The prophecies laid out in the first two volumes begin to take shape in The Shards, the third volume of Gary Wassner's increasingly enjoyable GemQuest saga. Over the course of the three books in his GemQuest saga, Mr. Wassner's skills as a writer are catching up to his skills as a storyteller. That is not to say he isn't a good writer, just that story is stronger than the writing.
While on the surface the saga thus far can be characterized as your typical "good guys rally to thwart the destructive plans of the evil overlord," there is more to it than that, and Mr. Wassner's skills as a storyteller prove it with each successive volume in the GemQuest saga. Part of the fun of that trope is seeing how many ways it can be spun, and in Gary's case, I like what he is doing. Colton, the evil overlord, while not seen very much, is handled very well both in the scenes he is featured, as well as the scenes when other characters try to understand the nature of his "evil." Perhaps these scenes depicting the "good" characters discussing the nature of Colton's evil are the strongest, as the characters debate his motivations and reasons. From the first volume through to this one, Wassner is revealing more about Colton and his motivations and origins. There still isn't enough told about him in this volume to gain a full measure of his motivations, but this revealing is perhaps the most tantalizing part of Wassner's traditional saga.
Another strong aspect of the overall story is how well the character's decisions and the events of previous volumes play themselves out in the subsequent volumes, including this one. For the most part, I think the characters are pretty well-drawn, even if they are overtly nice to each other. In a cast of characters as large as Wassner has created, not all the characters are going to be one's liking, in this case though, only one character really didn't sit well with me, Tamara, one of the Sisters of Parth. The Sisters of Parth were tasked with protecting an ancient map and knowledge of the land. Throughout the The Shards I found her to be a bit too naive, particularly when faced with revelations about her character. The remaining characters; however, are plausibly drawn.
There were intermittent spots where a copyedit would have enhanced the story and book, but on the whole, I like where the series is going, that is to say, there are a few different directions where the story can go. This sense of unpredictability is very appealing. I also liked some of the new creatures and monsters introduced and fleshed out in The Shards, I'm seeing hints of a couple of different myths here.
Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to where Gary takes the story in the next volume, Revenge of the Elves.
© 2005 Rob H. Bedford
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