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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Cover Art: The Tides of Avarice
The Tides of Avarice
By John Dahlgren
Editions Didier Millet (edm), 2011, ISBN 978-981-4260-53-4, $14.95


Life in Foxglove is fairly routine for Sylvester Lemmington, a librarian and archivist. He does ponder questions no one wants to answer, including the whereabouts of his father, who went in search of the Land of Destiny when Sylvester was a young lemming. He spends his days translating ancient documents, while daydreaming about Violet Pickleberry, his best friend and the most beautiful lemming in their village. But the likelihood she will ever return his affections is low, particularly after she tells him her parents want her to marry Mayor Hairbell, who’s a “fat, stupid, pompous, filthy-minded, self-serving boor” – at least according to Violet. (36)

Their world turns topsy-turvy after they rescue a wounded ferret named Keelhaul Levantes, who warns Sylvester to trust no one and stuffs a scrap of paper into his pocket while Violet fetches Doc Nettletree. When a smooth-talking fox shows up in search of his friend Levantes, Sylvester doesn’t quite believe him, but offers him hospitality in spite of his misgivings. Only later, when it’s too late, does Sylvester realize he should have heeded Levantes’ warning. For the fox shirks off his disguise and reveals himself to be Captain Terrigan Rustbane – a nasty pirate with several other names, including Deathflash, Doomslayer, and Warhammer. And he hasn’t come alone. He turns loose his crew on Foxglove, where they pillage and murder innocent lemmings in search of the last fragment of the treasure map Levantes stole from Rustbane.

When Sylvester understands the importance of what Levantes stuffed in his pocket, Sylvester uses it to save his fellow lemmings from further mayhem. He doesn’t give over the map; he destroys it – after first committing it to memory – which forces Captain Rustbane to take Sylvester with the pirates as they search for the treasure. Just to make certain, though, that Sylvester carries out his end of the bargain, Rustbane kidnaps Violet and her mother as insurance. If Sylvester fails to lead them to the right location, the two female lemmings will die. But getting on the wrong side of a librarian may prove more dangerous to the pirates.

Having been a librarian myself, I confess that Sylvester being one initially drew me to this story. As I read the prologue, I began to have my doubts although Dahlgren expertly creates a world of sinister characters and dangerous intrigue. Once I entered the world of Foxglove, though, I found it terribly difficult to return to the real one. This story has everything a pirate or fantasy lover could want – cannibals, jungles, voodoo, cutthroats, mutinies, sailing ships, spaceships, and unspeakable treasure. Although the characters are mostly from the animal world, they are all superbly brought to life as three-dimensional beings that quickly capture your imagination, and even some of the bad ones have a few redeeming traits. Fantasy isn’t a genre I read much of, but the more I joined Sylvester in this adventure, the more I never wanted the voyage to end. Dahlgren’s research into pirate lore is spot-on and his ability to weave it seamlessly into The Tides of Avarice makes this tale of greed, sacrifice, and having the courage to step outside your comfort zone one that pirates of all ages can treasure for years to come.
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Review copyrighted © 2013 Cindy Vallar

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