Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Last Guardian of Everness by John C. Wright


The Last Guardian of Everness is the first of a series and, as such, has that annoying way of stopping dead in the middle if the action. I must say I prefer series which also act as standalones, resolving at least the temporary crisis by the end, even if that greatest of trilogies, Lord of the Rings, twice leaves its readers with a cliffhanger; I have Tolkien to thank for this most irritating precedent. The book is a little of a mixed bag – I'm not convinced that the story unfolds in the most coherent fashion. Or was it me? And does it matter whether I got bored or confused first? Either way, the story rather lost me about two-thirds of the way through, although I persevered to the end. It's set in the modern world, in which the Waylock family have for a thousand years guarded a gate against evil powers waiting to invade, and combines myths and legends from many sources: Grail legends, Greek gods, shape-changing beasts (unusually, the Selkies are some of the bad guys). When the youngest Waylock, Galen, becomes convinced that he has see and heard the signs which herald imminent invasion, he becomes the mechanism by which it can take place, allowing his ancestor Azrael, who should have been imprisoned for eternity, to come back to lead the invading army. The main characters are reasonably sympathetic, if a trifle two-dimensional, and I will probably read the next volume, although I can't help feeling that I would benefit from a prologue which begins: "Previously, in Everness..."

5 comments:

  1. I haven't come across this, but I do know what you mean about the frustrations of series that work in this way. From a narratologists point of view the option taken here is actually the easier one because the author only has to control one story-line. The moment you try to take the stand alone line you have to have a workable plot for each of the books as well as an overall one - much more difficult to make work. This is one of the real plus points for Rowling. She does actually bring it off.

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  2. You're right that I'm expecting a great deal of authors, and perhaps should have sounded more charitable, particularly as the series cliffhanger in television is pretty much the norm, these days. But I'm old-fashioned enough to like a bit of resolution at the end of a book (much experimental literature thus passing me by altogether).

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  3. I haven't read any of John C. Wright's fiction but I am really wanting to read his Chaos trilogy. They look and sound very interesting.

    And not to be argumentative, but Tolkien had nothing to do with LOTR being a trilogy. He wrote it as one book and it was released as a trilogy by the publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin. The reason given is that paper shortage after the war meant that paper cost was high and it was a great risk to release that big of a volume to stores. That more than anything is why there aren't any true endings to the first two book and is why the page count continues with each book rather than starting over at page 1. (You can tell I've watched the extras on the LOTR dvds too many times! :) )

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  4. Carl, it may not have been Tolkien's intention to write it as a trilogy, but the effect on subsequent writers is still the same, unless like you they all watch the extras on the DVD. I'm very glad you pointed it out, though, because after I'd written that sentence I was thinking that it was actually quite a surprising thing to have done. You couldn't quite imagine a bard saying "thus, Njal [or whoever] the deceiver, under doom of death...but you'll have to wait for the next part of the saga because I haven't composed it yet", so it was hard to envisage Tolkien thinking that way.

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