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Thursday, December 11, 2008

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: “The Riddler’s Gift” by Greg Hamerton (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

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INTRODUCTION:The Riddler’s Gift” by Greg Hamerton, subtitled the First Tale of the Lifesong, is an excellent fantasy debut which deserves a wider audience in the epic fantasy world. Though described as a typical epic fantasy, I was impressed by the energy of the writing style and thoroughly enjoyed the page-turning novel…

SETTING:The Riddler’s Gift” is set in an alternate Earth-like domain called Eyri which was isolated and hidden with strong magic from the rest of the planet by a cabal of eight wizards called the Gyre.

The Gyre oppose the most powerful “Chaos” wizard ever—Ametheus who has brought destruction and misery to the rest of the planet. But they are not strong enough to fight him directly. So with Eyri, they hope to nurture “new wizard blood” away from Ametheus' interference. A new wizard will emerge only when a person can master both the dark essence (shadowcasters) and the light essence (lightgifters). But after several hundred years, nobody has yet succeeded…

Of the characters, Tabitha Serannon is a talented singer and the daughter of a lightgifter mother. During a local singing contest, Tabitha attracts the attention of shadowcaster Kirjath Arkell, who has plans of accumulating power and independence from Cabal, the dark master of the forces of the night. Luckily, Glavenor, an Eyri sword master, is at hand to save the day, although Arkell escapes with revenge on his mind.

Young Ashley Logan meanwhile, is a “half-knot”—apprentice lightgifter—with a talent for mischief and is a continual annoyance to Shamgar, the powerful Rector of the “Gifter academy” Dovecote. So Logan gets sent on a “fool's errand” mission with senior gifters Father Keegan and Sister Grace who are also in the bad graces of the Academy headmaster.

And of course there is the “Riddler” of the title, Twardy Zarost of many faces, whose ultimate loyalties are a riddle all their own…

FORMAT/INFO:The Riddler's Gift” stands at 643 pages divided over forty-seven titled chapters. Each chapter starts with a quote from Twardy Zarost. The book also includes a map of Eyri and a Preface chapter which is quite important in understanding the “big picture” issues of the novel.

Narration is in the third-person via several POVs and takes place in the present tense. The main character and POV, Tabitha Serannon, gets the most face time, but significant pages are devoted to Arkell, Ashley, Glavenor, Cabal, and of course Zarost.

The ending to “The Riddler’s Gift” is excellent wrapping up all the major threads in the novel, though as usual with the first book in a series, the bigger picture is only now starting to come into focus.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: After the superb Preface chapter which clearly explains the large-scale issues to be explored in the series, the novel starts with a bang when the main villain of the novel, shadowcaster Kirjath Arkell, makes his appearance.

Thwarted by Tabitha and Garyll Glavenor, Arkell, in his pursuit for revenge, summons a dark, ancient and very powerful magic in the shape of a monstrous creature of legend called Morgloth. But Morgloth is feared for a reason and it is unclear who will control who…

Despite the unusual disruption in her life, Tabitha still plans to sing at Stormhaven in the King's Challenge. However, tragedy strikes, forcing Tabitha to escape with a strange ring that both attracts and repulses her at the same time. And with the help of the “Riddler” Twardy Zarost, Tabitha decides to become a lightgifter like her mother and return the ring to the powerful wizard that it is destined for.

Of course, things are never that simple and soon Tabitha finds herself involved in intrigue, the struggle between the forces of light and dark, and the larger issue hanging over the whole of Eyri. From here, the plot twists unexpectedly several times, keeping the reader second-guessing up to the very end about the loyalties of several characters and the book’s ultimate direction…

At first, the main thing that impressed me about “The Riddler's Gift” was its “energy” which just compelled you to keep turning the pages to see what would happen next. But then you find yourself really caring about the characters, and in no time you are completely lost in the flow of the novel and it’s almost as if the pages are turning themselves. And when you reach the end of “The Riddler’s Gift”, you’re left wanting more.

Highly, highly recommended.


Anonymous said...

love the cover

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