Saturday, December 20, 2008

Act of Will-A.J. Hartley

Act of Will
A.J. Hartley
Tor, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0765321246

Young Will Hawthorne plays female roles in an acting troupe. Currently they are performing at the Eagle theatre and tavern in Cresdon, a place recently conquered by the Diamond Empire, who have somewhat outlawed theater as rebellious and seditious. During a game of cards while drinking stale beer, Will is caught stealing someone else’s winning pot. He knows the most likely punishment is exile from the troupe.

However, the militia arrives to shut the theatre and arrest the actors. Will escapes via jumping into the rafters and climbing several rooftops. He ends up in a tiny room where rebels are holding a meeting. Though he has doubts about the wisdom of rebellion against an overwhelming force, he reluctantly joins them to stay alive until the next act when he can exit safely. Instead he observes shocking behavior for the better good that he always thought was make believe drama not real. Still he hopes to escape by the third act but not before he serves as the leading man with lovely Renthrette. However, as he and his new “troupe seek to destroy the mystical deadly cavalry that rides to and from magical mists leaving behind death, he wonders how he got his first starring role in the theatre of the absurd: real life.

Sort of returning to Shakespeare as his base (see WHAT TIME DEVOURS), A.J. Harley provides an enjoyable quest fantasy starring a wonderful anti-hero who wants nothing to do with rebellion that is not staged. In a way Will’s reactions to the inane values of loyalty and selfless service by his new comrades is a coming of age story as he begins to realize what he thought only existed on stage apparently is part of real life though he thinks his new troupe consists of insane troopers. Fans will enjoy this engaging tongue in cheek tale of heroism.

Harriet Klausner

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