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Bookends: What Happens After Happily Ever After? January 19, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: What Happens After Happily Ever After?

By Dan Davidson

August 17, 2016

– 783 words –

 

nobodys-sonNobody’s Son

By Sean Stewart

Ace Books (1995)

219 pages in print

e-Book available a Kindle, Kobo or IBook

Average price: $3.95

 
First off, let me say that it is a mystery why this Aurora Award (for Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy) winning fantasy book is not currently available between physical covers. My second thought would be that its current existence is another argument in favour of e-books.

The author is very happy about this second life for the book, and said so on his web page last September after it was first re-released.

It is a coming-of-age novel and was moved into the Young Adult category by a canny editor at Ace Books, even though Stewart, who was 24 when he wrote it, was still reacting to the fairly recent birth of his first child (a daughter) and hadn’t thought of that.

Shielder’s Mark (commoners in this fantasy world seem to have names that place them in categories) is a young man who has spent his life trying to live up to his feelings of inadequacy, feelings caused by the fact that his father abandoned mother and child shortly after his birth. Mark had a hard time growing up, but he was always determined to push himself to the limit.

For him, the ultimate limit was to break the curse that had held sway over the fabled Ghost Wood for many thousands of years. As best as he could, he trained himself to become a knight, and when he felt ready he entered the wood, beat off the ghosts that lived there, broke the spell and escaped with his life and a magic sward and a dagger.

Lots of fantasy novels would have spent the whole book getting to this point – but this is chapter one.

Mark heads off to the royal city, carrying the proofs of his success, and claims the prize that was offered by another king centuries earlier, a prize that must be honoured by the current monarch: any prize he choses to claim. Mark claims the king’s youngest daughter, Gail, and the king has to agree.

It is an inspired choice. Royalty cannot marry a commoner, and so the king must provide Mark with a title and lands commensurate with his achievement.

So at this point we begin the real story of this book, which is “what happens after happily ever after?”

Well, the princess likes him, and is willing to go through with the marriage, so that works, but she doesn’t want to be a mother for few years and. since they don’t seem to know about any sort of birth control other than the withdrawal method, that means no sex until she’s ready to take that chance.

Mark, of course, is a total fish out of water at the court, and keeps saying a doing the wrong things all the time, leaving him is a constant state of embarrassment. Fortunately a learned young man named Val, who is deeply interested in the young noble woman, Lissa, who is Gail’s constant companion, is available to help him navigate the shark infested waters.

There is much fun in all of this, but just when you might think that the book is going to be that sort of comedy, we find that that breaking the spell has invoked the Law of Unintended Consequences and freed all sorts of magic which had been bottled up in a delineated geographical area where the same day had been repeating itself endlessly for thousands of years.

The magic, and some of the good and bad things associated with it, is now leaking out into the rest of the world, and it is impossible to say what the consequences of that may be.

This means that, after having been relatively successful at finding his way through the intricacies of his new position in life, Mark has to reenter the Ghost Wood, going to a place that it appears only he can see, and figuring out what he needs to do to prevent the impending catastrophe of the Ghost King’s return. He accomplishes this in a denouement that is unexpected and quite satisfying, after which there is still a bit more court intrigue to be overcome. This, also, is handled in a surprisingly appropriate manner.

Stewart is a American born author who grew up in Canada and earned his university degree here. He has since returned to the USA, but has said, in an interview, that his Canadian upbringing has left him eternally puzzled as to why his American neighbours who collect guns can’t simply collect stamps.

 

-30-

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