Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review-THE ETERNAL FLAME


The Eternal Flame - T.A. Barron
- published October 2006 by Philomel
- Hardcover, 377 pages
- GR ratings: 43% (5 stars), 34% (4 stars), 19% (3 stars), 2% (2 stars), 0% (1 star)

Taking up where Shadows on the Stars left off, this novel is a fitting finale to the trilogy that makes up The Great Tree of Avalon. Tamwyn continues his journey up the Great Tree to relight the stars darkened by the malevolent Rhita Gawr, who seeks to conquer Avalon before attacking Earth. In the meantime, Eli and the caustic sprite Nuic make their way to the Lost of City of Light to destroy the powerful crystal guarded by Rhita Gawr's minion, the evil sorcerer Kulwych, while Scree, now leader of the Bram Kaie eaglefolk, prepares his followers to join in the looming battle on the Plains of Isenway. It is this battle, fought in the sky and on the ground, that pits the alliance of elves, humans, eaglefolk, tree spirits, and more against Rhita Gawr and his ogres, trolls, and immortal dragons, for the ultimate control of Avalon.


My Thoughts
You see this scenario often: the “rite of passage” scenario coupled with the “epic quest.” A world/way of life is threatened – often by larger than life supernatural villains – and the only hope lies in destinies of the unlikeliest characters. There’s something quite extraordinary about the Ordinary Hero: the David Complex, as I like to call it (David vs. Goliath, anyone?) and though in all honesty it’s a scenario we’ve seen countless times (and very likely can predict the outcomes), we still get swept away into the heart-stopping action.

- This was The Eternal Flame. Like I said, the outline of this story is one we’re more than likely familiar with, but the heart of the book manages to keep everything fresh and new. I really don’t want to say a lot about the plot for fear of dropping spoilers, because I’m guessing this is a series that most of you may not be familiar with. I will say that in the proud tradition of Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain and other classic fantasy works, The Great Tree of Avalon revolves around the transformation of ordinary individuals into extraordinary heroes, complete with vivid, descriptive scenery, detailed backstory, a lush ensemble of characters, and insightful moral truths. Yes, this series is entertaining, but it is so much more than just that – it’s not forgetful, it’s not superficial, it doesn’t leave you feeling strangely empty...it has *substance*.

Setting/Imagery: There’s really nothing else I can say that I haven’t spouted off already. In a nutshell, the world of Avalon is made of up one great tree: the roots of the tree make up the seven realms, the bark of the tree are the mountains and valleys, and the tips of the branches hold the stars. So it is therefore very possible (and indeed, the goal of the main character) to climb to the stars. As always, careful attention was given to detail!
Characterization: Each of the principal characters: Tamwyn, Elli, Scree, and Brionna, each have their own perspectives and their own separate missions to complete. Even though Tamwyn is the most important character, I liked how Barron paid attention to the others, as well. I personally would have liked for them to have been reunited or something, since this was the last book—it just felt a little weird that they were all by themselves…but that’s entirely a “me” thing. You don’t have to worry about “flat” characters in the Avalon series, that’s for sure! Well, the villains are flat, but they’re villains, come on!
Plot: I personally think that the final book in a series is always going to have the plot “edge” to it, just because there’s this excitement and anticipation in knowing that the story has to somehow come to a close. I read this book quicker than any of the others, and not just because it’s slightly shorter; it was just completely engrossing.

Ending: I will say that I was a bit…I don’t know, less than amused with the ending. Not ‘disappointed’ or anything. I actually liked the way the story was resolved, it just seemed to end really abruptly. Like, I turned the page, thinking there would be more, but it went to the appendices. I have to admit, I think I blurted out a “what the?!?!” just because I was not expecting that. So the ending of The Eternal Flame definitely could have been better. I guess I’ve just read too many good series endings in the past (Return of the King, The High King, Deathly Hallows, *The Last Freaking Awesome Olympian*) and was expecting too much, maybe. Whatever.

Fantasy Radar
- Fantasy creatures? Dragons, faeries, elves, dwarves, gnomes, unicorns, giant eagles, dragons, etc. This series has them all! A+
- Magic? It’s there, but I was surprised with how little it played a part in the story, considering this is supposed to be a spinoff series of the Lost Years of Merlin…you know, only the greatest wizard EVER. B
- Awesome villain[s]? Kulwych and Rhita Gawr are pretty good villains for an intermediate series. I was happy. I could have done with a little more backstory on Rhita Gawr—he never seemed completely explained. B+/A-
- Unforgettable world/realm? A+!!
- Battle scenes?!?! Every good fantasy series needs battle scenes, and while the Battle of Avalon wasn’t Minias Tirinth, it was pretty decent! Good action, good fight scenes—I was very pleased. A

Amelialand Rating (I’ll explain the story behind Amelialand later)
- Language: Much less language than Child of the Dark Prophecy, and even then it was always PG-level stuff.
- Sex: no sex at all—that always makes me happy! PG
- Romance: the Tamwyn-Elli romance is one of my new favorites! Totally sweet couple-very good dialogue, but I would have liked a little more development. They spend so long apart, you wish they’d have some time together!
- Violence – nothing out of the ordinary for intermediate-level fantasy. I’d give it a PG-13

Final Rating: 5/5.

7 shout-outs!:

SB said...

Once again, another great review. I am also a big underdog fan, what can I say...totally followed your David-analogy!:-)
SB


not too serious i hope

Christina T said...

I haven't read anything by T.A. Barron before but I might like it because I loved The Lord of the Rings. I'd probably need to start with an earlier series. Great detailed review!

By the way, here is an award for your blog.

Amelia said...

Thanks! Oh and you don't have to start with anything other than this--I didnt read the Merlin series at all and I wasnt lost or anything :P

Christina T said...

Good to know! Oh, by the way, you asked a question about my review of O, Juliet: Rosaline isn't part of the story. She and a number of characters from the Shakespeare play do not appear at all. Even the guy Juliet is betrothed to is different from the play. Robin Maxwell based her version slightly on Shakespeare as well as on the older stories of Romeo and Juliet from Italy.

Melissa said...

I absolutely adore this review, Amelia! And can I just say how great your rating system is?! I might just have to adapt my own version from yours, if you don't mind, of course :)

Amelia said...

Oh Melissa I'd be honored! :)

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Fun ratings :)

 
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