By Tim Powers
Powers only seems to have one basic concept; that magic was once real and existed in the world of men as a form of great power, but with time, it faded and was replaced by reason, or religion, and today it has all but disapeared. Setting his novels at various interesting points of history, Powers weaves tales around various famous historical characters, casting them as crypto-magicians making use of the dying arcane arts and telling stories which put a whole new spin on events which unfolded with drab conformity in the history books.
Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. This was the third Powers novel I've read (and I've just realised that there is no blog post for the second, so see below) and in this case, it worked. The story is about soft bellied academic Brendan Doyle who is hired by an excentric billionaire to travel back throught time and visit Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but where he falls afoul of a group of magicians and ancient Egyptian 'clones' and finds himself left behind. Its a nice set up and it leads a good story. It doesn't quite have the ambience and feel of 'Declare', but its much better than 'On Stranger Tides'.
On Stranger Tides
By Tim Powers
Its been a while since I read this book which I bought when I heard it would be the story upon which the latest 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie, not because I cared about the film, but because it was intolerable that there was a famous pirate novel which I'd not only not read, but never even heard of before. This was also the inspiration for the 'Monkey Island' puzzle games, which I've only ever seen the first way, but which I enjoyed immensely at the time.
This was the second Powers novel I'd read, and it was something of an anticlimax after 'Declare', not least because I had assumed that since the premise was similar (all Powers novels appear to be about the fading of magic in the world of men, in one way or another). On the whole I really didn't care much for this story.
The Drawing of the Dark
By Tim Powers
Another Powers novel which deals with an Irish protagonist in a world of fading magic. Brian Duffy is a Condottieri who has served long and hard in multiple campaigns. One day in Venice a strange man offers him a job as a bouncer at a public house in Vienna. Little does Duffy know that this man is actually an infamous wizard and his offer will catapult him in to an arcane world of mythology and folklore whose outcome will speel doom or prosperity for the western powers against the east. Set in 1529, during Suleiman the Magnificient's seige of Vienna, this story tells an alternative version of how that battle was really won (with the help of Magick, Excalibur and a few geriatric Vikings).
As stories go, its okay. We're more in the vein of 'On Stranger Tides' than 'Declare', but the writing isn't quite as muddled and the simpler plot allows the reader to keep up with those more irrellevent details that sometimes are the fabric with which a good novel is woven.