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Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon
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Strange Fortune

by Josh Lanyon

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I will start this review up front: I’m not so fond of fantasy novel and neither so much of “quest” type of adventures. So why I read Strange Fortune that is the quintessence of both the above genres? Since I trust Josh Lanyon and his characters; it’s strange but whatever he is writing a mystery, a romance or a fantasy (and Strange Fortune is his first foray in the fantasy genre), I’m always sure that I will find two men that are unique for their story. Above all, these men are unexpected and well-rounded, with their strenghts and faults; but they are also familiar, since there will be always the dashing one and the more brooding.

Major Valentine Strange and Master Aleister Grimshaw are apparently at the opposite, but right for this reason they click together in the right way. In dept up to his neck, and maybe more, Valentine Strange needs a bit of fortune, and the mission to retrieve the diadem of the Goddess Purya seems an easy one. Unwilling companion to Valentine is Aleister, trueblood and witch, apparently the wise man in comparison to Valentine and instead the one who will almost lose his mind.

The fantasy world Josh Lanyon recreates is completely visionary, but in a way has its roots in the real medieval times: Major Strange is in a mission for the church, Master Grimshaw’s previous lover is now a priest, the one who hires Valentine. Religion, myths and witchcraft mix together to move and control the known world.

Another familiar trait that links these characters with the previous ones from the same author is the apparently contraposition between “straight” Valentine and “gay” Aleister. Valentine is planning to marry, true, more for convenience than love, but I didn’t read him as a gay in the closet; until he meets Aleister and he develops feelings for him, Valentine is not gay; maybe he is not fully straight, and sincerely he questions his feelings for Aleister more since they are ruining his second option to gain money, than for a real moral opposition to them.

Maybe for this reason, or maybe since, sincerely, Josh Lanyon writes romance, and not erotica, the sex scenes are of the old fashioned style, the ones happening behind a closed door, and to only one, necessary to the story, the fulcrum of the romance, the reader is invited.

I read different opinion on this novel, and the most common trend was, this is an unusual novel for Josh Lanyon, something his fans could love or hate, but they have to read it with an open mind, since it’s different from the usual… I disagree. Aside from the fantasy genre, the only novelty I found, this is a typical story by Josh Lanyon: the characters are what holds the story; the romance is subdued but romantic; the relationship between the two men is “quietly” passionate, meaning that there are no burst of passion but nevertheless there is love; sometime the stronger man, Valentine, seems to be more the protector than the lover, but in the end it will be Aleister who will wrap up the story. So where is the unexpected in this story? What is that could ring wrong to the usual readers of Josh Lanyon? As I said, the fantasy setting.

The fantasy setting is good, I maybe am not a fan, but just only the fact that I read it is a point to it. What I usually don’t like of the fantasy genre are the long descriptions to allow the reader to “fall into” the mood, into the new world, but that is exactly what the fans of the genre love. As I said, I found it easier since some points were familiar, and indeed this is not only a fantasy but also a quest, and so the long descriptions allow the reader to follow the main characters in their quest; what the reader and the characters will learn along the travel is that the real quest is not what they were expecting to be and when they will reach their destination, they will discover that the travel is yet only at the beginning.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/193556000X/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
  elisa.rolle | Oct 10, 2010 |
I really like Josh Lanyon’s mystery series, and when I heard he was doing a fantasy novel for Blind Eye Books I immediately pre-ordered it. And he did not disappoint. Lanyon chose a tried and true format to base his fantasy on – the quest. Quests pop up often in fantasy mainly because they work so well – look at Dragonlance, or the Belgariad. Quests allow characters to build relationships over a period of time, provide a sense of adventure for the plot and introduce readers to the author’s world quite literally as characters travel across it. Valentine Strange and Aleister Grimshaw are on a quest to find an artifact – they must travel for weeks into the mountains to search. This provides an opportunity for them to get to know each other, begin to rely on one another and for the seeds of romance to be planted. And, it worked beautifully. I got to know the characters, and their relationship was realistic and believable because time was spent developing it. This is not an M/M romance. It is a fantasy story with an underlying romantic element – there is a bit of sex (which worked for the story), but it is not explicit. The characters being gay is just another descriptive, like being a soldier, tall or blond. It was refreshing actually.

Some of my favorite fantasies are those whose worlds reflect an “exotic” civilization in the real world (or at least exotic to a majority of readers). It makes the fantasy more real to a reader because of an underlying sense of familiarity. Here, I felt Lanyon drew ideas from ancient Persia, the Ottoman Empire, etc. The place names, like Harrapu for example, and caste system underlie this. There is plenty of detail for readers to get to know Lanyon’s world without tedious amounts of description. Lanyon’s magical and political systems are carefully thought out and directly influence the story. The fantasy element is subtle. This could have been a simple adventure novel, save for a few scenes and the ending.

My only small criticism of the novel is that the middle part was very slow. Strange and Grimshaw spend a lot of time held prisoner in a monastery. Too much time. I read the first half of the book in a couple days and put it down for several more before picking it up and finishing. However, the conclusion was very action-packed, magic came front and center, and lots of plot threads were tied up. A very satisfying ending. A sequel could easily be done, but it not absolutely necessary (although I really, really, really want one!). Highly recommended. ( )
  jshillingford | Mar 4, 2010 |
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Valentine Strange, late of his Majesty's 21st Benhali Lancers, needs money. Happily, the wealthy Holy Orders of Harappu are desperate to retrieve the diadem of the Goddess Purya from an ancient temple deep in the mountainous jungle, an area Strange knows well from his days quelling rebellions. The pay is too good and the job seems too easy for Strange to refuse. But when Master Aleister Grimshaw, a dangerous witch from a traitorous lineage, joins the expedition, Strange begins to suspect that more is at stake than the retrieval of a mere relic. Grimshaw knows an ancient evil surrounds the diadem, the same evil once hunted him and still haunts his mind. However, experience has taught him to keep his suspicions to himself or risk being denounced as madman. Harried by curses, bandits nd unnatural creatures, Strange and Grimshaw plunge onward. But when a demonic power wakes and the civilized world descends into revolution, their tenuous friendship is threatened as each man must face the destruction of the life he has known--Publisher's description.… (more)

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