Destined to become a classic of adventure literature, The Last Season examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada—mountains as perilous as they are beautiful.
Eric Blehm's masterful work is a gripping detective story interwoven with the riveting biography of a complicated, original, and wholly fascinating man.
Reader's familiar with Fiona McIntosh's popular fantasy trilogy The Quickening will be thrilled with her latest release, a stand alone novel that is set in the same imaginative landscape. Though best known for her fantasy series I have only read McIntosh's stand alone historical fiction novel The Lavender Keeper and recently purchased the first two books of her crime fiction series. I am pleased I took a chance on The Scrivener's Tale as I found it to be a fabulous read. Moving from Paris, France, to the kingdom of Morgravia, The Scrivener's Tale is an extraordinary, epic fantasy adventure that involves a bitter curse, a vengeful demon and a magical prophecy.In present day Paris, Gabriel is persuaded to assess the mental health of a young woman, Angelina, despite having abandoned his successful psychology practice some time ago. Though initially reluctant to become involved, Gabe finds himself intrigued by Angelina's delusions particularly when she reveals an odd connection to his own dreams.In the Kingdom of Morgravia, Fynch senses the approach of a great evil that threatens the Wild and puts his long term strategy to protect the land into action. As Gabriel is pulled into the magical realm, Cassien, a warrior of great mental and physical strength, is dispatched to protect Queen Florentyna, soon joined by Hamelyn, a young orphan. Together the three unwittingly form a triad of power, destined to defeat the demon, Cyricus and save the land.Though the story begins in our modern day real world, where Gabriel works as a bookstore clerk in Paris, it swiftly moves into Morgravia with all the elements of an epic fantasy including a daring quest, magic and a final battle between good and evil. Morgravia is a medieval society, reigned by royalty, neighbored by the kingdoms of Briavel and The Razors. Magic still lingers, tolerated but rarely acknowledged. The land will be familiar to reader's of Myrren's Gift though The Scrivener's Tale is set several generations after the events of The Quickening series and the novel is a stand alone.Fynch is the enigmatic guardian in The Scrivener's Tale, charged with ensuring the demon, Cyricus, is unsuccessful in his plan to destroy the land. His manipulation of events has been centuries in the making, sometimes raising questions about if he is to be trusted.I found myself drawn to Cassien's character more than Gabriel's, perhaps because Cassien as the warrior is the more active hero of the story. I would have liked to get to know Hamelyn a little more as I felt his his extraordinary gifts are never quite fully realised.The royal Morgravian family has it's own intrigues, a poisonous step mother, a spiteful, envious princess and a young queen desperate to lead. I really liked Florentyna who is a strong, intelligent Queen, despite her vulnerabilities.As a demon, Cyricus is of course utterly irredeemable as is his acolyte, Aphra. After escaping the void he was trapped in eons ago after trespassing upon the Wild, Cyricus seeks vengeance for his exile, possessing the bodies of those that advance his cause. His goal is to take Queen Florentyna's role and then order the destruction of the Wild while pitting kingdom against kingdom for his own amusement.While The Scrivener's Tale is quite a lengthy tome at 500 pages, McIntosh sustains the adventure and intrigue through out. The novel moves at a good pace, weaving together the destinies of Gabriel, Cassian and Hamelyn, leading to a final pitched battle between good and evil.The Scrivener's Tale is an entertaining fantasy novel which I really enjoyed, so much so in fact that I wish I could expect a sequel. Instead, I will be sure to seek out some of the author's earlier fantasy series.read more
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"For Her Eyes Only" by Cait London gave me a bit of problem at first. It began at a slower pace than her two other books in this series. But once I got about halfway, POW! the action picked up and didn't stop til the last page! I couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late to finish it.Leona is the oldest of triplet girls born to a famous psychic. She has done her best to deny and supress her 'gifts' as she's sure it was those same gifts that drove her grandmother insane and caused her to commit suicide. But now there's an insane psychic out to destroy her family and Leona's willing to do whatever it takes to stop him.Owen is a grey-eyed shaman who's doing some denying of his own! When he realizes that Leona may be able to help his sister, he just won't take no for an answer. And it doesn't take him long to realize that Leona needs his help...and he NEEDS to protect her. And if that means embracing his shaman heritage, then he's more than willing. Owen and Leona both were hard nuts to crack. Understanding who they are and why they react the way they do takes a bit of work. But once the understanding is there, their story is one that will grab you. In this last book of the series, we finally get to see the psychic out to destroy the Aisling triplets and he's scary in the deranged psycho killer way. And excellent ending to this trilogy, I just kinda wish she had written more about the triplet's Mom and her 'protector'.read more
