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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.As I m writing this, Jack Vance s under appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years My library doesn t even have a copy it had to be interlibrary loaned for me Why is that Publishers have been printing a seemingly endless stream of vampire and werewolf novels these days same plot, same characters, blah blah blah If not that, it s grit We all want grit Or maybe it s thatwomen are reading fantasy these days and publishers ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.As I m writing this, Jack Vance s under appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years My library doesn t even have a copy it had to be interlibrary loaned for me Why is that Publishers have been printing a seemingly endless stream of vampire and werewolf novels these days same plot, same characters, blah blah blah If not that, it s grit We all want grit Or maybe it s thatwomen are reading fantasy these days and publishers think we want to read about bad ass heroines who kill vampires But, the publishers and authors are just giving us what we demand, I suppose We all got sick of the sweeping medieval style multi volume epics that take forever to write, publish, and read So now we get vampires and sassy chicks with tattoos and bare midriffs When we ve become glutted with those it can t be long now , what s next I ve got a suggestion Publishers, why don t you reprint some of the best classic fantasy Let s start with Jack Vance s Lyonesse Here we have a beautiful and complex story full of fascinating characters even those we only see for a couple of pages are engaging , unpredictable and shocking plot twists, and rambling and entertainingly disjointed adventure No clich s No vampires.As a psychologist, I especially appreciated the many insights into human cognition and perceptual processing that I found in Suldrun s Garden But what s best is Jack Vance s unique style He s quirky, funny, and droll He uses language not just to tell us an interesting story, but he actually entertains us with the way he uses language to tell the story Similar to Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, or Catherynne Valente, but in a different, completely unique style I love authors who respect the English language and compose their prose with care and precision Many of Jack Vance s sentences are purposely funny in their construction and I find myself laughing and delighted not at what was said, but at how it was said Here s his description of Shimrod s excursion to another world He apprehended a landscape of vast extent dotted with isolated mountains of gray yellow custard, each terminating in a ludicrous semi human face All faces turned toward himself, displaying outrage and censure Some showed cataclysmic scowls and grimaces, others produced thunderous belches of disdain The most intemperate extruded a pair of liver colored tongues, dripping magma which tinkled in falling, like small bells one or two spat jets of hissing green sound, which Shimrod avoided, so that they struck other mountains, to cause new disturbance.And here is part of King Casmir s lecture to his daughter Suldrun when she announced that she s not ready to get married That is sentiment properly to be expected in a maiden chaste and innocent I am not displeased Still, such qualms must bend before affairs of state Your conduct toward Duke Carfilhiot must be amiable and gracious, yet neither fulsome not exaggerated Do not press your company upon him a man like Carfilhiot is stimulated by reserve and reluctance Still, be neither coy not cold Modesty is all very well in moderation, even appealing Still, when exercised to excess it becomes tiresome.If you can find a used copy of Suldrun s Garden, the first of the Lyonesse trilogy, snatch it up There are some available onand there s a kindle version, too Beware the Fantasy Masterworks version, which is known to have printing errors Jack Vance is original You won t get his books confused with anyone else s This is beautiful work for those who love excellent fantasy literature Read this review in context at Fantasy Literature If Lyonesse were a food, it would be Bits of different kinds of things all thrown into one receptacle but where you can still taste each individual food item, all smothered with custardy gooey goodness So, how about a Lyonesse recipe you ask 1 loaf of fantasy geopolitical intrigue, heated till crisp and diced finely A large punnet of wild fairy talesA large cup of piquant tongue in cheek Another large cup of creamy purple prose Old myths for seasoning Marinate your wild fairy tales with th If Lyonesse were a food, it would be Bits of different kinds of things all thrown into one receptacle but where you can still taste each individual food item, all smothered with custardy gooey goodness So, how about a Lyonesse recipe you ask 1 loaf of fantasy geopolitical intrigue, heated till crisp and diced finely A large punnet of wild fairy talesA large cup of piquant tongue in cheek Another large cup of creamy purple prose Old myths for seasoning Marinate your wild fairy tales with the piquant tongue in cheek Place one layer of wild fairy tales in your receptacle Cover with a layer of dicey hot geopolitical intrigue Repeat the layers until the receptacle is full Smother the whole thing with the creamy prose and douse with the remaining tongue in cheek Sprinkle heavily with old myths or to tasteYummmm delish Wow What a wonderful surprise For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend We re not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like