About halfway through the first volume of the fantasy epic Legacy of the Stone Harp by James G. Anderson & Mark Sebanc (there’s no point mentioning the title of the first volume since it in no way represents a story), I had to laugh. The question: At this rate, how many volumes will it take to finish this beast?
This is a quest story, a fantasy staple, in which a group of people must go and find an important thing before the evil guy gets it. Only, here I was a couple hundred pages in and the quest hasn’t started yet. They haven’t even assembled the ragtag band of unlikely heroes yet. I started laughing when the wise old man spread out a map and outlined “first you have to go here, then here, and then here,” and spelled out the dangers, both known and suspected, along the way.
Twice the main good guy has asked the old man questions that hint at really important information, and the wise old man has said, “I’ll tell you later,” or “There’s no time for that now,” or some other way to keep the main good guy in the dark so the plot doesn’t break. I don’t even remember what those questions were anymore, but I remember being annoyed. I think the wise old man isn’t the only one keeping information from our guy. His own father is the guy from the prolog, so we all know he knows stuff, and last we heard he was carrying a magic sword as well. The sword glows when the rightful king holds it, so it’s pretty obvious why that hasn’t been unlimbered yet — it would break the plot.
Now I’m three-quarters of the way through volume one of god knows how many. One more likely party member has been introduced (still no female candidates unless you count whoever left the bloody footprints), but the quest is no closer to starting. The old guy’s been whacked on the head and may not live to tell those nuggets of information he’s been saving for later. Note to wise old men in all fantasy worlds: Tell the guy what he needs to know right away! Information taken to the grave does no one any good.
There are some caves the old guy said not to go into, and you know what’s going to happen there.
This story is not what you’d call fast-moving. Case in point: the good guys are holed up in a mountain retreat, the only haven from the bad guys. Among them is a traitor, who steals the Magic Thing the Good Guys Really Need and runs off to give this item to the bad guys. Our two main good guys chase him down and by spontaneously increasing the IQ of a giant eagle they get the Magic Thing back. Hooray!
Then, in the next chapter, they allow the traitor back into camp and guess what? The traitor steals the goddam MTtGGRN again, and this time he gets away. Oh no! Total accomplished in the first theft/recovery sequence: nothing. You could chop it from the book, whack the geezer on the head in the second theft, and not miss a thing. In fact, the theft/recovery/trust-the-traitor-again chain of events was really pushing the preposterometer into the red anyway, so the book would be better without it.
Uh, whoops, I suppose that was a spoiler. I’m not worried, I doubt many people get that far into this thing.
I’m forging ahead with this monster, nevertheless. Part of the pleasure I’m taking from the book is mentally checking off each fantasy cliché as I encounter it. For a while now we’ve been rehashing the same old clichés, so it will be nice when the select few set off into the caves to face the unseen dangers there.
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