H. David Blalock, The Burning House: Book Two of the Thran Chronicles
Published by, 2004
Reviewed by TG Browning
As usual, recommendation first. First off, if you havenít read book one, Thran Reborn, donít start this one. Blalock originally wrote the entire series of six books as one very large, long book and youíre not going to be comfortable reading The Burning House without having read Thran Reborn. More importantly, much more importantly, youíll be lost without that background. Worse, you probably wonít like this book, at all, without that background. So, that said, I have to also say that out of a score of five possible, I have to give this a two. I had problems, even though I read the first book.
Let me elaborate a bit and I urge you to read the entire review before you make up your mind on whether or not youíre interested in The Burning House.
My biggest issue is structure and it eclipses all other considerations. I have a great deal of difficulty following the action and keeping my interest, because Blalock has opted for what can be termed a multithreaded, simultaneous narration. The sections canít be called chapters in the conventional sense, though they have titles that would indicate that they are indeed chapters. They leap from character to character, from setting to setting and one more or less has to keep quite a few things in memory as one moves along. That makes for challenging reading and I donít knock the book because of that, alone.
That can be a very effective technique. In point of fact, thatís the structure Blalock uses for the first book in the series but it didnít bother me nearly as much in book one as in book two. Perhaps itís because such a technique requires one thing to be also present that wasnít in The Burning House, for me at any rate.
One has to care about the characters and while I had strong feelings about the main protagonist (Daepar), they werenít positive ones. Frankly, I couldnít stand him. While Blalock obviously intended the reader not to be great buds with the character, I believe his intent was for the reader to be sympathetic to Daepar and I just couldnít be. Now his first wife, Mara, her I had plenty of sympathy for and perhaps that is part of the reason I disliked the hero so much. His treatment of her is central to the book.
Keep in mind, what Iím complaining about is very much a personal preference and doesnít reflect poor writing per se. There are any number of books I could name that are considered to be classics, landmarks in writing style and elegance, that I personally canít stand and never have been able to finish, let alone read and enjoy. I finished this book, which goes to show I wasnít that put off. I canít recall the last time I read a book completely, that I disliked. I donít bother.
Now, if you have read the first book and enjoyed it, I would strongly suggest that you buy and read this book as well. I doubt that the rest of the series would make any bloody sense without taking each one in order and reading it. Blalockís writing requires attention to detail because heís spent a long time crafting an intricate world for his story.
His story is worthwhile and engaging, but like a number of long works, has itís good moments, bad moments, and all variations in-between. I found The Burning House to be one of those lesser moments perhaps, but then again, I never liked any of the part of The Two Towers that dealt with Frodo plodding his way to Mordor. And the entire section in The Return of the King that happens after the destruction of the ring is tied for my favorite part of the entire trilogy. If youíve seen the DVD, then you know that the Jackson, the director of the three movies, personally hated that part of the trilogy and more or less dumped it form the end of the movie. But Iíd defy anyone to characterize any portion of The Lord of the Rings as inferior.
All a matter of taste. And it this case, Iím afraid The Burning House didnít suit my taste, at all.
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