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on 5 September 2002
I picked this book up after seeing the massive advertising campaign that Newcomb's American publisher, Del Rey was throwing around for such a new author. I had hopes that it would even be half as good as the publisher claimed. I was well rewarded. Del Rey makes the claim up front of similarities between Robert Newcomb and Terry Goodkind, and for once those kind of claims bear out.
Newcomb has created his own unique world, with characters that I found to be highly believable, characters that are "flawed" as the now popular saying goes, but are still heroic. Through all of this Newcomb creates a feel, an atmosphere to his work which is very "Goodkindian", while still being unique unto himself.
Some of the negative reviews around the Net are preposterous, of course the book has a few rough edges, after all it is the first novel that Robert Newcomb has ever written, but his writing improves with every chapter, which is also very similar to Goodkind. As far as some of the other comments go about being sexist and what not, all Robert Newcomb has done is reverse the tables, instead of the "Dark Lord" we have the "Dark Sorceresses", instead of evil men pillaging and raping, we have evil women doing it.
According to some of the reviewers here it seems ok when men are evil and participate in despicable acts, but when women do it, and the author is a man, then the author and his world are sexist. To me, this adds uniqueness to Newcomb's world, and there are many times where he stresses that women are not evil, and that not even all Sorceresses are evil, just some of the most powerful ones in the world at this time.
As far as the violence within the book, there is certainly no more than you would find in a Jordan, Goodkind, or Martin book, and indeed if you do not like their works, or are too faint of heart for it, then you should not read Newcomb, after all, on the inside front cover, Del Rey compares him to Goodkind, and I find that Goodkind is far more descriptive of not only violence, but depravity as well.
Truthfully after only one book, I appreciate Newcomb more than I do Goodkind. I get the same feel out of Newcomb, yet he writes with more control than does Goodkind. It is obvious from the beginning that Newcomb has a plan for his series, and is well aware of where it is going, whereas Goodkind, by his own admission writes as he goes along with little pre-planning. Over time I think that Newcomb and The Chronicles of Blood and Stone as his series is called, will rise to grander heights than that of Goodkind's Sword of Truth. I finished The Fifth Sorceress in two days, and as soon as I finished the final sentence, I was impatient for the next book in the series. I can only hope that it will come quickly enough.
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on 24 September 2003
Let me be blunt. This book is badly written, has a plot full of holes and is not worth any of your valuable time. Even the basic concept of the story is flawed. I should have been warned by the fact that the lead character is called Tristan, but I always was a sucker for a pretty front cover...
The premise goes that 300 years ago the wizards (who are good) narrowly defeated the sorceresses (who are bad) in a war. But instead of executing them, the wizards took them out into the ocean, from where nobody has ever returned if they sailed out for more than 15 days, and left them to die. Naturally the sorceresses survived and spent the 300 year gap plotting revenge and breeding themselves a race of winged demons.
Then enter Prince Tristan, who behaves like a stroppy teenager despite being just days from his 30th birthday. On his birthday the King will abdicate and he will become King. But guess what - he doesn't want to be King. He'd rather spend his time throwing knives into trees. And then we have Wigg, the great Wizard who should have executed the sorceresses 300 years ago but didn't because the wizarding order doesn't condone murder. He has his suspicions that the sorceresses might be about to make a come back, but instead of sending the royal family into the hills to hide, he allows the "abdication ceremony" to go ahead, and, surprise surprise, the sorceresses and their winged minions turn up and wreak death and destruction on all but poor Tristan and the inept Wigg, who manage to escape, and Tristan's sister, who is captured. At this point, instead of packing up and heading for the hills, Wigg decides to give Tristan a history lesson and explains in a very long-winded and boring way how magic works and how the sorceresses were defeated in the war.
Around about here I gave up on the book. Despite being quite violent, it was not engrossing. There was far too little action and far too much dialogue. And every time Wigg raised his "infamous eyebrow" I just wanted to cringe. I find comparisions between this rubbish and the works of George Martin and Terry Goodkind to be insulting. If you don't belive me then have a look at some of the reviews on the American Amazon site. Or you could try reading the book, but I really wouldn't bother.
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on 19 September 2003
and that's just what they are, they never form a whole. The central characters flit from one emotional state to another with no discernable reason for anything. They go from knowing nothing about a situation and being powerless to do anything, to having supreme insight and the capability to sort out the situation in a sentence. Also there are glaring inconsistancies that had me re-reading several sections.
