Book one of a quartet ought to draw in a reader, so that book two is in hand just as the last page of the first volume is being turned. The Light of Eidon is a book one that sadly does not make one want to reach for book two. While a visually pretty and substantial book - it feels good in the hands - this first book in the “Legends of the Guardian King” falls short of the mark.
The story opens with a tortured soul, a man who has chosen to lead his life in the equivalent of a monastery. The fifth-born son of a king, Abramm has spent the past eight years trying to be a good man of his god, Eidon. He is largely unaware of the political currents that swirl around him, just as he is completely unaware of his central location in those currents. These are anxious, back-stabbing times in his world. After being sold into slavery by the very people he should trust the most, the monk-like exterior is forcibly stripped away, leaving us with a warrior. His twin sister, Carissa, is drawn to rescue her missing brother and shows a surprising amount of steel and stubbornness. Abramm’s side kick, Meridon, is perhaps the most interesting of the characters.
Halfway through the book, the reader has simply no attachment to the characters and no emotional reaction or concern for their well-being. The writing sketches out a black-and-white image rather than painting a colorful picture with emotional words. When the man you’re following is forced, as a slave, to be a gladiator in someone else’s brutal games and routinely tortured, we should feel empathy. All there is, however, is distaste. There is one passage that resonates in the heart, and it is a sad caricature of the man we started with. It is the moment that Abramm truly comes into his own: “If he was no longer Brother Eldrin, he was yet Prince Abramm,” as he goes bravely into a mock but deadly battle. The single line is maybe worth reading the entire story.
The story is long, very long, and the writing just isn’t good enough to be that long. The story itself is not half bad, but it could be told better. (This coming from a reviewer whose personal favorites are the very long works of Auel and Gabaldon.) This particular story could be told much more concisely and would have been better for it. The political and heavily religious tones need to be handled exquisitely, or it is simply too much to be enjoyed by the average reader for pleasure. Somewhat like the C. S Lewis stories, this is downright preachy in manner, even while set in a fictitious fantasy-based environment. The Light of Eidon is perhaps better compared to a series by Katherine Kurtz, starring Saint Camber in the “Deryni” series. While those are heavily sociological, religious and political, it rides on the shoulders of the characters who walk through the halls of legend. This Eidon tale is more story and theme-driven, rather than character-driven.
What the story does have is a strong sense of realism in a world that is wonderfully flawed with greed, cynicism and ambition. Self esteem - or lack there of - plays a big part in the motivations. The presence of war, the realities of minutely described battles might make this book appealing to men who are seeking a new fantasy series. The psychology and heart might give it a wider appeal to the feminine fans as well.
Karen Hancock’s The Light of Eidon is not a favorite, but perhaps it lays the groundwork for a series that can be.