September 26, 2010
Warning: Book-Breaking Spoilers Below
It was good.
I’ll start with that.
Honestly, it did take me a little ways into the book to fully start liking it. But the awesome thing is, the second I started liking The Way of Kings (tWoK), I started LOVING it. Literally, starting at about page 485-ish, I could not put the book down. It took me two weeks to get to page 485, and then two days to finish the next 516 pages of storyline.
When I first started reading tWoK, I was very annoyed by a couple things. The first was the slow start. Granted, I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels in my time, and many have slow starts, but I think I’m biased because I have prior relations with those novels, and have read and re-read them multiple times over the years. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn doesn’t really get started until page 190 or so, but from there on, the adventure never stops. By the time I got to page 200 or so in tWoK, my brain just started thinking, “When is this going to get going, already?” and there was really nothing I could do about it. Regardless, I should have been thinking more about the fact that this is just the first book in a proposed 10-book series, and therefore, a little teaser to get us into the world should be expected.
Secondly (and speaking of getting us into the world), it took me forever to figure out what is going on in this world. You see, I read no preview material about the novel before it came out, read no reviews, read no spoilers, and therefore, had no idea that Brandon Sanderson had not only crafted new cultures, but also new geologies and ecosystems for his world. It is expected in fantasy books to have to learn a bit about the people, but most of the time, the world itself still remains basically the same. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall all happen in pretty much the same order (though sometimes are very extended), and the weather systems of the world pretty much do what they do here on earth. There are typically still lions, tigers, bears, dogs, and cats, and you still hear the fantasy characters talking about oak, elm, and spruce trees. Sanderson puts us on a completely new and original planet, where hurricane-like “highstorms” occur every few weeks, and the entire geology and ecosystem of the world have adapted to those conditions. Many animals are crustacean-like, and many trees and plants actually protect themselves from these highstorms. So, all that being said, it took awhile to figure out how the world works. There are still a lot of things to figure out, but luckily, there are nine more books coming to help out with that.
Sanderson has done a remarkable job with a new magic system for this series. If I understand correctly, most gems (diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, etcetera) are ordinary, pretty gems, until they are washed by a highstorm. If left out during one of these storms, these gems become infused with a glowing essence of magical power called Stormlight (which suggests the storms themselves are magical, right?). Then, these newly-infused Stormlight gems can be used to power various devices and items. These items include Shardplate, (which I’m not very sure what it is, but it stops Shardblades), Fabrials, which are basically technological items that use magic to work, and others. Of course, the real purpose of them, as I see it, is to actually infuse people with their powers, thus giving us one of the types of magic Sanderson has introduced: Surgebinding. If I’ve read correctly, two characters in the book so far can use Surgebinding – one of them knows exactly how it works and in the process, makes Neo look like a clumsy three year old child. The other character is just starting to learn of his abilities, and we get to see as he becomes more powerful throughout the book.
There is another type of magic in the series as well, but we don’t find out about it until near the end. Up until the last few chapters or so, Soulcasting appears to just be a way to use a specific kind of Fabrial to make magical effects happen. When we finally learn what is actually going on, we get a glimpse into a much darker side of the world than we had previously been let on to. Shadesmar isn’t explained, and when it’s introduced (as a Chapter Title), we don’t really even know what’s going on. But we know it’s important, especially by the map in the back of the book. And by the way, the way in which those strange … beings … that Shallan sees are introduced put some major creep-factor into the books as well. They had the feel of Stephen King-Style horror to them, which possibly explains a bit about why I feel that this can’t be a good thing.
Brandon’s done a great job in tWoK creating a world we have to get to know. There are things thrown in seemingly-randomly that make us wish for more information, such as quick descriptions of how people in foreign lands look, and tantalizing short interlude-chapters which seem to have no real bearing on the story. But knowing Sanderson, they probably will become very important in the future.
Anyway, that’s it for now. The book is good. It definitely took me a ways into it to really start feeling it, but now I literally can’t wait for the next one in the series. I look forward to following Sanderson for many more years now.
