Monday, April 16, 2007

CSFF April Blog Tour: Day One of "Return of the Guardian King"

CSSF Blog Tour

This month we're going to be talking about the conclusion to Karen Hancock's Legends of the Guardian King books, namely Return of the Guardian King.

I've absolutely loved this series. From the very first book, I've been hooked. You may remember that a few months ago, when I came across the cover art for this final installment of the series, I posted it on this blog and gushed about how excited I was and how I couldn't wait for April to get here so I could get my grubby little hands on the book and find out what happened to Abramm, Maddie, and the land of Kiriath.

This book makes a wonderful cap to an excellent fantasy series. Hancock's world is rich and evocative and you can tell that she did a lot of work on the backstory for the world, giving it a detailed history that she only hints at (and is really all she had to do). The relationships in the book are fascinating, especially the bizarre romance between Trap and Carissa (I don't want to say too much more than that). When I set down the book after devouring it, I was, for the most part, satisfied.

But not completely.

It pains me to admit this, but I thought the ending kind of fizzled. At first, I couldn't place my finger on it, but after reflecting on it for a few hours, I realized what the problem was. Just as a warning, if you haven't read the books, you might want to skip down to the links of other participants. I'll try to avoid the spoilers as much as I can, but I'll have to inevitably reveal some stuff to explain my slight disappointment.

The problem with the way this story ended lies in the conflict between Abramm and his younger brother Gillard. Throughout the series, it's been made clear that Abramm and Gillard don't like each other. Throughout the series, this conflict grew and grew until, in Shadow Over Kiriath, it reached an explosive climax. Gillard seemed to triumph in a major way (I want to say how, but personally, I hate spoilers, so I'll try to refrain).

All throughout Return of the Guardian King, I was looking forward to the final showdown between Abramm and Gillard. I was expecting some grand final clash between Terstan and Mataio as Abramm reclaimed what was lost. At the very least, I was expecting more of the story to focus on Gillard and what was happening in Kiriath.

But that's not what happened. Instead, after only a brief appearance in the beginning of the book, Gillard disappears until almost the end. After that, no conflict, no confrontation, just a series of deus ex machina moments that, to me, fell kind of flat.

Now I know what Karen Hancock was going after. I personally loved the allusions to Job that were woven throughout the book and given those themes, the ending tied in well with them. And maybe I'm guilty of "Monday morning quarterbacking" here but I would have done things differently.

All of this doesn't mean that I didn't like the book. Far from it. I loved this book and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone (along with the other three books, namely Light of Eidon, The Shadown Within, and Shadow Over Kiriath). It's just that instead of an absolute perfect end, it had a good ending. In my opinion. There we go.

Go check out the other blog tour participants to see what they have to say:

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Rebecca Grabill
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Shannon McNear
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver

Tomorrow, I'm planning on discussing Ms. Hancock's depiction of Christianity in the series. But by far, Wednesday's post should be the most interesting. I'm tentatively entitling the post "Sin boldly." Why? Come back and see.


Sharon Hinck said...

Hi, John!
It was SO great meeting you and your wonderful family live and in person when you were in town!

I can't wait to read your Wednesday post. :-) I've been mulling a lot about my Lutheran roots (especially the wise application of law and gospel) and how it affects my approach to storytelling.

Karen Hancock said...

Thanks for the kind review, John. I'm a little amused at your objection to the ending for a number of reasons, one of which is that I suspected some readers were going to react exactly as you did. That was part of the challenge that came when I realized that I was trying to do wasn't going to line up with the typical arc for an epic story (as mentioned in one of the interviews I gave for this tour -- I think maybe it was Shannon's.)

The other is because "not the way I would have done it" is just so typical of writer/critics. I do the same thing. In fact, it's one of the things that moved me to write in the first place. I didn't like the way the author had done a particular story so I wrote it "my way." LOL

I appreciate your thoughts, though, and look forward to what you have to say tomorrow and Wednesday.

Becky said...

Interesting, John. I hadn't thought about a Gillard/Abramm show down. I saw the enemy as using Gillard, which allowed him to survive and apparently dethrone Abbram, so I figured there wouldn't be as much of an emphasis on him in this book. But now that you've mentioned it, I can see that point.


D. G. D. Davidson said...

Good review. I look forward to tomorrow and hope you don't mind if I refer to your analysis of the book's theology on my own blog (I'll give credit).

Rebecca said...

I agree on Gillard, more or less. I do see it as so fitting that he ends up [BLEEP! Censored to avoid spoilers!]. I had a problem with the ending to the first book in that the plot sort of, I don't know, took what I felt was an illogical leap [right before the "people movement" in the hills]. The second was fantastic, the third, I, uh, can't comment on because I skimmed it (sorry - I was writing MY fantasy at the time and it's hard to read a great book in the same genre as one being written).

But this last one ... Gillard aside, Karen has written these books so thoroughly, so carefully with such attention to detail and every scene taking you forward without leaving great gaps of "Wha?" - yet, I felt little but "Wha?" for the final hundred or so pages. It was (as I said over at my place) hurried. Sort of wan. I think this may be more to do with deadlines, which is just cry-able.

Can't wait for tomorrow's post!