Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. What a wonderful surprise!
For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend. We're not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like "historical accuracy", either.
And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap-dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin (Murgen), Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalry, high Celts, and so much more.
None of it overwhelmed the taste of adventure, where three kingdoms vied, played, made alliances, and started wars during a span of 30 years, and the characterizations were pure fantasy boilerplate, but lest you get turned off by that idea, just know that they all go through tons of changes... heck, they went through nearly as many as what happen to the plot, itself.
Is that a problem? Hell no. Not for me. I was actually rather amazed at the sheer scope of where we started, from a princess's childhood (Suldrun), her setup as a fairytale, then the betrayal of her wonderful prince (Aillas), their love, and their tragedy merely sets the stage, even if it takes up a sizable portion of the book. The rest of the tale happens to be one of the best written and most imaginative, quickly paced, and thoroughly satisfying traditional fantasy novels I've ever read, staying firmly on the road of adventure, adventure, adventure.
Aillas's tragedy is only the starting point, after all, and making a ladder out of bones is just the beginning, especially after he learns that his lost Suldrun had a child.
Tons of trigger points for me, and I've never gotten tired of such tales. I just can't believe how awesome the adventure was, or just how much was accomplished all the way to a mostly happy ending.
And now that I've finished the first book in the trilogy and loved it, I have absolutely no reason not to enthusiastically dive into The Green Pearl. :)
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