I so very much wanted to like this series, seemed as if it had a ton of promise. I liked the sailing scene and the plot seemed well done, the prose is excellent and all in all I thought I was in for a treat. Truth is, however, I struggled to finish the first book, and I'm honestly not sure why I even bought this one, except maybe that I hate putting a story down unfinished. I very rarely give up on a book, but this one.. well.
It's not actually bad, it's just not very interesting after all. The author has a great style, actually, a true wordsmith, and the prose kept me going long after the story had died for me. Unfortunately, there's a tendency to ramble a bit, with odd sections that seems to give little value or progress. A lot of time is spent on building up for climaxes that either fizzles out, or are concluded very abruptly in a short paragraph or two, usually involving a Deus Ex solution. Just when the climax is about to peak, suspense is at its highest and the odds are stacked against our heroes, the big and powerful wizard steps through an interdimensional portal and saves the day, or our narrator passes out and wakes up safe and sound because a friendly navy, army too for completeness, came to the rescue while he was out. Just like that!
Scenes are very prolonged, only to suddenly make a Month Python-style change, (".. and now for something completely different!"), into subplots and diversions on very thin premises. Sometimes it would have made more sense if the author had just put in a footnote saying "hey, I really need to put these characters in this scenario, so just bear with me, ok?".
It often reads like a children's book, but the overall theme isn't as childish, so I don't really know for sure whether it is intended as a children's story or not. The antagonist part seems adult themed, whereas our heroes are unbelievably juvenile. The result is an odd mix of grand betrayal and murders, with kids running around befriending mermaids and other fantasy creatures. The downside is that neither part ever gets truly compelling. The bad guys never really becomes scary, and the good guys never really becomes interesting. I for one was left wondering why the villains hadn't just thrown those little brats overboard a long time ago and been done with it, there was no real reason not to, except that the story had to go on.
Halfway through the series and I'm still not entirely sure how this world functions. There has been a huge amount of name-dropping; items, people, creatures, places.. all over the place, but with very little filling between them to give a sense of connection and timeline. I basically have about a short page worth of real background by now, which doesn't quite make it a place I can believe in. On a similar note, as another reviewer states; what are the rules of this world? I honestly don't know. Seems as if fantastic creatures, events, artifacts or magic can pop in and out of the story almost randomly.
All of that could have been saved by interesting characters and/or a rivetting storyline, but that is in fact precisely where the whole thing just dies. The characters are just not interesting or compelling in any way. I simply don't care if they make it or not. The most I cared was an occasional desire to reach into the pages and slap the protagonists while yelling "oh grow up, for crying out loud!". Unfortunately, for all the places visited, all the more or less justified events and subplots, all the creatures and people coming and going, we're nowhere further with the story. The plot hasn't truly taken any big leaps forward, and our protagonists are in the same predicament they've been in for several hundreds of pages. It might take off in the remaining two books, but I simply don't care about how it ends anymore.
My overall impression is that the author started out with a really cool idea, but then he decided that the real goal was to make it epic, and epic translated into huge. Huge world, huge amount of people, huge amount of fantasy and a huge build-up to a huge finale. Thus, the story had to go on and on, it had to be kept alive, so that it could be huge and epic. Too bad, because it really was a good idea and he really can write.
- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; 1 edition (1 November 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575081791
- ISBN-13: 978-0575081796
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.6 x 23.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 880 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item