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February 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Magic Time: Angelfire by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Marc Scott Zicree
Eos Trade: ISBN 0061050695 PubDate Dec 02
Review by Ernest Lilley
pages List price $25.95  
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We resume our quest for the source of the magic that has supplanted the rule of technology in this contemporary urban fantasy with the companions assembled in the first book (see insert). Cal, once a Manhattan lawyer, now a swordsman and leader of this mission to stop the insanity and hopefully rescue his sister. Colleen, the deadly huntress who seems to fit much better into the "changed" reality than she could possibly have in NYC, except for a few after hours clubs I can think of. "Doc", a former Russian physician who had fled his homeland after losing his family, who had taken up a life as a hot dog vendor until things got weird, and "Goldie". Goldie was a little weird before the change, living in abandoned subway tunnels beneath the city, and keeping his personal demons at bay with the occasional round of meds from a free clinic. Now the demons are loose, and his "gift" in the change was to be able to hear them near or far. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

Book #1 Magic Time by Marc Scott Zicree, Barbara Hambly - a Govt. project unleashes dark magic on the Earth, replacing the rules of physics with the rule of magic. People change into trolls and fairies, and four people, start out on a quest to defeat the source of power and return the "real" world. It has convincing tone, and is nearly as good as Terry Brooks Knight of the Word series.

In this second book, written by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, rather than the Barbara Hambly/Marc Zicree amalgam that kicked off the series, Cal's search west to find his sister, who had turned into one of the modal forms of changed humans, a glowing, pointy eared, fairylike flying the one on the cover of the new book.

For some reason, the center of power is drawing all the "flares" into it from far and wide. Cal's sister, Tina, got sucked up in the last book, and when the travelers come across a blues musician leading a troupe of refugees and accompanied by a flare who hasn't been taken, their quest diverts to find out why not, where they're going, and if they can do it too.

In the short run, they're going to a safe haven, bounded by a form of music that jams the power of the "Storm". The one musician with the power is being held in thrall by a device made more powerful by the change rather than made null and void, like most artifacts of our world. He's trapped by a contract with a recording company, one that has assumed magical portent and twists his music. Did I mention that Cal was a lawyer? Will they go to Chicago to free Enid from his contract so that he can help them free the flares taken by the Storm? Is the pen mightier than the sword? Is the chick on the cover hot?

Don't get me wrong. Though the series comes from the dreams of a TV producer's fantasies (Marc Zicree clearly wants to be Magic Time's Gene Roddenbury...or Joss Wheedon) the whole shtick of interpreting classic fantasy motifs against a modern day backdrop works really well and they take themselves seriously. Oddly, the names everyone gives the creatures that humanity has twisted into aren't names from classic fantasy, but ones they make up for a new age. Grunters, Flares, and the like. It's fantasy, but it's fairly hard fantasy, and the quest formula works as well as ever. Well, almost as well. Coming from someone with a TV background, I'm really afraid that these four horsemen of the changed world will keep going from one distraction to the next rather than coming face to face with the source of power and smiting it so we can get back to polluting the planet and dehumanizing ourselves.

The interpersonal dynamics of our little group take up at least as much story as the uber-plot. Cal is a stand up guy, a little square, a real leader type. Goldie is a flake, but means well, though he annoys the hell out of Colleen. "Doc" is an old his late 40s, so he's no threat to the male hormones floating around. Colleen is your basic warrior babe, crossbow at the ready, not a trace of magic in her, and from the number of males that make her a condition of whatever deal they are trying to  strike with the group...not unattractive. So, you've got a great little cauldron to stir the band's passions around in, and stir the author does. Out of this segment comes a lot of growth for the characters, and it's going to be interesting to see how that carries forward into the next book.

Which brings me to this business of change. I don't like change. I'm a guy who likes old shoes and my favorite leather jacket. I find change disconcerting. Ok, sometimes I find it exciting, and often I seek it out...but Magic Time the book series has a little more change in it than I'd like.

First off, they've changed the author. Marc Zicree is still at the helm as exec producer, or whatever he calls himself, but the tremendously talented Barbra Hambly, who worked on the first book, has been replaced by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, a gal with far too many redundant letters in her name. Fortunately, she can write well, which makes it work. Unfortunately, the book's narrative style is "first person alternative", which means that each chapter gets a new character's viewpoint, rotating between our cast of four. I hate this. I have to keep looking at the names in the dialog to figure out who I'm hearing by process of elimination. But then, I'm a storyline kind of guy. If they're going to switch voices, why not add in a few from the new folks they meet? What our band looks like from the outside might be more interesting than how each character is doing with their various demons anyway.

What really worries me is that I'm hooked by this series and I want to know what happens next. Heck, I'd just like to know who's going to write the next volume.

About Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff: It's no wonder that music plays an important role in Magic Time - Angelfire.  Besides being a fantasy writer with four novels out (The Spirit Gate The Meri The Crystal Rose and Taminy) author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff is an accomplished singer/songwriter. She's released two albums with her husband Jeff, Retro Rocket Science and Manhattan Sleeps.

sfr3d.gif (19860 bytes) 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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