Against the Light
(Advance Reader’s Copy)
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Well-written action-packed high fantasy is obviously Dave Duncan’s forte and he delivers a solid narrative once again with Against the Light. Best known for his Seventh Sword and King’s Blade fantasy series Duncan never fails to entertain with his complex, character driven stories. In my opinion, Mr. Duncan is one of the better fantasy writers of our time. The highest praise that I might give a fantasy writer is that their work reads “real-world.” By that I mean that the story itself feels like it could have actually happened. In Against the Light there are obvious connections to true historical events, most notably the social and political ramifications and religious persecutions of the Middle Ages, and that alone is enough to make it seem real-world.
While Mr. Duncan normally develops his characters with great success the characters in Against the Light are not quite as strong as those in his other books. His characters are not as highly-developed, or completely likeable (or hate-able, if that’s a word), nor as memorable as those in previous works. And, the graphic torture scenes may be a little too intense for some readers. They made me feel a little uneasy, and I’m far from squeamish, but perhaps that’s because of the lengthy exposition Duncan gave them.
In Against the Light the high priests of Albi hold sway over the powers of religion and magic, a deadly combination to be sure. Followers of the old ways are persecuted as heretics and when Rollo Woodbridge is arrested for heresy the entire kingdom is pushed to the brink of chaos. The arrest affects the entire Woodbridge family and culminates in the destruction of the family home and the deaths of family members. While Rollo’s sister Maddy positions herself socially and politically to avenge the loss, his brother Brat joins the underground resistance, and Rollo works frantically to find a way to save the kingdom and, in the process, the remaining members of his family.
While I understand that this type of fantasy – persecution/vengeance – has been done before Duncan’s unique voice, character-driven plots, and real-world correlations make all of his stories stand out in the genre. This is definitely not his strongest story but still entertaining and worth the time, especially if fantasy is “your thing.”
Recommended for fans of high-fantasy, underground movements, action/adventure/suspense, and those interested in well-written character driven stories.
File with: Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Series, Raymond Feist’s Riftwar books
3 ½ stars out of 5