historical accuracy , either And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin Murgen , Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalr Wow What a wonderful surprise For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend We re not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like historical accuracy , either And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin Murgen , Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalry, high Celts, and so muchNone of it overwhelmed the taste of adventure, where three kingdoms vied, played, made alliances, and started wars during a span of 30 years, and the characterizations were pure fantasy boilerplate, but lest you get turned off by that idea, just know that they all go through tons of changes heck, they went through nearly as many as what happen to the plot, itself.Is that a problem Hell no Not for me I was actually rather amazed at the sheer scope of where we started, from a princess s childhood Suldrun , her setup as a fairytale, then the betrayal of her wonderful prince Aillas , their love, and their tragedy merely sets the stage, even if it takes up a sizable portion of the book The rest of the tale happens to be one of the best written and most imaginative, quickly paced, and thoroughly satisfying traditional fantasy novels I ve ever read, staying firmly on the road of adventure, adventure, adventure.Aillas s tragedy is only the starting point, after all, and making a ladder out of bones is just the beginning, especially after he learns that his lost Suldrun had a child Tons of trigger points for me, and I ve never gotten tired of such tales I just can t believe how awesome the adventure was, or just how much was accomplished all the way to a mostly happy ending.And now that I ve finished the first book in the trilogy and loved it, I have absolutely no reason not to enthusiastically dive into The Green Pearl Centuries in the past, at that middle distant time when legend and history start to blur, Blausreddin the pirate built a fortress at the back of a stony semi circular harbor Blausreddin plays no further role in the present story, but his fortress eventually evolved into a city of fame and wonder Lyonesse, the capital of the Elder Isles, an imaginary archipelago in the Atlantic, somewhere off the coasts of Britain and Bretagne As for the period in which the adventure takes place, the meeti Centuries in the past, at that middle distant time when legend and history start to blur, Blausreddin the pirate built a fortress at the back of a stony semi circular harbor Blausreddin plays no further role in the present story, but his fortress eventually evolved into a city of fame and wonder Lyonesse, the capital of the Elder Isles, an imaginary archipelago in the Atlantic, somewhere off the coasts of Britain and Bretagne As for the period in which the adventure takes place, the meeting of legend and history is set a couple of generations before the advent of King Arthur and his Knights Here in the Elder Isles there is to be found the original Round Table, a symbol of both leadership and power sharing that the kings of Lyonesse misplaced into the custody of a rival kingdom It is worth noting here that the once united Isles are at the start of the epic divided into ten unruly and warring kingdoms North Ulfland, South Ulfland, Dahaut, Caduz, Blaloc, Pomperol, Godelia, Troicinet, Dascinet and Lyonesse The reader will get a chance to get familiar with all of them over the next three ample volumes The Arthurian Round Table and the quest of King Casmir of Lyonesse to recover it will form the main theme of the trilogy, but on this basic frame Jack Vance builds a meandering and many branched tale, often taking detours and sidetrips to explore the many natural wonders, the magical features and the curious habits of the people of the Elder Isles This apparent lack of focus and leisure pacing has given reason to some reviewersconcerned about linear storytelling to give a lower rating, but in my case it has provided an immersive experience and a continuous sense of wonder at the imaginative powers of the author, already evident in his other major series about The Dying Earth Other similarities to that collection of stories include the numerous amoral protagonists, the wicked sense of humour, the elaborate and formal use of language, the gateways to parallel worlds and a pervasive melancholy, a sense of a doomed world that shinesbrightly in its last flowering before a cataclysm or simple forgetfulness will erase it from our history books The placing of the imaginary Elder Isles in the Atlantic is also drawing parallels to the ancient fate of Atlantis, the sunken kingdom, and hints at a similar impending doom are scattered throughout the epic, mostly from gnomic utterances of the most powerful magician around, named MurgenTo the north the Sfer Arct passed between the crags Maegher and Yax petrified giants who had helped King Zoltra Bright Star dredge Lyonesse Harbor becoming obstreperous, they had been transformed into stone by Amber the sorcerer so the story went The short quote above illustrates how each turn in the road, each meadow in the forest and each mountain crag in the Elder Isles has a history, a hidden danger, a trace of magic infusing and defining its nature It could be argued that the novels belong in the sword sorcery niche of fantasy with their accent on individual feats of valor, scoundrels as anti heroes, flashes of black humour and numerous instances of supernatural manifestations, but Jack Vance is diverging from the usual light fare of the genre by the awesome scope of his worldbuilding and his