This thing was written in ’98. It’s fourteen years old and out of print. It’s brilliant.
Yes, this was written by the owner of Lucasfilm and Star Wars, and Chris Claremont, before now, was an X-Men storywriter and graphic novelist. Neither were novel writers.
This book is the first in a trilogy.
A long time ago (95? 94?) George Lucas wrote Willow, a story of a “halfling” saving a girl who is prophecized to save the world. He survives. She survives. This series continues where the movie ends.
Willow gives up his name and separates himself from the world. The night after he saves the princess, the city where the princess lives is destroyed, along with five other major areas of the world. Absolutely decimated. Willow, now Thorn, gives up his life to travel the world and learn all about magic and being a sorcerer.
He becomes incredibly powerful, able to talk to the elements while surviving attacks and natural disasters to ultimately become a grizzled, roguish character wizard nobody trusts. Thirteen years later, on the princess’s birthday, he is called upon, again, to save her.
This is high fantasy at its best: all the standard tropes of an epic quest, a mishmash of archetypes, and an enemy impossible to beat. And it involves Magic. Good magic. This is where Claremont’s experience writing X-Men comes into play: the understanding, the detail, the dedicated focus he put into writing these characters is incredible. Thorn sees the center of the universe, has his mind expanded to encompass the chaotic thinking of an ancient “Demon,” and intricately describes surviving a hurricane. There is even a battle between Thorn and the enemy in solid stone–not saying it hasn’t been done, but never as well.
The enemy is thorough, mighty, and terrifying. The enemy isn’t one-sided, one dimensional, and simply “evil.” The enemy, while unapologetic, has good reason for what he’s doing. He’s personal, intimate with the characters, convincing.
Of all the Tolkien clones I’ve ever read (aka high fantasy with “halflings,” “elves,” and “trolls” by any other name), this is easily the best. Forget Terry Brooks (always, always forget Brooks). Forget Robert Jordan (just kidding. Don’t forget him). I’d almost say forget Tolkien, but then I’d be turned to stone. Forget any other epic quest you’ve read–including King’s Dark Tower (different genres, I guess, but nonetheless). This does it. This quest is worth reading. Twice.
5 of 5. I found nothing remiss in characterization, plot, development, setting, themes, conflict. Maybe the “dialect” some of the boatpeople use is a little grating, but I’m grasping for straw here. People you care about die. People transcend and melt your mind while they do. The danger is real. I felt like the kid from The Neverending Story under the covers during a stormy night.
Please, if you like high fantasy, read this novel. LOTR series is 1 on my favorites list, this Shadow series is 2.
I need a cigarette.