I have been waiting to read Mel Odom's sequel to "The Rover" for a long time, which brought an element of trepidation to finally having "The Destruction of the Books" in my hand. At last I would be able to find out what happened next with Edgewick Lamplighter, Third Level Librarian at the Vault of All Known Knowledge, and read about his next encounter with the Embyr, the fascinating flaming female that Wick encountered while out and about with a band of Dwarf pirates. However, as I started reading this book I found that I was not reading about Wick, the Third Level Librarian, but another dweller named Juhg, a First Level Librarian, who is aboard the "Windchaser" in Kelloch's Harbor. Wick, it turns out, is now the Grandmagister. Things have certainly changed at Greydawn Moors.
In other words, what happens in "The Destruction of the Books" is nothing like what I expected or wanted to read. I recalled the same sense of disappointment at had at the beginning of "The Fellowship of the Ring" when suddenly Bilbo was replaced by Frodo. However, there is a more important similarity to that experience in that I liked "The Destruction of the Books" more than I liked "The Rover." It seems to me that Odom has built upon the elements presented in that first novel to develop a much more compelling world and a decidedly less predictable narrative.
This is a world that was shattered long ago by the great Cataclysm in which Lord Kharrion's forces of evil were defeated by an alliance of men, dwarves, and elves. The Vault of All Known Knowledge is the great depository of all the books that were preserved or discovered after the Catacylsm, for Kharrion's collection of Dark Riders, Grymmlings, Boneblights, and assorted goblinkin made a point of destroying all backs. That is why the rumor that there is a book aboard a goblin ship puts Juhg in a position where he has to try and retrieve the volume. There must be something very special about a book that the goblinkin have not destroyed.
Juhg was rescued by Wick in "The Rover" from the goblin mines, and while he respects the Grandmagister above all others, he does not share Wick's vision for the world. Perhaps what most impressed me about this novel was that the most memorable sequence was not the adventures on the Blood-Soaked Sea or the battles at Greydawn Moors, but an argument that Juhg has with Craugh the wizard in which the dweller questions some of the basic assumptions of the world in which they live. The debate forces not only the wizard but also the reader to rethink what we know about Wick's world. Things are not turned upside down, but they certainly get a whole lot more interesting in this book.
The claim will be sounded once again that Odom is providing a pastiche of Tolkien in this series. Given that we are talking about a world inhabited by wizards, dwarves, elves, dragons, and goblins, while focusing on creatures half the size of humans, those comparisons are inevitable. But there is enough creativity here to warrant taking the series on its own terms and enjoying the story rather than connecting all the dots on possible connections. There are plenty of nice little details to appreciate, such as the axe and anvil formations used by the dwarves when they fight. Besides, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" reshuffled the qualities of the original "Star Trek" characters and that turned out to be pretty good as well.
Actually, the person who keeps coming to my mind as I finished "The Destruction of the Books" was George Lucas, who always maintained that he intended Darth Vader to be Luke Skywalker's father when he made the first "Star Wars" film. My big question is whether Mel Odom knew what this second book was going to be when he wrote "The Rover" or did he, like Juhg, look at the world that had been created and see both its flaws and its possibilities. What was a minor part of "The Rover" becomes a major part here and the changes are rather exciting. The bad news is that now I have to wait again for Odom to write his next book in this series. I guess I am going to have to get used to these waits for a long time on the basis of what he has done in "The Destruction of the Books."
on 22 August 2005
In this sequel to The Rover, Mel Odom takes us back to his world of elves, dwarves, wizards and (hobbit-like) dwellers. First-level librarian Juhg learns that a goblin ship will be sneaking into Kelloch's Harbor, carrying a book. Goblins aren't known for their love of books, so why is this ship carrying one? And so, Juhg and the crew of the pirate ship Windchaser setout to capture the book. But, there's more to the mystery of this book than meets the eye. Someone has set a trap, a trap in the shape of a book, and this trap can have dire consequences for the whole world!
Overall, I found this to be a very good book. Admittedly, it seems to be the first part of a series, and as such has a very unsatisfying ending. But, that said, I loved the action and adventure angle of the book. I loved the dwarves and their fighting styles, the pirates, the wizards, and the magic.
Also, what I liked about The Rover was its setting - where most fantasy books focus on a climactic battle between Good and Evil, that book is set in a world where that battle occurred hundreds of years earlier, and the world is left in a dark ages. In The Destruction of the Books, we begin to find that the Dark Lord's plans went deeper than simple world conquest, and that his plans are bearing fruit all this time later.
Yes, I really enjoyed this book, and can't wait to read the next one. If you like good Tolkienesque fantasy, then this book is for you. I loved the book, and highly recommend it!