I’m currently working my way through Sara Douglass’ _The Wayfarer Redemption_ series. It’s a maddeningly enjoyable 6-volume fantasy series about a warrior’s magical quest to reunite the land Tencendor and defeat an evil monster bent on total destruction.
The series is maddening in two ways. The first is in the style of storytelling that Douglass employs. The series is built on a cryptic prophecy foretelling the rise of the evil Gorgrael and the powerful Starman, the latter of whom will find it his destiny to defeat the former (if he can) and reunite the three races – the Acharties, the Icarii, and the Avar – into one land once again. As a result of the prophetic foundation of the series, there are numerous mysteries to be unwrapped and pieced together. It’s almost frustrating to read through a passage and have it make almost no sense whatsoever – Douglass really likes to use foreshadowing without giving away too much of the actual story – only to have to wait while things occur to finally place that passage into context, but it’s also really fun to watch as those cryptic sections are made clear in subsequent chapters. I have to admit to being captivated by her choice of technique, even if it does drive me nuts at points. Almost every chapter has something new to add to the mysteries of the Prophecy, so the plot never seems to get bogged down.
I don’t know if _The Wayfarer Redemption_ is Douglass’ debut novel or what, but it takes a little while to gain its momentum. In my experience, it seems that authors have the most trouble getting the backstory set in place while also keeping it interesting. The opening pages of the series are interesting enough in their own right – they certainly contain the _promise_ of more exciting things to come – but they are a bit difficult to get through initially. I also had a little trouble getting around some of Douglass’ syntactical structures and writing techniques in the first book. A lot of the dialogue felt wooden and forced, very unlike the way anyone in real life would speak. A number of behaviors seemed rather false, as well, and more than a little too convenient for the sake of plot development. Some of these things can be attributed to Australian speech, I’m sure, but some can’t be quite so easily written off. The story itself is solid, though, and highly enjoyable, despite the rough execution.
_Enchanter_ is the second book in the series, and where _Wayfarer_ slips up, _Enchanter_ more than makes up for. Where dialogue and storytelling in the first book fell short of sounding natural, they flow smoothly and elegantly in the second to make a much more enjoyable and fast-paced story. More riddles, more questions, and more mysteries surface, while many others are resolved. And all through it, Douglass still manages to leave the actual intentions and motives of the influence behind Gorgrael in question. She also further develops her characters’ believability by demonstrating their flaws and weaknesses in addition to each of their great strengths.
I’ve only just begun _Starman_, the third installment of the series, and again I’m actually finding it somewhat hard to get into. For starters, there are a _lot_ of typos throughout the opening pages, and for this literature and English buff, they’re quite distracting. The focus in the third book has shifted slightly, though – in _Enchanter_ the hero Axis must face his human half-brother before he can think about facing Gorgrael. That conflict resolves itself in the final pages of that book, and _Starman_ must pick up from there and develop the setting and context for the battle with Gorgrael. Characters have separated ways and new ones are introduced, and as a result the overall pace has slowed down. I fully expect it to pick back up again soon, but for now Douglass must set the tone for the next segment of her series. The storytelling is still enchanting, but it is still maddening in its teasing questions.
Douglass favors a shifting viewpoint approach to her storytelling. In any given section, the viewpoint will move through an entire array of characters. This can sometimes be a little difficult to follow. I’ve surmised, though, that she seems to be following a third-person omniscient point-of-view with this. Not only do we find out what most of the characters in the scene are thinking in a given moment, but she also takes many opportunities to tease the reader with foreshadowing by telling how one action, usually small and insignificant at the time, will prove to have a certain kind of effect on other characters in the future. I’m not sure I’m overly thrilled with the technique, but as I said before I really like the story she tells so I can live with a certain level of distracting writing. Douglass _does_ tell a good story, despite the things I’ve pointed out, and I think that just about anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction will probably also like this series.