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Fifth Ring Trilogy, The by Mitchell Graham

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Submitted by John Green 
(May 18, 2003)

I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of this book- the cover looked great and so did the synopsis so as a fantasy/sci-fi aficionado I gave it a shot.
The premise is good- a post-apocaylpse world instead of the distant past with a villain who discovers the means to finish the conquest he started and failed at decades ago. The object in question- a ring that bestows amazing powers to the wearer- is a relic of distant times where the power of the Ancients was unequalled yet led to their undoing. Duren is good as the lead villain, but his sister has the potential to outstrip even his appetite for destruction. I defintely wanted to see more of her!

Cut to the boy hero, Matthew, who like his friends is taught swordsmanship by the local priest, which gives credibility to everyone being able to fight when the monsters come. So far so good.

The ring gets stolen by a henchman whom manages to dispose of it before his untimely demise. It ends up in Matthew's hands as a prize in a tournament with other villages. This is when the fun begins.
Duren, discovers other rings amongst ancient ruins and recruits his sister and niece into his circle of power. Naturally he wants that missing ring back so he dispatches the monster hordes to find it. The fact that the monsters hadn't ventured this far abroad in a long time tips everyone off that something's up.
Father Silas, the local priest turns out to have a past as a mercenary. When the trouble starts he's able to guide Matthew and his friends along as they try to stay ahead of the monsters and discover what the ring's powers are. This is when the silliness begins.
Our good priest has experience as a soldier so he can fight and survive in the wild- ok. He's a former merc so he knows how to operate in the shadier side of a town when he needs to cut deals and get supplies- fair enough. But when enemy ships roll into the harbor as they're trying to escape and he suddenly passes himself off as a foriegn prince of a nation allied with the enemy- with Matthew's red-haired love interest as a Arabian-style princess- I felt insulted. Not to mention the part where the king of a certain country happens to be stranded in the same town and they just happen to be old sword brothers! Oh yeah- this guy is the king because he won an olympic- style competition years ago and they kind of go for that sort of thing over there...
Overall I found lots to like about the story. Its character-driven, but I think it spends too much time on it. I don't need two-hundred pages to explain to me that the people I'm reading about are all friends and will stick by each other- I kinda figured that out already. It could have been a lot shorter and tighter and more enjoyable without the aforementioned silliness. As a writer myself I have little sympathy for such laziness: if the characters are in a bad situation its your fault as the writer- so don't put them in it.

Submitted by William Latzko 
(Dec 12, 2002)

The Fifth Ring

A Review

When my editor handed me the galley of this book to review I thought "oh, great another fantasy novel." If I'm lucky, maybe I'll like it." I was wrong, I loved it.

Every once in a novel comes along that you just know is going to be special and this was it. Another reviewer recently wrote "make no mistake this is a major event." I totally agree.

The Fifth Ring is the first book of a trilogy by Mitchell Graham and is being published by HarperCollins/Eos. It's scheduled for release in late January, 2003.

I heard the author do an impromptu reading from it at Dragon*Con in September along with about 150 other people who stayed to listen and I was suitably impressed at the time. Since the book wasn't out yet, I filed the name away in the back of my mind and waited for the galley to arrive.

To be honest most fantasy isn't particularly well written, but Graham is a notable exception. His style is smooth and polished and boy can he tell a story. There are no surprises here or deep seeded psychological messages--only a very good read.

The Fifth Ring is the story of Mathew Lewin, an awkward teenager with a weak stomach, who also happens to be tone deaf. Mathew lives in the mythical country of Elgaria and through a series of bizzare events he comes across a rose gold ring created by his forebears thousands of years before. The ring has the power to create matter using the mind alone. The trick is it's not a magic ring. It's the link to a giant machine buried deep in the core of the planet and still functioning after 3000 years. The problem is Karas Duren, the story's antagonist also finds one of the eight rings and wants to have them all. Not only does Duren want to take over the world, he wants to oblitherate Mathew's country from the face of it. Duren is a great villian-- a mass murdered who doesn't like the sight of blood.

The long and short of it is that this is a story of good versus evil. Mathew is guided by Father Siward Thomas, a fascinating character with a mysterious past. His love interest is Lara, a young lady that can fence as well as most men. Female readers are going to like her a lot.

There is humor aplenty throughout the story enough to keep even the most jaded fantasy fan smiling, as well as action too. And speaking of action, I might as well say it now. Graham writes the best action sequences I have ever read. There simply isn't anyone out there who can touch him. You'll find yourself reading them with your mouth open and taking a deep breath when they're over.

The world Mr. Graham creates is unique, in fact it's quite different from anything I've come across before. There's not a elf or wizzard to be seen anywhere, but there is that machine. It's a great way to write about magic without ever mentioning it.

Buy this novel when it comes out. You won't be sorry. The only sorrow you'll feel is after you turn the last page. I have no hesitation in placing Mitchell Graham right up there with Brooks, Goodkind, Jordan and Donaldson. Enjoy!

William Latzko

Submitted by Wendy Casuerla 
(Sep 30, 2002)

What an amazing story! Set in a post~apocolyptic world, the Fifth Ring combines the best of science fiction and fantasy in one volume. The setting the author creates is both vivid and realistic as are the characters, who are simply beautiful. Mathew Lewin, Father Thomas, and the giant Gawl are certainly destined to become classics as is the female heroine, Lara Palmer.

The actions scenes will leave readers holding their breath. And just when you think they're finished, wham; Graham hits you with another.

There is a certain charm to the place Mr. Graham creates, though he never gives it a name. The hero, Mathew Lewin, through a series of bizzare events becomes the possessor of a ring his ancestors created, which allowed them to create things with their mind alone. The problem is Mathew has no idea what it is or what it can do.

Moving parallel to the main story line is the evil Karas Duren, king of the country of Alor Satar, a madman, who will kill without blinking an eye, except for the fact that he can't stand the sight of blood. Interesting. Duren also has one of the last eight rings and covets them all. He is aided by his sister, the beautiful and deadly, Marsa d'Elso, Queen of the neighboring country of Nyngary, and perhaps more deadly than her brother.

Unlike so many of the works in this genre, this tale is a highly polished and professional presentation, writen with a distinct narrative voice. It should also be noted that it's the first book of a trilogy so readers will not want for more once it's done.

Mr. Graham is new to the field, but I would not hesitate in putting this on my top ten list.

Wendy Casuerla

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