Monday, July 7, 2008

"The Summoner" by Gail Z. Martin

Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title: "The Summoner"
Pages: 640
Publisher: Solaris Books
Misc: Gail's Blog

We have another first book in a series and a debut as well in a whole different genre than the previous post. I am talking about the ever high fantasy with all its quirks utilized once again. At first I was very ecstatic about this novel, mainly because of the title. Magic got me in this field and magic will it be always. However starting the novel my enthusiasm diminished as I have read the same storyline somewhere else and have seen a great deal about the characters before. Throughout the whole I was left with mixed feelings, because "The Summoner" didn't really bring anything new to the table, but in the end you are left with the satisfaction that you have read a very solid story.

The setting is the land of Winter Kingdoms with an accent on Margolan, where through bloodshed and sorcery the favored king Brycen is killed and his throne is taken by his eldest son Jared, who is one violent and ambitious little prince. Due to witnessing the murder prince Martris Drake, the younger prince and also a latent mage, has to save the kigndom and naturally fled the country with a handful of trustworthy servants. The journey is a harsh drag, especially, when you are being chased by the army of Margolan and the spells of Foor Arontala, a very ambitious blood mage and a vayash moru (aka vampire). Of course along the way the party teams up with the noble youth of Isencroft searching for solutions for the crisis in their lands. These include princess Kiara, the healer Carina and her twin brother Cam. The conclusion of the book leaves them at Principality, one of the twelve kingdoms, to gain strength and an army to fight back Jared.

I didn't really go in detail about the plot as the book is 600 pages and besides spoilers could be mentioned. What I liked about the novel was the worldbuilding and the use of magic, which in fantasy is a very important element at least for me. We have a polytheistic slash monotheistic religion with one entity: The Goddess and her eight aspects, four light and four dark. It's quite the interesting idea, which has roots in some other cultures and mythologies, specifically the Chinese and Japanese, where each god has four aspects: the angry, the generous, the kind and the caring, although the latter three are not exactly different. Magic I found was in good use, although I wished to see a better, more detailed and shaped system of use for magic as in the book we see several disciplines without much background or difference of power, but that is beside the point. Whatever is shown, has been explained well enough for it to work and the role of a necromancer aka the spirit mage aka the summoner in a novel so far I haven't seen. Having a character, who is like a medium times 20 with binding or freeing spells. Alongside this we have artifacts and a secret library with keepers, who know every book in it. Overall this aspect of the novel is especially cool.

What I didn't enjoy that much came in terms of plot and characters. The plot although well developed bore no surprises and that bugged me. We have the noble prince, the pure princess and well we know how that ends and it does. We know that the evil king will do anything to stop them and he does. The party has the typical characters: the distrustful mercenary, noble prince, mentoring sorceress in spirit form, loyal comrades, mistrustful of magic soldiers and a pacifist healer. You wouldn't be surprised by any of their actions and at a certain point in those 600 pages it will bug you.

Overall, I have to say that this is a traditional novel of the genre. It isn't supposed to be innovative, but it's still entertaining. The prose is tight and well executed and at times you feel like magically going from pages 214 to 355. If you truly like high fantasy with all its glory of the golden days, when it ruled the publishing business, then by all means this book will transport you back there. It's a promising debut. Gail Z. Martin is here to stay.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review--glad you enjoyed The Summoner. As you know, the story wraps up in The Blood King, which is out now. There's also a preview of book 3--Dark Haven--currently up on my website. Dark Haven will be out in February, 2009. You can also catch my Ghost in the Machine podcast, where I interview other Sf/F authors.

Gail Z. Martin
Author, The Summoner, The Blood King

daydream said...

Hey, I think I would have enjoyed this even more have I not read much of teh same genre before. I really enjoyed your religion and am ecstatic about what will happen next. First books always set the scene.

I also have the Blood King, which I will read soon and after that I hope for an interview. ;)

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