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Disappointing generic fantasy
on 10 July 2003
OK, so I'm obviously going against the grain here. But I can't help wondering if the series I've just read is the same one that everyone else has been screaming about.
I've read other books by Kay (notably Tigana) and found them to be very high-quality fantasy. So I was very dissapointed by this series. Yes, admittedly, it was his first novel and first series... but to create a series this disjointed and unbelieveable? Either I'm missing something or Guy has drastically improved as a writer since then.
To summarise: Five people from Canada get invited by Loren Silvercloak to go to Fionavar, the world at the hub of things, for a celebration. However, the five get separated during travel, giving them the chance to go off and do lots of exciting things.
Now, I'm probably going to sound opinionated here, but any book which involves crossing from the real world is hard to pull off. But the fact that these five people (supposedly some of them lawyers and doctors! Although they never act like it) never question the story of Loren, don't summon the police to arrest this madman who's talking about alternate universes or whatever, and in fact just act as if this sort of thing is an everyday occurance, just grates with me. As we go along, there's no mention of any other mirror worlds - we're just meant to assume that they're there and nothing much else.
All the fantasy stereotypes can be ticked off on a list, the only difference is the names. Svart Alfar are goblins, the Lios are elves, and there's also dwarves and mages as per usual. At no point does Kay deviate from the 'rip it off from Lord of the Rings' school of writing.
Most annoying of all is the complete facelessness of the five people from our world. Paul and David are interchangeable; Kim just frets most of the time; and Kevin cracks poor jokes. Only Jennifer is anything interesting, and this is destroyed at the end of the first book. Plus, each is given an extra name for no conceivable reason other than to annoy the reader.
To be fair, there are a few things that save the book from utter rubbish. Diarmuid, the prince, is a fun character at times, although particularly in this first volume appears to be just an excuse to put sex into the story. The Dalrei are quite well detailed, if very similar to other 'plains tribes' in fantasy fiction. There is a detailed mythology; and at the end of this volume I was left hoping that the next two would at least tie up a lot of the loose ends and explain some of the myriad references to the past.
(To save you time if you haven't bought them yet: They don't, for the most part).