Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Isle Witch by Terry Brooks

Thirty years ago the elves launched an expedition lead by Prince Kael to find a mysterious magic. None of them returned until now. Kael himself is found half-drowned, dumb and almost out of his mind. With him is a map outlining his journey in an unknown language. The current elf king Allardon strikes a deal with the druid Walker Boh to translate the map and lead an expedition to find this mysterious magic. In return Walker will receive Allardon's support in forming a druid council. However the isle witch, a powerful magician with a grudge against Walker, plans on taking the magic for herself.

Brooks has a strong descriptive style that always brings the world of Shannara to life in vivid detail. This either works for you or doesn't. Well I do enjoy it I wish that Brooks did not have to describe every meal each character has in such detail, plus ale seems to go with everything. I am glad to see Walker back as he was by far the most compelling character from the heritage of Shannara series. Seeing Walker struggle with maintaining his own identity as his actions are increasingly similar to Allanon's is a great step in his development.

It was nice to see the introduction of advancing technology through the airships. The Shannara books are often set hundreds of years apart but this has not always reflected well.

Brooks instance on reusing characters from the same families, ie the Leah's and Ohmsford's backfires in a big way. The central twist in this book is supposed to be the connection between the isle witch and Bek but is highly obvious early on in the novel. The plot of finding the three keys does seem a bit far-fetched at times and while this is addressed to an extent most of the characters appear highly naive in noticing the flaw in the logic of this situation earlier.

Overall Brooks does provide another decent novel with some very strong points. The obvious plot twist and flaw in the plot's logic detract a little from this. 7/10.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

With the last battle upon them Rand al'Thor, the dragon reborn, gathers the rulers of nations together at the field of Merrilor. Rand hopes to use the opportunity to forge a lasting peace once he is gone. Rand's ambitions do not end there, instead of simply sealing the Dark One away again Rand wants to destroy him forever. To do so he believes he must destroy the few remaining seals on the Dark One's prison, something the Amyrlin Seat Egwene al'Vere is firmly against. Meanwhile an army of Trollocs has invaded Caemlyn and the last King of Malkier Lan Mandragoran leads an army of his own into the blight. The forces of the light are forced to fight on multiple fronts and the last battle has begun.

One thing that struck me almost immediately was how well Sanderson adapted his style to most of the view points, particularly Rand, Lan and Perrin that made me believe I was reading parts Jordan must have written himself. Sadly there was the occasional use of a modern term within the prose that Jordan would never have done that occasionally killed this notion. I can't understand how with a team of editors this could not have been weeded out. There was a similar problem with Mat's POV to what happened in TGS which made his the least convincing perspective in that book. I think Sanderson struggles with the subtle humour that Jordan injected in Mat's perspective and overcompensates. The end result makes Mat feel like a less mature character. Thankfully this does get ironed out as the book progresses.

As would be expected the majority of the book is taken up with the last battle itself and Sanderson does an excellent job in creating a convincing atmosphere of tension throughout. The struggle between Rand and the Dark One was cleverly done and certainly wasn't what I would have expected. The biggest payoff in terms of character development came from Rand and Perrin. Where they ended this book considering how they started the series makes perfect sense and shows a real growth.

I was a little disappointed in how some instances mentioned multiple times in prophecy throughout the series were glossed over and left me wondering if either Sanderson had run out of time or if Jordan's notes were unclear.

Overall aside from a few minor issues I think Sanderson has done an excellent job in bringing this series to a close. 8.5/10.