particular lyrical prose that is closer to Tolkien s High English than to R E Howard, Michael Moorcock or Fritz Leiber.The actual plot is so convoluted that I am having a bit of trouble knowing where to start, or how much to tell without spoiling the fun of discovery Nominally, the first volume is about Suldrun, the beautiful, whimsical and sad daughter of the ambitious King Casmir of Lyonesse A free spirit, she feels imprisoned in the sombre castle Haidion, roaming the cold stone halls in search of adventure Her mother wants her to show proper deportment and her father desires to give her in marriage in exchange of political advantages, but Suldrun is reluctant to leave one gilded cage for another From the unequal conflict of wills with her father, she is banished to a secluded spot of the palace grounds, the only place where she can find peace and solitude an abandoned inlet of the sea under the palace walls that she tranforms into her personal garden In here she will eventually learn both about true love and despair Her tragic fate is hinted at early in the novel, as she comes across Persillian, a talking mirror with powers of prophecy, who shows her the face of a future lover, then mocks her following inquiriesFrom time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue all as perversity strikes me Now I am silent this is my mood Other characters are divided between wizards Murgen, Shimrod, Tamurello, Desmei and knights knaves Aillas, Carfilhiot While Suldrun languishes in her hidden garden, Aillas, Shimrod and the others roam the countryside far and wide, facing dangers from mortal and supernatural enemies The one aspect of the world that remains in my mind at the end of the book, is the lack of a clear moral dividing line, the fickleness of destiny and the way bad things happen to innocent and guilty parties indiscriminately As one of the wizards, Tamurello, remarksWhat a strange and unfamiliar world if everyone were treated according to his desserts Lyonesse will enchant you with its wonders, but will also break your heart when one of your favorite characters draws the short stick of chance Until I return with the second installment, I will dwell for a time at the Inn of the Laughing Sun and the Crying Moon , deep in the Forest of Tantrevalles, waiting for the Midsummer Night and the festival that usually takes place at a nearby crossroads I hope to meet with some of my friends there You ll see all kinds of halflings fairies and goblins, trolls and merryhews, and even an old falloy, though they show themselves seldom, out of shyness, despite being the most beautiful of all You ll hear songs and music and much chinking of fairy gold, which they squeeze from buttercups Oh they re a rare folk, the fairies [ FREE EPUB ] ♝ Suldrun's Garden ♵ The Elder Isles, located in what is now the Bay of Biscay off the the coast of Old Gaul, are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonesse His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans He intends to cement an alliance or two by marrying her well But Suldrun is as determined as he and defies him Casmir coldly confines her to the overgrown garden that she loves to frequent, and it is here that meets her love and her tragedy unfolds Political intrigue, magic, war, adventure and romance are interwoven in a rich and sweeping tale set in a brilliantly realized fabled land Suldrun s Garden is written with an amazingly huge number of disguised and re imagined classic fairy tale tropes using many of the non fiction historical soap operas of England s actual royal families as a platform for the fictional plots It is also book one in the Lyonesse trilogy Lyonesse was one of ten minor kingdoms on a large fictional island and some nearby smaller ones called the Elder Isles, situated to the west of Old Gaul The actual United Kingdom in the Atlantic The Elder Isl Suldrun s Garden is written with an amazingly huge number of disguised and re imagined classic fairy tale tropes using many of the non fiction historical soap operas of England s actual royal families as a platform for the fictional plots It is also book one in the Lyonesse trilogy Lyonesse was one of ten minor kingdoms on a large fictional island and some nearby smaller ones called the Elder Isles, situated to the west of Old Gaul The actual United Kingdom in the Atlantic The Elder Isles are today sunk under the sea, like the famous city of Atlantis, the small realms which each of the ten kings held on their apportioned acreage on the divided island and their individual strivings for power living on in legends only Many of the ancient tales seem to begin with Lyonesse at the center of the stories, either because its ambitious kings started much havoc in their attempts to control all of the Elder Isles or because of ruthless people who begin putting nefarious activities into play around Lyonesse by chance The book describes a series of events which are begun by the birth of neglected and unappreciated Suldrun, princess and daughter of the crowned heads of Lyonesse King Casmir and Queen Sollace Princess Suldrun becomes increasingly disobedient as she grows up, but she can never overcome her parents authority in a large way Only a son can be heir to the throne of Lyonesse Suldrun remains of value only as a pawn her father uses to dangle possible political alliances in discussions for trade, military support and power When she finally defies her expected role, it sets in motion a set of unexpected outcomes and journeys for many other characters, some of whom do not appear linked to Lyonesse or Suldrun at all Jack Vance has created a fictional world so complete I