As with most of the Herbert/Anderson collaborations in the Dune universe, the ideas themselves have a degree of merit. The issue is the storytelling.As with most of the Herbert/Anderson collaborations in the Dune universe, the ideas themselves have a degree of merit. The issue is the storytelling. Too much repetition, too much "spoon feeding". The tale could have been told far better with half the page count and leaving more to the imagination. It's not a good sign when the reader is mentally rewriting entire paragraphs and otherwise editing along the way....more
I don't think I've read a book so fast, with such enjoyment, in a long while. The sheer amount of nostalgia from my youth was overwhelming and awesomeI don't think I've read a book so fast, with such enjoyment, in a long while. The sheer amount of nostalgia from my youth was overwhelming and awesome....more
I was expecting a number of things to come to a head, but this is easily the biggest turn of events in the Riftwar Cycle since the end of the SerpentwI was expecting a number of things to come to a head, but this is easily the biggest turn of events in the Riftwar Cycle since the end of the Serpentwar! It certainly raises the stakes for the final five volumes of the saga!...more
The first novel of this series, Half a King, was a solid introduction to the Shattered Sea and the political machinations of the various Kings and couThe first novel of this series, Half a King, was a solid introduction to the Shattered Sea and the political machinations of the various Kings and courts vying for control. Not quite as tame as a “young adult Game of Thrones” might have been, despite the odd branding tossed out when the novel was offered at New York Comic-Con for preview, but certainly a better read than anticipated.
Half the World takes the singular focus of Half a King and expands the narrative to include two main characters, as well as a mixture of new and familiar supporting roles. The most lively character is definitely Thorn, a character that would be perfectly at home on Vikings or the aforementioned Game of Thrones, despite having little to no social graces or common sense. Thorn is more the “hack to pieces first, ignore inconvenient questions later” type, and matters progress about as well for her as that would suggest. Her character arc towards a stronger and more amenable incarnation is one of the best aspects of the novel.
Less exciting is Brand, who is almost so virtuous as to be completely unbelievable in his simplistic point of view. Brand wants to be a warrior, but his nature goes against the kind of wanton slaughter that war often invokes. His feats and demeanor take on an almost mythic quality as the story progresses, to such an extent that it almost undermines the grounded elements of the story in the process.
That said, the clear intent of subverting the obvious path for Thorn and Brand is part of the allure. Characters don’t simply do things because it would be typical for this kind of story, or for that matter, even the best thing for their self-interest. Instead, they make organic decisions based entirely on who they are at any given moment, and what they understand of their circumstances. This doesn’t always work, as when characters ignore the obvious while showing remarkable insight a few pages earlier, but for the most part, it keeps the reader engaged and feels authentic.
Without a doubt, the world building is the best element of the book. Eschewing the easy path of continuing Yarvi’s story from Half a King in linear fashion, the author explores the consequences of Yarvi’s choices through the lives of the new characters. That gives the novel a deft balance between further exploration of the known elements and expansion into new territory and perspectives.
There is also a complete lack of sympathy offered to the reader when it comes to the depiction and prevalence of violence and bad intent. People do terrible things for terrible, self-serving reasons, and the author doesn’t hesitate to drive that point home. It’s never quite on the level of the despicable evil found in A Song of Ice and Fire, but it often comes close. The ability to depict violence well and thoroughly means that implied acts are often far worse as imagined than they might be on the page.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The inevitable romance between Thorn and Brand is far from subtle, and as it reaches the latter stages, it gets grating on the nerves, to say the least. This is also the point at which the ability of a character to ignore what just happened two seconds earlier, in the service of self-doubt, gets a bit ridiculous. I have no idea if this choice was made to appeal to the young adult set, who may find this line of thinking palpably familiar, but for older readers it is tedious.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite the questionable choices made in the romantic subplot of the story, Half the World is exactly the kind of follow-up that Half a King deserved. The story that began with Yarvi’s struggle for survival and lessons in deep-cunning continues through new eyes, but the power plays and politics remain just as important to the overall progression of the series. It’s almost a shame that this is intended to be only a trilogy; one could easily see this story filling several more volumes without losing momentum in the slightest! ...more
Very much a middle chapter when all is said and done, or at least a transitional piece in the larger Riftwar Cycle. But it serves the purpose of reveaVery much a middle chapter when all is said and done, or at least a transitional piece in the larger Riftwar Cycle. But it serves the purpose of revealing important information to the characters (and the reader) going into Wrath of a Mad God. And the degree to which past continuity is getting pulled into the story makes the Cycle feel far more cohesive than it did during the Conclave of Shadows period......more
Heir to the Jedi has had an unusual path to publication. The novel was originally commissioned as part of a loose trilogy of tales set during the origHeir to the Jedi has had an unusual path to publication. The novel was originally commissioned as part of a loose trilogy of tales set during the original era of films, the first two efforts of which have since been delegated to the Legends line (and therefore non-canonical, in the new continuity). By all accounts, Heir to the Jedi was revised substantially to align with the New Canon, yet still retain the original intent of telling a story of Luke’s early days with the Rebellion.
