Best 1969 Adventures (9)
December 20, 2018
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1969 adventure novels. Happy (upcoming) 50th anniversary!
John Bellairs’s fantasy adventure The Face in the Frost.
When ominous supernatural phenomena come to the attention of Prospero, an accomplished but misfit wizard, he and his adventurer friend Roger Bacon head out to seek their source. There’s a slowly building atmosphere of menace, within a beautifully realized fantasy world of ghosts, chimaeras, and other nightmares. The elderly protagonists are a delight: sarcastic, crochety, courageous, given to spell-casting in allusive doggerel verse. The writing is gorgeous and full of sly anachronisms and meta-fictional references not only to Shakespeare and the “Cinderella” fairy tale, but to Lovecraft and Tolkien as well. The novella’s episodic plot feels like a Dungeons & Dragons adventure — there’s a haunted grove, a murderous innkeeper, weaponized weather, and a magical artifact that everyone’s after. In fact, Gary Gygax’s Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide lists The Face in the Frost as recommended reading; Prospero’s practice of studying his book of spells the night before he might need them no doubt helped inspired the game’s requirement for Magic Users to do so. Although Bellairs’s Lewis Barnavelt/Rose Rita Pottinger adventures are terrific, this is his only fantasy novel for adults.
Fun facts: This is a fantasy novelist’s fantasy novel. Lin Carter praised The Face in the Frost as one of the best fantasy novels to be published since The Lord of the Rings. Ursula K. LeGuin described it as “authentic fantasy by a writer who knows what wizardry is all about.”
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.