Peregrine: Primus, by Avram Davidson

imagesGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Wildside Press
Published: 2000
Reviewer Rating: fourhalfstars
Book Review by Richard R. Horton

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Wildside Press, under the direction of John Gregory Betancourt, has been a respected small press in the field for some time. One of their most worthy projects is the reprinting of most of Avram Davidson’s novels. Davidson was one of the field’s true greats, a strikingly original writer of heady and eccentric prose. His virtues were most apparent at shorter lengths — his novels sometimes fall apart structurally, and sometimes show signs of having been written rapidly to rather pulpish models, though even in the weakest novels enough of his odd vision is present to make them worth reading.

One of his most accessible novels is Peregrine Primus, originally published in 1971. It’s the first part of a projected trilogy, and the second book, Peregrine Secundus, appeared in 1981, but the third book was never written. Lack of closure is not a problem: the joys of these books are not to be found in the working out of the plot, but in the individual, very funny incidents, and in luxurious sentence after intoxicating sentence. Davidson’s voice is addictive, and in these books it is developed to the utmost.

The story is set in a somewhat alternate history. Peregrine is the younger son of “the last pagan King in lower Europe”. When he reaches his majority, his father reluctantly exiles him, in order to prevent trouble with the Crown Prince. So begin Peregrine’s, er, peregrinations. Accompanied by a faithful page and an aging sorcerer, he roams about “lower Europe”, encountering the remnants of an eccentric Roman Empire, a wide variety of mutually heretical Christians, and many other wonders. A glorious book — and most any other Davidson you can find will reward the purchase as well.

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