The Pan of Hamgee is charming, funny, quick thinking – and a coward. The only thing he’s any good at is running away. It’s a pretty good skill though, and explains why after being blacklisted for five years, he’s still alive when the rest of his family are dead, and his whole existence is treason. Perhaps there are some people in his home world of K’Barth who don’t want to kill him, but they seem to be few and far between. It’s probably lucky then that he literally has eyes in the back of his head.
He puts his getaway skills to use as a driver for a gang of bank robbers, but when they inadvertently steal a precious thimble which has magical powers, he is set on a road to disaster, which pits him against Lord Vernon, the despot leader of K’Barth. Lord Vernon is prepared to go to any lengths necessary to stop the rightful leader from becoming known – and just because The Pan got in his way once before, there’s no way either of them want that to happen again.
The Pan has never believed that ethics and principles are very helpful in the art of survival, but all of a sudden he finds himself fighting for what he believes in, trying to escape with his life, and becoming captivated by a young woman whose name he does not even know. Will he survive? Will he get the girl? And might he even gain some courage along the way?…
Fantasy is not normally a favourite genre of mine, as I can find it hard to suspend disbelief. However, I did not have this problem with this book. It’s packed with humour and action, and held my attention throughout. The struggles for independence and survival by both The Pan and the residents of the land to an extent reflect real life events which happen in our world.
The Pan is a great hero, precisely because he does not possess the usual ‘heroic’ attributes. He is happy to admit that he is a coward, who is just desperate to stay alive. For someone who tries so hard to avoid confrontation, he finds himself in many sticky situations and often exacerbates matters by talking before thinking. But he has charisma and is very likeable. I also liked his employer Big Merv, who had hidden depths which are revealed throughout the book.
Lord Vernon made for a formidable villain – powerful, intelligent and without a shred of compassion.
The writing flows easily and the story moves along rapidly, with plenty laughs, and detail about the world of K’Barth which is both similar and very different to life on earth. This book is the first in a trilogy and I was definitely left feeling that I wanted to know what happened next.
Recommended, especially to fans of fantasy, but also to those who might usually avoid it.