Time of Trial (Random House Australia) is the fourth of Michael Pryor’s delightful Laws of Magic series, set in an alternative Edwardian England.
Once again, Aubrey Fitzwilliam and his friends George and Caroline are needed to save the world, as one of the characters observes wryly in the novel. This time, after the usual opening scene of magical mayhem — in this case, cloud ships attacking a university cricket game in which George and Aubrey are playing. It’s during a trip to Holmland (Germany in our universe) where Lady Rose, Aubrey’s mother, is speaking at a symposium.
But this is where the evil Dr. Tremaine, Aubrey’s nemesis, is living. He has influence in high places. Very high places. And then there are the golems, which are far from the lumpy clay things of folklore; you can make them very lifelike, so that it’s impossible to tell them from real people till they’re deactivated. Who can be trusted? Certainly not characters who can get sucked into telephones, as in one memorable scene.
Then there’s the pearl Aubrey took from Tremaine in the last novel — what mystery does it hide? Our heroes are about to find out — and they won’t like it.
It’s not all bad, though. Aubrey now has a Beccaria Cage, which reunites the body and soul he tore apart in a stupid experiment before the start of the first volume. If only it hasn’t been sabotaged …
As always, the adventure tears along at a breakneck pace, and is very funny. It doesn’t let you go easily; there’s a twist near the end, just when you think the main story is over.
I found myself falling comfortably back into this universe, enjoying it as much as ever. It’s rarely that a series can continue for this many volumes without losing something, but though it will need to finish some time, at least for this story arc, The Laws Of Magic is one series that doesn’t go downhill.
I think the series will become a fantasy classic. Bring on Volume 5!