I started this series this fall, when I had a bit more reading time and less access to libraries than usual, so thick absorbing books were perfect. I made it to book three out of four, and am taking a breather before starting the last book.
The Naming by Allison Croggan Australian poet Croggan brings this lyrical fantasy, first in the Books of Pellinor quartet together from familiar elements, with recognizable influence most notably from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but also with elements of Valdemar and Prydain. So: Maerad, a young slave girl, is discovered by an older wizard named Cadvan. He takes her to one of the ancient bardic schools, where she learns reading, riding, and basic sword. Then they are on their way: the dark forces of the Nameless One, long believed to have been completely defeated centuries ago, are rising again. There seems to be betrayal in the inner circle of the bards. Maerad is quite likely the person foretold in ancient prophecies to overthrow the dark, and she might even be in possession of an ancient magical artifact that the Nameless One is searching for. Pretty familiar, right? I might have enjoyed it a bit more if I could have turned off the Tolkien commentary in my head that kept saying, “Oh, look… this is just like when Gandalf… and now we’re at the siege of Minas Tirath.” However, Croggan is a poet, and her language is worth reading on its own, her characters interesting. The book moves along at a pace much like Tolkien’s, which is to say slowly, so you will turn to this when you are looking for something to savor and take your time with. This series will also appeal to those who found Tolkien’s ideas on gender roles, sexuality, and race troubling – you’d never find a Tolkien character tracking time by her menses as Maerad does, and Cadvan’s best friend (who takes on a bigger role in the later books) is black, from a black city prominent in the defense of the Light. Croggan also takes Tolkien’s appendices one step further by making them discussions by various scholars of the ancient civilization of Pellinor, referencing multiple imaginary scholarly works. If you are in the mood for Serious Fantasy Epic, this is a sterling example.