The Voyage of the Sable Keech: the second Spatterjay novel by Neal Asher
A re-read. Written up here. Still highly recommended.
Once In A Blue Moon by Simon R. Green
So here’s the backstory: Rupert and Julia were a prince and a princess when the Forest Kingdom was attacked by demons during the rise of the wild-magic-producing blue moon. After defeating the Demon Prince, Rupert and Julia headed off to become Hawk and Fisher, the only honest cops in the psuedo-medieval city of Haven. Then they got called back to the Forest Kingdom as the Blue Moon was rising again and they were needed to kick the Demon Prince’s ass again, after which comes this book. I’m sure you can guess what’s going to happen.
It seems that 100 years have passed since the story began. Hawk and Fisher opened a school (the Hawk and Fisher Memorial Academy, aka the Hero Academy) for warriors, wizards and the like who intend to go the hero route. Under the school’s dedicated and talented instructors (such as Roland the Headless Axeman (Thompson guns not yet having been invented in this world)), the Alchemist, Jonas Crane the Bladesmaster (unbeatable with a sword in his hand) and Lily Peck, the Witch In Residence, students learn all the heroic arts, based on what their specialty is (we see the auditions for this year’s students). Having set up the school and made it run well, Hawk and Fisher then moved on to other adventures, though after a short time a new couple would come along, assume the Hawk and Fisher name, and run the Academy for a while longer before they in turn moved on. For 75 years now.
Of course, it’s actually been the same Hawk and Fisher in new guises, pretending to be someone else pretending to be them. They’ve been kept young by the wild magic they were exposed to during their previous adventures. They’re just getting ready to move on again and then replace themselves when they receive an uncomfortable visitor: the Demon Prince returns, tells them that now he dwells in human beings and thus cannot be destroyed, and that the Blue Moon is coming again and that he’s going after their descendants. Yes, shockingly, Hawk and Fisher had kids. And their kids had kids. And for all that their parenting methods seem to most closely resemble those of cats (get ’em weaned and get ’em out!), they actually care a great deal. They head off immediately for the Forest Kingdom.
Meanwhile, in the nearby kingdom of Redhart, Princess Catherine is in love with her childhood friend, the King’s Champion, Malcolm. In the interests of peace, though, her father betroths her to the Prince of the neighbouring Forest Kingdom, Richard. The Forest Kingdom has become a constitutional monarchy; the king now has no real power; all political power is invested in the Parliament. But the people still expect their king to put on a good show, and a royal marriage will be good for trade. Also, peace with Redhart would be nice. While there hasn’t been open warfare per se for a long time, the constant border squabbles are a drain on both Kingdoms. The Princess is dispatched with one Lady In Waiting and the guardianship of the Sombre Warrior, a man of great fighting talent whose face was hideously scarred in a previous battle with the Forest. Now he always goes masked, or wears a face-covering helm.
Hawk and Fisher’s son spent a time as the Walking Man, the wrath of God on earth and a perennial Green figure (having appeared in a previous Hawk and Fisher story (albeit, it was a different man then, the power and role being one that can transfer from person to person) and once in a Nightside novel (again, a different man, it being a different world); now he has retired to a monastery (the Abbey of Saint Augestine) for people who want real seclusion from the world. Of course, when his parents (now looking younger than he does) stop by and explain about the risk to him and his kids, he comes out of seclusion, though he doesn’t take up the role of the Walking Man again. Their daughter works in a Brotherhood of Steel Sorting House, which is sort of like the Hero Academy but less prestigious. Also there are more of them. Collecting her, plus a dragon from the first book (he’s been asleep for a long time), our heroes set out for the Forest kingdom, where their grandchildren are.
Princess Catherine has already arrived, despite one attempt to kill her along the way (by warriors from Redhart, yet!). She is safely under the protection of the Sombre Warrior, and she and Richard seem to get along. But trouble is brewing; someone wants war between the two kingdoms and they’re willing to sacrifice anyone to get it–especially Catherine. And with Hawk and Fisher on the scene, violence is inevitable. As is the arrival of the Demon Prince, and of course his defeat. And Hawk and Fisher heading off into glory, one last time is not exactly a spoiler.
Someone, in reading my review of the first Deathstalker novel, referred to Green’s heroic fantasies as “mean” which is not an unfair reaction to the way the heroes constantly turn to violence to solve everything. This approach is, of course, endemic to heroic fantasy, from Conan on, so obviously this isn’t for everyone. But, if you’re into HF, Green does it as well as anyone else, and if you like his other stuff this is more of the same. Mildly recommended.