Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: The Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1 of The Lord of the Rings)

The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), J. R. R. Tolkien. Paperback, 544 pages. 

Awards: International Fantasy Award

Summary: The grand-daddy of epic high fantasy, The Fellowship of the Ring is really the first section of what Tolkien intended to be one large book. Today, it is the third best-selling novel ever written. Look to this work for the introduction of orcs, elves, dwarves, and wizards into popular fiction; but Tolkien's great work is most important, and more interesting, as a seminal example of "mythopoeia," or myth-making. For a more detailed summary, click here.

     He stepped up to the rock again, and lightly touched with his staff the silver star in the middle beneath the sign of the anvil.
Annon edhellen, edro hi ammen!

Fennas nogothrim, lasto beth lammen!
he said in a commanding voice. The silver lines faded, but the blank grey stone did not stir.
     Many times he repeated these words in different order, or varied them. Then he tried other spells, one after another, speaking now faster and louder, now soft and slow. Then he spoke many single words of Elvish speech. Nothing happened. The cliff towered into the night, the countless stars were kindled, the wind blew cold, and the doors stood fast.
     Again Gandalf approached the wall, and lifting up his arms he spoke in tones of command and rising wrath. Edro, edro! he cried, and struck the rock with his staff. Open, open! he shouted, and followed it with the same command in every language that had ever been spoken in the West of Middle-earth. Then he threw his staff on the ground, and sat down in silence.


Writing Quality: 6/10

Depth of Concept: 9/10

Rounded Characters: 6/10

Well-Developed World: 10/10

Page Turner: 8/10

Kept Me Thinking: 7/10

Overall Recommendation: 9/10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King (1958), T. H. White. Paperback, 639 pages. 

Summary:  A humorous and poignant retelling of the legend of King Arthur and his knights. The first book, The Sword in the Stone, offers a lighthearted introduction to King Arthur, and was the basis for the Disney movie of the same name. The material grows a bit more adult as Arthur matures and struggles to maintain order in his kingdom, and to negotiate the tricky relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere. For a more detailed summary, click here.

     "Testimonials," said Merlyn, holding out his hand.
     Instantly there were some heavy tablets in it, signed by Aristotle, a parchment signed by Hecate, and some type-written duplicates signed by the Master of Trinity, who could not remember having met him. All these gave Merlyn an excellent character.
     "He had 'em up his sleeve," said Sir Ector wisely. "Can you do anything else?"
     "Tree," said Merlyn. At once there was an enormous mulberry growing in the middle of the courtyard, with its luscious blue fruits ready to patter down. This was all the more remarkable, since mulberries only became popular in the days of Cromwell.
     "They do it with mirrors," sad Sir Ector.
     "Snow," said Merlyn. "And an umbrella," he added hastily.


Writing Quality: 7/10

Depth of Concept: 7/10

Rounded Characters: 8/10

Well-Developed World: 7/10

Page Turner: 7/10

Kept Me Thinking: 7/10

Overall Recommendation: 9/10

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review: The Sword of Shannara (Book 1 of The Sword of Shannara)

The Sword of Shannara (1977), Terry Brooks. Paperback, 736 pages. 

Summary: A young man bears the responsibility of finding and wielding an ancient artifact against a mysterious, dark spirit. For a more detailed summary, click here.

     "I can't believe we're completely lost! Isn't there any way we can get our bearings?"
     "I'm open to suggestions." His friend smiled humorlessly, stretching as he, too, dropped his pack to the rough ground and sat down beside the brooding Flick. "What's the trouble, old Flick? Have I gotten you into it again?" 
     Flick glanced over at him angrily; but looking into the gray eyes, he quickly reconsidered his dislike of the man. There was genuine concern there, and even a trace of sadness at the thought that he had failed them. With rare affection, Flick reached over and placed a comforting hand on the other's shoulder, nodding silently. Suddenly, Shea leaped up and flung off his own pack, hastily rummaging through its contents. 
     "The stones can help us," he cried.


Writing Quality: 3/10

Depth of Concept: 2/10

Rounded Characters: 4/10

Well-Developed World: 4/10

Page Turner: 6/10

Kept Me Thinking: 3/10

Overall Recommendation: 3/10

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Wizard's First Rule (Book 1 of The Sword of Truth)

Wizard's First Rule (1994), Terry Goodkind. Paperback, 576 pages. 

Summary: A young man encounters wizards, demons, dragons, prophecies, torture, and love interests on the way to uncovering the truth about his own special abilities and his heroic potential. For a more detailed summary, click here.

    Richard started over, keeping his voice low. "I was up there on a hill, above the lake. I saw you walking on the path by the shore. There are some men following you."
    She betrayed no emotion, but continued to hold his gaze. "How many?"
     He thought her question strange, but answered it. "Four."
     The color drained from her face.
     She turned her head, surveying the woods behind her, scanning the shadows briefly, then looked back to him once more, her green eyes searching his.
     "Do you choose to help me?" Except for her color, her exquisite features gave no hint as to her emotions. 
     Before his mind could form a thought, he heard himself say, "Yes." 
     Her countenance softened. "What would you have us do?"
     "There's a small trail that turns off here. If we take it, and they stay on this one, we can be away." 
     "And if they don't? If they follow our trail?" 
     "I'll hide our tracks." He was shaking his head, trying to reassure her. "They won't follow. Look, there's no time...." 
     "If they do?" she cut him off. "Then what is your plan?" 
     He studied her face a moment. "Are they very dangerous?" 
     She stiffened. "Very." 
     The way she said the word made him have to force himself to breathe again. For an instant, he saw a look of blind terror pass across her eyes.


Writing Quality: 2/10

Depth of Concept: 3/10

Rounded Characters: 3/10

Well-Developed World: 4/10

Page Turner: 4/10

Kept Me Thinking: 2/10

Overall Recommendation: 1/10