Well folks, I have finally finished the Elenium trilogy! You may have noticed there has been a marked lack of any novel/comic discussion in the past few weeks? Well, following a recommendation I have been reading David Eddings’ trilogy, and have been utterly blown away!
In case you hadn’t realised yet, I like fantasy. It’s one of the facets of Star Wars that makes it appeal to me so much. But not just that, I like all sorts of fantastical stuff – be it Warhammer or Pathfinder, or anything else really. It’s all about the escapism. But I haven’t really found a fantasy epic that I have massively enjoyed like this since I was in school! It’s all quite marvellous, I have to say.
Set in the fantasy land of Eosia, the trilogy follows the cleric-type character Sparhawk as he returns from exile to discover his Queen has been placed into suspended animation due to a strange illness. Within about 50 pages we’re plunged into a massive intrigue that has kept me turning the pages for the past month, moving from book to book like a man possessed!
I won’t discuss the plot, because there were so many exciting twists and turns that I feel it’s best discovered on its own. However, the style of writing and the story itself are all so wonderful, being a product of the late 80s/early 90s. It’s something that I find quite similar to the Star Wars novels – books from this period tend to be more fantastical and, generally, enjoyable, than the more recent offerings, which present a hard, grittier view of things. The Elenium is what I would describe as low fantasy, as aside from magic and the odd reference to trolls, the protagonists are all humans, and so on. It’s quite similar to A Game of Thrones in this respect, the massive politico-theological conspiracies are more centre-stage than the fantasy, really. However, Eddings’ books are just so much more enjoyable than Martin’s! For a start, Eddings establishes a world without the need for gratuitous violence and the like, and we aren’t subjected to masses of text describing a journey in the manner of Tolkien. Instead, if the plot needs to move characters from one area to another, they just move through the space of a paragraph, rather than the space of a small novel. The pacing therefore is so much more driven, and the sense of urgency that pervades books one and two is really hammered home in that respect.
I feel that a lot of today’s fantasy writers can learn something from Eddings. He builds his world really well, with nicely-defined parameters within which the fantasy works. He handles a large ensemble cast effectively, and while Sparhawk isn’t exactly spared some of the more pet-character-style writing, he is nevertheless a believable chap, and while he clearly leads the ensemble, he never really dominates the others from the storytelling perspective. There are plenty of other interesting characters to enjoy, it isn’t a case of the others are there to make the lead look amazing. His plot is also nicely laid out and executed. As already mentioned, we don’t have chapters and chapters of inconsequential meandering, but instead we move through at a pace guaranteed to tell a good story.
However, it is this pacing that initially threw me with the trilogy. Being more used to modern fantasy, I was completely lost quite early on with The Diamond Throne, where I expected something to happen and it didn’t. The biggest flaw, I felt at the time, was the jarring sensation between chapters 8 and 9 of the first book, where one chapter ends with the ensemble riding into battle, and the next begins with that battle over. I was fully expecting a chapter (at least) where we would have to wade through torrid descriptions of untold brutality, and confusing melees and whatnot, but when we didn’t, I felt cheated. However, as I progressed through the book, I came to realise that, actually, the battle served no purpose in and of itself, but instead was merely to provide a catalyst for a larger plot point. In that sense, then, the battle itself was completely unnecessary to describe, and therefore I got over that sense of having been cheated. I would still, however, have thought perhaps that chapter 8 should not have finished at that precise point, but instead with the knights merely donning their armour and preparing for battle. Ending it with an actual charge still felt a bit abrupt.
Yes, I really am reaching here. This is probably the only thing wrong with the entire trilogy, and even then, the term “wrong” seems a bit excessive!
It’s a really good trilogy, and I can recommend it to anyone!