Hotsuka’s Story, by JF Mehentee
Hotsuka, an immortal being, falls in love with a mortal woman. In punishment he is banished, imprisoned, tortured, and finally stripped of his powers and made near-human himself. Despite this he is still intimately involved in a great power-play among the ruling immortals because he has changed that game. As a result of his affair there is a child, half human and half god.
While some immortals want to destroy Hotsuka, others protect him. As he lives his life as a human Hotsuka begins to understand the great harm he has done to the mortal woman he loved, and the risks to his child.
This is a highly readable, engaging and smart story of becoming aware of consequences and living with them, and how sometimes amends cannot be made. Set in a richly detailed world Hotsuka’s Story is an original and imaginative tale. If you are looking for intelligent and beautifully written fantasy in an Asian/Eastern mythological setting I strongly recommend this book.
Hotsuka’s Story is the first of six books in the Dragon Pearl series. I read this as an ARC.
A Wizard’s Henchman, by Matthew Hughes, PS Publications
Erm Kaslo is smart muscle for hire, a highly competent and rather dangerous man. Yet the world, indeed the universe as he knows it, is about to change in a catastrophic way. Along with computers, guns and spaceships all his skills and special equipment will soon count for nothing. Kaslo is a survivor. He attaches himself to a man currently thought to be eccentric, if not mad, but soon to become a power-player beyond imagination – a magician.
If you enjoy the works of the great Jack Vance (and I do), then there is a very good chance you will like this book a lot. Hughes writes a very close pastiche of Vance’s mannered, witty and slightly baroque style. His humour is dry, his observations mordant.
Yet Vance was a romantic, almost all his books included matters of the heart. There’s nothing of that here – if you’re looking for female characters you will find them only in minor supporting roles. And Kaslo at times can be brutally cruel. Hughes is not Vance and it’s wrong to expect him to be. He’s clearly a huge fan and this book is a wonderful and near-perfect homage. It and the others in this series are set in the universe as it might have been before the Dying Earth novels.
It’s wrong to judge a writer – especially one as good as Hughes – by a single book. For me the gender omission is the only obvious flaw. I greatly enjoyed A Wizard’s Henchman and will be reading more of Hughes’s work soon.