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R.A. MacAvoy

book review R A MacAvoy(1949- )
Roberta Ann MacAvoy won the 1984 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Tea With the Black Dragon has been nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award.

The Black Dragon

The Black Dragon — (1983-1986) Publisher: Martha Macnamara knows that her daughter Elizabeth is in trouble, she just doesn’t know what kind. Mysterious phone calls from San Francisco at odd hours of the night are the only contact she has had with Elizabeth for years. Now, Elizabeth has sent her a plane ticket and reserved a room for her at San Francisco’s most luxurious hotel. Yet she has not tried to contact Martha since she arrived, leaving her lonely, confused and a little bit worried. Into the story steps Mayland Long, a distinguished-looking and wealthy Chinese man who lives at the hotel and is drawn to Martha’s good nature and ability to pinpoint the truth of a matter. Mayland and Martha become close in a short period of time and he promises to help her find Elizabeth, making small inroads in the mystery before Martha herself disappears. Now Mayland is struck by the realization, too late, that he is in love with Martha, and now he fears for her life. Determined to find her, he sets his prodigious philosopher’s mind to work on the problem, embarking on a potentially dangerous adventure.

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Tea With the Black Dragon: Refreshing romance + 1980s computer nostalgia

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Tea With the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

Martha Macnamara is a free spirit. Although she’s 50 years old and has accumulated much wisdom over the years, she can also be innocent and even childlike. She’s a musician with much talent, but no fame, and she usually spends her time travelling around and staying with friends. When we meet her, she has flown to California at her grown daughter’s request. Elizabeth, who’s just as independent as her mother but is career-driven and successful, has paid for Martha to stay in an elegant hotel in San Francisco.

While Martha is waiting for Liz to call on her, she meets Mayland Long, a wealthy Asian man who lives at the hotel. Martha and Mayland are instantly attracted to, and intrigued by, each other. When Liz goes missing and Martha starts investigating, Mayland decides to help. When Martha then also disappears right in front of his eyes, Mayl... Read More

Twisting the Rope: A sequel to Tea With the Black Dragon

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Twisting the Rope by R.A. MacAvoy

Twisting the Rope (1986) is a sequel to R.A. MacAvoy’s Tea With the Black Dragon. It’s recommended, but not necessary, to have read Tea With the Black Dragon first.

It’s been five years since Martha Macnamara met Mayland Long at the hotel in San Francisco. They’ve been together since. Martha is now approximately 55 years old and Mayland appears to be around the same age, but we don’t really know how old he is. He has secrets.

Martha, an exellent violin player, has put together a folk band that travels around playing traditional Irish tunes. Mayland manages the band, collecting their ea... Read More

Damiano

Damiano — (1984) Publisher: Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Italian Renaissance this alternate history takes place in a world where real faith-based magic exists. Our hero is Damiano Dalstrego. He is a wizard’s son, an alchemist and the heir to dark magics. But he is also an innocent, a young scholar and musician befriended by the Archangel Raphael, who instructs him in the lute. To save his beloved city from war, Damiano leaves his cloistered life and sets out on a pilgrimage, seeking the aid of the powerful sorceress Saara as he must walk the narrow path between light and shadow, accompanied only by his talking dog. But his road is filled with betrayal, disillusionment and death, and Damiano is forced to confront his dark heritage, unleashing the hellish force of his awesome powers to protect those he loves.

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Damiano: Historical fantasy set in Renaissance Italy

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Damiano by R.A. MacAvoy

Young Damiano Delstrego is now the head of his house after his father, a witch, was killed when a spell went horribly wrong. Damiano is also a musician, an alchemist, and a witch, but he’s a good Christian, too, and he tries to use his powers only for good. That’s why he refused to help the army who came to take over his town, though they offered him riches. Instead, Damiano decides to follow the townsfolk who’ve fled for the hills. He wants to warn them that the army plans to find and plunder them. He’s particularly worried about Carla, the girl he has a crush on. He also wants to seek the aid of a powerful sorceress.

So, with an Italian medieval village behind him and the towering Alps ahead, Damiano sets off in the snow with his lute and his beloved talking dog, Macchiata. Along the way, Damiano has a few mishaps, witnesses brutal deeds done by Roman so... Read More

Damiano’s Lute: Failed to engage me

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Damiano’s Lute by R.A. MacAvoy

Damiano’s Lute is the second book in R.A. MacAvoy’s DAMIANO trilogy, which takes place in Renaissance Italy. In the first book, Damiano, we met a young man named Damiano Delstrego who was feeling befuddled because he was both a witch and a Christian. He had left his village with his lute and his talking dog. He had several encounters with the archangel Rafael, who acts as a sort of patron to Damiano and taught him to play the lute. Satan also seems particularly interested in Damiano’s life. At the end of the first book, Damiano has renounced his magic and his talking dog has died, leaving the young man bereft and lonely.

In Damiano’s Lute, Damiano is... Read More

Raphael: A bit of a struggle to finish

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Raphael by R.A. MacAvoy

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books, Damiano and Damiano’s Lute.

