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Turns and Chances

by Juliet E McKenna

introduction by Chaz Brenchley

(PS Publishing, £ not advised, 118 pages, signed, numbered, limited edition paperback, also available as signed, numbered, limited edition hardback, published August 2004.)

Review by Martin Owton

cover scanTurns and Chances is a novella set in the same world as Juliet McKenna's first fantasy series 'Tales of Einarinn'. Its setting is the unfortunate region of Lescar which is being fought over by the various local magnates, none of whom is powerful enough to take complete control. The story focuses on one small military campaign in the ongoing wars, the Duke of Carluse's schemes and the struggle of the nascent middle classes to bring an end to the cycle of violence.

Juliet introduces us to a succession of well-drawn characters, each one a player in the deadly game. She draws a convincing picture of a society struggling to function under the burden of constant conflict, and the hard lives of her characters. The story draws you in and progresses smoothly through intrigues and perils to the inevitable battle.

So it's a great read then? Well yes and no. It's a good story and constructed with Juliet's usual eye for detail, but that is also its downfall. She has done too good a job in establishing her cast of characters; enough for a novel yet many of them appear only once. I wanted to see beyond the events described; to know what happened to the Duke's mistress and the smith who is also a wizard, and this is beyond the scope of this book. It's an intriguing snapshot, full of potential, but leaves the reader wanting more.

Novella is a difficult length to write to with, perhaps, more in common with the short story than the full novel. It needs a tighter focus and a smaller cast list to be truly satisfying. By that measure Turns and Chances fails, but it would make a good novel.

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