fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Robert Scott Jay Gordon Eldarn: The Hickory Staff, Lessek's Key, The Larion SenatorsTHE ELDARN SEQUENCE by Robert Scott & Jay Gordon

THE ELDARN SEQUENCE is a good story told poorly.

This review was difficult for me to do. Partly because I’m writing it on a day off work while home sick and partly because there are characteristics of these books that really annoy me, but reflect some real-world political and cultural positions and I want to review the book without offending anyone inadvertently. If you are offended by anything here, just assume that you’ve read it incorrectly and that I am really the most tolerant and inoffensive person anywhere in the world, not to mention freakishly intelligent and good looking.

THE ELDARN SEQUENCE consists of three books, The Hickory Staff, Lessek’s Key, and The Larion Senators. The series was co-written by two new authors: Robert Scott and Jay Gordon.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSome aspects of the ELDARN series are quite good. Firstly, I’ll admit to being a sucker for “crossing over” books where the main characters are originally from Earth and are somehow whisked across time and space into a fantasy world — in this case the world of Eldarn — because it makes it easier for me to relate to the storyline if the characters originate from Earth. But quite aside from my bias, there are some clever and original ideas here. In fact, most of the basic ideas are quite intriguing and the world the authors created is wonderfully real.

The problem is the writing, which is as cliché-ridden, predictable, and overwrought as any I’ve ever come across. Reading the books gives a similar feeling to hearing a favourite song come on the radio and then realising that it’s been re-recorded by some talentless rap artist. The tale starts out in a bad imitation of Stephen King‘s writing style, with nearly every early chapter, and many later ones, following the same mould: create a character, give him or her a flaw to make them seem more human, and then kill them in a particularly gruesome way. In one instance, a character gets his head slowly torn off. Aside from the needless gore, you’d think that he’d die when his neck bones break and other nasty things happen in his throat before the skin and flesh actually rip apart… But, anyway.

The writing is incredibly melodramatic. You can almost hear those four ‘da-da-da-dum’ notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony with each turn of the page. I could imagine someone like John Woo directing a movie adapted from the ELDARN series, with lots of explosions and people yelling ‘N-o-o-o-o’ in slow motion. There does seem to be a lot of Hollywood influence in these books. In fact, at one point a wooden ship literally explodes in a huge fireball and people dive from it unscathed into the water several stories below.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThere are many predictable moments and also what could be kindly called ‘strong influences’ in the plot. For example, there is a remarkably faithful re-enactment of Tolkien’s return of Gandalf, right down to the lack of recognition of him by the main characters until he reveals himself.

The thing that finally killed this series for me was the fact that I just didn’t like the main characters and I don’t share their narrow-minded world-views. They have an arrogance and a self-righteous sense of superiority and the books are written as though everything they do is right, that the people of Eldarn need to learn a thing or two about cultural sensitivity, and so forth. Reading the books makes me feel as though I’ve been cornered at a party by someone who yells his beer-breath opinions on life into my face like they are the only valid ones in the world.

Conversely, the characters are filled with an avenging anger towards anyone who is not enlightened to their own level of tolerance. There is a point in Lessek’s Key where a minor character — just a stranger in the wilderness — identifies one of the main characters by the colour of his skin (he is an African-American), which is what they do over in Eldarn. Well, the main character gets so furious he wants to kill him and he laughs as he threatens the stranger with death, saying, “Ridding the world — even this rotting nightmare of a world — of a racist… might be the best thing I’ve done.” The stranger tries to talk his way out of it and references another character, identifying him as an “old man.” The response by the first main character is, “Adding ageism to your list of transgressions is not impressing me, shithead,” and he draws his bow further back.

It’s one thing to oppose oppression — and I am all for that — but murdering someone for the crime of ageism? Ranting, homicidal champions of political correctness have never been high on my list of heroes. I stopped reading at that point.

Eldarn — (2005-2007) Publisher: Steven Taylor is bored. As assistant manager at the First National Bank of Idaho Springs in Colorado, he finds most days tiresome: he’s marking time in the foothills and waiting for opportunity to come calling. A new romance inspires him — but not as much as the unexpected discovery of a 135-year-old safe deposit box he finds while wading through a basement full old ledgers. Finding the key should be difficult, but it is not as arduous a task as deciding whether he should breach the bank’s code of ethics and open it. The safe deposit box has been locked tight since 1870, when the lone miner who rented it arranged for its security with a fortune in raw silver, then disappeared less than a day later. And when Steven does succumb to his overwhelming curiosity, he finds far more than he could ever have anticipated — not least a portal to the mysterious world of Eldarn. He and his roommate, Mark Jenkins, drawn inexorably into this land filled with magic and mysticism, discover Eldarn is wild and beautiful, rich in culture and traditions — and oppressed by Nerak, a monstrous dictator with a lust for power. In their search for a path back to Colorado, the pair join forces with Eldarni partisans struggling to battle the ancient evil behind Nerak’s reign of terror. And all too soon they discover the fate of Eldarn hinges on them — and their ability to find a way home. Join Steven Taylor and Mark Jenkins in their journey back to Colorado as they battle demons, homicidal wraiths, ravenous beasts and an occupation army of soulless warriors sent after them by the creature plotting the annihilation Eldarn and its inhabitants.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMark Pawlyszyn, one of our earliest guest reviewers, has always tended toward the creative side of life and had careers in music and painting before settling into his current position as the owner of Unique Images Photography. Mark has visited and lived in twelve countries and can ask for directions to the bathroom in several languages. He currently lives in Canada with his wife, Sherri.