Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on 24 January 2002
I'm actually a fan of Wurts, ever since I read her Empire series collaboration with Feist (whom I don't much like). However, I disliked this book, primarily for the following 3 reasons:
The pace of the book is awful. From the first page we are told that Arithon is in the worst danger possible; the kind of danger that would threaten Athera itself....and the Fellowship is threatened...and Arithon really, really, this time must break down and destroy the world... well, no this time he will break down and destroy the world... ok, this time he is really, really stretched and a catastrophe must happen... no? Get the picture? Dangers pile on dangers, and throughout the book, Wurts wants us to believe that we're balancing on the very edge of disaster. The only thing is, this is pretty hard to believe in as a reader - especially when you know you've got 600 pages to go...
Another example of the bad pace are the multiple times in the story where we are told some character must make a split-second decision; upon which we are then treated with 2-3 pages of the character contemplating what s/he should do in the next second. Doh!
Secondly, I (and it seems I am a minority here) am finding it increasingly difficult to emphatize with the characters in these books. The reason is that every one of them is painted as either black or white; every character in the book can be considered either divinely good (Arithon and his bunch), diabolically evil with no redeeming attributes (Lysaer, the Witches and a few of his henchmen), or good but fighting in an evil cause (most of Lysaer's henchmen). Also, every character in the books is described as being brave, unbowed, giving their all for their cause though harried to the end of their endurance, etc. No ordinary humans on Athera, that's for sure (the only one, Dakar, has now converted to join the divinely good fraternity).
Finally, the flowery prose. This is the reason I love Wurt's writing, but unfortunately also the reason why I am beginning to dislike it. After 100 pages describing how beat up, worn out, on the edge of endurance, unwashed, etc. Arithon is, I'm sure we know how he looks. This book could be half its current size and it would be much better.
IMO, this book should never have been written (it was, incidentally not in the original publishing plans either). All it does is blow up the size of a series which is looking increasingly unmanageable, and though a few important plot developments occur, I fail to see why they should require 700 pages!! As a long time fan of the series, I plan on buying the next (and hopefully the final in the Alliance of Light cycle) book, but if there are no significant improvements, I doubt that I will continue reading it.
So why 2 stars? Well, there are a few wonderfully evocative passages in the book. There is no doubt that Wurts knows her stuff, and can write like few others. Just a pity she overdoes it.
If you're a new reader, try some of her other work. If you're an old fan and getting a little tired of her work, this one is not for you. A masterpiece, it very certainly isn't!