Ossus Library Index Fantasy Index


A novel by David & Leigh Eddings (2004, Warner Books)
Book 2 of The Dreamers

The armies prepare to defend another realm from the evil Vlagh, as a disgruntled soldier convinces the church to step in to search for gold in the region.



Read May 27th to June 11th, 2017, in Hardcover  

Poorly written for most of the book, with dialog that required me to disconnect to get through it (some people call this witty; I call it cringe-worthy and stupid), this was a hard book to get through. Still, there were some mildly interesting parts, usually when discussing culture and the past. When we got to it, the current situation was way too obvious and contained way too much filler.

Spoiler review:

From the first page, I realized that this was going to be another tough book to get through. I don't know why I thought it would be any different from the first book. My review of The Elder Gods was quite clear on how poorly this book was written. But now that I'm halfway through, I have to decide if I'm going to finish the series. In spite of myself, I'm now curious as to how it's all going to end, but I have a suspicion that it will be with the boring and successful defeat of the Vlagh.

That's how these two books have been, so far. In the last one, they successfully defeated the Vlagh's forces by building containment barriers and a fortress (and the Vlagh obligingly waited until they were done before attacking), slaughtering them like fish in a barrel, and then getting a magical cure when they were about to be overrun. This story is no different.

The most interesting parts of the story belonged to the character backstories, which completely change the tone of the novel from what came before and what comes after. The dialog is sparse in those sections, which may be why it was so much easier to read. Ironically, it was Jalkan who had the most interesting backstory, from a thief to a member of the church to a senior member of the church when he found a way to steal lots of goods from rich people, and then as a scapegoat when the church leadership changed.

Narasan led the army that was hired to fight in the land of Drall, and he has an interesting story to tell as well. He started out as a boy in the army his father founded, which was independent to the governments when the governments decided to take advantage of them, pay them less and pay themselves more. But when hired to fight against one nation, he led his army into a trap, where his nephew was killed, and he lost a lot of other men. He took a leave of absence at that time until Veltan found him.

I still don't have a good sense of how these lands work. Why are the elder/younger gods called gods? They don't even seem to rule the majority of the world. The church is part of the Trogite Empire, which seems to be independent of the four gods. The Maags also seem to be independent. The Vlagh exists in the middle of the gods' four lands, but has no interest in the others, it seems, at least for now. I also wondered what would happen when the warlike clans realized that the gods are forbidden to kill. I could see one of the church leaders going to take advantage of that; I wondered if anybody would try to see if they could die -is there any possibility of self-defense in that case?

The plot, such as it was, revolves around the armies building a fortress and wall to defend against the forces of the Vlagh, again. A lot of time is spent getting the armies to shore, getting them up to the Falls of Vash, and setting up the wall. Longbow's archers are moving across land from the valley in Zelana's realm. A big deal is made of the fact that Veltan's people are simple farmers. They have no knowledge of metal or metalwork, and only use stone or wood implements for their farming. When Veltan introduces a metal dagger, Omago immediately straps it to a wooden shaft to create a spear. There is much celebrating when everybody finds out, even by the Trogs, who invented it way before him They keep praising Omago for his ingenuity, clearly surprised at how smart he is. This was annoying the first time, and became more so the more it was mentioned, which was often throughout the story.

I suspect that Ara, Omago's wife, is actually the mother of the gods. She can do things that they cannot do, and she keeps it a secret from everyone. She recognizes the danger that Jalkan represents, though she initiates the second invasion by her meddling, bringing about the events that are shown in the dream. Jalkan insults Ara, talking like he has a history of brutalizing women, which we were not shown in his backstory -in fact, it seemed that he was ignorant of women altogether, and had no visible interaction with them. His reaction did not seem natural, even given the fact that he was being manipulated by Ara. Jalkan, relieved of duty, is jailed by Nasaran, but escapes, going back to the church. He explains the large amounts of gold in the north, to which the church raises five armies to fight for it. When they arrive, they take the natives hostage, calling in slave traders. Veltan's armies are aware of this, however, because of the Dream, and because of the lingering parts of the Trog armies, which are still trying to find enough ships to transport them.

