VILLAINS BY NECESSITY

by Eve Forward

Tor

0-812-52228-1

413pp/$6.99/March 1996

Villains
Cover by Darrell K. Sweet

Reviewed by Steven H Silver


Eve Forward's first novel is an ambitious attempt to overturn the conventions of epic fantasy. The story is set a century after the forces of Good have defeated the forces of Evil, not just in one country, but throughout the world. Our heroes are a band of the last evil humans on the planet, a thief, an assassin, a druid, a knight and a sorceress, who are trying to return Evil to the world to restore the balance between Good and Evil and avert the end of the world.

Unfortunately, I think Forward has bitten off a little more than she can chew at this point in her career. One of the problems with writing villains as heroes is that they must be both evil and sympathetic. In the case of Forward's heroes, they are much more sympathetic than evil. In fact, much of their evilness seems to be put on for show without any real depth. Similarly, the Good guys seem to have a little evil in them.

Another problem I had is that the story seems to be based on a Dungeons & DragonsTM campaign. This may be due to the selection of character occupations, but I think there is also a matter of characterisation v. plot. In a typical Dungeons & DragonsTM game, the plot is more important than characterization. I find myself feeling the same way with Forward's book. Similarly, setting suffers even more than characterisation. The characters move from point a to point b without a whole lot of sense of movement. It is almost as if Forward thought, "okay, I need them to be here, poof, now they have to get here poof"

Forward does bring a sense of humor to her writing, something which is probably necessary. However at times the humor seems anachronistic and jolts the reader from the story line. Overall, the idea of Forward's book rates high. I would like, however, to see it worked over in the hands of a more accomplished and experienced storyteller.


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