bunn (bunn) wrote,

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Random book notes: Time of the Dark, Barbara Hambly

I'm not sure why I haven't read this book before. It was published right in the middle of my 'read all fiction in the library and local bookshop' phase, and, being in the swords and sorcery genre by a reasonably successful author, is the kind of thing that I would have expect to have read. But for some reason I haven't: perhaps no volumes of this book penetrated as far as North Devon in the 1980s. Or possibly the copy that was in our library had the same cover as the one I've just read, which would be enough to put anyone off. It's not my all time worst fantasy cover of all the books I own, but it's pretty dire. Anyway...

Plot, in case anyone reading this hasn't read it before: the baby heir to a Realm besieged by dark forces (The Dark) is snatched away at the 11th hour before the city falls, by a wizard, who escapes with him interdimensionally to California. There the wizard meets a Phd student, and a person who is repeatedly described in the book as a 'drifter' (the 'drifter' has a job designing custom artwork for motorbikes, which in my book is a real job involving considerable talent and expertise.) Anyway, after a certain amount of beer drinking and fighting with a pursuing Dark, he takes them back to The Realm, where they get caught up in a refugee exodus and spend the rest of the book learning to do magic and fight with swords.

First impressions: just how startlingly unoriginal it is. It's like Lord of the Rings had a bastard child by Wizard of Earthsea, which was then forcibly interbred with Thomas Covenant. Fortunately the Covenantish language is not dominant, but I am afraid that the word 'eldritch' is used repeatedly.

There is an incredibly clever wizard with twinking blue eyes who is an object of awe and some suspicion. Horses, as advised in the Tough Guide to fantasyland, are amazing gadgets that just go on and on with no visible need for rest or support for their 'slender legs'. Actually, so are humans: I think on one occasion one of them goes 3 days full of violent physical endeavour without sleep, and afterwards, is merely tired and grumpy, rather than, say, totally incapacitated and well, given the risks and the body count among the surrounding cast over those three days, dead.

In fact there is so much of this kind of Fantasyland thing that looking back, I'm almost wondering if the whole book is written as some sort of allusive joke that I failed to get at the time...

There are annoying continuity errors. I liked the scene setting detail where one character describes to another how expensive windows are, and how they have to be carried from one house to another when you travel, because of their cost (though would this work? Windows, expensive no doubt, but also, surely , supremely breakable...) But it was then annoying when the same two character get trapped a couple of chapters later in an abandoned woodstore, and hear the sound of the baddies *tapping on the window glass*!

Oh, and the wizard is called Ingold, and every time he comes in, I want to ask him what he's got to do with Christ. (Oh, OK. That was Ingeld).

So if it was that bad, why am I writing about it? I don't know exactly, but somehow despite being in so many ways, not very good, it was actually, seen as a whole, very entertaining and really not bad at all. OK, it may be a bastard child, but at least half the genes are thoroughbred quality, and maybe that's enough. And the story does have a certain something, and the characters are distinctive and likeable (admittedly, some of them, distinctive and stolen).

I have ordered the next 2 books in the trilogy. (Of course it is a trilogy. What else could it possibly be?)

Edit: if you are thinking: 'she just said she had all this work, what is she doing reading trashy fantasy and posting about it?' then you are entirely justified. I have no excuse or explanation, I'm just lazy...

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