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The Orokon, books one and two of five by Tom Arden

Review by julival

This series begins with The Harlequin's Dance. Book two is The King and Queen of Swords. It is my understanding that there will be five volumes in all (with four currently published, and one on the way soon). This makes a great deal of sense, as things tend to occur in fives in the Orokon. *g*

I must say that the first two books are page turners. I have not once been bored with either of them. (note, these books are currently not available in the US. You have to order from UK)

Next, I must add that these books are not going to be for all our freaks. I can't give them a blanket recommendation, because I know, based on prior posts and conversations that these books will offend at least a few of our members. Arden pulls NO punches.

The story starts quite innocently and intriguingly with the basic mythology. We are given the mystic origin of a parallel Earth created by one of many gods as he is dying (over a very long period of time). The gods of the Orokon are established, reign for a time, descend into disorder and their 'children' are cast from the 'vale' and sent to populate the world and strive against each other until the 'atonement' ends. Sound familiar? *l* This is (sometimes rather thinly veiled) Christian analogy as fantasy. (it corresponds roughly to Puritan England, I think - Iím terrible for history and religion) Or maybe that's just what I read into it. Hard to say for sure. In any case, the story takes up again in a time similar to our 17th/18th century (as opposed the typical 14th-16th century period for most fantasy). It is a significant time for the characters because it corresponds to an approaching end of a large time period (sort of like a millennium, but FIVE millennia *l*)

I knew I was going to like this author when I found the appendix to the first book that explains his time/calendar/seasons set up. He has a very organized, original, and complex yet tidy time system established for his world. It takes a little getting used to at first (I kept getting confused about how old various characters were) but if you take a few minutes to read the short (2-3 pages) appendix, it makes sense.

Anyway, back to the issue of pulling no punches...

Arden eases you into his style. A little shock here, another there, and by the end of volume one, the reader has become a bit used to (if not still startled on occasion by) his graphic descriptions of pretty much anything. He manages to cover every possible body excretion, use a variety of tortures, and insult basically every group one can insult (handicapped, overweight, religious, female, various races, etc.) There are also a few brief scenes of cruelty to animals. All this occurs in the context of the story and serves to fashion the characters and the depravity of the end of the Time of Atonement. I can describe it as being like a motorist passing a car accident on the road. You don't want to look, you distain people who do slow to look, but while you are creeping by with the rest of the traffic, you just have to do so.

Technically, Ardenís writing is excellent. There is no low reading level feel to the books as with many fantasy books I've read. It is definitely a work aimed at 'mature' audiences.

There is sex. Not 'Far Snows' ( Wheel of Time ) style sex, but not pornography either. But I would say it is slightly more graphic than that in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. And I should add that there is at least one rape scene (that is not graphically described).

The characters are extremely well drawn. And while there are clear 'good guys' and 'bad guys' there are also many grey characters. And the good guys have their flaws. But I don't see much good in the bad ones. Just in the few really weak ones.

The magic is very magical magic. And I mean this as opposed to magic with an obvious 'system' (like the one power/saidir/saidin), or 'scientific' base. Extraordinary things can happen and spells, music, objects, and whatnot can be involved.

There are plenty of politics and subplots and the books could be used for a multitude of examples of foreshadowing and dramatic irony. Those of you who revel in battle scenes and campaigns won't find much, at least in the first two books.

It does become clear by the end of the second book that each of them will follow a particular plot formula Ė quest, completion, start of next quest. This eliminates some of the speculation that is fun with a lot of fantasy, but one still has the enjoyment of seeing how each quest is fulfilled, and there is also still the ability to speculate on the motives of various characters.


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