Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book Challenge Review: A Shadow on the Glass

A Shadow on the Glass, by Ian Irvine
Format: paperback
Publisher: Aspect (Warner Bros.), ©1998
ISBN: 0-446-60984-6
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back cover:
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.



Anonymous said...

Hey! Good to see you back again....

I read this book years ago and really enjoyed it but I was also probably about 17 years old. I recently got it from my brother and did a re-read and couldn't even finish it because of what you mentioned, the dialogue was just so strained and huge parts of the plot were so incredibly predictable I could smell them a mile off and it tended to give me stomach cramps (okay, crappy joke).

Anyway, I've been interested in how you found the book. "Fair" seems to be a good rating for it. I'm just amazed at how many books I enjoyed as a teenager which, when I re-read, I end up not being able to finish them. Odd how that happens....

PeterWilliam said...

Good to be back. I've had the vacation holliday, a job change, health issue confrontation and, now, evening classes (information systems/networking). I'll be lucky to get any real reading done anytime soon.

Anyway, I originally found out about Irvine and this series from an old post on SFFWorld. One of those, "if you like XXX, you might like YYY" book suggestion threads. "Fair" was as high as I could go on this debut, but I may pick up the next couple of books just to see if there was much of a transformation in the storyline/author.

Elfy said...

I read this when it first came out mainly because it was by a local author, but it just didn't grab me. I found Irvine's comments about writing and why he does books the size he does at Aussiecon quite interesting, though.

PeterWilliam said...

Elfy, you can't leave us with a teaser like that!!! What'd the man say?

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