March 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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The Language of Stones by Robert Carter
Harper Collins (UK) HCVR: ISBN 000716923X PubDate: 03/29/04
Review by Antony Wagman

528 pgs. List price £10
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Eddings’ Belgariad meets Arthurian legend in this debut novel from Robert Carter – and whilst bringing nothing too new to the table in terms of structure, in The Language of Stones Carter builds a well written tale with a compelling story-line. Although not at first glance a book that yells “buy me” from the shelf, perseverance can have its rewards sometimes and this book certainly fits into that category .

Prima Facia, The Language of Stones has a severe case of “same old” in that a foundling baby is discovered beneath the proverbial gooseberry bush. The baby is placed with a loving couple by a wise old wizard, who as the baby comes of age, takes him off on an adventure …….. etcetera …etcetera …….etcetera. Whereas the story outline is a trifle staid, the obvious plot as detailed above occurs within the first few pages and from there on in lies rewarding narrative. The Language of Stones is couched in such a manner that the reader looks forward to the next page and the author keeps this going throughout.

As the title suggests, central to this story are ancient stones (think Stonehenge), their positioning upon ley-lines and indeed the effects they have on the world and its peoples via mystical and magical means .

Carter guides the reader through the adolescent life of Willard , a simple peasant boy from The Vale – found as a baby close by some such stones and accompanied by the mysterious Master Gwydion on an heroic mission. The author cleverly and by his own admission uses the topography of the 15th century British Isles for Will’s exploits, combining this with a feudal system of royalty, baronies and peasantry together with the binding power of magic to set it all off .

Enemies assail from all angles, but one is left in no doubt who the real villains are nor quite refreshingly who the dupes and unwitting puppets are. A healthy dose of pubescent love filters through in a found her - lost her - found her again type setup which adds a feel good factor to the piece.

Skilfully spliced into narrative is the author’s assumption that the reader lacks belief in all that is paranormal and this leads us, together with the protagonist Willard through events of ever increasing importance bound together with the use of ever more powerful magic. Characters develop throughout the novel along with this magical aspect, culminating in revelations that I won’t mention for fear of spoiling it for you!

On a critical note or two - Carter has not been afraid to heavily shower Willard with morals in the form of Magical “Redes” from the Master – reminiscent of David Carradine’s “Grasshopper” in Kung Fu – overdone to this reviewer’s taste , yet as part of Willard’s education, acceptable in theory I suppose. Also, a slight tendency from the author to prevaricate during the long “between the action” traveling scenes does slightly reduce the effect of the book- but is excusable in the bigger picture.

A finale of mighty events leaves one sated and looking forward to the next installment – all of which leaves me to summarize …………….. A HIT !

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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