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|Originality -- What
" A Man of His Word", vol. 1. Followed by Faery
Lands Forlorn, Perilous Seas and Emperor &
|Whether or not you like it, most of the fantasy
published these days is more-or-less directly derivative of Tolkein... unless
it's Dark Fantasy, and then Stephen King is a common prototype.
Well, meet Dave Duncan.
Dave Duncan plays by Dave Duncan's rules.
The only other book/series that i can recall that gave me as much fun watching
an entirely new (to me, anyway) system and practise of magic revealed just
at the right pace to move the story along quickly but not bog it down in
Expository Lumps was Edward Eager's "Half Magic" and its sequels/related
books (which you ought to check out, too).
Duncan's system of magic for this series (which i won't go into detail about
because, while it's imminently understandable and elegantly simple, the gradual
revelation of its elegant simplicity and power is part of the appeal of these
books) is one of those "why didn't *I* think of something like that? " ideas.
While this magical system and the implications of its working are the major
driving engine of the series as a whole, the driving engine of the story
that makes it wonderful and compellingly readable is the relationship between
Rap and Inos -- the stableboy and the beautiful princess. I've never before
seen a better or more touching portrayal of two young people so deeply in
love with each other and yet so totally clueless as to what they think
themselves, much less what the other thinks.
On the other hand, i've read very few adventure romps that satisfy so thoroughly
as this series, either.
Duncan has obviously put a lot of effort into working out his world of Pandemia
(this becomes even more obvious in the sequel series, "A Handful of Men"),
its races, its politics and its geography. And we see a *lot* of that geography
in the course of this series -- these books will give you saddle sores and
blisters on your feet just to read.
Even beyond the nations and the countries and the politics, Duncan has assembled
a cast -- a veritable horde -- of characters, almost all of whom seem to
be concerned in some way or other with stableboy Rap and Princess (of a Very
Small city-state) Inosolan. Particularly interesting and Important are the
goblin Little Chicken, the minstrel Jalon, Dr Sagorn the scholar, Darad,
and Andor the cavalier, not to mention various Gods who take a direct and
meddlesome interest in human affairs...
Admittedly, this book starts a bit slowly, but that's just Duncan winding
up all the clockwork, setting all the dominoes in their rows and getting
the pyrotechnic displays set up Just Right.
If you read as far as Page 100 or so -- the introduction of Darad is, i think,
the turning point -- i do not think you will be able to put this book and
its three companions down until the last page of Volume Four.
((I would also like to praise the beautiful covers by Don Maitz -- i saw
the originals of two of them at the 1991 World SF Convention -- which are
Simply Beautiful, and which, although on the surface simply four portraits
of the same girl/young woman, all clearly relate to and comment on the action
of the books they grace. And look for Maitz's signature, which is included
in one or two at least as part of the design or decoration...))