July 17, 2006

Bright Young Things from Gollancz: 2/3

2 out of 5 stars

Well, here we are with the second of the highly rated new authors, Tom Lloyd with The Stormcaller. It's a young–hero–coming–of–age book that tries to do something new. It nearly succeeds.

The main man: Isak, a young "white eye", a mutant gifted with superior strength, vitality, and lifespan; at the price of a violent, brutal nature that he must learn to control. The book's off to a swift start as he becomes the chosen heir of Lord Bahl, also a white eye, and has to quickly establish his place and learn to understand the political intrigues that surround his new position. And so it goes, with Isak quickly thrust into battle against "elves".

I put the quote marks in because Lloyd's elves aren't the standard Tolkienesque type. They're more brutal savages than fey bards. Cheryl Morgan in her review in Emerald City compares this book to Moorcock, and to me it reads like an attempt to fuse the dark glamour of Moorcock's world with the complexity of Steven Erikson. The Stormcaller is full of dark gods, dark heroes, complex series of races, Magical Weapons of Great Import, ancient heroes, and enough general paraphernalia for half a dozen Dungeons and Dragons games. Oh, and a dragon. And some Ancient Prophecies, too.

Unfortunately, where Llyod falls down is on the characterisation. Isak is too much the brutal killer to fit into the mould of farmboy–turned–hero so beloved of many, but too sympathetic and soft to fit the harsh world Lloyd puts him in. The book has to stand or fall on Isak alone, none of the other characters are more than bit players, and Isak just isn't a strong enough character. Althoug the (rather good) ending handles the whole prophecy issue quite well, this book reads too much like Eddings with a bit more gore.

The writing is unexceptional, and really this book just fails to stand out. I'd like to give it more, but I don't feel it deserves more than 2 stars.

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