Thursday, December 4, 2014

REVIEW: Emperor and Clown by Dave Duncan

Original Publication Year: 1991
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: A Man of his Word #4 (my Reviews for #1 and #2 and #3)
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrated by: Mil Nicholson

This is the fourth and final book in the A Man of his Word series and it has convinced me that sequels in a series are a little bit  challenging to review.  To recap:  This is an older traditional style sword and sorcery type fantasy focused primarily on two characters:  Queen Inosolan of Krasnegar who lost her throne almost as soon as she inherited it and Rap, her childhood friend and former stable boy.  For most of the series the two have been separated and have been having separate adventures while both striving to help Inos recapture her throne.  Simple premise, much adventure and magic, a little romance, a little humor and engaging characters.

In book 4, Inos and Rap have been reunited only to be quickly separated again as Inos and her new husband head to the central city of their world where the Emperor resides.  Rap is early on given a third word of power which allows him to escape from torture and imprisonment and to follow after Inos. Most of the action in the book ends up happening at the court of the Emperor.  Rap is changed by and must struggle with the immense amounts of power he now has and he also stuggles with his feelings for Inos. 

You can tell by the double use of the word ‘struggle’ above that the Rap of this installment is not quite the witty, sarcastic but compassionate young man it’s been fun to hang out with for the last three books.  It’s not quite Frodo levels of struggle but there is a lot of angst.  This was a good wrap up book but I have to admit that it was my least favorite of the series.  It didn’t seem to be quite as well constructed and paced as the other three.  The main conflicts of the series are wrapped up pretty abruptly and early on with new conflicts tacked on at the end.  There are new characters introduced (the emperor and his grandson) and it all just seemed a tad unfocused.  There also seem to be some convenient changes of heart and rule bending to make certain parts of the plot work. 

Despite the slight disappointment however, I still enjoyed the book and think the ultimate ending works just as it should.  It in no way ruined my overall fandom of the series.  The book just wasn’t as perfect as I was hoping for.

FINAL VERDICT:  A good finish to a fun and creative fantasy series, despite it being my least favorite installment.  3 out of 5 stars: ✪✪✪

Any other Dave Duncan fans out there that want to weigh in on this book or recommend any of his other series?  

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