Monday, August 13

Family Fantasy (rated 4 stars)

by David Anthony Durham

All I know of fantasy is “Lord of the Rings” and, I guess, Harry Potter but I’m talking about the sword wielding, sorcery bound, warrior fantasy.

I started to read this b/c the author David Anthony Durham is black, I remember good reviews of his “Pride of Carthage” and this book, the first of a triolgy, was getting compared to Lord of the Rings. Maybe because I am a novice at fantasy or maybe because of the writing I had a little trouble getting into it. I had trouble with naming schemes and found myself getting confused about who was part of what “race”. About 150 pages into this 600 page door stop I was hooked. I found myself exciting about moving to the next chapter. Each chapter tells a different point of view and rotates through the 6 or so primary players.

It is the story of a prosperous empire brought down by a surprise assassination of the king and then the use of biological warfare to wipe everybody else out. The three of the four children, ranging from 10 to 17 or so, of the king are scattered to the winds. The rest of the story follows the children coming of age as distinctly different but equally special people. The youngest girl is the voice of a goddess who discovers she has amazing sword skills. The youngest boy is a pirate but also a young leader. The oldest boy becomes the rallying point for regaining the kingdom but changing it for the better and the oldest girl is the concubine who falls in love with the man who orchestrated the takeover of her empire but ultimately becomes a major force to be reckoned with.

A lot happens but what I liked was the ethnic landscape the author paints and his transition into the forthcoming second part. The “Known World” consists of a variety of ethnicities from the pale, Nordic-like Mein to the tropical, pacific island-like Talay. He doesn’t go into lots of details about their cultures but you can feel and see the differences. His set-up for future stories is wonderful. He starts planting seeds and signs that some things are happening that he can’t fully explain yet. You see characters do things that obviously take the story in a different direction but you don’t know their complete motivation. It’s nicely done. It looks like it will be one grand adventure, each part distinct but ultimately one big tale.

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