Post by hynreck on Jun 10, 2015 13:48:45 GMT
I’ll say two things upfront about that review: first it’s been a while since I’ve read this book and I’m writing solely from memory (no notes, sorry) so I will likely not delve into too much details and, second, I will strive to make it short because frankly, I debated long and hard with myself whether to review this book or let it go (partly because I’ve got a backlog of reviews of more interesting titles) so that should tell you something about how I feel about this particular title. However, it does not mean I haven’t anything positive to say, but yeah, it might get painful at times. So I’ll try to be concise, but as ever I’m not up to a good start.
A little background story first. I’m a big (Joe Dever’s) Lone Wolf fan. Always have been. And by always I mean that at around the same time as I was becoming the lucky owner of some legendary Fighting Fantasy titles such as The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Deathtrap Dungeon, I was also getting my mitts on a spookily illustrated (by Peter Andrew Jones, if memory serves right) copy of Flight from the Dark. So you’ll take my word for it when I say that I’ve been following Lone Wolf’s story for quite some time now. Indeed, while I did eventually drop-out of Fighting Fantasy (for a while, before being reborn!); the same fate never was quite in store for Lone Wolf. Oh, sure, I went soft for awhile, but always came back, long enough at least to complete my collection. So, as of now, I own all the Lone Wolf books in French, and painfully (as in painfully slow) collect the new Mongoose/Mantikore editions as they come out.
As you can see, my interest in the subject matter has always run high; me looking into buying any related materials, from Grey Star gamebooks to Legends of Lone Wolf novels and RPG supplements; so it’s only natural that I’d be interested in the first book of a new trilogy (plus the first book of another new trilogy, Greed & Glory, review coming some time after this one). I thought, even if the story doesn’t hold up, or amount to much, it might be fun to revisit the world of Magnamund anyway, with a fresh perspective from a fresh author, perhaps. So, how did it fare?
More or less well, frankly. There are good points, very good indeed. It’s very well written, for one thing. Feels modern, avoid trying to appeal to children (this is obviously written for the adult crowd, as all the once young fans are now grown-ups anyway) and properly grabs your attention, rarely letting go. Descriptions are appropriate and serves the story right. Presentation is clean and overall pleasing.
Where it falters is in the cast of characters and, perhaps, character development (this one is a bit harder to tell since it’s the first part of a trilogy and so it could potentially improve if it is ever completed, but that’s not looking likely at the moment). In this story, we don’t follow Lone Wolf (he’s in there somewhere, the events are taking place some time around the New Order of the Kai, can’t remember the date but it’s in the book, don’t worry), we follow brand new characters, some Kai initiates and their master, mercenaries, knights, Lencian royalty, some evil Drakkarim, etc. And actually, I was very happy to follow these different characters, for a change. The world of Magnamund is rich and vast and deserves to be told from different perspectives, not just through the eyes of living god Lone Wolf, aka the Darklord killer.
The story revolves around the age-old conflict in Magnamund of bickering neighbours Lencia and Nyras, because you see, Nyras is full of Drakkarim, and there is nothing a Drakkar loves more than his carnage. That causes a problem when you are not a Drakkar and all you want to do is live. War is brewing and heroes from all over Magnamund will have to rise to the forthcoming challenge. There is also a background threat of rising Agarashi in Telchoi and its surrounding countries but that’s mostly to set up the other trilogy by August Hahn, as far as I know. I’m keeping everything here pretty vague because, contrary to some 30 years old Lone Wolf stories, this one is still quite new, and I don’t want to be the one spoiling elements for those of you interested in tracking this book down.
So, I’ve already established that author Richard Ford has a good writing style, sets up appropriate mood and story elements, gives good descriptions, manages pace mostly well, but what’s so wrong with his characters, exactly? Well, for one thing, they’re mostly all idiots. There is no kinder way to put it I’m afraid. And while an author might purposefully write a few idiot characters, having some type of goal in sight or just showing us the sad state of the world we live in (as a would-be reflection of real life in the case of fantasy) to have all of them being idiots… you start asking yourself questions, wondering, doubting the intentions of the author or his capacity to advance plot points without having to resort to human idiocy all the time.
The truth is, it’s hard to relate to a bunch of idiots. Some of them you want to root for, usually the good guys - trying hard to relate to them - but you’re eventually discourage to do so. Because all you can think after a while is how much they deserve their fate, their suffering, their death. The bad guys on the other hand are incredibly effective, smart, basically: non-idiots. A bit more balance would have been nice here, as everything felt one-sided. Plus, usually, you don’t want to root for the evil guys. Richard Ford made them especially despicable and you hate them in spades for that. But when you are stuck with disgustingly evil guys on one hand and a bunch of morons on the other, it’s hard to immerse yourself into the world, to actually care, however good it is brought up.
But why are they idiots? You probably want some examples, and I shall deliver, so spoilers beware, you might want to skip this chapter.
It’s hard to tell if some of the characters are innate idiots or if we just happened to catch them at a downtime in their brain activity, but their actions - boy - sometimes you just want to slap them and say: fool! You will get yourself killed for that! The King of Lencia here takes the cake: his decisions overall not only lead to the sacking (more akin to death or enslavement) of Helmstorm and the rest of Lencia (what was left to conquer anyway), but in one of his dumbest move (read: no strategy involved whatsoever) he decides to Leeroy Jenkins his way toward the enemy leader, not only getting himself killed in an obvious trap but getting a bunch of champion bad ass knights from Ilion killed as well, who so far had done nothing but curbstomp Drakkarim left and right. Rolling up your eyes won’t be enough here, you’ll epic facepalm into whatever object is nearest, guaranteed.
End of spoilers, I guess.
I think I’ve just reached my personal limit here for this review. There’s not much more to say, anyway. But let me stress this again: there’s nothing really wrong with this book, other than stupid characters which might just frustrate you enough to make you stop caring and quit before reading any of the sequels that might one day materialize (for the record, I probably would read such a sequel, just to see what pans out of this mess. Curiosity, you know). That’s a big point against the book! But if you are somewhat tolerant of such stupid characters and/or enjoy heroes dying and/or villains winning (rather easily) this book has a lot to offer. In any case you’ll find yourself plunging deep into Magnamund in a well written story, good action sequences and respect for Dever’s world, and all in all, that’s not so bad. This book is now, I assume, rather hard to find, but give it a try if you’re a fan of Lone Wolf and aren’t afraid of cringing from time to time.