|Submitted by Jason Spencer |
(Aug 10, 2004)
I choose books to read by sampling a bit of the language and dialog from chapter one to get a feel for the style and see if I can really make it through. Conqueror's Moon by Julian May left no doubt in my mind in far less than a page. Immediately, I read intelligent dialog, rich description, and could see characters with real yet distinct personalities. I bought it right away.
Set in essentially high fantasy, perhaps on the verge of renaissance, Conqueror's Moon quickly draws the reader into political intrigue with all the dressings. With a short introduction to the political history, the story begins to follow the ambitious plots of Conrig Wincantor, crown-prince of Cathra, in his attempt to unite the four kingdoms that share the island of Blenholme. Working against much of the established political machinery, Conrig has made a pact with the conjure princess Ullanoth of the northern kingdom of Moss. Yet the princess soon faces troubles of her own when her younger brother, Beynor, usurps her coming throne. Beynor uses his magic in league with Didion, the kingdom between Cathra and Moss, to thwart Conrig's efforts and fortify his own powerbase. Conrig must manage his family, his nobles, and his vassals to ensure his plans of sovereignty succeed in the face of uncertainty.
Luckily for Conrig, a magic stronger than that weilded by the clerical order of wizards, the Brothers of Zeth, is at his command. A "wild talent," or magicer that goes unnoticed in arcane respects, begins life in his stables as his footman. Much of the story follows this "Snudge" through his development as a young man into a working intelligencer for the prince, weilding increasing magical power. A refreshing and realistic bond of trust begins to grow between lord and subject, and Conrig comes to owe much of his success to the couragous Snudge.
Things become more involved as Conrig's father, the dying King of Cathra, is finally convinced to help with the efforts of sovereignty but must conquer his illness to be useful. Conrig's wife comes into play when she discovers the magical affair between her husband and Ullanoth and begins to plan for her own goals. Conspirators in his immediate circle of vassals vie for power, and yet through it all, his fathful Snudge and his brother Stergos allow him to continue with his plans.
The style of writing is refreshing and a joy to read. Without invoking Tolkien, May creates a rich world and yet doesn't overwhelm the reader with the requisite knowledge all at once, but rather slowly, and often as the characters absorb it, too. The magic system is subtly woven into the fabric of the setting, and seems in fine proportions for the story. Though perhaps not all aspects of this world of Blenholme are explored as completely as the reader might wish, what is there is well crafted. Though the plot has good structure and tension builds throughout, I did find some sub-plots simplistic and did not get as absorbed as I might have hoped. However, I was very happy with the ending, which did a good job wrapping this episode up yet left me anxious for more. With fantasy this good out there, I may give up my own novel.