Read The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts Free Online
Book Title: The Curse of the Mistwraith|
The author of the book: Janny Wurts
Edition: Penguin Books USA Inc.
The size of the: 655 KB
City - Country: No data
Date of issue: December 1st 1994
ISBN 13: 9780451454164
Format files: PDF
Loaded: 1663 times
Reader ratings: 6.8
Read full description of the books:
The Curse of the Mistwraith is a book that had been sitting on a shelf in our bathroom for many years before I picked it up and blew off a thick layer of dust. I’d never heard of the book but I knew the author’s name well because she co-authored (with Raymond E Feist) one of my favourite fantasy trilogies, The Empire Trilogy. I’ve enjoyed a good number of other books penned by Raymondy all by himself, but I’ve always wondered how much of the magic in The Empire Trilogy came from Janny Wurts.
TCOTM came out in 1993 … 23 years ago! And the series in its various sub-groups is now 10 books long with (I think) 2 more to come. My copy is a 4th edition paperback printed in 1997, and the book has nearly 4,000 ratings on Goodreads, which for a book that came out well over a decade before Goodreads was created is an impressive total. All this is to say that the book clearly sold well and has many fans.
The Curse of the Mistwraith is a big fat fantasy. My copy has over 800 pages. It’s 226,000 words, which is longer by some margin than any book I’ve ever written and nearly three times the length of Prince of Thorns.
It’s a long book and I have quite a lot to say about it. Not all of those things are good, but some are, and the parts that aren’t are all a matter of taste.
Let’s segue into music. I don’t like jazz. Sorry jazz fans. I actually have spent a pleasant evening in a jazz club … but I’m never going to sit down in my own home and listen to the stuff. Now, you could wheel in the world’s most talented musician, a genius capable of the highest quality in any musical genre, and have them play jazz for me. I still wouldn’t like jazz. But I would probably be able to tell that the jazz was being extremely well played. Janny Wurts has, in TCOTM written a book I’m not a great fan of extremely well.
Actually, I liked the first 50 pages a fair bit, soldiered on through the next 600 or so, and enjoyed the last 200.
There are two main elements I’m going to discuss. The first is the writing, the second the story-telling / plot.
Writing-wise Wurts has clearly made a definite choice (jazz). It’s not a failing or a mistake, and I’ve seen her write in another style, but here she has opted for HIGH FANTASY, about as high as you can get it. I’m not adverse to a bit of high-falutin’ prose myself, and I like to get the language to exercise its power. But for me I like to strive for efficiency, where less is more, and to save my more purple prose for high-points where I feel the story has earned me a spot of indulgence. In TCOTM the prose is wordy. Think Tolkien (who I love) but turned up to 11.
This is a not atypical dialogue tag: the aged crone tartly qualified.
And lines such as this are common:
The incongruity of their wholeness against the surrounding wreckage was a dichotomy fit to maim the soul: for their lines were harmony distilled into form, and strength beyond time's attrition.
Archaic expressions such as “it is not meet that” meaning “it is not proper that” abound.
Now, I’m no puritan and I don’t object to occasional ornamentation, but when you get page after page where every line is of this richness, it can become too much. You start to feel as if you’re eating a ten course banquet where every course is Christmas pudding.
Before I over-play this aspect many readers praise Wurts to the skies for her prose, and I can see the talent in it. It’s very well done. She has some wonderful turns of phrase and descriptions. She has a poet’s eye for scenery. And, after 600 pages either I got used to the style or it mellowed as action took over from … not action … because toward the end of the book my eyes managed to see past the ornamentation to the meaning without distraction.
The second aspect of the book I want to address is the story-telling. For me the book begins well with some excitement, action, magic, and threat, two main characters are introduced and it’s all full of promise.
After that, for more than the length of a regular book, TCOTM adopts a very different style. In many ways it’s unique and bold for a fantasy book. The rate at which stuff happens slows to a crawl. Threat and tension largely take a hike, and we spend 500 pages on traveling about a wet and misty countryside slowly world building while our two main characters and a small collection of wizards agonize over what choices to make.
