Monday, March 6, 2023

The Green Pearl

Jack Vance
Completed 3/6/2023, Reviewed 3/6/2023
4 stars

Much like the first book in the Lyonesse series, Suldrun’s Garden, this book was tough to get into but eventually, I really liked it.  The beginning is about 150 pages of trying to remember who the characters are and what they did in the first book.  Then the author starting recounting what happened in the first book in small expository ways that jogged my memory and got me on track.  After that I was fully engaged in the plot and the characters.  I couldn’t sleep last night for the pain from my shoulder surgery and restlessness of not doing much all day, so I was able to read about 200 pages during the night, and the remaining seventy or so in the morning.  I read those pages voraciously.  

The book begins with the finding of the green pearl, an unnaturally beautiful jewel that brings bad luck on its bearer.  The jewel passes from possessor to possessor until it is lost in the forest.  The plot then picks up, and that’s where I got kind of lost.  But eventually, Aillas is back in his kingdom with his son.  He has accumulated several kindoms under his rule.  He rules wisely and has a distaste for war.  However, the Ska continue to try to overtake the Isle.  These racially pure refugees from ancient Norway are trying to claim land they believe is theirs, making their way back north to eventually overthrow the Vikings.  Aillas comes up with a plan to fight the Ska differently than they are familiar with to throw them off guard, and give new life to the attempt to expel them from the Isle.  At the same time, Casmir, King of Lyonesse, is still trying to unify the Isle under himself.  One way he is doing this is by sending a magician across the Isle to try to find the missing son of his daughter Suldrun. 

The primary character of this book was Aillas.  He is great to root for.  He’s a good prince who befell much hardship during his captivity by the Ska.  It made him a great King, who tries to find a peaceful resolution to the conflicts with the Ska, or at least one that takes fewer lives than all out war.  He’s smart, funny, and has a way with people in general.  His court magician is also an interesting character.  Shimrod has a pining for Melancthe who thwarts most of his moves.  I remember him being in the first book, but I didn’t remember what he was about.  In this book, we see his strengths and vulnerabilities.  

This book was kind of about relationships, Shimrod and Melancthe, Aillas and Glyneth, and also Kul and Gwyneth.  There is also some continuing scenes with pagan Casmir and his Christian queen who wants to build a Cathedral.  But I think this was the book’s best part.  I felt I had more of a sense of who everyone was because of their relationships with each other.

As usual, the prose is very good and the world-building is spectacular.  I have to say that this book felt less like a sausage fest than the first book, where Suldrun was one of the few females in the book.  The women characters were strong and determined, except for one, a Ska, who can’t figure out what it means to be captured and made a slave.  

I give this book four stars out of five.  Despite the slow start, it picked up, kept a good pace, and satisfied my need for plot and conflict.  At times, it did get heavy on the court intrigue, which is not my favorite, but it wasn’t too bad.  I’m thinking I’ll find this series to a worthwhile endeavor once I finish the last in the series.

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