Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Warlock


Today, I completed the reading of Warlock, the third book in Wilbur Smith's ancient Egyptian tetrology. It is a relatively lengthy book coming in at 735 paperback pages and so it took me a while to finish it. But I used some of my precious morning reading time for the past two days to supplement my normal reading hours in order to get it done. That sounds bad...like I was hoping for it to be over with. That's not at all the case because I really like these characters as well as Wilbur Smith's writing.

This book, chronologically, is a direct follow-up to the first book in the series, River God which ranks among my all time favorite historical novels. The second book of the series, The Seventh Scroll actually takes place in the present day and concerns some archeologists/anthroplogists that become embroiled in a mysterious adventure dealing with the events of the first novel. So now, here in the third novel, the author returns to the era of Taita, his protagonist of River God, attempting to recreate the magic (and the hugely popular reviews) of that book. So the question is...did he achieve that? Was he able to garner the forces of whatever muse inspired him that other time?

Pretty close. This isn't the super shining star that was River God but it is a shining star none the less. I think there are two main differences between the two novels that led this novel to be inferior to the first. One is that it isn't the first. Had this one been the first of a series or a stand-alone novel it might well have been held to the same high esteem. But since we have River God to which to compare it, it loses a little bit in the originality department. But not much I have to say. The prose is equally well done and the pace of the novel is spot on. It reads easily like a quick novel despite it's length. There were only a couple of spots where I wished events would speed up. The plot itself is not unique, basically a story of bad guys usurping power from the rightful good guys and how the good guys make things right and come back into power. But since the good guy's army is always outnumbered, he and his allies must use intelligence to find ways to win battles. It sort of reminded me of "Braveheart" in the numbers of ways outnumbered armies can find cool ways to win.

The other main difference that makes this novel slightly inferior to River God is that it is told in third person point of view. This is probably necessary because this time Taita is not always where the action is occurring. We have multiple major characters all over Egypt making it impossible for 1st person POV. But the author loses the intimacy that comes with 1st person POV. In River God we really know the character of Taita and come to understand his foibles as well as his matter-of-fact superiority to those around him. We know his thoughts when he acts as puppet master whereas in this book, he seems more aloof and somehow, less interesting. There are times, especially during the climactic scenes near the end where he is hardly involved.

All in all I enjoyed this book as a darn good read despite the inevitable comparisons I had to make to an actual masterpiece. The next, and I think last book in this series is The Quest which has not received good reviews although I will be reading it for sure. Perhaps the author went to the well one too many times? I'll let you know.

I also finished the next short story in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew collection, "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands." First published in 1982 in the horror anthology "Shadows 4", it is a story told by an elderly man about a poker game he once played that included a man that would not shake hands with anybody else. After that man wins a big hand, the loser enthusiastically shakes his hand in congratulations, causing the horror that ensues. Turns out there was a curse placed on him by an Indian shaman which results in his touch causing death to any living thing. This was an interesting story, more for the way Mr King crafted it rather than for the plot itself. It seemed almost Lovecraftian in style, the words painting the suspense and the mystery for what turned out to be a relatively straight forward story.

Next up: Daughter of Kura by Debra Austin, another Amazon Vine pre-publication offering.

2 comments:

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