fantasy, Review

Review: The Black Goats

Last week I reviewed a fantasy full of sex that was, to say the least, less than a success. This week I will make up for it with a whole-hearted recommendation of Pam Uphoff’s Black Goats. Really, this whole series is excellent.

Oh, and in keeping with the theme of the week, here are the first lines of the book:

“Picking rocks was only fun for the first half-hour. Pity it was such a good way to practice magic.”

Pam blends fantasy and science fiction for fantastic fiction. Her world is well-developed both culturally and geographically, and peopled with characters who come to life. The Sheep Man, the old gods, and the goats; who are revealed to be cruel wizards trapped by a spell hundreds of years before. There’s plenty of sex in this book, and not all of it consensual. But Pam carries it off, developing a story where the conflict is between magic and mundanes who no longer remember that the tiny population of magic users dwells in the village of Ash.

The dark part of this fantasy comes with the escape of the Goats, who find power enough to break their magic chains and escape the Sheep Man, who is revealed to the the Tyrant King Nihility, possibly the most powerful wizard to ever exist in their world, even if he has spent 800 years as a shepherd with moronic-level intelligence. Desperate to rein the goats in, witches, wizards and their horses leave Ash to track down and kill the Black Goats.

The lighter side of the fantasy tale is the creation of the Wine of the Gods, a substance chock full of spells for healing, fertility, aphrodisiac, and things the gods don’t even remember throwing into the potent brew while they were being happily drunk on more normal wine. Unleashed on the world, the self-sustaining spell mixture will take over any other wine it is poured into – even a few drops. While it will heal pretty much anything, it also makes the partaker, well, let’s just say there are orgies herein. Again, she carries it off very well, expertly implying without showing gory details. This tale is more about the people, their world, and how the Goats and the Wine affect it, than it is about the sex.

Obviously, this is not a book for young adults. And it might not be for some adults, either. But I think you will enjoy her series… and if you haven’t started it yet, I recommend beginning with Outcasts and Gods, which is more science fiction than fantasy, and is a superb story of genetic engineering and consequences.