One of Nasaran's people leads a raid that sets fire to all of the church and slaver ships, which was a fun exercise, except that it doesn't matter -Ara has planted an image of golden plains in the north into their minds, and they all take off running to get to the gold. This is the second invasion -yuck.

Veltan's forces start picking off the churchmen as they enter a narrow pass, but eventually discover that they should help the men get up to the plains, where the church can battle the Vlagh's forces for them. Ara sends a dream to Longbow telling him this, and then she sends up a huge cloud of iron oxide to cover the plains, making them look like plains of gold. We were never told that she replenished the golden substance every night, when the Vlagh's forces retreated -presumably they would have stirred up the sand and covered the fool's gold where they tracked over the plains. Similarly the huge dust storm that overran the plains should have caused all the "gold" to be covered. Somehow, it still sparkles even after weeks of holding off the Vlagh.

Nasaran's army is able to easily hold off the Vlagh's creatures, even though we are told that the Vlagh has learned a lot and has adapted the creatures to be stronger and smarter than the last batch. Nasaran's people barely seem to break a sweat. They make a complicated scheme that assumes the Vlagh's creatures can be confused, by falling back, then forward, every night, and planting poisoned stakes in the intervening space. Yawn.

Eventually, the church army makes it to the top, where Nasaran's people withdraw, to let them pass and get down to the plains. It's hard to say if they actually battle the creatures. Jalkan gets caught in a spider's web and eaten, which was funny. There was so much discussion on top of the hill about nothing, but no talk at all about what to do when one of their enemies was done. It seems unlikely that both the church and the Vlagh creatures would be all killed, down to the last man/creature. Nobody discusses how to dispatch the remnants of the remaining army.

It seems that they didn't need to, because Ara took care of that. It's not clear if it's one of the Dreamers or Ara (who can influence the Dreamers) who causes the geyser to stop, and build up the water under the plains to the north. But when the creatures and the church are all on the plains, the geyser erupts into the plains, flooding them and killing everyone there. The Vlagh retreats, and will return in the next book.

Very annoying was the way that we were told how everything would work, and then it almost worked exactly as planned. They spent so much time preparing for the church's arrival that it was anti-climactic, even when Rabbit found out that he could shoot an arrow better than Longbow to kill one of the most brutal churchmen.

But the most annoying part of the book was any time a character opened his mouth to speak. Some people online have called the characters witty, but to me it's just stupid. From the very first page, the gods are talking "brother Veltan", "brother Dahlaine", every single sentence. I suppose it's supposed to sound archaic, but it seems to me that nobody actually read this before publishing it. That's actually the least annoying part, as the characters are continuously saying things like "I never would have thought of that", "I guess it's sort of like" -even when it's not sort-of at all, but fact There are way too many other examples of this kind of speech, which makes it hard to enjoy the characters, or the writing style, as I found them, and their speech, to be completely stupid.

I'm a big fan of seeing things from multiple viewpoints. The best examples of this are Back to the Future II, and even Ender's Shadow, to a certain extent. But here, in the middle of the book, it seems that every character's backstory has to end with either the volcanos in Zelana's realm or Jalkan's arrest in Veltan's cave. But they don't vary enough to make it worthwhile.

Finally, you would think that the gods, having lived "an age" would have more knowledge of how things work, and different concepts. They are constantly being amazed at the things that people can do, even down to the relief map idea that Veltan stole from the Maags and improved upon, in his god-like attention to detail. He is still na´ve. What do the gods do in their lifetimes? Apparently stroll in the gardens, but pay no attention to whatever else is going on.

Likely I'll take another break from this series and plug along to get to the end, but I need something of a higher caliber to get the taste of this one out of my mouth. While marginally better than the previous book, only because of the backstories of some of the characters, this one was another waste.


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