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Lord of the Isles
by David Drake
Tor Books, 448 pages

Lord of the Isles
David Drake Related Links
David Drake is the author of Igniting the Reaches and Through the Breach (1995), The Dragon Lord (1979) and To Bring the Light (1996) as well as the North-world series. Best known for his science fiction classic, Hammer's Slammers, Drake is a veteran of the only independent armored regiment assigned to Vietnam. He lives in North Carolina.

Works of David Drake
David Drake - Baen Books
Lord of the Isles Excerpt

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alex Anderson

David Drake is best known for his military science fiction which, fueled by the author's excellent research and personal experiences in Vietnam, is some of the grittiest, nastiest, most realistic and best work of its type. So what, exactly, is he doing writing epic fantasy, a genre that for the most part is oriented more at our collective inner children than the very outer adult-oriented blood and guts of Hammer's Slammers?

Well, move over Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind, 'cause Drake is coming to the party and he's bringing a slightly more mature party game than we are used to. (No, I'm not talking about naked Twister!) With the sole exception of cheesy references to the evil Hooded One that will annoy anyone over the age of 14, Lord Of the Isles offers a mature, interesting and gritty -- there's that word again -- fantasy story.

While some may think Lord of the Isles is merely the attempt of a pulp writer to snag a slice the lucrative fantasy market, the author of The Tank Lords does bring something fresh to the table, something we haven't seen in the genre since Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. For sure, many of the near-clichés that make a story and fantasy are present, but Drake has made an obvious effort to alter things, to put his own twist on fantasy.

Drake's characters aren't the polished plot devices that populate the works of many other fantasy writers; they are believable as real people. And they develop in response to the events surrounding them just like real people. Unlike the work of Eddings, in which the main character doesn't grow into independence and maturity through 3,000 pages worth of plot, Drake's characters develop noticeably in the relatively miniscule 448 pages it takes to convey the first installment. They have to be prepared for what might come in the rest of the series.

Lord of the Isles tells the story of Garric or-Reise, his sister Sharina, Cashel or-Kenset and his sister Ilna. The burgeoning, obligatory romance (one of those fantasy cliché things) is subtle and left as a supporting factor to the plot, rather than being its impetus. Definitely a strong point in the book's favor. Magic and wizardry are portrayed as abilities of great power (Duh!) that can be abused by the unwise and, like any other element of power make even the most inoffensive of its wielders eminently corruptible.

Garric, whose ancestry makes him more than just the village shepherd he seems to be (another one of those fantasy things), and his friends get caught up in the race to find the Throne of Malkar, a device that will bestow upon s/he who finds it the power of the cosmos. It is, naturally, evil since that kind of power and the person who'd use it can only be evil. The resolution is something untried, in my experience anyway, in modern fantasy and therefore original and, almost by definition, satisfying.

Lord of the Isles is an interesting book and intriguing as the first in a new series. But it is only the first book and it shouldn't be forgotten that even Pawn of Prophecy, book one of Eddings' Belgariad, showed promise. It'll be very interesting to see exactly what Drake does with it and if he lives up to the expectations this effort instills.

Copyright © 1997 by Alex Anderson

Alex Anderson is a long-time SF reader just pompous enough to believe other people may want to read the meanderings he scribbles down between fits of extreme lethargy he calls contemplation.

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