Like Vicky, I've been quiet here of late; this is, unfortunately, likely to continue for much of the rest of the year.
I'm in the final stretch of writing my D.Phil. thesis (the title of my research is here, for anyone interested...). Not entirely surprisingly, it's eating my time in a fairly serious way. Currently, I'm trying to get a complete draft to my supervisor (who's about to leave my department to become the Provost of CUNY) by the start of October, about which my only comment is "eek". Thereafter I'll be editing, checking translations, proofreading until my eyes melt (possibly), and teaching a course of my own devising on the interaction of religion and politics in the Islamic world, 7th-19th centuries. As one does.
Thesis submission will be mid-to-late December, all being well - at which point I shall emerge, blinking, half-mad, and wondering where the rest of 2008 went.
Until then, I have fond hopes of continuing to write the occasional post here at EA, if only as an elaborate displacement activity. ;-)
Another day, another reprint Antipodean fantasy trilogy from Orbit. First published in Australia in 2004, Wolfblade begins a prequel trilogy to the Demon Child series, and is a markedly stronger work than its predecessor.
The setting is Hythria, a patchwork principality composed of provinces ruled by fractious (we’re told, although we see few of them) warlords. Most characters are drawn from the higher echelons of a society structured largely along medieval European lines: eldest sons inherit all, younger sons are left out in the cold, and women are valued primarily as producers of heirs.
Fallon mines the resultant tensions very effectively for her story. Broadly, it is about people trying to control their own lives, which in this society generally means controlling others’. Much of the plot is driven by the strivings and scheming of individuals rendered powerless by accidents of birth or politics: an envious second son reliant on his brother’s handouts, a slave whose survival means must be indispensable to his owner, women sold into marriage for male relatives’ gain. Central to this is Marla, teenage sister to the High Prince, and her journey from naïve pawn to ruthless player in the country’s machinations.
The nuts and bolts of the execution are much less convincing. As in her earlier books, Fallon’s characterisation often substitutes petulance and mawkishness for real feeling. The pacing is fine, but the prose is leaden and prone to over-explanation: every motive, mood, and political implication is spelled out at redundant length. By contrast, descriptions are curiously uninformative: “the air smelled like spring in some indefinable way [he] could not explain”, for example, fills space but says nothing. Such thoughtful themes deserve better treatment.