5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2006
All the elements of a good start to a fantasy series are here: a well-thought out world, clever plot devices, and an easy-to-read writing style. But something just doesn't work. Usually in this type of novel, you'll find lots of dramatic, plot-advancing moments, separated by transition periods. This author, however, seems to focus endlessly on the transition periods. Long, long stretches of text where characters struggle across the wilderness waiting to be caught, or sit captive in enemy fortresses waiting for something to happen...the plot is good, but there just isn't enough of it in any given chapter to keep the attention. A pity, because I think the basic idea is excellent. Worth giving it a try, but not if something better is available.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2004
This was the very first Irvine book I ever read and to this day it remains one of my favorite books of all time. The characters are well developed and the plot is exceptionally involved. Unfortunately, some people may be put off as this book has a rather slow start, however, once it gets going you will not be able to put it down for hours! Irvine gives his characters huge scope and manages to develop all of them to a remarkable extent, while at the same time keeping the story going, unlike in so many other books when one comes at the expense of the other.
The story follows Lliam and Karan, the one a chronicler (a sort of poet/ scribe) the latter a poor landowner. Karan is coerced into stealing the mirror of the Archim, and there the story begins. Lliam is the archetypal anti-hero, while Karan is halfway in between. In this first book, the characters compliment each other well and, by the end of the book you will find yourself halfway to your local library or bookshop to read the next in the series.
If there is any criticism I would make, it is that Irvine advances his characters too much in this one book, and therefore is forced to make them regress back to what they were at the begining at the start of the second book. This makes the latter books in the series very dissapointing and almost as if they were in a different series. Therefore, while I would definitely advise you to read this book, I would also suggest that you think twice before buying any of the later books in the series, which are, at best, dissapointing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2005
This is one of the best books I ever read. The author must be rewarded for being capable of composing the story like a puzzle, with union, separation and re-union of characters, adventure, suspense, peril, and of course love. The only thing that I'd suggest the author to be more careful with is the absurdity of some situations, not for the story (this is a fantasy book after all), but some of the situations are scarcely believable. Two examples for all: Karan's runaway through the swamps (how could possibly a human endure all that?) and Karan's and Llian's runaway from the Whelms (again, too much sufference, not humanly bearable).
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2006
The premise for the world is great, it has the "history" and soundly thought out base to back up what should have been a great novel. It is disappointing on almost every other level of being a story, however.
Plotline: would be good, but not all that much happens - I won't sum it up here, but it *can* be summarised in 3 sentences without missing much.
Narritive: there is, as someone else said, too much time spent on the "between the action" scenes - yet another example of a travel guide for a fantasy land. The author has "let's cover the whole map" syndrome as well.
Thought lines: the author doesn't seem to have grasped that sudden unexpected changes in the line of thought that he is writing is not appreciated by the reader - luckily this is only apparent at the start, he seems to have worked himself out of this annoying trait by the half-way mark.
Character point of view: most authors tell a story consistently from one character's point of view until they make a clear change (such as a blank line, new chapter, etc) to another point of view. This author will gardually shift from one to the next, giving the thoughts of one character in one paragraph and the thoughts of another in the next (and in one appalling case, two characters' thoughts in the same paragraph). This leads the reader to at first become confused after the switch and then, once they realise what has happened, they have been broken out of their immersement in the world. Poor style.
Introduction of modern words - oddities appear every now and then totally jarring with the theme that the author has worked so hard to immerse the reader in. It pulls the reader out and disturbs the reading experience.
Characters: mostly good development but occassional behavior seems out of place. I'd say that the characters are pretty average for this genre - nothing special.
All-in-all, it's an OK read - not bad enough to make me stop reading midway through - but given this four-book series, I'm not going to read anymore from this author.
Oh... an advance warning - the plotline for the second book is even worse. The ending of the second book is easy to guess once you've read about half of this book, the middle is obvious from the start of the second. Only the start of the second is unguessable.
Do you really want to waste your money buying four books that seem to get progressively worse? I'd not start. I would recommend to go to a bookshop, read the first chapter there and then to only buy this book if you *really* like that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2007
The action takes place in the world of Santhenar, one of three worlds now cut off from each other by the Forbidding.
As well as Santhenar's natives, the Forbidding stranded representatives of the other two worlds, plus the Charon, a powerful race from the Void.
The world has a rich history. I particularly liked the portrayal of the Aachim, a race of immeasurable hubris whose extreme efforts to learn from their past mistakes always seems to lead to them making the opposite mistake in the future.
The book tells the story of a number of characters as they journey to the city of Thurkad, by a number of routes and for a variety of (bad) reasons. Some parts are exciting, but its basically a travellogue. The author has an excellent knowledge of geography, but even the best written descriptions of mountain terrain pale after hundreds of pages.
The heroine, Karan, steals a magical mirror. She doesn't want it, but is forced to run around the countryside keeping it away from various people who do want it.
She is accompanied by Lliam, a talented chronicler but a hopeless companion for someone in Karan's situation.
Somewhat unusually, the world's Dark Lord of Evil is currently safely locked up in the Nightland, but there are indications he might be on the verge of escaping.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2001
Perhaps noting the frustration of fans of Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin at the 2-year waits between instalments of their fantasy series, publishers seem to have taken the decision to track down already-finished fantasy series from other countries and publish them in comparatively short periods of time. Sarah Douglass's two Axis trilogies were unleashed last year in this manner and now Ian Irvine follows suit. The View from the Mirror sequence, originally published in 1998-99 in Australia by Penguin, is now being released over a period of 18 months by Orbit. The View from the Mirror isn't really a series, more a single, 800,000-word novel published in four volumes for reasons of space, in a similar way to Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Of course it isn't anywhere near the same level of quality as those works, but it is nevertheless bold, inventive and, much as I hate the word, quirky. The story is that the inhabitants of Santhenar are divided between normal ('old') humans and exiles from other worlds, who have been trapped on Santhenar for a thousand years since a devastating war closed the Way Between the Worlds. The other races - the Aachim and Fallaem - both live in hope of returning to their homeworlds, but all three races are united by their terror of the Charon, who once enslaved the Aachim and almost conquered Santhenar before being destroyed, exiled or imprisoned. The book doesn't info-dump this on you, instead letting the tale gradually unfold from a small scale up to a grand epic. 'Hero' Llian is a chronicler who gets into trouble after making secret documents public knowledge and Karan is a mind-sensitive traveller who is called upon to help an old employer and ends up in possession of a magical device apparently everyone on the planet (and a few off it) are desperate to get their hands on. A thrilling start, as Karan steals the Mirror of Aachan and flees the dreaded Whelm warriors across the island of Meldorin, is soon diminished as other characters start appearing in droves and an interminable middle-sequence as Llian and Karan lost in the mountains for what seems like forever. Irving's description of geography - a talent neglected by many other fantasy authors - is excellent, but even so there is a limit to describing the misery of mountain sickness and near-exposure. When Karan has a nervous breakdown the book becomes even more misery-inducing, but the promising start and the intriguing storyline draws you on. This could have been the best start to a fantasy series since George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, but the hard slog of getting through the second half reduces the power of the novel. Unfortunately this hardship continues into Volume 2 (except that its desert and sea that are the problems, not mountains), although the plot twists in that volume still keep you reading. Overall this is a good start to a promising series, but if Book 3 doesn't lighten up the storyline a bit, some readers may become too depressed to carry on.
on 9 June 2013
Bought the quartet as they came out starting in '96 or thereabouts when, as a teenager, I burnt my way through a lot of literature. I can remember having issues with this series of books but not having the means to express my feelings and ideas. During a recent discussion regarding fantasy I tried re-explaining my misgivings with this series to a friend (along with the Gemmell "Drenai" series and Weis & Hickmans "Sovereign Stone" trilogy) which prompted me to go back and re-read the novels to try and get back to the interesting elements that did catch my imagination enough to make the book a manageable experience.
After 8 chapters I am really resigned to the fact that perhaps my imagination is better than I thought.
The books are pondering at times, then rapid and blurring, characters are complex - but not to any ends. Flaws show up just to be flaws. Strengths emerge only when required. Simpering, whining, bullying, and obtusely motivated - there are few characters that you can draw a positive aspect out of that isn't immediately buried beneath the wealth of negatives. I can now remember that this series drags on painfully, with little resolution in sight (or experienced) by many of the characters.
I reserve particular contempt for the language. I'm willing to let slip poor editing (too many exclamation marks followed by odd "voice like butter" type statements that just jar) but I can't let the pronunciation guide slide. It is common sense to "Anglicise" the words rather than create a set of strange rules just for place names and people.
I've been asked by various friends why I keep novels I actively dislike? My reply is quite simple - these novels provide a wealth of feedback on how not to do things.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2008
I had never read a Fantasy book until I picked this up at a bookshop. I have to admit it was the cover that grabbed my attention, but once i started reading, i couldn't put it down. The characters are well formed and the story flows majestically! Following Karan on her journey would make an amazing film that would rival Lord of the Rings any day! Ian Irvine is a fabulous writer and once you've started reading his books it is hard to stop - i am now a strong fan!
on 20 June 2010
I have come to have an interest in the fantasy genre by way of science fiction a genre I have loved for many years. I am so glad that I did not happen on this book as my introduction to fantasy. I really tried to get into it even setting the book aside for several months and coming back to it to give it another chance. I found it very hard going and never finished it. The plot was turgid and I found it very difficult to relate to the characters. They lacked depth and as a reader I like to feel some kind of bond with the main characters of a novel. This did not happen in this book. I cannot escape the conclusion that this author sat at his word processor with the intention of churning out a pot boiler to pay the bills. He failed to carry me along with the story line. If you can call what he produced a story that is.
on 12 September 2007
I will be brief.
I got this book in a book shop having been sufficiently impressed by the first 5 pages or so. The book is a little slow, and I have to agree with the other reviewers of this book that there is a little too much slow, uneventful parts between the action. There are a few parts of the book, which are a little unrealistic, people undergoing such crushing suffering for such a long period of time seems inhuman and alienates the reader from the charactors somewhat.
But the author makes up for it with a good opening plotline and good charactor development over the coarse of the book. A good start to the series. I have not read the other books, but I hear they are not as good.