Reviews of Stranger, the (1996)
Review by spiphany (2013-06-23)
Really? So much literature written in Russian and this is what publishers decided was worth translating? I get it that this series was a sensation in Russia. I get it that it's a nice departure from sword-and-sorcery tolkienesque fantasy. I get it that it's at least in part a parody. But to be honest I was hoping for something a little more...above average.
The book features a self-described "loser" from our world who ends up in a parallel Victorian-ish world (Echo) as a member of a small cadre responsible for solving magic-related crimes. It's an interesting premise, although one not utterly unfamiliar to someone versed in the genre of fantasy detective novels. The reader should be prepared for the fact that the book does not have a single, unified plot; instead it consists of a bundle of several novellas which are more or less stand-alone.
I enjoyed it for about the first hundred pages, then I began to get annoyed by the poor writing, flat characters, endless pauses for meals, and haphazard plotting. Somehow none of the descriptions ever allowed me to really visualize anything--I don't know if this is because the stories originally included illustrations and the author depended on this for the effect. The characters seem to mostly stumble onto the solution of the crime (unlike Sherlock Holmes type detective stories, where the clues are there all along but we don't figure out what happened right away because we don't know how to interpret them correctly). All in all ok, but I somehow lost the motivation about halfway through and had to struggle to make myself finish the book. There was never any real sense of threat even when the protagonist was in mortal danger, which made it hard to care particularly about the outcome of any of the episodes.
Randall Garrett's "Lord Darcy" stories are better detective fiction, even if they feel rather old-fashioned and lack the quirkiness of the world of Echo. The stories reminded me a bit of Robert Asprin's "Myth" series (without the puns, although I think there is probably some wordplay which got lost in translation) and would probably appeal to readers who enjoyed that series.