fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Tim Lebbon Noreela After the WarAfter the War by Tim Lebbon

In my mind, one of the best things about reading fantasy and science fiction is getting to discover other worlds, and for me it doesn’t get much better than Tim Lebbon’s Noreela. Noreela is a fascinating post-apocalyptic world where machines once operated fueled by magic, where drugs can turn a person into a sex god or allow your spirit to travel from your body, where dangerous creatures like the Nax, Tumblers, and Mimics roam the land, and where stories are just begging to be told. After the War features two novellas set in the unforgettable land of Noreela.”

“Vale of Blood Roses” takes place not long after the end of the Cataclysmic War — about three hundred years before Dusk — and concerns an ex-soldier who receives an unwanted reminder of his bloody past that was best left forgotten. From here, the story cuts between the present and the events fifteen years before when Jakk and three of his fellow soldiers ventured into an impossible valley where machines still worked, blood roses bloomed, and the residents worshipped something they called the heart and mind. Now, because of their actions that fateful day, revenge has come stalking and Jakk must find the valley again if he wants to save his family.

Much like Dusk and Dawn, “Vale of Blood Roses” is a tale of dark fantasy that straddles the boundaries of horror and is at once chilling, mysterious — Where does the vale come from? Why are the machines still working? What is the purpose of the blood roses? What is the heart and mind? — and poignant, examining how war and killing can change a person, living with the choices we make, and how we can never run away from our sins. In short, I loved “Vale of Blood Roses.” It was intense, sated my appetites for both horror and fantasy, was wickedly imaginative, and the somewhat ambiguous ending had me envisioning all sorts of nasty things for poor Jakk.

The novella “The Bajuman” was originally serialized on Lebbon’s Noreela website in 2006 and it offers a different side of Tim Lebbon. In a nutshell, “The Bajuman” is a cross between detective noir and fantasy, which reminded me of Alex Bledsoe’s The Sword-Edged Blonde. For instance, both novels feature ‘private investigators’ existing in a fantasy setting, both are told in a first-person perspective, and both of the protagonists live above a tavern! Of course there are some obvious differences like the fact that Korrin, our hero, is a Bajuman — a group of people who are shunned by the rest of the world for something that supposedly happened 500 years ago.

Besides the prejudice and a darker brand of humor, there’s also Noreela City. Between a brothel that doubles as a depository for information that is stolen from the minds of its clients, an underground city that is home to the lawless, and many other unique distinctions, Noreela City is quite unlike any other place you’ve been to and really gives the novella a dynamic edge. As far as the case, it’s a different spin on kidnapping as Korrin is hired to find a fodder — descendants of an old humanoid race once bred for food who are now considered a forbidden delicacy — before he is eaten. As expected with this type of story, there’s much more to the case than initial appearances and, to complicate matters, Korrin is forced to work with a mercenary who might be the most dangerous threat of all.

I found “The Bajuman” to be a bit formulaic at times, but I thought Korrin offered some really interesting traits as a character, the story was entertaining, and there’s a lot of potential here for an ongoing series which I would definitely be interested in.

Overall, After the War isn’t going to set the world on fire with its two novellas, but as a fan of Mr. Lebbon’s world of Noreela, I really enjoyed myself which is about all anyone can ask for. At the same time, if you’ve never read anything by the author, then I give After the War a glowing recommendation. Not only is it a great introduction to the haunting world of Noreela, but it’s also a tantalizing glimpse into the macabre mind of Tim Lebbon.

Noreela — (2006-2008) Fallen is a prequel and After the War is a collection of two novellas set in the Noreela world. Publisher: Kosar the thief senses that Rafe Baburn is no ordinary boy. After witnessing a madman plunder Rafe’s village and murder his parents, Kosar knows the boy needs his help. And now, for a reason he cannot fathom, others are seeking the boy’s destruction. Uncertain where to begin, Kosar turns to A’Meer, an ex-lover and Shantasi warrior whose people, unbeknownst to him, have been chosen to safeguard magic’s return. A’Meer knows instantly that it is Rafe who bears this miracle of magic. Now Kosar and a band of unexpected allies embark on a battle to protect one special boy. For dark forces are closing in–including the Mages, who have been plotting their own triumphant return.

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  • Robert Thompson

    ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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