The Ambasador’s Mission, released in April 2011, is the first book in the continuing saga of Sonea, and a few other characters, from Trudi Canavan’s The Black Magician Trilogy (circa 2001). We rejoin Sonea, her son, and Cery for further adventures.
The Ambassador’s Mission, as far as its own story goes, drags. The narrative is chalked full of superfluous text that drowns out more important aspects in favor of droning political intrigue. When read as a continuation of The Black Magician Trilogy, some of this is forgivable. But, anyone picking up this story without having read the former will be seriously wanting for explanations.
In an episode of Family Guy, Peter is listening to the police scanner. Brian walks in and remarks, upon hearing a crime being reported, by saying, “Is it just me, or is rap music just getting lazier?”
Well, I have come to believe something similar when it comes to what is popularly known as “dark fantasy”. Dark fantasy is that sort of fantasy where you have an anti-hero with morally questionable motives. Decades ago, I read The Black Company by Glen Cook. It’s a great piece of dark fantasy, following a band of anti-heroes (The Black Company) and narrated by an analyst (named Croaker) who has a knack for coming up with really fun, yet bizarre, ways of describing common occurrences and The Company’s exploits. (more…)
Prince of Thorns, the debut novel my Mark Lawrence, follows the story of Jorg, a Prince with a particularly mean streak. At the age of nine, Jorg watches as his mother and brother are brutally murdered. He then embarks on a quest for vengeance. It ‘s a story that has been told, and told successfully, many times.
I think that one thing is clear, Mark Lawrence has a way with words and uses them compellingly to set scenes. But I also think one other thing is also very clear – in Prince of Thorns, that same talent is not used to give depth to the characters or the overall plot. Prince Jorg is about as one-dimensional as they come. His gratuitous callousness is never truly counterbalanced with a desire to feel sorry for him (which would have given him other dimensions he so sorely needed). (more…)
The world is a dangerous place at night. Demons (corelings) from the core roam free. The only things holding them back are wards that must be meticulously cared for or else those hiding behind them become food for the demons.
The Warded Man by Peter Brett follows three different characters (Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer) as they grow up and mature in this world; each learning how to combat the demons in their own way. At times, the story needlessly diverges from these characters and sucks in a few other, not even secondary, characters to provide some other points of view, but these are the three main characters. These other POV characters appear for just a brief enough period of time that they don’t detract greatly from the narrative. (more…)
It’s a sad reality, but the amount of time available for writing is inversely proportional to the amount of time actually needed for writing. This is especially true with the Christmas Season now upon us.
I had four days off for Thanksgiving and spent all four running around with family (3 days) and then doing all the errands that running around forced me to reschedule (1 day). In the end, I managed to do about as much editing in those four days as one typical day.
Since I have now been forced into a conversations about how “great” LotR is several times over the past week by fanboys of the books, I thought I would blog about the experience.
Let me start off by clarifying that I really do like J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy series Lord of the Rings. But, that said, it doesn’t make it on my 10 top list in the Fiction/Fantasy genre. And, honestly, you Tolkien fanboys really piss me off. Especially since you Tolkien fanboys regularly, and laughably always resort to the same, tired arguments to make LotR sound like it is something it was not and is not. That “same, tired argument” is an attempt to portray LotR as some unique story and everything that has come since in the realm of fantasy literature is just some thinly veiled carbon copy.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am really frustrated by the category Young Adult, aka YA, in fiction. I swear, if you ask ten different people to define “young adult” you get ten different answers.
The basis is usually the same and the actual definition is that the story must appeal to a teenage audience and be marketed towards them. But then things diverge quickly from there. Some people claim that the main characters themselves must been teenagers (i.e. Young Adults). Some people claim that the characters don’t need to teenagers, but that they must deal with the problems teens face. Some claim that it is ONLY a distinction in how the book is marketed, i.e. to Young Adults as previously stated. Some people even claim that a story being written in cinema style third person omniscient POV makes a story YA.
Warning! May Contain Spoilers!
The Lost Gate is a fantasy novel where the old gods of history were really just mages, albeit powerful mages, who had come to Earth through Great Gates. Here they ruled over the people and often using them to fight wars and settle grudges on their behalf. However, so the Lost Gate’s story goes, years ago a Loki closed all the Great Gates and stranded the once gods here where their powers have been slowly waning. Great premise. That is why I picked this book up and wanted to read it.
The main story centers around Danny, a descendant of the Norse gods, living in seclusion with his family in the backwoods of Virginia. Danny supposedly has no talents at all, making him not much more than a common human and the scorn of the other members of his family who exhibit various skills that are a shadow to what the former gods could accomplish. Then Danny discovers a secret. That secret is that he really is mage. And not just any mage, but a Gate Mage; a Gate Father who is capable of creating gates to anywhere he wants to travel including the original home world of their people. The problem? Gate Mages are to be killed on sight. The story explains why this is and if you want to know why, then go ahead and read it. Danny is sent into self-exile to keep from being killed.
