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August 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Quicksilver Rising by Stan Nicholls
Voyager (UK) Trade: ISBN 0007141491 PubDate: 08/04/03
Review by Iain Emsley

410 pgs. List price $ 11.99
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Stan Nicholls Interview with Iain Emsley

Readers of Stan Nicholls’ last series, Orcs, will be used to his humorous and sideways view towards fantasy and some of its more familiar tropes. It probably won’t prepare you for Quicksilver Rising though, an altogether less scattergun but equally fun first part of a new series.

In Bhealfa, magic underpins society with the level of magic determining social standing. Reeth Caldeson is one of the last survivors of a tribe of warriors. Seriously messed up, he has been cursed powerfully and it looking for a way to lift it. Periodically he comes under a terrible blood rage, during which he must be chained and suffers horrific nightmares that manifest themselves to a near real level. Searching for a cure he comes to the house of Kutch, just after his master has died. Kutch attempts to alleviate his affliction but can only offer the hope that the fabled Covenant can help him. The two form an uneasy alliance to track them down. On their arrival they are brought into the wide resistance, a way of finding their own home outside of the major powers vying for control of the world.

Nicholls merrily takes apart the standard tropes. Reeth comes across as a standard fighting hero in the well worn mould of Conan or Gemmell’s work but Nicholls gives him a powerful motive for acting as he does. In each encounter, he is a wonderfully drawn character with a human streak that motivates him and informs his reactions towards others. Intriguingly Nicholls is not in a terrible rush to bring this to the fore and nor does he ham-fistedly drop this into the final paragraphs as a justification for any actions. This humanity towards the characters is also realized in Kutch and the sub plot of Serrah, one of the mercenaries with whom Reeth fights alongside. Kutch is no ordinary sorcerers apprentice with hidden magical powers. He is genuinely a frightened and confused man in a suddenly wide open position where he has to rely on the little that he knows to survive and to develop.

Intriguingly, the quest also comes in for its own update. Admittedly there is a magic artifact with unknowable powers but it is like the eye of the storm – the nexus of the action yet nothing to do with it. The resistance is far more passive, rather than fleeing the oppression. Nicholls sets up some intriguing premises that offer so much more in this single volume than most series do in their trilogies.

Quicksilver Rising is an enjoyable romp which offers so much for the attentive reader. It repays careful reading but is also a hugely enjoyable read .

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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