Tuesday, 7 August 2001

David and Leigh Eddings: The Redemption of Althalus (2000)

Edition: Harper Collins Voyager, 2000
Review number: 896

Although this stand alone epic fantasy has all the familiar ingredients that have characterised the Eddings' writing in the genre since Pawn of Prophecy, it does have some differences; the most obvious is of course that it is in a single, if lengthy, volume.

Althalus is a thief, hired to steal a book - an item rare enough that he doesn't know what it is - from the House at the End of the World. When he gets there, he doesn't expect what he finds: a talking cat. Slowly educated by her, Althalus eventually comes to understand something of what the book is about - the creation of the world. Time means little in the House, and Althalus is surprised to find that when he leaves with the cat, it is over two thousand years later; they set out to gather a group of companions to oppose the attempted destruction of the world by the people who originally wanted the book stolen.

The style of The Redemption of Althalus does not present any real surprises to readers of earlier fiction by the Eddings. It is written in the usual easy to read prose, with the trademark arch and sometimes slightly annoying humour. This is less of a problem than the characters, which are rather too similar to those of the Elenium and Tamuli series - time to move on!

Like all of the Eddings' fantasy, a central theme of the novel is the relationship between humans and their deities. The theological framework of the novel is less complex than any of the others; there are three deities, two male, one female, who basically represent creation, destruction and evolution respectively. This is quite an important difference from their earlier theological schemes, which tend to have titular deities for each major ethnic group. The overlap of and conflicts between their spheres of interest provides the background to the novel and could easily provide inspiration for a lot more than is used here; a virtue of the novel is that it doesn't exhaust the possibilities but leaves many others which are only hinted at, which makes the world seem more complete.

The Redemption of Althalus continues both the virtues and failings of earlier novels by David and Leigh Eddings (although Leigh's name has only been coupled with that of her husband in recent novels, David has acknowledged considerable involvement on her part before that). It is likely to appeal to all their fans but would probably not convert any who disliked an earlier novel.

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