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Going through the motions?
on January 26, 2007
Alas, I found this book a bit of a disappointment, perhaps due to the high standards and expectations Guy Gavriel Kay's previous works have set for spoiled readers like me. The central conceit -- a love triangle played out repeatedly over the millennia -- is one GGK has deployed before, and to much better effect, in the Fionavar tapestry trilogy. The callow central character never does acquire a personality. The return of two of the players from that masterpiece of fantasy is a neat little suprise, but in the end only adds to the element of déjà vu (which is not in the least dispelled by the gratuitous interjections of "new media" lingo -- jpegs, ringtones and iPods, anyone?).
More importantly, however, I found myself resenting the continuous express reminders of just how heavily the weight of history was pressing down on the main characters, and how Oh-So-Deep was their emotional bond. I kept wanting to shout: "Don't TELL me, SHOW me!" But at a scant 430 pages, there is simply no time for the book to develop a convincing narrative arc, for the reader to learn about the characters through their actions, their words and their place in a larger story (all hallmarks of GGK's prvious writings).
Nor is there any room for the author to explore the -- here very few -- intriguing side stories and minor characters that usually give depth, texture and volume to GGK's books. Brys the Duid and that boar are random blips on the landscape, so under-developed and ultimately meaningless that one wonders why GGK even bothered with them; the hints at Dave's presence in Darfur are intriguing, but entirely "off-stage", and as a result seem purely gratuitous. Where the Sarantium dualogy could have usefully been edited down into one volume, here the whole book seems to have been written on fast-forward, or to expand on GGK's own new vocabulary, compressed into a ".zip" file.
I considered giving it a mere two stars -- but then again even a mediocre Kay is better than many of the other offerings in the fantasy market.