Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

The Face in the Frost

The_Face_in_the_Frost_-_John_Bellairs

This another of my erratically spaced web log posts concerning the books of Appendix N. Today I consider “The Face in the Frost” by John Bellairs, a delightfully charming short novel.

Bellairs is known for children’s books and at first glance “The Face in the Frost” seems to fit that categorization. It begins whimsically. And a certain sense of whimsy suffuses the entire narrative. But the story soon turns onto increasingly dark pathways. This is not a children’s book.  Real dread prevents the comical adventures of Prospero (“not the one you are thinking of”) and Roger Bacon from becoming too light to take seriously.

In some ways the book calls to mind the works of Kenneth Grahame and T.H. White. In others it reminds me of John Brunner’s “Traveller” in Black stories. There is even something in the style that makes me think of Tolkien’s “Farmer Giles of Ham.”

I can see how “The Face in the Frost” influenced Gary Gygax. The book brims with the trappings of wizards: staffs, protective circles and pentacles, magical mirrors, scrying devices, spell books (massive tomes chained to lecterns, travel-sized spell books, cursed books), alchemical equipment, etc. All the sort of furniture that can be found in the Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks. You might say that “The Face in the Frost” is encoded in the DNA of D’nD.

If you are looking for a brief, entertaining read, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “The Face in the Frost.”