By Paula Hadlum
Reviewed by Terry Gates Grimwood

This can't be a fantasy novel can it? I mean, there are no square-jawed heroes, grumpy warlike dwarves, no arrogant elves, no wild and spectacular magic, no quests, no supernatural artefacts, only one volume, only 374 pages and no maps! Well it is fantasy, and a fine piece of work at that.

Strategically desirable, the city state of Fellas is the constant pawn in the many wars that afflict the world in which it exists. It is also located near an iron mine, and in an ancient economy like this one, iron has the political and military potency that both oil and WMD have in our own. However, the mine has long given up its last supplies of ore (or has it?) and now lies abandoned and virtually forgotten

The story opens with the end of yet another war and the beginning of yet another occupation...sorry liberation. This time, Fellas is in the control of the Roman-like Arrians under the command of the effete yet smoothly malevolent General Soa. The scene is set for a turbulent tale of political machinations, cloak and dagger heroism, clashes of loyalties and the uncovering of startling secrets.

And, of course, there is the mine itself, vividly and claustrophobically described by the author.

It is the lack of conventional fantasy devices that makes this an exciting and convincing book. And also gives it the authority to explore, among many others, the issues of the justification for war and the thin line between liberation and occupation so relevant at the moment. The characterisation is well developed, with the sympathetic characters likable, but human enough to display weakness and foibles. The gallery is rich and includes the lonely healer, the hot-headed and impulsive revolutionary, and the stony, ruthless soldier with a past. The villain of the piece is just as convincing, a fully formed human with motivations and strengths, as well as the capacity for evil.

There is magic, but a restrained, intimate kind that does not intrude or provide a false get-out for any of the protagonists. The ending too, is subtle, the hope of a relationship resolved hinted at, and realistic rather than soft-lensed and accompanied by cheering wedding guests.

The novel won this years Writers Forum novel competition and deservedly so.

The Mine is published in paperback by Writers International Ltd and available at or can be bought by contacting the author direct at Cost £8.99.

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