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The Curse of the Mistwraith (Wars of Light & Shadow, Book 1)

The Curse of the Mistwraith - Janny Wurts Janny Wurts - Curse of the Mistwraith

Arithon S'Ffalenn and Lysaer S'Ilessid are princes of two kingdoms which have been at war for centuries. They are also half-brothers on their mother's side, and each have a gift of elemental magic through her. Lysaer recieved no training in his powers of light and was simply raised a noble of Amroth, Arithon was schooled in his shadow powers before returning to claim heirship to the pirate kingdom of Karthan.

When Arithon is captured in battle, the S'Ilessid king decrees his fate to be exile through the worldsend gate. The half-brothers mother has pronounced that whatever the sentence the brothers must share the same fate. And so both Arithon and Lysaer are sent through the portal together. To another world where they are both royal heirs prophecied to destroy the evil mistraith and bring sunlight back to the land.

I started this book once before, and abandoned it not quite half way. This time I was determined to make it all the way through, and find out what all the fuss was actually about. In the end I'm not truly sure if it was worth the effort. The book feels extremely slow paced, and while the writing is of a high standard it's often so complex and flowery as to require regular re-reading of entire paragraphs to fully understand whats going on. The first 300 pages were quite a slog to get through, and it wasn't until the second half of the book that I actually felt the plot get moving.

I think the main cause of the book's slowness is it's reliance on prophecy. It's almost as if the author decided on a nice tragic plot for her novel, and then tried to force it into play by having one of her mages prophecy it, and then having everyone else repeat it over and over until it became true. Whilst this might work for some people, I really rather prefer a character driven plot, and I prefer my prophecies to remain cryptic and forgettable until the final plot-twist.

Another problem I had with the novel was the characters themselves. Arithon and Lysaer being the main characters are obviously the most detailed, and yet they still seemed flat. I believe this is because the author was constantly describing them in terms of their heritage, and not building them as characters in their own rights. There were numerous references to s'Ffalen empathic traits and s'Ilessid sense of justice, but it simply made the characters feel as if they were racial stereotypes rather than people. Granted I did feel like I knew them a little better towards the end of the novel, but thats a very long time to wait. And lesser characters like 'Elaira' were seriously overlooked, we're plastered with indications that she is to be extremely important in the plot, and yet she is barely involved. Even so I felt she was a more real character than either of the brothers, given that all her characterisation came from her actions and not discriptions of her birthright.

Wurts has obviously planned the novel as part of a much larger scale story (there are now 11 books in the series), but that leaves much of this novel hanging and unresolved waiting for the next installment. Granted thats always a feature of series work, but it felt that there was just simply not enough plot in this novel to make an enjoyable book. Or maybe it was just that the plot was spread so thinly over 800 pages.

In conclusion, I found the novel mildly enjoyable, but not worth the time and effort spent. I probably won't be seeking out the rest of the books unless I find myself in a real drought of reading material.