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Friday, June 26, 2009

"Lord of Silence" by Mark Chadbourn (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Mark Chadbourn Website

Order "Lord of Silence" HERE

Read FBC's Interview with Mark Chadbourn HERE

INTRODUCTION: Mark Chadbourn is a British author who has published 12 books, including one non-fiction volume and also one set in the famous "Dr. Who" universe. He will have two different new trilogies starting to be published in the US beginning this year: one of which will focus on an Elizabethan fantasy sequence called "Swords of Albion" and the other "The Ghost Warrior", which could be described as a traditional epic fantasy, with a slight twist in the narrative that makes it more intriguing.

The first book of the Elizabethan fantasy sequence is "The Silver Skull" which will be out later this year, while the first book of the latter series is "Lord of Silence". Also Pyr has been bringing to the US readers the "Age of Misrule" series (FBC Review of Book 1 HERE) originally published in the UK some years ago.

OVERVIEW: The book is 537 pages long and is divided into seventeen chapters with no prologue or epilogue. The narrative is set in the third person with primary focus on the title character Vidar known as "Lord of Silence" and three other characters, Asgar, Cheyne & Rhiannon, that help Vidar with his investigation.

ANALYSIS: "Lord of Silence" begins with the murder of the greatest warrior of its universe, namely the White Warrior Mellias of the august city of Idriss. This important city is surrounded by a great forest. To locate the murderer, the king of Idriss has appointed Vidar as the head of the Crimson Guard, the elite force which protects the city walls. But Vidar has many problems of his own.

His continual surviving comes at the cost of others' lives. Embedded in his chest there is a jewel that sustains his life but needs to be replenished with other people's souls. To add to the suspense, Vidar is an amnesiac who has appeared three years ago in Idriss and since then has made his name here so the prestigious appointment. To solve the murder mystery, Vidar will have to do more than fight his way: he will be required to remember his past, find out the whys of the jewel in his chest and also solve a 3000 year old religious puzzle.

The setting of the novel has captured the interest of many since the Solaris press release several months ago. It is "Village-esque" with a lonely city set in a dark, vast forest. Idriss seems to be constructed a long time ago but surprisingly none of the city inhabitants can remember any details. They can, however, count how long their families have resided in Idriss by counting their previous generations.

The mystery surrounding Idriss and the murder in the opening pages of the book grabs the readers' attention, after which the author introduces the characters with a regular pace.

The main focus of the novel is Vidar, his enigmatic origins and the reasons for the presence of the jewel in his chest. The secondary mystery of the novel is the vast but vague history of the city of Idriss and the phobia of its inhabitants regarding the surrounding forest. These unanswered questions, along with the rapid pace of the story, keep the reader engrossed in the story. The latter half of the novel explains some of these mysteries. Though the story starts out as a traditional fantasy, Mark Chadbourn has inserted a few surprises that will surprise even jaded fantasy readers.

The secondary characters, introduced within the first several chapters are given enough page presence and background to let the readers see them as individuals and not just pawns of the story. Asgar and Cheyne, members of the Crimson guard, are quite the misfits; Asgar is a half animalistic being while Cheyne is a borderline sociopath. They are fiercely loyal to Vidar. The third character, Rhiannon, is an inquisitor who has being assigned the case. Though she remains a formidable character, her background is less well developed.

The novel can also be classified as a murder mystery since Rhiannon & Asgar are on the trail of the "Red Man". It is also a quest book as Vidar & Cheyne decide to track Vidar's origins to solve all the puzzles encountered so far. The author deftly handles all the threads and makes them come together in the end with spectacular revelations regarding the world and the beings in it. This ties all story threads quite satisfyingly.

Instead of leaving the readers to imagine at will about the surroundings, Mark Chadbourn could have worked a bit more to make this world more credible by adding and explaining layers to the complexity of the world. This is the major flaw of this novel. Additionally, as an avid fantasy reader, I prefer when the author provides maps as it adds to my overall sense of the story and there was no map provided in this book.

Lastly, the forest and its history are never explored. If a city like Idriss is surrounded by such a huge entity for so long, there must be people who would want to do something about it and the lack of interest in the forest is not really explained properly by the fear factor propagated throughout the population.

In the end I would rate this as a very good novel which will intrigue the readers with its premise and will be an excellent read because of the author' style and its plot twists.

Note: "Lord of Silence" will most likely be a solo book as due to Solaris books being put up for sale. It remains to be seen whether the series might be picked up by another publisher to be continued further. The author has expressed considerable interest to unfold the story in this milieu and I believe readers who pick up this book will definitely like Mark to continue their journeys into the world of Idriss.


Cindy said...

Thanks for the review. This is one that I have my eye on but am a little weary of looking into it.

There's a lot of good authors that are left in limbo because of the sale of Solaris, so I hope something good happens with that. Because it'd be a shame.

The Reader said...

Hi Cindy

I hope you do give LOS a try, you might like it quite a bit :)

The Solaris sale has also affect Paul Kearney whos earlier books, I believe, were going to be released as omnibus novels. Its is a sad day as the recession seems to be affecting everything on all levels.



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