The book focuses on two princes imported from a different fantasy world to end the curse of the mistwraith. This curse is that the land is shrouded in mist (and so we have a lot of description of wet, dripping, chilly, misty, foggy landscapes). One of our princes would rather be a musician and the burden of an unwanted throne and responsibility vex his heart. There’s a lot of too-ing and fro-ing over this. The mages scry this and that, view possibly futures, look into the princes’ hearts, figure the odds, hold meetings … it goes on.
There’s nothing wrong with this. There’s no reason a fantasy book has to be filled with sword swinging and lives in peril and enemies charging over the ridge… A mature reader (whatever their age) can enjoy personal interactions and dilemmas, world-building, magical displays…
But for me it dragged. Perhaps it’s an immature desire in me for some threat/conflict and for it to have a face/character.
Slight spoilers concerning the lack of threats:
(view spoiler)[ The mistwraith has no personality. There’s no evil overlord or ambitious rival here, no cruelty, no threat per se. The land has been misty for 500 years. Sure it would be nicer if the sun shone … but it’s not getting worse. The mistwraith isn’t killing people or scaring them … it’s basically weather.
There’s a fairly lengthy interlude when the mages gang up to remotely *nuke* the threat of lots of venomous snakes that pops up without any apparent reason. We see a ton of description of the magical nets formed, it’s touch and go whether it will work, it’s all very complicated. But I found it hard to care if these characterless snakes, that start to swarm with no particular agenda, are destroyed by these mages hundreds of miles away or not. (hide spoiler)]
(view spoiler)[ Even when they discover that the mistwraith is malicious … it’s still just characterless malice. It doesn’t appear to want anything other than that the land be misty. It puts up a struggle when they try to remove it but there’s nothing personal in its malice. (hide spoiler)]
A lot of the plot concerns prophecies and calculations of the future. Which always feels a bit arbitrary to me. The two princes aren’t driving things forward. We’re not dealing with the ambitions or plans of the two young men, rather it’s the 500 year old plans of 1000 year old men who we only see implementing those plans and whose driving ambition is simply that fate roll out to maximise harmony and well-being while undoing some ancient wrongs to let the vanished races (centaurs, unicorns, and sun-children) back into the world.
One prince, Arithron, master of shadows, Teir’s’Ffalenn has a sword, Alithiel. We get a chapter entitled Alithiel’s story which (though only 8 pages) is pretty much all about the sword’s manufacture. 10,500 years ago 12 blades were made by a centaur, each blade took 5 years to make plus another 5 years for the sorcery to make and keep it sharp. Then the swords went to the Sun-Children for finishing. 21 masters took 10 years to make Alithiel’s hilt… And the unicorns had to sing songs of defence.
We see the sword pulled out when a bunch of dragon-things threaten. Its light strikes them down. We don’t see any more of the dragon-things. There’s one time the sword’s cut brings our prince out of a dangerous trance/madness. And that’s pretty much it for Alithiel after all that build up. When Arithron finally does swing it in battle (in the last 200 pages where things hot up) it just seems like a regular sword.
I mention this because I feel it gives an indication of the general balance between build-up and resolution through-out the book.
Anyway. The plan is to impose these two princes on the city folk who hundreds of years ago rebelled against royalty. The remnants of the aristocracy are now wild clansmen who raid the trade-routes between the cities. Strangely the cities with their guilds and labour organisations are portrayed as dens of iniquity and evil, while the bandits raiding them centuries later are the good guys. I was rather rooting for the city-folk when they showed resistance to the idea that this young man should take over since he was related to the king their ancestors killed five centuries before and a mage said they should. I know I shouldn’t let my views get in the way of a good story, but it did feel rather heavy handed how those who weren’t in favour of giving up self-determination in favour of a king were almost-uniformly painted as terrible people.
