My rating: 4 of 5 stars (aka 9/10)
I finished my first major reread of an old but favourite series today. And I loved it all over again. It can be such a dangerous feeling, going back to books you loved 25-30 years ago. Will they hold up? Will you get that same sense of wonder? Has the (as Jo Walton calls it in her blogs on Tor.com) “suck fairy” visited?
As I said in my review for A Dream of Kinship, I’ve been collecting up as ebooks my old favourites from my “hey day” of reading, which was my late teens and early twenties (also know as the mid-80s to mid-90s) as they are published as ebooks, sometimes as a self-published book by the author, sometimes as part of a publisher’s backlist and sometimes as a first electronic release from a new publisher. I’m building up a lovely collection of favourite authors including such names as M.K. Wren, Kate Elliott, Greg Bear, Katharine Kerr, Melissa Scott and Barbara Hambly. And I’m going to try to make 2014 I really dig into that collection and get on with some rereading.
I will face down the suck fairy and hopefully it will retreat defeated.
This series totally did retain the wonder and I’m so glad I have indeed reread it. I don’t know if I realised when I first read it (I was a lot younger then), that the trilogy as a whole is a study of how religions develop, struggle to survive and, if they do survive, codify into tradition that may or may not be a true and correct vision of the original revelation. It took me until this third book for me to realise it even this time, but once I did, I was more impressed than ever before. I immediately had to go back to the prologue of the first book, so see how what it said needed to be reinterpreted in light of the end of the third book. That must surely be the sign of something with some meat and depth to it.
One thing I find extremely fascinating is that, given the above reading of the theme of the trilogy, I find myself left to wonder what effect the new “revelation” at the end of this book will have on the world within it and if, as the epilogue suggests, that effect is major, does it simply start the cycle over again.
Of course, that is a question for the reader to ponder, not one for the author to give away. I doubt he ever had an answer (and it is too late to ask him as he died in 2002) and instead left this rhetorical question on purpose. After all, good books should make us think.
This trilogy is a lovely blend of a fantasy tale with references both to the past and the future of the world within the books. The “prologue” and “epilogue” help to expand the middle part of the tale into something much bigger than simply the adventures of the characters. It might be 30 years old, but it still packs a punch. The only reason this volume didn’t get 10/10 is that I struggled with Tom’s metaphysical/otherworldly journey. I got the point, but the prose was a bit of a struggle.
Just be aware that the Gollancz ebook edition of this is pretty terrible. It’s full of scanning errors and the first page of the end matter of the book is inserted before the very end of the story, making the Kindle think I was finished and asking me to rate the book. I was okay because I’d read it before, but I was still heard to mutter “but that isn’t the end!” in a disgruntled voice. I paged forward and suddenly the text returned to finish of the tale before going back to the rest of the end matter. The first two books in the trilogy had a few scanning errors here and there, but many old works do and I could live with them. The problems with this one were much worse to the degree that I feel I need to point it out. I had read it before and had my old paperback for reference, so I was fine. If you’re coming to this cold, it might just cause confusion. As always, this doesn’t alter my rating in any way, as that isn’t fair on the story or the author, but poor work, Gollancz.