Wednesday, June 18, 2014

REVIEW: Faerylands Forlorn by Dave Duncan

Faery Lands Forlorn (A Man of His Word, #2)Faery Lands Forlorn by Dave Duncan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 1991
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: A Man of His Word #2
Awards: None
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

I don’t know what I was reading back in 1990 when this series of books kicked off. I guess I was busy being dazzled by the huge names of fantasy that crossed my path at that time like Stephen R. Donaldson, David Eddings, Terry Brooks. The point is, I had no idea who Dave Duncan was until I ran across the first book of this series last fall featured as part of a sale on However late it might be, this second book has convinced me that I am glad to have finally met Dave Duncan

The first book, The Magic Casement, ended with young Queen Insolan of Krasnegar and her Aunt Kade being rescued /kidnapped through the Magic Casement (a portal of sorts) to the far away land of Arakkaran. They don’t know what has happened to their other companions, Rap, Little Chicken and the Sequentials (5 people/personalities sharing one existence) but they assume they have been killed by the unfriendly soldiers that were beating at the door of the Magic Casement room. In reality, Rap and the other two have also gone through the Magic Casement hoping to follow Insolan but instead they end up on the island of Faerie. The bulk of the book’s perspective is from Insolan and Rap (there are a couple chapters from Aunt Kade) and they are really focused on adjusting to their new bewildering situation and maneuvering to achieve their goals: Insolan to regain the crown of Krasnegar and Rap to find and help Insolan.

This installment really ramps up the political maneuvering and in a way is a little like a PG version of today’s more popular gritty fantasies like Joe Abercrombie and George RR. Duncan has created a really interesting world where he has drawn on the creatures of myth and perhaps imagined their origin as different races of people. For example Goblins are a violent and savage people with a slight greenish tint to their skin, Fauns are particularly hairy, Djinn are desert dwelling folk with a reddish tint to their skin, eyes and hair etc… The most powerful race are the Imps with their Impire which seems a bit like the Roman and the British Empire rolled into one. The world also has a unique magic system based on magical words that are passed on as people are dying or when they are forced. The possession of one word gives the possessor some heightened skills with a touch of magic. Rap possesses one word and he can calm and control animals and also see people and things for a great distance around him without using his eyes. The more words you know, up to a maximum of four the more powerful you are. Each region of the world is also ruled, by a very powerful sorcerer called a Warden. Insolan and Rap are trying to negotiate a way through all of these powers and also at times seem to be pawns in the political games being played.

So the premise isn’t terribly original – it’s basically a quest fantasy with a throne as the sought after item – but the originality of the world and magic system and the strong likeable characters keep it from being too blah. Insolan (and her Aunt Kade too) are strong female characters and I have really appreciated Insolan’s journey from a somewhat bratty selfish kid at the beginning of the first book to a young woman who has embraced the importance of duty. She doesn’t want to achieve the throne through marrying and become a figurehead while her husband rules but she is also willing to make that sacrifice if it means it will save her people from a war. The country of Arrakaran is modeled after a strict Middle Eastern society where men have harems and women must cover themselves so Insolan has a particular challenge in making herself heard and asserting her independence. Rap as the extraordinary stable boy is also in an unenviable position, traveling in an unknown country with a Goblin who wants to kill him very painfully and the sequentials who can’t really be trusted. Rap’s true role in the bigger picture is still rather mysterious which keeps things interesting.

Final Verdict: Basically, I’m glad to have found this older series.   I'm not obsessed with it but will definitely be reading book three at the first opportunity.

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