The Naming and The Riddle, the first two installments in a quartet, plunge us into the world of Annar and the Seven Kingdoms. There is desolation – threat of famine, bullying nobles and corruption, slaves kept in remote forts, hereditary feuds – but also cities of beauty, peace, music, and knowledge. Those are the homes of the Bard, gifted with magic, long life, speech with animals, a rich intellectual and folkloric tradition, and dedicated to the Light and the Balance. But even among Bards, all is not well; the Schools are half-empty, Hulls (corrupted Bards) roam the land, discrimination – racial, ethnic, and gender – is on the rise, and various prophesies point to an ancient enemy returning. Of course, various prophesies also point to a Fated One to save them all. Enter Maerad, our heroine, and off we go, traveling the continent in search of knowledge. The third book, The Crow, takes us into a martial realm, as quiet whispers of discontent and strife have progress into outright war.
These were re-reads for me, and I am pleased to report that I loved them just as much this time around. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I love it so much; it’s quite a bit more epic than I usually like my fantasy, and while the writing is good, it has a few quirks that my creative writing professors would never have let me get away with. (Think exclamation points.)
And yet, I love them. Bizarre, ne c’est pas?
Or maybe not so bizarre. The characters are compelling, the world and its mythology are richly detailed (and annotated! There are appendices and indices!), they deal well with racism and sexism, and even touch on queer issues (in a wonderful, understated, of-course-people-do-that kind of way), and there is subtlety – there is talk of the Light and the Dark, but they’re wonderfully muddled and the more you read, the less it remains a simple battle of Light vs. Dark. And have I mentioned the appendices and the incredibly rich myth-building and linguistics?
Go read them. And then read The Singing, the fourth and final book.
I am afraid I do not the same appeal as you in those books, for reasons described in http://xianblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/pellinor/
The uncertainty in Maerad gets annoying after a while, but mostly I do not find depth in the characters. For instance, when major characters die, the sorrow of the others is not truly felt…
Ps=”Bizarre, n’est ce pas?” is the correct wording!