By:Chris Wyatt
Review Date: Monday, September 15, 2003

Kage Baker's cyborg Sci-fi novels of "the Company" have earned her well-deserved note. Now she hits shelves with her first fantasy, called THE ANVIL OF THE WORLD. ANVIL is a charming book, chock full of interesting characters, and set in an even more interesting fantasy world.

"Smith", formerly an assassin but now a fugitive, has taken an assumed name and an assumed life. His new job is as the transport captain, protecting a caravan of clockwork train cars as they wind down grooved earthen tracks on a weeks-long trek to the sea. Along the journey, Smith winds up the ad hoc protector of a demon prince, whose patronage becomes vital to his eventual livelihood.

Done with a fine balance of sarcastic humor, imaginative world-building, and heroic action, ANVIL is a truly enjoyable book. It isn't quite a novel, however. It's more a collection of three connected novellas. The book is split into thirds, and each third, while sharing the main characters, has its own plot, its own supporting characters, and its own setting.

All three of ANVIL's novellas are interesting... but the transitions between the book's sections are awkward (especially the first one). Also, the tone of each section is completely different (with the first being a standard hack-and-slash adventure, the second being a murder mystery, and the third being a high fantasy tale complete with armies of fantasy creatures and references to the will of obscure gods).

Despite the uneven crashing between stories, ANVIL is a surprisingly fun- yet thoughtful- read which can be highly recommended.

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Mania Grade: A-
Author: Kage Baker
Publisher: TOR Books
Pages: 352
Price: $24.95