Oct 4, 2011: "Carthian Dreams" is a fantasy story featuring wizards, dragons, warriors and orc-like beasts called the Kysanthe. The description is well-rooted in showing you what’s happening, and there’s plenty of action and emotion. All in all the ingredients are in place for a good fantasy story, for any fan of Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings.
It has its own unique style as well. The story is written in first-person present-tense, when most fantasy is past-tense and often third-person. It features revolving narrators as the plot follows different characters, each one relating what they see. This narrative experiment might be my favourite feature of the story, as it’s not just a playful trick of the writer’s. It is, in fact, the basis and premise of the entire tale.
The wizard, called "The Traitor" in the narration, was once blood-brothers with "The Avenger." Now, they are sworn enemies and the story starts with The Avenger stabbing the Traitor with his sword. The Traitor flees to a magic chamber where he casts a recording spell, where a magic quill begins to write down his thoughts. The trick of this spell is that it draws on the caster for energy and thoughts, to create a history, but it also protects the caster until the story is finished being written.
Since he’s bleeding to death, the Traitor wants the book to record the entire history of events that led his blood-brother and himself to hate each other. So, all of the other narrators are drawn into the story by the spell, as the quill writes down their thoughts. This story premise neatly gives a reason for the revolving voices, the first-person present tense, and the structure of the story. I appreciate this, as a reason for a style indicates planning and structure, and a thoughtful author. Some writers don’t put much thought into their structure, and stories suffer as a result. This story, so far, has a design in mind.
However, so far I’ve only rated it 3.5 stars. While I appreciate the unique premise of the spell that causes the story, I have a few problems with the way the story is written after that. For one thing, battles and dragons and wizards are hard to make unique, and the writer makes it hard to judge which way this is going to go. Sometimes the prose becomes very illustrious (here’s an example):
" I look upon this great cathedral of nothingness, this cavern whose ceiling, floor and far walls I cannot see, and know a thrill of fear that even my hardened heart cannot suppress. I stare into the very face of eternity."
And then it becomes quite modern and flippant:
"THE TRAITOR: I raise my voice and shout to him, wherever he is, below. "You are officially disowned!"
I pause on the steps leading to the temple door. Seriously? Is he kidding me?"
— This mash-up of traditional fantasy splendour and then modern humour is blended throughout the chapters I’ve read so far, and seeing them beside each other tends to erode my immersion in the story. It seems so anachronistic to see old-fashioned prose and then sitcom quips within a few paragraphs of each other. The Traitor and the dragon in particular seem to be very modern and informal in dialogue, and a wizard and a creature thousands of years old both seem candidates for being the most traditional, especially when they both also have a tendency towards purple-prose statements of portent, that are almost poetic.
This mash-up of style gives me the impression that we have a very clever writer with a very clever premise and a quick mind—but that the writer knows he’s being clever and is clearly enjoying himself. I think that for some people that might work very well, and this story deserves an audience—I can see fans developing because it is clever and it is fun, and they might give four and five star ratings.
I, however, can’t. I find the two styles don’t mix altogether well, it would be like watching a television show starring the cast of Friends hanging out with the crew from Lord of the Rings in the midst of a battle. It doesn’t work for me, even though I can acknowledge that the premise is interesting and the writer is amusing.
I think being that flippant and amusing detracts from the epic fantasy qualities, as it interrupts the flow of the tone. An interesting side-note for the way my mind works—if the Traitor were somehow from our modern world and transported to the story world, his narration would make sense to me and add to the overall quality. I’m not suggesting that is the case in this story, just a way that the two styles would begin to make sense.
However, it wouldn’t explain the dragon.
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