Friday, 18 December 2009

From My Bookshelf… ‘The Winter of the World’ (Part 2) – Michael Scott Rohan

It was way back in November 2007 that I gave a quick plug to one of my favourite fantasy series, the initial trilogy in Michael Scott Rohan’s ‘Winter of the World’ series. I said that I’d write more about the somewhat looser trilogy that followed it another time and then promptly forgot about it. Until now…

I was already reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi back in the nineteen eighties but Michael Scott Rohan’s ‘The Anvil of Ice’ was once of the very few books that really got it’s claws into me and had me looking for more books like it. It’s worth mentioning that you can pick up ‘The Anvil of Ice’ for 1p (second hand) on Amazon and I’d recommend that you give it a go. You can’t really go wrong spending 1p can you? :o)
I got to the end of the trilogy and it was very clear that there was no way Elof’s story could go any further (read ‘The Hammer of the Sun’, you’ll see what I mean); I was sad to see it end but knew that it couldn’t go on so kept the completed trilogy on my shelf and moved on to other things.

Fast forward fifteen years…



The last thing I was thinking of was ‘The Winter of the World’ trilogy, I was escorting a psychiatric patient into town for some shopping and was more concerned with making sure that he didn’t do a runner! We stopped off for a quick browse in Waterstones and there was ‘The Castle of the Winds’… A new Michael Scott Rohan book. The story couldn’t possibly continue… could it? At that point I didn’t really care; I grabbed myself a copy ready to read when I got home. For anyone who’s interested, I did make sure that the psychiatric patient made it back to the hospital first…

Knowing that he couldn’t go any further forwards with his series, Rohan decided to take things right back into the past; a thousand years into the past. There would be no Elof, Kermorvan, Roc or Ils but there were new characters to meet and follow on new adventures. ‘The Castle of the Winds’ saw the mastersmith Kunrad undertake an epic journey to recover his stolen work. Everything was there that made the original trilogy a standout piece of writing; a richly drawn world with characters you wanted to give up your time for and battle sequences that gripped me right when it counted. Something wasn’t quite right though and it took me another two books to work out what it was…



I found myself a copy of ‘The Singer and the Sea’ about a year later followed swiftly by ‘Shadow of the Seer’. ‘Singer’ followed on from ‘’The Castle of the Winds’ with Kunrad’s apprentices making a name for themselves on the high seas. ‘Shadow of the Seer’ went in a completely different direction with a story of love that takes place on another continent entirely (and perhaps even further back in time, I’m not sure…) Again, all the ingredients were there for typically excellent stories from Rohan but something was still missing for me.



It took me a while to figure it out but I got there in the end. The original trilogy was so complete in itself that any following books really needed to be prequels, and feed into the overall arc a lot more closely if the whole thing was to feel a lot more cohesive as a sequence. Good as they were (and they are!) the new books had nothing to really connect them to the first trilogy, only the world in which it was all taking place. These books stand well on their own but there was a real sense of ‘disconnection’ (with the first three books) that I found myself trying to resolve while I was reading them. I never really resolved it, at least not to my liking…

While the books will always have a place on my bookshelf (not only am I a completist but they are good reads) I’ll always wonder what could have been if Rohan had decided to tie them in with the main trilogy a little more closely. What I wanted was the story of Vayde and the fate that befell him, that would have been brilliant…

2 comments:

Simon said...

Hi Graham,

Glad to see that someone else remembers these books. They are a great read, the world and mythology are very strong and the plots stands up well to this day. They were really quite different for the time (mid 80's I think) and as such I don't suppose they sold that well. Well worth a look
at if your worried about climate change or you want a book to match our current weather...

Does anyone know if Michael Scott Rohan is still writing?

Claire said...

I loved this series when it came out (borrowed a friend's and tracked them all down on Amazon - in the original pb covers which are ace). They are fantastic and inspired my friend to do a ph.d in geography and climate. Amazingly prescient, considering that mainstream scientists are only just starting to really get hold of the idea that we lost most of the inhabited sea coasts after the ice age and who knows what archaelogical evidence (Morven?). I've never felt the urge to read the others though; like you say they are so complete in themselves.