September 17, 2010
Posted by TankSpill under Uncategorized
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Brandon Sanderon’s “The Great Hunt” is now over, and has revealed a preview chapter from the newest Wot book. Read “The Seven-Striped Lass” on Sanderson’s page, or a much prettier format of it over at Dragonmount.com.
Here are my thoughts thus far (and yes, I know, it’s just one chapter in the middle of a book):
1st – I don’t know why he named the chapter that – it would have been just as appropriate to name it “Three Inns,” or something. Nitpicky on my part, and pretty unimportant.
2nd – This chapter does what most of the other Teslyn chapters have done since aCoS – namely, made her to look like one of the very few Red Ajah with a brain in her head. Good to see it’s still going on.
3rd – I see some evidence here that could lend itself well to Terez’ Gawyn Will Kill Rand theory. If Mat decides that the best protection he can offer Elayne (after leaving) is to loan her the medallion, well Elayne is only one step away from Gawyn. It wouldn’t work out exactly as her theory states, but I couldn’t definitely see situations where Elayne then “loaned” the medallion to Gawyn.
Overall, just makes me very excited to read the book.
Also, still thought Mat felt slightly off, some of his sarcasm didn’t ring quite true, but I’ve decided not to worry about that stuff anymore in this series, I think.
September 16, 2010
Posted by TankSpill under Casting
While preparing myself mentally for the upcoming Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Re-Read, I thought I’d partake in a project I’ve always wanted to do. Enjoy.
Casting The Wheel of Time is something that a lot of people try to do. I’m not saying I can do it better, but my thoughts are that ::ahem:: I can do it better :) (Please allow your minds to accept some facetiousness, sent your way, courtesy Yours Truly). One thing I will not be doing though, is casting major actors in the roles of major characters. I’ll probably put some pretty awesome actors in supporting-character roles, but I want faces and names that don’t have a lot of baggage attached to them for major characters.
The casting of The Eye of the World is a very serious thing, with a lot of work to go into it. There are a ton of characters, and most of them are extremely important to not only this first book, but the entire series. And many of them have roles to play in later books, even if they’re not important. I have tried to rank these characters in some sort of Order of Importance and Priority. The First Tier includes Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Min, and Elayne (and there would be others introduced in later books), so because I’m a tease, I’ll do them last. Feel free to mention in the comments if you have suggestions, I promise to at least read them. The Second Tier are other characters who are important through both this first book and the entire series as a whole, and have plenty of POVs in the series. The Third Tier includes characters who are extremely important throughout the series as a whole, but may not have major roles to play in The Eye of the World, other than just being introduced. The last and Fourth Tier are characters who have some sort of importance in the series, either as recurring roles in the whole “Conservation of Characters” trope, or they give some sort of important information. I have ranked these characters by my own criteria, so they may not conform to some sort of arbitrary criteria of your own. I’m just not going to worry about that. Aaaaaaand, naturally, I’ll be starting with Tier Four. Enjoy!
(PS – I have no idea if I’ll actually do the other books in the series, so assuming laziness, I have casted these characters as if it would be a one-shot movie. The reason I mention it is because, should I do the entire series, some of these actors may be better suited elsewhere. But that’s neither here nor now.)
Bran and Marin al’Vere – Bran and Marin are Egwene’s parents, and the innkeepers of the Winespring Inn. Bran is the mayor of Emond’s Field, and he’s often described as pretty portly, and not having a lot of hair. The hair he has is grayish. Bran and Marin’s ages are never mentioned explicitly, but knowing that Egwene is sixteen years old when the series starts, and is the youngest of five children, I put the al’Veres to being about fifty-ish years old. For Bran, I’m leaning towards Michael McShane. Michael is large-ish, balding, and a pretty good actor. Though he has mostly done comedic roles, I feel pretty confident he could pull it off. For some reason, while I was thinking of Marin, I was thinking that she, too, was overweight like her husband. However, according to the Encyclopaedia Wheel of Time, she is a slender woman with graying hair, tied into a braid. I think Blythe Danner would be perfect for the role.