forgot it was entirely imaginary until the intrusion of magical creatures and magicians Maps, glossaries, and a history of infamous kings similar to those of the real European Middle Ages who constantly plotted against their neighbors for generations of skirmishes and warfare added to the effect of verisimilitude Daughters and sons of kings find themselves used as chess pieces in ultimately meaningless but painfully life altering political games involving marriage to seal alliances between frenemy kingdoms, which do not ever seem to go well in fact or fiction Commoners who serve their royal leaders live or die from whimsical commands and perceived slights, but common folk still suffer even if they live far away from the Royal castle on farms and in towns, attacked by brigands, murderers and thieves Everybody, including Kings, are afraid of the magical beings and creatures living in woods and other places Magicians and witches of various strengths are almost as feared as the ten hereditary kings I hesitate to say muchthan this, gentle reader The book reminded me of novels that were serialized in newspapers where the narrated journey of the different characters isinteresting than the ending Different characters take over the point of view and we readers find the entertainment of the reading in the exquisite writing and world building, rather than on a focused endgame for the characters This book is primarily an entertainment of literary prowess and poetic writing.The author writes in a lovely, but dense, lyrical style His characters live in an interesting, and eventually interlocking, world, but it is a novel of seemingly separate Grimm s like fairy tales at first I do not recommended it for those looking for happy endings or a taut organized progression of forward movement or a novel to read with your children Females are raped and men are punished with the typical violence utilized by our early primitive Middle Ages Magical beings are completely into pursuits undifferentiated from ordinary men The author has included a trope for every European fairy tale element and character I know about and many of whom I have never read anything, until now I was enchanted by the author s poetic lyricism and inventive imagination, and charmed by the intricate world building, but I felt sad by the tragedies most characters endure Jack Vance is the best writer you ve never heard of.You can get lost in his tales whilst still believing that you are looking into the lives of real people They may be people 10,000 or 100,000 years in the future or further back, in some Ur Common myth His characters are what make his stories.Lyonesse is a distant memory I sought these books many times in yesteryear The world has caught up a bit What I remember from the first time is being impressed with the way Vance did fantasy I was m Jack Vance is the best writer you ve never heard of.You can get lost in his tales whilst still believing that you are looking into the lives of real people They may be people 10,000 or 100,000 years in the future or further back, in some Ur Common myth His characters are what make his stories.Lyonesse is a distant memory I sought these books many times in yesteryear The world has caught up a bit What I remember from the first time is being impressed with the way Vance did fantasy I was moved in a way I have never been with Tolkien or C.S Lewis, Martin, or whomever He made it seem lie history So, this is no ordinary fairy tale, it s adult There are shades of grey and not in the BDSM sense, either There s politics, dirt even in fae land , and a truly wonderful human ness.This is a good read If I count a series as one book this somewhere around 7 or 8 on my top 10.Hey, if anyone wants to send me the original first run hardcovers for Christmas, or just because it s Tuesday , I would gladly accept them and mail you kisses back They are mine, now Shut up spell check, that is not a misspelling, neither is humany or humanish updated for 2013 Crisp and complex, with a surprisingly bold earthiness, and an elegant opulent finish the heady aromatics are reminiscent of oaks in bloom Pairs well with edam Crisp and complex, with a surprisingly bold earthiness, and an elegant opulent finish the heady aromatics are reminiscent of oaks in bloom Pairs well with edam First things first we desperately need to have a deluxe illustrated edition of the Lyonesse series with art by Charles Vess Ok, now that that is out of the way what is Lyonesse It is one of the few works of pure fantasy by the speculative fiction Grand Master Jack Vance as opposed to his muchnumerous science fiction and science fantasy books which manages, like perhaps all of Vance s work, to be pretty sui generis The story ostensibly takes place in the early middle ages of our wor First things first we desperately need to have a deluxe illustrated edition of the Lyonesse series with art by Charles Vess Ok, now that that is out of the way what is Lyonesse It is one of the few works of pure fantasy by the speculative fiction Grand Master Jack Vance as opposed to his muchnumerous science fiction and science fantasy books which manages, like perhaps all of Vance s work, to be pretty sui generis The story ostensibly takes place in the early middle ages of our world, though in a medieval period that definitely never existed on our earth except perhaps in dreams Vance has no interest in keeping pace with the technology and history of the actual middle ages and instead weaves a fantastic world where the history of the dark ages rubs shoulders with the technology and culture of the high middle ages, and where even aspects of the renaissance peek through