Monday, March 24, 2008

Ick. Number 8 this year took me far too long to slog through. It was The Language of Stones, by Robert Carter.

This is a slightly off-kilter telling of a re-born Arthur, one who shows up at the beginning of the War of the Roses in the 1300s. It has a Merlyn-type character, called Gwydion here, who has hidden away his reincarnated Arthur, a boy called Willand, in an unassuming place in what sounds like the north of England.

Now, the thing is, aside from using some actual dramatis personale from the War of the Roses (i.e. Henry VI), Carter doesn't use any real place names, and I found this hugely distracting as I was constantly trying to figure out WHERE the hell they were in this place. Had I known that the author explains this and gives you a bit of a 'key' in an afterword, I would've read that first and not been so distracted. Damn.

Carter also has a hate-on for the Catholic church. Not that he calls it the Catholic church, but that's definitely what it is. He states that it 'enslaves minds' and 'keeps the poor poor and enthralled to promises that never come true'. Which is all very true. He makes the Church sound truly scary though, and I did appreciate that.

So basically, the gist of the story is that Willand is a Child of Destiny, a reincarnation of Great Arthur (who has come back twice before) destined to save the world basically. In this case though, Willand doesn't seem destined to be king, nor to be a warrior, he is more... wizard like than anything. But, Willand does seem to have a natural harmony with the land (a theme often seen in Celtic and Arthurian legends, where the king is a relflection of the land itself), and he hones this and uses it to find the 'battlestones' that Gwydion says are scattered throughout the land. These battlestones (and their opposing 'good' stones) have been corrupted over centuries, by having the mana flow through the natural ley lines disturbed (mainly by the building of Roman roads, cutting off the natural flow) and these battlestones are now holding a great deal of harm, and projecting this harm so that the country itself is poised on the brink of war. So Gwydion and Willand traverse the country trying to find and neutralize these battle stones before war starts.

They aren't quite successful, for there is a huge battle at one point where the rebel troops (those of the house of York, the rightful ruling family) massacre the troops of the king (the house of Lancaster, the family of the usurper Henry IV), but Willand manages to shatter the Doomstone and avoid the worst of it.

Its an interesting book and the dynamic between Willand and Gwydion is a good one, Willand being quite reminiscent of Wart from a Once and Future King, and the idea of mana flow and ley lines is done very well, but it does start to suffer from techo-babble syndrome after awhile, where they go into so much detail that I just skip over it and block it out. It might actually be magical, but its still babble after awhile if you get bogged down in the details.

There are other books in this series, but I haven't decided if I want to read them yet.