Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"The Raven" by John Lawson

Title: "The Raven"
Author: John Lawson
Pages: 618
Series: Witch Ember Series, Book Two
Genre: Heroic Fantasy
Publisher: Publish America

Guiromelans is a knight, a sacred paladin, seeking nothing more than to obey the
commandments of God. But when God betrays him and allows a hells- condemned
witch to defeat him in battle, he is forced to reexamine his faith. What did he
do to merit such disgrace? What can he do to atone for his sins?

challenges both of the flesh and of the soul, Guiromelans begins a pilgrimage
across the known world. In search of redemption and forgiveness, he discovers
the true meaning of God's will.

The Raven is the sequel to John Lawson's
first novel, Witch Ember.

Verdict: Perhaps one of the most long listed book in my slush pile, "The Raven" also scored the award for longest read book ever. If it wasn't for John's good natured web-stalking and hinting, I wouldn't be even considering picking the novel any time soon. The playful overture now passed let's get down to business. "The Raven" is a thick book in nature and has a lot to offer and yet the longer a book is, the more chances there are for some slight malfunctions to mess up with a generally good experience. As a reader I am completely aware of what I like and what I don’t the minute I see it, but very rarely I find myself in a position, where my indecisiveness shows through. This is such a case.

“The Raven” follows the months after the war, which ended “Witchember” [my review is here], and is told through the eyes of Sir Guiromelans, who takes to the road on a soul-searching pilgrimage to not only reevaluate his faith and beliefs in his God, but to also understand what God’s will and his path as a paladin will dictate in the future. He starts out a pirate captain, whose ship’s sails catch on ill winds, and then finds himself committed to a war, which far from being his own.

Since it's always easier to list all the stones in the shoe than dress the praise in words, I will start with what drove me to great deal of annoyance. The biggest offender right from the start is the use of foreign, made-up words, which compared to the first book written by Lawson, has grown exponentially. There were some chapters during which I had to list back and forth losing a great deal of time to translate what the author wanted to say. This wouldn't have bothered me as much, if the glossary didn't skip words or had them spread chaotically under one letter and not perfectly alphabetical. My salvation came with one of the fictional languages being based heavily on German to get by without the glossary. I think that the use of made-up words would have not hindered the book as much, if the words were listed as footnotes. I do think fictional languages add authentic flavor and create their own variety of magic, but something technical can ruin it.

The composition of the novel itself brings out some mixed feelings for me. “The Raven” has this cyclic rhythm: fight evil, destroy heresy, expect God to forgive your sins, contemplate, get drunk, almost die and repeat again. When Sir Guiromelans had to rid the world from yet another menace, I was reminded about the tales of Sinbad in 1001 Nights, mainly for the excessive violence and gore and also unapologetic deaths of characters the reader thought would stick for the happy ending. Life expectancy in this world is not very high and throughout I always kept guessing, who would get killed most of the time. However this kind of rhythm started to sound a bit repetitive for me and during the natural lows after a battle left for contemplation and the scenes that show the changes in Guiromelans’ inner world, reading was tedious. Only, when the build-up for the culmination came around the 300-page mark made me invest more in the book as whole.

Lawson's writing style presents reality in stark brutality that makes an impact and even if it doesn't move the readers gives them enough to wrap their minds around. What Lawson did in his first novel was to show us a very harsh world environment torn in wars. However, he is not the typical one trick pony. What he does with his main character is traveling around the areas unrevelaved in book one and presenting an even darker aspect of his universe, which is full with grotesque details and interesting concepts that are downright creepy, if not nauseating at times. Even though "The Raven" plays a lot with elements of the horror genre, it isn't built like a horror-fantasy hybrid, but presents the adrenaline rush from a very good hack and slash video game in the vein of Diablo.

What I positively loved about the novel was the underlying theme of the traveling man, the holy pilgrimage and reevaluation of faith. These are universal themes, which circulate through literature since Ancient Greece and I think at least that most readers would be able to identify with the inner struggles and states of emotional distress Guiromelans experiences like I did. This type of story is as close as the definition of life humanity has come up with. It transcends language and cultural restrictions. It focuses on the ebbs and twists and turns of the road that break or make the man and the goal, for all alterations on the path covered alter change you and isn't that the magic of life.

As a conclusion “The Raven” is good, interesting, but there are obstacles that make it a bit harder to enjoy than it should be. Nevertheless, you won't be disappointing by giving it a chance.

Other Opinions:

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails