When I first read the premise of this story, it intrigued me. How would the Catholic church deal with non-human sentient species? Do they have souls? How would they fit into God's eternal scheme of things?
Beale is a masterful storyteller who really does create a rich and fascinating world. The characters are rich and likeable and I can honestly say I didn't see a major twist coming.
But what really upset me and brought this book down was the rushed ending. Beale summed up the most pivotal moment of the whole story in one sentence. It deserved a lot more.
It is generally a good idea to read any Author's Note one comes across, but in this case it is absolutely critical to understanding what you have just read, which turns out to be all that was salvaged from a planned epic philosophical trilogy that apparently couldn't be made to work. Given such a genesis, it is amazing just how good it turns out to be!
Theodore Beale has arguably returned high fantasy to its origins, which was a medieval world dominated by a rich and powerful Roman Catholic Church. The utter separation of church from most modern fantasy has resulted in a number of idiocies that fail to withstand scrutiny: Divine Right of Kings without a Divine, priests without gods, etc. The result is one of the most fascinating fantasy worlds I've ever visited, and one I'd like to revisit again in future sequels. Mr. Beale has also given us a fascinating cast of characters that I'd like to hear more from: Marcus Valerius the still-wet-behind-the-ears scholar, Lodi the dwarf, Caitlys the Lady Shadowsong, Brother Grimfang the you-won't-believe-it-until-you-read-it, and especially Bessarias the convert. One hopes that with time Mr. Beale will see his way to producing a sequel or two, perhaps with a bit less philosophy and a bit more adventure.
Defects? Well, the ending is more than a bit abrupt, acceptable assuming a future continuation, but giving every evidence of having been rushed. The lack of a map is also sorely felt; I found it virtually impossible to visualize the geography without it.Read more ›
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I wanted to like this book, and I enjoyed the sample very much. I like the idea of a world with elves, dwarves and orcs that includes God, and I liked the scholarly approach. The book bogs down pretty seriously in the middle section which is a series of narrations by various characters. I find books to be more interesting when we can walk along with the characters and experience life with them rather than plodding along on an horse over boring terrain listening to relayed back story. Mistakes in the manuscript such as using the wrong name for a character, typos, and time warps also distracted me. For example, they are approaching a city at sundown yet enter it in the afternoon. There is so much potential for good story in this book! Some parts captivate the reader, but the majority of the book plods, and the ending left me very dissatisfied.
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With the recent launch of upstart publisher Marcher Lord Press, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one of their speculative fiction titles. All three of their debut books looked intriguing, but I'd read a novel years ago by Theodore Beale, and so I chose his newest, "Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy." With a title like that, I just had to know more. The ordering process went smoothly, the book arrived earlier than expected, and the cover and layout looked fantastic. Thankfully, the story lived up to the packaging and hype.
A young man, Marcus Valerius, finds himself on the unlikely mission of traveling to the elvish lands of Elebrion to determine if the elves have souls. He has been sent off by the ruling religious class, and he's accompanied by mysterious men of the cloth, as well as warriors, an elf, and a dwarf. Not all have his best intentions in mind, and the treachery will soon reveal itself.
Along the way, there is much discussion about the possible military conflict with the elvish king, should it be decided that elves are simply a higher form of animal without a soul. This debate turns lively at points and is bolstered by its parallels to actual church history, as well as by its connections to current theological issues and even the question of whether fiction with a biblical worldview has a place on the shelves of fantasy readers.
All that said, I was waiting for a bit more action to speed things along. At the point I thought the book would be a long dialogue on said subject, it picked up the pace and raced toward a great conclusion. Any reader who skips over the "Appendix Aelvi" in the last third of the book is missing on some more great stories.Read more ›
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+: A lot of "bang for the buck" in this book considering its $3 price. +: Interesting characters and world it takes place on. An interesting premise. +: The dialogue between characters is well done. -: The 2nd half of the story suffers. Feels rushed. I was expecting more of a whiz-bang ending after reading the intro and setup for the book. -: Huge plot flaw that is pretty hard to swallow. Discussed below.
I'll say this about the book. The price is right. It's an easy (well, the story itself. The theological arguments at the end of the book...a bit more meaty and complex) and fun read. I felt the first half of the story was much better than the 2nd. The premise and promise is a hook, but I felt the 2nd half the book felt kind of rushed. I felt that more would be done with some interesting characters, but instead things just raced towards the finish it seemed.
I was also sad that Nomelos/Bessarias did not have a bigger role in the story. He seems to be arguably the most interesting character in the book. He gets a few pages worth of text. (I will say, this is mostly mitigated by a pretty cool "extra" at the end of the book showing a Prologue of sorts regarding his past and how he came to where he was.)
So here is the huge plot flaw though. It's pretty ridiculous and bring the rating down a full star. !! *** MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! *** . The idea that the Michaelines turn out to be the assassins who are hired to kill the protagonist and the other two religious figures in the story is just beyond belief. Sure, it's kind of a cool twist. But in terms of pulling that off...IMPOSSIBLE. For a guy as smart as Vox (I read his blog as I assume most of the reviewers of this book do as well.Read more ›