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Review of the Lyonesse Triology

Posted by phduffy on 2004-01-03 19:58:14
2 forum posts
I recently read the Lyonesse trilogy by Jack Vance.
The three books are:
Lyonesse (Suldrun's Garden)
The Green Pearl

Jack Vance is a sf writer who started writing in the late 40's. His most famous novels are probably the Dying Earth books and the Demon Princes Novels. He is famous for being one of, if not the, most literary of all sf authors. His novels are full of exotic characters and vivid descriptions.

The first novel of the trilogy was written in 1983, so not that long after Terry Brooks showed that there was good money in making fantasy trilogies. However, this novel is very different from Brooks, Edding, Jordan, Martin and even Tolkien. While those novels go for Epic or Heroic, these novels are much more lyrical, in that they seem to evoke fairy tales.

Furthermore, while most novels attempt to follow one character or a series of characters, these novels are told from multiple viewpoints. However, some characters get a chapter devoted to them, and are then forgotten. At times a character will get a diverted on a side quest, which is then told almost in the form on an ancient fable. A character may have three challenges to overcome, and then they will return to a more sane world. At times it feels like Vance is writing as though he were one of the faerie creatures described in his novels: Flighty, with little regard for humanity (as major characters die), and whimsical, with the frequent changes in viewpoints.

The basic plot of the trilogy is that King Casmir of Lyonesse wants to reunite the lands of the Elder Isles, an island west of Europe and just South of Britain. The first novel starts with Casmir attempting to come up with a way to take over the isles, while his daughter Suldrun wants no part of the intrigue and arranged marriages that go with being a Princess. This pisses Casmir off.

The great thing about these novels is how Vance will drop hints, which you'll totally forget about, and then bring them back up 100 pages, or even 2 novels later. While the final outcoming of the series isn't that unexpected, the path to get there is quite original and interesting. While at times the books can drag (which is a tendency of books that skip from viewpoint to viewpoint), and the ending seemed slightly rushed, overall this was a quite interesting, and original, read.

  2 forum posts