Friday, 13 August 2010

Fantasy reviews: 3 series by Jennifer Fallon

When it comes to reading, I have long been partial to good-old meaty fantasy series. While I definitely appreciate single-volume books, I welcome the opportunity to further explore characters and worlds that multi-volume series bring. Not that I like them too long. When they're more than about five books I often find they get a bit convoluted, or drawn out simply because the author doesn't want to quit the world. But a well-written 3-5 book series promises hours and hours of entertainment and escape.

Recently I've been reading a few series by of Australian fantasy author Jennifer Fallon. I started with the Demon Child trilogy some years ago when it first came out, then more recently read the Second Sons trilogy, and have just now finished the Tide Lords series (4 books). And I have to say my experience has been mixed -- with some amazing highs, along with some, well, lows.

My favourite of these three series is definitely the Second Sons. I loved this series end to end. I thought the characters and the relationships between them were fantastic; they had to make tough decisions and usually didn't choose the predictable or obviously noble path. At heart, the story is about the nature of faith, and how those who follow blindly can be exploited. It's also about the 'next generation' -- how the sons and daughters of 'great' people carve out their own niche in life and either reap what their parents have sewed, or atone for their sins.

However, I almost didn't read Second Sons -- vowed in fact never to read another Jennifer Fallon novel after Harshini, the third in the Demon Child trilogy. The first two in this series I loved as well, but I felt totally let down by the third, which I felt lacked the depth of the first two. It seemed rushed, sketchy by comparison, and I was bored and struggled to finish it. So it was lucky that a friend gave me the Second Sons trilogy, having spare copies lying around. I read it until all hours of the morning and thought perhaps I'd been wrong about this author.

Which brings me to the Tide Lords series. It has a great premise: that magic is 'tidal', brought by a 'star' (I presume planet?) that comes and goes with centuries and millennia. The wielders of this magic are ordinary humans made immortal, and they are forced to wait out the 'low tide' periods in obscurity, only to emerge all powerful when the tide magic rises. The series explores the meaning of immortality, love, power, loyalty.

I really enjoyed the first two books of this series in particular. This is when the central characters and the premise are all established, and I devoured these in rapid time. The first book (The Immortal Prince) lays a solid foundation, while the 2nd (The Gods of Amyrantha) pulls out the proverbial rug from under the characters and their path changes quite dramatically. However, the third and fourth novels didn't quite live up to my expectations based on the first two. I felt they suffered from a lack of subtlety and complexity and they just seemed rushed. Having said that, I still think the series is great, but front-loaded, so to speak.

In all, I would recommend Jennifer Fallon novels for epic fantasy with great characters and interesting worlds. They are certainly a great way to while away a Sunday afternoon or stormy evening.

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