Simon R. Green
Blue Moon Rising
ROC 1991 Rupert, the younger prince of a bankrupt kingdom, is sent on a quest: to kill a dragon. To reach it, he and his faithful - but not at all brave - unicorn, have to pass through the Darkwood, a forest of decay and total darkness, and when he finally meets the dragon nothing is like he expected it to be. The dragon turns out to be nice enough, and more than willing to release the strong-headed princess in his lair and even agreeing to return to the castle with Rupert. When they all arrive at the castle - once more passing through the Darkwood nobody in his right mind passes through even once - they find that the situation has changed rather alarmingly. The kingdom is still bankrupt, and now the Darkwood is suddenly spreading, threatening to whole kingdom, and signalling a new age: the Blue Moon is rising, the Demon Prince returning. And as if that wasn't enough: the princess, Julia, turns out to be promised to Harald, Rupert's older brother. Harald who think it's right and proper that Rupert once more risks his life in the Darkwood while he himself courts Julia in the castle...
This book was recommended both by friends of mine and by visitors at the Fantasy Finder site so I guess I had quite high expectations. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to them. The novel was far too unconsistent, with rapid changes in mood and style and a plot that reminded me of the movie "Krull" - something happens and someone says "Oh no, now we have to visit the Seers in Kell" or something else previously unmentioned that suddenly becomes their only hope. The kind of plot you use when you suddenly find out that the original plot only lasted for 25 minutes and you should make a 90 minutes movie. I can see no reason whatsoever to use that kind of plotting in a novel.
Another thing that annoyed me was the way people spoke to each other. Sometimes they are all "Sir Champion" this and "Sir Warlock" that and then suddenly they are all calling each other by first name "John" - that's the king - "what are you doing here?". It just doesn't work that way. Either people are polite and formal except on a few rare occasions, or they're speaking quite familiarly to each other. In this book they change their way of speaking quite randomly. And nobody should call his girlfriend "lass" like Rupert start calling Julia halfway through the book, suddenly stopping using her first name or "Princess". It's not wrong in any objective way, I guess. It just feels wrong. But feeling is everything, we use to learn from the commercials...
The changes in mood are also quite disturbing. Large parts of the book are to be considered light fantasy, I would place it somewhere between Pratchett and Eddings. A lot of it is funny, but after a while all this banter and chuckling becomes too much, I think. They are facing demons, fighting for their lives, but still they keep the one-liners pouring out like in a "Lethal Weapon" movie. Some people love it. I don't. But it becomes even worse as the book suddenly changes, shifting to palace intrigues, heroism, villainy and relationship problems. Not that these parts are bad, really. As a matter of fact, I found the palace intrigues one of the most entertaining parts of the book, and one of the few where you can put two and two together without any interuption by new and totally unexpected facts. And the relationship parts aren't that bad either, the rivalry between Rupert and his brother being quite believable. Even Julia gets some kind of personality under her strongheadedness after a while. But you've got to make up your mind, pal. What kind of book did you intend to write? This is not a very good book, even though several of the elements are quite alright. They should have been better off kept apart.
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© Henriksson & Henriksson 1997.