Ambrose, E.C. Elisha Barber. DAW, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). (Dark Apostle, Bk. 1). Jul. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780756408350. $24.95. FANTASY
When barber-surgeon Elisha Barber’s failure to deliver his sister-in-law’s child leads to disaster, he accepts an offer to serve as a battle surgeon with a doctor’s retinue. He soon learns, amid the blood and gore of combat, just how little control he has over his life and the lives of those he labors to save. But Elisha also discovers that he possesses unearthly powers that might brand him as a witch, and uncovers a strange fellowship whose members possess similar talents. VERDICT Ambrose’s fantasy debut depicts a 14th-century England in which magic and fledgling science exist side by side. Elisha’s struggle to bring relief to those in need is complicated by his own need for redemption and his innate fear of what he cannot understand. This beautifully told, painfully elegant story should appeal to fans of L.E. Modesitt’s realistic fantasies as well as of the period fantasy of Guy Gavriel Kay.