Archive for August, 2015

Judith Tarr – The Lady Of Han-Gilen

Monday, August 31st, 2015

In the second novel in the Avaryan Rising fantasy series, Judith Tarr departs from the traditional legend tale of the first novel, The Hall Of The Mountain King, to give a kind of retelling of the love triangle. In The Lady Of Han-Gilen (1987) the story is told from the female perspective instead of the male protagonist of the first novel. He is actually absent in the first part of the story, his name already growing in the known world. Tarr avoids telling the story of his rise and jumps to the next pivotal events in his life, this time told from a different point of view.

The female protagonist is certainly no damsel, but rather strong-minded, quite capable with plenty of daring. The first half of the novel plays out rather eventful and pleasant to the neutral reader. One might have expected the journey of the protagonist to take longer but Tarr makes it a fast one. The quest-like story transforms into a full-fledged romance in the second half in which the female protagonist battles desire and love and Tarr manages to make it quite convincing although the final result is what is to be expected.

Although I am male I do not dislike a well-told romance if it stays away from being too obvious, sweet or dramatic. Tarr walks a fine line during the deciding moments but her resilient heroine is not stupid and quite aware of the situation she gets herself into. No human is perfect and things can turn out differently than expected. In the first half Tarr sets the main protagonist up to develop a deep character who is far from witless so that the second half is experienced in the right state of mind although it may have given away the conclusion to easily. Of course the whole series already predefines how certain things will develop so the reader is here for the journey.

The Lady Of Han-Gilen is a quite pleasant story, well written with a fast developing plot that keeps an even pace. The main flaw to me was that it was too short. The heroine of the story is very likeable and should have been given more room to shine. Instead the plot is rather straightforward during the second half although the twist that leads to the end simply brings the story to a quick conclusion. However I did enjoy it overall and it certainly made me want to read more. Recommended.

Judith Tarr – The Hall Of The Mountain King

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

While many fantasy novels share their origin with the legends and fairy tales of old, few share a story and setup that is reminiscent of those legends and fairy tales. Judith Tarr chooses this more classic style for the first novel in the Avaryan Rising series, The Hall Of The Mountain King (1986), as her main protagonist is a half-god arrives to claim his heritage in a land he knows little about.

At first sight the story follows familiar tropes: a thwarted stepmother, the supplanted halfbrother and the new prince showing off his right to the throne. It is not all that simple. Tarr places an unwilling comrade at the main protagonist’s side who despite his dislike and loyalty to the halfbrother holds his duty higher. The halfbrother, while strong and honorable on the outside, is weak on the inside. The story however is not what it seems. It has a character-driven plot although it follows traditional patterns. There are subtleties and details that show that there is much more going on than the story.

Character-driven as the story is, Tarr has plenty of opportunity to delve into the characters and develop them. The novels is not that long but she keeps the progress of the plot fast so that each sequence is provided with plenty of opportunity to explore the characters. From the initial onset to the last pages Tarr grabs the reader’s attention and does not let go until the end. No words are wasted and the only complaint could be that the story isn’t longer, that the plot could be a bit more extensive so we could enjoy the characters more.

Making the story longer or the plot more extended would not have fit this fantasy story that is told like a legend. Like the legends of yore, she follows the traditional patterns and makes sure the reader will have a similar experience. The major difference is the great depth of this character-driven story. The traditional pattern is also the main weakness of the story. It does not provide anything new and much is rather predictable. The reading experience is what makes this novel more than worthwhile. It is actually quite nice to read something traditional that is done so well. Most similar contemporary ones would have made it too simplistic or childish. This is also an adult read, showing how much can be made of something traditional without stepping beyond its boundaries. Recommended.