Monday, 6 August 2007

‘The Heart of the Mirage’ – Glenda Larke (Orbit Books)


You’ve known me for a while now and you know that there are things that I really do not like to find in fantasy literature. If I’m going to read a book with made up ‘fantasy style names’ then they had better be damn good. When the heroine goes on a journey riding her Gorclak (or Shleth if there isn’t a handy Gorclak) then my hackles start to rise and the book is at an immediate disadvantage. If this wasn’t bad enough, one of the supporting characters does an impromptu impersonation of Robin when Batman is in peril. There has been a move in fantasy literature, recently, to make dialogue a little more gritty and edgy and this is not a bad thing at all (Cook and Erikson can take a bow for starters). However, when a character says, “Holy shit!” in the middle of a book that has based all its other dialogue on that of Ancient Rome then the effect is somewhat spoilt. Which is all a shame really because apart from these flaws the book itself isn’t that bad.
Ligea Gayed was stolen from her homeland as a child and raised as a citizen of the Tyranian Empire. Twenty years on, she is sent back to the rebellious province of Kardiastan with orders to deal with a rebel conspiracy. Glenda Larke then proceeds to take Ligea on a voyage of self-discovery as she is forced to confront the truths behind Tyranian rule and question her own position in society. As is often the case, there is more going on than is at first apparent and Ligea will soon be faced with decisions that are more far reaching…
It is nice sometimes to break out of the typical medieval Fantasy City and go somewhere different. Larke accomplishes this by setting her tale in the equivalent of Ancient Rome and the deserts of Africa and decorates the proceedings with some stunning imagery in the process. It’s hard to achieve any kind of rapport with Ligea as she is a pretty vile character to start off with. The downside of this is that any redemption can come across as forced and the end left me feeling pretty ambivalent towards her. Luckily the supporting characters are worth sticking with including the loyal Brand, enigmatic Mirager Temellin and the tragic Pinar. They provide some moments where Larke displays her main talent of being able to get inside her character’s heads and providing some quite intense emotional dialogue. Larke also has a talent for the whimsical as well, which can be seen in her depictions of the Mirage.
‘Heart of the Mirage’ proved slow to get going but (apart from the flaws already mentioned) does show signs of promise. Hopefully the next book won’t have any Gorclacks or Shleths…

Six and a Half out of Ten

6 comments:

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I was interested to see what you made of this. Karen Miller emailed me after I'd reviewed her book, saying that I'd probably like this, but looking at other reviewers I was a bit dubious.

You've resolved the matter for me! Cheers Graeme, another nice review.

What've you got coming up?

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Too funny!
Great review. I'll probably avoid this one, as the obscure name thing bugs me as well.

Graeme Flory said...

It's wierd how I love to read sci-fi/fantasy (because it's all completely imaginary) but it has to be realistic at the same time...

Chris - Search for earlier posts and you shall know enlightenment young grasshopper... ;o)

Tia Nevitt said...

I too, enjoy fantasies that are set in time frames other than medieval. And, I'm a sucker for ancient Rome.

jbrown said...

Tia you should check out some of Guy Gavriel Kay's work. He sets his fantasy novels in various historical periods.

jbrown said...

Tia you should check out some of Guy Gavriel Kay's work. He rarely uses a stereotypical fantasy world and he models his novels after various historical periods.

Remy