Wednesday 20 January 2016

The Dark Defiles

(January 2016)

And so as winter sets in and the cold (theoretically) descends, I find myself yearning for the muscular embrace of a hefty slab of epic fantasy. Thus I finally get round to finishing Morgan’s A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which is clearly an explicit deconstruction of the genre so is all ever-so-slightly clever-clever, but also swords! and dragons! and blood oaths!

All to the good, you would think. And yet…well. It would seem that in deconstructing the genre you run the risk of losing some of the things which make it most appealing, in this instance that very sense of Epicness that defines Epic Fantasy. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it—I enjoyed it very much—but that despite the fact the fate of the known world was seemingly riding on the shoulders of at least one of the main characters, it somehow all felt fairly small-time. Fairly provincial.

The three protagonists—Ringil Eskiath, the jaded war hero; Archeth Indamaninarmal, the half-alien advisor to the imperial throne; and Egar Dragonbane, the hardened Mongolian-analogue warrior—are sent off to the edge of the world in search of a long-lost macguffin, and so as war unfolds back home they find themselves frustratingly (for both themselves and the reader) far from the centre of things. Furthermore, the band gets split up after the first couple of chapters and never really brought back together: one of the tropes seemingly being deconstructed is the glowingly homoerotic reunion  of the sundered band. Archeth and Egar’s storyline is particularly odd: in the face of a world ending threat of invasion their desperation to get back home is understandable, the prosecution of a comparatively petty revenge, less so.

Still, it all works out satisfactorily in the end. The resolutions (or lack thereof) all feel earned and justified and the journey to that point is forceful enough to carry you along for a the ride. More to the point, it’s a five-hundred-page book that I managed to read in the space of a week, and that’s a luxury I thought I’d forsworn long ago. Good times ahead.

1 comment:

  1. 500 pages in a space of a I wish I could keep up a reading pace like that! I'm reading Kate Elliott's Black Wolves right now - it's ~800 pages long and I'm reading at a snail's pace because I just don't seem to have time to read these days :(