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The Long Look by Richard Parks
Review by Paul Haggerty
Five Star (ME) Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781594147043
Date: 17 September 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Tymon the Black is an evil magician. The list of his atrocities is a cautionary tale told to children near and far across the known world. And they're all true … more or less. But things are never as simple as they seem. Tymon the Black is also a kind, caring man, who would never harm anyone unless it was necessary. And that is exactly the problem. Tymon suffers from the curse of "The Long Look". In essence he can foresee the future, or more accurately, he can see the horrors, disasters, and apocalypses that lie in the future. And with that knowledge comes the duty to prevent it, by any means necessary. And, unfortunately, the means for making the world a lighter and happier place usual means the commission of another atrocity or two.

The Long Look is a traditional adventure story, with heroes, villains, sword fights, magic, and at least one scantily clad princess. But it is also a book of philosophy and wry humor. Tymon and his servant Seb are as much victims of the Long Look as anyone on the receiving end of his schemes. Day after day, Tymon sees only the worst of what the world can offer, and has to concoct all manner of plans to head them off. And Tymon is more complex than your average spell-slinger. When he finds he needs to kill a prince to head off a devastating war, it's not good enough just to kill the man. That would be unfair and disrespectful. So he has to kidnap a princess, acquire a lair, set out evil minions to battle the prince, and force a final confrontation at the sacrificial altar. Because, while the prince must die, he must die in a manner befitting a heroic prince.

And to make matters even more complicated, while the Long Look may tell him what's going to happen, it doesn't tell him what to do about it. That is entirely up to him, and too err is human. In this case, just because he solved the immediate problem, that doesn't mean the world won't just put itself right back into jeopardy. Just because Prince Daras is dead, that isn't necessarily going to stop his brother, Prince Galan from wanting a bit of revenge … and his brother's fiancée, a lady with a strong mind, and sharper wit. Add in a couple of folk that think they'd be better kings than Prince Galan, a enigmatic being who might or might not be a goddess, and a creature of utter darkness and the depths of time, and Tymon is going to have his hands full keeping the area from all out war, and his own head in its proper place.

I wasn't really sure what I was getting into when I first opened The Long Look. Tymon the black isn't a hero, or a villain, or even a traditional anti-hero. Hero's do the right things for all the right reasons. Villains do the wrong thing for all the wrong reasons. And Anti-heros do the right thing for all the wrong reasons. Tymon completes the set, doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I'm not sure if this type of character has been labeled yet, but Tymon exemplifies the role. In the end, he's villain, and he gives no apologies for it. And yet the world is a better place, and Tymon, typically, is much the worse for wear, just biding his time until the Long Look sends him scrambling again.

Very much recommended.

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