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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In which a "Soccer Mom" takes on the powers of evil ...,
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I nearly titled this review "And now for something completely different" because whatever you may think about John Ringo his worst enemies could not accuse him of rehashing the same plots and characters. This one is significantly different from much of his recent work: some readers who hated certain other John Ringo books might really like this one, and by the same token some people who liked most of his other books might not be interested in this.
"Princess of Wands" is a story of battles against evil magicians, demons and dark gods which is rather like a 21st century version of Dennis Wheatley's "Black Magic" horror thrillers such as The Devil Rides Out. Apart from Denis Wheatley's Black Magic novels, this also reminded me of Robert Weinberg's books "A Calculated Magic" and "A Logical Magician."
The heroine is an irritatingly perfect, God-fearing, tolerant, chaste, superhumanly patient, Episcopalian (that's American for Church of England), respectable "soccer mom." Yes, the word "chaste" really did appear in that list of virtues, and this alone makes the heroine about as different from most of Ringo's previous male and female central characters as it is possible to get. And I kid you not, this lady doesn't even swear!
The majority of John Ringo's work is military Science Fiction, the core of his novels usually being either conventional warfare or anti-terrorist action against human "bad guys" or invading aliens. Most of his heroes and anti-heroes are soldiers or veterans, sometimes with a very dark side to their characters - for example the central character of the "Ghost/Kildar/Paladin of Shadows" series is always telling people that he's not a good guy but a bad guy who is fighting on the side of good, and he proves it at one point by raping and brutalising a teenage prostitute; the heroes of "Watch on the Rhine" are semi-reformed former Waffen SS men.
It's not just the heroine that is different, but the genre. Instead of hard SF this is horror/fantasy/magic. This novel is based on the premise that there is a secret US government agency working with the FBI called "Special Circumstances" which is called in to deal with crimes which turn out to have a supernatural element. The book is organised into three stories, in the first of which the heroine becomes involved with "Special Circumstances."
Barbara Everette is a 33-year old "soccer mom", the very patient mother of three ordinary (e.g. occasionally naughty and always demanding) children aged between seven and thirteen, a very devout churchgoer, pillar of the PTA, devoted to her ordinary, lazy and sports-obsessed husband. About her only human flaw is vanity - although completely faithful to a spouse who doesn't remotely deserve her, Barbara is used to men paying attention to her attractive face and figure and is horrified to find herself becoming very jealous at one point in the book when another attractive woman who dresses much less modestly grabs all the male attention. But instead of reacting the way most normal "respectable" women would by blaming the other woman, she starts praying for forgiveness for her sinful jealousy while reminding herself that her companion has a different faith and a different moral system.
The only thing which distinguishes Barbara from a typical if too-good-to-be-true housewife is that her air force turned diplomat father had encouraged her to learn various types of self-defence skills. Barbara is a crack shot and is so good at unarmed combat that she can often defeat one of the town's two martial arts instructors.
It comes as a rather nasty shock to various bad guys when they suddenly discover that the ordinary but attractive blonde housewife who looks completely harmless becomes lethally dangerous in combat when she or any innocent person in the vicinity is attacked, and at this point you realise that yes, this is a John Ringo book after all ...
On first reading "Princess of Wands" my wife put the book down in disgust after about five pages because she found Barbara infuriatingly perfect. Trust me, there is a very good reason in the plot why Barbara has to be a complete goody-two-shoes for the logic of the book to work, which I won't explain further in this review to avoid spoiling the story.
At the start of the book, Barbara has taken a weekend break away from her family, and arrives in a small town in the deep south at the same time as Detective Sergeant Kelly Lockheart of the New Orleans Police Department. Lockheart is looking for a possible witness who might have information about a particularly nasty group of serial killers. What neither of them know and only the secret "Special Circumstances" group are beginning to suspect is that the perpetrators of the serial killings are even more wicked and far more powerful than any normal person could possibly anticipate ...
The world presented in this novel is a little weird but it is reasonably internally consistent: most of the characters are plausible and entertaining, and there are some flashes of very good humour in the book. I particularly liked a prototype anti-monster rifle with magazines holding everything from wooden stakes to holy water ampules, and the characters at a literary convension which spoof various real SF and Fantasy authors such as "David Krake."
I bet Baen Books' lawyers had a really careful look at this novel (though from my limited knowledge of the authors concerned, I also suspect they were more likely to fall about laughing when they read this book rather than sue anyone.)
Not for everyone, it is quite dark in places and sometimes extremely violent, but I enjoyed "Princess of Wands" and can recommend it to those who enjoy fast moving stories of the battle between good and evil.
The ending very strongly suggests that Ringo was minded to write a sequel, and I'm looking forward to it.
Postcript Feb 2012: That sequel is about to be published: it is Queen of Wands (Special Circumstances).
5.0 out of 5 stars Guns and God,
This is an excellent return to form by the author. Soccer Mom, devoted-ish wife, Committed Christian and demon hunter. That is the main protagonist Barb in this series of linked works compiled into the book.
The settings range from the Louisiana swamps, a snowed in fantasy convention to suburbia - each one perhaps as deadly in its own way. The author has put a great deal of research into developing the characters and presents how a tolerable working relationship can exist with the differing faith systems with a bit of understanding on each side. That and a common foe to skewer.
A minor critic that the section at the fantasy convention could have be tidied up a bit ,especially when the author veered off into discussing politics.
Overall, very enjoyable.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious book, well worth reading,
This review is from: Princess Of Wands (Hardcover)
This book is absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the promised sequel.
It is much more tongue-in-cheek than some of John Ringo's other novels. It has a fantasy feel rather than the more usual "military" or science fiction feel of some of the authors other works.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly gripping, utterly fantastic,
A fantastic read, like nothing else I've ever read. I can't wait for the sequel.
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Princess Of Wands by JOHN RINGO (Hardcover - 1 Jan 2006)