Christopher Golden, The Lost Ones (Bantam, 2008)

A true trilogy with a well-crafted tale worth reading is a rare joy these days, with excessive bloat being more the norm among fantasy releases where series running a half dozen or more novels of immense size are far too common. Running just over thirteen hundred pages in the trade edition format, it's just about the length of The Lord of The Rings, or to make another apt comparison, not much longer than a single volume of George R.R. Martn's A Song of Ice and Fire series. (I gave up on the latter part way through the first volume when I figured I would spend years catching up. Not worth the effort, in my opinion.) On the other hand, Golden's The Veil trilogy has very much been worth the time spent reading it! Indeed, it was good enough that I'd love to see it come out in a deluxe hardcover edition.

Golden started out the series with an all too common fantasy idea -- two worlds: one alien by our mortal standards, the other ours -- kept apart by a border that keeps these two realties hidden away from each other but not all that separate. Like Lisa Tuttle's The Mysteries or James Hetley's The Winter Oak, both mortals and non-mortals can cross the border -- sometimes easily, more often not. Golden suggests that entire villages (say the Scottish village that might have been Brigadoon), and even civilizations (Atlantis at its full glory), have been lost across the border from here to the other side, leaving only a story which becomes a myth behind as their legacy down the long years.

Now consider that this veil hasn't always existed but was created to allow various folks, some good and some very decidedly not, to withdraw from our world. So what if every mythical being that we think really doesn't exist does exist? And, to give a horrific example, The Sandman of your nightmares was real and far worse than even your worst nightmares?

By the end of the second novel, it was clear that many on the other side of the Veil would prefer that the our worlds be separated forever. But Oliver Bascombe and his sister are born of both mortal and immortal parents, which means they can walk through the Veil as they please, and, as Oliver will soon realize, both have powers that will literally reshape both realities, so Oliver and his sister must die. Not that they will, as anyone who has read the first two novels -- you really should read both of them before reading The Lost, as otherwise it won't really make sense -- can figure out Oliver's a survior even if he doesn't quite know he is.

(Oliver' development as a person is scripted very well by Golden, an unusual trait in most fantasy literature.)

So what, without giving away the plot, is really cool here?

Oh, certainly the aforemetioned Sandman now merged with two other beings is a chilling sight (literally), And that being plays an important role in the resolution of an increasingly tangled story. Watch for what Oliver's newly emergent magical power does to the castles The Sandman has damn near everywhere, as it gives you an important clue as to what happens when the two of then finally meet.

It's not a pleasant affair at all.

What happens to Ted Hallowel, the cop who is murdered by The Sandman early on, is particulary fascinating. Of all the characters in the The Veil series, he changes most in ways that are quite unexpected. Indeed, he's responsible for the major change in the balance of power between the two worlds. If Hallowel can survive the change wrought upon him, certainly the two worlds can change as well.

So very old heroes and new friends, even enemies at one point or another, ally themselves for one last battle, even older enemies stand arrayed against them. Can the humans on both sides of the Veil face Legends and win? For Oliver Bascombe will discover that the price will likely be dearer than even he could ever want to imagine.

[Cat Eldridge]