Sunday, May 22, 2005

Gods Old and Dark By Holly Lisle

A sort of lead in to this review:

I found Holly Lisle as I find many authors, through joint books with authors I already know and trust, in this case with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mercedes Lackey. I'd been reading her books for a while before I found Forward Motion because I recognized Holly's name. I now consider her a friend, but that doesn't change the fact that for years I've known that I can turn to one of her books for a good read that absorbs me in Story with a capital "S". Therefore, when I hadn't been reading fiction for a while, which book do I choose from my to be read pile? One of Holly's. As usual, I was not disappointed.

So on with the review:

Those who know me well know the truth of this statement and those who don't will have to accept me at my word: I am a workaholic. I set push goals for myself and then move heaven and earth to achieve them. I give myself little leeway for basic needs like food and sleep and demand of myself that I earn every bit of pleasure, every break I take. Accept that as a given and then know that while on a writing marathon in a desperate scramble to meet the goals I set for myself, I stole 18 minutes, not much, but enough to count, just so I could read the end of Gods Old and Dark.

This book left me both satisfied because the arc is nicely resolved and frustrated because Holly has told me that, at least for right now, there will not be another in the World Gates series. I have enjoyed this world and see more tales waiting to be told. Maybe someday, a publisher will feel the same.

I think of all of the three World Gates, Gods Old and Dark is the strongest. The characters have a greater depth than they had in the earlier books because they went from driven, even if conflicted, to tottering on the other side, no matter which side of the battle they started on. I'm trying hard not to spoil anything here, and it is difficult, but I'll tell you all this: the series has characters you'll love and love to hate. The troubles they face are fantastical and at the same time so familiar to me, coming from a world torn between easy selfishness and the desperate need for people to take a stand for more than what they want to eat for dinner.

I know from her articles that Holly doesn't want to save the world with her writing, and the book certainly doesn't preach in any way, but there are messages there if you care to see them. A simple example is at one point a minor character says all technology must be evil and Molly replies that technology is not the problem but rather how we choose to use it. It may sound preachy, but it isn't. It is completely true to the characters and the moment. If they had reacted any other way, they would have seemed false. This is the strength of the characters, even the minor ones.

Holly uses this world, this time, this place as a jumping off point and blends it beautifully into a magical world. Her world building meets the requirements of keeping the explanation simple so well that you have to think twice before you say that it can't be so even though most people don't really believe in magic. And then, within the book there are some statements spoken by characters in appropriate times that just make me want to cry out in agreement, that encapsulate how I approach the world and the person I wish I could be. The above example on technology is only one of them.

I could tell you about the skilled world building that has a sentient creature who stands at the right hand of greatest evil and yet who cannot conquer his biological defense mechanism of upchucking his stomach even though it makes a fool of him. I could tell you how emotion lays down boundaries and barriers and at the same time sweeps them away. I don't know all I could tell you. Bottom line, I had other things to do and some still need doing because of how this story drew me in, which is not to say that I am unhappy with the time spent by any means. Reading a book that is good enough to absorb me, strong enough that I don't want to put it down, worth every spare minute I can pour into it brings back to me why I read and why I write. It's worth it. For those of you who read quickly, this book, this series is such a small time commitment, but if you're anything like me, the words, the worlds, the people will stick around for a lot longer than those few moments. Give yourself the right to enjoy something that may make you think, may make you hope, but for darn sure will keep you entertained and reading until the sad moment that you turn the final page to find nothing more.

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