Author: Kim Fielding
Reviewed by: Eladio
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press
Genre: M/M Fantasy
ISBN 13: 9781627985444
Summary: Fiscal analyst Mike Carlson is good with spreadsheets and baseball stats. He doesn’t believe in fate, true love, or fantasy. But then a fertility goddess whisks him away to another world. A promise has been broken, and if Mike is ever to return to California—and his comfortable if lonely life—he must complete a pilgrimage to the shrines of a death goddess.
A humiliating event convinces Mike to hire a guard to accompany him, and hunky Goran is handy enough with a sword, if a little too liberal with his ale. A man with no home and no family, Goran is deeper than he first appears. As Mike learns more about Goran, his disbelief wavers and his goals become less clear. Contending with feuding gods, the challenges of the journey, and his growing attraction to Goran, Mike faces a puzzle far harder to solve than simple rows of numbers.
Review: This book turned out to be unusual and fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the blurb, but it was well-written enough for me to want to give the book a chance, and I’m glad I did. Mike is a practical, level-headed guy who works as a numbers-cruncher, but who has no real love life. He is an emotionally repressed man who has come to accept his lonely existence.
Then he gets yanked from his own world to a parallel world where he must make amends his own alter-ego’s rude behavior. Apparently Mike’s counterpart in this world has offended the gods. Mike must go on a pilgrimage to atone if he is to satisfy the gods enough so that they send him home again.
Mike’s new surroundings are the sort of generic, medieval, vaguely northern-European world that you might find in a Dungeons & Dragons game manual from the 1970s. From here, many authors might have made Mike a total gaming nerd so familiar with RPG clichés that he cannot help riding across the landscape of this world, spouting wisecracks and exuding irony.
It’s refreshing that this story takes a different, non-satiric approach. Mike, who has obviously never read a high fantasy novel in his life, takes things seriously after a few moments of disbelief, and rolls up his sleeves to get the job done. He soon gets a sidekick Goran who comes across as a real person marked by real tragedy in life.
Mike has an amusing tendency to compare everything he encounters in this fantasy world with mundane details from his own past. This creates a humorous contrast for the reader and it is also funny in a different way to see Goran react to Mike’s mysterious comments with penetrating questions or unusual interpretations of what he thinks Mike is referring to. You get a real sense of the cultural divide.
But Mike and Goran are attracted to each other and their first few opportunities for sexual release soon strengthen into an emotional bond as they spend weeks on the road, visiting the appropriate shrines and trying to complete their quest. The ending is very clever as Mike finds an unusual way to avoid a dire situation, fulfill his promise to the gods, and grow emotionally as a character.