In a bit of a change of pace, Heir to the Jedi is told from Luke’s first-person perspective. It’s uncommon for the Star Wars novels, to say the least, and it calls back to one of the best efforts of the EU/Legends list, I,Jedi. I’m not sure that the comparison is a favorable one, as the trick of any worthy first-person novel is character exploration, and Luke’s development is oddly shallow as compared to Corran Horn.
Part of the issue is expectation. This novel is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and as such, one would expect that Luke’s development in the novel would cover how he went from the glorified farmboy to the somewhat more confident soldier and proto-Jedi seen on Hoth. Yet the novel covers such a thin slice of that time period, so close to the end of A New Hope, that Luke gets exactly one step down that road. And it’s a step that he seems to retreat from, to an extent, by the time he meets Yoda.
On the other hand, one thing that a first-person perspective allows is a more logical form of unreliable narration; as in, Luke can only speak to what he knows and can reasonably infer from his experience and knowledge. At times this is used to good effect, as when Luke cannot be certain that he can trust everyone involved in his mission. That said, it would have been nice for him to discover that emotional connections can, in fact, blind him to the truth. The romantic subplot is about as tired and predictable as it comes.
The first third of the novel is, by far, the strongest. The struggle with the aliens that drill through one’s skull and feed on brains is creepy, and while Luke’s survival is never in doubt, his coping skills are still in development. When the novel seemed to be focusing on that horrific element, and the intelligence of the creatures and their adaptability, it was a fun and involving read.
There is also a subplot that involves a species that uses mathematics as a societal underpinning, to the point of greeting one another with complex math equations to solve. The author gets a lot of the terminology right, while avoiding any overly detailed explanations of the principles involved, and so it becomes a very nice bit of character shading.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Keeping in mind that I was reading an uncorrected proof of the novel, I was often irritated by the inconsistent use of verb tense. I’m not a fan of first-person narratives, but when written well, those reservations are easy to overcome. When the author switches regularly between past and present tense, however, it adds to the annoyance. And given that the first-person perspective was never fully justified by the story itself, it struck me as an unforced error.
Possibly due to the meddling behind the scenes, the story is a bit all over the map. I realized about halfway through the novel that Luke’s actual mission was clear as mud, and any explanations were a thinly veiled excuse to set Luke on his own with an easily-disposable love interest. It might not have been so bad if the novel had ended with Luke locating Hoth as a potential base, or something along those lines, but there’s a lot of running about for what seems like constantly-shifting reasons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s hard to tell how much of the stumbling within the novel is a result of the switch from the Expanded Universe to the New Canon, and it might be a good sign that the novel is still quite readable when all is said and done. Still, the novel feels tentative, as if intentionally carving out a safe side-mission for Luke that couldn’t possibly tread on ground that the New Canon needs to keep unscathed. Adding to that the unnecessary use of first-person perspective, and this feels like a missed opportunity. ...more
A bit of a slow start to this volume, in terms of setting up the next story arc. And since the Riftwar Saga novels are more or less all flowing one inA bit of a slow start to this volume, in terms of setting up the next story arc. And since the Riftwar Saga novels are more or less all flowing one into the next at this point in the cycle, the distinctions of which sub-trilogy it serves are a bit unnecessary. But I love how bits of the previous continuity are weaving into the narrative, giving a sense of history and cohesiveness that had been missing during the Conclave of Shadows period....more