21 August, 2013

Review - The Ships of Merior (The Wars of Light and Shadow #2) by Janny Wurts

There are a number of rather large fantasy series' which started in the 90's and continued through the last few years. They all started slowly, but have gone on to great popularity. They each defy the logic of the trilogy by doubling and tripling (and almost quintupling in one case) that tried and true number. 

The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. These are some of the biggest names of the fantasy genre. These are commonly grouped together as favorites, especially in my book. Mention one and the others are not too far behind. Each layered in complexity and characters, epic in world-building, and all are included in NPR's top 100 science fiction and fantasy books.

The more I read this series, the more I can't understand why The Wars of Light and Shadow series is not a name synonymous with those others I've mentioned. How can it be that a series this rich in characters and complex in plot is passed over by so many people that obviously have shown to love a challenging series?

With only two books left of a planned 11 books (really 10 as I'll explain below), I certainly hope this picks up and more people are exposed to such a wonderful series.

And while I ponder such things, I do realize how different this series is. While the current trend seems to be that it's not fantasy if women aren't getting raped, this series does lack men having their way with the fairer sex. While new fantasy is cynical and hopeless, The Wars of Light and Shadow is a hopeful series that displays the good in humanity as well as many of the gray areas which inherently follow a complex fantasy series.

But it's not all serious. Just like the aforementioned series, tWoLaS has plenty of humor mixed in:

"The Mad Prophet informed the man sent down to fetch him that he had never stayed sober for more than a fortnight, even as a babe at his mother's knee. Three months was a lifetime record, Dakar insisted, as if astounded to still be alive.
And another situation, also involving The Mad Prophet, Dakar, who's a terrible person, but also one of my favorites in the series:

"The carter purpled and swung. The suet-round face of his target vanished as Dakar ducked and fled beneath the saddle girth. Bunched knuckles smacked against he barrel-sprung ribs of the horse, who responded from both ends with a grunt and a fart like an explosion.

'Oh my,' cried Dakar, stifling a chortle. 'Your wife's nose must look like a pudding if that's your reaction to her kisses.'"
Arithon s'Ffalenn, one of the main characters of the series and one of two brothers whose in whose hands hold the fate of the world of Athera, is a tragic character filled with subtelty and emotion. Arithon s'Ffalenn is a character not unlike Batman at the end of The Dark Knight. We all know the iconic line:

He has done some terrible things, which I'll discuss after the spoiler warning, and yet must continue to go forward with plans set in motion. Here follow some spoilers, unless you want me to keep writing in vague references that are oh so informative, so I'll give proper warning...

Spoilers ahead for book 1:

Arithon s'Ffalenn is a ruling prince who came to Athera from a splinter world and who with his brother's help defeated the Mistwraith that blinded the continent of Athera from the sun. In doing so, both were afflicted with the Mistwraith's final retribution - a geas set upon both which would cause them each to seek out the other's downfall.

Due to this geas, both have committed terrible things. But, blind to this geas, though not unaffected, Lysaer (Arithon's brother) convinces almost the entire continent to rise up against Arithon. This is part of the genius of this, because you still root for Lysaer even though you don't root for what he is doing.

Arithon, on the other hand, has a mission to undertake despite the fact that he not only feels the complete blame for the atrocities committed in the first book (which were terrible, but provoked by the Mistwraith's geas). His compassion is second to none and even though he is reviled throughout the continent, he is the hero they need to defeat those forces who wish to destroy.

End Spoilers

I could keep going on and on, but I will stop for now. I could keep talking about the characters, ones you're rooting against, who broke your heart when they were killed. I could keep going about the subtlety of character, especially of the two brothers but including all of them, and emotions displayed through their interactions that are at times tragic and others light-hearted. 

I could keep going about how this series was robbed of NPR's list of the top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books, The Wars of Light and Shadow continue to get robbed of its rightful place at the top of the fantasy genre. Evoking emotions you may have never felt before and filled with the perfect combination of humor and despair, this series is not to be missed.

The Ships of Merior [US - $1.99 Kindle] [UK], while initially planned to be one book was split into two books by the publishers comprising this book and Warhost of Vastmark. Even though it is only essentially half a book, the quality is top notch and the ending is one heck of a ride. 

5 out of 5 Stars (brilliant, complex fantasy)

The Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts (read in red)
Arc I 
1) The Curse of the Mistwraith (review)
Arc II: The Ships of Merior 
2) The Ships of Merior 
3) The Warhost of Vastmark 
Arc III: Alliance of Light 
4) Fugitive Prince 
5) Grand Conspiracy 
6) Peril's Gate 
7) Traitor's Knot 
8) Stormed Fortress 
Arc IV: Sword of the Canon 
9) Initiate's Trial 
10) Destiny's Conflict (forthcoming) 
Arc V 
11) Song of the Mysteries (forthcoming)

Link: Guest Post by Janny Wurts on The Wars of Light and Shadow


Bob/Sally said...

The series absolutely gets overlooked, no doubt about it. I think it's because it's such a dense story, with so many layers, and so much going on. Wurts demands that you take the time to immerse yourself in her tales, to get a feel for the world, and to think about what you're reading. Plus, she really blurs the lines between protagonist and antagonist, which I think makes some readers uncomfortable.

I'm guilty of being behind in my reading, but I love the series so far.

Bryce L. said...

Yeah, I finally jumped back in and it's so good to be back. I really feel like the world has shown to have fans of complicated fantasy - look at the hordes of Malazan fans - so it should be time for this series to shine you would think.