Haral and Alsbet Luhhan – The blacksmith of Emond’s field and his wife, Haral and Alsbet are the two largest people in town. Alsbet is often described as “nearly as wide and as tall as her husband.” I don’t recall their ages ever being mentioned, so I’m going for the mid-to-late forties. If anyone can correct me on that with text from the book(s), I may change this selection. For Haral, I’m going with Stephen Lang, who has been seen most recently in Avatar, and the over-muscled general. For Alsbet, though she’s not as large or tall as made out to be, I believe Frances Conroy has a strong enough personality and has enough broader shape to her to pull off the role. Sigourney Weaver was another option, and could really be a toss-up as far as I’m concerned.
Floran Gelb – Gelb only serves the roll of being a human punching bag in this first book, but he do be one of those characters that keeps showing up in later books, so thus needs a named actor. He’s scrawny, and has a long nose, and a “greedy smile.” If I was going by that description alone, I would almost have to put Adrien Brody as him, but Adrien is such a fine and strong actor that, like Sigourney above, I have another idea in mind for him. I’ve decided to go with Mackenzie Crook, who is known as “that eyeball guy” in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He’s thin as a rake, and looks untrustworthy enough to be an… errr… untrustworthy sailor. Plus, he has experience on ships already from Pirates. Win, win all around.
Raen and Ila – The grandparents of Aram. Raen is skinny and gray-haired, and Ila is a bit taller than Raen. I feel as though their roles in the books are to provide a comforting presence to Egwene and Perrin. I pretty much just want to go with Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson, or probably much better known nowadays as Aunt May and Uncle Ben from the Spiderman movies.
Aram – The dark-haired, dark-eyed Tinker boy who “dances like a bird” and is apparently very attractive. His age is never given, so I assume him to be no older than Perrin when they meet (18), and no younger than Egwene, based on their interactions. There are a lot of attractive and good young actors out and about right now, and some of them need to definitely be saved for more important characters, but I think Aaron Johnson of recent Kick-Ass fame would do a great job. Sure he’s a little old, but they’ve been putting people who are too old for the role in movies for eons and it’s worked out fine (::cough cough:: Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future and Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid). He looks like a pretty boy, and has some decent chops about him.
Geofram Bornhald – The wise, grandfatherly Lord Captain of the Children of the Light. Dark eyes and gray hair are all the descriptors really ever given of him. I can think of no one better for this role than Geoffrey Rush, who famously played Captain Barbosa in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (but many other awesome roles as well). The man may be one of the finest actors of our time, and he seriously needs to go out with a bang (like, say in, fighting the Seanchan).
Else Grinwell – Plump and pretty Else, who serves no purpose other than to give Rand a bit of “tight pants” while he and Mat are out on the road, and shows up again later in the White Tower. She doesn’t have to be gorgeous, just pretty. Dark hair and “big eyes.” I think Alyson Stoner, a young actress who has been in several comedies and TV shows would do a good job for this relatively unimportant part.
Howal Gode – Another person who isn’t given a lot of screen time or description, but important enough in the first book to warrant a casting. All that is said about him is that he is plump, and has “soft looking hands,” (why are so many people in the WoT “plump?”) so we don’t have a lot to go by. I also picture him looking pretty sleazy, so will go with that. I think Chris Elliot would nail this role – he looks like a slimeball and has a pretty soft look to him. Would need to shave the beard though.
Paitr Conel – Our last Fourth Tier character from tEofW goes to Paitr, the darkfriend who accosts Mat and Rand in Market Sheran. He reappears later in A Crown of Swords, in some character-conservation, and has some relatively minor-major-ish roles to play. He has curly hair, and is older than Rand. He needs to look like he would be pretty easy to beat up, so a lot of the pretty-boy actors of nowadays could handle that aspect, but I don’t get the impression he’s extremely attractive. Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies, would do perfectly, I believe.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Hopefully Tier Four was a good enough tease to get you back to look at my casting for some much more important characters.
Until next time.
