Friday, September 16, 2011

Review of The Lyonesse Trilogy by Jack Vance

Those familiar with Vance’s work know that his style is unrivalled.  So unique, anyone who attempted to imitate his voicing or phrasing would immediately be called out by the fantasy community, unable to show their face again.  The Lyonesse trilogy is one of these works which, along with Tales of the Dying Earth, Planet of Adventure, and The Demon Princes series, lay the foundation for fantasy literature’s most unique voice.  That Vance backs up his style with a most enjoyable, adventuresome tale sets the eyes glassy with joy. 

Fantasy in perhaps its purest form, the Lyonesse trilogy is Arthurian legend through the prism of Merlin's crystal ball. With princes and princesses, trolls and fairies abound, the reader quickly grabs hold of Vance's archetypes and is taken for a ride by his innate ability to spin a yarn.  The first book, called "Suldrun’s Garden” by most fans, sets the scene of the medieval Elder Isles and the various rivalries for power occurring among the kingdoms.  The second book, The Green Pearl, advances the storyline of the protagonist, Alias, as a wise ruler seeking to unite the Isle to once and for all in the name of peace, while simultaneously coloring the inimitable Murgen, Vance’s Merlin figure.  The final book, Maduoc, along with winning the World Fantasy Award, ties together the multitude of threads Vance has woven in the previous two books in a most satisfactory fashion, the ending truly Arthurian for Alias’s estranged daughter and those living in the Elder Isles.  

Never quite taking himself seriously, Vance goes about writing the trilogy in his usual jocular, overly-formal, and utterly humorous style that certainly takes some getting used to by the uninitiated.  When one comes to the realization that all they need do is relax and let the story flow, the delight that is Vance comes springing into the imagination, wizards and spells, potions and magic mirrors never being so much fun.  Though the tongue-in-cheek style does detract from the seriousness of several character outcomes, the sheer joy of truly never knowing where Vance’s imagination will take the reader next is worth the read, and for that the series comes recommended.  In fact, any true lover of zany adventure and imagination need check this out, or any other of Vance’s works.

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