Voidhawk.com Book and film reviews


“The Elenium” by David Eddings

sapphire rose

Eddings' most famous series is The Belgariad, and in total he wrote twelve novels set in that world. Eddings' other major fictional world is the setting for two trilogies - “The Elenium” and “The Tamuli”. The setting is again analogous to medieval Europe, although rather than having a loose collection of different peoples, the setting for the Elenium is a series of roughly similar Kingdoms all ruled over by the powerful Elene Church. Most of the main characters are members of an organisation known as the Church Knights – a religious army whose members are generally well meaning but does have a tendency towards violence. The main character is Sir Sparhawk, a middle-aged Knight who returns to his homeland of Elenia after a lengthy exile in the desert Kingdom of Rendor. On his arrival back home Sparhawk is shocked to learn that the young queen Ehlana has become seriously ill with a mysterious ailment. He soon comes to suspect that a scheming churchman Primate Annias is responsible, in an apparent bid to seize power through his puppet Prince Lycheas – the Queen's nephew. Sparhawk and some of his old companions set off on a mission to find a cure for the Queen's illness, quickly discovering that an ancient artefact named Bhelliom may be the only possible cure. Unfortunately the Bhelliom was lost during the last war against the neighbouring Zemochs, so Sparhawk and his companions have to track it down. Complications arise when they discover that they are not the only people with a desire to track down the artefact – magical creatures serving the Zemoch's God Azash are also searching. Behind that there is the ever-present threat of another Zemoch invasion as the evil (and vaguely Lovecraftian) Azash strives for world domination.

As before, this is again a fairly standard fantasy story, although the plot isn't quite as cliched or predictable as that of the Belgariad (Eddings even shows some willingness to occasionally kill off a character) there are still more than a few clichés along the way and the Quest that makes up most of the first two books does seem a bit contrived. The overall tone is a bit darker and more grown up than before, there are even some mild horror elements at times particularly in the subplot dealing with an insane demon-worshipping noblewoman and the characters are generally more ruthless than before, particularly the scene where they abandon the defence of a large portion of a city to concentrate on the more defendable citadel in its centre, leaving most of the city’s population at the mercy of the invading army. Whereas the Belgariad was a coming-of-age story for its main character, here Sparhawk is already a veteran warrior by the start of the book and is much more cynical about the world than Garion was. There are some good battle scenes and some political intrigue in addition to the standard fantasy questing and it also features the best end confrontation of any of Eddings' series. Again, the characters are entertaining and the dialogue is fun and the overall quality of the writing is probably better here than in previous books.

In summary, another likeable fantasy series which is somewhat more original than the Belgariad, with a little bit more depth but a similar amount of entertainment value.

Rating : 8/10


“Feersum Endjinn” by Iain M. Banks

Feersum Endjinn

The world of "Feersum Endjinn" is threatened with an apocalypse as an astronomical disaster threatens to make the Earth uninhabitable, but its characters often have different concerns. Bascule is trying to find his friend, an ant kidnapped by a giant bird. Count Sessine has just died for the last time, and wants to know why. Asura doesn't know who or what she is, but knows she has something she has to do. Chief Scientist Gadfium receives a message from an unexpected source as she tries to investigate why her government is more interested in winning a war than saving the world. Many of these things don't initially seem to have much relevance to the potential end of the world, but by the end of the book they will.

This book doesn't seem to get as much praise as Banks' better-known Culture series, but I thought it was as good as or better than most of the Culture novels. I liked the setting of a civilisation living off what a more technologically advanced civilisation had left behind, largely based in a gigantic castle built on a scale hundred of times larger than human scale. There was an interesting contrast in a society that is in many ways a feudal/medieval society but one that still has some access to high technology, including a vast and dangerous virtual reality environment which contains thousands of years of human knowledge.

It's a fairly short novel and as a result some aspects don't get explored in much detail. For example, there is more time spent on Bascule's quixotic quest to rescue his pet ant who was kidnapped by an eagle than there is on describing the methods by which the world could be saved from an impending apocalypse. I don't think this really detracts from the book, it's not really a hard-SF book so the details of how the technology works is largely irrelevant.

The characterisation is good with several interesting and likeable characters in it. Bascule is probably the best character in it, although his chapters are the hardest to read due to Bascule's narration using phonetic spelling. Reading prose where virtually every world is misspelled means that those chapters took several times longer to read than the other characters' chapters, but I think the overall effect does match Bascule's character well although I think if the entire book had been written like that I might not have made my way through. The other characters tend to be interesting as well, particularly the naive amnesiac Asura and Count Sessine's attempt to investigate his murder. At the start it is difficult to see how all the plot threads will tie together, but they do build up to one of Banks' more effective endings.

Overall, I'd say this might not quite be Banks' best novel, but it's still a very good read.

Rating : 9 / 10