Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Legends of the Guardian-King

By the time I realized that my first CSFF blog tour would be Karen Hancock’s Return of the Guardian-King, I lacked the time to sufficiently prepare an interview or read The Return of the Guardian-King—much to my dismay. (Rest assured, I will be reading and reviewing it in the future, as soon as I can buy the book.) Ah, such are the problems of a newbie.

But it would be strange to review the series out of sequence anyway. You wouldn’t want to read book four before book one. So today I’ll review book one, The Light of Eidon, in hopes of encouraging a few to try the whole series.

The Light of Eidon, Book 1 of Legends of the Guardian-King, Chapter 1:

“Why do we serve the Flames?”

“To ward the realm from Shadow.”

“Why must we guard our purity?”

“To keep the Flames strong and bright.”

They sat cross-legged on the barge cabin’s single, narrow bunk, facing each other—Novice and discipler—their voices alternating in a steady rhythm of question and answer that had gone unbroken for nearly an hour. Since the noon prayer service they had been reviewing the six codices of the First Guardian Station, codices Eldrin must know tomorrow for the final test of his novitiate. He had long since learned them so well he could answer without hesitation, but he didn’t mind the repetition. Right now it was just the sort of superficial mental occupation he needed to keep his thoughts off other things.

“What is the source of the Shadow?” asked his discipler, one bony, ink-stained finger pressed to the page of the open catechism in his lap.

“The arrogance of Moroq conceived it,” Eldrin replied. “The passions of the flesh sustain it.”

“Who is Moroq?”

“The dark son of Eidon and Lord Ruler of the rhu’ema. The Adversary. No man can stand against him, save One.”

“And that One is?”

“Eidon, Lord of Light, Creator of All, Defender of Man. Soon may he come, and swift be his judgment.”

Betrayed by a spiritual mentor and his younger brother, Prince Abramm is sold into slavery, where every day becomes a fight for his life.

The Writing: Like many good sci-fi and fantasy writers, Karen Hancock’s writing is full of vivid and concise detail. Sometimes it’s too much for me—I read a book fast the first time through since I have an intense sense of suspense—but readers who like elegant language will appreciate the rich linguistic tapestry she has woven. In addition, her characters are complex and her plot intricate, making it enjoyable reading for the story-driven reader like me.

So in short, although I became confused at times about where I was in the story, the writing is much improved over Ms. Hancock’s first book, Arena.

The Story: The first time I read the beginning of The Light of Eidon, I must admit that alarms went off it my head. I had recently come off studying Mormonism, and these opening pages echoed what I’d read. I don’t know if that was Ms. Hancock’s intention, but if anyone else is alarmed by this—don’t worry. As far as I can judge, the allegorical/spiritual dimension of this story is set right before the end of the book.

I also felt very uncomfortable when I originally read the book with how the followers of Eidon seem able to manipulate the power of Eidon—almost like white magic. But this seems partially the result of creating a new world that was never intended to be perfectly allegorical, and the further I read into the series, the true nature is made clearer. And even within this first book, it’s made clear the power comes from Eidon and without following/obeying him, the followers will self-destruct.

Finally, I should warn the more sensitive reader that Ms. Hancock does not shy away from the dark side of war, lust, and betrayal. Her characters are real and flawed, resulting in actions and attitudes that might make some squirm, but are real to the core. However, while she makes these emotions and situations clear, she doesn’t dwell heavily upon them, make them graphically explicit, or use them unnecessarily.

Summary: An exciting read with engaging characters. If you like epic fantasy with complex new worlds and broad themes, this is a good read. However, this was marketed as an adult novel for good reasons, and therefore I recommend that readers under sixteen probably avoid reading this until they’re older.

Rating: 3.7 stars of 5

Other blog tour participants:

Karen Hancock Nissa Annakindt Wayne Thomas Batson Jim Black Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Karri Compton Frank Creed CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Janey DeMeo April Erwin Kameron M. Franklin Linda Gilmore Beth Goddard Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Sharon Hinck Christopher Hopper Heather R. Hunt Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Karen Tina Kulesa Lost Genre Guild Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium Rachel Marks Rebecca LuElla Miller Shannon McNear Caleb Newell Nicole Eve Nielsen John W. Otte Robin Parrish Rachelle Cheryl Russel Hanna Sandvig Chawna Schroeder Mirtika Schultz James Somers Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower Speculative Faith Daniel I. Weaver Dawn King Rebecca Grabill Jill Hart


Becky said...

Good review, Shawna. A 3.7. That's a new one! LOL Very precise.

Seriously, you've done a great job highlighting what made the book work and what made it difficult at the start.

Interesting you thought of Mormonism. I've read others who accused Karen of borrowing from Catholicism/Protestantism.

I personally saw no parallels and enjoyed her creation of a false religion.


Becca Johnson said...

I know how you feel about the whole newbie thing. :) Good job on your review. It's nice to read something that points out both the good and the bad in a book. :)

Becca Johnson