Monday 10 May 2021

The Redemption of Althalus


Picked this up because I liked the cover colours and I was in the mood for epic fantasy:

It would be sheer folly to try to conceal the true nature of Althalus, for his flaws are the stuff of legend. He is, as all men know, a thief, a liar, an occasional murderer, an outrageous braggart, and a man devoid of even the slightest hint of honor.

Yet of all the men in the world, it is Althalus, unrepentant rogue and scoundrel, who will become the champion of humanity in its desperate struggle against the forces of an ancient god determined to return the universe to nothingness. On his way to steal The Book from the House at the End of the World, Althalus is confronted by a cat - a cat with eyes like emeralds, the voice of a woman, and the powers of a goddess. She is Dweia, sister to The Gods and a greater thief even than Althalus. She must be: for in no time at all, she has stolen his heart. And more. She has stolen time itself. For when Althalus leaves the House at the End of the World, much wiser but not a day older than when he'd first entered it, thousands of years have gone by.

But Dweia is not the only one able to manipulate time. Her evil brother shares the power, and while Dweia has been teaching Althalus the secrets of The Book, the ancient God has been using the dark magic of his own Book to rewrite history. Yet all is not lost. But only if Althalus, still a thief at heart, can bring together a ragtag group of men, women, and children with no reason to trust him or each other. Boldly written and brilliantly imagined, The Redemption of Althalus is an epic fantasy to be savored in the listening and returned to again and again for the wisdom, excitement, and humor that only the Eddingses can provide.


People talk really highly about David Eddings's earlier work, especially the Belgariad series, but this is the first of his that I've picked up and it didn't really chime with me. I found myself rather agreeing with this Goodreads reviewer:

I like the evil side to be just as intelligent as the good side; an even match so you question the ending... The "bad guys" as they so often refer to them are, well, stupid. They're incompetent bumbling fools held together by an evil god who never makes an appearance. - Adam Reinwald


I suppose the best way to describe the book is 'jaunty.' Everything's very upbeat, the main characters face few real challenges, their success is never in question and, as Reinwald put it, the bad guys are stupid. There's nothing about them to fear. All of that probably wouldn't be so bad if the book wasn't twenty-seven-and-a-half hours long. That feels like a lot of time when there is little happening. The characters spend most of it discussing battle tactics and talking about what they are going to do, and far less time actually doing what they've just said they're going to do. It's a lot of tell with little show. 

There was also quite a bit of roll-your-eyes-aren't-women-funny moments, where the lead character addresses the all-powerful female goddess (in the non-threatening form of a cat) as 'yes, dear,' repeatedly and makes uncomfortably too much out of one young female character having 'daddy issues' and calling him 'daddy' all the time. That was just weird. Neither the baddies nor the female characters seem to have much substance. It's all just very jolly. 

I did think the opening couple of chapters were excellent, but, like The Hummingbird’s Tear, it just didn't maintain that level after the initial opener. People who have read more of his work say that the characters in this story are diluted versions of characters from his earlier books, so perhaps he got caught in a trope and couldn't shake it off. That happens sometimes.

I very rarely speed up a reading, because I feel guilty for all the work that's gone into it, and the narrator, Dennis Holland, did a really great job, but it just wasn't what I was looking for in high fantasy, though plenty of other people loved it.

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