So...my opinion of Phoenix Rising actually shifted quite drastically while I was reading it. Initially, it looked very much like another badly-written, mildly offensive piece of sword-and-sorcery (I'm looking at you, Magician). Consider the blurb:
Kyri: a highborn young woman whose life is shattered by the murder of her kin. She must venture across Zarathan, a world on the brink of a long foretold Chaos War that may usher in a long age of darkness. Against that darkness stands Kyri and her companions, including valiant swordsman Tobimar Silverun, Prince of Skysand, exiled on the turn of a card and a prophecy, who is now seeking his people's lost homeland; and Poplock Duckweed, an unlikely hero whose diminutive size is as much a weapon as it is a weakness.
(I've just realised that isn't even punctuated correctly.)
Now, that says to me: "Oh, excellent, another novel full of indistinguishable names you can't pronounce without a second tongue, interminable battles fought using murky tactics, and really bad characterisation. Hurrah."
This does not do justice to Phoenix Rising; nor do its opening pages, which include that horrible phonetic-dialect thing that's so distractingly hard to read: "Done other things as we been ordered, you have, not so bad, but enough 'tis so you either knew what might be needed, or you been foolin' yourself." UGH. Fortunately, the guy with the accent does not feature highly in the novel. And, actually, Phoenix Rising is...quite fun. Sure, the dialogue is often info-dumpy and occasionally kind of stilted, and there are way too many unexplained coincidences, but there are also gods and monsters and spells and potions and magical races and a kick-ass heroine. Oh, and a random visitor from Earth who appears to be a Sherlock fan:
"...he's on the side of the angels, I think..."
I also think the Doctor gets in there somewhere, too ("trickster of a thousand faces", anyone?). Not that this is relevant to my enjoyment of the book...well, actually, it kind of is.
I do feel, though, that the book is almost too short, despite its 500-page heft. There's a lot going on here, great games of gods and men, and Spoor doesn't get a chance to wrap it all up properly. How did Xavier the Sherlock Fan get into Spoor's magical land and why? Who's the evil god controlling events in Evanwyl and why? Just why everything? I'm not sure if a sequel is planned to this, but if there was, I would genuinely read it, because there are a lot of fascinating questions to which I would really like the answers. It's a terrific world, this one, and Spoor shows promise in it. (Even the battle-scenes are pretty cool, well-handled and most of them mercifully brief.)