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Beast & Crown: 12/11/17

Beast & Crown by Joel Ross

Beast & Crown by Joel Ross is a new fantasy about a quest to save a brother enslaved by a textile factory. Ross, who lives in Santa Barbara, again draws from a familiar landscape, crafting a fantasy kingdom. To anyone who has lived in California or is familiar with the central coast, there is a recognizable mix of influences: Spanish, American, Chinese, Japanese but populated also with ogres, goblins, trolls and the like. If Ankh-Morpork is a multi-decade fantasy London, this is fantasy Moorpark.

This ensemble cast includes, Sally, a maid who has been saving up to rescue her brother; Ji, a boot boy who is good at sneaking around because he has to have access throughout the house to collect everyone's boots; and Roz, the governess who is well educated and liberally minded.

Like Pratchett did in his later books with the trolls — beginning really with Snuff, Ross does his most interesting social commentary in the disconnect between the story of how the Summer Queen saved the kingdom by smiting the monsters and the rich, nuanced cultural reality of these non-human species. Ross isn't recapitulating Pratchett — just using well known fantasy populations to explore a number of different issues.

Looking at the cover and taking into account the set up I've given, it may seem like I'm talking about a completely different book. I'm not. The scene on the cover is in the book — and it's a marvelous one. To explain it, though, would to spoil some of the best surprises.

The conclusion, The Ice Witch comes out on August 21, 2018.

Five stars

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