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An enjoyable true-life missing person story from the King's Canyon National Parks region. I believe the story first showed up as a magazine piece in Outside. The first 100 pages or so took me a bit to get into. Eric Blehm's writing style at first seemed a little over the top in regards to how he described some of the wilderness areas the story is set in. It seemed at times that he was writing for an audience that never visited a national park, much less hiked on an overnight trip. Sentences like these, describing Randy’s spartan conditions, got on my nerves:“Hardly the log cabin vision that the words ‘ranger station’ evoke, the primitive residence was little more than a 12-by15-foot canvas tent set up on a plywood platform.” (page 6)Well, yes, that’s what rangers in the field usually stay in. It’s called a wall tent. I go hiking maybe twice a season, so I am no weekend warrior, but everyone has seen these in the parks. Perhaps I’m being picky, but I do feel that it is more likely that the people who are going to read this book might be more wilderness oriented folks. I could be wrong. But over the last month, I have mentioned this book to students and co workers and all of the ones who have read it are avid hikers and backpackers. Regardless, it’s an entertaining book that did appeal to this fan of the wilderness. After I got to page 100, the remaining 250 pages went by fast. Some thoughts on the story (spoilers below): Randy Morgenson is our main character, a back country ranger of some 28 consecutive seasons working in the national park. A bonafide mountain man. Blehm weaves Morgenson's upbringing and life into chapters that cover the 60's to 90's with other chapters which focus on the Search and Rescue operation to find him in 1996. The background chapters provide context for the SAR chapters. The main background themes for Randy include his love for the wilderness, his untraditional marriage with his wife Judi, and his somewhat selfish and uncompromising sense of environmentalism. Blehm does a pretty good job of taking the materials available to him (journals, ranger log books, anecdotes, ect) and creating a character for us to feel anxious for. The SAR chapters were interesting to me because I felt I was learning about all the particular details that go into managing such a huge search and rescue operation in a wilderness area famous for swallowing bodies and never giving them up. It was a little like CSI in a national park. Both sets of chapters gave a sense of how divided and splintered the NPS bureaucracy has become. Particularly on ways that seasonal staff and "lifers" are treated differently. The book does paint a picture that is 15 years old, so perhaps things have changed.Much of the tension in the book is built upon what actually happened to Randy. Is he dead? Did he meet a terrible accident? Is he alive but can't be found? Did he commit suicide? Was there foul play? Did he simply leave the park and go to Mexico? Fortunately, this is not one of those books that leaves the question unanswered. The book ends with a fairly clear answer. This however, is where I became a little disappointed. Randy's body is found and the evidence provided is clear that is was merely an accident. Blehm, in my opinion, though gives a little too much credence to some of the fanciful supernatural anecdotes that pop up throughout this story. For instance, a hiker has a vision of Randy floating in a pool of water. Judi has a dream about Randy in the bottom of a lake? Randy is eventually found in a creek after probably falling into a frozen lake further up stream. Coincidence or were some people being alerted via psychic powers? Come on, seriously? I think it’s safe to say that there were probably lots of people involved in the SAR that were having nightmares about all sorts of scenarios: cliffs, avalanches, foul play? It's a stressful operation and it wouldn't surprise me of lots of hunches were being mentioned. It just so happens that Randy did fall in a frozen lake and there happened to be a hiker who had a vision about a man trapped underwater and/or Judi having a dream about Randy at the bottom of a lake. However, it seems that Blehm is just searching for evidence that fits this one fanciful theory instead of the other way around, aka the scientific method. You could say that Blehm is just merely telling the story that people told him. But think of it this way, Blehm was also told about an alien abduction theory, which is also ludicrous, and he only gives that theory 2 sentences. Why give page upon page to these other ludicrous theories? Hmm, perhaps to satisfy the paranormal fan? Fine, but paranormal fan I am not, and giving it fair weight with the more rational theories weakens the book in my opinion. Skeptical criticism aside, the human drama played out on these pages does satisfy. I could go on about the bad taste that Randy's particular sense of ecological balance left in my mouth, but I'll save that for an Edward Abbey review. The memory of Randy get’s enough flak from the marital problems hung out to dry in this book. Overall though, still a good read with some good sleuthing, psychological profiling, all set in a backcountry wilderness. If you love hanging out in the woods, going hiking, or just like true mysteries, this book is for you.read more
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Blehm (Agents of Change) offers a thorough if cumbersome account of the life of Randy Morgenson, a National Park Service ranger in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains whose zeal gave way to disillusionment before he disappeared on duty in 1996, after 28 summers on the job (although his body was found, how he died remains a mystery). The book begins with the day Morgenson left his camp for a three-day patrol and then failed to make scheduled radio contact. From there, the narrative weaves the events of the ensuing search with descriptions of ranger life, tales of past incidents in the area and Morgenson's increasingly fraught personal history. Blehm's exhaustive research is impressive, although the author struggles to find the proper balance of background information and narrative pace, spending, for instance, an entire page on a peripheral reference to the California Conservation Corps when a sentence or two would have sufficed. He does, however, succeed in creating an empathetic portrayal of Morgenson and a revealing look at the taxing, underappreciated calling to which he dedicated himself. Readers are left with an intimate sense of an intelligent if flawed man whose love of the mountains ended up costing him his marriage, his ambitions and his life. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. (Apr. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved