Antony Swithin: The Nine Gods of Safaddné

Antony Swithin, when he was a boy in England, made up a land called Rockall, which was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He continued to elaborate on it, even as an adult, until somebody said, "Why don't you write stories about it?" So he did, and now he says there's no stopping him.

The Perilous Quest For Lyonesse is the first cycle of stories. It follows Simon Branthwaite, whose father and brother left England around the time of Hotspur for a mysterious land called Lyonesse. Lyonesse is on Rockall, but nobody is sure where. Simon sets off to join them, taking the only ship he can, to a place called Sandastre, where they haven't even heard of Lyonesse. For the next three books, he searches for it, and in this book finally finds it and is reunited with his family.

The writing is in a slightly archaic style--not archaic language, but the writing reminds me of some 18th-century adventure novel, which is no doubt what Swithin is imitating. And Swithin falls into the inevitable trap of those who know the world of their writing too well--he spends pages digressing into the minutest, most painfully detailed descriptions of how the various cultures function, the whole book grinding to a halt as he does so. Generally, he will spend about the first half of the book on this, then the second half foiling some evil plot, and then moving on to the next stop on their tour of Rockall.

The third book in the series, The Winds of The Wastelands, was the freest of this problem, since they spent their time traveling through lands that were deserted, and had to figure things out for themselves instead of getting a huge dump of exposition by the author. But things went back to normal with this one; we go, once again, into minute detail about all things Safaddnese. Swithin has sure done his homework, but this falls into the category of "I've Suffered For My Writing, Now It's Your Turn" from time to time.

To make matters worse, rarely do Simon and his friends actually have problems. You know that the author is too soft-hearted to do anything really mean to them, and he never really does. Just one death among his friends might have spiced things up a bit.

And in this book, the gods of the title, although their existence is not accepted by the Christian main characters, seem nonetheless to make themselves felt...by coming out of the machine everytime there does get to be some tension.

I thought that the series would end here. But apparently, at the end, Simon and his friend Avran(prince of Sandastre)decide to go back to Sandastre, where Avran's sister, who is also Simon's fiancée, awaits. But they decide to go back by a different route. Why? Clearly, so that the author can show us some realms he hasn't yet managed to...

I'm hoping that, eventually, Swithin will settle down and tell us some stories. The germs of them are visible in the books so far, but he obviously needs to get us intimately familiar with every aspect of the world in which they occur, first...

I would actually be interested to see the series become more of an alternate history. How would the presence of Rockall affect European, and American, history? I somehow doubt Swithin will get too heavily into this matter, but one can hope...

%A Swithin, Antony
%T The Nine Gods of Safaddné
%I Fontana
%C London
%D Copyright 1993
%G ISBN 0-00-617855-3
%P 270 pp.
%S Perilous Quest For Lyonesse
%V Book 4
%O Paperback, UK#4.99, Aus$10.95, NZ$15.95, Can$6.95

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