Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Master of Five Magics (1980)

The Master of Five Magics (1980) by Lyndon Hardy sits at that annoying place between being a good and a bad book. The book itself tells the story of Alodar, who desperate wants to be a suitor to the Queen, so that he can restore the fortunes of his once noble heritage. In doing so, he tries each magic.

The structure of the story is rather fun, with the early parts of the book acting as independent stories, and the later part acting as a single story. The episodic breakdown worked out rather well, giving the reader a coherent tale for each segment. This broke down towards the end, making the episodes slide one into the other, presumably because the story just worked better as a singular narrative as opposed to a sequential narrative.

Lyndon's exploration of magic proved rather fun, as each magic had its own twists, turns, and downfalls. These differences lent themselves well to each distinctive type of of story.

The world itself is a slapdash sword and sorcery style world, where there's no need for a map, history and politics are shallow, and all those fussy world building details don't matter much.

At the same time, the characters are stiffer than wallboard and more difficult to swallow. Their dialog is so stiff that you could starch your drawers. There isn't a naturalistic line in the entire narrative. Meanwhile, the women can be divided into impossible love interest and achievable love interest. The Queen, of course, is busty and beautiful. Meanwhile, the achievable love interest is a redhead, rough and tumble, and not like all those other stuffy girls.

By the end, our hero has become mighty studly, defeated the enemy, gotten the girl, and restored himself. This isn't a spoiler as these books only have that sort of ending.

While the plot sometimes rolls along well, at other times, it becomes an annoying inconvenience between you and the end of the book. The later chapters increasingly ground on me (not that the early chapters didn't), while the end, the part that should have been most engaging because it was the accumulation of everything that came before, could be mostly waved off as filler and ignored.

If you made me choose good or bad, I would describe this book as a good bad book. The book is objectively bad enough to throw against the wall, but it's not without it merits and avoids most of the excesses of bad books. Unfortunately, it doesn't have enough good qualities to qualify as a good book.