from time to time To this mix Vance adds a dab of high fantasy with a soup on of Arthuriana for flavour It is, in short, a delightful anachronism in which Vance is free to take whatever most suits his purposes from a large range of human history as he creates a variety of strange and wonderful cultures, both human and supernatural with the human cultures, as is natural for Vance, being as strange and bizarre as any of the faery races that inhabit these pages The lion s share of the story takes place in the mythical Elder Isles , though the real world pokes in its head from time to time These isles are the home to many warring kingdoms from Lyonesse and Dahaut, to Troicinet and the Ulflands to name only a few the major ones It is the dream of one of these Kings, Casmir of Lyonesse, to unite the varied kingdoms as of old under his iron rule This first volume of the Lyonesse series sets up the main antagonist, the aforementioned King Casmir of Lyonesse, as a man of power and intelligence, willing to play the long game in his quest to overcome all obstacles that stand bewteen himself and absolute rule upon the ancient throne Evandig at the mythical round table of Cairbra an Meadhan Casmir has no compunction with using all of the tools which nature, and his position, have granted him, not least of which is his neglected yet beautiful daughter Suldrun The first segment of the book concentrates on the melancholy story of the princess Suldrun as she navigates her way through the treacherous political waters of her father s kingdom and resigns herself to a life of loneliness This loneliness is only mitigated by the existence of a secret garden that Suldrun discovers in one of her forays away from the castle and it is here that she is able to find a kind of peace and contentment in her life It is also here that she comes across a shipwrecked young man, Aillas of Troicinet, one of the first people to treat her kindly and with whom she soon falls in love Alas, what is it that the bard said about the path of true love Well, that of course applies here as well, and since Casmir has other plans for how best to apportion his daughter for political gain he is driven into a fury when he discovers the young lovers Suffice it to say that Aillas, the shipwrecked lover, is summarily thrown into a pit to rot, while Sulrdun is confined to her garden once it is discovered that she is pregnant In the end Suldrun s story ends sadly and, without committing an egregious case of spoilers, I think I can say that it is left to Aillas to find a way to avenge his love and find his missing child.The remainder of the book pursues several paths as we follow each of the main players in the drama that is unfolding Shimrod, the scion of Murgen the greatest magician of the Elder Isles, finds himself drawn into this royal drama that eventually becomes a war of vengeance and succession between two great kingdoms Aillas, in a series of misadventures and tragedies, attempts to find his way both home and to his unknown son The devious Faude Carfilhiot, himself the magical progeny of the witch Desmei and both lover and prot g of Murgen s nemesis the wizard Tamurello, angles for power and the satisfaction of his many lusts, and ultimately runs afoul of both Shimrod and Aillas Casmir continues to plot his rise to ultimate power, while Aillas son Dhrun, at first a human changeling abducted by the fairies of Thripsey Shee until he is summarily ejected, becomes a vagabond on the road with his friend the beautiful Glyneth Typical Vancean picaresque adventures ensue, though with the overarching plots of both Casmir s and Carfilhiot s quests for power against the opposition presented by the heroes of our tale weaving together the myriad story threads.The dialogue is, of course, very droll and urbane, as is to be expected in a work by Vance The heroes are also perhaps the most sympathetic ones to be found in a Vancean tale, for while they may exhibit a normal human propensity for anger and vengeance, they also display a sense of justice and goodness not always apparent in Vance s heroes This has always been my favourite work by Vance though admittedly I still have many volumes of his to read and I thoroughly enjoy my trips to the Elder Isles In the past I had occasionally been put off by some of thefanciful, one might even say twee, elements of the story most notably the fairy elements though somehow they seem to have grown on me and going into the story knowing that I should expect something other than a typical serious high fantasy helps to make the transition to these moments less jarring As always I also love the way in which Vance uses his broad canvas to play with history and create fascinating cultures that point out the absurdities of human nature and the sometimes convoluted modes of human conduct The Ska are a standout here, his own version of antediluvian humans that can trace their culture back to the stone age and view all other races as sub humans with whom they are at war Real life cultures are no less the object of Vance s caustic eye as he makes fun of Celts, Christians, and any other real life cultures of the day that find themselves pulled into his tale and many ancient myths and cultures find themselves given a new spin and shine as they also become a part of the tangled history of his Elder Isles This is great fun and I look forward to re visiting volume 2 Definitely check it out whether you re a Vance aficionado that has yet to make the trip here, or you re a neophyte looking for a place to start You could do far worse than beginning your Vancean journey amongst the tangled roads of the Elder Isles Perfection