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At the beginning of this amusing but thoughtful sword and sorcery novel from World Fantasy Award finalist Parks (Worshipping Small Gods), evil magician Tymon the Black kidnaps Princess Ashesa and kills brave Prince Daras when he comes to rescue her. At least that's the official story. Tymon, blessed (or cursed) with an overabundance of foresight, is simply trying to prevent the damage a simple-minded, glory-addicted hero could do if he lived to become king, but even the magician's Sanchoesque dwarf companion, Seb, questions the magician's certainty that the ends justify the means. Tymon tries to make it right by helping Daras's bookish younger brother get together with spunky, guilt-ridden Ashesa, but initial intervention is increasingly complicated by the maneuverings of an exceptionally intelligent cast of characters. The tale doesn't overflow with crackling wit or moral complexity, but heroic fantasy fans will enjoy its clever tweaking of familiar clichés. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.