Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts on Two Series Ending Novels: "The Daemon Prism" by Carol Berg and "Percepliquis" by Michael Sullivan (by Liviu Suciu)

INTRODUCTION: Two highly expected novels of 2012 scheduled for January publication that ended their respective series turned out to share a few characteristics that disappointed me to some extent - after earlier installments in which traditional fantasy elements were understated, both The Daemon Prism and Percepliquis went heavily the "true and tried" way with evil from long ago (the 1000 year fetish in one case raised its head again, while in the other there were a few thousand years I think), heroes that have to vanquish it or else life as we know it will end etc, etc.

However Carol Berg's The Daemon Prism managed to overcome the above with a great character cast, moral complexity, universe expansion and superb writing, while considering its excellent ending, it pretty much fulfilled my ultra-high expectations and will be a top 25 2012 novel of mine.

On the other hand Michael Sullivan's Percepliquis accentuated all the weak points of the earlier installments - most notably the sandbox world building which was easy to overlook when the main heroes were a pair of adventurers thieves but became a glaring weakness when the "heroes save the five city world" became the essential plot, while its cookie cutter ending added to the breaking of suspension of disbelief.

Still considering The Ryria Revelations as a whole, I would also recommend Percepliquis even if only for finding out what happens and spending more time with the heroes. But I much preferred Hadrian and Royce as gentlemen thieves than as world saviors and The Emerald Storm and especially Wintertide remained the very high points of the series for me.

Below I will add a few specific points about each novel while you can find full length reviews of the earlier installments in both series in our Review Index Page.


The Daemon Prism Short Discussion:

- Dante narrates for the most part especially in the first half, but there are interludes from Anne that eventually grow in length and we even read Portier's thoughts once again and Ilario for the first time, so all the main series characters narrate at least a little.

- the transitions are handled well though there is this tiny lack of smoothness in places as opposed to the one narrator earlier books.

- the novel has a lot of magic, way too much for me and the story becomes a very traditional one with a lot of stuff I've seen in countless novels to date, so again the originality of the first two books is somewhat lacking.

- the extraordinary characters, beautiful prose and superb ending more than make up for the above; I cannot emphasize how hard is to end series well and this novel does it pitch perfect imho with literally a final scene that is quite memorable.

Overall a top 25 book for me and one that should satisfy the fans of the series to date, while being quite accessible to people who have not read the earlier two volumes - though of course I highly recommend them to do it - as the necessary back story is recounted, while here the action moves in very different places with generally very different secondary characters than in the first two books.


Percepliquis Short Discussion:

- this book in many ways came a year too late for me as I have been moving away from its subgenre; I still enjoyed it to some extent but I thought it weaker than both Wintertide and The Emerald Storm; those two books and especially Wintertide are the peak of the series for me.

- killing untold numbers of un-named or bit part characters and wreaking havoc on the world is much less emotional and effective than the tragic death of one main character which gave so much power to Wintertide.

- there were quite a few other issues I had - things are tied way too well in the end giving an impression of "all this is a game" rather than a real book as reality is messier; there were moments I felt that the few main characters were the only "real people" and the rest were just puppets that the author moved for the benefit of our heroes.

- the 1000 year timeline which here becomes essential is a bit ridiculous as a millennium is a really long time; maybe in prehistory when things moved slowly, yes but in historical time 1000 years are a lot; in earlier volumes this was more of a prop, but here as this moved to the forefront, it really seemed very simplistic.

- the world building also suffers when the plot becomes "save the world" as the limited universe of five cities (ok maybe slightly more, but you can count them easily) is pushed to the forefront and we see what a small sandbox the author has been playing in; in the earlier books this has not been an issue as their geographical action is limited except in The Emerald Storm and even there the action is local; here though when the action is global this "universe smallness" emerges as a major weakness.

Overall, "Percepliquis" which I would still recommend as the closing novel of a pretty good series overall, will appeal to readers who want every i dotted and every t crossed and do not mind a pretty simplistic way of doing that; as the series went on, I always have thought that the main twist at the end won't happen as I thought it would be really corny and make the series weaker.

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