So when this fat hardcover novel arrived in my mailbox I wasn't as excited as I would have liked to be. 612 pages. That's a lot of book when your head is barely above water!
Furthermore, the cover to The Shadow and Night looks very old school, like a 60s era science fiction. And yet, in the upper right hand corner it says: A fantasy in the tradition of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkein. Science fiction? Fantasy? Which is it?
The cover copy leans toward science fiction:
Imagine a future that today's generation can only dream of. A trillion people live under the gentle rule of the Assembly on over a thousand Made Worlds. Peace and stability have reigned for nearly twelve thousand years, and war and evil are merely ancient history. But all that is about to change.
On Farholme--a Made World at the edge of the Assembly--strange and troubling things are happening. Slowly, incredulously, a handful of men and women come to recognize the unthinkable: Evil has returned once more and it must be fought. Forester Merral D'Avanos and his friends are entrusted with the daunting task of confronting their world's elusive enemy.
Now isolated from the rest of the Assembly, Farholme must fight its battles alone. It falls to Merral to lead the untried forces of Farholme into war against opponents well-hidden and armed with strange powers. Yet even as he faces extraordinary and terrifying foes, Merral finds he has an unexpected enemy--himself.
Definitely science fiction. So I'm a little confused about why the hat-tip to the fantasy works of Lewis and Tolkein. Sure, lots of us read across both genres, but they aren't really the same thing, though the lines blur at times. This book isn't blurry in that way. It's sf.
I'll be honest. I had trouble getting into this story, and I'm not sure it was only because of how busy my life is. I want to talk about the basic premise of the novel tomorrow, and that's where we'll get into whether or not it could have been written any other way.
The prologue--which I'm rarely fond of--is pretty much a historical data dump from twelve thousand years before the story opens, with an omniscient, active narrator. It starts with:
This is the tale of how, at last, evil returned to the Assembly of Worlds, and how one man, Merral Stefan D'Avanos, became caught up in the fight against it.
But to tell Merral's tale we must begin with the Seeding of the planet of Farholme in the year of our Lord 3140...(etc)
And it goes on for five pages with the history of the Assembly. Could the story be done without it? Honestly, I think it could have. I think it would have been stronger to just put us in Merral's world and reveal bits of the history as it became relevant.
That's just me. I do not know yet why I care about Merral, or even if I ever will. So I don't much care--yet--how his world came into being.
So let's skip the prologue! :P Chapter one starts like this:
Merral Stefan D'Avanos crested the snow-flecked ridge in the northeastern corner of Menaya, the vast northern continent of Farholme, and reigned in his mount. The winter's sun had just set in a great stained sphere of orange gold. He stared at the expanse of gray hills and darker, mist-filled valleys stretching northward to the ice-edged needles of the ramparts of the Lannar Crater.
Above the Rim Ranges, layer upon layer of cloud strands gleamed every shade between yellow and purple in the dying sunlight. Merral tried to absorb all he could of the sights, sounds, and smells of dusk. Down below the ridge, away to his right, crows preparing to roost were wheeling noisily around a pine tree. Far to his left, there was a moving, snuffling grayness under the edges of the birch forests that he knew was a herd of deer. Hanging in the cold fresh air was the smell of winter, new trees, and a new earth.
The beauty of it moved Merral's heart, and he raised his head and cried out with joy, "To the Lord of all worlds be praise and honor and glory and power!"
The words echoed briefly and a gust of wind out of the north dragged them away, down through the trees and bare rocks.
Silent in awed worship, he sat there for long minutes until another chill gust made him shiver, as much in anticipation of actual cold. He bent down to his horse. "Now, Graceful," he murmured, "good girl, onward."
This isn't my favorite type of opening, starting with description. And thus began several weeks of reading a bit here and bit there, when I had time because the story didn't rivet me.
NOW I am on page 440 of the aforementioned 612 and yes, I am interested in Merral and his story. It took awhile--almost 150 pages, to be honest, that I wouldn't have got through if it wasn't for the fact of a book tour coming. So tomorrow we'll talk about the book premise and whether or not the story could be told any other way. I'm not sure it could.
Meanwhile, have a look at what some of my tour-mates are saying about this novel by Chris Walley.
Brandon Barr, Jim Black, Justin Boyer, Grace Bridges, Jackie Castle, Carol Bruce Collett , CSFF Blog Tour, Gene Curtis, D. G. D. Davidson, Chris Deanne, Janey DeMeo, Jeff Draper, April Erwin, Marcus Goodyear, Rebecca Grabill , Jill Hart, Katie Hart, Michael Heald, Timothy Hicks , Christopher Hopper, Heather R. Hunt, Jason Joyner, Kait, Carol Keen, Mike Lynch, Margaret, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Melissa Meeks, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Mirtika or Mir's Here, Pamela Morrisson, Eve Nielsen, John W. Otte, John Ottinger , Deena Peterson, Rachelle, Steve Rice, Ashley Rutherford, Chawna Schroeder, James Somers, Rachelle Sperling, Donna Swanson, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Robert Treskillard, Jason Waguespac, Laura Williams, Timothy Wise