BURIED IN ANGST Fun, Fantasy on Elemental Level

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Buried Angst David Pedersen Critical Blast Chryslaenor Unsel

(Not Quite) The Hero's Journey

Joseph Campbell helped us to define the classic Hero's Journey. It involved someone reluctant to take up the call but eventually forced into it. (It involved a bunch of other things, too, but that's the Cliff Notes of the Readers' Digest version. Just watch STAR WARS Episode IV and you'll have the gist of it all.)

David J. Pedersen's Angst, the titular hero of the series, flies in the face of that convention. He actually wants to be a hero. He's got magical ability and the innate superpower of being able to flirt without reprisal (from the flirt-ees; from his wife, Heather, however, may be another matter). The thing is, Angst is no longer a young man. He's middle-aged, and up until recently his exercise involved lifting weights twelve ounces at a time with his friends at The Wizard's Revenge. That all changed, however, when he went to the aid of one of his friends at a party and -- somewhat drunkenly -- picked up what everyone thought was a statue of a sword. A really freaking heavy statue of a sword, that is. Which, it turned out, happened to be a real sword, just waiting for the right person to come along.

His first big adventure now behind him, Angst has severed his connection with the sword, Chryslaenor, because he wasn't prepared to sacrifice the parts of himself that the bonding required. Unfortunately for Angst, this separation is now slowly killing him, and he needs to complete the bond. That would be easy, if it weren't for the fact that one of his best friends is under the influence of magic and has made off to parts unknown with the sword. Now, to save Rose (and himself), Angst must seek out another of these magical foci, bond with it, live, and rescue Rose.

Oh, if it were only that simple.

The Elements of Angst

In the world of Ehrde, there has been an ongoing battle for ages, mostly unknown to the human inhabitants of the land. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Magic have been at each other for millennia, using avatars of power. But there has been a shift recently, and it turns out that Angst is responsible for it. With the release of pure Magic in the first novel, the balance of power has tipped. More, while Angst was pursuing magic, he managed to piss off Water without knowing it. Now the elements themselves are taking a hand in things, without their lesser avatars. Angst's home country of Unsel is in the direct path of a line of giant sinkholes that have been coming from the coastline, dropping entire cities in their wake. Angst himself has power that relates to Earth, with his ability to maneuver and alter minerals and elements. He can sculpt a butterfly from surrounding rock with a thought -- and he can turn the calcium of a man's bones into powder. This does not mean, however, that he is an avatar of Earth -- or that he's even her friend.

There are other elements in this second novel, BURIED IN ANGST, however, that have less to do with the periodic (and arcane) table. Pedersen's writing is replete with solid characterizations, blending just the right amounts of adventure, drama, melodrama, intrigue and humor, the likes of which I have not encountered since having read Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES. In fact, were Raistlin and Caramon to somehow walk onto the set of ANGST, they'd likely feel right at home. It's this blend of writing elements that keeps the pages turning, bonding the reader with the characters just as surely as Angst bonded with Chryslaenor -- right down to the separation anxiety when the end of the story separates you from them.

Here There Be Dragons

While the world of Ehrde has had its share of magical elements, for the longest time magic has been repressed. Where it's not illegal, it is barely tolerated and then only when under government control. Now that magic has been loosed in its full chaotic fury, entire countries have been transformed on political and physical levels, with entire races having had their physiognomy structurally altered.

As such, there haven't been a plethora of magical creatures bounding across the landscape, until most recently when Earth's gamlins began to be spotted. So naturally -- or supernaturally -- it makes sense that there will be the most ubiquitous of fantasy creatures: dragons. In fact, the initial dragon attack is such a pivotal point in the tale that it's brought to life as the cover image for BURIED IN ANGST.

Pedersen's flying lizards are fire-breathing gargantuans, with lava in their veins and magic in their bones. They're not impossible to bring down, but the battles to do so are breath-taking, and the rewards are great; because dragon bones have a property greatly prized by those regimes who would see magic users done away with entirely. But to say more would be to give things away too much.

The climactic battle of BURIED IN ANGST finds our hero, aided and abetted by his friend Victoria (who also happens to be a princess, who also happens to be nineteen, who also happens to not mind him seeing her naked, who also happens to have a secret she's only shared with Angst) fighting the mother of all dragons. It's a hair-raising scene that isn't for those with a fear of heights.

The Angst of an Epic

BURIED IN ANGST is the second in a series, following ANGST and preceding DROWNING IN ANGST (already available). I've predicted that BURNING WITH ANGST would be next, but Pedersen has adamantium defenses up against releasing any information before it's time, and I've been unable to crack it. However, that there are at least five elements leads me to hope that the series will be at least five books long. Which means it's not the magical seven books long that creates a Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia. I don't want it to end quite that early, because I enjoy the world just that much.

That's trivial, of course. It just worries me in a vague, nagging way.

But that's angst for you.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0