I really wanted to like this book, and I really wanted to like the characters, but it's difficult to build up any enthusiasm when you get the over-riding feeling that the main plot was sketched out and then the detail was never filled in. The magic system was never explained adequately - for certain powerful spells rituals have to be performed and beams of light come from the sky, and yet for a sorceress to float about the room and make magical cages appear takes no effort whatsoever. Why? How are they doing it?
The book reminded me of children playing "I'm an evil sorceress and I'm attacking you with a lightning bolt"..."well I'm using my anti-lightning bolt cloak that I've just found behind this tree to protect myself" - okay it's not literally like that but pretty close upon occasion.
To add to it all there then seemed to be some printing areas, with paragraphs from later chapters appearing in the middle of earlier chapters.
Get this book from the library and if you like it then by it. I persevered to the end and then threw it in the bin straight away.
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on 18 January 2016
I am terrible for a sort of authors style , that ive followed for decades , Eddings etc but i vary a lot and a tale has to grip me pretty quickly . this was a bit slow to get my interest. but well written and a theme which was a little different. i am also not fond of female leads and hereoins. But i will read more.
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on 1 October 2013
Having just finished reading this second trilogy, I've just found out that the story isn't finished, but the final instalments are not going to be published. These books are good, but what's the point of starting of the story if you can't finish it? So now it looks like I will never find out what happens. Thoroughly disappointing.
I won't be buying any of this authors books again for fear of the same thing happening again.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2004
This book is very poorly and amaturishly written. The author does succeed in engaging the readers interest because you can't help wanting to know what happens next despite the novel's bad construction and characters which are barely even two dimensional. The author has clearly been influenced by Terry Goodkind's Wizard's first rule and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books, and thought I can do that, only without any of Jordan's creative talents and Goodkind's originality with his first novel. The titular fifth sorceress is depicted as the traditional golden haired princess, there is so little attempt to develop her character that by the end of the book the reader knows little to nothing about her beyond the inital description.
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on 9 December 2004
First of all, if you are thinking of buying this book, it is probably worth your time to get it from the library first. The book's marmite reputation (you either love it or you hate it) is well deserved. Unfortunately for me, I fall into the latter category.
The characters portrayed in this book do not seem to have been given any more depth than their initial descriptions. The hero is dashing, handsome, the best swordsman, the most powerful wizard etc and if that isn't enough for you he is also a fantastic marksman with a throwing knife!! The lead wizard can do absolutely anything he wants (as long as it involves raising an eyebrow or shredding grass it seems..)
The writing IS amateurish, but this could be forgiven if the author did not feel the need to so laboriously describe absolutely every minute detail of what is happening in a scene, repeating the same things over and over again. It feels slightly patronising that the author does not trust the reader to have ANY imagination of their own..
Unsurprisingly I will be giving book 2 a miss :)
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on 28 April 2004
I have no idea why other readers would give this a bad review. Ok thisbook does not delve as deep as other novels in this genre. That in itselfcan be quite dull. I found this book a real exciting read. From the startwhere we meet Wigg the Wizard and the Sorceresses who are cast out fromEutracia until the end, it kept me enthralled. Prince Tristan lives inEutracia, a loving family and quite an easy life. This is all turnedupside down when the Sorceresses plot their revenge and they certainlytake no prisoners when it comes to destroying those who they feel deserveto pay for being cast out. Tristans only hope to save the day is Wigg theWizard and together they must combine their strengths to save their world.I found in places this book quite shocking especially when a character youlike meets their grisley end. I would really reccomend this to anyone wholikes a simple, solid good read that kicks where it hurts. Im reallylooking forward to reading the two sequels. Robert Newcomb is fabulous!
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on 18 November 2008
Fortunately I bought this from a charity shop, as I would have resented spending any more on it. You can take it as read that I'm in agreement with all of the negative reviews (I'm glad I wasn't the only one maddened by the 'infamous eyebrow'), but I just feel I need to add that the greatest weakness is in the villains. The heroes are irritating and two-dimensional, but the villains are truly one-dimensional. All they do is act EVIL. As the author piles on more atrocities and weakly described tortures, they become mere caricatures. A villain needs to have more to them than just perpetual villainy to hold any attention. (Oh, and the blonde ringlets and sarcastic smile were nearly as annoying as the eyebrow). The character descriptions read as if he's referring to a notebook and adding in the little sketch he's written each time a character is mentioned - it's no good saying someone is sarcastic all the time if they hardly get a line of dialogue and what they do say isn't noticably sarcastic. Finally, a word on the sex - very mundane depravity (if you see what I mean!) with amusingly coy descriptions. Either go for it properly and have lots of sex (which is often a complete disaster) or leave it out or have it happen offstage.
