Friday, August 10, 2018

Dragon Finalist for Fantasy Novel: A Tempered Warrior

I selected 'A Tempered Warrior' because it is a finalist in the Best Fantasy Novel category for the 2018 Dragon Award, and that gives me an opportunity to give yet another disclaimer:

I am attempting to read and review every nominee in the first five categories for the 2018 Dragon Awards. That's gonna require MORE than one book per day; fortunately, I HAVE read SOME of the nominations. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, is supporting me in this, and has told me that she will give me some space to work between now and Labor Day weekend. HOWEVER! You are going to be getting FAST and CHEAP. I ain't guaranteeing that my reviews nor my blog posts are going to be GOOD. I hope not to leave any major points untouched, but honey, I ain't got much time to polish my prose. So, if you find a major failure or bad word choice, just take it in maturity, and go on your way. I will return to proficiency later. Maybe.
Let's spray paint the elephant in the room with some orange Day-Glo: The title contains a pun. The referenced warrior, Erin, has a TEMPER, and one of her tasks is to learn how to use her anger in battle.It is through mastery of that task, plus learning how to use her weapons to defend as well as attack, that is turning her into a person who is hardened and experienced, hence TEMPERED. Get it?

It is not necessary to read the first book in the series to get a great amount of enjoyment from it, in much the same way as it is not necessary to hug your beloved before kissing them. If you HAVEN'T read the first book in the series, then I suggest you do what I am going to do, and read 'A Reluctant Druid' at your first opportunity.

WARNING: since I HAVEN'T read the first volume yet, I may have missed critical plot points or drawn incorrect conclusions. However, the author drops almost all of the needed clues, WITHOUT resorting to tired explanations to new cowpokes who only enter the scene to have the story explained, then ride off into the desert to be eaten by a cactus.

For example: I KNOW, just from reading THIS book, that there is going to be a great murtherin' battle between rival forces, sometime in the immediate future. I do NOT know the exact circumstances of the battle, and I don't know exactly who the rival forces are.

I KNOW that Erin is the chosen Champion. I do NOT know how or why that happened.

I KNOW that while she is being prepared for the battle, she is living in a timeline that is slowed down at a rate of about 50 to 1 with the timeline on Earth As We Know It.

I KNOW that in the Earth timeline, a corresponding struggle is going on between her somewhat-lover, Liam, and Forces They Don't Like, but I know almost nothing about Liam's story, that being told in "The Reluctant Druid."

She comes by her temper honestly, being a descendant of the mythic Irish hero Cu Chulainn, known for his battle frenzy, among other characteristics. This is not an unmixed blessing, since there are folk in her current environment who fancy themselves ill-treated by her multi-great granddaddy, and they are capable of holding a grudge for thousands of years. And since much of her training involves being hit with sticks (temporary substitutes for swords), there is plenty of opportunity  for them to vent their spleen on her.

That would be a bummer, wouldn't it?

The different rate that time flows on Liam's Earth and Erin's Dunos Scaith allows us to contemplate a  little exercise in ethics. You see, before Erin was transported, she and Liam were an item; in fact, several years ago, they conceived a son, now 13 years old, named TIM! (No, not the Holy Grail Tim; just...Tim). They weren't at the point of marriage, although that was Liam's desire. Still, there was something there, and if they were in physical and temporal proximity...who knows?

But NOW, as far as Erin is concerned, she's going to be away for SEVEN YEARS, while to Liam, only seven WEEKS will have gone by. And both of them are not only full of the normal human hormones, they were also given some additional ...stamina, let's call it... before they separated.

So, what ARE the ethics of the situation? It's completely a different issue than if they were both experiencing time pass at the same rate.  It's a pretty little thought problem.

I found the entire set-up to be quite appealing, and I'm a little bit surprised by that. Fantasy isn't my first choice for reading material, and some of it just leaves me cold. However, I'm VERY taken by the theological implication of the story.  I have to suspend all KINDS of belief to really enjoy my favorite form of literature, which is military Sci-Fi. Even straight Sci-Fi, dumps an awful lot of NO-WAY! in my path, which I just have to hop over so I can enjoy the story. I've been such a fan for so long, that I don't even pay attention to all the impossibilities any more. FTL? Sure. Artificial gravity on board space ships? No problem. Heck, there's not even such a thing as vat-grown meat; that chicken heart experiment was just bad science, fatally flawed, and it ain't never gonna be a thing in my lifetime. So, between fictional science, and conflicts with my (mostly) orthodox Christian world-view, I find most literature merely entertaining, and not engaging.

So, I find it quite heartening to find someone attempting to rationalize at least part of the PRINCIPLES of faith in a fantasy world. It's another reason for me to read the first novel in the series. And, by the way: Jon Osborne has done this before. He wrote an EXCELLENT story, 'Angels and Aliens' for the collection "The Good, The Bad, and The Merc," in which the protagonist gets involved in a discussion about the nature of God in a firefight. Frankly, I can think of no better time to be thinking of such matter than when death may be moments away, but I can't really say I seek those opportunities out.

Conclusion? You betcha, this is a finalist-class entry for the 2018 Dragon Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and you could do a LOT worse than to place your bets, and your vote, here.

Peace be on your household.