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Having left a less than positive review on the first book of this series it may come as a surprise that I not only finished the series but have a more positive attitude towards this third and final book. I plodded through the first book and then had to force myself through the second, which even though I only finished it a day and a half ago has slipped into the grey part of my brain; I couldn't tell you what happened in book two if my life depended on it. So obviously I approached this third book, which is larger than the second, with some degree of misgiving.
In 'Master and Fool' Jones brings the main protagonists together for an explosive and action packed finale, tying together all the loose ends and explaining all the little mysterious occurrences that occurred in the previous two books. The pace is much faster than the previous two books and the story is much less fragmented so the story has a definite flow to it. As the characters come together and the truth is finally revealed (the book is around 700 pages long!), then the split storylines which caused me so much angst in the first and second books became less of an annoyance and distraction. All the strange incongruous events that were so clumsily flagged up as important by Jones now slotted neatly together; although anyone with half a brain cell could predict where they would go from the middle of the second book. The world Jones has created is still incomplete, the politics and motives of the states and individuals were still murky and only flimsily set out, but all of these negatives are much easier to ignore when there is an exciting and tension filled story going on over the top. I managed to immerse myself for the first time in the story, even reading it whilst stirring my daughter's rice pudding! For this last book, Jones seems to have pulled out all of the emotional stops and I did manage to force my face into something resembling a smile and there may also have been an occasion or two where my eye area was damp (must have been the steam from the rice pudding).
All of the main characters were more successfully fleshed out by the third book and they certainly felt more 'real' than before. Sadly those who played a key role in the story but were not one of the four key players were incredibly one-dimensional and I found it hard to work out what their motivations were. The two that immediately stood out as irritatingly flat were Kylock and Tyren, the latter especially as his storyline revolved around the unexplained religions of Jones' world. I managed to deduce that Borc was a religious figure (just about) but I really could have done with more information as it was a consistent additional storyline. In the end I just skimmed these sections and fast-forwarded to the action, but I worked out I must have skimmed at least 1/3 of the book, not exactly a ringing endorsement. Kylock seemed only to be there as a foil for Baralis, to outdo him in the unpleasantness and insanity. He was also the excuse to include 90% of the brutal and unpleasant violent scenes which account for all the reviewers calling this 'dark fantasy', an accolade perhaps Jones was after.
Some of the plot twists and turns required considerable suspension of belief to get through as well, as certain less savoury characters from the first book reappeared in a more useful role; other characters who were seemingly flagged up as definitely being of importance later in the book failed to materialise. In addition Jones' overused the 'miraculous rescue at a very difficult moment' theme rather too much for my liking, as she got her characters into seemingly impossible situations and then whisks them to safety in a totally unpredictable way. This to me is the sign of a lazy writer trying to work some tension and drama and little huts in the forest filled with mysterious wisemen into the story.
It is difficult to write a review for the third part of a trilogy, not just because you can't do a synopsis or reveal any story, but also because no-one is going to go out and buy just the third book in the series. It is certainly worth discussing the trilogy as a whole however and whether it is actually worth buying.... or not. I got these three books from a bookswap site so I didn't have to fork out the cover price, but I would hesitate to recommend them and I certainly wouldn't buy them as gifts for anyone. The trilogy could easily be condensed into a duology without losing too much of the story, but excising lots of unnecessary wittering which added very little. Alternatively with a better 'world' or a more exciting story this would have made an excellent trilogy. The potential is there but I feel that Tad Williams did it much better with the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, which is still number one for me. Fantasy fans who like a bit of romance in their stories will be disappointed, as will those who like lots of magic, swords and dashing about in forests and caves. The political intrigue is interesting but the background isn't there to make it convincing, so you are left with three mediocre fantasy doorstops to pass on to another optimistic reader.
Perhaps this review may seem unduly negative for the rating. It gets four stars because it is better than the other books in the series and I couldnt put it down until it was finished. Ideally I would have given this book a 3.5 star rating but I rounded up because of the rice pudding, stodgy desserts put me in a good mood. It has obvious flaws though and I won't be reading it again (mainly because I would have to trawl through the other two first!).
Price: Between £6 and £8
This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because I found this book bad or a disappointment no, on the contrary I found it as exciting and spell binding as the two that proceeded it. The problem is that if I tell you anything of the plot I give the whole game away! I don?t want to spoil it for you, It?s a cracking book and the ending is not as predictable as you might think. It is amazing how all the characters come together, how the cryptic clues begin to make sense and how you realise that some of the characters aren?t as bad as you first thought. JV Jones is a genius writer. Her plots twist and turn but stay simple so you don?t get lost or confused along the way. Her characters are incredibly real and well written. I feel like I know Jack, Melli, Tawl and the others as well as my friends and family now. I cannot give anything away, but everything falls into place. There is a lot of heroics and some of it from characters you?d not expect it of. There is blood and guts and battle galore and more magic than you can shake a stick at! Does Melli Have the Dukes Baby safely? Does Jack conquer evil? Does Trawl come to face his demons of the past and do Baralis and Kylock conquer all and become evil over lords? Read the book and find out! I know this review is short and I know I don?t tell you much of much but well its all for your own good. Now go out and read the series, go on it?s worth it!
Third volume in the 'Book of Words' series.