Book Review: The Fourth Elephant’s Egg: The Hypatomancer’s Tale (Book Three) by Robert Reginald

This is the final book in the light-hearted fantasy trilogy, The Hypatomancer’s Tale, by Robert Reginald (I have also written reviews of the first and second books in the trilogy).

Some plot spoilers follow, but reading the rest of this review won’t ruin your enjoyment of the story.

Once again, we follow the adventures of the hypatomancer (a fortune-telling wizard, though the predictions of the future are mostly moved off-stage here) Morpheus, who still has an uncompleted quest to rescue a woman he’s never met who is held prisoner in another dimension. Morpheus and his companions must travel a long way through a series of alternate dimensions where things get stranger and stranger. But before he can continue his quest, Morpheus feels morally obligated to do what he can to repair the dying ecosystem of a world that has been afflicted with a man-made disaster beyond the control of its inhabitants. Inevitably, Morpheus’ quest does not turn out at all the way he (or the reader most likely) expected, but that’s all part of the fun. There are plenty of unexpected twists, turns, and betrayals along the way. The job of a savior of the universe is never an easy one.

As with many (all?) of Reginald’s fiction, this is a journey of self-discovery as much as it is a quest to save the universe. Morpheus’ internal development is at least as important as the development of the plot and the quest as a whole. Like all too many of us, Morpheus begins the trilogy fairly self-oriented. He is embroiled with his own personal concerns, mostly to the exclusion of caring about other people and situations all around him. He has never really forged meaningful personal relationships – familial, romantic, or platonic – and has come to realize that without these connections, his own life is meaningless. The trilogy does a good job of showcasing Morpheus’ personal transformation and journey as he realizes that he needs other people as much as they need him.

Reginald’s prose flows smoothly and is delightfully clever as always. The secondary characters – Morpheus’ companions for the most part – continue to amuse. If I have one complaint about THE FOURTH ELEPHANT’S EGG, it’s that the threat to the universe that Morpheus must find a way to resolve is almost entirely off-screen. It’s really only clear to us that there is an imbalance in the universe that Morpheus must correct because several wise archmages and other powerful, enigmatic but beneficent figures tell Morpheus this is the case. We never directly see that the very foundations of the multiverse are shaking. Scenes of growing instability in the cosmos might have helped highlight the stakes and ratchet up the tension for Morpheus (and the reader).

Oh and we do finally get a quick glimpse of Nova Europa – Morpheus’ home that appeared in the first volume of the trilogy – and the recent goings-on there. Needless to say, I would very much like to see some additional stories about what happens next on Nova Europa! It’s a neat place.

If you have gotten this far in the series, you owe it to yourself to find out how it all turns out in THE FOURTH ELEPHANT’S EGG. If you’re in the mood for a fun fantasy series that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then you’ll want to pick up the first book in the trilogy, THE CRACKS IN THE AETHER.

Buy the book on Amazon

Review copyright 2012 J. Andrew Byers

New Book Review Index Page

Now that summer is here, I have a little more time to devote to the blog. (It also helps that I have finished my dissertation, turned it in to my committee, and will be defending it at the end of July.) As a first step, I have created a page that lists all of the book reviews I have thus far posted on my blog. So far, it’s pretty rudimentary: it just divides the reviews by fiction or non-fiction and then lists by author. I am considering providing a separate breakdown by genre, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

In any case, the book review index page is here, so please enjoy and let me know if that’s helpful.

I have many, many reviews I have never posted to the blog, so I will gradually add those this summer as well. I will of course continue adding entirely new book reviews as well. Upcoming reviews include:

Michael R. Collings:
The Slab
Shadow Valley
Serpent’s Tooth (I may need to get my hands on Devil’s Plague first though.)
The Gummi Bear Omnibus

Alex Grecian:
The Yard

Robert Reginald:
The Paperback Show Murders (coupled with Gary Lovisi’s Murder of a Bookman)

Book Review: The Pachyderms’ Lament: The Hypatomancer’s Tale (Book Two) by Robert Reginald

This is the second book in the fantasy Hypatomancer’s Tale trilogy by Robert Reginald (see my review of the first book in the trilogy, THE CRACKS IN THE AETHER, here). As with the first in the trilogy, this is a relatively light-hearted fantasy adventure, though one with very real stakes for the protagonist, his companions, and his universe.

Some plot spoilers follow, but I promise not to ruin your enjoyment of the story.

This second volume picks up immediately where the first left off: a hypatomancer (a mage with the ability to foretell the future) named Morpheus has given up his sinecure as a court wizard to travel to the Otherworlds and rescue a woman he’s never met. The Otherworlds are a fascinating place: think Stargate’s variety of planets, only they’re reached by magical portals and the inhabitants are a bit stranger. All of the places we see in the Otherworlds are locales where humans, or near-humans, can survive. These aren’t crazy places where the laws of physics work differently (for the most part), but they are inhabited by strange races and cultures. These cultural differences drive a great many of the novels’ plot complications. The problem is that Morpheus has learned that before he can rescue the unknown woman on the far-off world at the other end of the universe, he must repair damage to the universe (the eponymous “cracks in the aether” from the first title in the series). To do this, Morpheus needs to find the Elephant’s four Eggs, powerful magical artifacts of unknown properties, appearance, and origins. He knows only that he needs to make contact with a mysterious alien race called the Pachyderms. And so the journey begins.

As always, Reginald’s dialogue is smooth, natural, fun, and funny. I enjoyed the occasional puns and allusions to a variety of science fiction and fantasy settings and authors – I thought of these as a kind of fun inside jokes for fans. The action and plot flow smoothly and effortlessly from Reginald’s pen.

If you enjoyed THE CRACKS IN THE AETHER, you will certainly enjoy THE PACHYDERMS’ LAMENT! If you’re looking for a fun new fantasy series, then I would suggest starting with THE CRACKS IN THE AETHER.

Buy the book on Amazon

Review copyright 2012 J. Andrew Byers