Ian Graham, Author . Ace $14 (384p) ISBN 978-0-441-01135-3

Eschewing the predictably chivalrous caricatures of much mainstream fantasy, British author Graham's fiercely energetic debut novel of dark destinies, treachery and tragic self-awareness focuses on morally corrupt characters in a bleak, amoral world of oppressive religious systems and explosive violence. Ballas, a drunk whose soul is as deformed as his busted face, repays a priest's act of kindness by stealing from his religious order a black iron disk with magical properties. Visited by the vision of a Lectivin, a member of the legendary "Pale Race," Ballas forcefully enlists the aid of Lugen Crask, a cowardly eel hunter, and his likable daughter, Heresh, to help locate the fabled "Land Beyond the Mountains," to which Ballas is drawn. Sentenced to death by church Wardens and pursued by a deadly Lectivin, Ballas is a nasty character study of degraded self-interest and anguish. A lack of sentimentality lends this intelligent story an authentic, subversive air of philosophical harshness. Minds and hearts are battered just as often as flesh, and the antihero commands the reader's reluctant respect for his steadfastness. While this existential epic probably won't please fans of C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, those seeking gritty realism in imaginative fiction will welcome it as a bitter feast. Agents, Howard Morhaim and Abner Stein. (Mar. 30 )

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 373 pages - 978-1-84149-102-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 464 pages - 978-0-441-01263-3
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1326-4
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