P.S. Much too long, as is frequently the case these days. Does no editor edit any more? This might well have been considerably improved if it was about half the length as it would have picked up the pace and forced the removal of dull, verbose, but flat description.
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on 11 January 2012
It has been some ten years since this novel was published, some ten years long it has lain hidden on a bookshelf. Added to it have been the remainder of the trilogy as they came out; yet, such has been the glut of high fantasy in recent years - Elliott, Canavan, Weeks, McKenna, to name but a few maestros of the genre - that Robert Newcomb's epic has been neglected until a quiet December when, quite by chance, it met this reviewer's eye. SFX claims on the jacket that it is "beautifully and vividly drawn...impressive", "a complex and sweepingly conceived narrative" - the Good Book Guide. I think both comments a fair reflection on the story within.
The opening novel of the trilogy tells us of the aftermath of the Sorceress' War; of the exile of the Vagaries-wielding four female mages who have wrought horror and destruction on the land of Eutracia. Their final defeat at the hands of the Virtue-blessed male wizards, headed by the long haired, ancient Wigg brings about three hundred or more years of peace, of blossoming civilisation and a utopia that is about to be shattered. The present narrative follows the coming-of-age Prince Tristan, a reluctant man about to become a King. A man who has a prophecy naming him The Chosen One, a twin of the pregnant and beautiful Shailiha, a man whose endowed blood has him fall into the Caves of the Paragon and learn about the Stone that gives all magical power in the land.
Far away, across the Sea of Whispers the evil Sorceresses have survived and seek a fifth to make their Coven strong enough to carry out a Blood Rite to enable them to reclaim their power over Eutracia. Three hundred years has allowed their leader, Failee, to perfect an army of ruthless winged warriors. Beholden to the Coven, more martial than the Spartans, they exercise themselves to death under the leadership of the mighty Kluge. It is no wonder then, that on the day of Tristan's coronation they are able to destroy Tammerland, the capital, wholesale murder the nobility, force Tristan to behead his father, and kidnap Shailiha whom they intend to pervert to their cause. What follows is redemption of sorts as Wigg and Tristan journey to the Shadowood to locate Master Faegan and a fast route to the land of Parthalon, there to meet with the dwarf Geldon, to free the souls of the Gallipolai, and find a bloody denouement at the hands of the Sorceress.
There is no denying the epic sweep of Newcomb's imagination. However, the shock factor of his polarisation that females are inherently mistresses of dark, depraved sexual blood magic, and men the masters of kindly, life-giving, virtuous cleansing magic is underlined by a constant descent into nauseating descriptions of brutality, rape, murder, torture and sexual deviance that is utterly unnecessary in the story. It has a level of violence that is akin to an 18 rated video game. It seems acceptably removed because it is "fantasy" yet it brings a frown to this reviewer's brow at the endless descriptions of the Sorceresses delight in gore. Apart from this dominant descriptive narrative, the book contains the usual facets of high fantasy. Magical forests , white haired enigmatic and riddle-speaking wise wizards, a reluctant, impatient hero who learns about himself and the true meaning of leadership on his quest, draconian-styled ultra-warriors, dark and cavernous cities, secret passages, a magical stone...all ingredients used beforehand (and since) by those who write this genre.
As an opening novel I must consider this before the likes of Canavan or comparison in Eddings or Saberhagen, Donaldson or Weis & Hickman. Against those, this is a level lower. It offers nothing new compared to them...indeed I see many similarities between those series and this one. Yet...the author is powerfully descriptive - even if the attention to gore much overdone - and clearly talented in this regard. I have the second novel and will read it because I wish to see if this author grows with his trilogy and what might await the now-King Tristan in the mind of Robert Newcomb. If you don't mind endless pages of descriptive violence and gore then plunge in. If, however, your sensibilities are a trifle more delicate, then this will not be for you.
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