Book Review: “Gol” by J.W. Webb

 

Gol

Gol, the first book in the series “The Legends of Ansu”, is the story of a continent and its six warring provinces. We are introduced to Barola in the southeast corner of the land with its tyrannical ruler and his three sons, as well as his plan to marry his daughter to the baron of neighbouring Galania. The strategy is for Barola to form an alliance with Galania, both to counter Treggara in the north and to capture Dovesi in the south, before conquering the whole continent.

Lissane, the to-be-bride, has yearned to flee from this cruel and crude homeland since her mother chose suicide as a way of escape. Dovesi arises as a possible utopia – a land of richness and integrity, or so most common folks believe. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, a sorcerer named Ozmandeus plots his revenge against those who banished him. Beyond that, his ambition is bigger but darker than controlling the world.

Like that in any fantasy story, this is a world of gods and demons, wizards and warriors, power and romance, with a touch of corruption and violence. There is, as always, a hero, who journeys from innocence to maturity, from foolishness to wisdom. The author J.W. Webb’s writing is lush, generous with adjectives and an occasional missing or misplaced punctuation mark. Some of the characters are stereotyped, but the use of harp music as both weapon and defence is extraordinary. (Warning: It is not what you think.)

One wonders whether such writers as George R.R. Martin have a bigger influence than J.R.R. Tolkien does on Webb’s writing, despite the author’s claim that Lord of the Rings most influenced his life. In the first several chapters the author’s voice is rather timid, but as the story develops it becomes increasingly fluent and confident, often demonstrating a powerful but ruthless brilliance that makes fantasy stories so attractive to those who dare to imagine beyond the boundaries. With that said, Webb can do better in balancing the narrating styles of different story lines. For instance, the author is clearly more comfortable depicting male characters than female ones. There is also a tendency to repeat the same words, with two examples being “red-faced” and “dismiss”. Finally, the fine, intricate olden-day speech that is outstanding at the start appears to have vanished halfway through the book.

Still, Gol is a highly entertaining piece of fantasy writing. Like many of its peers, the book requires a bit of time and patience to master the many names and to follow its twists and turns. But once you are in the flow, it is worth pursuing until you reach the satisfying ending.

Note: The book cover displayed above is newer and better than the one below. Which goes to show you, readers definitely judge a book by its cover.

Gol_2

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