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3.8 out of 5 stars38
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 29 April 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A very interesting book, with a fair share of political intrigue and games, family tragedy and revenge on a background of a world where "talent" is magic. Thus this book ends up delivering something slightly different to a typical fantasy read: I would argue not enough fantasy.
It is well written, good story plot with some believable and strong characters in the lead. Some of the lesser characters are very superficial and maybe if they had been omitted or remained nameless, they would have distracted less.
Overall, a good read and book, but I wouldn't be following this if turned into a trilogy or chronicle as not enough substance or depth to establish itself in the fantasy realm.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had not encountered the works of Scottish-born Canadian novelist, Dave Duncan, before receiving a copy of his latest book, "Against the Light", to review. Considering how prolific this author of fantasy fiction is, with more than three dozen titles in print, this is more than a little surprising; if the quality of this offering is anything to go by, it is also a great pity!

"Against the Light" is a thinly veiled blending of the state persecution of the Catholics (complete with gunpowder plot) and the fanatical hunting out of witchcraft that was prevalent throughout England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, here transported to a fictional land and embroidered with a few touches of fantasy along the way. The fantasy elements are cleverly and subtly handled, making the book read more as an historical fiction than as a fantasy story per se, though.

Dave Duncan writes with an accomplished and adult assurance that is a pleasure to read in the current age of dumbed-down and action-centred story-telling. If the book has a failing it is perhaps that it flows a little too quickly for its own good, giving the story-line a somewhat contrived feel and introducing an element of predictability to it, at times, that just prevents me giving the book a full 5 stars. Towards the end, it tumbles to an only partially conclusive end, which gives the impression that it could be continued in a sequel, although the author on his blog page is adamant there will not be one.

In summary, "Against the Light" is a good solid yarn about the perennial struggle of the good and the meek against the corrupt and the powerful, with some interesting things to say along the way, and without the constraint of having to be historically accurate in any of its details. Its fanciful setting gives the author free reign to explore a couple of "what-if" scenarios, although sadly he doesn't take these as far as he really might. The book is a fast and gripping read but be warned that there are also some tough sections that are most definitely not for the squeamish.

Recommended to adult lovers of fantasy or historical fiction.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To summarise the basic plot of Against the Light I'd say it's a typical fantasy/morality tale of good v bad, strong v weak, set in a fantastical age without any particular historical fact. Parts of the novel are good, other parts are poor and typical of the genre. I began to lose interest at around the half way point.

What I did enjoy was the dark, witchcraft, old religion elements which are depicted with quite a lot of brutality as the old ways are forced to make way for the new and; the magic's well handled and written with a lot of imagination. I enjoyed most of the characters and there's enough general suspense and mystery to keep you hooked through the first half of the novel.

I was so disappointed that at a certain point the plot seems to wander off and the fantasy begins to lose it's sparkle. Expecting readers to suspend belief and live within a fantasy for a novel spanning almost 500 pages is a difficult task and one David Duncan hasn't managed in Against the Light. Sometimes fantasy is better when kept short and there's too much padding in here for my own personal taste. Don't misunderstand me; this isn't a bad novel, not by any means, but it's predictable and wanders away with itself for large chunks without really getting anywhere. First half is by far the better half, sorry, but I really struggled to finish reading Against the Light once I'd gone past the first 250 pages.
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on 24 April 2013
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Whilst I completed it, and enjoyed the story, there is something that never really engaged me, and I cannot truthfully put my finger on it.
The story is not particularly original, and the general thrust of the plot can fairly easily be guessed. The characters are a little one-dimensional, so when they do something odd, it doesn't necessarily come as a surprise, when perhaps it should.
The elements of 'magic' or whatever you want to call it seem to come in merely to be able to move the plot forward, or get one of the characters out of a difficult situation, they didn't seem to me to be an intrinsic part of the whole.
Overall, although I finished the book, I never felt involved in it.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An interesting read, this attempts to marry politics, magic, and religion with a fantasy world. There simply isn't enough fantasy, in my opinion. the plot isn't bad, and some of the characters are decent, but the secondary characters are in some cases very two-dimensional and don't really add much. It's not a bad book, and I really like the premise, but there isn't really enough depth here.
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VINE VOICEon 20 March 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Against the light is the latest book from Dave Duncan an author that I have read before. However this book does not do much for me. It is not particularly original, and not that exiting. The characters are interesting but the story does not compel or intrigue enough to make that much of an impression. The plot is basically one of religious fervour gone corrupt. The story revolves around a family of talented worshipers of the Old religion who confront and expose the corruptness of the high priests of the established hierarchy after being robbed of their family home and lands. The plot has only a few twist and turns but is really quite predictable and not that exiting.
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on 21 May 2015
I can't believe I actually put off reading this book for over three years! When I first put it on my reading list, I did so because I was looking to read more fantasy books at the time. However, I was under the impression that this novel had a heavy religious theme, and that's a theme (much like politics) that I try to avoid, even in literature.

The book description emphasizes the turmoil between followers of the Light, and worshippers of Mother Earth, mentioning missionaries, priests, heresy and treason. What it doesn't mention is the family drama that is the true heart of the story. And, while the details of the Mother's children definitely brings the fantasy element front and center, the medieval setting has some elements of historical fiction.

Three siblings (Maddy, Bram and Rollo) are separated at the beginning of the story by circumstances arising from the conflicts between the two religions of their country. Thus, three separate storylines emerge, one following each of the Woodbridge children. From time to time, the POVs of other characters are included, depending on their proximity and/or relationship to the Woodbridge trio.

I think Maddy's storyline is the most interesting because her character appears to go through the most physical and emotional changes. Bram's experiences are also very extreme, but he maintains his childhood innocence longer than his brother and sister. While Rollo is a main character, and a key plot device, I don't think he has to face as many personal challenges as his two younger siblings.

The character development is amazing. Duncan doesn't describe his characters as much as he allows readers to share in their experiences, creating a bond between the audience and the Woodbridge children. The use of dramatic irony also built the suspense far higher than I would have expected for a novel based in this genre.

The ending did leave me wondering if this was to be continued in a series; it works as a stand-alone, but I wouldn't mind reading another story set in the opposing country.

If you've ever read anything by Fred Saberhagen, you might enjoy Dave Duncan.
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VINE VOICEon 23 March 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This would probably be a 3 1/2 star book if I could score it like that. Better than average but not a good or great as other fantasy books. This book comes from a earthy version of fantasy where the characters are very much grounded in the world and suffer through both their successes and failures. This is certainly not a book where you leave it feeling that nothing has changed and no one has grown.

Magic is part of some people though the extent to which an individual is gifted varies with different magic's available. Though this is a world where what one sees as a gift, another views as a curse.

The story follows the Woodbridge family and particularly the travails of the siblings Rollo, Maddy and Brat. Their attempts to live, love or simply gain revenge happen against the backdrop of a corrupt feudal system and an all powerful if not blood thirsty church. The decisions that are made have often lasting consequences not only on themselves, but also their family and indeed the country in which they live.

The only question that I really had at the end was not simply whether there would be a follow up book but if there were, would I read it? It took a while to get into the story and admittedly it was good when I was into the thread; however there was an incident towards the beginning of the book (fate of the Woodbridge home and family) that I didn't understand until much later on. I feel that this lack of understanding of the plot changed my understanding of the story and thus affected my enjoyment of the book. Probably not, on reflection.

If you do like the scope of the story and don't mind working for it then feel free to make up your own mind.
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on 15 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It is a while since I've read any fantasy however I do like the genre so was looking forward to reading something by an author I didn't know. In this we have a created world set somewhat in the past technologically speaking with an "old" religion and a new one. The old religion has exponents/adepts who have various magical powers and are seen as heretics by the new religion who exhibit much of the corruption that they claimed to be stamping out in the old religion. A family of followers of the old religion have four children, three of whom have some magical powers. Their home is destroyed by a priest of the new religion with their mother and father in as well as one of the siblings. The remaining three siblings all feel that they are probably the only one who has survived and all wish to seek justice in some way.

I found this a rather strange read as, at times and with some characters, it is very good indeed. Much of the story involving Maddy - the surviving girl - was well paced and well written and she emerges as a good and rounded character. Mostly that was the case with one of the brother's story, Rollo. However the story of Brat or Brad was far less convincing and while he is young, early teens, he comes over a quite childlike. The well paced bits I read with enthusiasm, the other parts were somewhat pedestrian for me. I probably would read another in the series when it comes out but it will not be high on my reading list I think. For folk who like fantasy, not a bad read but maybe 3.5 rather than 4.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Excellent! I have never read Duncan's work before, but am looking for more already!

This is a full story in itself. It is set in the world of Albi in which the 'Children of the Mother' are persecuted by the people of the 'light' because they have certain magical abilities such as making people do their bidding or 'inspiring' them to desire or even seeing the future. Some have a lot of 'talent' whilst others have only a little and all who do have talent have a spirit guide in the form of an animal of some kind (mouse, bird, dog etc.).

Due to the persecution, all 'Children of the Mother' have to be circumspect in their worship of the mother and in displaying their abilities. If they are in the least suspected, they and their families are hunted down, tortured and killed.

This story follows one family in particular, the Woodbridges. One of the older of three brothers, Rollo, has been captured and been transferred to a notoriously bad prison. In an attempt to save him, his parents visit their neighbours, the Uptrees, who are strong followers of and leaders in the Hierarchy, the church of the light, but also known criminals. The Uptrees make a deal with the Woodbridges: marry your daughter Maddy to one of the illegitimate sons of an Uptree or we do nothing for you.

The marriage takes place that very night, but upon returning home the next day the whole world changes for the Woodbridge family. A fanatic of the Hierarchy leads a mob to the Woodbridge home and it is burned to the ground. Rollo, Maddy and Bram (the youngest) each learn of their family's death and each believes the whole family dead. Each must now persue their own life in the belief they are alone. Two vow vengence.
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