5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant series of books
Bought the other 3 books in the series before I was even half way through this book. Looking forward to his other novels
Published 10 days ago by jill
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like running over uneven ground
The Death of Promises probably has the strongest opening of any of David Dalglish's books to date. He makes the bold move of introducing a new character, the paladin Jerico, who provides much of the focus of the first part of the book. Jerico's a sturdy sort whose main power is in his holy shield. He's the sort of man you'd want for a last stand as you know he's going...
Published on 2 Oct 2010 by The Dastard
Most Helpful First | Newest First
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like running over uneven ground,
We also see Lathaar again, the paladin from The Cost of Betrayal who thought he was the last of his kind. A compelling relationship of rivalry tempered with humility builds between the two and we finally get to meet the other daughter of balance, Mira, who is as attracted to Lathaar as Tessana is to Qurrah. The daughters are mirror images and so are their lovers.
The scenes with the paladins are interspersed with their approaching foes, Qurrah, Tessana and the recently returned Velixar. Qurrah is growing in power and Tessana has strengths that make even Velixar pause for thought. There's a nice degree of tension between them but the proximity of his old master seems to accelerate Qurrah's descent.
We're also introduced to the dark paladins and Lathaar's arch enemy, Krieger. Part of me liked the idea of the clashes between the black armoured knights and the holy two, but this is where the book took a bit dip for me. The fights with Krieger reminded me way too much of "Highlander" and the Kurgen. Mid-way through the book, during the never-ending battle of Veldaren, the clashes were closer to WWF. The contests are about who has the biggest sword (and as things heat up some people's swords grow even bigger), or who has the most spectacular spell. As with the worst of Hollywood films (and the new version of Doctor Who) there is nowhere to go from this. The weapons get more ludicrous and the spells more devastating.
Not only that, many of the central characters grow so much in power that they are like mighty superheroes flinging weapons of mass destruction at each other and picking themselves up off the floor more times than Rocky Balboa. Tessana and Mira (even Qurrah and Velixar) have the powers of minor gods and are only interesting when they confront each other.
The battle involves thousands of humans, orcs, bird men, hyena men and wolf men, but they are an irrelevance because of the almighty power of the others. Velixar is even prompted to give an explanation of why he doesn't simply destroy the city walls with magic (as he's clearly capable) and he comes up with a lame excuse about needing his armies dead so he can raise them as undead.
I'm afraid Dalglish completely lost me at this stage. I ceased caring about these inflated superheroes, lost belief in the people and world of Dezrel and struggled to get through this portion of the story. If it had been any other writer I'd have put the book aside at that moment (not least of all because of the inordinate amount of errors). I groaned at the introduction of "Deathmask" (a spell-casting superhero from the Ash Guild). He was just one amongst many of this character type and his companions add nothing to the story. I couldn't stop seeing him as Gene Simmons from Kiss either (which shows how much I was suffering at this stage).
Dalglish, however, always has a rabbit to pull out of the hat, and yet again he doesn't disappoint.
The best moments in the book are the rare confrontations between the brothers, Harruq and Qurrah. Their relationship is the glue that binds the books together, it is the driving force for the narrative. Where "The Death of Promises" fails (for me) is its lessening of the emphasis on this and the degree of weight it gives to establishing lesser characters (Jerico and Lathaar) who are essentially there to add to the super team.
After the first half of the book, the paladins are hardly developed any further up until the very last chapter when we are presented with some of the best writing in the book (and yes, it's a last stand - masterfully written).
A quick mention of errors before I move on to my favourite part of the book:
The beginning is fairly tight and well written, but the middle portion - particularly around the battle of Veldaren, had so many errors as to be a distraction. There are typos, incomplete sentences, sentences that were obviously begun one way and then finished another without being checked for meaning and readability; there are homonym errors throughout ("Council"/"counsel";" reign" instead of "rein"), misspellings of character's names. I mention this because at one stage I was recording five or more errors per page.
This settled down again in the latter part of the book (although there were still far too many errors, but more like one every two pages).
This is not a sign of bad writing. It's a sign of hurrying to release a book. Dalglish's writing is actually so good that most of the time I just fly past the mistakes. Reading his books is like running over uneven ground: as he builds up narrative pace I leap effortlessly over the rough patches drawn on by the peaks. Unfortunately, in the middle of this book, the trough was more of a crater and it took some time climbing out of.
Something else Dalglish has a problem with is word repetition (and sometimes weak word selection). These are all simple matters for copy-editing and I can't stress the importance of either investing in an editor or setting the first draft aside for a matter of weeks and then coming back to it with a fresh and critical eye.
There are also scenes in this book that would have benefited from a complete fresh draft ,and the weighting never seemed quite right until the Eschaton characters returned to the story. Too much time on the paladins at first (for no good purpose) and far too much time for the Monty Hall fight scenes.
Whilst POV changes and inconsistencies are better in this book, there's still way too much confusing head-hopping and occasionally characters are referred to by name when the POV character doesn't even know them.
The last quarter of the book, however, was excellent - back to form. The fights were much more credible and the tension almost unbearable. Haern started to do Haern-like things again (earlier he was almost forgotten but would suddenly appear out of nowhere to save one of the superheroes, thrown in almost as an after-thought).
Harruq is starting to develop some surprising powers and his affinity to Ashhur looks set to pass that of the paladins. He often brings the book alive - even though he's mightily underused here).
The Qurrah scenes are also very good. The focus has pretty much switched to him for the third book and when we are in his POV things are always interesting.
Now, back to my favourite bit. It might seem a bit anti-climactic but for me the absolute best piece of writing in the tale comes after Tarlak (who I like more and more) experiences a devastating loss. The skill in the writing here is exceptional - a few oddities of behaviour that evoke strong emotions in the reader. No exposition, no lengthy speeches about his loss: simply behaviour. Unfortunately there's a battle coming so Tarlak has to pull himself together and fight but this was sublime writing. The supporting characters' reactions were also well written.
It's been a tough one to review as there's so much I like about the series but this book almost derailed it for me. When it's good (beginning and end) it's very good. Good enough, in fact, to make me want to read the fourth book as soon as possible.
It's let down, though, by the comic book battles between super-villains and heroes; the length (and tedium) of the battle of Veldaren; the over-used hordes of undead and the sloppy editing.
The latter is not so worrying as it's easily corrected. The former, however, could create a problem if it went on unbridled. The strength of the Half-Orcs series has always been the relationships and the narrative thrust. Dalglish keeps us moving forward without too much extraneous material, and the dynamics between his main characters are compelling. Action has always been the background against which these relationships are played out. In The Death of Promises this is sometimes reversed and the focus switches from human interest to mere spectacle. Bigger and longer (as they say) isn't always better.
It might help to grade separate elements, but the overall rating reflects my personal enjoyment of the book and its place in the series.
Editing: Poor (2/5)
Main characters: some excellent, some weak (i.e. the King): (3/5)
Action: some was great, some tedious and repetitive: (2/5)
Plot: Fairly basic but does drive the series forward: (4/5)
Writing style: Putting the editing problems aside Dalglish has a flair for narrative and is a master of the first draft. He always draws you in at some point: (4/5)
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant series of books,
5.0 out of 5 stars top read,
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great read,
Most of though great pace, action start to finish, didn't want to put down.
Heading onto the next one :)
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read,
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and exciting,
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting better,
5.0 out of 5 stars Military blood lust,
4.0 out of 5 stars Great,
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting,
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Death of Promises (Half-Orcs) by David Dalglish (Paperback - 17 Jun 2010)