Praise for THE END OF EARTH AND SKY

Stephen J., one of our 3.6 Loyal Readers, has posted a review of The End of Earth and Sky on Amazon.com. 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.

Comments

  1. Of course, many of the ever growing 3.6 pray for good health. And at least this 1 prays once again for circumstances to allow the purchase of TEOEAS in a non-Kindle format.

    • Stephen J. says:

      There do exist tools to convert .azw (Kindle)-format files to .epubs; I used one myself to convert the book into something I could read on my Kobo. I can post utility names and instructions here tonight if you like.

      • Thank you for the kind offer. However my scrupulous nature will not allow me to make such a conversion even if the tools exist and are simple to use. I would be concerned that I am breaking some niggling detail in fine print somewhere on the Amazon Web site. Hence my preference to purchase from an outfit that either supports the Nook format or non-DRM format.

        I will somewhat patiently await Our Host’s efforts at making it available. In the meanwhile I will purchase some copies of WDTD as soon as they are available. One for me and a couple to be given away to lucky, unsuspecting souls.

        • I should point out that all my books, whether distributed through Amazon or other retailers, are sold without any form of DRM. I regard DRM as worse than useless: it is a burden and an inconvenience to honest people, and no impediment to criminals. So if you did convert one of my books from Amazon’s .mobi format to another format, you would not be violating anybody’s fine print.

          However, if you still prefer not to do this, I quite understand. At the moment, The End of Earth and Sky is enrolled in KDP Select until October 6, at which time I plan to pull it out of there and make it available on other retailers. So we will both have to be patient for a while, I’m afraid.

    • Mea culpa: I had been meaning to take TEOEAS off of Kindle Select and make it available through other booksellers, but that was one of the many things that I let slide during my long illness. However, I have lost confidence in Smashwords as an aggregator; I shall be looking into Draft2Digital, and only then making up my mind what to do. It will take a little while yet for these things to sort themselves out.

      • You too? You are not the only person I’ve heard of doing this. Alas, there may be complications:
        http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1403994.html

        • Well, there is absolutely nothing Smashwords can do to prevent me from taking my future books to another aggregator; or The End of Earth and Sky, which I have never made available through Smashwords. (That may turn out to be a blessing, despite the inconvenience to Loyal Readers such as Maypo.)

          At present I only have two titles listed with Smashwords, and I do not propose to give them any more. Once I find a better alternative, I shall see about removing those two.

          By the way, I have never yet received a royalty payment from Smashwords. My sales there are so small that in two years with them, I have not yet reached the $100 threshold for them to send me a paper cheque – the only form of payment they will make. (Whereas the Evil Amazon deposits money directly into my bank account every month, subject to a minimum payment of $10.)

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