Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Naming

Book: The Naming by Alison Croggon
(The First Book of Pellinor)

Description: Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child after her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now she and her new teacher must survive a journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle stem from the deepest recesses of otherworldly terror.
(from the book jacket)

My Thoughts: As the description hints at, this is not a fantasy full of superficial happiness and glittery fairies. Croggon does not hesitate to grapple with the evil and cruelty in the world and in the human soul. But if the land of Annar is full of darkness, it also full of equally good, kind people who refuse to be cowed by the darkness around them.

Croggon is a masterful writer; her descriptions of the land and the people Maerad and Cadvan see are gorgeous--so easy to read, and they make everything just seem to jump off the page. She is equally skilled at describing Maerad's emotions. Maerad is one of the few characters I've read, certainly recently, that is realistic in ways that I didn't even think about until Croggon brought them up, things like Maerad having her period or not behaving consistently all the time (sometimes she's afraid and timid, at other times brave; sometimes she's mature beyond her years, at other times she sulks). She's just a person. Other characters, although of course not described in depth, are also well-developed, and in a sense that seems true to life where bits and pieces are revealed over time.

The Naming is the beginning of an epic fantasy series, in the best sense of an epic (it is actually supposedly based on an ancient Annaran epic poem). It draws heavily from Lord of the Rings in some ways, and that's certainly what it reminds me of, but I'll admit that I much prefer this series. Croggon includes multitudes of female characters performing awesome feats but also just living, there's actual character development, and it's a world that is both distant and familiar.

My one complaint against The Naming is how quickly Maerad changes after she is rescued from slavery. She's rescued... and two or three weeks later she's happily learning how to write (which she's amazingly good at) and use a sword at a School, apparently well-adjusted to her new circumstances. A bit far-fetched to me.

Overall, a fantastic fantasy novel with strong but imperfect characters and an enchanting world. Highly recommended!!!

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