I have high expectations when it comes to fantasy. As an avid reader of this genre, I have found it increasingly hard to find an author willing to be original and yet combine the perfect amount of heroism, tragedy and realism. I must admit, the first few chapters of the Dog of the North did not endear me to it. The book's start is very slow and it took a great deal of perserverence to really get my teeth into it. However, just like a whirlpool the longer you stay with the novel's two main characters the more you are sucked into the centre of this wonderful world.
Stretton's prose is simple and eloquent, portraying a vivd web of personalities against the backdrop of a understated yet engaging patchwork of realms. This is not a fantasy novel with puissant wizards and eldritch creatures, nor do seemingly immortal heroes sweep armies away single handedly. The strength of this book is in its realsim. Not only does this mean that Mondia can be seen as a slightly more fantastical parallel to the mid-late Medieval period, but also appeals to a greater audience than just fantasy readers.
I spoke of three integral ingrediants to a fantasy novel. Whilst it's inherant realsim allows the reader to relate to several of the book's characters, It heroism is equally engaging. Stretton's battle narrative is fantasically detailed and realsitic. you may not be able to compare any of the author's heroes to the likes of Aragorn or Druss, but more human, historical heroic archetypes such as Parmenion, Leonidas, Alexander, Caesar etc are clearly recognisable. In addition, the author greatly explores the negative aspects of the warrior psyche from greed and jealousy to most importantly, revenge. As for Tragedy, I do not wish to spoil the book for future readers. Suffice to say I have not been so moved by a novels conclusion since reading the Amber Spyglass and the Lord of the Rings in my late childhood.
I would fully recommend this wonderful book to anyone, fantasy enthusiasts or not and am really looking forward to the next release in the Annals of Mondia.