Happily Lost in ANGST

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Angst David J Pedersen Critical Blast

Over the years, I've picked up more than my share of books at science fiction conventions -- usually the only place you could find them, because they were books being promoted by their authors. And, more often than not, there was a good, evident reason why the works weren't picked up by major distributors.

In the case of David J. Pedersen's ANGST, it's the distributors who are the ones losing out.

The titular Angst lives in a medieval fantasy world. He serves Queen Isabelle as a filing clerk, and shares a frowned-upon relationship with young Princess Victoria. It's a world where magic exists -- and has been outlawed. Naturally, Angst can do magic. He's longed all his life to be something more than what he is -- a knight. But he's forty years old now, graying, a bit pudgy, and very married (although that doesn't stop him from being an incorrigibly charming flirt with every pretty lady he encounters). His group of friends, like him, are also magical, each in a unique way, and they meet regularly for drinks at the pub, The Wizard's Revenge.

However, during one particular party, Sir Ivan cannot refrain himself from making rude and unwarranted advances against Angst's friend, Rose, who is a barmaid. And that's when the giant, immovable sword statue that has stood there for centuries suddenly ends up in Angst's hands as a weapon -- and the adventure begins.

This turn of events comes at a time when the kingdom finds itself beseiged by strange magical creatures, and attacks that have been cutting off supply routes from other cities. Queen Isabelle, who has a special dislike for Angst, finds a way to use him -- by sending him off on a quest to find the reason behind this surge of magical creatures and the source of the attacks. He gathers to himself three of his best friends -- who are quite unwilling to start adventuring at this stage of their lives. But, having no choice, and saddled with the irascible Sir Ivan, the troupe sets out into the unknown.

From the very first chapter, Pedersen demonstrates a mastery of the craft. Whether through his natural dialogue or his flair for narrative simile, ANGST draws the reader in. Actually, it does more than that. You don't read about this quest -- you go on it with them, a silent member of the adventure, partaking of the meals, laughing at the barbs they throw at each other as only longtime friends can.

Every twist is unique, every encounter adds to the story. There is no padding, everything is driven by character, and you'll reach the end of the epic wishing that there was another book continuing this journey.

And lucky you: there is.

4.5 / 5.0