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The Left-Hand Way (American Craft) by Tom Doyle
Cover Artist: Dominick Saponaro
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Digital  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781466834583
Date: 11 August 2015

Links: Author's Website / J. Guenther's Review /

Although Michael Endicott and Dale Morton have made their peace, the battle is far from over. Morton's long-dead ancestor Roderick, perhaps the greatest master of Left-Hand (i.e., black) magic known, has been defeated but not destroyed. And he has quite a plan left to enact...

In The Left-Hand Way, Tom Doyle continues the story begun in American Craftsmen. This time, however, the focus shifts to a new narrator: Michael Endicott, whose family's power of command is a poor match against the Left-Hand Mortons' powers of necromancy, precognition and weather control.

As the story bounces from Endicott's personal narrative to a broader, third person overview, the strands of the story come together. Dale and his powerful wife Scherie are sent on separate missions that end with both in terrible danger. Endicott himself goes to London to help consult, only to discover he's the object of a deadly search by powerful craftsmen, with his only ally a British officer whose family despises his. And a visit to that officer's friend and mentor doesn't go exactly as planned, either.

As Dale confronts a hurricane of dark spiritual energy in Japan, Scherie meets a Greek-led faction dedicated to eradicating Left-Hand practitioners wherever possible. Meanwhile, Roderick continues his own plans, inhabiting a new body and putting events in the Ukraine into motion. Having subverted some key officials, he has the resources he needs for the next phase.

Endicott, badly wounded after a brutal firefight, is revived only through desperation, leaving him contaminated with dark magic. The Endicott family, being extremely religious (indeed, all uses of craft for Michael revolve around asking God for divine help), is unlikely to tolerate this, but he needs their help to complete his mission. Besides which, if the world ends, recriminations are sort of pointless.

Converging in the Ukraine, Dale, Scherie, Michael, and Grace Marlow (the British officer) find themselves facing off against the nation's top craftsmen, even as Roderick pulls off a daring escape from a brilliant assassination scheme. Left trailing behind him, the foursome gain a small bit of help from Roderick's sister (and former ally) Madeline, as well as their own grim, forbidding ancestors. Michael can now see the spirits directly; more than that, he can in some way call upon a far stronger and more primal power--one that terrifies his friends as much as his enemies.

Roderick's plans begin to make sense. Despite battling a man who can read the future and thus confound their efforts to stop him, they make progress in chasing him to the ancestral Morton home, where Roderick intends to use the House's power for a very dark purpose indeed. What good is resurrection unless you also hold the power to destroy your enemies...and perhaps the world itself?

Doyle's book is an engaging, fast-paced urban-military fantasy with elements of espionage, stuffed with adventure and yet plotted meticulously. He's taken his game to the next level, for sure.

Michael Endicott is a very different narrator than Dale Morton. He's more sardonic, with a keen edge of self-mockery that keeps his sanctified nature nicely in check. He's a good observer and does not make the dumb mistakes many protagonists must make in order to serve the plot; even so, those narrow misses are still accounted for by Roderick, who is nearly too good an enemy for the heroes. He has such enormous resources of magic that his defeat seems impossible up to the last minute, and yet Michael perseveres against all odds.

Dale and Scherie are not second stringers in the story, by any means. Dale learns a great deal about the nature of his power, solving some family mysteries along the way, even as Scherie realizes how strong she really is (and boy, is she strong!). Their relationship grows and deepens, even as Michael and Grace form a bond of their own.

With powerful craftspeople like Tituba in her lineage, Grace Marlow is a power on her own. She can tell when others lie and see their souls as a light around them. Her amazing competence keeps the mission on track, as well.

Roderick's power of foresight gives him huge advantages, true, but Doyle neatly finds the way to counter that--and (happily) explains as much toward the end. As powerful as he is, Roderick still has flaws that his foes can exploit--and they surely do.

Fans of fiction with roots in great American classics (really, you cannot believe the Easter eggs woven into the story) will love these books. We can't wait to see what Doyle does next.

Recommended.

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