Gemquest: The Twins, by Gary Alan Wassner

gemquest-the-twins-by-gary-alan-wassnerGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: iUniverse
Published: 2000
Reviewer Rating: twohalfstars
Book Review by Fraser Ronald

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Caveat: I’m not an epic fantasy fan. I like more realism, less power and a certain amount of grittiness. Believable characters in a consistent setting following a cohesive plot are the most important aspects of a novel for me. I’m not saying that GemQuest: The Twins doesn’t have these, but this is a novel that focuses more on the fantastic than the believable.

GemQuest: The Twins is a fine piece of epic fantasy. It isn’t destined to become a classic, but you could do much worse. Regular readers of epic fantasy will find many of their favorite components present: the sprawling tapestry of lands and histories, powerful magic, evil foes of earth-shattering strength, it’s all here. I would not go so far as to call this book formulaic, but there is very little unique, plot-wise. The setting has some interesting facets that I had not seen before.

The best thing that I can say about this book is that it is entertaining. It delivers what it promises and that is a story of the heroic and the fantastic. This is the coming of age tale wrapped in mythic level sword and sorcery.

Having said all that, this book could have been much better if it had been carefully edited. I found errors and many slight grammatical faults that lessened my enjoyment. A good editor could have tightened up the writing, which would have made the book immensely more readable. I, personally, don’t think fantasy and literature are different, and good style, which must mean good grammar, is important. The times that I found myself losing interest in this book were the times when the grammar could have been improved. Verbosity and clarity need not be mutually exclusive.

The characterization in this book sometimes falls a little flat. While all the character’s are allowed personality quirks, they are, on the whole, stereotypical or at least paradigmatic. These are characters we have seen before in other novels. While Mr. Wasserman puts his own spin on them, making them his own, I would not call them original or thought-provoking. However, this is common to many works, and some readers prefer this. I, personally, while recognizing the characters’ lack of uniqueness, didn’t find that particularly off-putting. I doubt many readers of epic fantasy would either.

The plot is one that many readers of epic fantasy will recognize and one that seems popular in this genre. The book relates to the Dark Lord’s war upon a kingdom, and his hunt for the heir. Three experts, in the fields of combat, magic and philosophy are called upon to tutor the heir, but the armies of the Dark Lord have other plans. This is the standard battle of ultimate god against irretrievably evil, in the midst of which we have a coming-of-age story–or rather, a couple of them–and the discovery by a young man of his mysterious powers. While there is little new here, that has not stopped any other epic fantasy from becoming a best-seller, so if epic fantasy is your preferred genre, that plot summary is likely to get you saliva going.

The need for editing is my greatest complaint about the book. If you are looking for realism or complex characters, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you. For those who enjoyed Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon, for those who love Feist’s Krondor novels, GemQuest may be of interest. For those who prefer Gene Wolfe, Guy Gavriel Kay or Glen Cook, this book will likely not make your top ten list.

Overall, this is a workmanlike effort, which delivers entertainment, though it is in need of revision and focuses on the fantastic rather than the believable. Enjoyable and light, it’s at least worth a look.

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