This Crooked Way: A clever, witty, darkly whimsical series

fantasy book reviews James Enge Morlock Ambrosius 2. This Crooked Wayfantasy book reviews James Enge This Crooked WayThis Crooked Way by James Enge

Already an exile, Morlock Ambrosius is now also officially an outlaw in This Crooked Way. Winter finds him wandering when his horse, Velox, is stolen. Previous adventures have earned Morlock’s loyalty to the mystical steed and it’s apparent that the horse theft is a tactic to lure Morlock into a series of traps orchestrated by an enemy from his past. So into the dangerous pass called the Kirack Kund — dwarvish for “The River of Skulls” — The Crooked Man goes. This quest will end up lasting several years in which Morlock encounters golems, monsters, rival sorcerers, insectoid tribes, thieves, street gangs, and dragons, and even sort of adopts (or perhaps is adopted by) a misfit family.

This is the second novel Mr. Enge has written about his intriguing character. He has also written short stories about Morlock in Black Gate magazine and in the anthologies The Return of the Sword and Swords and Dark Magic. Morlock Ambrosius is one of the most fascinating and fun heroes in fantasy. Simply said, I’m hooked.

Morlock is a genius. He was fostered by dwarves a couple centuries ago and he learned swordplay from the greatest master of all time. He is very proficient in most all the arcane arts, which only makes sense, because his father is none other than Merlin himself. However, Morlock’s unmatched expertise is in the making of magical things. With his great engineer’s mind, he meets every problem, no matter how deadly, with a cold, calculating thought process, like it’s a mere mathematical riddle to be solved. He can be ruthless; an alcoholic, currently a recovered one, he threatens murder when offered a drink one time too many — a threat he surely would’ve acted on. But he can also be compassionate — showing mercy to treacherous enemies or putting himself in harm’s way for a stranger.

The events that build up to the ending of This Crooked Way read much like a series of continuing short stories in the tradition of sword & sorcery tales.
Many different characters tell of these adventures; some are told by friends of Morlock but more than a few by his foes. The various points of view, influenced by the terrifying stories that all have grown up hearing about The Crooked Man, only deepen the mystery of Morlock Ambrose.

These stories are as clever, witty, and darkly whimsical, as Morlock is himself. I plan to read them all and I’ll also be watching closely for anything else James Enge writes.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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