So, this is the first book mentioned in Appendix N, but only because it’s put down in alphabetical order. I bought my copy through Amazon, paid a penny as well as 280 more for postage. It really is a wonderful world we live in isn’t it when we can get an idea, such as reading the books that inspired AD&D and can make it happen so easily.
I liked this book. I didn’t love it and I doubt that I’ll ever read it again, but reading it once was a little treat. It’s a fast read, my copy, a 1970’s reprint (with the above cover) has just 156 pages. Barely a novel by today’s often Brobdingnagian standards. Maybe the lesson they could though is that something happens every page, there’s no fat here, no pointless exposition, everything has both purpose and meaning. That in itself was enjoyable.
What wasn’t was the faux-Scots dialogue of some of the characters. It slowed down the pace, took you out of the story. But…it was a choice and I can see why the writer made it and I do wonder if readers back in the fifties would have had the same problem with it. Just about every book aimed at teaching writing tells you to avoid it and it’s certainly fallen out of favour in my lifetime.
Okay, you know the drill, spoilers ahead.
The story itself is a parallel worlds tale about a man taken from our world and deposited in another, one where he is a brave knight, complete with full armour, a beautiful horse and a serviceable weapon. There’s also a shield bearing the Three Hearts and Three Lions of the title. The rest of the tale is taken up with his quest to find out who he is, what he’s meant to do and how he is to get home. That and his relationship with the beautiful Swan-May who has fallen in love with him. We meet, wizards, elves, trolls and cannibals and witches and all have their part to play in his quest. As does a Muslim knight, the brave and true Carahue. It all happens so naturally that there are few points where you’re taken out of the story, which I guess is a testament to Mr Andersons’ skill as a storyteller.
Good and Bad have become Chaos and Law, which allows for a greater amount of nuance. Characters are driven by their adherence to either philosophy and act accordingly. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the character of Morgan Le Fey. (Can I just say that I prefer Morgana to Morgan? Morgan just sounds so…male! Damn you Morgan Freeman and your amazing acting!) Morgan shows on more than one occasion that she loves Carlson and does her best to protect him while advancing her own plans. Carlson has to fight the feelings that he has for her to do what he knows is right. It’s shades of grey done right and creates depth without leaving you feeling sullied by what you’ve read.
The story is as deep as you want it to be, I suspect you could build a career on ‘discovering’ the hidden messages within the book. As a final note I’d like to point out that although I was a little disappointed at how the tale ended, it felt like there were a hundred or so pages missing. Saying that I’ve never felt so driven to write a fan-fiction sequel of my own before.
That’s all, for now, guys. Next will be The Face in the Frost by John Belliars.