Friday, March 18, 2011

REVIEW: "Servant of the Lich" by Chris Wilmsmeyer

An unexpected (and undead) visitor one evening brings back the wizard Hannibal's worst memories, and all of his biggest fears. His past has finally caught up with him, and the lich demands his magical service once again. To deny the lich would be to destroy the love of Hannibal's life, and everything else for which he's worked so hard. He's going to have to gather every bit of his cunning and strength to maintain some piece of himself through this battle, and he can only hope to come out intact. In the meantime, an army of unlikely heroes band together to stop the terror that is being waged right in their city. They are motivated, but are they strong enough?

Reminiscent of "Lord of the Rings," this is the first installment in an epic series by Chris Wilmsmeyer. Filled with fantastical creatures such as orcs, elves, dwarves, and wizards, this story speaks to both evil and goodness, and the intermixing of the two. Hannibal is the most developed of all the characters, and his story is the thread that runs throughout. Complex and tragic, he's torn between what he must do and what his heart tells him to do, between who he truly is and who he has been. The lich and Arvol are also clearly defined, but it's hard to get a complete feel for some of the other characters in the book. The characters are many, and it's sometimes difficult to keep up with the various storylines as they are slowly and irrevocably pulled together to the inevitable conclusion. Several times, I found myself having to flip back to remember who a character was or what he had done before. This may not be an issue for hard-core fans of epic fantasy who may be accustomed to a large cast of characters, but I wanted fewer players and more development so I could truly get to know the most important characters. Similarly, some of the characters' storylines seemed less complete in that their relationships with the story in general weren't as tightly tied in. Hannibal's story was twisted with that of the lich, but I felt that the establishment of a relationship between Hannibal and the heroes early on would have strengthened the plot and given me a more complete feeling when it all came together at the end.

The first in a planned series, this book offers closure that ties in the ending events with what happened in the beginning, while still hinting at things to come in the next installment. I almost felt like there were a few endings to the story, which gave me the feeling I was done...more than once. I also felt the story dragged in a few places- those were the places where the events seemed more tangential and less integral to the main storyline- and I found myself putting the book down more than I would have liked before I was finished. But I always came back for more, because I simply had to know what was going to happen. The writing style was generally fluid and the events were well-written, and the frequent changes in setting towards the end really worked well with the quickening pace of the story.

Overall, this installment is sure to engage and excite fans of epic fantasy.

4 /5 stars

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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