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The Mask of Ollock by Robert F. Kauffmann

Arx Publishing, 1889758337, $12.95

The one advantage to writing a story of good versus evil is that such a theme plays well regardless of setting and time. In the case of Robert F. Kauffmann's The Mask of Ollock, the theme is fitted into an epic poem, written in non-rhyming octets. Ollock presents a style reminiscent of high school required reading, though dramatic and vivid and able to capture the attention of young readers as well as adults.

As his reign over the kingdom of Umbria draws closer to the end, wizened sage King Olgo longs to impart an important gift upon his heir, Ollock. Severe pride and love for the boy leads Olgo to fashion a special golden mask which imparts supernatural powers and immortality on the one who wears it. It is Olgo's hope that Ollock will use the mask toward a long, peaceful reign. Ollock, as is expected, has other plans.

With the mask, the prince instantaneously transforms into a bloodthirsty tyrant, and soon other kingdoms are alerted to Umbria's aggression and the realization that the mask must be removed from Ollock and destroyed. The seductive power of the Mask, however, clouds this realization in the minds of those who desire Ollock's power...and possessions.

It is difficult to not think of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy while reading Mask. Both share a similar premise where an empowered object made of gold (a mask, a ring) is sought for destruction, yet those given the opportunity to do so pass up the chance for a taste of glory brought on by evil. Mask, like Rings, employs vivid detail in its narrative, and fans of the fantasy genre will find it a unique interpretation of a timeless theme.

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