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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: "The Silver Serpent" by David Debord

Read An Excerpt HERE

Originally founded in 2004 as a print and online zine—featuring short stories, poetry, book reviews, interviews, et cetera—dedicated toward promoting fantasy literature, Gryphonwood cranked it up a notch in 2007 when they entered the world of publishing. Among their launch titles were Sherry Thompson’sSeabird”, David Wood’sDourado” and “The Silver Serpent” by debut novelist David Debord.

Like many opening volumes in an epic fantasy series, “The Silver Serpent” is largely about setup. Characters are introduced, the world is established, and the plot is interested more in setting the stage for the rest of the series. In this case, the characters include five major viewpoints—Shanis, Oskar, Hierm, Prince Lerryn, and later on, the Seeker Aspin—and numerous supporting players like Lerryn’s younger brother Larris Van Altman, the vizier Xaver, Allyn, Khalyndryn, Karst, et cetera. Of these, Shanis is our main protagonist and is easily recognizable by many characteristics that are familiar to the genre such as growing up in a small village, acting more like a boy than a girl, having a family heritage she is unaware of, and being destined for greater things. In fact, most of the characters in the book—from the scholarly type in Oskar to the shifty adviser of a noble and the irritating snobbish female—are based on stereotypical models, and while none of them really surprise the reader with their actions, David does a solid job of making you feel for them, whether it’s rooting for Shanis, distrusting Xaver, hating Karst, or just finding Khalyndryn downright annoying ;)

As far as the plot, “The Silver Serpent” centers on four youths who leave their small village of Galsbur and end up embarking on a prophesied quest to retrieve a weapon out of legend—the Silver Serpent—that is said to possess the power to defeat the evil Ice King who is reawakening… I know that sounds about as generic as a fantasy novel can get, but there’s actually much to like with David’s story starting with the fact that there are two parties trying to fulfill the prophecy. In addition to this little twist, there are also different factions that either oppose or support the discovery of the Silver Serpent and the mysterious sai-kur who have their own hidden agenda. On top of that, David plants the seeds for a number of interesting subplots—a pending war, a traitor amongst Shanis’ friends, Hierm taking responsibility for his actions—that should take effect as the series progresses, while also hinting at a much larger world. Speaking of which, don’t expect too much from the worldbuilding. At only three hundred pages, “The Silver Serpent” is pretty slim for an epic fantasy novel and as such, the worldbuilding is secondary to the characters and plotting. All you need to know is that the world is medieval-based, there is a small presence of magic in the land, and there are seven gods whose presence has been noticeably absent—for the time being…

Overall, David Debord isn’t going to win any awards for originality with his novel “The Silver Serpent”, but I have to say that I was quite impressed with the book. The characters were well-crafted, the pacing excellent, the prose was straightforward but accomplished, and the story was an enjoyable blend of adventure, intrigue, and humor. In fact, as far as traditional fantasy goes, I think fans of Terry Brooks and David Eddings could easily enjoy “The Silver Serpent”, while I would rate the novel just as strong as Drew Bowling’sThe Tower of Shadows” or Gail Z. Martin’s the Chronicles of the Necromancer. In short, David’s debut is a more than passable entry in the fantasy genre and I look forward to reading the rest of The Absent Gods saga which continues in “Keeper of the Mists”. Regarding the publisher, obviously there’s only so much an indie can accomplish when it comes to marketing and packaging—the cover art for instance leaves much to be desired—but I really have to commend Gryphonwood for what they’re trying to do, and if they can continue to put out quality titles like David Debord’sThe Silver Serpent”, then I see no reason why they can’t be successful…


heather (errantdreams) said...

Hmm. Probably not one I will bother to pick up, but hopefully he'll move on to more original things once he has more experience under his belt.

daydream said...

You know sometimes a person needs a dose of the classic in the genre, the characters that started the genre and later on turned into stereotypes. Of course this has to be handled tastefully and should carry a sort of new vibe, new life to make the genre even more interesting, so that readers can enjoy with nostalgic view of the past.

Anonymous said...

I've read this book, and felt that it was a solid read. I'm likely to read the rest of it, because I enjoy the classic fantasy themes, and this delivers those aplenty, with enough twists and interesting characters to keep you reading. A solid start for David.

Robert said...

There's nothing wrong with embracing classic tropes as long as it's done tastefully like you said daydream, and I think David does just that :)

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