As you may remember, I once reviewed a book called Dragondoom by Dennis L. McKiernan. I gave it a positive review in spite of all its silliness. It is a special book, I think. Recently, as part of the GLP, I decided to read the other five McKiernan books in my collection. I was hoping they’d be special books, too.
I started with The Dark Tide, book one of The Iron Tower trilogy.
The Dark Tide by Dennis L. McKiernan
In The Dark Tide, some young Wee Folk (a.k.a. warrows) set out to become Thornwalkers, defenders of their land. But war is afoot. The High King has summoned warriors to his keep, and these warrows are part of a company sent to answer the call. The enemy, Modru, has cast a magical pall upon the sun and now his minions, ordinarily slain by the merest touch of sun, can roam the land at will. He sends a mighty Horde to conquer the world. Clear-sighted and extraordinarily skilled at archery, the warrows quickly become indispensable to the King and his men, and though they are small, their roles in the struggle against Modru will be great.
Just like Dragondoom, this book suffers from silly language and even sillier dialogue. Cliches abound. Characters who are angry or anxious are always hitting inanimate objects with their fists. Characters who are concerned about loved ones almost always have a sense of foreboding, usually with an unnecessary adjective, like “dire” or “chill.” The exposition is handled poorly. The characters are flat. Still and all, I rather enjoyed the story and decided to continue on to the second book, Shadows of Doom.
Shadows of Doom by Dennis L. McKiernan
In Shadows of Doom, the similarities with Tolkien become so unmistakable that they’re annoying. The reason for the similarities, says the Wikipedia article on McKiernan, is that he first deliberately wrote a sequel to The Lord of the Rings simply because he was a fan. He could not get permission from Tolkien’s estate to publish it, though. McKiernan’s publisher then asked him to rewrite the story using different names and also to write a prequel to support it. The prequel (this trilogy) therefore has to have characters and events that mirror Tolkien’s in order for the original work to make any sense.
It sounds plausible and it explains a lot. We will ignore the fact that an elf, a man, a dwarf, and a Hobbit (excuse me, Warrow) can’t get across the mountains because of the evil enemy and are forced to take a route underground through an ancient Dwarven home that was abandoned by the dwarves when they delved too deep and unearthed a dreadful monster. We will ignore the fact that there is a dark lake near the door and that the lake contains a many-armed monster that forces them through the hidden door, the key to which is a single word. All of this, and more, is forgiven.
The problem is that McKiernan’s version of the story just isn’t nearly as good. His descriptions of the characters’ journeys, for example, are so utterly dull that I started skimming. Let me give you an example. I have shortened the paragraphs for your convenience, but there’s enough of the original text to give you the gist.
When they took up the trek again, their course bore due south … <boring descriptions> … And the farther south they trod, the less they saw of the ancient pave they followed …
Some nine hours they strode, faring ever southward … <a character has a “vague” sense of foreboding> …
Another hour they walked …
But then: “Hoy , ahead,” said Tuck. “Something looms, barring our way. I cannot say what. Perhaps a mountain.” <dialogue about what it might be>
Onward they strode, Tuck’s gaze seeking to see what stood across their way. … <more dialogue>
Onward they pressed …
Nothing about it flows naturally. Notice the word “pave.” Always, the author uses an archaic, peculiar, or uncommon word when a simple term would suffice (e.g., “road”). You get used to it. Sometimes it’s even fun. But it can get on your nerves after a while.
Even skimming, the story finally got so painfully bad that I gave up. I say this knowing from my own unfortunate experience that someone of his acquaintance might find this blog and make me feel sorry I was so critical. Yet I have to be honest. The book isn’t good. Since I couldn’t finish it, I must give it an F, and I won’t mention it on my Book Love page.
I have so little time for reading, I cannot take the risk that the remainder of the five books will be as bad. That means five new victims of the GLP: the whole of The Iron Tower trilogy (The Dark Tide, Shadows of Doom, and The Darkest Day), as well as Trek to Kraggen-Cor and Voyage of the Fox Rider. May they find readers who will love them.
To Mr. McKiernan or any of his friends or family or fans who should happen upon this blog:
Sorry. I just didn’t like these two books. I also don’t like broccoli or jazz or basketball, so please don’t take it personally.