Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lessek's Key: The Eldarn Sequence Book 2

SPOILER ALERT! If you have read The 1st book in the Eldarn Sequence: The Hickory Staff, and wish to read on be warned this review contains spoilers. I’ll try to keep it as spoiler free as possible, but do not wish to ruin anyone’s future enjoyment of the books.

My first shock in Lessek’s Key actually came before I even started the story. Readers are informed in the introduction that one of the two authors; Jay Gordon, had contracted Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and unfortunately lost his battle with the illness late in 2005 and passed away before the publication of Lessek’s Key. Gordon’s co author and son-in-law; Robert Scott, completed the trilogy with the assistance of Gordon’s notes.

I wondered if the loss of one of the authors would significantly affect the trilogy. On reflection, not greatly. It appears that Jay Gordon’s part was largely written before his untimely passing, and he left extensive notes which obviously helped Robert Scott a great deal.

Lessek’s Key opens promisingly. As revealed at the end of The Hickory Staff, Steven Taylor has made it back to our world and brought Nerak with him. The search for the key and Steven’s battle with the massively powerful, body stealing Nerak is well written and gripping. As with the first book these sequences occasionally veer into horror territory, but are still compulsively readable.

The action, or rather lack of it, back on Eldarn is not so well handled. There are 3 separate groups in this world, all fighting against Nerak and frustratingly not aware of each others existence or movements for most of the book. One group comprises the brilliant young archer Garec, who now he has decided not to use his talent with a bow has become largely deadweight, and spends most of his time in a state of deep depression about everyone he has ever killed or may kill in the future, it becomes very tiresome to read. Meanwhile Mark Jenkins has turned into a vengeful, intolerant, rage filled killing machine. Former Larion Senator Gilmour/Fantus alternately performs feats of incredible magic or makes the most elemental mistakes. They added a smuggler called Rodler for reasons I never understood, the character added almost nothing to the story before predictably dying.

Across the Ravenian Sea we have the other two groups, along the coast are former Malakasian soldier Brexan and former partisan; Sallax. At times I wasn’t even sure why the duo were included. Their actions had very little bearing on the major story, they were not connected to either of the other two groups and they spent most of their time farcically allowing their major quarry; merchant cum spy Carpello, to escape their clutches before realising that he had very little information of worth and killed him.

I found the 3rd group the most interesting. Of the three American refugees Hannah Sorenson has always been the best written and the most engaging. This continued to be the case in Lessek’s Key. Her companions; another former Larion Senator Alen/Kantu was very similar in talent and thought to Gilmour, although his lapses in talent can at least be blamed on him being a recovering alcoholic. The giant mute Churn was a solid presence and rather useful when a feat of superhuman strength was called for and I found former thief and aspiring healer Hoyt amusing and surprisingly resourceful.

I couldn’t help wanting the three groups to meet and pool their resources, but it didn’t happen, not in this book anyway. The first part of the book and the last part are tight and contain action and plot advancement, unfortunately the main middle section contains a lot of introspection and amateur psychology mixed with a plenty of that aimless wandering about the countryside that many fantasy authors seem to think readers find fascinating.

Too much of Lessek’s Key is filler. This could have been a tight, action packed duology, instead they’ve attempted to turn it into a lengthy trilogy which has resulted in one unnecessary volume. If you’re going to read this trilogy I’d love to tell you to skip Lessek’s Key and go straight to the concluding book; The Larion Senators, however if you do that you would wind up missing some key elements to the story which would make the final volume incomprehensible.

Having said all that I do intend to read The Larion Senators and hope that it can bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. The trilogy does definitely have promise, but it gets buried under the unnecessary padding sometimes.

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