by Steven SilverOctober, 2000
One of the major issues in fantasy literature is the desire, use, and abuse of power, which can take many forms. Two novels being released on the eve of the American presidential election examine different types of power and the different personalities who strive to attain it. The Sumerian legend of Gilgamesh, a powerful king who wanted to augment his power with immortality, has a tendency to appear in fantasy every few years. He's frequently used in a straight retelling of the ancient epic, such as a Robert Silverberg's Gilgamesh the King, but in other cases, Gilgamesh is brought into modern times, most recently in Brenda Clough's How Like a God. Stephan Grundy's third novel, Gilgamesh, is a glorious and straightforward retelling of the legend.
By today's standards, Grundy's Gilgamesh is anything but a hero. A young man when the novel opens, he is filled with arrogance, lust, and an unwillingness to consider that anyone else might have useful advice. Gilgamesh has bought into the idea that as part god, he has a divine right to rule the city-state of Erech.
Grundy follows the epic of Gilgamesh closely, using the characters and situations to explore the traits that make a good leader. While Grundy has chosen to examine power by writing about a near mythic period, Laurel K. Hamilton brings magic, in the form of fairies, to the modern world. Hamilton, author of the popular series featuring vampire hunter Anita Blake, launches a new series with A Kiss of Shadows (Hardcover). Set in modern day Los Angeles, her latest novel is a steamy mixture of urban fantasy and detective noir. Fantasy fans will relish Hamilton's in-depth examination of the fairies' magical world. Merry Gentry, a runaway fairy princess, works for a detective agency in a world where the fairy folk are accepted, if not always understood. Her world is gritty, brought home by the early introduction of a case initiated by the abused wife and lover of Alistair Norton. While it might be easy to dismiss power in Hamilton's book as the ability to do magic, in reality power appears in the form of freedom of choice. Merry attempts to give her clients the freedom to make of their lives whatever they want without fear. For Norton, power is the ability to steal his partners' free will and force them to submit to his demands.
Steven Silver writes from Northbrook, Illinois.