Monday, April 8, 2013

Uninspired fantasy


Luthiel's Song:  Dreams of the Ringed Vale

by Robert Marston Fanney

Published by Dark Forest Press

2 Out of 5 Stars

Not too long ago, I read A Game of Thrones, an excellent fantasy novel with exceptional world building (with fantasy elements kept in moderation--just the way I like it), intrigue and suspense provided by a complex plot, and fully realized characters. That sucker grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

As a fantasy, Luthiel's Song failed because it lacked all of the above. It didn't grab me. Hell, it barely groped me. It was like the awkward boy who took you to the 10th grade dance and was so set on making a good impression that he barely made an impression at all. By the end of the night, you would have welcomed an attempt at copping a cheap feel because it would have given you a good story the next day to tell your friends and verify that he did, in fact, know of the existence of the bases. Suffice it to say, this book did not give me a good story to tell my friends. And I began to wonder if it even knew where the bases were.

In Luthiel's Song, the fantasy world was overkill and full of self-referential terms and concepts that are seldom clearly explained. Granted, that could have also been because tedium set in early on and I found myself not caring much about piecing all that mumbo-jumbo together. (Oh, and you know what really irks me? When fantasy novels have a "helpful" appendix in the back and half the words and terms you look up aren't listed.) We have elves, we have werewolves, we have talking animals, we have giant killer spiders, we have giants, we have dragons, we have fallen-angels-who-have-become-vampires, we have ghosts, we have wizards, we have valkyries, we have magic crystals, we have swords that are important enough to have names, we have portals between worlds. It's a bit like the author won a shopping spree at Ghouls R' Us. In other words, we have every fantasy trope and cliche under the two suns of Oesha (yup, even two suns). 
All of this fantasy "clutter" leads to the second problem: weak characterization. The characters never really differentiate themselves based upon personality. We never know much about Luthiel other than, as an orphan, she has always felt out of place (and, like all orphans, she will predictably turn out to be more than she seems) and she loves her sister, Leowin, so much that she's willing to offer her life in her sister's stead when Leowin is chosen as a sacrifice for the Vyrl. Cue the adventure in which Luthiel will learn about herself as she encounters mystical threats and finds unlikely allies. Yawn.

Now, all of this might be a little more entertaining to someone who hasn't glutted themselves on fantasy as I have over the years. Most of this is predictable with a very "been there, done that" flavor. It's not necessarily that bad, but it's not necessarily that good. Instead of moving on to the next book in the series, I think it may be time to check out George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings. After all, those Lannisters know where the bases are. 

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