Series Review: Darkweaver (fixed- I hope)


Nov 26, 2006
The Darkweaver series- Book Review

The irony of first discovering the Darkweaver Series is that when I walked into my local Waterstones, I didn't spare a second glance for Mark Robson, who seems to be visiting Swindon to do book signing. I'd never heard of him, and for someone like myself that boasts being a fanatic in the High-Fantasy genre, that's a disgrace. In fact, the only reason I was in Waterstones was to find out if the latest Eddings book was released in Paperback yet. Dismayed that it was not, I was ready to leave the bookstore, when Mark himself spoke to me. If I'd ever read even one of his books, you can bet me any money that I'd be stunned silent and speachless. The books I'd originally given less than half a glace have turned out to be some of the best I've read in a long while, and the writing way up there with the sort of people I consider the faces of High-Fantasy- Eddings, Hobb and Feist. Robson is without a doubt, as good as any of them.

The Darkweaver starts with The Forging of the Sword, which tells the story of Calvyn, who in classic Fantasy tradition, leaves his village after his parents are brutally murdered. He goes with Perdimonn travelling merchant and apparently self-taught magician of some 'simple magic'. Perdimonn adopts Calvyn as his student, and for the two years they travel together, begins to teach him the basics of the mental control needed to master magic. Calvyn proves and adept and prodigic student, however his tutition in the actual spell-casting is cut short, when things take a turn for the worse for the pair. Another magician, Selkor is on their trail, for reasons unknown to Calvyn, and the two are forced to split. Perdimonn heads for the Empire of Shandar, while Calvyn is left to fend for himself in Thrandor. Realising the only way to make money is to take up arms training, Calvyn joins the Army. The book ends in more classic fantasy tradition, with a startling and very vell described battle betwen The Thrandorian Army and their enemies, which concludes with Calvyn avenging the death of his parents by defeating the man who, indirectly, murdered them, Demarr, who he defeats in a duel of both Magic and Swordplay.

The Second book, Trail of the Huntress tells the story of Calvyn's capture, and his friend Jenna's quest to free his soul from the Demonic Entity that took it, as well as Calvyn's training in Sorcery and his actions as a man without a soul.

The Third book, First Sword takes place after Calvyn's soul is returned, and his plan to thwart the Empire's invasion of Thrandor is realized in a spectacular fashion. Calvyn is awarded a Knighthood, however he is soon embroiled on another quest to save two of his sword-brothers, Bek and Jez, whom in his actions as a man without a soul, sent them to the Shandese Capital to die in the Arena. His quest however, is soon interrupted by Perdimonn, who leads him to the Council of Magicians- Selkor is once again on the move...

The Final book, The Chosen One reveals the final truths behind the world of magic in the series, about the motives of Selkor, the truth of Perdimonn, and Calvyn's dangerous and frightening destiny. Unlike the other three books, there is little in the way of military action in this book. Few swordfights, and no epic scoped battles. The final book is about magic, and there are magic duels aplenty.

It's not like Mark Robson has created the most interesting storyline here, although it is gripping it its own right. The world created, while diverse, is not explained to the detail that one could expect from Eddings, or other popular High Fantasy authors. In fact, looking at it purely statistically, there is only one place in which Robson actually excels above many other authors in his writing, and that is in his characterization.

I've often pronounced to several people, time and again, that Eddings is the lord of characters, and no one could ever tell a story through their characters as well as he does. Well, Robson, be impressed that you've moved me from that point. Saying that, there isn't even anything special about the characters- in one way or another, I've seen them before. The wily and flighty old magician, Perdimonn is Eddings' Belgarath, or Feist's Kulgan. Bek is Feist's Tomas.

Despite these similarities on the surface, by the time you start reading Book 2, you'll not care. They're unique in their own right, and the way they react to the situations in the book is very different, even if their outlying personalities are similar. On top of this, Robson seems able to do what others can't with their characters. In The Belgariad, Belgarath was the most powerful Sorcerer in the world- this is never disputed or challenged. Perdimonn, however, is bound by his vow and as a result is no match for Selkor. Robson is one of the only Fantasy writers I know that is comfortable with making the 'good' characters inferior or less powerful than their counterparts on the 'evil' side of the fence. Only one famous trilogy comes to mind that has done this to the degree that Robson has, and that is The Lord of the Rings.

Again, Robson uses yet another masterful technique to enhance his characters, one used by Feist in Magician. By turning Calvyn 'evil', he disproved claims that Calvyn could 'do no wrong'. In fact, it's on his head that tens of thousands died, and that his close friend Jez dies. On top of this, Bek is consumed by a need to avenge Jez, and transforms into a killing machine, rather than the Bek that is established from book one. This shows how the characters in the book are not your traditional Fantasy Good Guys, and that all men have evil in their hearts, even in some deepest and darkest place. Bravo to Robson for using this technique, also.

Eddings, as I said, has always had good characters, but they follow neither of the techniques from above. Despite this, you never get bored of Silk, Garion or Belgarath. Eddings' dry wit and humour translates into his characters well, and despite Robson's characters lacking the edge in humour that Eddings' do, there are plenty of humorous comments made by Derra and Calvyn throughout the book. The Derra and Fesha bickering in books 3 and 4 is especially funny, and won't fail to bring a smile to your face.

Just like the majority of Eddings tales, The Darkweaver is a fairly typical Fantasy story, however by using his characters, rather than a narrative to tell the story, he's been able to translate the depth and the reader's interest in the characters into the story. A lot of situations in the book are summed up not by a third person narrative, but by the thoughts and actions of the characters. Only Eddings and Hobb, to my knowledge, have ever used this method of storytelling this well before. Because of it, the story flows along graciously and at a very good pace, with the reader not becoming bored with the monotonous voice of a third person narrative- the story is told in the voices of the characters.

Robson sets the pace of his books exactly right. he doesn't rush towards an end, taking time with sub-stories and characters, but he is always moving towards something, and the reader always knows it. Many have said that the third book was a filler, but I disagree with them there. It was an essential book in that it slowed the pace a little and developed the characters even more, before exploding into the hugely quick pace of the final book.

The Darkweaver took me two weeks to read, exactly. Discounting the three days I waited for delivery of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th books, and one day where a virus gave me such a headache that looking at a page of words made me feel like drills were going in my head, that makes ten days of reading, as well as school, coursework and various other activities. For any series, whatever the size, to be able to break the Belgariad 12 day read-athon, for me, is a huge achievement. One can argue that the Belgariad is longer, although to me it makes little difference, as I could probably read the Darkweaver in a couple of days, if I set my mind to it, especially bearing in mind that most of First Sword and all of The Chosen One were read in one day, and still with plenty of time to spare in the daylight, it's really a testimont to the skill of Robson in captivating his audience.

A brilliant first series and I can’t wait to read more. 9/10 for me.

Sahnny (SHOULD be Shanny, but Sahnny looks almost as cool, damned typos! >_>)

PS. Thanks for the book signing, Mark ^.^.

Sahnny said:
PS. Thanks for the book signing, Mark ^.^.

My pleasure. :) It just goes to show how infrequently I've managed to spend time in this part of Chronicles, as I'd not noticed this review before. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I shall place a link to it from my website.

To be compared to not one, but three or four of my heroes amongst fantasy writers is most flattering. The Belgariad was my favourite series for a very long time. I haven't read it for some years now, but I still remember the story in great detail. To have my work compared and contrasted to Eddings in particular seems both unreal, and yet strangely fitting, given my addiction to his writing during my early forays into fantasy fiction.

I hope we shall meet again next time I'm visiting Swindon. :D

Similar threads