Bewildering Stories

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Mitchell Graham’s The Fifth Ring

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Picture of Book Jacket
The Fifth Ring
Published by Eos
Mass Market Paperback, 576 pages
January 2003
Retail Price: $7.50

When I found this book, my immediate thought on reading the blurb is, "Oh wow, another rip-off of The Lord of the Rings. "One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them". So I almost put it back. But I'm glad I didn't.

Mitchell Graham is an attorney, and like Terry Brooks, is familiar with the laws on plagiarism. LOTR slipped through the cracks due to a mistake made with the British copyrights, so Sword of Shannara could get by with being such a blatant rip-off. However, The Fifth Ring is no such thing.

Graham writes with a sure hand. This book is a "coming of age" story, with the hero, Mathew Levin, having good qualities and flaws. The other characters such as Father Thomas, a kindly priest with a warrior background; Lara, a strong-willed girl who serves as more than "just a love interest", and Mat's other friends are well delineated, and easy to keep seperate.

The Villain--King Duren of far-off Alor Satar, is a monarch who is descending into madness even as we watch when he finds 4 rings with unthinkable power. No one believes in magic in this time far in our future, but unknown to all, powerful machines hidden in the depths of the earth give the ring wearers "powers and abilities far beyond mortal man", to quote a rather famous comic book.

By accident, Mat acquires the fifth ring, and Duren sends the evil cave-dwelling Orlocks (yeah, a cross between Orcs and Morlocks) to kill Mat and get the ring.

Lotsa derring-do, humor, excitement, and even a bit of philosophy put this book way ahead of the majority of fantasy wannabees. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I think you will too.

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright