Curiosity has gotten the better of me ever since I learned that Orson Scott Card would be writing a new multivolume fantasy saga. There has never been this many ongoing quality fantasy series out there, and I was eager to see what sort of tale Card would come up with.
Hence, when I discovered that the novella Stonefather was a prequel to the Mithermages series which will soon be published by Del Rey, I jumped on this opportunity to get an early read and a peek at what's to come. Stonefather will be published by Subterranean Press in October, and it will be illustrated by Tom Kidd.
From the very start, this one didn't work for me. The narrative is reminiscent of the countless generic fantasy quest books which gave the genre such a bad name. Moreover, the characterization and the dialogues are juvenile in tone and a pain in the butt to follow. I found myself shaking my head and gritting my teeth on several occasions. In terms of style, think about post-Elenium David Eddings, with puerile dialogues along the lines of those between Richard and Kahlan in Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule.
Card's worldbuilding was the only facet of the novella I enjoyed. In addition, the imagery his prose creates is at times evocative. And yet, no matter how interesting some of the concepts turn out to be, the entire mood is thoroughly killed by the poor characterization, especially Runnel, the main protagonist. The supporting cast is comprised of unmemorable characters such as Lark, Brickel, and Demwor.
Stonefather is an uninspired and lackluster effort by one of the contemporary masters of SFF. Not only does it read like an 80s fantasy book, but a bad 80s fantasy book at that. One can only hope that the forthcoming Mithermage series will show more promise. Otherwise, this has the potential to be even more disappointing that Raymond E. Feist's Conclave of Shadows volumes.
Authors such as Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Steven Erikson, and many others have elevated the fantasy genre to new heights in recent years. In order to compete with his peers, at least if he wishes to write at that level, Orson Scott Card must come up with something much more impressive and exciting than Stonefather.
The final verdict: 5/10