Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lord of the Isles

I’m going to give you a recommendation for a good fantasy fiction series, if you care: David Drake’s Lord of the Isles books. I’ve just read the first 6 books of the series, and I’ve been quite pleased with them. If you or someone you love is suffering from Jordan-itis, this is a very good cure for it.

Probably the best thing is that Drake’s world actually has a religion, one that is well-conceived, plausible, and convincingly executed in the books. Not all the religious people are good, or bad, or neutral, and different people have different levels of devotion. There are even (gasp!) slightly different religions, or versions of the religion, reflecting the takes of different people in the series. Just like religions in the real world. The religion itself is based (he says) on Sumerian mythos, which means that it’s different than what I’m used to.

Using the setting of islands is also unique, and he takes advantage of that to fit in plot devices that are very original (lots of sailing, sea monsters, etcetera). His handling of magic is superb and well-thought-out.

Characterization is strong. Lots of likeable characters, very interesting, and also very different. You can find at least one to root for, and there’s (thankfully so far) no new characters popping up who kidnap the scope of the book. It remains centered on the same core characters that you know and love.

The only quibble (and this is minor) would be the repetitiveness of the books, and the repeated elements of the story line for some characters. I suspect this is intentional, and that it’s building to something, but it does make the books seem somewhat repetitive. One character (Cashel) does almost the exact same thing in every book. Oh, sure, the setting changes, as do the supporting characters, but it’s almost always the same basic storyline.

Honestly, though, that’s a minor complaint. Overall, I highly recommend it as a good story, well-told, with plenty of action and some new and different stuff that will surprise and delight you.

Plus, he turns out a cleanly-edited book about once a year, unlike Robert Jordan, who takes 5 years between dictionary-sized nonfiction treatises of Aes Sedai fashion and intricacies of Seanchen lacquerware.