Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chronicles of the Raven

Nightchild
James Barclay

I picked this book up on three successive trips to Finland and each time put it back down. Last time I finally succumbed to its alluring green and black cover.

The story follows a band of warriors, The Raven, who saved the world sometime in the past and then disbanded. They reform to find the wife and daughter of one of their members. Unfortunately, everyone else in the world also wants to find them, and nearly all of them want to kill the little girl because her great, uncontrolled power is destroying the magic and the land. Lots of battles of all sorts ensue, quite a lot of people die, several narrow escapes happen. Meanwhile every temper tantrum of the girl manifests as a major natural disaster in the world - and she has lots of temper tantrums.

It is perhaps a problem that this is the third book in a series I have never heard of; there are a lot of references which are never explained and yet which are central to the plot, and I don't ever get a strong feel for who any of the characters are. Presumably this is all laid out in prior books, but I unfortunately do not know.

For instance, would one of the main characters really give away vital secret information in the hearing of a known enemy? I don't know him well enough to tell, but it reeked of plot device, and lost my suspension of disbelief. Too many times unexplained complications foundered them, too many times elaborately powerful and yet barely referenced characters swooped in and saved them. And I did not understand what happened in the end.

The world is overwhelmingly rich and has some really interesting ideas, such as The Protectors, an army of men whose souls reside together and bodies have input from everyone. They are awesome fighters and interesting characters. Unfortunately they have a lame name. So does The Unknown, the main fighter-dude of The Raven. Many of the sentences are ambiguous or downright confusing because of their grammar or word choices, and there were many typos in the text.

There is room here for a great tale, and, perhaps, shored up by the information in the first two books, it would be one. But alone it does not deliver what the lovely green cover seemed to indicate.

2 comments:

Nightmare Trinity said...

I guess the saying about judging books by the cover is true, alas...

I generally don't like Capitalising Important Nouns, and contrived plot devices are Bad. It sounds like a frustrating book to read... the ideas could be good, but are just executed wrong.

Asea said...

Precisely! The worldbuilding is good, and it would be really fun to play with it, but the storytelling is not well done. And it felt a lot like the author wanted to make sure every single cool thing from their world got into the story somewhere. There were WAY too many characters with very loose connections to each other by the end.