Customer Reviews


10 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Volume One As Good As They Come
Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy kicks off with this epic volume crammed with characters, magical happenings, weird creatures, bizarre realities (I particularly liked the angry talking mountains of custard), plots, subplots, and so many vendettas that keeping track of everything requires a lot of reader concentration and perhaps a notepad. Doubtless second and third...
Published on 7 April 2002 by J. L. Probert

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Suldrun's Garden' by Jack Vance
I've had a very mixed experience with this book, which wasn't entirely unexpected given that I'd heard glowing reviews about it from some people and less-than-glowing ones from others. When I was around a hundred pages into the story I was very tempted to put the book down: I felt that the plot was all over the place, the characters were shallow and uninteresting, and the...
Published 15 months ago by L M Hughes


Most Helpful First | Newest First

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Volume One As Good As They Come, 7 April 2002
By 
J. L. Probert - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy kicks off with this epic volume crammed with characters, magical happenings, weird creatures, bizarre realities (I particularly liked the angry talking mountains of custard), plots, subplots, and so many vendettas that keeping track of everything requires a lot of reader concentration and perhaps a notepad. Doubtless second and third readings of this rich work will reveal things I didn't pick up on the first time around but then that's one of the marks of a good fantasy novel. Various sources have claimed that this is Vance's attempt at telling a King Arthur - inspired epic but there's so much here that's original that any Arthurian overtones come across as incidental. If you enjoyed the Dying Earth collection then you'll like this, and if you've not ready any Vance before then this is a good place to start. A word of warning, though. As I mentioned above, this is the first book of a trilogy. Apart from the subtitle on the cover there's little to suggest to the uninformed that this book forms the starting point of an ongoing series. While this volume is fairly self-contained storywise, it also has an epilogue which tells you what you can look forward to "in the next exciting episode". The other two volumes are called The Green Pearl and Madouc...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true spirit of medieval fantasy, 7 Aug. 2002
By 
Peter Uren (Sydney, NSW, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
I really enjoyed, this book (indeed all three in the set) and I'm glad to see it has returned to print, since I personally believe it is one of Vance's greatest accomplishments.
It makes for a really refreshing change to see a book which is supposedly to be based on medieval European roots of myth and legend, to actually maintain the spirit and story of the ancient folklore. So often these days, I feel like I'm reading about medieval worlds which were based on series of other bestselling novels. Elves seem so often based on Tolkien's inventions rather than Germanic myth, little people are based on Victorian fairy tales and Enid Blyton rather than faerie tales, which were believed in, in times long past. So often, even when myth and folklore really are used as a source, there is no imagination in the utilisation of the spirit of those stories.
In Lyonesse we have so many interesting characters and places and despite the fact that most really are only lightly touched upon, you get the feeling each one has a story of their own to tell. The central plot is elegant in its simplicity, in the same way that such classic tales as Snow White or Cinderella are, yet it doesn't sacrifice creativity or fall into a cliche to do this.
I heartily recommend this as a book for all lovers of the fantasy genre.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterwork, 25 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
A brilliant beginning to an inspired trilogy. I read this a long time ago when it first came out and still recall that first reading. A life-affirming experience.
This story stands on its own despite being the first in a trilogy, and I can't think of a better introduction to the multi-faceted universe of Jack Vance, surely one of the authors of the 20th Century. Certainly the fantasy author, in my opinion.
The story starts fairly slowly with the author exploring numerous narrative strands that seem unconnected to the reader, but you are rewarded with a buildup of pace and a drawing together of the threads into a dazzling final hundred pages that I had to read several times to make sure I'd got everything (and I'm sure that I've still missed stuff). what a pleasure that was.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lyonesse Trilogy, 10 Aug. 2002
If you like fantasy novels and have never read Jack Vance then read this series. Lyonesse is a mythical land where the people live with all sorts of faerie folk and half-creatures of legend. A loose cabal of magicians and their apprentices work to bring order to the land. The human inhabitants have to match their skills and knowledge of weaponry to compete with the other races. The detail and imagery is breath taking, the plot unfolds over three books. Vance's characters have great depth. A thoroughly interesting and complex series that you will want to read time and time again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars 'Suldrun's Garden' by Jack Vance, 22 Dec. 2013
By 
L M Hughes (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
I've had a very mixed experience with this book, which wasn't entirely unexpected given that I'd heard glowing reviews about it from some people and less-than-glowing ones from others. When I was around a hundred pages into the story I was very tempted to put the book down: I felt that the plot was all over the place, the characters were shallow and uninteresting, and the prose was very dry. But I stuck with it, and thankfully ended up enjoying the final third of the book almost enough to make up for the weak (or so I felt) beginning.

Suldrun's Garden is an interesting historical fantasy mash-up, set in the fictional realm of the Elder Isles (now sunk beneath the sea, but once located near France and Britain). At the beginning the story is mainly concerned with establishing the conflict between the lands of Lyonesse and Troicinet, but this eventually becomes more of a backdrop to the main events of the story. As well as the overall war we have long-lost princes, rebellious princesses, talking mirrors, magicians, Arthurian references, curses, ogres, torture, rape, torture-rape, curse-rape-torture, ogre-rape, and fairies.

I found the fairy-story aspects of the novel interesting, but over-used and occasionally irrelevant. Sometimes the descriptions felt very Tolkien-esque and twee, while at other times they were as gleefully violent as a Grimm fairy tale; the inclusion of the latter do help to give the novel its pervasive undertone of dark threat (which was sometimes a bit heavy-handed, particularly with regard to the continual misfortunes that befell many of the characters). I felt that the semi-historical element of the setting was also interesting, and nicely balanced out the inclusion of the fae world, but was used so minimally that it may as well have not been mentioned at all. I don't know if it becomes more prominent in future novels, though.

I realise that my criticisms might be a bit controversial, as it seems Vance is revered as one of the forerunners of modern fantasy. Speaking personally, though, I didn't enjoy his writing style very much, at least not at first. I found the way he related events to be very dry and dull, and felt that the characters were not developed as thoroughly as they might have been. Since this is very much a plot-driven story, I felt disconnected from events in a way that I don't when I'm reading more modern, character-based fantasy. Modern fantasy authors I've enjoyed recently (particularly the likes of Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin, Mark Lawrence, John Gwynne, Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, etc., etc.) engage the reader by persuading us to invest in their characters just as much as in their stories, which is something I felt was lacking in Suldrun's Garden. For instance, we're often told that a character is doing something, but we're not always shown their thoughts and motivations for doing so; similarly, we may be told that a character is angry, or sad, but are shown very little of their behaviour or their reasoning. In this way it reminded me a little of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, with a lot of unnecessary elements and prolific use of narration rather than storytelling. (Yes, there's a difference. In my mind at least.) It's this sense of distance from the characters that kept me distanced from the book, at least for the most part.

The other issue I had is with the writer's use of language. Characters don't seem to have distinguished voices - the adults speak in mostly the same way as the children, and vice-versa: for example, when insulting and threatening the press-ganged/enslaved Aillas, the overseer uses the word `fiddity-didjet' to describe his behaviour. For me this jarred with both the situation and the other events in the book: a lot of it is quite dark and tragic, yet the language in no way reflects this.

One more minor criticism I have is plot-related. I found that characters were doing elaborate and irrelevant things simply for the sake of doing them. An example of this would be when the magician Shimrod is coerced into entering a dangerous magical realm and having to complete an arbitrary set of tasks, all as part of a ruse so that someone else could go to his house and steal his "magical stuff". This style of writing put me in mind of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which also tends to slot in events simply because the author wants to. This works for a lot of people, but not for me.

Criticisms aside, I found myself enjoying the book quite a lot towards the end. Once the author focused on two or three main characters and gave each one a clear sense of purpose the story became very engaging. If the majority of the book had been like this I would have given it 4 out of 5; as it is, I'll be giving it 3, but may look into the rest of the Lyonesse series in the future to see what it's like.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars "Between the time when oceans drank Atlantis and the coming of Arthur and his knights, there was an age unheard of...", 23 Sept. 2013
By 
Darth Maciek "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
No, "Suldrun's garden" is NOT related to Conan books or movies - but for reasons which will become obvious in a little moment, I simply couldn't resist and HAD TO recycle here those opening words from the first "Conan" movie...)))

"Suldrun's garden" is the first - and the best - of three volumes of "Lyonesse Trilogy", written between 1983 and 1989 by the already very renowned American SF, fantasy and criminal mystery writer Jack Vance (1916-2013). Very prolific writer, Vance began publishing in 1945 but due to deteriorating eyesight he had to slow down greatly his work after 1992 - he ultimately stopped writing fiction in 2004 due to his advanced age and total loss of sight. "Lyonesse Trilogy" is therefore, together with roughly contemporary SF trilogy "Cadwal Chronicles" (1987-1992) and the stand alone "Night Lamp" SF novel (1996), amongst his latest but also greatest books. The whole trilogy is a GREAT read - but "Suldrun's garden", darker and less optimistic than most of Vance's books, is my favourite.

The story happens in Early Dark Ages, one or two generations before the times of King Arthur, on Elder Isles, a fictitious archipelago situated on Atlantic Ocean, roughly in the Biscay Bay, not far from France to the east, Spain to the south and British Isles to the north. The archipelago is composed of the huge main island Hybras, slightly larger than Ireland, surrounded by numerous smallers islands, of which the three most important are Skaghane, Troicinet and Dascinet.

There are some suggestions that Elder Isles were once part of a mightier and larger giant island - or small continent - on which a powerful civilization of wizards and wonders existed, but which was mostly swallowed by the ocean in an undescriptible, powerful cataclysm, remembered in realms further east as the story of Atlantis... The powerful Arch-Magicians, of which eight still endure on Elder Isles at the beginning of the story, are probably the last custodians of some knowledge of this ancient civilization - even if they do not master anymore the secrets of creation of new magical apparatus and therefore are greatly dependent on the few magical relics which survived the cataclysm.

Even after the cataclysm Elder Isles used to be governed by one High King but after a long series of civil wars were divided in smaller independent kingdoms. When the story begins, following realms exist on Elder Isles:

- Lyonesse, the most powerful; its ruler, King Casmir, has the best claim for the title of High King, being without question descended in straight line from the old dynasty of rulers of all Elder Isles

- Dahaut, the second most powerful, ruled by king Audry, also descending from old kings, but a much less ambitious character than Casmir

- Troicinet, relatively small by its surface, but owning the best navy on the Elder Isles; its ruler, King Granice, has no sons - and his succession is likely to be a troubled one...

- Dascinet, another sea power; its ruler, king Yvar, is allied with Casmir of Lyonesse and a bitter enemy of Troicinet

- North Ulfland, nominally under the rule of old king Gax - but most of the country is occupied by the Ska invaders...

- South Ulfland, nominally under the rule of king Oriante - but in reality the king controls only his own castle, the rest of country being divided between a multitude of independent permanently fighting and quarelling barons

- Godelia, the only kingdom populated by Celtic immigrants from the continent; it is ruled by king Dartwed and slowly expands its borders, thanks to the constant new arrivals of new Celtic warriors to Elder Isles

- Pomperol, Blaloc and Caduz, are small kingdoms trapped between Lyonesse and Dahaut - they survive for the moment, as neither of their two big neighbors dares attack them, fearing open war with the second one...

- Skaghane, a ferocious kingdom of grim invaders from distant northern lands, the Ska; this agressive new power also controls North Ulfland and prepares for even more expansion

- city-state of Ys, governed by a council of wealthy merchants ("syndics")

Then there are also some areas which escape all control by those human kingdoms - most of them are wild forests, rugged hills or misty swamps populated by fairies and monsters. Those places are terribly dangerous even for large groups of humans...

I will not tell you much about the story itself neither will I reveal who is the MAIN hero of this book (it will take some reading to discover it), but let me just tell you, that this is storytelling at the highest possible level! Mixing classical Celtic and German fairytales with some swashbuckling, some Tolkien-like travel tales, some "Game of Thrones"-style intrigues and fights and last but not least the typical Vancian enchanting touch of ironic humor, sadistic twists and especially absolutely UNIQUELY worded dialogs, this is a JEWEL!

The one thing I didn't really like was the Christian bashing - but at least there is not much of it and once we pass this couple of pages, the incident is over and we can continue reading...

