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on 20 December 2008
My first story by Orson Scott Card. Well I couldn't have asked for a more engrossing and well-constructed example of his work than this 112-page novella-length precursor to his new forthcoming multivolume fantasy saga the Mithermages series. I enjoyed `Stonefather' immensely and finished it in one sitting, as I expect all those in a similar position with no expectations of his style to do so also.

Having written an acclaimed guide on how to write fantasy, at the very least I expected Card to know a thing or two about fantasy, but admittedly, I was also preparing myself for something that could possibly be described as formulaic. This is exactly what I did find, but when the formula is this perfect I have no reason whatsoever to complain. The magical framework Card has created is both unique and fraught with complication, especially for our protagonist Runnel who finds himself hugely gifted in one particular branch of it. Unfortunately for him, the specialty of magic he unwittingly discovers he has a talent for is currently punishable by death should he or those closest to him be caught using it.

My only regret is that with such a modest page count, a great deal of characterization has been sacrificed. Rather than wishing for events in the lives of the main characters to advance, which is what I usually find myself doing while reading a fantasy novel, with `Stonefather' I was longing instead for characters and events to be fleshed out more, for something a little less one-dimensional. This is especially evident in the last twenty pages where events advance and culminate so rapidly the reader barely has time to appreciate Card's advancement of Runnel's skills and how quickly he alters the balance of power in the magical hierarchy of his world. But this desire on my part was only due to how invested I was in Runnel's story, in spite of the rapid pace, so once again...I can't complain.

Perhaps we'll find that in the context of the Mithermages series, soon to be released from Del Rey Publishers (for which frustratingly I couldn't pin-point any release dates for anywhere online) this modest title will better compliment the others in the series and be looked upon as a condensed taster of fantasy of an even meatier and rewarding kind. Which on this evidence will be very impressive indeed.
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