A few posts ago I was at Armageddon, New Zealand's pop culture/geek fest. There I meet Russell Meek who was promoting his new book, The Madness of Hallen. He was a very nice man and I enjoyed talking to him about his novel.
|Russell Meek a very nice man!|
I also wanted to read it and review it, in the hope of spreading the news about an exciting new novel and author. I finally got hold of a copy and sat down to enjoy it.
Some spoilers follow.
In my opinion a trap that some writers can fall into is over exposition, the mistaken idea that their world needs to be mapped out all at once for the reader to be invested in it. Obviously the scene needs to be set but the story can reveal the world as it unfolds.
In the Hallen story I found the opposite was true. It seemed that Meek was going to such great lengths to avoid this he went too far the other way. I initially found elements of the world to have no context, and this was distracting.
The other thing that was becoming evident was the grand destiny of the main character Orhl. The author has some pretty serious intentions regarding Orhl's future, and the novel is definitely very high fantasy. Well Orhl's deep seated rage that some how bends weaker minds to his will and makes him the greatest swordsman of a generation says high fantasy to me.
Unfortunately this leaves me a little cold. Special powers, epic destiny, save the world, it is a bit much, and a bit too soon for m tastes. I much prefer low fantasy over high; the characters are more identifiable and interesting to me. I do not think there is anything wrong in high fantasy; I broke my teeth on Tolkien after all. But it is not something I usually enjoy. But even in high fantasy you can have simpler characters that are swept up in major events, and even if they are the best at what they do, to make these characters identifiable to the reader they need flaws, they need to be human.
To be fair Meek tries this. There is emotional conflict and personal issues to flesh out the characters. Orhl is portrayed as a young boy on the verge of adult hood who has a conflict with his father over the lack of communication between them. His father holding back the full truth as he is uncertain as to how his younger son will deal with the burden of responsibility, and Orhl's sense of betrayal over his father's apparent lack of trust. And I liked that what appeared to be an obvious love interest broke up due to the fickle nature of the girl.
This is good, the protagonist comes across and a bit annoying and the dad as over protective, which is great because that is how people are. But the author loses this when the boy is so understanding over being dumped so publically and the revelation of how shallow his girl is. I know 30 somethings that aren’t this rational over a break up, it just didn’t gel with me.
I didn’t enjoy this. I really wanted to, but I didn’t. And it pains me to say I didn’t even finish the book. But I think my lack of enjoyment is purely subjective, and while this is true in every review I am particularly conscious of in this case.
Depending on your tastes you may enjoy it more than I did; it is obvious that many people love this book. If you love high fantasy and want a new and interesting world to explore then give it a try. If you are looking for something a little grittier then this may not be for you.