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A good start spoiled by author's obsession with religion
on 31 July 2015
I'm going to review the entire series, since there is a big change in emphasis which ruined it for me completely. I have to say that most of book one was good, which made me buy book two, and then I felt like I had to finish the series... but if I'd know where it was going to end I wouldn't have started in the first place.
The big problem with these books is that in the end they morph from a typical fantasy story to a story of religious conversion. In the first book, the main character does his best to solve his own problems in difficult circumstances, but then the next two books contain endless drivel from all the other good characters about how all he needs to do is surrender to the will of Arman (a rebranded quasi-Christian deity). And what's even worse is that this actually works! I get the feeling that the second and third books could have been cut completely if the main character had just gone straight to the bad guys and prayed hard enough at the end of book one. Most of the actual physical action is pointless when you actually think about it. The only thing we would have missed is (one of) the woman he loves running off because he wasn't pious enough for her.
The annoying thing is that this completely robs the main characters of agency. Their choices are apparently to either convince their capricious god that they love him so he gets off his backside and does something, or to lose. Their only role in life is to be either sycophants or casualities in a religious war.
And that's even leaving aside the fact that some of the enemies would seem to have legitimate grievances. The god Arman, who we hear about at great length, appears to endorse a deeply unfair social system which is basically a theocracy ruled by a priest king. When his chosen king is killed, that same god then proceeds to blanket half the land in permanent darkness, no doubt causing many innocent deaths from war and famine in the process. The poor people subjected to this treatment only get relief by surrending to this cruel and evil god and putting his new priest king back on the throne, instead of a slightly more representative council of rulers.
I would have been much happier with this book if it had ended with Arman being killed as well so that people were actually free to build a better world.