Lord Valentine's Castle, by Robert Silverberg

Dagny

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Joined
Jan 16, 2009
Messages
49
My husband thrust Lord Valentine's Castle, along with all it's aweful 70's style high fantasy cover art into my hands, and told me "If you like Michael Moorcock, you'll probably like this", and he was right. Story starts out pretty simple, Valentine wakes up knowing his name and where he is and what planet he's on, other than that, his memory is gone. Needing work, he ends up with a travelling troupe of jugglers while he tries to figure out who he is and what is going on. Juggling is a wonderful parable for surviving the trials of life, don't you think? Juggling requires concentration, balance, and trust in your partners and yourself. You don't have time to think or worry about what is happening, you just catch and throw, catch and throw. Balancing between fantasy and science fiction, the juggling troupe provides the perfect opportunity for Silverberg to introduce us to the alien residents of the planet of Majipoor, including the furry four armed Skandars, tentacled Vroon, pale skinned Metamorphs, and others who have settled there from across the galaxy. I appreciated getting to know the alien races of Majipoor as Valentine's friends and confidants, instead of just getting bland descriptions and infodumps of people who live there.

Morality on the Majipoor is influenced by the Lady of the Isle of Sleep, and the King of Dreams. While the King of Dreams sends frightening and punishing dreams to people, the Lady of the Isle balances those dreams with feelings of calm and goodness. With feelings of love and kindness from the Lady, and the fear of punishing dreams from the King, and an eight thousand year dynasty of royal coronals, residents of Majipoor have enjoyed thousands of generations of peace and harmony. What little crime does occur, is usually petty.

Revealed through dreams, Valentine learns that he is the Coronal Lord Valentine, who rules on high from the Castle Mount. Through trickery and magic, Valentine has been ousted from his body, and the son of the King of Dreams rules in his stead. Silverberg could have easily gone with high fantasy, high drama, high stakes, and more melodrama than you can shake a hobbit at. But he didn't. Valentine's secret identity is eventually revealed to his new friends, and after pledging their undying allegiance to the true Coronal and to keep his true identity secret, they help him reach his mother, the Lady of the Isle of Sleep. Traversing nearly the entire landmass of Majipoor, Silverberg provides the reader with a quick tour of the world and it's peoples, eventually landing Valentine on the Isle of Sleep to reday him to face forces of the King of Dreams. Again, it was great to see and do things in Majipoor, instead of just have them described.

Lord Valentine is only the latest coronal in thousands of years of history on Majipoor. Happy in his new life as a travelling juggler, he loses all interest in regaining his throne. But things are far more complicated that one man's wish to abdicate. With the son of the King of Dreams on the throne, his younger brother could easily become the next coronal, which means their mother would inherit the title and powers of the Lady of the Isle of Sleep. The King of Dreams on one side of the balance, and his wife on the other? If that came to pass, the balance of light and dark would be destroyed forever, and the King of Dreams would have complete control over the populace of Majipoor.

It's not an unusual fantasy trope for a pauper to be revealed as a prince, or for a high king to live years of their life as a commoner. As other deposed princes have, Valentine learns from his travels, from his new friends. He learns things about life that he would never have learned had he stayed in the royal court on the Castle Mount. He learns balance, to trust himself and others, to only worry when necessary, to catch and throw, catch and throw. A little like wax on, wax off, no?

This book asks for nothing from the reader. That can sound like an insult, so let me explain. High fantasy often requires the reader to remember lineages, worldly histories, lots of drama etc, things that for me can get in the way of enjoying myself. Hard scifi often requires the reader to put up with and generally enjoy infodumps, interstellar empires of who knows what, and technobabble and the like. I am not knocking any of these things, but they are requirements that an author makes of a reader. I often enjoy the requirements. Sometimes however, I want nothing more than to sit back, relax, and enjoy myself. Lord Valentine's Castle gives me enjoyment. it gives me relaxation. Reading it is like sitting on the beach on a perfect day, listening to the waves lap on the shore, feeling the warm sun on my face. Maybe i'm misjudging it. Maybe there is plenty of melodrama that i'm missing or skipping over. Maybe Silverberg and his fans will be offended by my saying that the book requires nothing of me. Silverberg, s prose is elegant, natural, and witty. If I were to have a son one day, i'd bet good money that the name "Valentine" would be on the boy's birth certificate. Mr Silverberg and fans, if that isn't the highest compliment, I don't know what is. Having read this book (and the sequel) during a stressful time in my life, it was the perfect therapy - that maybe all I needed to do to find peace within myself was to concentrate, find my center and catch and throw.
 

Dagny

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2009
Messages
49
Omphalos, i want to know what you think after you read it. I think it will be a departure from your usual fare, so i want to know if you like it or not.
 
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