This was the first of the Appendix N books that I’ve been able to see a direct and very clear influence on AD&D. I think it was the mentioning of Prismatic Spray right at the beginning that gave it away! Honestly? I found myself getting drawn deeper and deeper into the world at the end of the Suns’ life as the stories went on, until finishing late into this morning.
I have no idea how I missed this book growing up, I would have loved it. I’ve already suggested to a grandson that he take a look at it, seeing as how he’s at the perfect age for it. Each one of the tales builds upon the ones that came before a nifty technique that I can’t remember seeing used before, at least not as cleverly. The characters live and breathe, their motivations strong and reading their stories was always a genuine pleasure. The language is direct and uncomplicated, the speech clear and there is no attempt to obfusticate or confuse. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is nothing that comes between the reader and the story.
So, what’s it about? In a nutshell, magicians. Magicians, their creations, and the scoundrels they come into contact with. Each story leads nicely onto the next, and by the end, a more complete picture has been built. There is an internal consistency to the world as drawn by Vance and he sticks to the rules, and at no point do you get the feeling that he thought he’d add something ‘just because’. These are much stronger tales because of that.
I don’t really want to add more as you should go and find a copy of this to read for yourself! Next up: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson.