The text: a tale of the lost continent or large island Lyonesse, West of France, South of Ireland. Mystery, strategy, war, romance, fairies and magic. How Princess Suldrun grew up and fell in love, while her father King Casmir tries to gain the ascendancy among the scattered kingdoms of Lyonesse; how Prince Aillas travelled the medieval lands of Lyonesse, encountering strange tribes and weird customs; and how Madouc, a faerie changeling, sets off on a quest not unrelated to the other stories. A rich multi-stranded epic of the Elder Isles.
The book: this hardback contains all three Lyonesse books in a single volume (and excellent Amazon price!)
My opinion of the text: it sounds like yet another fantasy/sword-and-sorcery tome, but Vance is such a good writer that he sweeps you (me) along and before you know it you are immersed, following all the various strands effortlessly. This is a classic of High Fantasy, with brilliant imagination, colour, wit, evocative names, lyrical as well as down-to-eart descriptions, strategy, magic, a range of personalities with foibles and traits... colour, food, drama, death... Vance's language is rich but very easy to read, he plays on your imagination, has a sardonic wit, is a story-teller par excellence, and leaves you with magnificent memories and dreams - and a wish for more, even after page 1024! I think this is among his best work, and it was written/recorded after he went blind. Homeric - plus wit!
My opinion of this hardback: first of all, my copy has a different cover - same colour scheme, but a nice goblet instead of this strange crown of the image above. Beautifully produced with nice text layout and font use; worthy of Vance, which is saying something! My only reservations are on the illustrations in the text: Vance does not need illustrating, his language calls up many images and visions already. Illustrations actually take some of the joy away, but most of them are pretty generic (even if slightly wrong, to my taste) and not very obtrusive. There is a very occasional larger plate of a scene or character, which is tedious for people who prefer their own imagination; but they are really very few, and I recommend this edition to all lovers of Vance. And if you don't know Vance, this would be a good place to start.
Oh, and the 'one line missing' from the first review? I think he/she means page 270, where one line is repeated a bit later - and the line that *should* be there, is missing.
on 22 September 2011
Incredibly imaginative, precise and elaborate prose, wonderful story ... face facts, it's hard to fault Jack Vance's Lyonesse. It simply is a beautiful piece of fiction written by a writer in total command of his craft, a writer who is both unique and brilliant.
If I were to pick faults, all I could say is that some people might find it difficult adapting to Jack's verbose dialogue. All of his character's talk the same way, with many words (most of them seldom found outside of the dictionary), much charisma and almost always the ability to defend their point of view with wit and intelligence. This isn't realistic, and neither is meant to be. What it is meant to be is entertaining. I've never enjoyed dialogue like I enjoy Jack Vance's. He can turn the simplest conversation into a battle of wits able to amuse the gods. Most of his conversations I re-read because I can't believe anything could be so good.
Anyway, I can't praise him enough. And if you haven't done so, after this book, try reading the Dying Earth books and the Demon Princes saga. They are equally as good.
As others have said, this is the 3-books of the Lyonesse trilogy - Suldrun's Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc - in a single 1000+ page volume, sturdily bound and using the Vance Integral Edition text. If you are a Jack Vance fan, the old Lyonesse paperbacks may be getting a little worn, and this is a worthy replacement. If you have not read Vance before, this is a reasonably accessable starting point, for all its length.
Lyonesse is Vance writing at the peak of his powers in the 1980's (the time he also wrote Cugel's Saga and Rhialto the Marvellous). This is epic high fantasy, with warring kingdoms, fairies, trolls, quests, wizards and magic swords, but all told with Vance's wry perspective on humanity. People don't speak like Vance writes - but they should! The dialogue is wonderful to read, and the characters are distinct and well-written.
Lyonesse is set in the "Elder Isles" just off Cornwall, with kingdoms warring against each other and the invading Ska. The story is set around the rise of Aillas - although this is not immediately apparent. No one is necessarily who they seem: at first it looks like King Casmir will be the focus of the story, and it takes a while for this impression to change.
Madouc, the final volume, is largely focused on young Princess Madouc's quest for her own identity, almost to the exclusion of a large number of plot threads hanging from The Green Pearl. Just when you think Vance can't possibly wind this up well, he does: the story never gets away from him, despite being told in unparalled levels of depth.
Lastly, there is a short analysis of Lyonesse as a literary work, and the six short appendices from the trilogy. There is also a near-complete list of other works by Vance, so if this is your first exposure to Vance, if you like it there is plenty of direction as to what to look for next.
on 27 April 2011
When we started work on the Vance Integral Edition in 1999, only Vance's most recent works were in print. To find a copy of his acknowledged masterpieces--Lyonesse, Tschai (Planet of Adventure), Demon Princes, Emphyrio, the Dying Earth stories, Alastor, etc., etc.--you had to scour used bookstores and sites. Since the VIE was completed in 2006, most of these titles have now become available in mass-market editions, some of them based on our texts. In addition, limited editions of his lesser known works have been appearing, notably the mysteries, mostly from Subterranean Press. I have no doubt that the VIE, by making available fully-edited texts, is a major factor in publishers' taking this initiative.
This particular edition is especially close to my heart, as I was the primary textual integrity worker on the Lyonesse trilogy. I consider it Vance's masterpiece and the finest work of fantasy of the 20th Century, edging out Pullman's His Dark Materials by a narrow margin. Gollancz have given us the only mass-market Lyonesse that is faithful to Vance's creation (save only the Grafton Madouc in the UK, printed from the Underwood-Miller plates). While The Green Pearl was undamaged by editors, the first and third books were compromised. The Berkley editor of Suldrun's Garden felt it necessary to exchange Chapters 25 and 26, at the cost of some sweetly lyrical description, and the Ace editors attempted to fix some minor continuity problems in Madouc, and ended up making matters worse. (These are not the only continuity problems in the trilogy, none of which we felt compelled to correct; finding them is left as an exercise to the reader.)
The title page credits Adam Roberts as editor and author of an afterword. I suppose I can guess why Roberts felt it necessary to move the Preliminary and the Glossaries to the back of the book: suffice it to say I disagree with him. Perhaps if I had been given the title 'Editor' I might have felt impelled to elevate my judgment above the author's. If Roberts should read this, I would be grateful for a comment.
I did enjoy his Afterword, especially his emphasis on the role of children as major characters (also true of Pullman, and of lesser fantasists like Lewis and Tolkien--assuming Hobbits are children). The point was made previously by Paul Rhoads, the VIE Editor-in-Chief, in the project's newsletter, Cosmopolis, and deserves a wider audience.
Unfortunately the Afterword, like all the other material Gollancz did not acquire from the VIE, is littered with misspelled proper names. In addition there is an error of fact in the statement "Prince Dhrun's quest for the Ska woman he thinks he loves ends in disappointment." Roberts is arguing the childhood theme again here, specifically "the distance between adult and childish perceptions." Unfortunately he compromises both his argument and his credibility, as the questor is not Prince Dhrun but King Aillas, who was not a child when taken as a slave by the Ska. I would like to believe that this is an error in production, not in scholarship.
A couple of comments on previous reviews: like Henk Beentje's, my copy (purchased from amazon.de) has the Grail on the cover. The image shown here is on the back cover. Henk is also correct in identifying a missing line on Page 270 and Ant, in his comment, accurately supplies the proper reading.
In his comment on A Kid's Review, Ant speculates that an "unauthorized explicitly homosexual conversation" might be the missing material. Sorry, wrong. The relationship between Tamurello and Faude Carfilhiot *is* explicitly homosexual, as I can attest after examining three different manuscripts of Suldrun's Garden. (In passing, I observe that neither Tamurello nor Faude is 'simply' gay; rather they are omnisexual, like Kex in Strange People Queer Notions.)
A reviewer at the US site suspects that Gollancz has introduced British spellings. This is not the case, and I direct your attention again to Ant's comment, which cites a note from Vance to his editor at Tor on the matter of spelling and punctuation. Generally speaking, in his later works, Vance often employs British spelling--except when he doesn't.
However, Gollancz has introduced British quotation practice: single quotes for dialogue, double quotes for dialogue within dialogue. This is unfortunate, as Vance's practice is very much his own: double quotes for dialogue, single quotes for dialogue within dialogue and, significantly, single quotes for what we in the VIE came to call quotation for emphasis. This distinction is lost in this edition. It is not a large thing, but it is more than nothing.
Quibbles aside, I express warmest gratitude to Gollancz for this edition. Lyonesse deserves to be in print from now until the end of time. And I now possess a correct version that I can loan out without putting my Deluxe VIE at risk.
on 23 January 2015
This is a great trilogy ruined by abysmal editing, or lack thereof. (For clarity: I am reviewing the Kindle edition.)
I have long since concluded that all Kindle editions are plagued by typographic and editorial errors; I do not own one that doesn't have them in abundance. This trilogy sets a new record! The typographic errors and miss-spellings are so numerous (and often repeated) that many sentences are rendered incomprehensible. Entire paragraphs are destroyed too - I encountered some who's second half was overwritten by a repeat of the preceding paragraph! These are not minor mistakes. These are unacceptable - not only do they obliterate any meaning of the text, they induce extreme fatigue in the reader who endeavors to follow the story.
These errors are tragic because Vance's story and writing are exceptional. This trilogy is definitely one of the best fantasies I have read - an imaginative and enthralling mix of fairy-tale whimsy with dark agendas, politics, unashamed but tasteful physicality and politics. The story does not pretend to be philosophical or educational or moralistic in any way - it remains a tale, an adventure, a journey, and nothing more.
on 11 August 2012
If you haven't read Vance before, perhaps you should take a look at a shorter work to be sure you like Vance's style: "Cugel's Saga" or "Rhialto the Marvellous" would give you a taste of what's in store before you dive into this thousand-page whopper.
