The Language of the Stones, The Giant’s Dance, and Whitemantle, by Robert Carter.

These three books are the literary equivalent of “quaffing wine”, that is they’re inoffensive users of time which don’t leave a memorable taste. I suppose one can’t drink (or read) the best stuff all of the time.

The basic idea of the books is quite a good one (how, and to some extent, why, the wars of the roses play out in a parallel earth where there is still magic). I should note that while the books all carry a prominent subtitle, “the third coming of Arthur”, I think that’s a bit of a marketing ploy: the Arthurian link in the concept is fairly weak, and doesn’t really justify the subtitles.

Given that I think the idea’s a good one, why is it “just” a quaffing sort of a book? Primarily because the books meander along with many uninspiring passages of weak prose. Nonetheless, I was interested enough to meander along with Will (the main character) all the way through the three books (I guess that must have been 1500 pages in all). If you have the time, and any sort of “fantasy” bent, then you’ll probably be happy to read these books. If you’re time pressed and/or fantasy isn’t one of your genres, then there are other books to read first …

Having read the 1500 pages of this lot, I’m left thinking that if Readers Digest got hold of these books, they could probably condense the three books down into one good one: the concept, some of the events, and the characters could have made a really cracking book if it had had some pace and tight prose.

In a vague attempt at some even handedness in my 2009 book reviews, having read this lot, I’m minded to compare them with my criticism of The Pillars of the Earth. While I thought that book was too long, and I claimed not be enthralled, compared to these three, Pillars is vastly superior in pace and prose, so perhaps I was just a wee bit more enthralled reading that than I thought at the end.

comments (2)

William (on Wednesday 29 April, 2009)

You may well care to try “The Deep” by John Crowley. It is (apparently) based no the wars of the roses, though I don’t know the history well enough to tell. Maybe you now do. Its all short, and superb.

Bryan (on Wednesday 29 April, 2009)

The trilogy is very very loosely based on the war of the roses, so there isn’t any real history there, so I’m as ignorant as I was when I started. But, I’ll read any book rated as short and superb: I will chase it up!