James Clemens’ “Hinterland”
I have read all of the fantasy works of James Clemens and this book is his best so far. It suffers from some drawbacks, but overall, it is rather enjoyable. Clemens has created a rich world to set his story in and his Gods (and rogue gods) are sincerely intriguing.
The good news (for me) is that Hinterland is an improvement from Shadowfall. My main problem with the first novel of this series, though I enjoyed it immensely, is that it starts well, but the end gets a bit ridiculous – a villain with maniacal laughter et al. I felt Chrism was a clumsy plot device, not set as a development, but to serve as a mere “twist” at the end of the story, which is why it fell flat on its face (and the fact that Clemens is a bit confused as to what insanity is). This novel does not have that problem. It has villains, but not just for villains sake; they actually have a motive, and they seem at least a little sane and make some sense (Lord Ulf, for example).
Hinterland starts off very slow indeed, as we read endless chapters of a boy obsessing over wolf cubs, Dart going about her duties in her new position, and Tylar always being unhappy. Fair enough, normality is depicted, and soon after that, the action and plot development is full speed ahead, and it becomes difficult to put the book down. Although there are some predictable and obvious twists scattered throughout (having everyone related to one another loses its shock value after the first revelation), there are still some surprises, and it is a genuine treat to venture outside into different lands to learn of different cultures and such.
There are a few problems with Clemens ability at this point. Characterisation is a bit of an issue. Most characters are stereotypes or are black or white. Rogger suffers greatly from this, who clearly has no use other than silly one-liners for comic relief. Other characters come and go to merely move the plot along, or to sacrifice themselves within minutes of their appearance for a main character or the world, and so on. The main characters themselves do not seem any different from one another. Lorr, Kyt, the giants, Krevan and Tylar are all interchangeable personality wise, but differ only with abilities and their usefulness to any given situation, again, to move the plot along.
Another slight issue about my edition of this book (November 2006 paperback) is that there are typos and preventable grammatical errors throughout the book; there is even an “a5nd” in there.
Overall, the novel is action packed, and the progress of the story comes across naturally enough. More depth and secrets are revealed about the Cabal, the Sundering, Rivenscyr, and Dart’s father. We are given an interesting new character that gave a tiny appearance in Shawdowfall named Brant. Although he is a lot like Dart, only male, he still has a mysterious background that is fun to decipher and watch develop. I, like everyone else, am now waiting for the third novel in the series.
In case anyone is interested, he is taking so long because his American Publisher were not sure if they wanted a third novel from him or not, and have only decided earlier this year that they will, so Clemens only started writing it after that. He is near to completing it, and I imagine you may see it sometime in 2009. Like the Banned and the Banished, there will be five books in this series.