CONCLUSION: one of the greatest and best fantasy books ever written, which I discovered first in French in the 80s, before re-discovering it with equal pleasure in its original English! A TREASURE, to buy, read, keep and pass to your children! ENJOY!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Vancian magic, 19 Jun. 2013
By 
Erica (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This is a bit of a bittersweet review for me, in light of Vance's passing away only recently. This man's back catalogue comprises literally hundreds of books, and the Lyonesse series is one of his most lauded works; I had simply never yet got round to reading it.
Suldrun's Garden is the first part in this trilogy, and it's Vance at his most classic. The book begins in the palace chambers of Queen Sollace as she is giving birth to her first child. King Casmir is nearby to keep an eye on the proceedings, but loses all interest when the child turns out to be a daughter, who is named Suldrun.
In any other book, this would set the scene for Suldrun to be the protagonist, but Vance doesn't work that way. We follow Suldrun for a while as she grows up under the indifferent eye of her father - who is much more interested in expanding his reign beyond the borders of his own kingdom of Lyonesse - and her equally indifferent mother. Casmir only pays attention to Suldrun when she might be of use to him, ie. as a pawn to tempt rivals into a politically advantageous marriage. Suldrun herself simply wishes to be left alone, and defies him in every way she is able to.
Often, without warning, the book moves on to a completely new character in a different part of the world and follows that person for a while. This happens several times, and gradually it starts to become clear how the various storylines are interwoven. This doesn't happen in an all-encompassing, tie-your-threads-together climax ending like you might expect in Hollywood movies, no, it simply all starts to make sense. The story is ultimately a meandering tale of ambition, betrayal, love, adversity and intrigue, encompassing kings, magicians and fairy creatures.
Vance's writing style is unique, and will not suit everyone. His prose is intricate, with lots of obscure words which are used by the characters as easily as if they were part of everyday language. Characters and scenes are described concisely, yet all descriptions are strangely evocative. Conversations are unlike anything you would hear elsewhere, yet they are not stilted, just unusual. Things often feel a little detached, but then something happens which stirs your passion as a reader when you least expect it. Overall I would describe the book as melancholy - in me it evokes feelings of sorrow for things and times long past, which left you with nothing but fond memories.
Maybe it is best to use an example paragraph to demonstrate Vance's style:
"Dame Maugelin trudged up the circular stone steps to Dame Boudetta's apartments, hips rolling and thrusting under her dark brown gown. On the third floor she halted to pant, then went to an arched door of fitted timbers, bound with black iron straps. The door stood ajar. Dame Maugelin pushed it somewhat more open, with a creak of iron hinges, so that she could pass her amplitude through the gap. She advanced to stand in the doorway, eyes darting to all corners of the room at once."
If that speaks to your fancy, give this book a go. It may not always be easy going, but if any book will take you away to far fairy shores on winds of imagination, it is this one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant Vance fantasy, 21 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a wonderful book in keeping with Jack Vance's reputation for weaving magical lands. I have read this book at least 4 times now, and as usual it has hooked me so we'll that I cannot wait to start the next one in the trilogy. No one does fantasy quite like Jack Vance.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rich and satisfying fantasy, 8 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Sulrun's Garden is a place where lovers of fantasy fiction will love to go. Forming a central fulcrum for a complex plot involving many protagonists, who, as a result of subtle and not so subtle intrigues may be allies or enemies as convenience dictates.
The characters individually evoke a range of emotions, from admiration to despise and exasperation.
The background to the drama is a world where fairies, trolls and ogres make their own presence felt - sometimes wanted, sometimes unwanted, but always leading to unexpected twists and turns and difficulties for the protagonists.
All in all, a fairy tale with all the sharp edges left on....it will leave you both shocked and laughing at the same time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enjoyable..., 22 April 2014
By 
This review is from: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Just very dated, a bit like Tolkien, maybe good for its time, but language is too laborious, long winded and twee to make it an overall enjoyable read. Some parts were nice and had a macabre fairytale quality to it, but whilst it has flavour, also lacked focus. A better but similarly toned book is The Last Unicorn...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden: Suldrun's Garden Bk.1 (FANTASY MASTERWORKS)
Used & New from: £2.26
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews