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This review is from: The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus of historical fantasy novels (Kindle Edition)The 'Eternal Dungeon' is probably the most unique book I have ever read. It essentially acts as the stage where good and evil use mortals as chess pieces in an never ending struggle where the only achievable goal is in an successful balance between the two.
It centres around the life and times of 'Layle Smith' a tortured, mentally unbalanced head torturer in the 'dark ages' of The Queendom of Yclau. The events which transpire are told from both the prospective of several main protagonists and by an unknown academic figure possibly hundreds of years into the future, who dispassionately recounts and summarises the legacy that these events had on the 'present time'.
The author has managed to create a believable complex world which could well have borne out the protagonists in the novel. Let's not beat around the bush here, this novel makes for at times for uncomfortable reading. There are characters in this novel who have done absolutely heinous things and in some respects are truly evil. The talent of this author is in making these characters understandable, relatable and not make the reader recoil at once. The overall setting of this novel takes place in a prison/dungeon where torture and corporal punishment is commonplace. You can expect therefore, to see dark themes explored, dissected and exposed - this may not be to everyone's taste, but I assure you these events are not gratuitous in nature and serve a higher storytelling purpose.
I particularly like the way that characters and events are all skilfully woven in and connected within the books. We hear from not just one character, but many, all whom have unique personalities and viewpoints, and indeed the telling of these events are shaped by the individual telling it whatever their motivations and character may be. No stone is left unturned, as age old debates on religion, morality, duty, honour, justice, mental illness, politics, government and warfare are brought out and re-examined. Questions and arguments that we to this day continue to ask in and of ourselves. Despite this, the novel in no way ends up preaching to the reader.
My only very minor critisim, is that the books do jump around in time a bit, and the reader could of possibly benefited from a timeline of events at the beginning of the novel, but otherwise this is the most engaging and absorbing novel that I have read in a very long time. The Classics graduate I am is drawn to the ingenious use of the academic viewpoint literary device at the start and end point of each book. A scholar is only as good as his primary and contemporary evidence, and I have read many a treatise from historians on Greek/Roman events that have made wild assumptions and guesses as to nature and feelings of the participants and authors involved. The past is of course something we will never truly know, which is possibly why I find this novel so refreshing and satisfying a read. Think detail and in-depth fantasy world creations of J.R.R Tolkien novels, combine with the morality questions posed in the T.V series 'Lost', sprinkle some good ole' fashioned medieval politics.... and then add whips... and a rack.
I await the next instalment ('Sweet Blood') with an appropriate amount of dread and glee !
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