J.K. Rowling makes it look easy. Each of the Potter novels ends with a feeling of completeness — and although the last one left a lot to be desired, it was still technically complete, a finished ‘episode’ of sorts. Readers read it, and though knowing there was more, didn’t feel like they might die in the intervening years it would take Rowling to produce another. There is good character interaction, realistic (well, real enough, anyway) tension, and a modicum of closure, until the next novel and the next great battle.
Many fantasy series writers fail to write episodically and struggle to achieve that balance between ending a story with future developments still unfolding, and ending a story with unexplained and bedeviling loose ends flapping. One novelist who succeeds in pulling off a good balance is Amanda Hemingway. Her semi-YA novel The Greenstone Grail, Book I. of The Sangreal Trilogy, is complex and nuanced, and filled with surprises that remind me a little of A. Fortis’ Olwen novel, but the danger is certainly darker and the adults in the novel play a more complicated part.
I think the characters really bring this piece the most to life, because it is in many ways a strictly Lore-driven mythical tale, with almost stock characters, scenes and events, including a night of Destiny, a seeking after three items of Power, an innocent Woman, a mystical Child, and an inscrutable but kindly Guardian. That the fierce Companion is a little girl, and part of the deadly evil is held at a museum, and stolen by a troll is only a side note. Part sci-fi, part fantasy, and wholly intriguing, I’m anxiously awaiting the second installment, due out in November ’05, entitled The Traitor’s Sword.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has read any other Hemingway novels, or have read this one. I like the modern setting, and the various genre twists it produces. What say you?