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WesternSFA
Trio of Sorcery
by Mercedes Lackey
Tor, $14.99, 351pp
Release Date: April 9, 2013
A mere handful of writers write about magic and magic users really, really well. Lackey is arguably one of the best. The Dresden Files pack more testosterone and humor, but Mercedes Lackey is without peer when it comes to the sheer range and variety of magical stories she can tell. If magic were real, Mercedes Lackey would be the premiere “go to” author for learning the ins and outs. Furthermore, she does superlative research, providing historical or cultural contexts that orient her readers and make the stories more entertaining as well as informative. She seems to have the same knack Rudyard Kipling had, of getting the lingo and the very life of any group of humanity he attended to.

Trio of Sorcery is a gift to longtime fans and new readers alike, as the first two stories feature “old friends”, while the third story is entirely fresh. “Arcanum 101” provides a prequel story in the life of Diana Tregarde, a character whom thousands of diehard fans wanted to see more of. This story takes place when she is a Freshman at college, trying to find her way in a new city, wondering whether she can ever find friends who will accept the idea of a an actual magic-wielding Guardian in their midst. This is the most emotionally charged story of the three, as there is Diane’s own angst, four classmates who are in for the surprise of their young lives, a grieving mother, a kidnapped daughter, and an investigator who is grimly resigned to being assigned to unsolvable cases.

“Drums” features Jennifer Talldeer, a Native American (Osage) private investigator who specializes in magical encounters. With help from her partner David and her grandfather, Jennifer sets out to discover the true nature of a ghostly dancer who has captivated a young woman. Suspicious at first that the estranged boyfriend is stringing the gullible PIs along, Jennifer discovers a powerful and dangerous enemy, and has to go to the spirit world for help, from none other than Grandmother Spider. “Drums” illustrates Lackey’s characteristic search for a win-win conclusion, one in which even the bad guy gets something palatable in the way of just desserts, if he hasn’t earned himself a spot in the ninth ring of hell. The best part of this trait of Lackey’s is that she finds creative solutions. She’d make a great judge, or ambassador, or secretary of state.

Finally, there is “Ghost in the Machine”, a gamer tale in which a boss monster is designed too well, so well that it becomes real and is on the verge of breaking out. Many Worlds Online is a World of Warcraft-style interactive game, and its designers are at a loss when their Dark Zone main attraction starts behaving in ways they never coded for. Fortunately for Tom Bishop and the other developers, not to mention all the players and the world at large, Ellen McBride, techno-shaman, understands the interfaces of magic and micro-circuitry, and she also knows a thing or two about the monsters of myth and legend. This was my favorite of the three, in part because it is such a valentine to the gamers and the geeks, in part because she finds a good use even for gold miners, and mostly because it set me laughing.

Trio is a bona fide treat. Enjoy! ~~ Chris R. Paige

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