I will be the first to admit that the number of books I was reading ground to a halt once it became clear that this whole “internet thing” was catching on and getting pretty interesting. The ability to pull up on a whim any type of material I wanted and get my exact fill of it in bite-sized (and free) portions was a powerful force that still has me in its grip. Which is why I must make a point of saying that it would take a very good book to loosen my attentions from Mistress HTTP and get me back on the reading track.

Cover of the hardback edition of The Trickster's Key

The Avalon Saga Book One: The Trickster’s Key by up-and-coming author Gregory A. Baker was just that book. I’d rather not give away too much of the plot, so let me use Mr. Baker’s own words;

In the near future mankind is locked in a war with an enemy the likes of which the modern world has never faced. The hosts of Avalon and the wrathful Fae Lords have returned to reclaim the mortal world as their own. Beings once thought of as fairytales and myths march against mankind, cities fall, and battles rage. While Avalon’s war machine keeps turning the mischievous trickster known as Loki reaches out for aid; and his call is answered by a group of heroes fated to stand with him and end the war with Avalon; a war that the old Norse God is responsible for. However, before Loki can aid them, the heroes must first brave a cursed city and a host of monsters in order to retrieve something that he has lost. All hope of success rests on the shoulders of six brave souls as they quest to retrieve the Trickster’s Key.

It’s refreshing to see Loki posed as the power that is orchestrating a path for humankind’s salvation, and the party of warriors he calls on is equally refreshing. Perhaps rattling off the list of brooding brute, gregarious shadowling, inexperienced mage, grandfatherly dwarf, insightful leader, and complex markswoman doesn’t get across the unique attitudes and themes behind each character, but Mr. Baker does well at giving each their own background, purpose, and memorable characteristics. The relationships within their group – both old and new, platonic and romantic – are organic and build with the intense subtlety of an author who clearly understands his characters. Only the most basic tropes of the fantasy genre are used as a foundation upon which full characters and an engrossing back story have been built. The setting, a post-magical-invasion-and-mass-eradication San Francisco, also has a flavor and attitude all of its own which gives the fantasy themes of the novel an original place to put down root. It also allows for some creative and entertaining fight scenes.

Fans of transformation and female mythological monsters will also find gems peppered through the book. Although not the focus of the novel’s subject matter you’ll find detailed descriptions on par with how Mr. Baker describes the rest of his world, and it is quite satisfactory. Despite a recent flood of variations on fairy tale and mythological characters appearing in all sorts of media Mr. Baker’s updated take on many of the fairy tale and myth-based characters stem from fresh and unique interpretations. There are some I was definitely sad to realize probably wouldn’t be back.

This is the first book in a series – it does have “Book One” in the title after all – so while there are still larger problems to be tackled by our brave crew at the book’s conclusion, what they have accomplished during the reader’s time with them is important and has been a journey worth reading.

Three versions of The Avalon Saga Book One: The Trickster’s Key can be picked up off of Lulu.com – the PDF Download version, the printed paperback version of the PDF, and the hardcover Premium Edition (pictured above) which includes some colorful character art on the hardy cover. They’ve recently had a price drop, so I’d go check them out and see which version may be best for you. You can also check out Gregory A. Baker’s blog to find updates regarding Book Two and provide your feedback.

So, if you’re looking for modern fantasy adventure tale with unique twists on some creatures you thought you knew, by all means pick up Gregory A. Baker’s The Avalon Saga Book One: The Trickster’s Key. Then find a quiet room (with or without walls)  and have a good read.

Yeah, that last line will be funnier after you do some of that reading…