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New Releases: Three Books in Search of a Review

Like London busses, you wait days for an review and all of a sudden, three show up at once. After the jump, KJ Parker's The Folding Knife, James Kennedy's The Order of Odd Fish and Pat Kelleher's Black Hand Gang.

The Folding Knife (KJ Parker): I'm pretty sure my glowing opinion of KJ Parker (henceforth known as "Dan Brown in a Wig") is well-documented. The Folding Knife isn't new territory: an ambitious, Machiavellian man has plans for the world, but must overcome human weakness to achieve them. As a single volume, The Folding Knife just doesn't have all the room it needs - there's an epic story in here, but it is told very quickly. Brilliant, but feels like the Reader's Digest version of the (more brilliant) Engineer Trilogy. I greedily wish, like with The Company, Parker would've explored slightly newer ground. Still highly recommended: my main criticism is that I like Parker's other work even more.  

The Order of Odd-Fish (James Kennedy): This offbeat young adult fantasy was very well-received in the US. A young girl, living with her eccentric aunt, is whisked away to a bizarre, hidden city filled with talking cockroaches, fantastic creatures and a menacing, apocalyptic enemy.  The book is best in the middle - when it explores the bizarre daily routine of Eldritch City. If there's a flaw, it's that, between the Big Plot and all the madcap world-building, there's not a lot of time left for the characters. At the end, things get Meaningful (and Unwieldy), but Kennedy wraps everything up tidily. This will remind readers of the early Harry Potter books, which is no bad thing.

Black Hand Gang (Pat Kelleher): I've been excited to read this since Abaddon editor Jon Oliver mentioned it in his interview.  A group of WW1 Tommies get lifted from the battlefield to an alien world. The unfortunate soldiers are beset by wild men, tentacle creatures, hellhounds and a sinister occultist disguised as one of their own. The majority of the book is spent putting all the pieces in place - Kelleher does all the legwork necessary to turn long list of names into a family of identifiable, enjoyable characters. He's clearly setting up for a lengthy run in this series, and, frankly, more power to him. When the action does kick off (attack of the bug people!), it is a swift, surprising change of pace - things going from measured to frantic in a matter of pages. Concluding with cliffhangers galore, this is a promising start to another entertaining series from one of my favorite publishers.