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May 13th, 2012

15 of 52

The Outstretched Shadow: The Obsidian Trilogy: Book OneThe Outstretched Shadow: The Obsidian Trilogy: Book One by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It had been a very long time since I'd read any Mercedes Lackey books. I loved her heralds books (especially the first set), but over time I got tired of talking animals, and what seemed to be the same characters repeated over and over, whether wearing heralds' whites, skins and feathers, or court robes. And then there is the sometimes interminable detail of scenery, domestic decoration, and attire.

But, for some reason, I picked this up.

Wow. Talking "animals." And a heroine most comfortable in tanned deerhide. And an annoying, talented adolescent on his way to saving the world (another Lackey trope). And interminable description. And then there are the Tolkeinesque ripoffs--like a race bred by the bad guys that take the noblest race and corrupt it both to horrify and destroy. And the sense that this could be the last age of a world filled with elves and "Other Folk."

But repeated elements in fiction don't have to doom a book to a mechanical rearrangement of tropes and stock characters. This book also reminds me of all the reasons I read the Heralds of Valdemar. It is a rich, varied world she and James Mallory have created. The characters are round and complex enough to keep our interest. The bad guys are thoroughly evil, but fascinating to watch as they exercise a certain brilliance to achieve the worst possible goals. And the plot, while not wholly originally, is presented deftly.

At the end of this semester, my best student asked for a list of recommended reading over the summer. I knew her taste ran to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I recommended that she read this book, particularly since she was not familiar with Lackey's work. It may not be perfect--but it's good.

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