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Lyonesse, by Jack Vance

It ought to be a law of fantasy literature: The Blurb On The Back Is Always Misleading. My Gollancz edition of Jack Vance's Lyonesse has a blurb that talks about the story of Princess Suldrun and her doomed love; it's certainly an integral part of the book, but anyone coming to Lyonesse expecting a tragic, epic, deeply romantic love story is probably going to be disappointed.

Lyonesse is the story of the Elder Isles, now sunk beneath the sea, from whence came Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur King of Cornwall. There are magicians and sendings and fairies, magic mirrors and scheming kings, less-than-virtuous Christian missionaries, gullible queens, mad kings, amibitious dukes. Suldrun's love Prince Aillas is the main protagonist of the second half of the book, following his quest to regain his freedom and his rightful throne as well as find his son.

Vance writes grippingly, his style somewhere between the matter-of-fact fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and a dry, acerbic sense of humour: for example, it's hard not to grin at King Casmir, Suldrun's scheming, pretentious father, while every misfortune the protagonists meet with makes the reader flinch in horror and read on doggedly. The landscapes are beautifully drawn, the characters sketched in just a few words. The emotional climax of the book, Aillas' reunion with his son Dhrun, isn't even shown: instead we see Dhrun having his father pointed out to him, and then a paragraph break and a new point-of-view: an incredibly powerful scene, I thought.

It's the first book of a trilogy, and I can't wait to get my hands on the sequels.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 30th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Well, I guess Suldrun's Garden would fit as an alternate title of the book I've just read. And unless I miss my guess The Green Pearl refers to an event near the end of that book, so I'm going to go with Suldrun's Garden being the first one.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 30th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)
Aug. 31st, 2010 08:46 am (UTC)
The three books in order are:

1. Lyonesse (also published as Suldrun's Garden)
2. The Green Pearl
3. Madouc

Long books but well worth the read!
Aug. 30th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
a law of <I>fantasy</I> literature?
How accurate do you find other genres'?
Aug. 30th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Re: a law of <I>fantasy</I> literature?
Heh, fair point. But it's happened to me most recently with Chronicles of Amber and now with Lyonesse, so the fantasy ones were uppermost in my mind.
Sep. 1st, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
It ought to be a law of fantasy literature: The Blurb On The Back Is Always Misleading

Yes, it should.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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