Reviews of Last Guardian of Everness, the (2004)
Review by archren (2006-02-18)
This book is an amazing, epic fantasy, but with an intimate cast of characters. Following three central characters, the plot follows our heroes trying to thwart the attempt of evil beings in the dreaming to break through ancient protections in order to conquer our normal world and bring about a reign of darkness. When you put it that way, it seems cliche. However, this book (the first of a duology) is full of inventiveness and originality.
John C. Wright does not coddle his readers. You have to be paying attention in order to follow all the plot threads in this novel. You should definitely be up on your European mythology and symbolism. If you read and understood a good part of Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels, you'll have most of the background you need. Everness addresses some of the more hoary fantasy clichés, and then subverts them, bringing them within some realm of plausibility. This is not a good book to start with if you are completely new to fantasy, since then you wouldn’t appreciate some of his perfectly aimed pokes at tradition.
All in all the book is enjoyable, serious but not taking itself too seriously. The main characters are not normal people, but they are making their way in our world quite realistically. They don’t know the rules of the game, and are discovering them as they go. Wright keeps the sense of genuine threat and suspense going perfectly. The odds are decidedly against them, and there is great pleasure to be had in turning the page to see how they can keep going. You feel like there is a real chance that they might fail. The end of the book doesn’t pull any punches; it’s a cliff-hanger, and a seemingly very dark place for our heroes. For the first time in quite awhile, I found myself thinking while reading a fantasy book: “Wow, I’m really, really glad I’m not them.”
One other note: if you’ve read and enjoyed the Golden Age science fiction trilogy by the same author, there is a good chance that this will also appeal to you. Similar balancing of light and dark, plot and philosophy and engaging, if not realistic, characters. If you haven’t read that trilogy, you really should.