Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Elder Gods, by David & Leigh Eddings

In a land held sacred by the Elder Gods, a bug-like creature called the Vlaugh prepares to take control. The Elder gods are forbidden to kill and have always allowed nature to take its own course, but this time, if they do nothing their sacred land will be overrun. In their desperate attempt to save the land of Dhrall, they wake up the younger gods from their rest, but in a state of infancy resembling mortals. As they wait for the younger gods to grow up, they entice the outlying nations to come to their aid with promises of great riches. The pirate-like people from the land of Maag join along with the Maag's enemies, the Trogite legions, to defeat the Vlaugh.

I thought this book ended really abruptly. It reminded me of a parent that got tired of reading a bedtime story and concluded it by saying... "The bad guy suddenly died of a heart attack and the princess was free." That being said, I really enjoyed the book. The character development made for a great read, despite the weak finish. When the enemy nations came together outside their normal circumstances, they developed many new innovations by working together in friendship. To me, this was a testament to the progress that could be achieved if we banded together in brotherhood instead of hording our technologies.

I have read 3 of the 4 books in The Dreamers series, and so far all of them end in this abrupt way, but as the series progresses, this becomes not only expected, but adds an element of excitement and anticipation for the revelation of why these things happen in future books.

All in all, I'd recomend this as a nice light read in the fantasy genre. A great choice for when you want an adventure without the work of figuring out intricate themes and plotlines.

3 Stars
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Dark Elf Trilogy, By R.A. Salvatore

The Dark Elf Trilogy is the first three books of Salvatore's Forgotten Realms series. It includes the books Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn. It is in the style of "Dungeons and Dragons," which makes it very familiar as far as the type of abilities, items, and races you might expect to see. Being a huge fan of Fantasy, I really enjoyed this novel. It included everything you would expect from a "Dungeons and Dragons" fantasy book…sword fights, dragons, good and evil, yet it starts in a rather unexpected way.

The main character, Drizzt comes from a rather backwards society. Evil and hatred are the norm in his city of Menzoberranzan. As the third male child of a noble family, his destiny was to be sacrificed upon birth. In the female dominated Dark Elf society, men's lives are of very little worth. A twist of fate changes his course and he is allowed to live.

Drizzt's childhood experiences challenge his thinking. Should he dawn the evil mantle of his society? His father, Zaknafien, teaches Drizzt swordplay and he becomes perhaps the greatest warrior in his city. However, Zaknafien also plants the seeds of doubt in Drizzt's mind about the morality of their culture. As Drizzt struggles with his conscience and the challenges of his society, it comes down to a culminating moment where he must decide between submitting himself to the will of his people or saving a young elf child. He inevitably chooses to save the elf child and his life is turned upside down. He becomes outcast from his people and later hunted. The other races shun and fear him because of the reputation his people have earned. Drizzt's only friend for much of his journeys is Guenhwyvar, a black panther from another plane of existence. Even Guenhwyvar is able to spend little time with Drizzt, needing to return often to its own plane for sustenance. Drizzt struggles to do what he believes to be right while facing searing loneliness and despair.

What I enjoyed most about these books was the look at the great beauty that emerged from such a dark society. It is so easy to blame our actions on our circumstances. Drizzt is a true underdog, yet rose above and allowed his integrity to set his course. Despite the pain it costs him, he never once looks back on his decision with regret... only sorrow. I also enjoyed the amazing picture of the underdark, particularly the city Menzoberranzen. I think perhaps the most beautiful moments in the book were the rare moments when Drizzt felt loved. The only thing I didn’t really like was the overly detailed sword fights. I am not a big fan of strategy and maneuvers so I usually skimmed past these parts, but in spite of that, I found it an excellent book, well worth the read.

4 Stars
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane

I'm waiting for the next book in the Saga of the Twelve Houses to be available at the library. In the meantime I decided to read this.

So You Want to Be a Wizard is the first in the Young Wizards series, which has been called "the first place to go when you run out of Harry Potter." I didn't think it measured up to Harry Potter at all, and I'm not even that big of a Potter fan. Although I don't idolize the almighty Harry, Rowling's books actually have a lot going for them, especially in their use of symbolism and their rich reliance on folklore and traditional beliefs in magic, including a lot of traditions most of us aren't familiar with.

This first Young Wizards book, on the other hand, doesn't have nearly the depth. I thought the book was kind of boring. The characters were flat and the story not interesting enough to hold my attention. In fact it took me a month to finish it, much longer than a 400-page young adult book should take. The last third of the book picks up the pace significantly, introduces some a-little-too-obvious Christian symbolism, and ends up saving the book. I'm still not convinced this is a series I'll want to stick with, but I'm going to give the second book a shot.

I'm giving this book three stars. It sure seem like I've been giving a lot of three star ratings lately. I'm hoping the next book I read will knock my socks off. And it's probably worth pointing out that this book got a lot of five star ratings on Amazon.

3 Stars

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