Monday, 22 February 2016

Dolor and Shadow

Dolor and Shadow

by Angela B. Chrysler

3 out of 5

As the elven city burns, Princess Kallan is taken to Alfheim while a great power begins to awaken within her. Desperate to keep the child hidden, her abilities are suppressed and her memory erased. But the gods have powers as well, and it is only a matter of time before they find the child again.

When Kallan, the elven witch, Queen of Lorlenalin, fails to save her dying father, she inherits her father's war and vows revenge on the one man she believes is responsible: Rune, King of Gunir. But nothing is as it seems, and the gods are relentless.

A twist of fate puts Kallan into the protection of the man she has sworn to kill, and Rune into possession of power he does not understand. From Alfheim, to Jotunheim, and then lost in the world of Men, these two must form an alliance to make their way home, and try to solve the lies of the past and of the Shadow that hunts them all.

Kallan is one of the long-living fair folk, and the Queen of Lorlenalin. But there is an encroaching darkness, and secrets about her own life that even she is unaware of. Only her enemy, King Rune, can help her.

This was a hard one to rate.
I was just reading another reviewer's post on a completely different book, and a phrase she used caught my attention: "a dense wordiness that is reminiscent of high fantasy novels".
Which struck very true for Dolor and Shadow. Which can be taken as a positive or negative. This book is wordy - the author states this in the synopsis (more on this later). It is written in a style to echo back to the Norse Gods and myths of the tenth century. So this should have been perfect for me.
I love mythology, although most of my own reading and research has been centered around the history of the British Isles and Ireland. I've read plenty of stories from this sort of genre and era: I know that you have to be in the right mood and frame of mind to concentrate and lock into this descriptive world.
Which was why I kept putting the book down, and coming back to it later, hoping that this would be the time that I click with it. I've got to say that I'm still hoping that I can come back to this book later and enjoy it more.

The level of descriptiveness was fine. I think what I struggled with was the repetitiveness.
Whether it was musing over killing someone, hating someone, going out a door...
It felt like a phrase would be repeated several times in a page - a technique that can add a certain poetry or rhythm to a section. But this was overdone. Wordiness. Lots of wordiness. I wanted to scream at them to kill him already! Break the curse/spell already!
It didn't feel like a smooth ride along the waves of adventure; it made it stutter and jump back a step.

I can tell how much work Chrysler has put in. Everything rings very true, there is a startling authenticity to it.
Overall, I liked the plot: Rune and Kallan are sitting at the head of opposing armies. They are matched in skill and intellect; and it is only circumstance that makes them enemies.
Both are keen to end the war; but they are blinded by years of fighting, and the need to revenge just one more death.
Finally, external circumstances force them to work together, and they dance along the balance of being a prisoner in the other's hold; to being equals.

But looking in more detail at the plot, or the machinations that moved things along - it can be summed up by people making bad choices.
I wish the section where they gear up for war in the first place, was left out. From what I understand, the people of Gunir and Lorlenalin were going to be united by marriage between Princess Kallan and Prince Rune. This is halted when Rune's sister is murdered, supposedly by a Lorlenalin agent.
Next step: war.
Seriously? With two highly intelligent races, nobody thought to investigate?
Straight to war for the two Kingdoms that up to this point have lived in peace? 
There's a time skip of... I don't know how long. It could be a few years, or as they are immortal, it could be centuries.

Our main character Kallan was a tricky one. She is raised to be strong and independent, but she takes it too far and can be sullen and spoiled, and refuses help when it is offered. She refuses to see that anything is wrong, and can be very stubborn on this point.
I do like the character, and how she is portrayed. She is not perfect, and despite the many years that she will live, she still makes mistakes.

Rune is perfect for the task set. He's strong enough to protect Kallan - even from herself. He's smart, and kind, and can see there's something dark that threatens Kallan, and he's willing to go to any length to free her.
I felt that he was a little too perfect in places. For such a kind man, he sure kept the war going for a while. And when he's suddenly there for Kallan and seeing deep within her soul, and knowing exactly what was best for her, it all felt too much, too fast.

The other characters... I struggled with. There are too many players and, until about 70% through this rather large book, there isn't enough focus for the rest of the cast. They sit in the background while Kallan and Rune get the spotlight, they have their own plots and scheming; and when they eventually get some screentime, the characters are racing at a hundred miles an hour with Point X, and I struggle with trying to recall their brief glimpse before - who they are conspiring with, who they're lying to; who they're hiding from...
It is multi-layered. Yes, there are wars and other realms and races that are working in the shadows, but I felt they didn't get enough time to make sense. They are going in a dozen different directions (even the same character). It is only in the latter part of the book, when they all turn their aims in the same direction, that any of them become memorable.

((Edit: the synopsis has since been altered. Don't you love authors who are open to their readers' opinions!))
Going back to the synopsis, just because I might as well mention it - I'm not a fan of when writers post interviews or forewords in the Goodreads synopsis. Especially if there's already a section where you have compared the book and author to other contemporaries.
It seems a touch too try hard. As a potential reader, I am being told how to read this book.
If it is likened to Tolkein, I can already guess. But then I am warned that the author has put a lot of work and research into this book. She has studied everything and put her heart and soul into it.
This can come across as a) too intellectual for us to truly enjoy, or b) we're not allowed to not enjoy it, because this is personal and emotional.
You can tell that Chrysler has put work into it, the text speaks for itself, as I mentioned earlier I really liked the authenticity of it. But I'd think about removing this section from the synopsis - it's already set as a foreword in the actual ebook, so this is overkill.

Goodreads link

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