Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg

This was a reread, inspired by the book being selected by the Beyond Reality group here on Goodreads. I’ve read it at least twice before and I love the crissing and crossing between SF and fantasy so that I can never quite decide which it is. I love books like this, which I’m sure is a big factor in why it remains a favourite. All the same, I have less to say about it this time – mostly because I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted with all the end of year stuff going on (and if you don’t know where I live, I’m in the southern hemisphere so the long, summer school holidays have just started as well). So I’m going to copy in both of my reviews that I’ve made since I started keeping track of my read online.

Lord Valentine's Castle (Majipoor, #1)Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (9/10)

REREAD #1: 9/10 (26 October 2007 – 2 November 2007)

Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg

Come to the magical planet of Majipoor. Follow Valentine as he joins a motley band of jugglers to seek the secret of his lost past across a wide and wondrous world. In the shattered city of the Shapeshifters, in the temple of the Lady of Sleep and the Isle of the King of Dreams. From the depths of a dying emperor’s dark domain, to the destiny that awaits him high atop Lord Valentine’s Castle.

I first read this book long, long ago. It could easily have been twenty years ago. Then, somewhere in the years of house moves and book culls, my copy vanished. Of course, it was not long afterwards that I found myself with a hankering to reread the book. I checked out second hand copies as well as new, but somehow never quite made the decision to buy – buying books can be a long, complicated and expensive process here in New Zealand, especially if you want one that is older or not particularly popular. In the end, I bought an ecopy from Fictionwise and it then sat on my PDA waiting for me to find the time to read it.

I was a little concerned that the book might not stand up to my twenty (or however many) year old memories, but it came up trumps. I greatly enjoyed my long wander through Majipoor with Valentine and the others.

The plot is basically simple – the ruler of the world has his throne stolen from him and has to get it back – but Silverberg adds enough twists and turns to make it fresh. Valentine not only loses his throne, but also his memory and even his own body (although, given it was plagued with a limp, he eventually decides he got the better of the deal) and is dumped on the side of the road to make a new life and future. He falls in with a band of jugglers and, finding he has a natural talent for it, becomes one of the troop. However, his new and pleasant simple life is not allowed to last.

Plagued by dreams – on a planet where dreams hold truth, secrets and communication – the riddle of his past and identity is eventually revealed. Unable to believe it at first, he still finds himself drawn to follow the clues tossed out to him until he finds this amazing tale is true. From there, he sets about to regain his throne.

I like Valentine. At first he is almost simple, untroubled by the weights of life and responsibility, but even as he learns who he is and takes more and more onto himself, that sunny attitude almost never fades completely. The story is told in a close third person POV with Valentine as the focal character, so the only head we ever get inside is his. This means we get to know him very well, while the other characters are never as well developed. All the same, the reader (or this reader anyway) can develop a great liking for them. Besides Valentine himself, Carabella is probably my favourite character and while I fell I know her, I’d still like to know her a little better.

But really, it is Majipoor itself that is the star of the story. As Valentine and his companions slowly make their way from one side of the world to the other, the reader is taken on a fantastic journey around an amazing planet. Majipoor was originally home to the Metamorphs, a race of shapechangers, but people from Old Earth arrived fourteen thousand years ago and eventually took possession of the planet. A large range of other alien races also live on Majipoor and all are well described and make fascinating, well-rounded characters. There are the remains of the high-tech that came with the original settlers, but Majipoor is now in many ways more a fantasy world rather than a science fiction one. I love this mixture of the two genres and it is part of the attraction of the series for me.

As well as the strange races that populate the planet, the geography and flora and fauna are also unique and fascinating, from a mountain so high it’s top sits outside the atmosphere and is maintained by ancient weather machines to amazing plants and creatures, Majipoor is a place of wonders and well worth the visit.

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the Metamorph plot to regain their lost planet.

I never read any of the futher books in the series originally, but I am quite interested in doing so this time. The second book, Majipoor Chronicles, is now sitting on my PDA, waiting for me to have the time to read it.

Lord Valentine’s Castle
Majipoor, Book 1
Robert Silverberg

[Copied across from Library Thing; 3 December 2012]

REREAD #2: 9/10 (3 December 2012 – 15 December 2012)

This is still a wonderful book, even on this third (or possibly fourth) reread. I did find it harder than I expected, but I think that’s a combination of its length and how busy and tired I’ve been lately.

I find myself wanting to stay on Majipoor for a while, so after choosing an in-between book (it ended up being And All the Stars) I’m now going on with Majipoor Chronicles which I’ve read once before. I’m hoping this means I’ll finally read Valentine Pontifex at last. I’m also eyeing up the other Majipoor books which are currently on sale from SF Gateway in the Amazon.co.uk store. Any courtside cheering towards this goal would be appreciated.

P.S. I love the new covers, even if they don’t make much difference to my ebook copies. The big downside to reading this on my Kindle is that I don’t have any decent maps. The images are in the file, but they’re way to small to make anything out. So I borrowed a paper copy from the library so I could check out where everyone was travelling. In a travelogue kind of book, I find it is wonderful to have maps to keep track of where everything is happening. It turns out the re-release edition has new, pretty maps (including a cool sea dragon in the corner of one of them). I’m terribly jealous, but not rich enough to justify double copies. (Although, she muses, they really are very, very nice.) So instead, I’ve requested the new editions of the next two books from the library so I can make use of their maps while I read on the Kindle.
View all my reviews


One response to this post.

  1. I only read this for the first time a couple of years ago, but adored it. I never did get around to reading more from the series but I did read several other books by Silverbrg and he’s now one of my favourite sci fi authors. I’d especially recommend Downward to the Earth. It’s fabulous.


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