In Loresmen, book three of Matthew Christian Harding’s Peleg Chronicles, we return to the post-Flood world of the Quixotic Lord McDougal, his faithful squire Fergus Leatherhead and the young and intrepid ranger Thiery.
Like the first book in the series (Foundlings), Paladins ended on a cliffhanger, but gave us such a great set up for the final book in the trilogy that I could scarcely wait to begin reading it! My busy schedule got in the way, but I did eventually get around to finishing the Peleg Chronicles. I wish I could say it was a happy ending for me.
Oh, the characters are just as strong and delightful, with the exception (as noted in previous reviews) of a strong protagonist. I had hopes that King Strongbow or the Witch Esla or the Dragon Cult or even the diabolical dragonrider Squilby would finally step things up, but these antagonists were two dimensional at best. Strongbow does little more than menace and set up a final conflict he has nothing to do with. In fact, we are left with the impression that our heroes live happily ever after despite his continued existence beyond said conflict despite the protagonists’ objection to the mad king’s belief that he is a god. Esla may as well have never existed in the novels. She exits as a footnote. The Dragon Cult amounted to two-dimensional nameless foes, minions for a Dark Lord that never graced these pages. Squilby was the strongest antagonist but he does nothing until the final conflict and his end is disappointing and stupid. In fact, I daresay that he dies from making a newbie mistake that is altogether inconsistent with his character, leading me to wonder whether the author simply tired of writing and wished to wrap things up without having to write further conflicts.
Whatever the reason, this book suffers from a basic sin against storytelling. One of the basic elements of successful fiction is the principle of “Show, don’t tell.” What this essentially means is that we shouldn’t summarize what happened but rather show what happened via a scene. Remember that great cliffhanger from Book 2? Harding begins well, delivering an awesome arena spectacle: our heroes versus the formidable giants, Lunace, Ogre and Goblin. The action ends abruptly and we cut away to a few quieter scenes. Our assumption is that the author wants to set up the next act while keeping us on the edge of our seats with the question of “What happened to our heroes in the area? Did they win?” Only then someone mentions that they won, eliminating all tension. By the time someone relates how they won, I literally didn’t care anymore. Nor was I surprised that I was told what happened instead of being shown what happened. If you think that’s bad, you should know that most of the final conflict violates the principle of Show, Don’t Tell. I don’t like my final conflicts given to me in summary, thank you very much.
The third strike against this much-anticipated book came in the form of a footnote. An actual footnote in a work of fiction. This intrusive message from the author totally destroyed the illusion for me. Worse, it was completely unnecessary. I was well aware from reading the story that Elvodug wasn’t a real wizard and was only tricking the boy. I can only suspect that the author’s commitment to “No Humanism! No Evolution! No Magic!” is so strong that he didn’t want any doubts on the subject. Nevermind he’s had a witch in his story since the first book and never once felt the need for such an interruption of the story! He should’ve had more faith in his own storytelling abilities.
The first two books included an appendix or two. Loresmen includes an appendix on magic and the Bible. It’s little more than a bunch of verses mentioning magic, sorcery and witches, largely self explanatory but a little commentary would’ve been nice.
Loresmen was a disappointing end to the Peleg Chronicles.
You can find out more about the Peleg Chronicles at http://MatthewChristianHarding.com.
-Rev Tony Breeden
From the Bookwyrm’s Lair
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”