My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Is it fair to judge a book against another of an author? What about against an author’s body of work? It is a challenge to not do so with this one and Donaldson. I tried to get this through NetGalley a few months back, and my request was declined, but I was fortunate to be selected when this Advance Reader Copy became available through First to Read.
As to that judgment, Donaldson introduced me to his incredible imagination 40 years ago. His Covenant novels are rich, immediately so and all the way through (at least the ones I read…I have yet to tackle the last three; other attentions and all…), as was his Mordant pair. This one, is not. It seems under baked. His characters and descriptions are uncharacteristically raw. There are a number of throwaways, and it seems Donaldson didn’t want to invest any time in them before they were expended. I get that, but his Prince Bifalt is boorish with little redeeming him. Where Covenant’s flaws and anger had a backstory that a reader can identify with, I saw nothing in Bifalt that led me to understand him. Oh, he’s not hard to understand – flat, undeveloped, a blunt instrument. The thoughts that rush into his head are incongruous, inconsistent – well, they are consistently inconsistent – with rationality. I also felt the narrative to be uncharacteristically shallow, and predictable…that’s not something I’ve seen before in a Donaldson work.
I accept some fault in my perceptions – I am unused to reading such deliberately obtuse characters. I suppose there are more people than I know who really do think that way, but I wasn’t expecting such portrayals from Donaldson. It’s a departure, and one I expect I should adjust to.
I am grateful for the opportunity of the advance read, and will read the next when it comes out…I want to see where it goes.