‘The Gift’ – Alison Croggon
Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, a gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now she and her teacher, Cadvan, must survive a punishing and uncertain journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other-worldly terror.
So, from the blurb, you can expect to think this book is different to many fantasy books already out there. But, I was sadly mistaken. This book is so similar to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, that it just becomes frustrating. It took me ages to read The Gift and each time I picked it up, I was more saddened than the last that Croggon did not seem to write an original idea.
Ok, so let me give some examples. We have a journey that needs to happen, a pilgrimage through a fantastical world where Maerad and Cadvan are attacked by mystical creatures. They are taken to a secret world in the middle of a very large forest, meeting a race of elf-like people living in a beautiful city (sounds like a bit like the Elves in The Lord of the Rings, huh?). The final part of the novel is about Maerad trying to be accepted by the Bard council. And the leader turns out to be a corrupted Bard who has crossed paths with Maerad when she was a child. (Perhaps a bit like Sauruman in The Lord of the Rings?!) The book finishes with Maerad and Cadvan desperately trying to escape whilst chaos ensues, ending with the start of the next phase of their journey…. yeah, you get where I am going with this one.
Croggon began the novel with such promise and I was really excited to read this one; the trilogy has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages. But, as I started to see the links between the two plots, I grew disinterested in the plight of Maerad and Cadvan, and instead kept looking to see how many pages I had left to go. Why did I continue reading, if I was so disappointed? Aaah, because I was so curious to see how it would finish. In fact, the final few chapters started to get more interesting for me as Maerad is initiated and discovers the truth about how her mother died.
I will probably trudge through the next two books, to see how they run and whether Croggon develops more original material. As with any series, I am always keen to see how they pan out and what happens to the characters. However, if you are looking to read a fantasy novel, I would definitely steer clear of this. If you know about The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you will find yourself making comparisons between the two.