Flashback Friday is something I do here at Bookwraiths every once in a while; a time when I can post my thoughts about books that I’ve read in the past. With the hectic schedule of day-to-day life, there never seems enough time to give these old favorites the spotlight that they deserve, but with a day all to themselves, there is no reason I can’t revisit them.
Today, I’ll be taking a look back at a classic fantasy series by Dave Duncan!
Series: A Man of His Word #1-4
Publisher: Open Road Media (July 11, 2017)
Author Information: Website
Length: 1503 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
With A Man of His Word, Dave Duncan produces a sprawling epic, which uses the familiar tropes of classic fantasy to effortlessly ensnare readers in the familiar story of a gifted, stable boy and a willful, skilled princess. No, the author doesn’t revolutionize the genre, or even attempt to subvert it, but, rather, he takes the normal building blocks of epic fantasy and uses them to create a fresh, exciting tale all his own.
Rap and Princess Inosolan grow up on the great rock of Krasengar, far to the north in the world of Pandemia, where surviving the arctic winters and maintaining their way of life keeps the people from care too much about the goings on in the greater world. As these two children grow to maturity they become fast friends, as close as two people could be; only when they both enter the edge of adulthood does their bond begin to fray, as deeper feelings for one another grow, yet can’t be acted upon by either.
Naturally, Rap and Inosolan’s simple life becomes complicated by events which pull them into the greater world. The spunky princess getting into all sorts of deep trouble, while Rap doggedly travels the world, braves dangers, and uncovers unexpected skills to save his friend. (Not to say that Inosolan is a damsel waiting to be rescued, because she is it not, but that doesn’t mean Rap’s help isn’t of good use to her.) All of the daring adventures of the two friends leading to a final conclusion which (though expected) is still well done and quite fulfilling.
While many aren’t familiar with Dave Duncan’s works, I’ve always been a fan of his fantasy offerings. Series like The Seventh Sword and A Handful of Men (sequel to Man of His Word) especially note worthy; the author combining a more mature and realistic look at life with the hopeful, escapist tone of Tolkien-esque fantasy. Duncan always able to invoke laughs and smiles, grimaces and shock without making the story a bloody, horrific, depressing grimdark mess.
What really pulled me into this particular narrative was the worldbuilding and the main characters. This world of Pandemia populated by the tried-and-true fantasy races with a creative magic system; the commoner-princess trope put to good use, as the story of Rap and Inosolan slowly ensnares you, making you care about these two youths, then the greater story whisks them (and you the reader) away on an exciting journey of discovery across the world, where cool people pop up all along the way.
As for any real criticism, all I can say is that this is classic fantasy. Duncan doesn’t discard the normal tropes but embraces them, uses them in his own way to create an exciting adventure tale which isn’t dark, cynical, pessimistic or nihilistic but the exact opposite. And those lighter, more optimistic qualities might turn some readers off, those who prefer their fantasy to be in the mold of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and others. Besides this possible issue though, there really isn’t anything negative I could list about this series.
A Man of His Word is quite frankly a return to a brighter, more optimistic time in fantasy literature. An era where people wanted the “good” guys to triumph, the “bad” guys to get what they deserved, and for the weary heroes to somehow, someway have the possibility to live happily ever after. And if you are a reader weary of the grimdark of today who wishes to (re)discover the fun fantasy of yesteryear, I’d encourage you to pick up A Man of His Word; it might not reinvent the genre or subvert any tropes, but it will make you laugh, smile, and forget the screwed up world we live in for more than a few hours.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.