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November 22, 2002

"Mordant's Need" series by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through make up this series by the fellow who apparently wrote a fairly controversial series ("Thomas Covenant") my husband has told me I shouldn't read.

I was able to fit these two books in my severely overstuffed suitcase on the way back from ACNW, where I received them (and some other books I'll be reviewing later) as a gift from the lovely Louisa and not-so-shy Sean. [grin] The Kitten was hoping to run an Imager as described in the series in one of my sillier convention games ("The Devil's Playground") and I had no experience with the books until afterwards. Louisa's clever breakdown and description of the powers was invaluable in truly comprehending some of the more pertinent limitations and concerns I didn't quite understand from the story itself.

First things first, I spent most of the first book wanting to scream at the protagonist. It wasn't really her fault, I suppose, that she had less motivation than Merlin in the second Amber series. She was enough of a non-person that I had to look up her name a day after having finished the series. Anything she seems to accomplish seems done purely out of reaction, rather than purpose.

Now, truthfully, it does lend a certain definition to her character, but not one which interests me as a reader. Yes, I understand the metaphor between Dorothy's grey Kansas, and the colours of Oz, and yes, adventure tempers you into something else. I understand that...but it's hard to watch someone you suppose is fairly intelligent (if underapplied) simply go through life as if in a dream.

It's even worse when you figure in the slimy antagonist, a fellow who is seemingly irresistable to women (of course) bringing a needless level of intimacy into the story. The suggestion of rape, along with the lack of willpower associated with the protagonist makes for an unpleasant and unnecessary sideplot. Frankly, as stereotypical as it is, it made me very aware that the author wasn't writing as a woman. You didn't get the feeling that Terisa (I looked her name up on Amazon) was helpless because of her past, or her emotions, or even her expectations of womanhood (which would have fit her background), you get the idea that she was so out of touch with reality that her naivete allowed the situation to develop...and that makes the ending even less believable on a character-study basis.

I'm getting ahead of myself. The story is fairly in-depth. I wouldn't call it epic, but it's certainly solid. There's magic, war, love, family, and checkers. I have a very hard time justifying the train-of-logic the author suggests is in place for the reasoning behind the actions of certain characters. I suspect it is a plastic train with a rubber squeaky top and an alignment that leans it towards the left. At the same time, while I did not entirely understand the personal vehemence the antagonists held towards the protagonists, I did get a fairly comprehensive view of the action (which was fairly sensible and well described.)

The characterization (with the exception of Terisa and her main antagonist) is fairly consistent, and several come across as rather genuine and were a pleasure to read. Overall, the right people die, the story is fairly engaging, the dialogue is adequate, but the main characters make me grit my teeth.

Posted by Meera at November 22, 2002 10:22 AM