Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review - TOUCHED BY THE GODS by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Touched By The Gods by Lawrence Watt-Evans
527 pages, 1997

I should preface this by saying that Lawrence Watt-Evans is my favorite author, so anything written by him is going to get a biased review. Just a fact of life, so there.

That said, I love this book. I've always convinced myself that I should love big fat epic fantasy, and then, as I read them, either get bored, confused, distracted or derailed halfway through. In Touched By The Gods, Lawrence Watt-Evans manages to write a big fat epic while still keeping a tight little character focused story. Touched tells the story of Malledd, a blacksmith in a small village, content in his life. He has a nice family and enjoys working as a smith, an occupation he inherited from his father. Malledd also happens to be the chosen Champion Of The Gods. Exciting title, eh? Every generation, the gods, of which there are hundreds in the world, each with its own moon, choose a new champion, someone with great strength, endurance, leadership skills and abilities to uphold the Domdur Kingdom's way of life and secure foothold as ruler of the world. Luckily for Malledd, who is perfectly content to be ordinary, the champion hasn't been needed in ages.

Of course, no one would bother writing a story about a smith with great powers that just pounds out horse shoes for 500+ pages, so unfortunately for Malledd, a new, dark force arises and begins attempting to crumble the Domdur's hold on the world, harnessing the dark powers of the earth, conspiring with a rogue God, and bringing an army of night walking zombies along with him! Even with a Romero level of danger treading inexorably towards the center of power for the kingdom, Malledd tries to stay an ordinary man, obstinately staying home, and only joining the war efforts after they ask for smiths to help with weapon making. Eventually, he comes around, the gods make their will known, zombies are walloped, and Malledd comes to terms with his destiny.

I love Watt-Evans books, and one reason is that he has a way of turning conventional stories in a new direction. I don't think I've ever read any other book about a hero so stubborn about staying ordinary. Even the more curmudgeonly of reluctant heroes holds a small glimmer of excitement about their path, a need to be the hero. Malledd doesn't, and holds out until he doesn't have much choice, and even then, waiting until the gods make their wishes pretty explicit. Touched By The Gods also has a unique world, with clearly established cultures, all revolving around the many moons, and the gods that reside on each. Their world is figured in triads of days, during each, a different god stokes the fire of the sun. I like that it seemed that each culture in the world, whether Domdur or a kingdom subjugated by them believed in the same gods, just followed the teachings of one over the others and had a different lifestyle. It added a different feel to the world.

All in all, a great read, and a fast one. I read the book, which is a pretty hefty size, in a couple of evenings. The only real quibble I had with it was that some of the names were a bit similar, or sort of difficult to keep separate in my head. Recommended!


Now Reading - Spider Legs by Piers Anthony & Clifford A Pickover (If I can finish it...)

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