|Submitted by Christopher Ware |
(Jan 19, 2002)
This series turned out to be a disappointment to me. This could be due to the fact that I was going into the series with a certain set of expectations and the books turned out to be focused in a different direction. I was expecting epic medieval fantasy: lots of battles, strong characters, and fast paced action. These are the reasons that I read more fantasy than I do sci-fi. A lot of sci-fi tends to lean on heavy character development and fleshing out ideas and concepts. In essence, this series of books could be classified as "medieval sci-fi." The last half of the series was mostly excruciatingly slow with nothing really happening for hundreds of pages. There were a couple of action scenes in there, especially at the ends of the books, but the rest of the time, the characters didn't seem to be accomplishing anything. This lack of action is what ultimately lessened my enjoyment of the books.
As in the previous three books, however, Gentle gives us strong, vivid characters and realistic surroundings. I actually felt as if I was trapped within the frozen city. Her descriptions are subtle, but effective and her characters interact with one another and react to their surroundings just as you or I would. The only thing that kept me turning the pages was a desire to see what the characters would do next (hoping all the while that they would actually DO something).
The ending of this final book in the series seemed strange to me as well. It is sort of an epilogue to both the story of Ash and the story of the historians of the wrapper story. The last twenty or so pages seemed kind of tacky. They seemed to weaken the overall story and I could definitely have done without them. I will say, though, that the ideas espoused in the wrapper story are some of the most unique story ideas that I've seen in a long time.
If what I've described sounds like something you'd enjoy, then you probably will. It's hard not to like the characters and Gentle's handling of them. You want to see them succeed and you feel for them when they don't. However, if you're looking for a fantasy book about mercenaries that's heavy on action, I'd have to recommend either Elizabeth Moon's DEED OF PAKSENARRION trilogy or Mercedes Lackey's BY THE SWORD. Though not as sophisticated as this series, the action is a lot more rousing and there are fewer slow places.