Gollancz, p/b, 848pp, £9.99
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby
There are books you can’t wait to pick up, and books you can’t wait to put down. This is one of the latter.
It’s the final book of a quartet, and if anyone has read the previous three books, I take my hat off to them for their patience and endurance as I cannot imagine it was particularly pleasurable. The writing is ponderous, the characterisation dull and the action scenes are short bursts in between the rest, and only just wake you from the stupor you’ve fallen into in the lead up.
It starts out well enough, with a good action scene that sets the story up very well indeed and lays down the promise of a good read. For the next 100 pages hardly anything happens and the only use I found for it was bedtime reading when I was having trouble getting to sleep. After a few days of that, I stopped, as I getting more and more frustrated with it.
Its length is not the problem, I’ve read 900 page books without wanting to put them down, nor is it the sheer number of characters, again I’ve read books with a large cast (though I can’t recall one with a cast list that runs to four pages – I kid you not. The cast list for the four book sequence is at the end, none of whom has more than four lines of description, and most two or three).
Part of the problem lies is the failure to delineate between the characters when describing a scene or the conversations. Many of them are so similar in character there are times when I didn’t know who was speaking and had to go back a few lines to work it out, sometimes failing even then.
The saddest part is that it seems to be a good story, and through the fog of writing there is a good world built. It just takes so much effort to get to it. Evil forests, medieval towns, sailing ships, fantastic creatures and sentience spread far and wide across the species and magicians with great power and limits to that power. It’s all there, but it’s put together badly.
Maybe you have to be a dedicated fan of fantasy fiction to enjoy this, or maybe, the standard of writing got worse as the series wore on. I don’t know. But for me, this was not a book I enjoyed, and has put me off the author altogether.
There is one good point though. At no point did I feel that I had to have read the previous three books to know what was going on. This can be read as a stand alone book, a skill that bad authors don’t have. There is hope yet.