24 July 2013

Review: A Game of Chess by Altariel

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2011 (originally 2002)
Read July 2013
A Game of Chess
by Altariel

As I read The Last Ringbearer, I recalled some grumbling from when it hit Slate and the blogosphere: why was this piece of glorified fanfiction getting attention? Good question. So, I tracked down this because 1) at 70,000 words, it is novel-length, 2) it is about Faramir, who is the greatest, and 3) it is by Una McCormack, who is one of the better writers of Star Trek and Doctor Who tie-ins.  Unfortunately for the book, it was something very different than what I was expecting. Because of McCormack's authorship and the title, I was expecting a book of political intrigue with Faramir at the center. How awesome does that sound? Instead, it's about the rocky first couple years of Faramir's marriage to Éowyn, alternating chapters from each one's perspective.

There's nothing wrong with this in principle, but in practice it turned out to be less exciting than I wanted. An awful lot of the book is reported speech, which undermines the effect of the conversations, and leaves it feeling underwritten and overwritten at the same time. If there was more dialogue, it'd feel fuller, but it'd have to be longer than its 70,000 words, but as it is, it feels like not enough actually happens to justify spending 70,000 words on it.

In the end, this wasn't the Faramir I wanted to see. I've no doubt Faramir has some trauma in his past-- I thought his relationships with his father and his brother were very sensitively portrayed-- but this is the man who when he saw the Ring, essentially shrugged. A lot of people tell each other how awesome Faramir is, but we see virtually none of that actually depicted in the text. I would have liked this book a lot more if we'd seen more sides of Faramir's character than mopeyness. This guy's badass! But not here, alas. This book shows us one side of a character, not an integrated person. There are flashes of something better (Faramir and Éowyn's physical confrontation, for example), and I really liked the epilogue, but on the whole I wanted something else than what I got.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read A Game of Chess, but I did enjoy The Withered Tree (her alt-history novelette where Denethor's pyre doesn't come off) and I really liked her Tolkien-set Sherlock Holmes pastiche, "The Case of the Silver Letters."