Review of THE VONDISH AMBASSADOR by Lawrence Watt-Evans (see his website)
Wildside Press, January 2009
Dock worker Emmis of Shiphaven is just looking for a chance to make a few coins unloading the newly arrived ship. But the strangely dressed passenger quicly drafts Emmis, making him his guide and general servant for his visit to the great city of Ethshar of the Spices. Emmis's automatic bargaining results in him taking a job he had no interest in, but he soon gets involved with the foreigner, Lar Samber's son, Ambassador from the Empire of Vond.
Vond is a relatively new Empire built on multiple kingdoms in the land of small kingdoms. That empire was constructed through a deliberate violation of the basic rules of war--through the use of magic. Vond, the warlock who created the Empire, is gone now, and Vond's neighbors are intent on making sure neither he, nor any other warlock, return. And when Emmis's employer starts visiting wizards and warlocks, and even enquires about having his nephew apprentice as a warlock, they decide assassination is the only solution.
Emmis finds his job more challenging than he'd imagined. He negotiates with a prince of the city, visits with witches and wizards, tries to deal with both human and demonic assassins, and generally tries to offer a voice of sanity in a world that seems increasingly insane.
Author Lawrence Watt-Evans (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Watt-Evans) spins a really entertaining and different fantasy. Emmis is an everyman, getting by in a magical world without a hint of magical ability of his own, surviving by his wits and charm. His simple goal of making a few coins gradually transforms itself, but Watt-Evans makes sure the reader sees Emmis himself as remaining a man of the people. He's definitely no secret prince.
I was initially surprised to see Watt-Evans publishing with a small press (Wildside) but this book is different enough from the standard fantasy that perhaps big publishers were afraid to take a chance on it. They should have--this is a good one.
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