Saturday, September 25, 2010
Posted by PeterWilliam at 2:00 PM
A Shadow on the Glass, by Ian Irvine
Publisher: Aspect (Warner Bros.), ©1998
Copy: Out of pocket
From the back cover:
THE TALE OF THE FORBIDDING
In ancient times the Way Between the Worlds was shattered, leaving bands of Aachim, Faellem, and Charon trapped with the old humans of Santhenar. Now Llian, a Chronicler of the Great Tales, uncovers a 3,000-year-old secret too deadly to be revealed - while Karan, a young sensitive, is compelled by honor to undertake a perilous mission. Neither can imagine they will soon meet as hunted fugitives, snared in the machinations of immortals, the vengeance of warlords, and the magics of powerful mancers. For the swelling deluge of a millennial war is rising, terrible as a tsunami, ready to cast torrents of sorcery and devastation across the land...
From 1998, this is Irvine's debut, and it shows. The first third to half of the book leaves one with the impression that the author had a vast, massive idea in mind, but didn't know how or where to begin. The means by which the various characters encounter, or know of, each other seems rather contrived. In other words, it read as though the author were 'trying too hard.'
Early segments of dialogue were very strained and incongruous to extant circumstances, and read very awkwardly. Characters, who barely knew each other, would heatedly argue as though they had known each other for many years one moment, and then immediately apologize - returning to the semi-formal, rather polite, dialogue usually employed between relative strangers.
The plot consisted, mainly, of perpetual peril. Our main characters, Llian (bard, of the spoken word variety) and Karan (a sensitive empath, who can affect others with her emotive feedback) escape peril, become assailed and/or captured, nearly come to permanent harm and escape again throughout the tale. It is an element to fiction that certainly works, but not if there is nothing else within the tale with which to contrast it.
The tale does have a long, shadowed past, however. Indeed, one of the key plot points is that Llian has, in his research, discovered a 3,000 year old secret. It appears that the key story in the history of the world, at the pinnacle of the last age, is something which has been misrepresented for three millenia. This particular element kept my interest throughout the tale, as each person, race and locale had some relevance to the distant past. As a result of the history revealed thus far in this debut, it is clear there is a great deal more to be known - not only to the reader, but key characters as well. It is this aspect alone that convinces me to continue onward into the next book of this series, at some future date.