Let’s put all that behind us. After 600 pages of politicking, agonizing, magicking and world-building the shit finally hit the fan and suddenly, and against my lowered expectations, I started enjoying myself again. Wurts writes very good battle scenes. She writes dark, bloody fights, and gives no quarter. Good people die nasty deaths, nobody is safe, children and puppies explode. The last 200 pages were fun.
So in the end I’m going to repeat myself. Wurts has, with great talent, written a book that mostly didn’t work that well for me. The reasons that I didn’t devour the work were a combination of the prose style and the focus of the story. These are choice the author took that are clearly very successful for many readers and may well be successful for you.
My advice would be to hop over to Amazon and click on the book – you can read the first few dozen pages.
Give it a go. This is a very rich, detailed, immersive world and if it clicks for you then there’s a hell of a ride ahead!
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Read information about the authorJanny Wurts is the author of War of Light and Shadow series, and To Ride Hell's Chasm. Her eighteen published titles include a trilogy in audio, a short story collection, as well as the internationally best selling Empire trilogy, co authored with Raymond E. Feist, with works translated into fifteen languages worldwide. Her latest title in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, Initiate's Trial, culminates more than thirty years of carefully evolved ideas. The cover images on the books, both in the US and abroad, are her own paintings, depicting her vision of characters and setting.
Through her combined talents as a writer/illustrator, Janny has immersed herself in a lifelong ambition: to create a seamless interface between words and pictures that will lead reader and viewer into the imagination. Her lavish use of language invites the mind into a crafted realm of experience, with characters and events woven into a complex tapestry, and drawn with an intensity to inspire active fuel for thought. Her research includes a range of direct experience, lending her fantasy a gritty realism, and her scenes involving magic crafted with intricate continuity. A self-taught painter, she draws directly from the imagination, creating scenes in a representational style that blurs the edges between dream and reality. She makes few preliminary sketches, but envisions her characters and the scenes that contain them, then executes the final directly from the initial pencil drawing.
The seed idea for the Wars of Light and Shadow series occurred, when, in the course of researching tactic and weapons, she viewed a documentary film on the Battle of Culloden Moor. This was the first time she had encountered that historical context of that brutal event, with the embroidery of romance stripped from it. The experience gave rise to an awakening, which became anger, that so often, our education, literature and entertainment slant history in a manner that equates winners and losers with moral right and wrong, and the prevalent attitude, that killing wars can be seen as justifiable solutions when only one side of the picture is presented.
Her series takes the stance that there are two sides to every question, and follows two characters who are half brothers. One a bard trained as a master of magecraft, and the other a born ruler with a charismatic passion for justice, have become cursed to lifelong enmity. As one sibling raises a devoted mass following, the other tries desperately to stave off defeat through solitary discipline and cleverness. The conflict sweeps across an imaginary world, dividing land and people through an intricate play of politics and the inborn prejudices of polarized factions already set at odds. Readers are led on a journey that embraces both viewpoints. The story explores the ironies of morality which often confound our own human condition - that what appears right and just, by one side, becomes reprehensible when seen from the opposite angle. What is apparently good for the many, too often causes devastating suffering to the nonconformist minority. Through the interactions between the characters themselves, the reader is left to their own discretion to interpret the moral impact of events.
Says Janny of her work, "I chose to frame this story against a backdrop of fantasy because I could handle even the most sensitive issues with the gloves off - explore the myriad angles of our troubled times with the least risk of offending anyone's personal sensibilities. The result, I can hope, is an expanding journey of the spirit that explores the grand depths, and rises to the challenge of mapping the ethereal potential of an evolving planetary consciousness... explore free thought and compassionate understanding."
Beyond writing, Janny's award winning paintings have been showcased in exhibitions of imaginative artwork, among them a commemorative exhibition for NASA's 25th Anniversary; the Art of the Cosmos at Hayden Planet
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