September 9, 2010
I’m planning on doing a chapter-by-chapter read and review of Tad William’s “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series. No other reason other than as a way to flex my critical muscles, and it’s my favorite fantasy series, and I think I’ll have a lot to say on it.
I figure the first post would be useful to talk about myself a bit, and why I’m doing this, and why you should read it.
I’ve been reading fantasy for years now – the first “fantasy” novel I read was The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King, in 1986. I found it in a used book store, and the cover really pulled me in for some reason. I was not truly old enough at the time to really grasp everything I was reading, and I was probably quite frankly a little young to be reading any King at all (though the book is one of his less graphic novels), but the story did grab me and pull me into my first real world of knights and kings, princes and princesses, and swords and sorcery. After finishing the book, I asked my brother (who was also an avid fantasy reader) what else I should read. He handed me The Hobbit, and I never looked back.
This project is very much inspired by Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time Re-read on TOR’s web site, and as she herself says in her own introductory post, the format will be very similar, “because why mess with fabulousness?” Now, I am not Leigh Butler, and I do not write from the same point of view that she writes from (obviously), so many things about the re-read will be different.
One thing in particular that I want to focus on is the world-building aspects of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Tad Williams has crafted one of the most spectacularly realistic fantasy worlds every published, and there are so many things in almost every chapter to talk about, that this is probably what I will be focusing on the most. There are also parallels to real-world issues that I would like to discuss, and since it’s such a large part of the series, and my father is a minister, for better or for worse, religion will likely come up often.
My plan is to post about three chapters at a time, and the format will be a Chapter Summary, followed by Chapter Commentary. If certain chapters – due either to cliffhanger-ish aspects or thematic arcs – need to be presented at the same time and that messes up my “three chapter at a time” routine, then I’ll just figure something else out.
The schedule is going to have to be pretty lax at the moment. I may post three posts one week, and then go two more without posting anything (though I’ll make sure to update when that is to be the case). I have a busy life, and am not getting paid for this, so have to find a way to do it in my free time.
With all that being said, here’s a little about me.
I am a musician first-and-foremost; I write music on piano, play piano with several local jazz groups, and play a bit of drums as well. Most parts of my life (when not reading or hanging out with the wife and dogs) revolve around music in some way or another. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn has, in my opinion, an extreme lack of music in the series (though song lyrics are often written out), but I am going to find some way to talk about music during the course of this blog.
As far as being a writer (and thus, being able to do justice to the scope of the project I’m about to undertake), I am at best an amateur. I have written several short stories which have been published by a local publisher, and have been working on a “novel” (who hasn’t?) for a little while now. I try to write just a little bit every day, but since it’s not quite as important to me as music, sometimes that falls by the wayside.
I first read The Dragonbone Chair in 1990, and lucky me, it was only about two months wait for Stone of Farewell to come out. Unfortunately, I flew through the book and then had an extremely grueling three years to wait for To Green Angel Tower, and thus was introduced to my first time (of many yet to come) waiting for, and agonizing over, the release of a book. To help bide the time, I began reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and then, two months before To Green Angel Tower was released, I began the first of many Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-reads. I have read the series many times, and in fact, from 2001 – 2008, I do not believe I would be lying to tell you I read the series at least once a year. I hunted down the audio book by Erik Sandvold and listened to it in 2003-2004 when I was doing a lot of commuting. And yes, I have even written some Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn fanfic. All this to say that I would feel confident telling you that I know the series very well, and can speak with at least a little bit of authority on the subject.
Putting all this together, I believe I will be able to talk about various interesting subjects relating to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and will be able to provide insightful, clever, and possibly even witty commentary on aspects of the series. However, if I cannot do that, hopefully I will at least be able to provide a new point of view from which you have likely never seen the series.
I hope I can deliver, and I hope you will follow. I plan to start “for real” on this project by the end of September, and put up the first post during that first weekend of October.
Oh, and as Binabik would likely say, “Welcome, traveler; the paths are treacherous today”
Cheers for now!
