Archive for shadowmarch

Shadowrise (and past books)

Posted in Books with tags , , , on March 12, 2011 by xi'an

I seem to always have the same reaction to Tad Williams‘ novels: (a) very excited by the first volume which sets an exciting universe and a good collection of characters, invariably including a pair of teenagers and compelling secondary characters from other races, (b) mildly disappointed by the second volume which gets bogged into an imaginary or mythical realm and a dispersion of the characters all over the (real) universe, (c) more strongly disappointed by the third volume which also invariably turns into two volumes because the author cannot keep up with the multiplication of subplots and characters… Although this has been quite a while ago, I still remember the pleasure of getting immersed into the DragonBone Chair, before some of the heroes vanished for another volume into an ethereal and unappealing Elven kingdom… Then the disappointment when reading the two last novels, first in the unnecessary length and second because the main characters did not gain in stature through the volumes, leading to a lukewarm ending of the series solved by an unconvincing deus ex machina plot device…

The Shadowmarch “trilogy” stands better the test of time/length than Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, but not that much! I still find the lengthy incursions into an(other) ethereal realm where anything can happen outside the “reality constraint” a strain on the story. While I do not mind a temporary suspension of disbelief, whole parts of a volume in vaguely defined universes (or otherlands to borrow from another of Williams’ series I have not read) is too much for my taste! Still, I  must acknowledge that the Shadowmarch series has more backbone, thanks to the major characters Briony and Barrick. In the third volume, those characters achieve a larger and more convincing stature, either by political maturing for Briony or by magical transformation for Barrick (who has at last stopped his perpetual whining!)… There are striking similarities in the plot with the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, in particular the threat from the Northern races and the young stereotyped princess (Miramele/Briony) feeling helpless to defend her case. But the plot is nonetheless deeper and more satisfying [/complex in the positive sense] with enemies (the Qars) turning into victims and another enemy, the aurach of Xis, slowly emerging. (There are also similarities with Jones’ Book of Words, including the partial deterioration of the plot—or rather the lesser attractivity of some of the major chracters—along volumes, but I do not want to get into this.) I am thus most likely going to read the final volume in the series, Shadowheart, which is already published.

The prodigal mage

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , on August 24, 2010 by xi'an

“Children. How empty our lifes would be without them…and how much less painful.” The prodigal mage

While staying in Yosemite, I read The prodigal mage by Karen Miller. This is a sequel to the Kingmaker Kingbreaker books that I appreciated, even though they were not without flaws. (I prefer the Godspeaker trilogy by the same author, as explained in this post.) This new series of two books has kept the same setting as the initial series, starting with a weak idea that occurs in many sequels, namely that the evil entity the hero(s) must fight is not really dead/destroyed/gone… The (relative) appeal of this new book is that the hero (Asher) is getting old and bad-tempered, as well as more and more reluctant to use his magical powers and that his son Rafel has inherited those powers and does not understand why he could not use them. So, while the overall story is a bit thin, the family plot offers some interest as to the conflict of generations (at least to me as a parent!). Obviously, The prodigal mage is not written by Victor Hugo so the style is not always perfect, with some heavy going dialogues, but this makes for a good vacation read. The second part, The reluctant mage, is already out in hardcover. It (predictably) centers on Rafel’s sister, Deenie, who is also endowed with special powers she’d rather do without, reproducing the pattern observed in her father. However, I will wait for the paperback version and future vacations, looking forward reading soon the third and alas not  last part of Shadowmarch by Tad Williams (which shares a lot with this series, even though the local universe is deeper and more interesting).