Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
This is the second volume of a projected series.
At the conclusion of the first volume `Words of Power’ our heroes; Man – who has been identified as the prophesised One Who Will Change – Joshi, Joah, Voice and Faslane have escaped from the burning City of Jade by the means of a balloon cobbled up from magic and furniture. They have played their part in driving away the black ship from Albion but have not been able to defeat the minions of the Lord of the North under the command of the obnoxious Oatha, head of the purity police who had seized control of the city from the dominion of the good samurai Okada.
Whereas `Words of Power’ brought the reader into the parallel world of a magical, traditional Japan at a distorted moment when the magic of mechanics was coming into play, this volume is about a group of comrades under constant attack on their pilgrimage to a safe place where they hope to regroup their forces for the struggle to overthrow the Lord of The North, an evil magician intent on world domination. It is a different type of story although the ambience and the characters remain the same.
Their intended place of safety is the settlement known as The Waning of the Moon due to what is presented as a geological feature. This is a place of psychic refuge maintained by Mother Zandar, a woman of immense magical power supported by Sword Maidens and female adepts.
The Lord of the North wishes to capture the Eye of Jade, a gem of great power and the Talking Book which have been extracted from the ruins of Jade by Man and his companions. As they seek to travel over sea and land to The Waning of the Moon they are subjected to attack by the Lord of the North and his more mortal subordinates under Lady Berendra. Man’s magical skills are exhausted but Mother Zander helps the companions to escape the clutches of the Lord of the North but at a very great cost.
According to the ancient seer Lady Naosuke it is expected that the One Who Will Change will have to do battle with legendary monsters on the Midnight Beach. This part of the coast has the appearance of a wrecked ancient or alien spaceship, although this is only intimated by the writer. Having picked up reinforcements from their ally, the sea captain Fukuzawa, the companions begin to cross the beach only to be attacked by huge crabs and lobsters. If, like this reviewer, you have no love for crustaceans then this might not be for you, but during this dour struggle the Lord of the North or an avatar frees Man’s magical powers to allow them to escape to the mountains.
Now that is just an incomplete summary of Part One. Those who like their fantasy adventure served up in an endless chain of large buckets will adore this book. The only condition is that they must have read `Words of Power’ first, as the content of `Words of Fury’ won’t fully satisfy without that experience. `Words of Fury’ is a good strong yarn in itself, but context is everything and the structure of the parallel world sculptured by Smith is quite fabulous and complex. The reader needs to be immersed in the imagery of this place and time to get the full benefit of the story.
In Part Two, the companions struggle to reach The Waning of the Moon as the Lord of the North and his allies seek to obstruct their passage. Man is consumed with self-doubt and fears of his own betrayal but he is not the only one thus abused. Part Three opens with magic, exorcism and utter chaos. Man knows that in carrying the power-gem the Eye of Jade he has unwittingly absorbed elements of its magic. When he enters the precincts of The Waning of the Moon he becomes both capable and incapable of handling the violent and desperate intrusion of the Lord of the North. That portion of the story departs for another plane to be advised.
The conclusion of this volume is in total accord with the Military Writings of Mao Tse-Tung in that what might seem a place of safety could easily become a prison. There is no doubt however, that in the volumes to come Smith will prove more than capable of resolving that particular contradiction.