Power That Preserves, The

by Stephen Donaldson

6/10

My reviewing vocabulary is not the strongest. Is it considered “overwritten” when an author takes way too long building up every plot point while simultaneously having too many plot points to begin with? Or is “overwritten” just when a writer uses language that is conspicuously ornate, such as “inanition” when “hunger” will do? Or maybe it could apply to both issues? I’m just trying to figure out the best way to describe the main issues I have upon completing this book. I think overwriting can explain a lot of them.

The thing is, this kept me turning pages the entire time, but turning pages angrily, because each page contained almost as much to piss me off as it did to keep me reading. Entire paragraphs of internal dialogue, or setting, or tension-building. . . at one point a half-page wasted of Covenant trying to get Foamfollower to abandon him when everyone knows that will never happen.

I think the incessant stakes-raising is what really bugged me. You can’t just have Triock traveling for days to send a message. You have to have him traveling through a blizzard and battling a pack of wolves. Everything that any character struggles to do, they have to struggle inhumanly to do. You would think this would make events more impressive but it really just takes you out of the book by making everything completely ridiculous. Tension is actually diminished because you know the characters are capable of basically anything. For example, broken ankles abound, and they are apparently not too serious because people can still walk for leagues on them and even do battle. The only real effect seems to be that the character thinks about them for long lines while doing all of the journeying and fighting.

Why do this then? I can only suspect that Donaldson didn’t trust his story enough to captivate his audience on its own. It’s a shame really if he thought so because he was dead wrong. The story in general is great, and combined with some of the strongest characters from the 1st book there’s a solid foundation here for a wonderful novel. That´s why I gave it three stars after all.

But man, there are whole episodes that could have been cut. Most of that Triock mess, for example. The Pietten/Morinmoss Healer episodes could have been drastically reduced. (Why do we need to see magical healing spiders if an actual Healer is about to come anyway?) Many pages of Revelstone-sieging could have been excised. And countless descriptions of hills, plains, ravines, caves, walking/running/stumbling, suffering from “inanition,” being weak and unable to make it even one step further before making it many steps further, etc. Just way too much bloat.

And that’s before even mentioning T.C.’s still-annoying self-pity, which is mercifully toned down from the first two books (see my reviews here and here), but which still occupies entire paragraphs and sometimes pages that can be simply skipped without missing anything. I still just cannot empathize at all with someone who is plopped into this world and whose only action is to invent excuse after excuse about why he can’t do anything. At some point you either get over it and start doing stuff, or you huddle into a little ball and cower until someone comes for your head. Stringing along the tension like Donaldson does is not only unrealistic, but it’s unfairly tedious to us his readers. I’m happy to report that T.C. does indeed start doing stuff here, especially in the last half. Good on him.

Overall I’m pretty disappointed in this series. I’ve seen it on lists of some of the greatest fantasy ever, but if this is the best that fantasy has to offer I’d have to say I’m just not a fantasy guy. I do like Donaldson’s world-building (even if it’s heavily indebted to Tolkien) and also the subversive aspect of having the protagonist be a non-hero, but there’s too much other stuff (most of it related to poor writing IMO) in the way of good story. Here’s another one: there is no mention of any biblical theology anywhere in the Land, yet some of the most feared villains are called Satans—. How does that make any sense?

Anyway I’ll stop.  There’s no way I subject myself to anymore of this crap in the continuing trilogies.  I’d really appreciate it if someone can recommend me some good fantasy (I’ve read and enjoyed LOTRNarnia and The Once and Future King, but little else). I think I might just be a sci-fi guy at heart.

 

 

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