September 5, 2010
Posted by TankSpill under Review
I read one of Sanderson’s works about three years ago now (I think), called Elantris. I can’t remember what the reviews were like at the time, but I honestly recall being not-extremely-impressed for the most part. There were definitely aspects of the book that I liked, but overall, when I was done with the book and had put it into its spot on my shelf, I didn’t think about it anymore afterward. That’s usually a sign to me that I didn’t really get much out of a novel.
Soon after I read that novel, I was confronted with the news that Brandon Sanderson would be finishing up the late Robert Jordan’s epic saga, The Wheel of Time (tWoT). I wasn’t extremely happy, but I saw potential. You see, I have been reading tWoT since 1992-ish, which means I’ve put eighteen (and at the time of the news of RJ’s untimely death, fifteen) years of my life into this series. It did not bode well with me that some author with whom I had not had the most pleasant experiences with so far was going to finish up the fantasy saga of modern times. At the time, I had always thought Harriet (RJ’s wife) should have gotten Tad Williams to complete the series, but c’est la vie. Well, I waited in anticipation, and around this time last year, The Gathering Storm was released. I read the entire novel in three days.
After I had read the novel, which did a great job of progressing the story, I put the book on my shelf and put it out of my mind. Nothing in particular stuck out to me as overly bad, but nothing stuck out to me as overly good either. My thoughts about the book were, overall, not extremely positive – but not extremely negative either. Many of the scenes in the book were filled with bad-assery – characters being awesome, saying awesome things, and living through awesome situations. Sections of it were written almost like fanfiction – things played out exactly how I had always hoped they would, and some in much better ways than I ever could have imagined. However, many of the scenes left me doing the literary equivalent of a double-take. The scene of Semirhage’s spanking, as well as the Hinderstrap chapter(s) both left me with a bit of a “… wait… wha- huh?” feeling, and left me shaking my head.
By the end of the book, I had a love/hate relationship with it. I thought Sanderson overall did a great job moving the story along, and he took the main protagonist to some very dark places, but I also nitpicked a lot of the story-telling choices he made (because that’s what people like me, who aren’t actually writing novels and selling them do! :)).
I re-read the book again about a month ago, in preparation for Towers of Midnight coming out very soon now, and found myself actually enjoying the book for the most part. If before, it was an even 50/50 love/hate split, now I would call it more of an 80/20 love/not-love split. Definitely still parts in the book that I have serious problems with, but for the most part, I believe Harriet, Tor, and Co. have made a great decision in choosing Sanderson to complete the series. I’ll let you know for sure once Towers comes out in a couple months.
(Whew, that was a lot more preamble than I was expecting. Anyway…)
I have decided to give Sanderson a more fair shot. Elantris was an earlier book, so maybe it’s not the best representation of his work. His “collaborations” with Jordan are just that – collaborations, and so perhaps I should not (have) judge(d) Sanderson so severely from that book. Therefore, I have picked up The Way of Kings (tWoK), the first in a probable ten-volume series, which was released just a few weeks ago. I am almost half-way through (a more developed review to come once finished), and here are a few stream-of-conscious-type thoughts I have about it thus far.
1 – Sanderson very obviously wants his world to have a unique feel to it, and has put a lot of thought and effort into the world-building aspects. He has created entire races, species of plant and animal, ecosystems, and geological phenomena to give his world a one-of-a-kind feel. Unfortunately, so much of it has been introduced at once, with very little explanation, that it leaves me (the reader) feeling like I don’t ever really know what the hell is going on. I find that to be a bit sad, because there seem to be so many things that I really want to immerse myself in, but I can’t, because I’m not sure what’s going on with a lot of it. Granted, I’m barely scratching the surface of this possibly ten-thousand-plus-page-saga, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling a bit lost with all the “wonder” and crazy fantastical goings-on happening so far in the book. Plus, has anyone figured out specifically what a “safehand” and a “freehand” are?
2 – I have problems with names that are hard to pronounce. Frodo, Samwise, Gandalf, Simon, Josua, Rand, Perrin, Pug, Garion, Vlad… these are all names of relatively-famous fantasy characters, and all of them roll off the tongue pretty easily. I’ve already come across a lot of names in 500+ pages of tWoK that I have to sound out to figure out, and that makes me squirm a little bit. Maybe that’s nitpicky.
