Monday, October 20, 2008

Children’s Books: Word of Honour by Michael Pryor

Rejoice! Aubrey Fitzwilliam, that Miles Vorkosigan of alternative universe Edwardian England, is back for yet another deliciously entertaining outing, along with his friends George and Caroline.

After their excursion to Lutetia (Paris) in Heart of Gold, the trio are finally back to start their first term at university. But Aubrey is never going to be allowed to study in peace. For one thing, he’s still having trouble with his condition (being technically dead). He hasn’t told his parents, though Caroline has figured it out. Then there’s the outing on a new submersible ship for the navy, which someone is trying to sabotage. And that’s not all they’re trying to do. Someone tried to assassinate Lady Rose, Aubrey’s scientist mother, while she and Caroline were on an expedition to the Arctic. And Aubrey’s nemesis, Mordecai Tremaine, formerly Sorcerer Royal, who had killed Caroline’s father while attempting to start World War I, is back in Albion, singing in light opera. Only trouble is, Aubrey seems to be the only one who can recognize him. What can he be up to?

Aubrey, George and Caroline have to save Albion yet again, and very enjoyably they do it too, in yet another breathtaking adventure laced with plenty of humour and characters you care about.

For those who missed out on the first two books of this series, the premise is that magic not only works, but can be taught. It works like science -- hence the “laws of magic” of the series title. I laughed out loud during one scene when George suggests an outing to see a sleight-of-hand artist (this universe’s version of a stage magician) and Aubrey sneers that these so-called sleight-of-hand artists are just using magic. But because of this one difference, the world is run very differently, though it seems very similar to ours. There are medical magicians and research magicians. Even electricity is run by magic. A magical damper is used in one scene to protect a bank from robbers who might otherwise use magic.

This is a terrific series that just keeps getting better. Start with Blaze of Glory or Heart of Gold then come back to this one. You won’t regret it.

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