Science fiction and fantasy
The Ice Crown
by Sean Beech
The Ice Crown also encompasses Fey, mages, dragons, trolls, and other creatures in a rambling narrative peopled with some rough stereotypes. The Order of the Dark Knights are merely one of the most extreme examples of this, brutal and black-suited bad guys who cause most of the conflict. The author points out several times that their emblem is a red crescent, a piece of politically incorrect symbolism that's cringe-makingly bald.
The prose is deadened by repetition and marred by poor grammar and punctuation, to the extent that this novel is close to unreadable. For instance, in the first two paragraphs of chapter 10 the author squeezes in the words "concern" or "concerned" no less than ten times. Unfortunately this isn't an isolated case. Beech doesn't use commas well either, often running several sentences together instead of putting full stops where they belong. The proof-reading and editing seem to be non-existent, and sadly this is a piece of work that needs those things more than most. The result is that The Ice Crown takes far longer to read than it should. This isn't helped by the author's proclivity for using four words where one would do.
The tale follows a number of threads. Ranabin is a comic relief character, the youngest of five ancient mages and the one the other magic users choose to disrespect. His adventures are told in an irreverent style that's occasionally amusing, although the tone of the chapters he appears in is so different from the rest of the novel that they seem to be part of a different story altogether.
One of the problems with the plot is the sheer number of different characters, most of whom tend to go their own way. Often they are so roughly sketched that they are little more than caricatures. On various occasions they behave bafflingly, obeying the strictures of the plot when all other signals suggest that they would be motivated to do the opposite. Guards allow people they distrust to pass unhindered, unlikely friendships are struck up, and enemies come to the rescue of characters they ought not to lift a finger for. Whilst each of these actions could be explained away in theory, they're not consistent with what we know of the characters involved, who all too frequently lack credibility. The protagonists aren't believable, and nor is their behaviour.
Perhaps the worst offenders are the Fey elders, a group of clichéd and pompous hippies who seem to be incapable of any straight talk. Their main point seems to be to add a mystical and prophetic air to events, but their effect is more tedious than spiritual.
If there's something to enjoy in The Ice Crown, it's unlikely to be worth the effort of teasing it out. Flowery and overlong descriptions, bad punctuation and stereotypical characters are just some of the flaws that stand in the way of your reading pleasure. There's no deeper moral meaning, nor witty dialogue, nor deft understanding of the human condition to redeem this dire, stale escapism.
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