Janny Wurts – Initiate’s Trial

With an interval of 4 years readers had to wait the longest period for Initiate’s Trial (2011), the ninth book of epic fantasy series The Wars Of Light And Shadow by Janny Wurts. Hopefully Wurts will manage to keep her pace and not slow down as some other authors have done. The series started in 1993 and so will soon reach it’s 20th year as still several novels are planned. The story of the series also spans many years as many of the main characters possess extended longevity while most of the side character have normal life spans.

Initiate’s Trial starts many years after the previous book and as such all the old side characters are gone and new ones are introduced. As the story is told from several viewpoints the novels are marked by a relatively slow pace as Wurts gives every character whose viewpoint she uses sufficient attention. At times Wurts speeds things up with short notices, which she could have extended into chapters as well. Luckily she doesn’t.

The reason for this last comment is that Wurts’ writing style creates a lot of story and very little plot for the size of the novel. She has many related storylines to follow while she does not want to neglect either of them. Her style has not changed since she began, which is the typical early nineties prose of the like of Robert Jordan and Tad Williams, who also need a lot of words to tell their story.

While Wurts’ attention to her storylines and the great weave of her plot can be praised as they are of good quality, there is a lack of focus on the plot development. After nine books the separate plots of the novels have become repetitive. Although each story is different the main sequence is just another variation of what one has seen before. The main protagonist tries to avoid a clash with his rival who has many more stronger allies while a third party tries to twist the situation to their advantage. In the meanwhile the different characters go through certain trials. Of course there is a greater development which is part of the great weave, but I just wish Wurts would be able to create some different minor plot that would shake things up.

This repetition of plot themes combined with a slow plot development and the extensive of words to tell her story are the main reasons why I do not consider this series to be great or impressive. It is a nice read of good quality which keeps me entertained. It is better than average and keeps a steady level. I want to see how it will all end up, although I don’t expect any great surprises or twists. Wurts stays fairly traditional and somewhat old-fashioned. This is not a bad thing, it just sets the expectations at a certain level.

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