Friday, August 03, 2012

More Elf Queen of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CLXXXII

Today's post will take us up to the middle of Chapter 11, or roughly half way through the book.

*Spoiler Material*

Wren, Garth, and the happy forest friends arrive a a besieged Arborlon after being chased around the island by various nondescript "demons."  Wondering what in the world they're going to do now, they run into Link the Owl who offers to escort them into the fortified city.  More nondescript monsters attack and Wren is "forced" to use the elfstones again to annihilate a city block's worth of baddies.

That's about what it felt like to read things up to that point.  I wasn't able to really engage with the story and it all fell a little flat.  Even the monsters, which are usually Brook's favorite part, seemed pasteboard.  Upon entering Arborlon, however, the story finally begin to pick up some steam.

Now we find out that the Rover girl is really the long lost elven princess.  Her return has been prophesied for years and she will now somehow save her people.  But there are problems, and for now, at least, no one will admit to Wren what they are or that they exist.  Predictable, perhaps, but now we're getting somewhere.  Characters (Ellenroh, Eowen, Galavin, the Owl, Triss) come pouring in and ask us to make quick judgements on their characters and motives.  The nature of the demons remains elusive as well as how exactly the elves managed to transport their entire city to Hawaii Morrowindl.  There's even the question of how the evac will take place, though it's clear that the elfstones will play some role.

Like I said, now we're cooking with propane.

So, that said, what was the problem with the first third of the novel?  Looking back, I think I can take a few guesses:

1. Problems of subcreation.  The one elf we meet in the first third of the book doesn't "feel" elfin in any noticeable way.  In fact, Tiger Ty's archetype, the cranky pulp pilot, is decisively modern and belongs in the rather un-elfin world of motors and machines.  In Brooks' world, magic and machinery don't go together so even if he's flying a Roc and not a bi-plane there's still a clash between the inherently modern character and the magical race he's supposed to represent.  There are ways to work the logic here, but the literary "flavor" is still disrupted.

2. Wavering between a concrete threat that lacks any depth and creeping dread.  The demons that form the main antagonists in the first third of the work just aren't that scary or interesting.  Brooks usually revels in creating horrific monsters, but the denizens of Morrowindl lack any verve or vigor.  If they were just shadows and nameless fears, that could really work, but Brooks has to have them come out and chase our heroes around the island, and by then the game's up.

3.Happy Forest friends that break the tone of the work.  Though they are the products of experimental mayhem, ala The Island of Doctor Moreau, Stressa and Faun are just a little too cutesie for the setting.  Perhaps Stressa could be gotten away with, but Faun (thought I have nothing particular against him as a character) is just a little too "happy forest creature" for an island that's supposed to be a death-trap.

None of these three points is fatal on its own, but put them all together and they drain much of the interest out of the plot.  Perhaps this could be compensated for with deep psychological yum-yums, but they're just not there.

Anyhow, all of that said, I'll look forward to seeing how the work progresses from here on out.


Paper Tiger said...

I love reading your reviews of the Heritage re-read. I come here often, thanks for the blog!

James said...

You're welcome. Glad you like it!