R.A. MacAvoy winds up her DAMIANO trilogy with Raphael, a book that focuses on the angel Raphael instead of Damiano, the young man who was the protagonist of the first two books. That’s because at the end of the previous book, Damiano’s Lute, Damiano died when he sacrificed himself for Gaspar’s sister. That deed was noble, I suppose, and perhaps MacAvoy is saying something about sacrifice and redemption in this religiously-inspired story, but it probably didn’t resonate much with readers since we don’t like Gaspar and don’t even know ... Read More

The Lens of the World

The Lens of the World — (1990-1993) Publisher: This is the story of Nazhuret, an outcast, a dwarfish offspring of unknown parents. Yet his story is a great one, filled with surprising rewards and amazing adventures. By the hands of Powl, mentor, madman, and lens grinder, Nazhuret is put to extreme mental and physical test and is blessed with knowledge. He embarks upon a journey to his destiny through war, darkness, and death. He is determined to emerge above the tiny status he was given at birth.

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Lens of the World: A beautifully told coming-of-age story

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Lens of the World by R.A. MacAvoy

Nazhuret was an ugly half-breed orphan when he started life at an exclusive military school, but now he’s someone important. So important, in fact, that the king has asked him to write his autobiography. Who is this man who has fascinated a king, what is he now, and how did he come so far in the world?

Lens of the World, published in 1990, is the first book in R.A. MacAvoy’s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy. It’s a coming-of-age story which reminds me of several fantasy epics I’ve read, especially Ursula K. Le Guin’s EARTHSEA series, Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga and, more recently, Read More

King of the Dead: It’s more about the journey than the destination

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King of the Dead by R.A. MacAvoy

This review will contain a few spoilers for R.A. MacAvoy’s previous book, Lens of the World. You’ll want to read that book before beginning King of the Dead.

King of the Dead is the second story in R.A. MacAvoy’s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy about Nazhuret, a man who is writing his life story for his friend, the king. When we met Nazhuret at the beginning of Lens of the World, he was an ugly orphan who had been raised in a government military academy. Upon reaching his majority, he left and became an apprentice to Powl, a man who is much more than the lens grinder he pretends to be. Powl thoroughly educated Nazhuret in a multitude of subjects and disciplines. Only toward the end of that first book do we realize why Powl took an inter... Read More

The Belly of the Wolf: A slow, deliberate, contemplative work

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The Belly of the Wolf  by R.A. MacAvoy

The Belly of the Wolf is the third book in R.A. MacAvoy’s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy. My review will spoil some of the events from the first two novels, Lens of the World and King of the Dead, so you might not want to read it before reading those books. If you have already read and enjoyed those two previous novels, I feel certain that you’ll like The Belly of the Wolf, too. It’s similar in style and tone and there’s a little bit more action in this one.

It’s been many years since the events of King of the Dead, in which Nazhuret and Arlin (again) saved their country from tragedy. Now Nazhuret is 55 years old, Arlin is dead, and their daughter Nahvah is a grown woman with a fascination for pisto... Read More

In Between: Art, meditation, Buddhism, martial arts, syndicated crime

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In Between by R.A. MacAvoy

In Between is a novella by R.A. MacAvoy about Ewen Young, a Chinese-American painter who early in the story is held up by three gangsters — a threat to his uncle who apparently is behind on some gambling debts. Ewen is a fascinating character who seems to have some latent psychic powers... something that becomes more and more apparent as the story develops.

In Between is one of those novellas that feels and reads like a really tightly compressed novel (as opposed to, say, a stretched-out short story). The plot moves along very quickly, to the point where it sometimes feels rushed. Some characters are sketched rather than drawn in detail, and some of their backstories are barely hinted at. The novella consists of many very short scenes, often just 1 or 2 pages, and touches on a wide range of ... Read More

More books by R.A. MacAvoy

R.A. MacAvoy The Grey Horse The Book of Kells fanatasy book reviewsThe Book of Kells — (1985) Publisher: An unusual and original work of fantasy from the acclaimed author of Tea with the Black Dragon. A contemporary man, John Thornburn (a meek, non-violent and unpredictable artist) and woman, Derval (his tough, confrontational, strong and warrior-like lover) time travel to ancient Ireland to avenge a Viking attack. Packed with fascinating details of historical time and place in Irish history and delicately balanced on the border between realism and fantasy, the story centers around one of the most famous and beautiful illuminated manuscripts in history, the legendary but entirely real Book of Kells. Celtic history blends with magical fantasy for a strange and immersive tale of adventure.


R.A. MacAvoy The Grey Horse The Book of Kells fanatasy book reviewsThe Grey Horse — (1987) Publisher: Set against the colorful and magical backdrop of Ireland, The Grey Horse chronicles a time when the Irish people suffered under harsh English overlords who sought to destroy their culture and way of life. Into the Irish town of Carraroe, a magnificent, completely grey stallion appears. The horse brings with him the promise of better times and magical happenings, for he is actually the shape-shifted form of Ruairi MacEibhir, journeyed to such a time of danger in order to win the hand of the woman he loves.


Death and RessurectionDeath and Resurrection — (2011) Publisher: The award-winning writer of Tea With the Black Dragon and other acclaimed novels returns to fantasy with the intriguing story of Chinese-American artist Ewen Young who gains the ability to travel between the worlds of life and death. This unasked-for skill irrevocably changes his life — as does meeting Nez Perce veterinarian Dr. Susan Sundown and her remarkable dog, Resurrection. After defeating a threat to his own family, Ewen and Susan confront great evils — both supernatural and human — as life and death begin to flow dangerously close together.


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