Overall the prose is good. There are many relevant scenes that focus on a young boy coping with both being a young boy and a powerful mage as well as the moral dilemmas his powers pose. The story is well told from those aspects. The problem with this book was that it suffered from a lack of action. The entire book reads almost as if it were a manual designed how to instruct Gate Mages in honing their talents. The book is rife with exposition of Danny learning how to make, control, move, lock, unlock and even finally “spin” a Great Gate. All this drags on drearily from the point where he realizes this is his power to the “climax” at the end. I use the word “climax” generously because what the ending really felt like was that Mr. Card had gotten to a point where he simply wanted to stop the story and needed to wrap things up quickly. If you blinked you would miss the “climax” because it was so short and completed in barely any time. Part of this, I think, comes from the point that Danny is simply too powerful and the system of magic Mr. Card created for this story made it impossible for Danny to not be able to end any conflict, literally, with a thought. Sure, he frets about not being able to do that, but in reality he is able to and finds a way to.
The best part of this story, I think, was not the story of Danny at all. It was the story of Wad back on the home world of the mages. But Wad’s story, while integral and intriguing, was a side story that was rushed through. The ending to Wad’s tale in this book was much more climatic than Danny’s and left me scratching my head as to why I felt cheated in being told so much about this Danny kid while Wad’s side of the story seemed like an afterthought.
Orson Scott Card promises the next book in this series and perhaps it will be better. But I don’t know that I will be reading it unless I am really convinced that the dearth of action which made The Lost Gate barely a tolerable read is corrected.
I give The Lost Gate an average rating of three out of five stars.
Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Note: I am using the Unabridged version for this review.
I want to start off by saying that I give Ian Irvine credit for creating a vast world with some very deep and potentially intriguing history in his book Vengeance. There are certainly a lot of moving parts to the story and the world took a long time to come into complete focus.
However I am not going to mince words beyond that. I was overall disappointed by this novel. It feels like it was rushed to press and not polished in many places. In other places there was a lot of dwelling on minutia and then an often repeating of it. The story started out more than all right with the heroine, Tali, watching her mother being murdered. But alas the narrative never regained that opening flare. It tried. It just never succeeded.
Shortly after the start, the story suffered from the introduction of too many characters and the flipping and flopping between their points of view with frequent rewinds past already occurred events. To me it seemed like the entire story tried to accomplish too much, too fast and was scattered. It covered too many characters and faltered in trying to flush them out, not succeeding until very late in the story arc. Character development seemed haphazard and random. The characters themselves, other than Tali, often were very ill defined until long after they were introduced taking simply too long for the characters to fill in. For example, I never felt like Rix was a strong warrior until he and Tobry were in the mountains fighting for their lives well after he was introduced and (pardon the pun which you will get if you read this book) painted strongly as a brooding, artistic type at first. I just think his initial introduction to the story, despite being a key character, was weak. Other characters which were introduced seemed too much along for the ride despite teasing their importance.
By far the character of Tali was the strongest part of this story. But despite her, throughout the book I felt like I was in the middle of a Tuesday night AD&D session. It really did not feel like a story that was happening organically and logically. Rather it seemed as if it were being guided by the invisible hand of a Dungeon Master unwilling to let the characters go off in their natural directions. In my opinion the characters just suddenly realized things too often (flashes out of the blue) which caused them to change course or offered up information that I just found unbelievable to have been realized so suddenly. Also, the constant escaping from harrowing situation after even more harrowing situation after yet another encounter with certain death for all the main characters just drained me by the last third of the book. How many times can people cheat death? I don’t know. But this book certainly tries to find out the answer to that question. Ultimately I never felt that there was any real danger to any of the main character despite being in the middle of a war and their lives constantly, supposedly, based on the words that were put forth by the author, being in jeopardy. Even when Tobry is, once, again, presumed dead at the very end, I as the reader just cannot believe that he is as the novel closes.
As just the first book of The Tainted Realm Trilogy, I am left seriously pondering if book two should be on my reading list when it is slated for release later this year. Thankfully I don’t have to make that decision at this time. However I am inclined to say that I would only pick it up if there is nothing else to read that strikes my fancy when it is indeed released.
I give Ian Irvine’s Vengeance three out of five stars. It was not overly bad, despite its faults. Certainly not among the worst fantasy novels I have ever read. In my opinion however this novel is not for anyone of discriminating tastes in epic fantasy.
As I am going through my edits on my novel Under the Darkened Moon, I have been thinking about the future of the story beyond the book and if there should be one. This past weekend I sat down and flushed out what todo with the world of Arrnna beyond the completion of it and IF I could get so lucky as to have it published.
The Tainted Son (a further story with the existing characters and some new ones about 20 years in future)
Through Elven Eyes (a parallel telling of Under the Darkened Moon from the point of view of the elven support/non POV character but in her POV and retold by her in her elderly years)
Final Days of Ice (a story about the last humans/elves on Arrnna as the ice age consumes the world and their struggle to survive)