Ace, 368 pgs.
Elegy Beach is the sequel to Ariel: A Book of the Change, and you might call it “Ariel, the Next Generation,” except it isn’t quite like that at all. Yes, the protagonist is the son of Pete Garey, the protagonist (and not quite hero) of Ariel, but the writer takes his own sweet time getting around to admitting that yes, Pete went and had a mini-me.
The main plot of the story revolves around Fred going on a quest to stop his friend and fellow magic-user Yanamandra Ramchandani from accomplishing his goal of “correcting the Change” and turning everything back to “the way it was.” (An act that would kill a lot of creatures and people who wouldn’t be able to survive or even exist under the “old system.”)
Accompanying him on his quest is our friend from the previous book, Pete, Dr. Ram (Yan’s father) and Ariel, who turns up to let everyone know that Fred’s ex-friend is Up To No Good. On the way there are adventures and fights and obstacles to overcome and allies to gather as Fred and company travel cross country to where Yan’s lair is. There’s also great deal of sarcasm, the discovery that Ariel actually kind of stinks at being a unicorn (Pete obviously didn’t raise her right), bad jokes and extremely unhappy reunions.
I had a more or less mixed reaction to the sequel. On one hand, it’s a very entertaining story with interesting characters. On the other hand, there were also a few bits that threw me almost completely out of the story. The primary one is that the “fix” is too easy and too simple relatively speaking. It seems like something as big as having the rules of physics/reality suddenly (or not so suddenly) changing would require a greater effort or risk than seems to be indicated by the story line. The secondary one involves the anachronisms. Ariel roughly took place in the 80s (around the time the book was written in fact). In an effort to not appear to be “dated,” Elegy Beach’s Change apparently happened some time during or after the 90s. I feel that this was a mistake on the author’s part to “update” the setting. (Logically and thematically, it’s an alternate reality where the laws of physics have been changed from a specific point in time, suddenly changing the point in time when it occurred so as not to appear “dated” doesn’t actually make sense within the context of the story.) The third is a bit more subtle. Boyett’s mentioning of a group of Voudou practitioners Pete was helped by while he was wandering may seem offensive to those more familiar with it. Boyett does make a stab at admitting it’s a religion, then fails by turning the loas into a kind of demon, and giving the group traits similar to a cult (brainwashing, coercive membership, threats of group or divine disfavor if a member tries to leave, etc.). I found this to be off-putting, but not bad enough to entirely stop reading–your mileage may vary.
Despite the problems I found, I truly enjoyed this book. The rocky relationship between Fred and Pete was interesting and complicated, and nicely balanced with the more positive relationships Fred has with Dr. Ram and Paypay, the man who taught Fred magic. I also enjoyed the interactions between Pete and Ariel, and Ariel and everyone else.