3 – I don’t know if I’m really supposed to like the person who I believe is the main protagonist at the moment. Kaladin seems the most clear-cut protagonist/central-hero-type character in the story so far, but it’s also very obvious that Shallan and Dalinar, and possibly even Szeth, are all very integral to the story as well. Like I said, Kaladin seems the most likely hero of the story at this point, but I’m having problems really liking him – he reminds me too much so far of Perrin’s less-favorable characteristics in The Wheel of Time; namely, his moodiness.
4- *spren are weirdly awesome, especially Syl. *spren (Fearspren, Windspren, Lightspren, Creationspren, etcetera) are apparently little elementals that show up and harass/annoy/coerce/comfort people whenever there is a lot of wind, or people are feeling a lot of fear, etcetera. I haven’t really figured out yet what they’re up to, but I figure they’ll be important in some way, and they are a very neat addition to a new world that I haven’t seen before.
5 – The characters are all unique, and so far, all seem to have a purpose! This can be extremely important to someone like me who did honestly get a little tired with the thousands of named characters in the Wheel of Time. So far, I haven’t felt like any of the characters are there for non-essential purposes.
6 – No padding! At least, so far, I don’t feel that any of the book is relying too much on unnecessary padding. Of the 400-ish pages I’ve read so far, I feel like everything I’ve read has been important (even the parts I don’t understand yet), so that’s good.
So anyway, looking back over my thoughts, I’m pretty sure a lot of this has more to do with beginning-of-the-book-isms than any actual flaws (except the hard-to-pronounce names), but I’m intrigued enough to figure it out. I think I’ll write up my thoughts when I finish the book, which will probably be around Friday of next week.
Cheers for now.
September 1, 2010
Posted by TankSpill under Odom
Note: This is a repost of an older blog entry I posted before the beginning of the summer, but as I’ve changed blogs, I thought it would be useful to move it.
Let me premise this by saying two things that are important for this. The first is, the reason I (re)-read this series is because I’m doing a bit of research on some possible “from the sea” type threats for a campaign and adventure series I’ve been working on, and I seemed to remember this series being filled with threats that could be useful (inspiration, not theft, I PROMISE!). The second thing is, I’m really not a big Forgotten Realms fan. I used to read the novels occasionally, but it was really always more of a curiosity thing than anything else, since everyone’s always talking about Drizzt and Elminster. Both in terms of novels and the setting itself, I feel as though the entire world of Faerun revolves way too much around the really awesomely powerful good guy inevitably winning over the bumbling baffoon-like antics of the “bad guys.” Of course, many novels and movies use this ethos (many of which I like), but my problem with the Forgotten Realms is that there seems to be some sort of God-Shattering NPC in every city in the Realms. How can there ever be a threat to the world, or even to just a small little hamlet, when there is always a level 30+ wizard hanging around to right the wrongs? The novels are full of these situations, and the setting itself is full of NPCs who overshadow the players by being too powerful to be beaten. Of course, this is all technical talk – for those of you who don’t role play, most of that stuff above may not make any sense. Let’s talk about books.
Every now and then, I did read a good ‘Realms book or series. One such is a trilogy from 1999 – 2000 called The Threat From the Sea, by Mel Odom, which I just finished (re)-reading. The series tells the tale of the world beneath the oceans rising up to attack the surface world. It follows the adventures of Jherek Wolf’s-Get, Pacys the bard, and Laqueel the malenti as they try to find their place in the world during this time of crisis. The series takes place between the Forgotten Realms years of 1354, the Year of the Bow and 1369, the Year of the Gauntlet, which, at this point, is over a hundred years prior to the “current timeline” of the series and campaign.
Much like the ‘Realms deity Lathander, who becomes a powerful force in the series, the trilogy is very much about birth and renewal, about letting go of old regrets, and about cherishing new loves and friendships. The Threat From the Sea follows the points of view of three characters who all have roles to play in the upcoming events, but none of whom know what those roles may be.
