Elves I: Once Walked With Gods by James Barclay
Today’s review comes from guest reviewer MadNad, my better half. Thanks for your sterling work dearest.
Being a big fan of the Raven series , I was very keen to read this. I find that there is nothing better to help me unwind from the stresses of modern life than a bit of high fantasy.
Set in the same world as the Raven books, but at a point 3000 years earlier, the long-lived elves are on the brink of an all-out civil war.
After a great inter-dimensional battle against the demon Garonin, the elves suffer massive losses and stranded from their home world, the surviving refugees make their home in Calius. Blamed for the large death toll, their disgraced leader, Takaar, disappears. After an ill-fated coup, the fragile order of Elven society falls into chaos as the different castes(or ‘threads’) of elves, despite their dwindling numbers, fight amongst themselves in order to seize power. Former lovers of Takaar, Katyett – arch of the elite warriors the TaiGethen, and Pelyn – arch of Al-Arynaar, both endeavour to prevent the troubles escalating.
10 years after his disappearance, a low-ranking TaiGethen called Auum (who readers of the Raven series will find a familiar name) is tasked to find Takaar in a hope that he will reinstate order. When Auum finds the missing elf, he appears to have lost his mind and is found talking to an imaginary companion. Can Auum persuade Takaar to reunite the Elves against a new threat?
If you have not read the Raven series, you can still get an immense amount of pleasure from this book. I wouldn’t say that it was required reading before Elves, but I can assure you, you are missing a treat if you haven’t.
This book is fantasy definitely, but it is also so much more. Not just a simple ‘quest’ driven story, Once Walked With Gods is full of politics, racial hatred, love & loss. The main characters are extremely well fleshed out. Barclay makes it very easy for the reader to see the world through their eyes. The elves, and in particular our heroes, are painted as noble, yet flawed creatures that are struggling to rise above the disorder that surrounds them.
At times, the book is action heavy and is driven by that, and for me that is one of its strengths. Ravenites will expect fast paced and thrilling fight scenes, and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed. Experts with blades, these elves are also not averse to some dirty fighting with teeth and nails. If you are new to Barclay’s universe, don’t make the mistake of thinking the Elves in this world will be comparable to the gentle otherworldly creatures of Tolkien – Barclay’s elves can be brutal, ruthless, ambitious, and downright pissed. They have a particular hatred and contempt of humans, or blink-lives as they call them.
A dense, but tight, fast-moving script that reads almost like a film. I found it hypnotic in a lot of different ways, and difficult to put down. The well-plotted story keeps the reader guessing, and just when you think you have it sussed, there is a delightful twist. There are enough teasers thrown in for the next book, so I will most definitely be grabbing myself a copy. If this first instalment is anything to go by, the new series Elves promises to be as epic of scale as its predecessors. The second book, The Rise of The TaiGethen is due out August 2011.