4 out of 4 stars
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An Unexpected Excursion Into the Unknown is the second volume of a projected trilogy featuring the medieval-style kingdom of Bandidon and a struggle for the throne between twin brothers. It begins with Prince Bryand (the good twin) fleeing the country with his three best friends in order to escape the assassins that Prince Daron (the bad twin) has sent after him. Bryand and his friends set sail to the uncharted lands beyond the Tanta Mounts, taking along a mapmaker and his assistant.
But another ship follows them. Even when Bryand docks his ship and begins to lead his group inland, the mysterious others are still in pursuit. At times, they come close enough to mount an attack. Between the pursuing assassins and fantastic monsters of all kinds—Halfenhalfs, Hissies, Roasts, and one intoxicated Flagon Dragon—the travelers spend much of their time fighting. Will they ever manage to elude these threats and find their way to the Tanta Mounts? And what might await them there?
Like the first book, this one features Gene Abravaya's marvelous wordplay and lighthearted humor. I especially admired a scene in which a tree named Flora is quoted as saying to Bryand and his companions that she would "as lief see you stay."
One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the relationship between Ayland Downing, the mapmaker, and his assistant, Rolfo. With entirely different personalities, they struggle to work together. Ayland is kind and considerate but lacks self-confidence. Rolfo is a greedy scamp and rather cowardly, but he knows how to enjoy life. As the adventure unfolds, each one changes and learns to appreciate the other.
Equally noteworthy are the author's detailed and convincing accounts of the many battles that Bryand and company must fight. Human participants wield crossbows, swords, spears, and axes, while ogres and other beasts rely on teeth, claws, and a variety of special appendages. These conflicts are often so lifelike that readers may feel the need to take cover.
Enough backstory is provided to allow An Unexpected Excursion Into the Unknown to be read on its own. But for maximum reading pleasure, I recommend beginning with the first book, A Prince of a King, which describes the kingdom of Bandidon, introduces all the key characters, relates the circumstances leading to conflict between the twin princes, and sets the scene for future events.
An Unexpected Excursion Into the Unknown has earned 4 out of 4 stars for its realistic and relatable characters, clever wordplay, suspenseful battle scenes, exciting descriptions of adventures in unexplored lands, and delightful humor. It is well written and well edited. There is much to like and nothing to dislike in this engaging story. Readers who appreciate lighthearted fantasy and adventure tales are certain to enjoy such a lively and amusing novel.
An Unexpected Excursion Into the Unknown
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