Studying English literature does not help me to read. Now, I love this subject. I really do. But sometimes I get really, really sick of reading. This tends to shock people who have known me for years; I’m the poster girl for You Can’t Get Sick Of Reading.
I can’t let myself stop reading altogether though, so when I’m in one of these moods I normally pick up a Discworld book.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to read The Simoqin Prophecies by Samit Basu instead. I’d been meaning to read this for ages, ever since reading the review in the Outlook (what was it – a couple of years ago?)
I don’t think I’ve had this much fun with a book in a long time. Basu plays with practically every known fantasy cliché, starting with “in a hole in the ground there lived…” (The Tolkien references are everywhere) all the way through to “Luke, I am your father.” It’s very similar to the earlier Discworld books (back in the days when they were just funny, before Discworld had started to belong to itself). In fact, there’s a lot of Pratchett in this; but then, it’s hard to tell whether someone is alluding to Pratchett or simply to the same things he alludes to. But Kol certainly felt rather Morporkian, and the Chief Civilian like Girl!Vetinari.
And…did I imagine the Sword of Truth influence because I’m pathetic and actually bought Wizard’s First Rule on sale a couple of years ago? Because Dahn Gem’s name certainly sounds familiar, as is his..er..relationship with the “hero”.
While I had a lot of fun recognising references, I wouldn’t be being so complimentary about the book if that was all there was to it. When writing a spoof, there’s always a risk that more time is spent on being funny than on the characters and plot. That doesn’t happen here. Asvin is pleasantly annoying. Kirin is one of the most endearing anti-heroes I’ve encountered…and ends up doing the most heroic thing possible at the end of the story. Maya’s a little silly, but that’s really the point, isn’t it? The Silver Dagger disappointed me a little at the end…I would have liked someone who could be played by dishevelled Viggo Mortensen. But no, that’s my hormones talking. And the story ends on as complex a note as you could wish - I’m guessing (hoping, certainly) that the next book will feature quite a few political power games.
Basu’s fantasy allows the underdog his defence, which is rather unusual in classical fantasy. Tolkien would never have shown us the Eldar treating men like shit. And he seems fine with Gondor giving the Mark to Eorl, against the wishes of its old inhabitants. Here, the greatest sin the asurs seem to have committed is that of not being pretty, and there’s a recognition of this.
I’m not sure what I expect from the next book in the series. More politics, yes. The obvious, soap opera story should have Maya find out about Kirin and run disillusioned into Asvin’s arms. But me, I’m thinking power games, socialism, the weaker races fight back! Fun fun fun. Only a couple of months now, I can’t wait!