The main protagonist of the story is Jherek, a young sailor who is running from a haunted past. He was born of one of the bloodiest pirates ever to sail the Sea of Swords, and is branded with his evil father’s emblem on his shoulder, which is all but a death sentence in all the cities of the Sword Coast. Jherek feels he has always been cursed with ill fortune, and indeed, reading through the series and his trials, I tend to agree. By the end, it is obvious that he has been tested, strained, and poured through a sieve by a loving being who only wants the best for him (I may discuss the God/Job relationship some other time, and what I think of a benevolent deity testing people in this way), but it sure takes a long time to realize this. Jherek is a very emotional character, wanting desperately to believe in love, but not willing to believe that it could happen to him. He keeps Sabyna, the mage he obviously loves, at an arms distance (or even further if he can help it), and is unwilling to reveal the secrets of his past to anyone, save the paladin Glawinn.
The villain of the series is Iakhovas, a powerful sorcerer who is uncovered by Laqueel as she searches for “One Who Swam with Sekolah,” and will supposedly be the savior of her people, the sahaguin. He is a deliciously evil and ruthless villain who obviously has his own goals and agenda throughout the series, even though he constantly uses his former relationship with Sekolah as a podium from which to wage his wars on the world. His true nature and true goals are not revealed until very close to the end of the series, in an explosive final battle that unfortunately was much like an explosion – a lot of bang, but quick, which left me looking through the smoke to see what happens next. In fact, if I have one complaint with the series as a whole, it is that it was about fifty pages too short. Had Odom made the final battle a little longer, and had just a bit more happen, with a bit more of an epilogue, I could easily give this series props as a great fantasy series to compete with non-D&D-style books. I left the series with a feeling of wanting to know everything else about these characters, which is always good, but I also left with a feeling that a bit more should have happened to resolve the series properly, which is not really a good thing. I’ll give the series a solid “good” rating, and hope that Odom decides to write a sequel someday.
So did (re)-reading this series help me out with my research for the hopefully-soon oceanic adventures I’m planning? Honestly, not so much. There were some great at-sea moments that were somewhat inspirational for my cause, but I’m probably going to have to look more into the Cthulhu mythos (Shadow at Innsmouth?) to get what I’m really looking for in this. However, I will say that out of reading this, I’ve rediscovered something that Forgotten Realms authors should really check out. This is a story written very well about a real hero. Not the kind that was always born to be a hero, always had the power to be a hero, and simply had to step into his shoes to fulfill his role, but rather about a hero who was forced into situations he didn’t understand (and didn’t deserve!), and made the best of his situations, rising to an occasion to win the day (and win the fair lass, while he’s at it). It reminded me a bit of my favorite fantasy series EVAR, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams, in that the hero really was just an ordinary guy, doing ordinary things, and had to prove his worth by the end. (By the way, if you’ve ever read Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, or have never read but would like to know what it’s all about, stay tuned to this blog – I’m about to start a chapter-by-chapter re-read and discussion of the series.)
As an ending note, I would like to mention my favorite character in the stories, Glawinn, a paladin of Lathander, who becomes a father-figure to Jherek. Glawinn is easily one of the most well-written paladins (or paladin-type characters, since many novels have code-driven knights, just not called paladins) to date in a fantasy series (that I’ve read). He has a passion for life and love that is obvious in every single one of his actions, from his courteous speech to his chivalrous actions in battle. He is a deadly warrior, but one whom believes in the good of everyone. He even prays for the soul of a dying pirate he had just slain in one-on-one combat, because he honestly believed it would help the pirate find his way into the afterlife. If all paladins were like this, they’d be a bit more interesting to read about.
So yeah, this turned into a bit more of a review, and a bit less of a tale of how I searched for inspirations for my undersea adventures, but I’m glad I (re)-read the series anyway. If you like novels about heroes who have to struggle to accomplish their goals, and you don’t mind filtering through the ridiculous-to-pronounce names that fall from the pages of all Forgotten Realms books, I suggest reading this series.