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Fantasy novel by Tim Powers. * * * * 1/2 (explanation)

The King took a sip, and closed his eyes rapturously. "Ah, this is good beer."

Brian Duffy is an old campaigner. For the 40+ years of his life, he's fought for one army after another. Three years previously, he had been one of the few survivors of the Battle of Mohács which had allowed Suleiman the Magnificent to overrun Hungary. More recently, he's been drinking up the rest of his money in Venice.

At any rate, Venice is a long way from Dingle. One day, Duffy find himself accosted by three Venetian dandies, claiming insult to their uncle. Duffy makes short work of them, attracting the attention of Aurelianus, a sorcerer who happens be looking for muscle for hire.

Aurelianus hires Duffy to be the bouncer at an inn up in Vienna. This would hardly seem a challenging role for the grizzled mercenary, but Duffy is game, as his prospects in Venice are shot. But all sort of bizarre things happen along the trip: In Trieste he walks into a wineshop owned by a man with goat legs. On the road, Duffy is rescued from bandits by dwarves who leap out of the bushes.

Duffy arrives at the inn and resumes a life of drinking up his wages. The road was strange enough, but Vienna is stranger still. Vienna, where Duffy's true love married another man, after which Duffy marched out to Mohács. Vienna, which has nothing between it and Suleiman's advancing armies. But stranger than all of this is the beer which is produced there. For he is to learn that protecting the beer is equivalent to protecting Western Civilization.

How can you not like a story that centers around a brew pub? Of all of Tim Powers' Fisher King books (such as Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather, and Last Call), I like this one he best. If there were ever a work of urban fantasy which approached magic realism, it would be this one.

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