If you have read Vance, and you already love his writing for its discursive, polysyllabic flamboyance, then this is a treat: three themed novels of chivalry and magic written while Vance was absolutely at the top of his game in dialogue and plotting, with enough ideas stuffed into a paragraph or two to keep an averagely inventive writer going for an entire novel.
This Gollancz volume is based on the Vance Integral Edition, "the first complete, corrected and archival-quality edition" of the novels. However, at some time someone has done a careless search-and-replace job on part of the text to convert American to British spellings, without limiting the scope of the replacements, and without monitoring the result. So as well as annoyances like "invigourate", there are monstrosities like "Armourica" (for "Armorica"), "labouratory" (for "laboratory"), and "moulten" (for "molten"). It's a small flaw in an otherwise delightful offering.
on 15 January 2013
Having been totally mind-boggled by the Dying Earth series, I yearned for more of Vance's inimitable fantasy work. Unfortunately, there is not much else to choose from, the vast majority of his work being Science Fiction - albeit in a fairly broad sense of the word - but I digress...
Before jumping into a hefty £25 and an even heftier 1000-page hardback, I read up on this, and was almost deterred by widespread reports of "Lyonesse" being awash with Arthurian Legend. I tend to shun historical fiction (no matter how loosely applicable the term) and look for that deeply escapist experience provided by, amongst others, The Dying Earth, but at last I could hold out no longer and took the plunge. Thanks be to Vance that I did.
So the book arrived, and I gasped at the size and weight of it. I read in bed, so for me this was not a good thing, but it is very well presented and does feel special. To cut my long story short, I decided to buy the Kindle version instead (and a Kindle to read it on!)
After a fairly brisk lead-in, the adventure launches into full swing and does not look back for an instant...
Jack Vance masterfully intertwines heroic adventure with capricious fairytale, wistful dreamscapes with cold-blooded power-struggles and cut-throat banditry with intensely intimate insights into the characters' minds and hearts. "Lyonesse" is at once dark, hilarious, poignant, frivolous, touching and summarily cruel. Everything I longed for is there - the colours, smells and flavours, the rogues and blackguards, the dreamlike escapades into impossible worlds. But perhaps more awe-inspiring still, "Lyonesse" is a work of literary malabarism, juggling so many characters, locations and storylines that it seems impossible when finally, after one thousand pages over three volumes, each and every juggling-ball falls deftly into place (including some that you never even knew were there!)
"Lyonesse" comes to a spectularly sculpted end in a manner rarely seen in Vance's work. This is not a slight on his other work, merely an observation. Arthurian and other historical references are very few and far between, and "Lyonesse" retains at all times the right to be classed (at least in my opinion) as a true paragon of High Fantasy.
on 14 June 2014
If you have never read Jack Vance, whether a fantasy or sci-fi reader or not, I suggest you should try at least one of his books. His work deserves it. If nothing else sways you, consider how many great authors name him as an inspiration and pay homage to him.
Frankly the Lyonesse saga isn't the best he's written in fantasy or sci-fi (for me at least). For the former its the Cugel series (Dying Earth); the latter its the Demon Princes. But Amazon is a pain in getting the FULL series of those books (be careful! Most of the Vance books on Amazon are short storylines that are best read in the full group due to their being part of one greater storyline). Therefore I bought Lyonesse in lieu of them, until his publishers update to the 21st century (grumble).
The thing that still stuns me with Vance everytime I read his work is that he has an immediately recognisable style thats clearly his, never to my knowledge matched, and which blends rich worlds while taking the barest numbers of words to do so. Whole scenes are conjured in a few words. This is coupled with dark worlds that have all the sudden horror and cruelty of a Grimms tale, without the protection of being childs tales. Lyonesse has all this, but relative to Vances other series I mentioned above lacks a little something - all of the main characters are portrayed positively in this series, whereas Vance's others tend to have morally questionable (or outright wrong) leads, which Vance handled superbly. There are various "bad guy" characters the story follows from time to time, but they lack the cutting edge of his other portrayals.
If you need more description and verbosity in your books to get a feel for a world, perhaps not the best read. However, if you don't and you have never read his work, then please give yourself a treat and do so. You deserve it!
on 4 January 2012
For some reason this kindle version seems to have an extra line of space between paragraphs on iPad - very distracting while reading - so I would advise getting the sample chapter to see how it reads on your device before buying.
on 17 January 2014
Jack Vance in epic mode. Suldrun is a bitter sweet character who strikes an immediate emotional response. Vance's economy and restraint in her portrayal are things of beauty.. This edition is printed from the VIE edition - essentially the unexpurgated corrected directors cut. One sentence is missing by mistake but with that trivial exception the book is as written. It goes without saying its a brilliant.tour de force ranking in the top five or six fantasies ever written