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The Start of Magic
by Dr. Bob Rich
published by and available from Anina's Book Company
Torn from her idyllic existence, Heather is enslaved by the Doshi, a culture in which a man isn't a man until he's killed an enemy and a woman isn't a person... ever. Heather's people, the Ehvelen, live in harmony with nature and the day Heather is taken is "the day when the Mother started to forge us into Her sword against slavery, cruelty, exploitation" according to the Ehvelen storyteller reciting Heather's story.
The Start of Magic is not sword-and-sorcery fantasy. By most standards, it's not fantasy at all but rather, speculative history. The "magic" in the title is implied, not overt. There are no towering wizards spouting lightning from their fingers, no dragons and no mind-control more powerful than the sort perpetrated by modern advertising--then again, that's pretty powerful and destructive in its own right. No one in this book wears designer clothing and for lack of commercial tie-in potential, it's doubtful The Start of Magic will ever become a big budget movie.
Which is a pity, as this is a beautifully written novel, elegant and flowing, one that should be on everyone's "must read" or "must reread" list. Heather is a compelling character, fully developed with a realistic range of strengths and weaknesses, a person who will linger in most readers' minds long after the book is finished. That said, it also must be noted she is unique among the Ehvelen in her complexity. In general, the bad guys in The Start of Magic are bad but do have some human qualities--they treat their women and other pets well. Some even seem fond of Heather as something other than a potential bed-mate, although most ache for her and the other Ehvelen women that way. The good gals (and guys), however, are good--overly so. One longs for an Ehvelen Iago or Falstaff, or an Ehvelen female who doesn't inspire instant lust in  Doshi males.
But that's a minor caveat. Bob Rich crafts first-rate fiction and fully admits has an agenda to promote sustainable development and to decry consumer "culture." Considering the quality of his writing, that is probably the only reason he remains "only" an e-book author. The Start of Magic is undoubtedly a better book than almost anything in print, or that has been in print in the past ten years.
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