THE ELDER GODSA novel by David & Leigh Eddings
(2003, Warner Books)
The Dreamers, book 1
Knowing that a war is brewing, four gods take in reality-altering Dreamers, and hire warriors to fight on their behalf.
-- First reading (hardcover)
With terrible writing, and a plot that is simplistic at best, I couldn't wait to finish this book. Although one character was mildly interesting, the rest of them seemed completely mindless, even though we were told by the author that they were good thinkers. All of the dialog was worse than juvenile, no matter who said it. Finally, the conclusion was completely unsatisfying, but as expected for this book. I can't recommend this to anybody.Spoiler review:
I have a dilemma, now, in that I picked up book 4 of this series for really cheap, and it is sitting on my bookshelf. I could simply get rid of it, but I don't usually do that. In other words, I have to hope books 2 and 3 are much better than this, so that I can read the whole series and get what little money I spent on the final book out of it! Ouch!
I suppose I should be grateful that this book wasn't boring. It moved along at a steady pace; unfortunately, it was mostly driven by dialog, and that dialog was horribly written. The problems were large and small. Some of the small ones: People use the word "well..." as a placeholder when they want to think about what they want to say. Characters in a book should use the word sparingly -here, it is used way too often. Characters also say "sort of" a lot, as in "I sort of forgot...". Huh? That aside, the dialog went on and on, most of the time between two characters who are retelling dialog spoken by two other characters, or reiterating a sequence of events that we read through just a few pages ago. Sometimes we have to read through the same dialog in (barely) different words three or more times!
The authors try to drum up suspense by having one of the characters tell us that they are in big trouble, several times in the novel. But by the third or fourth time, we know this isn't true, because a solution is always offered in the following chapter. It is always a simplistic solution offered by one of the characters, who tells us what is going to happen, followed by events that play out exactly (or almost exactly) as they told us. What few hiccups there are barely change the outcome.
The most interesting character (the only interesting one, really) is Longbow, the archer who never misses his target. We are introduced to him early in the recruitment phase, but the story pauses several chapters later to give us a backstory on him. The book does this several times for various characters. Longbow is a thinker, and he offers numerous observations and suggestions. The characters are so in awe of him that they always follow his suggestions, and they always work out terrific, after which everybody congratulates him for being so smart. If he as a weakness, we don't see it in this book.
The plot of the novel, for what it's worth, deals with an upcoming war between the four elder gods (the main one in this novel is Zelana), against the Vlagh, a creature that lives in the wasteland between the four realms, breeds unnatural creatures, and intends to conquer the world. The elder gods are about to go to their big sleep, after which the younger gods (who are currently sleeping for eons) will take over. Zelana and the others harbor Dreamers, who can affect reality with their dreams. The trick is that the Dreamers turn out to be the younger gods -though we probably won't know what that means until the last book.
Since the gods are forbidden to kill, they go out to hire the humans beyond their realms, the Maags and Trogites. It's barely credible how ignorant the gods are of humans. Gold means nothing in the land of Dhrall, so they are able to easily stockpile it to hire the soldiers. Zelana goes in search of the Maags, and finds the ship Captain Sorgan Hook-Beak. Eleria, her Dreamer, wins over some of the crew, working her magic through being cute (she's probably only eight years old), while Zelana is naive and likes ordering people around. The Maag recruitment is surprisingly realistic, with Sorgan soliciting the help of his family, then other captains, to join the fleet sailing for Dhrall. There is one incident with a captain trying to burn Sorgan's ship, but Longbow and Rabbit (Sorgan's small blacksmith) defeat them easily. The Beasts from the wasteland who put the plan into motion talk about it in detail later, almost word-for-word what we read just a few pages earlier -very annoying.
For mindless servants, the beasts of the wasteland seem very cunning. We are told repeatedly that they aren't even smart enough to be afraid, but they do some smart things. While hiding in the mole-holes might be the mind of the Vlagh communicating with them and telling them to wait, the ones on the beach in Maag were having discussions amongst themselves, and it was obvious that they had different opinions, so they weren't being controlled. As well, they were afraid to report failure to the Vlagh, so these ones could feel fear, at least.
It's a good thing Zelana and Veltan were correct about the ravine that started the war. They said that perhaps the ravine would be one of the later wars, but then put all their forces to the ravine, so it's a good thing it worked out for them. It's also a good thing that the Vlagh is attacking their realms one at a time, instead of a four-pronged attack that would spread out their forces, and prevent them from defending their realms adequately.
Veltan, for his part, hires the Trogite Commander Narasan, finding him by luck as Narasan posed as a beggar on the streets of one city. Trogites have enormous armies; more than can be easily transported by ship, I would say, but it gets done, anyway. Maags raid and sometimes burn Trogite ships, so it is said often that tensions would be high, but we never see it, and Narasan cooperates easily with Sorgan. There is no sign of animosity between them or their troops at all, in the book.
The battle in the ravine is easily won, even though the characters often say they are in trouble... again. Zelana commands the weather, which fills the ravine with snow. Later, Eleria causes a very warm wind to blow in from the bay, and it melts the snow in a single day -incredible! The resulting floods kill all the beasts in the ravine, so the armies can walk freely through to the other end. One group builds a fort to block the ravine, while the other group builds a wall to block off the ravine at the other end. It is said that the flood will probably overflow the berm of the city of Lattash, but it doesn't, and nobody is ever in trouble. Red Beard and Longbow, two natives of Dhrall, conclude that some beasts have made their way through tunnels to haunted ruins on the side of the ravine. It's very strange that nobody has properly explored the "cities", and that even Zelana and Veltan are not curious about them.
They plan an ambush for the cities, and easily defeat the beasts, until they start popping up out of the mole-holes. Fortunately, Veltan's Dreamer dreams up some volcanoes, which fill the caves with lava, ending the war. There is so much killing that Zelana suddenly gets squeamish, and goes back to her reclusive cave to sulk.
In that time, Sorgan is furious that he won't get paid, and Narasan is convinced to stay behind until Sorgan does get his gold. I find it ludicrous that none of the Maags have raided the Trogite ships to get the gold that those soldiers were obviously paid, until Zelana gets back.
Red Beard and Longbow go in search of a new village location, as Lattash will be overrun by lava by the end of the year -or night -or month; it depends from which chapter the information is taken. Red Beard's chieftain can't leave, he is so attached to the village, so Red Beard is chosen as the new chief. I have some hope for the next books in this series, as this part was much better written than all 375 pages before it, though I still think Longbow and his shaman's interference with another tribe in helping to choose Red Beard would have caused another war. Apparently, the tribes of Zelana's realm are always at war with each other (due to her getting bored with humans and completely ignoring them for eons to play with her pink dolphins). But the two tribes that have converged on Lattash have not a single incident between them.
It's not that I want everybody to be fighting amongst themselves, but when the author tells us two groups are mortal enemies, then they get along fine, taking suggestions easily and without question, it is very difficult to believe. The characters here were just used to move in whatever direction the author wanted them to go. There was no logic whatsoever, and little consistency. I cannot recommend this book, but will probably continue the series at some point, just to get to the conclusion.
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