Friday, November 23, 2007

Well, I finally managed to finish reading this incredibly complex tale. I am both floored by the sheer magnitude of this undertaking and a little weary. This turned out to be a LONG book. But don't let that stop you. It is the most imaginative and compelling fantasy I have read sense Tad Williams published Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I regret that I cannot, in good conscience, give it an all out 5-star rating. But . for me, it lacked a certain joy in the reading that all my 5-star ratings give to me. I remained aloof from the characters, just not quite able to identify completely with any of them except perhaps the tragic father.

Acacia is a kingdom that has, for generations, ruled the Known World. They have subjugated, through combat. magic and treachery, all foes that they have ever come up against. But that was long ago and Acacia has devolved into an extremely corrupt bureaucracy with a weak and accepting monarch who is the current hereditary ruler. He lives with his 4 children and his memories and is ineffective as a ruler. Unfortunately, the conquered have not forgotten their subjugation and one peoples, up-rooted and disinherited after their defeat by the Acacians, have generations-long memories. Part of their defeat was a curse that doesn't let their dead leave the world. They remain conscious and able to communicate their dissatisfaction to their heirs forever. As you might imagine, the heirs find this highly motivating. These heirs form alliances and make deals that are even more heinous than the political expediencies the Acacians have used to hold on to their power over the years.

Oh my goodness, is there a list of intrigue here; Alliances and deals formed with never seen, but assumed evil foreigners; a trading monopoly with allegiance only to its own interests, and a promise of payment for a drug that keeps the populous unrebellious and working for its next fix...a payment in children; a mortal and deadly enemy with alliances with stronger, and more demanding cultures. All of the players have differing emotional baggage, and all have strong and strongly written characters. This is an epic fantasy novel that covers a broad and diverse history of a unique and vastly corrupt world.

My only problem is that there are no innocents, no nobility, no lifestyle worth sacrificing for. Frodo saved Middle Earth, but Frodo essentially did it to save the Shire and the Hobbit lifestyle. While the lifestyles in The Known World are diverse and fascinating, they are all corrupt and vain, except where they are pathetic and miserable. I found it hard to identify with any of the characters that survive long enough to make it to the end of this first piece of the story. All that noted, I still give this a very strong "Read" recommendation. This is only the first part of what promises to be an extremely well-written, well developed story. My feeling is that it is going to be "required" reading for the self-professed fantasy fan. And, at The End of this first book, there are still some fascinating stories that leave you wondering what is going to come next.


SQT said...

I have started this book about three times and need to just sit down and concentrate on it. I can tell it's of really good quality by what I've read, but it's definitely not a casual read.

texasboyblue said...

OMG no! It took ne forever to read this one and I was concentrating on it. Its very complex and intricate, and definitely worth the read!

texasboyblue said...
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