Top critical review
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Conjurers lurk in woodland cottages.
on 22 October 2004
If you're going to read fantasy novels, I think you have to accept that normal rules do not apply. Out here in the literary badlands (where men carry swords, and woman carry warhammers, where wizards, mages, magic-users, sorcerors, thaumaturgists, necromancers and conjurers lurk in every woodland cottage, where inns have straw-strewn floors, where the standard currency is the gold coin, where every state is a monarchy) psychological acuity is regarded with suspicion, social commentary as a priggish conceit, beauty scarcely considered worth taking a swing at, innovation the work of the devil (who, presumably, can only be killed with a special magic axe) and, most oddly, but most definitely, imagination is rarer, and far more precious than diamonds.
What we have instead are ripping yarns: action, pace, cool props, special effects, a little romance. Let these be our watchwords.
Elfsorrow: a thimbleful of real quality and an ocean of swordplay make it perfectly good fun. Its one bought (rather than borrowed) joy, is the sense it gives of a computer or pen-and-paper RPG which one of the players enjoyed so much he couldn't leave alone. When you're 12, and sitting around in your bedroom, "Hirad Coldheart" and "The Unknown Warrior" seem like pretty cool names for pretty cool guys who would know what to do if someone took their lunch box and threw it in the bin, etc. Also, the fact that a small group of "mercenaries" have a wildly disproportionate effect on national events and are often faintly surprised about it themselves was, I thought, genuinely and consistently funny.
It's fine. It's quite good. It's got elves, and armour and fighting and killing, and magic, and moments that are a little better than you think they're going to be. Read it if you like that sort of thing.