Wednesday, 10 May 2000

Orson Scott Card: Journeyman Alvin (1995)

Edition: Tor, 1995
Review number: 496

After a gap of a few years, Card has continued this series, one of my favourites of the fantasy genre. It is set in a fascinating alternate history USA in which much of the country remains in the hands of the colonial powers, and where magic is relatively commonplace.

Alvin Journeyman picks up the story of Alvin (usually referred to as Smith or Maker, from his occupation and magical gifting respectively) where the previous books left off, and carries the story through the setbacks he experiences trying to teach something of his magic art to others, so that together they can build the Crystal City that Alvin has seen in visions. These setbacks include the enmity of his jealous brother Calvin, hysterical accusations from a besotted teenage girl, and a legal suit from the smith he served as apprentice.

The major characters continue to develop, though their over polarised nature (too much black and white) is a flaw of this novel as it was of its predecessors. The characters interact believably, and the climactic trial is well prepared. The backwoods American background, with the interesting twist provided by the alternate historical elements, is as convincing as ever. Alvin Journeyman is a fine addition to the series.

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