|Submitted by Rachel |
(Aug 17, 2009)
I must just begin by admitting that I am unfamiliar with the greater part of David and Leigh Eddings' work. That is to say, 'the Redemption of Althalus' was the first novel of theirs I'd ever read, and while it was a decent, well-plotted adventure story, it didn't fill me with a mad desire to work my way through their back-catalogue. So...unable to view this book in the light of its predecessors, I am forced to judge it solely on its individual merits. Review will contain spoilers (sort of).
I'll start with the good points. This novel is entertaining, no doubt about it. It wasn't one of those addictive page-turners that keeps you awake and engrossed till 4 a.m with your eye glued urgently to the page. But it was a good, solid read nonetheless - well-written, clever, lively and interesting. The plot was intriguing and well-conceived, though it held few major surprises once the pattern of events had begun to emerge. The pacing never dragged, and the narrative flowed smoothly from one event to the next without tarrying too long in one place. In other words, it never got boring. The main character, Althalus, felt like a fully fleshed-out human being, and despite his moral ambiguity he was always sympathetic - his flawed but affable personality made him a very appealing anti-hero, and his personal growth and development throughout the story was very well handled. In many ways he was the archetypal lovable rogue who you couldn't help forgiving for all his faults. Give me a flawed, complex hero over a boring, chivalrous goody-goody type anyday!
So...the bad points? Well, while there was nothing wrong with the dialogue, it wasn't as funny as the author(s) seemed to think it was. Also, aside from the shrewd and insightful depiction of Althalus himself, the characterisation was notably patchy. While some of the protagonists were interesting and realistic - I particularly enjoyed Andine and Bheid - not all of them fared as favourably. They ranged from dull (Eliar) to irritating (Leitha) to really, really, REALLY irritating (Gher) to only being remotely appealing when in cat form (Emmy). However, by far the most disappointing aspect of the novel was that the antagonists evoked no menace whatsoever, and were overcome FAR too easily by the heroes. You never really felt that Althalus and his gang were in serious danger, they never suffered any devastating setbacks or had to make any significant sacrifices. They outwitted their malevolent rivals at every turn, and their victory felt just a tiny bit hollow. And while it was satisfying in a way to see all the loose ends of the plot tied up in a pretty ribbon by the finish, that kind of conclusion is generally the most forgettable and lacklustre - in my opinion, a jubilant, fairy-tale happy ending is only really justifiable when the hero has been through absolute HELL to get there, and Althalus hadn't. Luck was almost always on his side (literally) and while he was a likeable character to whom I didn't begrudge a happy ending, things were always just a little too easy for him.
So, to sum up, I gave this novel a solid 3/5 - truly entertaining, if a little unremarkable. It was a fun read and ticked most of the right boxes, however it lacked the depth and substance of a true masterpiece. Some of the characters could have been meatier, the plot could have been darker, there could have been more tension, more drama, more heart. Still, it was clever, well-written and definitely worth a read.