Archives for 7 August 2014

R.I.P., ‘Admiral Halsey’

At about 4:00 this morning, on my way home from a late-night writing session at an all-night diner, my elderly and infirm Mazda Protege5 finally yielded up the ghost. [Read more…]


Stephen J., one of our 3.6 Loyal Readers, has posted a review of The End of Earth and Sky on I reproduce it here without comment, except to say that I am touched and delighted:

It says something about the current state of fantasy that The End of Earth and Sky can be accurately described as a refreshing change from what has become accepted as the modern norm, and that may well be to the story’s ultimate benefit; if it had been published fifteen or twenty years ago it might have gone unfairly overlooked or dismissed as the work of another Tolkien disciple in the vein of Kay, Brooks, McKiernan or Eddings. Instead, thanks to a modern genre field crammed full of the bleakly violent cynicism of Abercrombie, Morgan and Erikson on the one hand and butt-kicking urban fantasy or steampunk heroines on the other, Simon’s short but elegant first novel is like coming unexpectedly upon an oasis in the desert.

Superficially a standard coming-of-age bildungsroman, Simon’s tale of reluctant and not-especially-talented wizard’s apprentice Calin Lowford starts with an unexpected burst of violence and then, startlingly, features no violence at all for almost the entire rest of the story; likewise, the magic that Calin learns is a slow, painful process of question and answer that winds up revealing far more about the world Calin lives in than we realize at first glance. Calin’s mentor Rijeth may be the first “Eccentric Mentor” figure since Gandalf to successfully impress not only the protagonist but the reader with his knowledge, which is critical as they are the two most deeply developed characters in the book; likewise, Simon may be the first writer since Tolkien to deploy his fantastical “elder language” with enough skill and character to convince the reader that the tongue actually exists and could be learned, a vital part of the process of subcreation. Simon’s English prose also displays the same understated elegance as his constructed language, and Calin’s voice (in which the story is told) is an entertainingly wry perspective that does not skimp on admitting the narrator’s flaws and foibles. Finally, Simon has grasped the mythic element of fantasy in a way that many more “realistic” writers like Martin, Rothfuss or Erikson do not, and does not shy away from simply presenting fairy-tale impossibilities of geography with a convincing matter-of-factness that still leaves their elfland glamour intact. He also gives a sense of metaphysical and philosophical depth to his world that blessedly never yields to any temptation of “deconstruction” while still at the same time feeling wholly plausible and human.

While the story’s atypical paucity of traditional action scenes may be held as a flaw by some (though not by this reviewer), a more telling complaint – and really the only serious one in this reviewer’s opinion – is in the development of most of the other characters. However, Simon has what might be called the opposite of the usual problem; it is not that his secondary characters feel bland or unmemorable – every person who appears on stage is drawn with sufficient energy and precision to feel real – but they are most of them interesting enough that they are missed when the action abruptly shifts in the last part of the novel to concentrate on Calin and Rijeth alone. With the book’s cliffhanger ending, the lack of resolution for the rest of the cast is a perceptible gap; we are left wondering what happened to Calin’s father Hallin, or his former coworker Iriel, his friend Håkar, the arrogant noble Gram Loris or even his mentor’s rival Conin Dane, and the prospective wait for the sequel and the answers bids fair to be greatly frustrating.

Notwithstanding this complaint, The End of Earth and Sky may be the first high fantasy since Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry to really capture both the mythic grandeur and the practical intelligence of writers like Tolkien or Lewis, and aficionados of the field will not only enjoy this immensely but find themselves agog for the next volume. (Hint, hint, Mr. Simon.)

But I tell a lie: I do have a comment. The sequel, The Grey Death, is once again in leaf and flower, and I hope to release it not long after my experiment with serial fiction, Where Angels Die. I shall be very busy for the rest of this year, if my health holds up.