Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: Sir Quinlan and The Swords of Valor

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor (The Knights of Arrethtrae)

I requested this book, Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor, from the Blogging for Books website because it looked interesting. I have always been a sucker when it comes to knights in shiny armor, let's say. When I received the book, the main description on the back cover said, "Two friends face the Dark Knight's deadliest scheme, but only one knight has the courage to overcome." Misappropriation of Batman's title aside, sounds promising, doesn't it?

I noticed that this was the fifth book in a series, and perhaps if I were to read the first four books the characters in the story would have felt more than the two dimensional. As it was, the story fell flat under the weight of the author's expectations. The character of Quinlan presents as a dull-witted, obedient sort who yearns for excitement without any understanding or insight into his own motivations or the motivations of others. For the most part, he does exactly as he is told. When he does not, bad things happen.

The story of Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is supposed to be about the difference between sloth and purpose. This is far from what the story actually tells the reader: Quinlan's best friend Tav, someone he's trusted and loved and admired his entire life, adopts a pet, Tav's behavior changes completely, and when it counts, his best friend in the entire world(Quinlan) abandons him.

By making apathy a physical entity in the form of a pet, the author makes it appear as if this particular malady is more similar to an addiction to drugs or even demon possession than ennui. Several times characters with paythas are described as if they literally have a "monkey on their backs", and it is very obvious that the animals are controlling the behaviors of their 'owners'. Clearly, apathy is not at work here.

Quinlan's lack of compassion is explained away with the line that "Every person must choose for themselves." An addict doesn't necessarily have a choice after a certain point in their addiction; in order to break free of their cravings, they require the interventions of others. Quinlan himself has a pet at one point, and has to 'break free', so he should surely have had the empathy as well as the compassion to understand what Tav is dealing with. As a servant of the Prince, Quinlan had a responsibility to help his friend break free of his addiction, and he did nothing except stare "sadly". Quinlan is actually the one who displays apathy when it comes to helping others, not Tav.

In addition, by making apathy into a character separate from the people it inhabited, the author essentially removed all responsibility for that apathy from the people experiencing it. They did not 'choose' to be apathetic, they were enslaved. Without their possession by apathy, they would not have otherwise engaged in that behavior. Therefore they cannot be held accountable. Mr. Black essentially undermined his own storyline in this book.

There are many people out there who enjoy the Knights of Arrethrae, and it may be that the other books in the series are better evidence of the author's "unique approach to telling biblical truths". Based on this particular book, Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor, I'll won't be reading the rest of the series. Mr. Black comments that his purpose in writing this book was to contrast "between two knights who choose different paths--one of apathy and one of purpose." Apathy is noted by the author as resulting from spiritual blindness and worldly distraction, but he never actually explains what he means in reference to the novel. The word that Mr. Black is actually attempting to illustrate is sloth, which refers to spiritual apathy or a disinclination to action. While the character of Tav, who is supposed to be the apathetic one, does display a sudden disinclination to action, there is little evidence presented in the story to indicate the character's spiritual apathy. We never read any words that are from Tav's point of view, so we don't have any idea if he is aware of what is happening to him or if he tried to fight the possession. There's no true insight into any of the motivations of the characters, but Tav in particular seems to have the short end of the stick.

1 comment:

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