by Len Bailey
Review by Colleen Cahill
Starscape Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0765309823
Date: 06 February 2007 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When an author returns to a fantasy land, care must be taken not to write the same story again. Of course we want to see our favorite characters and places once more, but not with the same journey. Len Baily has succeeded in Fantasms, the second book to explore a magical world centered around a chess board sea, insect pirates and rollicking adventure. Danny Ray returns again to aid the Kingdom of Elidor, working with many old friends to prevent the fantasms from bringing about the final age, one with no sun, moon or stars.
At the end of Clabbernappers , Danny Ray was on the top of the world: he was the best rodeo cowboy in Oklahoma, junior division and had rescued Prince Amber from marriage to the evil King Dru-Mordeloch. In Fantasms, we see Danny Ray at a low ebb: he got thrown from a bull in the rodeo so he is not this year's champion and he seems to be losing in a competition for the attention of a pretty girl. It is not surprising that when the shiny doorway to Elidor appears, Danny Ray does not hesitate and happily returns to the place of his last triumph. But things are not good in this land: the first thing Danny Ray discovers is Princess Amber is dead . . . or is she? The body turns out to be a fake and it is revealed that the Princess has been kidnaped by the fantasms, evil beings who seek to bring about an age of darkness. With the help of Prince Blue, the now reformed devil Tûk and the spunky handmaiden Cherry Quiggs, Danny Ray sets out on the Checkered Sea to find the Princess and return her safely to her father, King Krystal. The fantasms are no push over and Danny Ray must discover how to break their power or everyone will be plunged into a world with no light.
Len Bailey has achieved a difficult task: returned to an interesting fantasy world and added to it without either losing part its charm or repeating the same story again. Some of this is due to the change in the characters: Danny Ray, no longer a rodeo champion, is a bit humbler and more cautious in his actions. Prince Blue also shows some changes as he tries to fit in his new role of heir to the throne and as Tûk was a pirate in the first volume, he is learning the ropes of being a good guy. What is the same is Bailey's wonderful descriptions and sense of timing. This book is as fast-paced as Clappernappers and continues the author's creative use of names: we are introduced to KarooKachoo, the dragonfly girl and the erratic magician Mr. Tabbashavar, as well as the King of the Fantasms, Ikkus-Sark. This dark villain who must embrace five kings to bring about the dark age reminds me of the Tolkien's ring wraiths. While using kings and lords in his story, Bailey's work has a distinct American feel and like the works of L. Frank Baum, is more of a modern new world fairy tale.
For full enjoyment, you will want to first read Clappernappers before diving into this fun sequel. If you have read the first book, keep an eye out for Fantasms and try this new Danny Ray adventure.