone novel is such a rarity in the fantasy isle that walking readers through a character’s adolescent in one volume, never mind doing it convincingly, is a feat worthy of recognition in and of itself. But Enge does tell the story convincingly. At its heart, Blood of Ambrose is a coming of age tale that follows the Lathmar the seventh from the tender age of twelve to manhood. In that, this novel succeeds beautifully.
The combination of brevity, rapid pacing, and convincing character development mark Enge out as an author to watch and Blood of Ambrose as a future classic of the Young Adult fantasy section.
If you enjoy Blood of Ambrose, you may also enjoy these very similar books: