David Palter Reviews #1
Posted Apr 6, 2008
Last Updated Apr 6, 2008
Reviews are, of course, one person's opinion. Nonetheless, David Palter's reviews are always intelligent, and from my point of view, perceptive and fair. These are especially interesting because they compare several epic series. Now, here's David.
I recently finsihed reading the Sword Of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, which (if you haven't been reading it) is 12 volumes long, of which eleven out of twelve are quite long, so it amounts to a tremendous amount of wordage. Compared to the Lord of the Rings, it is perhaps six times as long. Some aspects of this series annoy me; in particular, the author has strong political opinions (rather similar to those of Ayn Rand) and he is trying too hard to make his political point, rather than just telling a story in a way that unobtrusively illuminates some political reality. And even besides that, there are two serious inconsistencies that I could complain of.
But despite these flaws, the work has tremendous narrative power and imagination, it is very richly conceived and on the whole, compellingly told. I consider it to be the most interesting of the various epic fantasies that have been written in the spirit of Lord of the Rings (which, however, remains the most perfectly conceived of the epic fantasies).
JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, which is as you undoubtedly know the most popular work of fiction ever written, is too juvenile to achieve true greatness, and indeed, even its immense popularity may not last, I think of it more as a fad. As fantasy goes, it is mediocre. There was a brief time when "Herman's Hermits" was the most popular group in rock & roll music; they are now correctly remembered as a minor footnote in the evolution of that musical genre.
I also want to mention a series by Stephen King, the Dark Tower series, which is seven volumes long, all long books, hence, almost as long as the Sword of Truth series. This series also has some aspects that annoy me. Even though fantasy knows no limits, and an author can invent anything he likes, there are some aspects of this series that are too unbelievable for me to easily suspend my disbelief. I think that King goes a bit too far in his departure from reality. However, aside from that, it is a fascinating and powerful series. As with the Sword of Truth, or the Lord of the Rings, there is a very convincing feeling of a profound struggle between good and evil. King is also immensely imaginative. Technically he is a better writer than Goodkind. Still, I found the Goodkind series, the Sword of Truth, to be slightly more entertaining than the King series. Both, however, are quite remarkable pieces of work. For those of us who always wanted something that could re-capture the magic of Lord of the Rings, both of these series do a very good job, and do it with enough originality that there is no risk of feeling that one is just reading an altered version of Lord of the Rings.
Another popular fantasy series is the Wheel of Time by the recently deceased Robert Jordan (the final volume is still incomplete). This one is distinctly inferior to the Sword of Truth (which it in many ways resembles) and it will be even if a posthumous collaboration completes the series (which I expect to happen). I don't recommend it, even to avid fantasy fans. You can do better. And of course there is the Thomas Covenant series, which is still being written — volume two of the third trilogy has recently been published. It is an interesting series but I do feel a certain sense of exhaustion with it. The first two trilogies were enough, the third trilogy is too much.
Anyway, for we Lord of the Rings fans, there is lots to read these days. -- David